24 Hour Alzheimer’s Care Giving While Maintaining Your Own Health

February 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Alzheimers Help

Just for a moment I want you to imagine that you are coming out of a very deep sleep. If you have ever had surgery try to remember the way you felt as you were trying to make sense of things as you awoke. As you imagine or remember this sensation do you find yourself wondering if it is morning or night? Are you trying to remember where you are? Do you have a startle reaction and think for a moment that you are late for work or forgot to pick up your children at school? I have had that upsetting feeling if I wake up in the middle of the night or even after a nap. Now imagine that same fog every moment of your life…….

So many care givers find themselves frustrated with an Alzheimer’s sufferer. They may say things like “He just doesn’t seem to care if I am with him or not” or “He doesn’t enjoy doing anything any more.” I know that it is so hard to accept the changes in your loved one and know that this is going to be your reality. If you can remind yourself that the behaviors are organic it will help. The plaque is building up and spreading over the surface of the brain just as a grassfire moves across a dry field. As it covers more areas your loved falls deeper into that fog. Alzheimer’s disease doesn’t show up like a broken one or a surgical scar but the effects are just as real.

When the things they say or do cause you to feel angry or sad do you best to remember that it is the disease…not your loved one. That’s when it is time for some care giver TLC.

Care giver burnout is a very real occurrence. If you are caring for someone you must include your own needs each day. Your health may decline at a faster rate than the person you are caring for if your dietary, emotional and physical needs are not met. Skipping your checkups with Dr.s is not an option.

You may be asking “How am I supposed to do all of this all by myself?” The answer is simple. You can’t do it all alone. The first step to healthy care giving is accepting the fact that you have limitations. Every human being does. You can only stay awake, maintain your health and keep up with the demands for a limited amount of time. When you reach your limit you may find yourself suffering from care giver burnout. You may have trouble concentrating, experience nervous tension, and you may find it difficult to fight off resentment toward your loved one or others in your family that you feel should be assisting you.

Reach out. Call upon your family, friends, church and community organizations. Your local hospitals will have information regarding community resources. This information can usually be found by contacting the Social Services Department. Another good resource is the Alzheimer’s Association. By taking care of your health you will, in turn be a better care giver.

Care Guide For Alzheimer’s Disease

January 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Alzheimers Help

There are various definitions of Alzheimer ’s disease including:

– “The slow onset of memory loss leading to a gradual progression to a loss of judgement and changes in behaviour and temperament.”
– “A living death”
– “The global impairment of higher functions, including memory, the capacity to solve problems of day to day living, the performance of learned percepto-motor skills (for example tasks like washing, dressing and eating), and the control of emotional reactions in the absence of gross clouding of consciousness.”

Memory Loss
Memory loss occurs in all cases of Alzheimer’s disease. The most recent memories are the first to be affected, the things we’ve done in the last few hours or days. Later, as the disease progresses, the past memory also deteriorates.

The fact that memory loss is such an important feature of Alzheimer’s, the testing of a person’s memory is an easy and cheap method of diagnosing the condition. Questions asked should be extremely basic, for example:

– What day is it today?
– How old are you?
– Where are we now?
– What year is it?
– What month?
– Count backwards from 20 to 1.

These questions will test a person’s short term memory, and also orientation; disorientation being another problem experienced by Alzheimer’s suffers.

Disorientation
Disorientation, or not knowing who or where you are, is closely connected to memory loss. Typically, an Alzheimer’s sufferer will forget birthdays, become unsure of what day it is, and even forgets their own name. You can understand why Alzheimer’s has been called ‘a living death’.

Because it is the short-term memory that goes first, suffers who go out alone have often returned to a house they lived in years ago, thinking they have come home.

Disorientation inside the home can become a problem too but not until the disease is in its later stages. It is important that nothing is moved or changed in the home to preserve continuity. If their environment and routine remains unchanged, an Alzheimer’s sufferer will remain more content and confident; change the environment however and their confusion and disorientation becomes readily apparent. This is why treatment at home rather than in hospital is preferred and transfer to hospital should be a last resort.

Personality Change
One of the cruellest aspects of Alzheimer’s disease is the change in personality many people experience. Often, the general behaviour and personality of Alzheimers suffers in the later stages will be in complete contrast to their usual behaviour they exhibited in earlier life.

