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December 2012

An Elder’s Fall Can Cause Lasting Trauma

Dear Carol: Reading your column has helped me care for my 83-year-old mom who has Alzheimer’s disease. Now, I’m writing with my own question. Mom fell while in the memory unit of a very good assisted living center. She had a urinary tract infection and the doctor thinks that’s what caused her fall. The UTI is now cleared up. When she fell, she cut her head badly, needing several staples to close the wound. She also suffered a back injury though no broken bones. Read more →

Emotionally Descriptive Words Lose Meaning with Semantic Dementia

Personality change is the hallmark of frontotemporal dementia (FTD), but a small percentage of people with FTD experience an additional problem. They lose the ability to understand the meaning conveyed by words that describe emotion. People who love someone with this variant of FTD, which is called semantic dementia have to live with increased heartache knowing that their loved one is now unable to understand emotionally expressive phrases such as "I'm sad" or "I love you." Read more →

Memantine May Help Prevent Damage from Mini-Strokes

Unlike Alzheimer’s disease which is still poorly understood, it’s well accepted that vascular dementia is caused by strokes, often a series of small, “silent” strokes. While early stage Alzheimer’s is characterized mostly by memory loss, vascular dementia more generally affects executive function, multi-tasking, problem-solving and reasoning. It’s important to understand that more than one type of dementia can be present, which can further complicate a diagnosis. Read more →

Chronic Pain Management in People With Dementia Complicated

Since dementia can leave people unable to verbally express the fact that they are in pain, they may scream, kick or hit. They may act out aggressively because they don’t understand why they are in pain. They just want it gone. If caregivers misinterpret the reason for this “acting out,” there is a chance that the elder will not receive proper pain management for his or her chronic or acute pain. Read more →

Tips for New Caregivers

For me, caregiving began with an elderly neighbor who needed some assistance. This "assistance" turned into a five-year stint of elder care, closely followed by the ever increasing needs of six of my own family members. For all but one of my elders – my dad whose failed brain surgery sent him into severe dementia – care needs gradually increased. Read more →

Dementia and the Holidays: Still Liking Our Loved Ones When It's Over

It’s not news that most of us are busy, even stressed, during the holiday season. However, when we are caregivers our stress level can soar. Being flexible and forgiving may be the key to getting through the season with some sanity intact. Flexibility is important because our loved one, especially if he or she has dementia, will likely be unpredictable. What we planned with great care could suddenly be the wrong approach when the special day arrives and we’ll need to adjust to reality. Read more →

Ask Staff for Advice When Visiting Elders in Nursing Homes

Dear Carol: My husband and I are traveling this Christmas and want to take a side trip to visit my aging aunt who is in a nursing home. My aunt has Alzheimer’s disease, which we don’t have experience with. Besides that, we are both uncomfortable in a hospital setting and haven’t had experience with nursing homes. What should we consider? – Jen Dear Jen: It’s wonderful that you plan to visit your aunt, and you’re on top of the game just by recognizing that there may be a protocol to consider when visiting a nursing home. Remember that people in nursing homes are not hospital patients. Read more →

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff: Bloopers Can Add to Family Christmas Stories

Probably more worrisome for caregivers is how their aging loved ones will make it through the family events. Will Dad be sleepy from his medications or agitated from all from all of the excitement? Will Mom’s touchy stomach allow her to eat her favorite foods or will you spend the evening wondering if you need to make her a nutritional shake to drink while everyone else eats? Will Aunty throw a tantrum over the fact that no one made white chocolate fudge this year and, well, Christmas isn’t Christmas without white chocolate fudge? Read more →

Photo Albums and Memory Books Helpful When Visiting Elders

Since elders by definition have many decades of life to their credit, they will likely enjoy looking back on the past. This is especially important when people have Alzheimer’s disease, because their disease prevents them from forming new memories. Nearly everyone enjoys reminiscing to some degree. To help you kick off a nice visit with the elder you intend to spend time with try bringing some props. Physical reminders should help your visit go more smoothly. Read more →