Community outreach

Crenezumab: a drug that might prevent Alzheimer’s.

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Pharmacy Rx symbol
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a NY Times piece, Testing a Drug that may stop Alzheimer’s Before it Starts, it was announced that a drug, Crenezumab, is set to be tested early next year on families who carry the single genetic mutation for Alzheimer’s  – people who are genetically guaranteed to suffer from the disease years from now but who do not yet have any symptoms.  Most of the 300 participants for this study will come from one extended family of 5,000 members in Medellin, Columbia who have been horrifically affected by this disease throughout their extended family.

This Colombian family’s story is presented in an astonishing video within the article’s link above.  For decades, these family members started showing Alzheimer’s symptoms in their mid-40’s and the progression was so rapid that they advanced to full-blown dementia by the age of 51.  The effects on a society, and a family’s dynamics, is eye opening to say the least.  Let’s face it, in this video when a Colombian pre-teen is shown feeding his father, the role reversal is unmistakable.

The Study’s 300 family member participants will be years away from developing symptoms – with some being treated as young as 30 years old – but the hope is that if this drug forestalls memory or cognitive problems, plaque formation, and other brain deterioration, scientists will have discovered that delay or prevention is possible.

This drug trial has a long road ahead of it, but the study will be one of only a very few ever conducted to test prevention treatments for any genetically predestined disease.  In an Alzheimer’s world where very little good news is forthcoming, it’s nice to see even a slight glimmer of hope.

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Alzheimer\’s Reading Room: \

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Alzheimer\’s Reading Room: \.

This article is a delight to read.  It describes one family member’s perception of having been “chosen” to be the caregiver for his grandmother.  As a result of that choice, he developed a product that can be, and is, used widely in assisted living and dementia care units.  What a terrific outcome for everyone!

Blogger Awards for You and Me!

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Thank you “Let’s Talk About Family” fellow-blogger for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  That’s the kind of feedback I like!  More importantly, everyone should check out her Blog because her insights into the ups, and downs, of caring for parents is very insightful and well worth following.

I have been so blessed by the input I receive from the many Blogs that I follow.  I’m going to use this opportunity to make some nominations as well! (I could list many, many more, but to begin with at least, I’ll list just a few that always stand out to me.)  First of all the steps that the nominees need to take to award others who are worthy of singling out:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you for an award;
  2. Copy & paste the award logos in your blog, as well as in the sections devoted to your nominations, below;
  3. Be certain to link the person who nominated you for an award; in my case, you’ll see that I’ve linked “Let’s Talk About Family” when I thanked her for nominating me;
  4. Nominate your own choices for awards;
  5. Place links to their Blogsites so that others can view their fine work;
  6. Say a few things about yourself so that others understand a bit more as to where you’re coming from – and where you’re going:
  • My first name is Irene and I live in the Seattle, Washington area.
  • I’m a Baby Boomer who loves to share knowledge about the challenges, and delights, of being in this age group.
  • My working background of the past 20 years includes being a paralegal in law firms as well as for corporations; an Executive Assistant and Office Manager for a senior housing company; a Business Manager in an assisted living/dementia care facility; an Alzheimer’s Association caregiver support group facilitator; and a certified long-term care (LTC) ombudsman for the county in which I live.
  • I became a LTC ombudsman in 2008, thereby leaving the senior housing industry, because in my mind one can never do enough for the vulnerable adults who live in long-term care residential facilities.  In order to assure that vulnerable residents experience a dignified existence and a high quality of life, I had to switch sides and become their advocate.
  • I will always try to write something about which I am familiar and that I have also experienced.  I’m not an expert, but my goal is to always provide input that I hope will prove valuable to others.
  • My mother died in 1994 and from 2004 thru 2007  I was the primary long-distance caregiver for my father who lived in an assisted living community’s dementia care unit.

Now onto the award nominations!

Versatile Blogger Awards:

Day by Day with the Big Terrible A (Alzheimer’s, of course.)  This blog is very reader-friendly.  This blogger is a wife who is taking care of her husband.  Her mini-entries very clearly reflect the struggles she, her husband, and her family face but she also makes room to celebrate the little victories that sometimes are hidden within the caregiving struggle.  I think all of us can find comfort in this woman’s efforts, and her ability to describe those efforts deserve 5 Stars!!!

My Simple C.com.  This blog is an online community that seeks to connect professional caregivers with family caregivers.  The resources and suggestions are quite good and are provided without the intent of selling anything.  Virginia Lynn Rudder works for a company called Simple C, but she clearly has a goal of providing information in an easy to read, comprehensive, and supportive manner.

