We wanted to share an article that was passed along to us by a former client. It's written by blogger, Blake Butler and offers a great glimpse into the daily challenges that caregivers face when caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's Disease. It is truly an act of love when a family member makes the personal sacrifices necessary to care for a Alzheimer's patient, full time.
"My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about three years ago. After an extended stay at the hospital and stints in two different rest homes, my mom brought him home to care for him herself. She did this despite warnings that it would be too much for her to handle—even with regular assistance—because the conditions in the homes were too depressing to bear. l wanted to find out what the day-to-day life of someone tasked with keeping another adult alive is like, so I talked to my mom about it."
How does your average day begin?
Usually I wake up before LD and get dressed, and I try to get the coffee made and the cereal stuff out. But if he wakes up first, I just get him cleaned and dressed and then do the other stuff.
What time does he get up?
He’s gotten so he goes to bed between 8 and 9 PM and sometimes sleeps until noon. One day I was so tired and exhausted that I didn’t hear him and he got up and went into the den at seven in the morning. He ended up somehow falling, and I found him on the floor tangled up in the chair. But usually I wake up before him and get dressed real quick, because if I don’t he watches me do every single thing, and it drives me crazy.
Why does he watch you?
Because he doesn’t have anything else to do. He just stares. And he wants to see what food I’m making.
I know he usually wets the bed at night, even through the disposable underwear. Do you change the sheets after you wake him up?
I take the sheets and the pajamas and the shirt and socks and just wrap them up in that plastic liner that keeps the mattress pad dry. Sometimes if he wakes up before I do he’ll have already taken his underpants off. I get him to the bathroom and have him sit on the toilet so I can get his wet clothes off and wipe him off with Handi Wipes.
You have him sit on the toilet to get dressed and undressed?
Yeah, because he might go. And if he’s not bad, I can use those Handi Wipes and wipe him off and put powder on his back and in his underwear so that it will be dry. But, like, today he was soaked and had taken his own stuff off and didn’t want to get in the shower. He doesn’t like me to bother his pants, and when I mess with them, that’s when he grabs my wrists. I figured out that I can reach behind him and underneath and pull the pants down that way. He’s still grabbing, but once I get them down, he’ll sit on the toilet. It’s tricky. Once he’s got a hold of my wrist I’ll threaten him. I say, “You’re going to have this hand in your face if you don’t let go of my hand.” [laughs] He knows I’m not going to do it, but… I get really angry because I’m helping him. I try to explain to him, “I’m trying to help you, and you are hurting me.” And he’s strong. Sometimes my wrists are red afterward.
He doesn’t realize you’re helping him?
He wants to do things himself. He always has.
Then when you finish with the clothes…
Once I get him in the shower, I pour shampoo on his head. Baby shampoo, so he won’t tear up. I used to give him soap and he’d use it, but now he doesn’t, so I put on these gloves and put the soap on my hands and just reach in the shower. Of course I get soaking wet—my jeans and everything, but I soap him up and down and wash his head. He doesn’t like that at all.
So after he’s dressed and fed, he mostly just walks around the house all day?
All day. Moving stuff. I have to make sure all the doors are locked. Like, today, for instance, when I came in he had the peanut butter out and two steak knives in it. I don’t know why the refrigerator wasn’t locked. I have rubber bands holding down the kitchen faucet because he used to turn the water on and leave it running. He tore the doorknob off the computer room. Basically, he’ll fidget with anything that’s loose until it is destroyed.
But once he’s set up and ready to go in the morning, you can sort of do your own thing, right?
I have to keep checking on him to make sure he’s not tearing stuff up or hurting himself. But I make sure I do something every day, dyeing fabric or sewing or something, because if I didn’t I’d go crazy. That’s the main thing they teach you in the caregiver’s class. It’s like the oxygen mask in the airplane: you don’t put it on your kid first, you put it on yourself first so you can get it on your kid. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re not going to do him any good, either.
Have you noticed any effects on your sanity?
I get on crying jags sometimes. I get to where I can’t think what I’m doing because he’s driving me crazy. That’s when I hit the sewing machine to get it off my mind. Abraham Lincoln said, “I’ve learned that a man is just as happy as he makes his mind up to be.” So that’s what I decided: I’m going to make up my mind to be happy.
You were having big problems with him tearing up the plant in the kitchen, but you were determined to leave it there. Why?
I don’t want him to think he can just tear up everything. I want him to learn not to. For some reason I think he can do more than he can. I believe it’s in there.
You used to spend hours trying to explain to him who you are, or who I am, and then eventually you began to accept that he wasn’t ever going to understand, right?