Mood swings, from being ecstatically happy to extremely sad, verbal and sometimes physical aggression, and extreme anxiety and nervousness often affect the Alzheimers sufferer and, of course, the carer who can help best by offering continuous reassurance and patience.

Personal Hygiene
Personal hygiene often becomes a major issue with the sufferer forgetting to wash and bathe. Body odour, and stained and soiled clothing and hands can be a cause of great stress and result in a cruel loss of dignity.

Communication
During the early stages understanding simple speech remains unaffected, but finding the correct words can be a problem and the Alzheimers sufferer will often leave sentences unfinished. The taking of messages particularly over the telephone can be difficult and this is often one of the first signs of dementia.

As the disease worsens communication will become more difficult as comprehension skills decrease. Eventually their whole speech can become gibberish until eventually the Alzheimer sufferer will cease to talk altogether and will withdraw into his or her small world.

Sleep
Although the amount of sleep required by an Alzheimers sufferer is unlikely to change, their sleep cycle may do. So, instead of wanting to sleep at night and be awake during the day, this could become reversed. This isn’t a problem of itself except for the carer who will have his or her nights disrupted.

The carer is advised to keep the patient active and awake during the day as much as possible, even though it is tempting to seize an opportunity to do some chores and enjoy some peace and quiet should the sufferer fall asleep. A warm drink at bedtime may help, although any problems with incontinence should be considered. Ensure there are no other reasons for the restless nights, such as joint pain or night cramps. In the event the latter are a problem, administer mild painkillers. In the worst case scenario, many people use a night sitting service to ensure the sufferer is closely supervised while the carer gets a few nights of undisturbed sleep.

Malnutrition
Eating and drinking can be a problem with Alzheimer suffers. More accurately the lack of food and drink and the resulting malnutrition is the problem.

A sufferer may develop an irrational fear of the food you are providing, or they may simply forget or refuse to eat. Two likely causes of the latter are ill-fitting dentures, especially if the sufferer has lost weight; and constipation. A well balanced diet with plenty of roughage and a high fluid intake will help prevent constipation.

General Advice For Carers
It is difficult to judge who has the worse time, the Alzheimers sufferer or the carer. In the early stages of the disease it is probably the sufferer, in the latter stages it is undoubtedly the carer.

Help minimise disorientation by not moving anything in the home. To do so will make their confusion worse.

Admit an Alzheimer’s suffer to hospital as a last resort. Once you do so disorientation and confusion will increase markedly.
Do not let a sufferer out alone, they may have difficulty finding the way back home.

Do all you can to help the sufferer maintain dignity.
– A warm drink or a tot of their favourite alcoholic drink may aid sleep at night. – Try to keep the patient active and awake during the day.
– Keep a cold drink nearby to remind the sufferer to take fluids.
– Keep disruption to routine to a minimum to prolong the Alzheimer’s sufferer’s independence as long as possible.

Closely supervise medication. It is very easy for the Alzheimer’s sufferer to forget they have taken their medication, and take it repeatedly. Alzheimer’s disease is progressive and incurable, although there are drugs that can slow the progression. It is one of the saddest diseases in that it is difficult to care for or regularly visit someone who no longer knows your name or recognises you.

Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention Tips

January 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Alzheimers Help

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that causes gradual loss of a person’s mental abilities. It initially affects the cerebral cortex and often starts off as simple forgetfulness.

As the disease progresses, the person’s personality may undergo a complete transformation for the worse. The ability to think and function normally may be almost fully lost.

Is there a way to reduce one’s chances of getting the disease? There are no definite answers, partly because the disease itself is not fully understood yet.

It is thought that maintaining a healthy lifestyle with lots of mental activity may help prevent Alzheimer’s. There are no absolute safeguards against it, though.

Here are some steps you can take to minimize your chances of falling prey to this disease.

* Remain mentally active.
Mental activity stimulates the brain neurons. The more you use your brain, the more it creates new neurological pathways and connections. In this respect, the brain is quite like the rest of the body, because if you use it, it tends to remain healthy. And if you don’t, the brain deteriorates.

Do crossword puzzles and word games. Take up public speaking or debating. Learn to play a musical instrument. Learn about art forms you were not familiar with before and attend cultural and other functions.

