Teepa Snow

Why I love the internet

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http-895558_640Sure, it’s convenient and very utilitarian for our every-day use.  As a writer, I benefit greatly from an online Thesaurus to use alternate words.  Case in point,  there’s gotta be a better way to say, “Colleen got angry (irked, vexed, indignant, apoplectic, choleric) when traffic made her late for her hair appointment.”

And among the many other reasons for which I use the internet, I count on it for quick access to a recipe for an I’m too exhausted to be creative meal on a Monday night or in the alternative, a restaurant that’s not too far away from home and can seat us at the last minute.  Bottom line, I take full advantage of what the inter-web has to offer.

But the biggest reason I love the internet is that it reaches anyone who has access to any type of computer device – especially those in need of some sort of assistance when sorting out the difficulties of life.  My need for a dining alternative pales in comparison to someone searching for help when caring for someone with a debilitating illness.

Caring gumby figuresOne of the blogs I follow: My Dementia Experience, is written by a woman, NorCalMom, who takes care of her mother-in-law.  This delightful caregiver also has five children of her own.  But NorCalMom jumped into caregiving with both feet in 2013 when Marie, her mother-in-law, moved in with her and the rest of her household because of Marie’s advancing dementia.  Reading just one of this blogger’s posts will show an outsider what types of challenges NorCalMom faces on an ongoing basis.

As caregivers, and I’ve been one as well, we oftentimes “wing it” when it comes to handling the day-to-day, and shockingly acute, issues that occur during our caregiving journey.  The unpredictable nature of Alzheimer’s or other dementia makes even the most mundane activities frustratingly impossible to handle with only a layman’s knowledge of providing care.  For example, how does one communicate with a person who can no longer understand what is said to her and who can no longer respond cogently to questions proferred by their primary care person?

Caregivers need psychic powers to unravel the mystery of care providing.  Or do they?  Read the rest of this entry »

False positive Alzheimer’s diagnosis

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Treatable Conditions that Mimic Dementia – AARP.  I am so pleased that AARP published this article about false positives for Alzheimer’s disease.  Because of the high incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, we have all become very sensitive to any abnormal cognitive challenges in our lives.  A few people have said to me, “I keep losing my keys.  I forget where I place them.  Do I have Alzheimer’s?”  I’m not a medical professional but I have been trained by several in the profession.  Teepa Snow, one of America’s leading educators on dementia, had this response to that type of question, and I paraphrase:

If you forget where you’ve put down your keys, you may not have dementia.  If you forget what they are or what they’re used for, you could very well have dementia.

Several years ago I underwent extensive neurological testing due to troubling cognitive symptoms.  Turns out, the cause was a medication I was taking.  Once I went off the med, I was 100% fine.
Several years ago I underwent extensive neurological testing due to troubling cognitive symptoms. Turns out, the cause was a medication I was taking. Once I went off the med, I was 100% fine.

The attached AARP article provides possible reasons for cognitive abnormalities that are not Alzheimer’s disease: medication, urinary tract infection (UTI), diabetes, thyroid, and depression to name a few.  That being the case, even if you forget what the car keys are for, you still may not have Alzheimer’s or other dementia.

In my attached article, Medications: harbinger of cognitive decline? I address just one of the causes for a false positive Alzheimer’s diagnosis.  Please read that article, to be sure, but also read the attached piece by AARP.  You deserve to have peace of mind by finding out if your symptoms, or those of a loved one, are reversible.  And by all means, be bold enough to demand that your treating physician rule out all other possible conditions before putting you through the grueling neurological testing that many physicians prescribe as first steps, rather than the last resort when determining the cause of a patient’s cognitive decline.

Sex in long-term care dementia units

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Bloomberg Businessweek posted a provocative article, Sex Among Dementia Patients Spurs Call for Policies, that will no doubt get the attention of professionals, and family members alike.  The attached article is well-worth the read, and I have a few comments of my own to add.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I acknowledge that sexual activities most likely occur in every long-term setting out there.  Consenting adults – even those with varying degrees of dementia – need touch and physical connection.  I think it’s fabulous that in spite of the limitations brought about by cognitive impairment, human beings still maintain the desire to give affection, and receive affection.  In some instances, affection may simply be expressed with hand holding or sitting next to someone, hip-to-hip.  Or perhaps a hug and a kiss are involved.  All of these actions are perfectly innocent without harm as long as all touching is consensual.

Some residents may express their need to give and receive affection with more intimate sexual activities, so if both parties are willing and able, I think intimacy is an important part of their well-being.

What about those patients who are already married to someone else?

English: Gender symbols for homosexuality (les...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It takes an understanding and flexible spouse or partner to overlook the intimate activities of their cognitively impaired loved one.  The commitment made between the two parties years ago is a commitment that still resides within the deep recesses of that person’s being – but it’s a commitment that can not be drawn upon and reaffirmed because of memory impairment.  (I think it’s important to not assume that adulterous motivations are in play here.)  Marriage itself may be a concept that is no longer understood by the patient, and as is oftentimes the case – the visiting spouse exists as a friendly visitor, not the wife or husband that the patient used to know.

I can’t predict how I would feel if similar circumstances came my way in the future – my husband and I have not fallen into the cognitive impaired category – yet.  And you don’t have to agree with what I’ve stated above.  The sentiments I have provided come from my own personal beliefs, and from the perspective of having both worked in long-term care in my past, and having had family members who have lived in long-term care housing.

One last thing: As dementia care specialist Teepa Snow stated in the attached article, “No matter what you do, somebody’s going to see you as wrong.”  The issues of sex and intimacy touch many personal, religious, and ethnic biases and beliefs.  There are no completely right or completely wrong answers.  I’m simply thrilled that the long-term care industry has stopped pretending that geriatric sex isn’t happening, and that they are no longer treating it as a taboo subject.  I take comfort in that fact.