I know he doesn’t know who I am. He knows I’m a safe person. And sometimes he’ll call me Barbara. But he doesn’t know. It used to bother me, but it doesn’t now. He can’t help it, and it’s not going to change. And when he does… The funniest thing [laughs] was when he told me… I’d said, “Quit pacing, you’re driving me crazy.” And he looked at me and said, “Well that’s probably your problem.” That cracked me up. He said a rational sentence, and he put some thought in before he said it. So I know there’s something in there somewhe
Sometimes I wonder if he’s actually having a moment when he says something witty, or if it’s just an accident?
If he wasn’t thinking it through then, he sure did look like he was. But mostly he ends up talking gibberish. He’s gotten to where now if I say “Are you hungry?” he doesn’t know what I mean. So I’ll say, “Do you want something to eat?” Then he knows what I mean. So there are certain words that he knows.
Being immersed in this every day has got to be pretty physically demanding, right?
A lot of it is routine now. But the main thing is, if he’s in the room, you can’t concentrate on what you’re doing, and if he’s out of the room you think, What’s he doing? You worry about what he’s getting into. He’s broken and torn up so much stuff… and he thinks he’s working. When Tommy [his brother] calls and asks, “What have you been doing?” LD says, “I’m working. I’m so tired, I’m worn out.”
Why were you determined to bring him home instead of leaving him in the rest home?
The rest home did him more harm than good. When I went in to see him there the first time, they had him in a hospital robe, which he had never been in before, and sitting in a wheelchair. He was drooling, drugged out. He wasn’t like that at all when he went in. When we moved to the next place, they forced him in the ward for the most severe patients because they said there wasn’t enough room in primary. He couldn’t even get to his room because they had it blocked off with patients lying on cots.
Is it true that they basically tried to turn him into a zombie on purpose so he couldn’t go back home and no one else would want to admit him?
They claim to go from the early stages to the late stages. “We cover everything.” And they do. For $7,000 a month. He was being institutionalized. When I decided I wanted to move him somewhere else they told me, “You can’t handle him.” They were wrong.
Right. As soon as we got him out of there he was immediately much more himself, or at least not drugged out and pushed up against a wall. Even as demanding as it is on you now, I feel like it has to be less emotionally destructive overall. At least he’s free and not surrounded by death.
I freaked out every time I went to visit him. The only real car wreck I’ve ever had was after leaving the nursing home because I thought it was going to be a nice one. I thought I was going to throw up before I left there. People have told me I’m hurting myself by bringing him home and waiting on him, but I’m doing what I want to do. I sleep better now than I ever did when he was gone. He goes to bed early, and I can stay up late every night. I play my games and sew and listen to music and relax and have a glass of wine, and I sleep like a top. And he sleeps really well. As much as he might drive me crazy, when I think about him in the nursing homes… I can’t tolerate that. He probably wouldn’t know much difference, and yet I feel that he would.
Do you think you’ll be able to continue to handle him as he gets worse?
You don’t die from Alzheimer’s; you die from complications. And, physically, your dad is healthy. He’s probably going to be around a while. And that’s good. But he always said he never wanted to be this way. He always said, “If I end up a certain way, do something for me.” That was back when Dr. Kevorkian was still around. And I would want the same thing, too. But he could never do that to me, and I can’t to him. I’m thinking I’m keeping him here as long as I can. Source: Blake Butler, Blog Post
Caring for a loved one with Alheimer's Disease is undoubtedly challenging on so many levels; physically, mentally and emotionally. Without proper rest and downtime, a caregiver can become "burned out" with negative implications for self and care recipent. Consider arranging for frequent respite periods to recharge.
At Easy Living Services, we specialize in providing secure, reliable care for Alzheimer's patients and their families. Experienced, expertly trained professional caregivers are ready to care for your loved one for a few hours up to long term, full time care.
Call people who understand your unique needs.
Call Easy Living Services.
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If working out makes you cringe, it's time for a mental makeover. Here are exercise tips for healthy aging and a how to guide on becoming more active and enjoying it. We all know that exercise is the key to being healthy along with improving sleep, boosting mood and self-confidence, great for the brain, can even reverse some of the symptoms of aging and so much more! But...for many, it is a challenge to commit to a regular routine or to even exercise at all.
It's time to consider physical activity a part of your lifestyle instead of a bothersome task to check off you "to do" list. Keep in mind that mixing different types of exercise helps both reducing monotony and improvement in overall health. The components of a balanced exercise program include:
- Cardio increases your body's ability to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues and to remove waste over sustained periods of time. Cardio gets your heart pumping and helps lessen fatigue.
- Strength Training with repetitive motion using weights or resistance helps prevent bone mass, builds muscle and improves balance.
- Stretching and Flexibility challenges the joint's ability to move freely and can be done through stationary or moving stretches. Stretching and flexibility exercises help the body to stay limber and mobil.