Anything that engages your brain and keeps you alert and active may help.

* Get regular physical exercise.
The benefits of moderate physical exercise are well documented. Exercise results in increased oxygen flow to the brain and releases chemicals that make you feel good.

Plus, of course, exercise boosts your physical stamina and fitness levels. It helps reduce your weight, lowers your blood pressure and many other positive effects.

Go with any exercise that suits you, after taking your doctor’s advice. Choices include aerobics, gym workouts, tai chi, stretch exercises, yoga and more.

* Eat healthy food.
Your chances of getting Alzheimer’s disease are lower if you cut down on cholesterol and fat in your diet. That means, avoid junk food and eat lots of fruits and vegetables. The latter helps build up your brain cells. Besides, fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants which are supposed to be good for the whole body.

Foods like leafy vegetables, fish and nuts may be excellent. Consult a doctor or nutritionist and come up with a diet that suits you.

* Cultivate excellent family and social relationships
Having great relationships dramatically improves your experience of life. And there are many studies that show that longevity is linked to having good social relationships.

Involve yourself in hobby groups. Join a neighborhood walking club or canasta group. Go to block parties. Get active in community organizations. Go on weekend trips with friends. There are many ways to stay involved socially.

In the end, leading a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle will contribute immensely to your quality of life. And it can help slow or perhaps even halt the progress of Alzheimer’s disease in people who are predisposed to it.

Americans Fear Alzheimer’s More Than Heart Disease, Diabetes or Stroke, But Few Prepare

January 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Alzheimers Help

Americans fear Alzheimer’s disease more than any illness other than cancer-and for older people, concerns about Alzheimer’s outrank even cancer. More than a third of all Americans know a family member or friend who has Alzheimer’s, and nearly two-thirds of Americans believe they will have to provide care someday for someone with Alzheimer’s.

These are just some of the results from a January 2006 MetLife Foundation/Harris Interactive poll of American adults. The survey, found in “MetLife Foundation Alzheimer’s Survey: What America Thinks,” included questions about how people view Alzheimer’s disease, what they know about it and what they are doing to plan for a future that may include the deadly illness.

A progressive brain disorder that science has yet to defeat, Alzheimer’s gradually destroys a person’s memory and ability to reason, communicate and function. Currently, 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that these numbers will grow to as many as 16 million Americans by 2050. Increasing age is the greatest risk factor for Alzheimer’s. One in 10 individuals over 65 and nearly half of those over 85 are affected. The Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging estimate that direct and indirect costs of current care are at least $100 billion annually.

The survey results underscore not only the fears that people have about this illness, but also the disturbing fact that few are prepared to face a future that may include Alzheimer’s.

Key findings from the poll, which was commissioned by MetLife Foundation, are summarized in a report available at www.metlife.org. They include:

• Americans fear Alzheimer’s disease. When people are asked to name the disease they are most afraid of getting from a list of illnesses, one out of five picks Alzheimer’s, while only 14 percent worry about heart disease and 13 percent are concerned about stroke. Only cancer tops Alzheimer’s. In fact, adults aged 55 and older fear getting Alzheimer’s even more than cancer.

• Americans know little or nothing about Alzheimer’s. While virtually all of those surveyed are aware of the disease (93 percent), almost three-quarters (74 percent) say they know only a little or nothing at all about Alzheimer’s.

• One-third of Americans say they have direct experience with Alzheimer’s disease. One in three Americans (35 percent) has a family member and/or friend with Alzheimer’s.

• Most Americans are concerned that they will be responsible at some point for caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. More than three out of five people worry that they will have to eventually provide or care for someone with the disease.

Most Americans recognize the need to create a plan to address the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease, but very few have taken steps to do so. More than eight out of 10 Americans think it is important to plan ahead for the possibility of getting Alzheimer’s disease. However, despite the overwhelming agreement that planning is important, almost no one has taken action. Nearly nine out of 10 Americans say they have made no comprehensive plans. The survey shows that Americans know enough about Alzheimer’s disease to fear its onset, but have not taken any steps to provide for the possibility of developing the disease.

Americans’ fears of Alzheimer’s are justified, given its increasing presence among a population that will live longer. As the population ages, it is essential to learn as much as possible about the disease and plan for the future.