Caregivers of elderly or disabled loved ones work hard. There’s no getting around the sacrifices of time, energy, private life and often financial wellbeing that caregivers, be it family or professional, often make. However, the rewards that accompany this self-sacrifice can be priceless.
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. One of those shared experiences is a certain amount of stress. Some personalities cope with the ever changing, nearly always challenging, business of caring for another adult with health issues better than others.
Typically, when we think of the early signs of Alzheimer’s disease we think of memory problems. Words go missing, names escape your grasp and tasks to be done are forgotten. Now, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have shown that making mental maps of where we have been and where we are going is a process the brain may lose before memory problems begin to show. People with these early symptoms can no longer navigate even a familiar area as they once did.
I love stories. When I was a teenager, I’d encourage my 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.
Dear Carol: My husband has been a recovering alcoholic for years, but after we both retired he started having a drink here and there. It didn’t seem like a problem until he started to show symptoms of dementia. He was eventually diagnosed with mixed Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. I’m not sure whether he forgets how much he’s had to drink or his alcoholism has caught up with him. He often becomes angry and on a couple of occasions he’s become threatening. He also falls after he’s been drinking, which is scary. I can’t get him to stop drinking or to return to his recovery meetings. I think I could care for him with his dementia at home for some time if he didn’t drink, but I’ve become afraid of him. His doctor tells him not to drink, but that does no good. He drives to the store to get alcohol and once, when the car was being fixed, he took a cab. I feel isolated, frightened and lonely. How do I handle this? DSR
Sundowning, sometimes called Sundown Syndrome, is the label given to late day anxiety, irritability, disorientation and general agitation in people with Alzheimer’s. Sundowning, also called sundowners, frustrates home caregivers and professional care staff alike, as they often feel completely unable to comfort the person affected.
Our parents changed our diapers when we were babies. As we grew into toddlers we were “potty trained,” and from that time on we were expected to control our bodily functions. Is it any wonder that elders who have been rendered incontinent by a medical problem or disease often deny their incontinence and refuse, even in the face of evidence, to wear protection? They equate incontinence protection with diapers and diapers with babies. They feel humiliated. Wouldn’t they feel more humiliated smelling of urine or feces, you ask? Logically, yes.
When our elders are suffering from physical pain, mental stress, loneliness or the effects of ageism in our society, the result can be depression. Research done at Sweden’s Umeå University and reported on by Medical News Today finds that when group activities were introduced into the elders’ environments, depressive symptoms were often improved and the need for medication reduced or eliminated.
Not surprisingly, the researchers say that caring for an ailing spouse is extremely difficult emotionally and physically for either gender. However, the researchers discovered that three years after the death of their spouse, surviving wives reportedly fared worse than surviving husbands...Another important issue that researchers face is that men and women tend to report caregiving differently.
“It has happened to all of us: we cough, sneeze or laugh and suddenly we feel that unique sensation of a bladder leak. The makers of incontinence products would have us believe that small bladder leakages are normal and manageable. This may be, but most women feel embarrassed and uncomfortable if they experience leakage, and no one enjoys planning trips around the closest bathroom locations. So, is there anything that can be done to prevent or manage urinary incontinence? Absolutely!”