- Balance improves posture and quality of walking and helps reduce the risk of falling. Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates are great exercised to improve balance.
There are lots of ways to make exercise a pleasurable part of everyday life. Just think about activities that you enjoy and how you can incorporate them int9 an exercise routine.
- Work out to music that motivates you. If you love music and like to dance, Jazzercise is a great fitness program that is lots of fun. The program is designed for all fitness levels and incorporates cardio, strength, stretching and flexibility along with balance in every workout segment.
- If you enjoy shopping, walk laps at the mall.
- Join a team sport. You become more dedicated when the team is counting on you to show up.
- Take nature hikes or walks and take photos to share with family and friends or for scrap booking.
- Buddy up! Get a neighbor or friend to join a program or take classes with you.
- Stay inspired. Read health magazines. Watching sports, weight loss and healthy cooking shows can help remind you how great it feels to take care of your body.
- Watch a favorite movie while using stationary equipment.
- Take a walk through your neighborhood while incorporating stretching and strength training.
- Always choose the stairs over the elevator and park at the far end of the parking lot on outings.
- Do a set of wall push ups while waiting for the microwave to finish.
- Sweep the sidewalk, deck and porch.
- Rake leaves, shovel snow or work in the garden.
- Lift weights and stretch while watching the news.
- Do toe-raises while talking on the phone.
- Each time you get up from a seated position do knee bends and lunges.
Exercise helps reduce the impact of illness and chronic disease. It also helps improve immune function, better heart health and blood pressure, better bone density, and better digestive functioning. People who exercise also have a lowered risk for Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis and colon cancer. And as we age exercise helps us maintain independence.
The most rewarding part of beginning a fitness routine is noticing the difference it makes in the rest of your life. Even if you begin with just 15 to 20 minutes of heart-healthy exercise, you'll notice an improvement in how you feel as you go about your day. The best part about working out is that it gives you energy for more activities. When it becomes habit, you'll never want to give it up!
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I am sure that you never imagined that you would one day become the primary caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer's Disease. Your days are jam packed with doctor's appointments and personal care tasks. You've found that taking a parent with Alzheimer's on an outing can be challenging; perhaps you've given up. You've both become a little lonely and isolated. This bleak scenario doesn't have to be your reality. A fun, innovative outlet for alzheimer's patients and their caregivers is popping up all over the country (& world!)...The Alzheimer's Cafe.
The Alzheimer's Cafe movement started in the Netherlands in 1997 and has quickly been gaining popularity in Europe, the US and Canada. Today, more than 200 cafes exist across Europe. The first US cafe event was held in 2008 at the College of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Elsewhere, the cafes thrive in museums, adult day care centers, worship centers, and hospitals throughout many states, including California, New Mexico, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington.
What is the Alzheimer's Cafe?
Essentially, its a support group and social event combined. In one sense, they serve to bring people together with similar circumstances to share, support and lessen the stigma of the disease. The cafes have improved upon the traditional support group by incorporating recreation and entertainment. Similar to what you might find at a regular cafe, these gatherings are upbeat and leisurely where participants can relax, enjoy some music and share experiences over a cup of coffee or tea.
Some cafes have set themes with guest speakers, presentations or entertainment for each gathering. Others are more flexible and loosely organized with arts & crafts activities, tea time, singing and poetry depending on the interests of the group. Some groups even welcome guest artists and musicians who invite participants to join in and learn the art form.
Unfortunately, the cafes have not yet arrived on the Atlanta scene. However, a great alternative is the "Arts 4 Alzheimers" program. Geriatric experts believe that art is a great activity to tap into the imagination of Alzheimer's patients. Even with the loss of memory, the capacity for imagination still exists. The program gives people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia fun, creative and stimulating ways to communicate and express their feelings, and enables them to feel less lonely and isolated. "Arts 4 Alzheimer's" is ideal for people with early-stage memory loss. Trained artists/educators facilitate the classes in a variety of mediums (such as painting, pottery, collage, music, and photography). Best of all, classes are free of charge. Classes are held at the Spruill Center for the Arts in Dunwoody. Please contact Tania Becker at 404-492-6181 to learn more.
Another function geared to Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers is the "Rendevous" at the Booth Western Art Museum in Cartersville. The group meets the 2nd Monday of each month and is free with advanced registration. During the group's meeting time, the museum is closed to the general public, allowing participants to experience the art in a very relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Specially trained tour guides lead visitors and their primary caregivers through the galleries and facilitate an interactive art activity. Contact the Booth Western Art Museum for program specifics at 770-387-3849.
Joining a "Forget Me Nots" group is another great way to get a break from the daily challenges of caregiving. "Forget Me Nots" is a social support Lunch Group for early stage Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers. Groups meet the 3rd Wednesday of each month at various restaurants across Atlanta. Contact the Alzheimer's Association at 1-800-272-3900 for specific locations and dates.
