People often ask what to look for when choosing an assisted living facility or a nursing home for a loved one. There are grading sites such as the Medicare Nursing Home Guide, found on Medicare.gov, and I suggest you use them. However, there are many things that go into good care that can’t be measured on a chart. In order to see the heart of a facility, you need to spend some time there. Observe routines and pay attention to the atmosphere. What is your gut feeling about the place?
Like it or not, exercise is good for us. Exercise helps to speed up our metabolism and strengthen our bones. Also, we’ve known for decades that exercise is good for the heart, and lately there have been many studies that have shown it’s good for the brain. So good, as a matter of fact, that now, researchers at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan have concluded that exercise is something we can do right now to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Caregiving is a continual learning process and no two situations are identical, but becoming as organized as possible and making an effort to stay that way can help relieve stress. Each person's organization process is unique—what is orderly for one person may be a mess for someone else; what seems obsessively organized to you may appear simply tidy to a friend.
It’s well known that the aging process generally causes the brain to shrink. But there may be hope. A new study of women’s brains is encouraging in that their data show that easily obtained fish oil seems to preserve brain cells and delay shrinkage.
James Pottala is an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of South Dakota in Sioux Falls and principal biostatistician at Health Diagnostic Laboratory Inc. in Richmond, Virginia. Pottala led a study in which researchers looked at 1,111 post-menopausal women from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study.
Dear Carol: Both of my parents are in frail health with my dad being the worst. He’s had two heart attacks and is at risk for a third. We’ve been using in-home caregivers, but a friend’s niece is a Certified Nursing Assistant and would like some private work. We’ve met the niece several times and like her so my wife and I are considering this option. The caregiver could live with my parents. My wife is afraid that we may have legal issues if we hire the CNA privately, but I don’t see a big problem. How do people arrange for privately hired caregivers? - Lawrence
Sadly, even after years of work to educate the public about any illness that affects the brain, a stigma remains. No matter that most, if not all, mental illnesses have a biological basis. No matter that people aren’t any more responsible for a brain illness than they are for other illnesses. The fact remains that whether the disease affects the brain occurs at a younger age in the form of depression or bi-polar disease or an older age in the form of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, people with brain illnesses are often reluctant to acknowledge their illness for fear of being treated differently than others.
People who read my work on a regular basis know that I am grateful to hospice for the care of both of my parents. Without the skilled, compassionate care of the hospice staff, both of my parents would have suffered far more than they did. As it was, they’d both had long, slow declines.
Many people who have Alzheimer’s disease experience times, generally as daylight fades and evening approaches, when their symptoms intensify. This phenomenon is called sundowning. It’s thought that sundowning stems from a combination of factors such as disorientation due to lack of light, natural fatigue and abnormal disruptions in the body clock. While there’s no cure for sundowning some medications can help. Lifestyle changes can be a vital part of managing sundowning behavior, as well. Below are some tips that may help you and your loved one cope with this often frustrating end-of-day behavior:
Every person who becomes a caregiver will have unique personality traits, yet we nearly always share certain feelings and experiences as we travel a road similar to one another. That’s one reason that caregivers often turn to other caregivers for support. It’s a version of the adage that we need to walk in another’s shoes in order to truly understand what they feel.
When a beloved elder dies, we may have varying reactions, frequently changing moment by moment. Naturally, there’s grief and the realization that we’ve seen the last of our loved one’s physical presence. Often, however, if the death follows a long illness or significant pain, we can also feel a sense of relief that their suffering is over and we can get on with healing. It’s often the in between time – the caregiving years – that are the most difficult to label.