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August 2011

Caregiving Comes From the Heart but Education Helps

Most family caregivers take on tasks as they see fit. Sometimes a parent has a stroke and suddenly needs care. Other times dementia enters the picture and the need for help progresses slowly. Few caregivers immediately think that they need to get educated about how best to care for their elders. But education does help, if only because it shows the caregiver that there are options.

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Over medicating can worsen symptoms of dementia

Dear Carol: My mom has late stage Alzheimer’s disease. Her doctor took her off the medications for slowing AD in June, then prescribed Ativan for anxiety. At first we saw some improvement in her behavior, but it didn’t last long, so he added the antipsychotic medication Haldol. Haldol made Mom drugged and sleepy, but worse, it caused hallucinations when she was awake. The doctor’s answer to that problem was to increase the dosage. She then could no longer walk, talk or swallow. She also developed a urinary tract infection and was hospitalized.

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Pets Can Be Therapeutic For the Aging Population

Numerous studies have shown that pets can increase the quality of life for our aging population. The unconditional love of a dog or the soft purring of a snuggly cat can be helpful for many people, even in later stages of dementia. Many nursing homes, notably those based on The Eden Alternative, have found animals including dogs, cats and birds, along with plants and other natural surroundings, to be soothing and beneficial to people in nursing homes. My personal experience with several of my elders showed me that pets can make a difference.

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Early on-set Alzheimer’s challenges people under 65

The news is everywhere. Pat Summitt, a virtual legend in women’s basketball who has won more games in her coaching career than any other college coach, has been diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s disease. The news is rocking the college sports world because it seems so unbelievable. This active, healthy, intelligent woman, just 59-years-old, now has a brain disease that will forever change her life.

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Male caregiver’s ranks boosted by well spouses

Books have been written, articles published and columns run in newspapers putting forth the statistics that it’s women who step up to the plate as caregivers. While the numbers of female caregivers still outrank male caregivers, I would guess that the caregiver gender divide is much less marked when it comes to well spouses.

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Pat Summitt’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis has people asking questions

It’s bound to happen. When any disease is discussed frequently in the news, people begin to look for signs of it in themselves and others. Alzheimer’s (AD) has been in news headlines nearly every week for months, since huge numbers of aging boomers are increasingly at risk. Alzheimer’s typically strikes individuals over the age of 65. However, Pat Summitt’s public announcement of her early onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis–at age 59–has not only left millions of fans stunned, it has younger people peering into their brains, anxious to learn if something sinister is happening to them as well.

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Helping doctors ask the right questions to diagnose your elder

It's one thing to get a parent to the doctor for a check up and quite another to get the parent to cooperate with the doctor once there. Sometimes we have to be a little creative to get a diagnosis, especially if that diagnosis is apt to make the elder angry.

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Basketball legend Pat Summitt diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease

A combination of intelligence, drive, competitiveness and leadership, all in a homespun Southern voice that took women’s basketball (and women’s sports in general) from forgotten to the forefront.

These words, written by Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports, beautifully describe Tennessee Lady Vols’ basketball coach, Pat Summitt, who–at age 59–has been diagnosed with early on-set dementia. Summitt had experienced months of what she labeled “erratic behavior” before she scheduled an examination at the Mayo Clinic last May. Her diagnosis was early on-set dementia. This type of diagnosis is life changing at any age, but at age 59, the effect is even more unnerving.

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Estranged family members could forgive the past

Dear Carol: Many years ago my grandmother, because of uncontrolled diabetes, had mental issues and tried to commit suicide.  Two of her children thought she just wanted attention. They had a huge argument with her and walked away, seemingly forever. My mother, Grandma’s only other child, has always tried to help, but has little money and lives across the country.  

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When a cure Is not possible we may have to settle for contentment

Most caregivers would do nearly anything to cure their sick loved one. However, we know that we are not going to cure our father of Alzheimer's disease, nor our mother of Parkinson's disease. There are many illnesses that attack our elders that can't be cured. Aging in general is eventually fatal. Therefore, after all medical options for cure have been tried, we often have to accept the fact that the person will not get better. What then? For me, as a caregiver, the answer was to try to help my loved ones feel as content with their quality of life as possible.

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