Are you interested in forming an Alzheimer's Cafe in your area? Click the link for start-up guide...Neighborhood Memory Cafe Tool Kit.
Do you need help caring for a loved one at home?
Call Easy Living Services at 770-442-8664. We're Atlanta's Alzheimer's and In-Home Care Experts.
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Did you know that over 100 medical conditions produce symptoms similar to Alzheimer's? Additionally, some medications, like those used to treat common conditions such as diabetes, heart burn and high cholesterol, can cause "Alzheimer like" symptoms. Current statistics show that 17 to 30% of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's were misdiagnosed. Experts caution not to jump too quickly to an Alzheimer's diagnosis.
Let's face it. Many of us are guilty of assuming that the cause of a senior's apparent confusion, forgetfulness or sudden personality change is likely Alzheimer's disease. This faulty assumption could result in misdiagnosis and failure to properly identify and treat the real culprit. Additionally, many seniors may be incorrectly labeled with "Alzheimers" and "written off" by many. Their mental capacity and ability to manage personal, medical and financial affairs may be called into questio, as a result.
How do you make sure that your loved one has received an accurate diagnosis?
Make certain that the appropriate health professional has made the diagnosis. Typically, an interdisiplinary team of a neurologist and geriatric specialist should be consulted to conduct a full evaluation, if Alzheimer's Disease is suspected. A Geriatric Psychiatrist is also helpful in assessing potential memory and thinking problems. A complete medical work-up should be ordered including a physical & neurological exam to assess: reflexes, muscle tone and strength, mobility, senses of sight/hearing, coordination, and balance. The exam should also include a brief, screening level "Mental Status" test which assesses memory and other thinking skills.
Your loved one's medical team should work through a "process of elimination" first to screen for the following underlying conditions that can exhibit "Alzheimer's Like" or dementia symptoms:
1. Infections (ie:Urinary Tract Infections, Cellulitis, Pneumonia)
3. Sudden Change in Blood Pressure
4. Drug Interactions (ie: if patient is taking numerous medications)
5. Sleep Apnea
6. Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus: Normal pressure hydrocephalus or NPH is a condition where cerebral spinal fluid builds up in the brain’s ventricles, resulting in the afflicted person experiencing difficulty walking, dementia and loss of bladder control.
7. Hypothyroidism Low levels of the thyroid growth hormone can cause brain fog, forgetfulness, and depression.
8. Substance Abuse, including alcoholism
9. Nutritional Deficiencies: Most typically of the B vitamin group, Thiamin, niacin, folate and vitamin B-12.
10. Vascular or Multi-Infarct Dementia: MID occurs when blood clots block small blood vessels in the brain and destroy brain tissue. Seniors and those with high blood pressure are at increased risk.
11. Pick's Disease: Progressive disease characterized by marked changes in personality and social skills and later memory loss, difficulty focusing, and speech disturbances.
12. Brain Tumors
Many of these conditions whose symptoms mimic Alzheimer's Disease are treatable. This underscores the necessity of a thorough evaluation before you accept an Alzheimer's diagnosis.
Once possible alternative diagnosis are eliminated, your geriatric specialist may order some tests for further assessment. These will most likely include:
Your physician may recommend a more extensive assessment of your loved one's thinking and memory. Longer forms of neuropsychological testing, which can take several hours to complete, may provide additional details about mental function compared with others' of a similar age and education level.
Images of the brain via Cat Scan are now used identify abnormalities related to conditions other than Alzheimer's disease, such as strokes, trauma or tumors — that may cause cognitive changes. MRI are also typically utilized to rule out conditions that might account for cognitive symptoms. Researchers are currently working towards using MRI to measure the volume of brain tissue and pinpoint whether shrinkage of tissue in brain regions associated with Alzheimer's Disease has occurred. PET Scans can show which areas of a patient's brain are not functioning well. Additionally, PET scanning may be able to identify areas of plaque in the brain which is evident in Alzheimer's patients.
It important to remember that there currently is no absolute, definitive test for detection of Alzheimer's disease. Consulting with a reputable, Geriatric specialist is critical in getting the most accurate diagnosis possible.
Finding the right physician in the Atlanta Metro area...Atlantans are fortunate to have a National Institute on Aging funded Alzheimer's Disease Center in town. It is located at the Wesely Woods Health Center of Emory under the direction of Dr. Allan Levey. Appointments and information can be obtained by calling 404-728-6950.
Easy Living Services is pleased to make available an on-line library dedicated to Alzheimer's Disease topics. Continue your research...link to our library Atlanta Home Care Resources | Easy Living Services Need to speak to a representative regarding care needs? Call Easy Living Services, Atlanta's care experts at 770-442-8664.
