The hippocampus, which is the area of the brain damaged by Alzheimer’s disease, plays an important role in forming long-term memories as well as in spatial navigation. Now, new evidence shows that exercise helps keep the hippocampus healthy.
Dear Carol: My dad was 89-years-old and in a nursing home before he died. Through no one’s fault, he fell and broke his hip. While he was in the hospital and supposed to be healing from the fracture he developed pneumonia. Then, when they X-rayed his lungs they found the start of lung cancer. The doctor gave Dad antibiotics for his pneumonia but Dad continued to get worse. He couldn’t eat and went in and out of consciousness. I wanted them to put in a feeding tube so that Dad received nourishment. The doctor disagreed.
My mother, during her last two years of agony, would often a look at me as say, "Can't you just give me a little black pill?" It was obvious to me what she meant and, of course, all I could say was that I couldn't do that, but I would do everything possible to aid her comfort.
Yet, her pleading nearly broke my heart.
Mom had some mild memory loss at the time, but not Alzheimer's disease or severe dementia of any kind. I had the Power Of Attorney over her health, though my whole family was consulted on all important issues. Early on, Mom had opted for a do not resuscitate code and, as a family, we supported her choice.
It’s been several years, now, but I’ve never forgotten the story. A then 58-year-old Minnesota woman had been diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s. She was, in most aspects, still doing well. But one day she got in her car and drove west on the Interstate. No one will ever know why. She got stuck off a road in Wyoming, left her car and set out on foot. She didn’t get far. Searchers found her body not far from her vehicle.
Caregivers frequently turn their lives inside out in order to care for their loved ones in decline. I know, because I've done it. The number of elders who depended on my help increased throughout the years, to a total of seven, though the most I cared for at one time was five. I also had two children and work part time writing as a freelancer.
...If you are just a casual friend to the caregiver, perhaps it's best to remain that way. Still, some of you really care about your caregiving friend and want to help, but you don't know how. The following tips may give your some insight into what you can do to help your friend as he or she takes care of their elderly loved one.
Being in a vulnerable state of health doesn’t necessarily turn a person who was historically abusive to family members into a sweet lamb. Even the best of us can get cranky when we don’t feel well. The frustrations of dementia can be even harder to cope with than physical pain. Good people can become hard to deal with when faced with these issues.
Dear Carol: My mother has mid-stage dementia and just recently started asking to see her deceased twin brother. It breaks my heart to tell her that Uncle Jim died of cancer ten years ago. When I remind her of this, she at first screams at me saying that I’m lying and she saw him yesterday, then she collapses in grief asking if he’s really gone. She wants to know what happened just like it was a recent occurrence. I don’t know what to do anymore. My friends say that this phase will pass, but how do we get through it? Sharon
To my readers, I apologize for the outage that started early Monday. My blog host had an attack that caused major havoc for them. That problem, of course, filtered down to all of us using the platform. Many of you received a page that said "unknown domain" rather than the article that you chose to open. Things should be running smoothly now. I'm sorry for your inconvenience and they are sorry for mine. I’m re-posting the Monday article that was unavailable and have rescheduled the other missing blog posts in order.
I love stories. When I was a teenager, I’d encourage grandparents to relate stories of their young years struggling to survive on the wind-swept prairie. When I grew older, I was fascinated by the stories my parents and in-laws told of their early years of growing up during the Great Depression. Little did I know at the time that peoples’ stories would become the springboard for my life’s work. Now there is mounting evidence that encouraging our elders to reminisce about their past is therapeutic as well as enjoyable.