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June 2009

"Hugging Grandma" Helps Grandchildren Handle Dementia

HuggingGrandma Hugging Grandma is the new kid on the block when it comes to books that help young children understand the many changes that dementia can bring to a grandparent's behavior.

Written by Zina Karmer, and illlustrated by Dave Messings, this charming book tells the story of a little girl and her relationship with her grandmother. Grandma was once a wonderful playmate and delightful to be around. Then things began to change, and eventually grandma doesn't even recognize her little granddaughter. 

Any of us who have seen our kids grapple with the changes dementia brings in much beloved grandparent can relate to this book. I'm delighted to see more of these enter the market. It means, from my perspective, that dementia is coming out in the open. People are trying to explain the changes to their children, and children are learning that their grandparents aren't just suddenly "weird." They are ill. Children are also learning that they can give back to the grandparent, by being helpful. They don't have to be afraid of change.

Hugging Grandma is one of those books that can help young children understand that they aren't the only child who faces this dilemma. The book is available online and in bookstores.

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Don’t allow caregiving to take over your life

Dear Carol: Two years ago, my dad had a stroke. With a lot of help, he recovered quite well. About the time I thought I could get back to my normal life, which includes a wife and children, my mother had a heart attack. Mom is now OK, but they both have become very dependent on me. I was happy to help when they needed me, but sometimes I resent the fact that my parents take up so much of my time. I’ve expected to help in emergencies, but this has become a chronic situation and I only see it getting worse. I really don’t know what to do. – Ted

Dear Ted: Caregiving has a way of sneaking up on people. Often, it starts out with an emergency like your dad’s stroke or your mom’s heart attack. But, since aging folks generally have at least

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“Test Your Memory” Self Test But Should Be Professionally Evaluated

For decades, the mini-mental state examination has been the gold standard of "quick exams" given by mental health professionls. This test is one that is generally part of an examination given when diagnosing dementia. While the test alone isn't conclusive, it's been considered a very good tool. Enter a new test called "Test Your Memory" or TYM   Like the mini-mental, this test evaluates cognitive ability and can be self-administered. Researchers say it is faster and more accurate than current methods, but like the mini-mental, it results should be evaluated by a professional.

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The Choices We Make Can Help Us Age “Successfully” – Or Not

There's something attractive to most people about putting right that which is wrong. We want to fix things. This attraction leads many people into lives of science, medicine and other areas where research to help those with diseases has a strong draw. These are good people. They want to make a difference in the world and combat diseases that rob people of their health.

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Younger Seniors and Older Elderly: How Nursing Homes Need to Adjust

Once upon a time, most people who went into nursing homes were very old. Many were near death. The homes were set up for staff efficiency and the residents were pretty much considered generic “old people.”

They were “treated” to the same kind of music, whether they loved it or loathed it. They had three hearty meals a day, with a heavy noon meal suited to a farmer still tilling the soil. The group exercise involved throwing a large ball around, which few could comprehend they were supposed to catch. The caregivers meant well (usually) and called them honey or dear. These old people stayed in the nursing home as they waited to die. Times have changed.

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Memories of father before his dementia

Father’s Day and my birthday are always close together, this year falling back to back. I smile as I look at a copy of an old photo taken when my dad and I first met. Because I was born during World War II, Dad didn’t see me until he came home on leave when I was 6 months old. It’s one of my favorite pictures of Dad, the young soldier post brain injury, once again walking and talking. Gratitude and pride beam from his face as he holds his little daughter while embracing his 3-year-old son with his other arm.

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"Caring For Our Parents" Informative With a Personal Edge


Howard Gleckman is a senior research associate at The Urban Institute. Gleckman was senior correspondent in the Washington bureau of BusinessWeek, where he covered health and elder care, as well as tax and budget issues for nearly twenty years. Gleckman’s background shows in his book Caring for Our Parents: Inspiring Stories of Families Seeking New Solutions to America’s Most Urgent Health Crisis. He’s first and foremost a journalist. Gleckman presents a thoroughly researched book covering caregiving from the many aspects we family caregivers must consider. He takes our system to task (few caregivers would argue that he has many good points here), and presents some interesting stories, including the story of his own family and their caregiving journey. The personal experience is Gleckman’s jumping off point, as it is with most of us who’ve written caregiving books, and work in the field. Until you’ve walked in the shoes of a caregiver, it’s hard to truly relate. Once you have been a family caregiver, it’s often hard to let go. Caring for Our Parents gives an informed view of our health care system for elder care, as it now stands. Gleckman has interesting views and shares good information. The book, published by St. Martin’s Press, is available online and in book stores.



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No need to feel guilt for seeking assistance

Note from Carol: For those of you who haven't found my  elder care column online, I've decided to start posting a link to it on this blog. I haven't in the past, as it goes into a paid archive after a week, but I've decided that a week gives readers some time if they choose to go there. I'll post it either the Sunday it runs or the following Monday.

Dear Carol:
I’ve taken care of my mother, in her home, for several years. She is diabetic, doesn’t eat right, and forgets things, including her medication. She falls quite often. I know she needs to be in a nursing home, but long ago I promised that I wouldn’t do that. I’m sick with worry. – Torn

Dear Torn:
You know now that a better answer to the “promise you’ll never put me in a nursing home” statement is, “I’ll always take the best possible care of you, whatever form that takes.” Hindsight is wonderful, isn’t it? However, even though it feels as though you are breaking a promise, you don’t need to feel guilty. You have and are honoring the spirit of your promise. You’ve taken the best care of her you can, and you will continue to do so, only with help.

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Cholinesterase Inhibitors Shown to Have Side Effects Serious to Some Alzheimer’s Patients

All drugs have side effects. That's pretty much a universal factor. Most drugs that pass through rigorous testing and gain FDA approval are determined to have enough benefit to make any known risks acceptable. Often, however, it takes time for all side effects to become clear. Often, too, the significance of the effects isn't absorbed by the doctors prescribing the drugs. From Canada comes a story titled, "Dementia drugs may put some patients at risk, Queen's study shows," that reports on a study about the side effects of some Alzheimer's medications.

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Should Promoting the Arts as Treatment for People with Alzheimer’s Receive More Attention?

In a talk at Cheltenham Science Festival, Dr John Zeisel made it clear that current attitudes about people with Alzheimer's are outdated. In a news article on Google.com, titled, "Call to change Alzheimer's attitude,,"  Zeisel, president of  Hearthstone Alzheimer Care, an international provider of non-pharmacological treatment for people with dementia, was quoted as saying, "We need a complete sea change in attitudes towards Alzheimer's if we are to even begin to respond to this growing health crisis."

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