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The lighting in our homes can make a huge difference to our senior loved ones and research shows that exposure to light can be very beneficial to people with Alzheimer's. It is something many of us don’t even think about until a light bulb burns out and we have to replace it.
Many seniors have deteriorating vision and lighting can make a significant difference in making day to day tasks easier. We receive over 85 percent of our information through our sense of sight. Appropriate lighting, without glare or shadows, can reduce eye fatigue and headaches. It also highlights safety hazards, which reduces the chance of accidents and injuries.
We go to our optical health care professionals to help us see better. We know that light is essential for seeing, but practical lighting guidelines are not usually offered by health care professionals. Vision problems are one of the most frequent reasons why one out of three senior adults fall each year. Falls are a serious problem because they are the leading cause of death from an injury with our senior population.
Good lighting can make the difference between seeing and not seeing for older adults with poor vision and between comfort and discomfort. Caregivers and family members can improve the quality of life of those we love by recommending good lighting to mitigate some of the common problems associated with aging eyes.
The correct lighting helps with the ability to see but also….
- Gives you the opportunity to better focus on an object. Fast moving objects are harder to see.
- The size of the object. Very small objects are hard to see.
- Brightness. Too much or too little reflected light makes objects hard to see.
- Contrast between an object and its immediate background. Too little contrast makes it hard to distinguish an object from its background.
Lighting and Alzheimer’s Disease
Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease suffer from the above mentioned vision problems as well as significant deficits in memory, reasoning and safety awareness. Maximizing their ability to see is at least one step that caregivers can have control over. Research has shown that exposure to light can benefit patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Research has also shown that as many as 25 percent of individuals with Alzheimer’s have circadian rhythm disturbances that affect normal rest/awake patterns. This research suggests that these patients will sleep better and have fewer periods of restlessness if their environment has plenty of light. This information is not surprising because light is good for all of us regardless of age, but it appears to be an important for the Alzheimer patient.
Things you can do to help improve the lighting in your home:
Increase Light Levels
Sufficient light in a room is not just for aesthetic appeal it performs a critical role for those in the room. It also helps with color recognition and makes it easier for elderly people to read, knit and complete tasks. Rooms that are too dark increase the likelihood of trips, falls and injuries.
Add small lights with switches on either end of a hallway for late night trips to the kitchen or bathroom. Many outlets are designed to work with room light switches. Check to make sure table lamps are plugged into the correct outlet so a quick flick of a switch will set the room a glow. Also the use of night lights will help give extra peace of mind to find the light switches during the night.
The only time increasing the light levels can hinder our senior is in the case where the senior has cataracts. They have difficulty seeing in overly bright spaces.
There is a big difference between quantity and quality of illumination. Many older individuals become increasing sensitive to glare. Glare is acutely noticed when a bright object is seen against a dark background. Lighting fixtures without shades and a clear bulb should be avoided.
Contrast sensitivity declines with age and makes it more difficult to recognize and distinguish edges. It is especially important to emphasize the edge of stairs with potential contrasting color in order to decrease the likelihood of missing a step and falling.
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The holiday season should be the happiest time of the year, right? If you are caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's Disease, the season can bring new challenges and stressors. It's especially tough for the Alzheimer's patient who may experience anxiety over the increased levels of stimulation. It's essential to minimize stress by identifying and minimizing triggers. Simplying your holiday calendar will insure that the holiday memories you make are happy ones.
Tips for Holiday Sanity:
1. Avoid Crowded Venues and Hectic Activities. You might be be tempted to take your Alzheimer's patient along with you while shopping at the mall. Think again. This little excursion could prove disastrous. The frantic pace, crowds, holiday music and decorations could result in serious overstimulation for an Alzheimer's patient. The resulting anxiety and behavior changes could linger for days.
2. Keep Holiday Visits Short. Alzheimer's patients tire easily. Consider skipping lengthy events or parties. As an alternative, families can retain the services of a professional caregiver through an In-Home Care agency to keep a family member with Alzheimer's safe and comfortable at home. Look for an agency with caregivers who have specific Alzheimer's experience and/or training. For additional information on Alzheimer's specific In-Home Care Services, contact Easy Living at 770-442-8664.
3. Minimize Holiday Decor; Reduce & Simplify. Excessive visual stimulation can also increase anxiety levels for Alzheimer's patients. Items like blinking lights can be confusing or even frightening. Make it easy on yourself and your loved one by limiting the decorations to a few cherished items. Instead conserve your energy and take time to reflect on the true meaning of the season.
4. Allow Room for Imperfection. Your celebrations and gatherings do not have to be "Norman Rockwell" perfect. If your Alzheimer's patient enjoys hanging ornaments on the tree or decorating sugar cookies; allow him to participate. The results may be less than perfect but the process will build happy memories for all.