Elder Advocates.  Lark E. Kirkwood experienced something that no one should ever have to experience.  A guardianship was put in place limiting access to her father who was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and who has subsequently passed on.  Please visit her site because she provides many valuable resources relating to a prevailing problem for vulnerable adults: elder abuse & fraud.

BEAUTIFUL BLOGGER AWARD.

Flickr Comments by FrizzText.  This Blogger really knows how to take a photo and knows how to find them so that we can take a break in our very busy days and simply enjoy his view on our world.  Please make a point of stopping by and you’ll be representing one of the more than 100 countries that partake of his Blog site.

Baby Boomer + Aging Parent = a changing paradigm.

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Planning for a wedding?  FUN!!!!!

Putting together an extended vacation to a tropical paradise?  EXHILARATING!

Figuring out how to help mom and dad with their increasing care needs?  UNEXPECTED!

Logo of NPR News.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent National Public Radio (NPR) Story: Preparing for a Future that includes Aging Parents addresses the unexpected, and the unplanned for.  Whether because we’re kidding ourselves or we really believe it, we oftentimes can’t imagine our parents as anything but the energetic, robust, independent mom and dad with whom we grew up.  And if we don’t live near them, we’re falsely sheltered in our assumption that mom and dad are doing just fine; at least they were the last time we saw them during the Holidays!  If we’re honest with ourselves, however, we’ll admit that our infrequent visits with the parents shock us greatly as we notice a bit of feebleness in their manner, because as the above story states, “time does what it does.”

Surprisingly, only 13% of some 4,000 U.S. workers surveyed for the 2011 Aflac WorkForces Report considered that the need for long-term care would affect their household.  We love to live blissfully ignorant, don’t we?  We have so many of our own stresses and pressures associated with running our family household, we’re just not going to entertain having to be on-point with our parents’ needs as well.  Guilty!

Taking a walk with my Dad.

I became a long-distance caregiver in the Seattle, Washington area for my father who lived in an all-inclusive facility called a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) in Southern Oregon.  The first eight years he lived there were worry free because my father was one of those robust parents who was on the path towards living to a ripe old age.  He did live to a ripe old age, dying at the age of 89, but from the age of 84 until his death, Alzheimer’s invaded our family’s peaceful existence, and I found that even as a long-distance caregiver, I was on-point 24/7.

Caveat: my parents had purchased long-term care (LTC) insurance so none of us three offspring were financially responsible for my father’s care.  But anyone who has been a caregiver for a loved one knows that care isn’t always equated to monetary expenditure.   In my case, the constant need to travel to Southern Oregon to monitor his care and be the designated (self-designated) sibling best equipped to coordinate his care with the facility’s staff, lead to my decision to temporarily leave my career, which was, coincidentally, one in the long-term care housing industry.  By the way – the answer was not to move him up to the Seattle area.  His financial investment in this CCRC up to that point rendered that an untenable option.

Even though I absolutely relished this opportunity to give back to my father – and I truly did – it was very difficult on my household and me.  My health temporarily suffered.  Everything I did revolved around being available for my father and hopping on a plane at a moment’s notice.  I lived in a five year period of dreading the ringing of my home phone or mobile phone because it most likely meant that something needed tending.  And getting home and finding NO voicemails in our phone system was cause for celebration.

  But enough about me.

Are you prepared for the eventuality of attending to your parents’ care or are you already on that journey?

Or maybe you are already caring for a spouse with medical or cognitive needs.  How are you managing that difficult task?

Let us hear from you.  Not talking about it won’t make it go away.  It’s time to face the piper and be as prepared as we can for the inevitable.

Adjustment disorder: a long-term care facility side-effect.

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Duct-tape Moving Van

Think of a moving/relocating experience you’ve had with all of its inherent tasks of purging of items, packing what remains, and leaving all that is familiar as you move into uncharted territory.  In your new neighborhood you’re starting all over again to find: new friends;  a new supermarket with the best deals; perhaps the best school(s) for your children; a new church; and new ties to the community.  Not exactly an enjoyable experience.  It took you some time to adjust to your new community and feel that you fit in, didn’t it?

Now imagine doing the same thing as someone who is at least 70 years old with failing health, no family nearby, and perhaps with a compromised cognition level.  Vulnerable adults move into a long-term care (LTC) housing environment because of a condition, or combination of conditions, that make living independently no longer an optionBecause of this disruptive move, another disorder – adjustment disorder – makes their move a perilous one.

