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November 2011

Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt fights Alzheimer’s by creating foundation

Hall of Fame basketball coach Pat Summitt has found a way to put the perfect spin on National Alzheimer's Awareness Month. She, along with her son Tyler, has created a foundation that will offer grants to nonprofit organizations that research Alzheimer's.

Read more about Pat Summitt's work to help raise funds for Alzheimer's research:

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Adult day care for people with Alzheimer's

Spouses and children of people who have been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease often feel neglected by forums, chat groups and even in-person support groups. It's easy to see why, since our greatest risk of developing Alzheimer's disease comes with age. However, there are legions of people who care for spouses or parents who are diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in their forties or even younger. Adult day care can be a good option for these younger folks, too.

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Mom improves when caregiver’s siblings visit

Dear Carol: My 84-year-old mother's entire personality changes when my siblings visit. She suffered from a traumatic brain injury several years ago. She does quite well if she leads a quiet life, with good rest and not too much activity. However, when my siblings visit occasionally, they stay over a weekend. During their stay, they encourage her to stay up very late with them, drink cocktails, and cook for them. It takes days for her to recuperate after they leave.

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Lonely elders have a higher risk for health problems

Numerous studies show that humans are social creatures and too much isolation can have a negative effect on mental and physical health. Lonely elders are abundant in our society. Though we may not always succeed, we caregivers need to do what we can to encourage them to get out and socialize.

Read more about adult day care and socialization of elders:

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Old movies, old music: bringing back memories isn’t just about nostalgia

Old movies via DVDs, as well as CDs of big band music or other favorites of our elders’ generation have long been used as a diversionary tactic. Now, Artists for Alzheimer’s (ARTZ) is spotlighting a new way that movies can be used to enhance the lives of people with Alzheimer’s disease. ARTZ is a nonprofit based in Woburn, Mass. that creates cultural opportunities for people with dementia and their caregivers.

Read more about old movies helping people with Alzheimer's remember:

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Helping elders remain part of family functions

Caregivers are often torn between wanting their parent, who may live in assisted living, a nursing home or even at home alone, to be a part of family functions, and wondering how they can pull it off. Whether the event is a family wedding or a Christmas celebration, they often think "Grandma would love this." And then? How do we combine taking care of Grandma and attending or creating the function itself? How do we pay attention to the bride and groom, if Grandma needs all of our care? Enter in-home caregivers.

Read more about helping elders remain part of family functions:

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Study shows “humor therapy” more effective than drugs for some people with Alzheimer’s

While decades ago Norman Cousins made a case for laughter being the best medicine, there hasn't been a lot of research published on how humor can affect a person with Alzheimer's disease. A recent article on the National Institutes of Health site Medlineplus brings us the welcome news that using humor to interact with our elders may improve their health.

Read more about how humor can help people with Alzheimer's and also other aging parents:

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You can help reduce loneliness of elders during the holidays

Elders can have an especially hard time with the holiday season. While aging and maturity can bring the wisdom of years for many people, there are inevitable losses that come to even the most healthy individuals. Many of these losses are emotional and social in nature. Spouses become ill or die. Other aging relatives and friends become seriously ill, or die. Neighborhoods change, often leaving even those well enough to remain in their own homes feeling friendless and isolated. The holidays can bring this isolation and a feeling of loneliness to a head.

Read more about reducing loneliness for elders:

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Thanksgiving: finding gratitude in caregiving

 Caring for our aging loved ones can be exhausting, frustrating, demanding and time consuming. Since November marks National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, we’re honoring Alzheimer’s caregivers, but November is also National Caregiver’s Month. Thanksgiving, as another November, holiday reminds me to think of ways that caregiving, tough as it can be, also offers caregivers a time to note the special blessings we’ve received when we are open to recognizing the gifts. After all, caring for one another is, in my view, one of the answers to “why are we here.”

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Be thankful that imperfection is good enough

Dear Readers: Thanksgiving is nearly here. The holiday that is meant to remind us of all we have to be grateful for. However, it can also work against caregivers, increasing their feelings of anxiety and guilt around not doing everything perfectly for everyone who depends on them.

During my sandwich generation years, the feeling of being torn between all of the people I loved was acute. How do I give my kids the kind of holidays kids deserve and still take care of several family elders? Which of the elders would benefit from picking them up at their various locations and transporting them to our home? How do we help them navigate our home’s steps, use the bathroom without embarrassment or discomfort, and take part in the larger context of the family setting? Who among them would only be made more anxious and confused by our attempts to make them part of the traditional family celebration?

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