5. Build on Past Traditions and Memories. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs and listening to favorite stories. But also experiment with new holiday traditions, such as renting seasonal videos.
6. Maintain the Normal Routine. Your loved one does much better with routine and consistency. This is even more important during the holidays when other variables are changing. Plan adequate time for rest and nutritious meals.
Like any other health challenge, Alzheimer’s always affects an entire family—not just one individual. Celebrating holidays with a family member who has Alzheimer’s can be challenging and stressful. Some advanced planning and a realistic vision for the season can ease stress for all. Adjust your holiday expecations. Above, enjoy these precious moments with your loved one.
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Recent studies conducted by University of Toronto and GA Tech have shown that an individual's inability to recognize once-familiar faces and objects may be related to difficulty in perceiving distinct features. In other words, an alzheimer's patient may not be able to distinguish one face from another...everyone looks the same. Prior to this finding, the cause was attributed soley to impairment in memory recall. There's now growing evidence that a part of the brain once believed to support memory exclusively, the medial temporal lobe, also plays a role in object perception.
In trials, participants with early alzheimer's disease were shown many pairs of "blob-like" photos where the differences were minor. Patients struggled greatly to identify identical pairings. However, when the pairs of "blob-like" photos were mixed in with photos where the non-matches exhibited more extreme differences (butterfly photo vs. desk photo), the participants were more successful in matching the identical pairings.
Why are these findings significant to Alzheimer's patients and their families?
Scientists are finding that by reducing "visual clutter", Alzheimer's patients can be more successful with everyday tasks. For example, buttons on a telephone tend to be the same size and color. The numbers are the only significant difference which is difficult to distinguish for someone struggling with object perception. A phone designed with varying sized buttons and different colors could be much easier for an early stage Alzheimer patient to navigate. Families should look for ways to make items with minor differences more distinguishable. For example, using different sized and different colored bowls or plates at meal time may make it easier for the Alzheimer's patient to eat independently. Choosing bold, contrasting colored articles of clothing may make it easier for your loved one to put clothing on properly.
Perception tests may become part of the screening process and serve as an early indicator of cognitive impairment.
Source: Hippocampus, October 2012
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Facing the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can be one of the most challenging issues a family can face. Without question, the diagnosis is sobering but it doesn't have to be hopeless. Experience shows that for many Alzheimer's patients, quality, one-on-one care can make an appreciable difference in quality of life.
Easy Living Services client Martha Gray's family is an excellent example of a family that refused to give up hope. Like so many others, the Grays were initially distressed to learn that mom, Martha Gray, was afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. Initially, the only noticeable symptoms were memory lapses and mild confusion. Mrs. Gray continued to live independently along side her husband, Willard, a practicing Chiropractor. At 87, Mr. Gray managed to provide supportive care for his wife and still remain active in his chiropractic clinic. Daughters, Debbo, Dawn and Sunny pitched in when needed to give their Dad a break from caregiving. This approach worked well for some time. After a near tragedy shocked the family, they were forced to face their mom's declining condition and take action.
I remember the afternoon Easy Living received a call from Martha Gray's daughter, Debbo. Deb contacted us to inquire about in-home care options for her mother as a recent incident had made her very concerned about Martha's safety and security. One rainy afternoon, Martha wandered away from home on foot. No family members were at home or aware that she had wandered. After walking over a mile from home, Martha stopped and collapsed on an area bridge. A concerned citizen contacted police to report having seen an elderly woman lying down on a bridge in the rain. Fortunately, Mrs. Gray was not injured as a result of this ordeal. It was now obvious to all that her mental condition had degraded substantially and Martha could no longer be left unattended. The Gray family had many questions and some tough decisions to make.
Was it possible for their mom to remain at home? Could Easy Living help?
Ultimately, the answer to both of these questions was "yes!" The Gray daughters formulated a care strategy and approach affectionately dubbed "Team Martha". Their idea was to combine their efforts to enrich their Mom's life as much as possible and to keep her happy at home for as long as possible. Each day was to be "all about Martha". Easy Living Services was selected to play an integral role in "Team Martha" through Certified Nursing Assistant, Lashonda Brisbane. After careful consideration, we selected Lashonda for the Gray family based on her unique skill set, experience and probably most importantly, positive attitude. It was clear to all of us at Easy Living that an energetic, upbeat caregiver would be required to keep up with fun loving Mrs. Gray!