A loss of context in a new environment.  In my work as an advocate for vulnerable adults, I had the privilege of hearing a wonderful speaker, George Dicks.  At the time, Mr. Dicks supervised the Geriatric Psychiatry Service clinic at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA.  He was also a contracted instructor for the University of Washington, teaching courses on Gerontology, Psychiatric Consultation, and Mental Health.  He emphasized that residents living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities struggle to look for context within their new environment.  For example, context is hard to come by when your daily bath occurs at 2:00 in the afternoon instead of in the morning or evening as was the case prior to the move.  And forget about finding comfort in routine because the demands on LTC staff are such that caring for numerous residents on their shift can’t possibly assure a routine on which the residents can rely.

Just providing care doesn’t mean that a staff person is caring.  Everyone who moves into a long-term care facility will have difficulties, but those who are cognitively impaired face an especially arduous adjustment.  As I previously mentioned, staff are hard pressed to provide individual care to their residents, and oftentimes are poorly prepared to handle the disorders that walk through the door.  Just getting through their daily shift is troublesome so trying to learn the habits and routines that are so vital for quality of life of the resident with dementia is a very time-consuming task.

a hand holding unidentified white pills
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Quite frequently, the only contact a staff person has with a resident is when they are making demands of that resident: “time to take your medicines Mrs. Jones;” “let’s get that soiled clothing changed Mr. Smith;” “open your mouth Mrs. Clark so I can feed you.”  Providing for  basic needs is not providing care.  Why?   Because the staff are requiring something of the resident.  There is no connection.  When a staff person interacts with a resident, absent a provision of care, that’s a better definition of care.

How to lessen the effects of adjustment disorder.  Those living in a long-term care housing situation oftentimes feel as though they left all their power, and all of their basic human rights, at the door.  They are constantly surrounded with reminders of their condition – all those other residents who look as lost and helpless as they do – and it seems that the only time anyone pays attention to them is when someone is demanding something of them in the form of providing some sort of assistance with their care needs.  If every staff person spent just five minutes of non-task-oriented time with each resident during their shift, those residents just might start feeling better about themselves.

  • Walk with a resident for a few minutes by simply accompanying them in the hallway and reassuring them along the way.
  • Play music the residents like in the common areas and in their rooms – and don’t assume that you know what they like to hear.  Take the time to find out what gets their feet tapping.
  • When you walk past a resident, greet them, smile at them, just as you would if you were in a social environment instead of a clinical environment.  Again, do so even when you’re not providing a care service.  Your friendly, heart-felt greeting may just make their day.
  • Start a dialogue with residents that allows them to open up to you about who they are; what their lives were like prior to arriving at the facility.  If you need to jot down some of their stories so you’ll remember them later, do so and continue the dialogue the next time you see them.  Wouldn’t it be a pleasant surprise to a resident when you asked them, “Tell me more about your grandson Charlie.  He seems like a real character!”  Wow – you were actually listening, and it shows.  Now you’re connecting with the resident.

If you are a staff person in a long-term care facility, can you put your grandma or grandpa’s face on your patients/residents faces thereby having a greater incentive to connect with those receiving your care?  Or if that doesn’t work for you, do what you must in order to add an element of care to those you serve.  Just because you’re helping the resident perform a task, doesn’t mean that you’re providing the care that they really need.

Where do you seek happiness?

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I came across a quote the other day from Marie Mountain Clark, one of an elite group of women who completed U.S. Air Force pilot training in the 1930’s.  Ms. Clark died in 2008 at the age of 93.

“It is natural for a person to seek happiness in life; however, I believe that this desirable aim is never achieved if one attempts to find it directly.  Instead, happiness is found indirectly as a by-product from devoted service to the lives of others.”

Thank you, Marie, for words by which to live. 

Whether you’re in your 20’s, 50’s, or 80’s, life is too short.   We absolutely have no guarantee of the next minute, month, or year.  Why occupy what time we have, regardless of how long it might end up being, with tasks that provide no assistive value to others?  Does this mean that we all quit our jobs and start a life that rivals Mother Teresa of Calcutta?  Not by any means.  What it does mean, however, is that in the hours that we’ve been given, let’s make as many of those count.  A very wise man once said, “Do all that you can, in all the places you can, in all the ways that you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, for as long as you can.” – John Wesley

Define your passion; follow your heart; and make a difference in someone’s life.  If your eyes and ears are open, you’ll know what that is.

You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don’t | Documentary about Alzheimer’s | Independent Lens | PBS

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You’re Looking at Me Like I Live Here and I Don’t | Documentary about Alzheimer’s | Independent Lens | PBS.

I hope everyone has an opportunity to see this PBS documentary which airs March 29, 2012.  What an eye opening foray into the day-to-day life of a person whose own identity escapes them.