When care first started, Martha was really a shell of her former self. Her daughters had described their mom as a once energetic, interesting woman with a zest for life. Lashonda arrived on her first day to find a much different Martha. She was quiet, withdrawn and spent much of her day sleeping. Her memory was significantly impaired and mental state was confused. She was not eating, drinking or taking her medications with any regularity. In fact, her family reported significant weight loss. Her blood pressure was frequently too low, resulting in dizziness. She had become resistant to showering and neglected overall hygiene. This was a real change for the former Mrs. North Georgia winner! Overall, it was a pretty grim picture but very much like that of many other Alzheimer's patients.
Fast forward 4 short months and we are pleased to see an entirely different Martha Gray. Truthfully, Martha wasn't miraculously restored to her "pre-alzheimers" condition. However, she is now a much more engaged, active, healthy Martha. Improvements noted following the addition of a personal caregiver to her care team include the following: weight gain of 7 lbs, stable blood pressure, normal sleep patterns restored, effective medication management, talkative and engaging with loved ones, increased levels of activity, renewed interest in grooming and personal appearance, and improved cognitive test scores as reported by her physician.
How did "Team Martha" accomplish these amazing results? Without question the love and committment demonstrated by Mrs. Gray's family was the primary force behind her improvement. Caregiver, Lashonda, put her experience from working with other dementia patients to work with Mrs. Gray. Initially, she carefully observed Mrs. Gray's habits and behaviors without making any radical changes. She "shadowed" her throughout the day working to build familiarity and trust. At appropriate times, Lashonda would ask her to join in as she performed routine tasks like folding laundry or putting away dishes. Pleasant conversation during these tasks allowed the two to become acquainted. Helping Lashonda increased Mrs. Gray's self confidence and feeling of usefulness around the home.
Lashonda worked with family members to implement a better medication management system which meant that Martha would receive her medications on time, every day. Better control of Alzheimer's symptoms with effective use of meds resulted in improved energy, focus and appetite. Additionally, Mrs. Gray's sleep cycles normalized which further enhanced her daytime energy levels and mood.
A rough schedule was developed to organize Mrs. Gray's day. Establishing a predictable routine reduced anxiety levels and was soothing. The schedule is "rough" because Lashonda never wanted to force Mrs. Gray to conform or do anything she didn't want to do. She worked to organize essential tasks like eating, showering, taking meds at times of the day when Mrs. Gray was likely to be most receptive. She tried to give her opportunities to make decisions and feel some sense of control over her day. For example, Lashonda would allow her to help make clothing selections and menu choices.
Slowly, Lashonda worked up to re-introducing activities that Mrs. Gray had enjoyed earlier in her life. She had been an excellent seamstress at one time. While she could no longer complete real sewing projects, Lashonda discovered that she could sew together pieces of cloth and enjoyed doing so for long periods of time. Outside time is always incorporated into their routine. Nature walks or active gardening work keeps Mrs. Gray strong and connected with the outside world. I was also tickled to learn that Mrs.Gray holds a daily yoga class and serves as instructor to her favorite pupil, Lashonda. To retain thinking skills, puzzles and reading is part of the regimen. A fun game of "Name that Tune" is great for Mrs. Gray's memory and plays off her love of music. Mrs. Gray's "music class" is also on the agenda...where she gives Lashonda piano instruction. I have also heard that Martha has returned to doing one of her very favorite activites, singing in the church choir.
It's truly heart warming to hear how much progress Martha has made in living life to the fullest despite a tough diagnosis. Working together, "Team Martha" has far surpassed its initial goal of keeping her safe at home. She is now thriving at home and re-engaging in a way no one thought was possible a few months ago. Mrs. Gray's personal physician is very pleased and has attributed her remarkable progress to the In-Home Care she receives on a daily basis.
I had the pleasure of seeing Mrs. Gray a few days ago when she stopped by the office after an outing with Lashonda. She looked beautiful and happy. So did caregiver, Lashonda. It seems that both caregiver and client are benefiting from this fantastic match!
Alzheimer's disease doesn't have to feel like a hopeless situation to your loved one and to your family. Want to learn more about how your loved one might benefit from one-on-one care by a seasoned, professional caregiver?
Call us today at 770-442-8664. We're ready to help.
Home Care for Atlanta Seniors | Easy Living Services
There's no question that evaluating care options for a loved one can be quite overwhelming, not to mention costly. You might be surprised to learn that "Live-In" home care options can be among the best values in senior care.
The term "Live-In" refers to a caregiver that lives with the care recipient for a specified period of time (usually several days), providing 24 hour coverage. "Live-In" care is typically billed at a flat, daily fee with rates ranging from $175 to $185 per 24 hour period. "Live-In" rates are considerably less expensive on a per hour basis than standard hourly care. One qualifier on "Live-In" care arrangements is that the client must sleep on average 7-8 hours per night without needing care. If regular sleep is not possible for the caregiver, an additional Aide will be needed to provide nighttime coverage, on an hourly basis.
Before you dismiss "Live-In" care as too costly, consider how comprehensive the care is for the money. Besides "hands on", personal care services such as bathing, dressing, mobility assistance and companionship, caregivers serve as Household Managers. Consider the tasks listed below that are rolled into the job of "Live-in" caregiver:
Household cleaning & laundry services--- a $540 per month ($135 per week) value
Personal Meal Planning/Shopping/Preparation Services--- a $450 per month value (30 homecooked, nutritious meals)
Pet Care (feeding/walking)---a $270 per month ($9 per day) value
Errand & Transportation Service---a $320 per month value (2 local outings per week)
These extra services, of course, are in addition to the priceless benefit of one-on-one personal care and companionship in one's own home. "Live-In" care is especially economical for couples or those requiring significant levels of personal care.
A word of caution---some might be tempted to search for a "Live-In" caregiver on their own. "A friend of a friend" may sound like an attractive option. This person may be someone that you believe you would be comfortable around. After all, conern about having a stranger in the home is a major hurdle for most. You should question the motivation of people who claim they will move in on a permanent basis to care for all of the needs of an elderly person. Professional Caregivers are real people with families, homes and their own interests. A professional, skilled caregiver will NOT be willing to move in permanently and give up their own lives without a break. He or she should possess the credentials/experience necessary to work with the elderly. Be skeptical of those who are willing to accept room/board and tiny salaries in exchange for a loved one's total care. Many seniors have fallen prey to dishonest "caregivers" who take advantage of the situation.
Instead, consider retaining the services of a professional In-Home Care agency. Agency personnel will handle the screening and make certain that the caregiver sent to care for your loved one is skilled, professional and has a solid track record. Agencies also guarantee coverage if your primary caregiver must miss work. Agency caregivers receive regular breaks so that when they return to care for your loved one; they are refreshed.
Do you think "Live-In" care might be right for your family? Call Easy Living Services to learn more...
770-442-8664. We're here to help!
Home Care for Atlanta Seniors | Easy Living Services
It's fairly obvious that long term caregiving for a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia can take its toll on the caregiver's emotional and physical health. New studies suggest that toll may even include higher risk for cognitive decline or developing dementia over non-caregivers.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society identified this link as well as the risk factors for cognitive decline including social isolation, depression, stress, poor lifestyle choices such as unhealthy diet and lack of physical activity.
Studies have shown, for example, that caregivers of Alzheimer's disease patients had lower scores on tests that measure attention, visual processing speeds, and memory than adults of the same age who were not caregivers. Additional stressors like disturbed sleep and fewer positive experiences excacerbated the processing problems. Another study published in 2010, followed more than 1,200 older married couples in rural Utah for 12 years and found that spouses of husbands or wives that developed dementia had a 600% greater risk of developing dementia themselves. More studies are needed to further explore the nature of the relationship between caregiving and cognitive decline.
The good news is that although primary family caregivers are more susceptible to the risk factors...they potentially have the ability to modify behaviors and environments before they become compromised. Family physicians should pay close attention to older patients who are caring for spouses impacted by the disease. Efforts need to be made to decrease stress levels in those patients, and help them focus on the positive aspects of caregiving over the negative.
Consider the following tips:
1) Schedule mini-workouts throughout the day. Ten minute sessions sprinkled over the course of the day are easier to block out than an hour away. Excercise boosts endorphins which promote a positive attitude.
2) Take time to play. In the early stages of Alzheimer's disease, the caregiver and patient can enjoy some activities that gave them joy in the past. Taking walks, gardening, doing puzzles, playing with a pet are some ideas for simple activities that can bring happiness to both parties.
3) Appreciate the humorous side of things. Laughter is an antidote to stress, anxiety and boredom. Caregivers should give themselves permission to laugh about some of the absurd situations they find themselves in when caregiving for a dementia or Alzheimer's patient. Watching comedy shows or funny movies can bring some sunshine into an otherwise grey day. Laughter will work to soothe both caregiver and patient.
4) Count the blessings. A daily gratitude list can chase away the blues and shift focus on a loved one’s capabilities.
5) Accept the situation. Its normal to want to avoid facing what is happening to a loved one with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. After all, the disease is progressive. Taking steps to understand its predictable progression will allow a caregiver to mentally prepare for the future and reduce anxiety over an uncertain future. Understand that a loved one's difficult behavior usually results from confusion, disorientation, and frustration. This will assist the caregiver in letting go of blame and unfullfilled expectations.
Do you need help caring for a spouse or loved one? Respite time is essential for primary caregivers. Get the rest you need so that you can continue to provide the care your loved one depends on. Call Easy Living Services at 770-442-8664 and we'll send a qualified, compassionate caregiver to care for your loved one safely at home.
Home Care for Atlanta Seniors | Easy Living Services