...Some history Prior to the mid1980s, accepted psychiatric theory was that people with dementia had to be re-oriented. In other words, the people needed to be brought back into the real world – meaning the real world as we who do not have dementia see it. They were wrong.
While Alzheimer’s specific drugs may help slow symptoms for some people, they also may increase the risk of hip fractures, fainting, urinary problems and other health issues. Most researchers now think that a time comes when many medications for the elderly are no longer beneficial and may be harmful.
Dear Carol: My dad is 79 and has suffered from aggressive prostate cancer for several years. What could be done has been done, so far, but the cancer has now spread to his liver and bones. We want Dad to have chemotherapy but his doctor says that he’s not a candidate for this treatment. Dad says he doesn’t want to go through it anyway. I think that they are just giving up. Shouldn’t the doctor be encouraging Dad to fight the disease? I thought that doctors were supposed to do everything to save lives. I think if the doctor insisted, Dad would agree. What can we do so that Dad gets all of the treatment possible? FMC
Completing crosswords, making a habit of Sudoku and playing challenging brain games on the Internet have long been suggested as methods of maintaining our cognitive health. These are all fine pursuits, but recent research by Mayo Clinic has shown that creative arts such as painting, drawing and sculpting may protect the mind against cognitive decline even better than the commonly used forms of brain exercise.
Whether we are taking an elderly person to a family reunion or a backyard picnic this summer, we need to be aware that summer heat can become deadly as people age. From less efficient cooling systems to more illnesses and medications, elders have many issues that can make them vulnerable to extreme temperatures. Don’t let the heat stop you from taking your elder out for some fun, but prevent problems by finding a shady place for your loved one to sit and check frequently to see if he or she is comfortable.
As I visited with a friend and her mother who had mid-stage Alzheimer's, her mother abruptly stood, held out her hand, and said to me, "You can go now." Since I'd been forewarned that this may happen and I'd been around people with dementia for years, I wasn't offended. My friend and I both managed not to laugh. I simply agreed with her mom and said that, indeed, it was time for me to be off, as there was much to do. I thanked her for the lovely visit and left.
Moving a person who has developed Alzheimer’s is generally necessary at least once during the period of decline, and often several times. Since different types of care can be needed at different stages, frequently the only way to provide that care is to move the person from his or her own home to either a memory unit or to live with the family, perhaps supplementing family care with hired in-home caregivers. This is real life and caregivers need to overcome that unearned guilt that they so often live with every time they these decisions.
As a seasoned caregiver of multiple elders, I can choose to torture myself with my perceived failures at being a perfect caregiver, or I can choose to forgive myself for being imperfect, and recognize that I did the best I could at the time. You have the same choice. Much like an adult who realizes that he or she has a "wounded child" living inside – a child who suffers from unearned self-blame or low self-esteem because of life events – many adult caregivers carry the guilt from their "infant" caregiving years to their grave. They spend precious time thinking about how they should have understood someone's needs better, could have been more patient, would have done any number of things better, if only they knew then what they know now.
Dear Carol: My husband and I used to have a good marriage. When my mother-in-law began to have some memory issues, we decided that she should move in with us. During the three years she’s been with us, my husband has become increasingly obsessive over his mother’s happiness to the point that I feel like I don’t count anymore. When he is home he spends every evening with his mother or she is with us. We never have alone time.
Can people find happiness – even joy – while living with dementia? That depends, of course, on one’s definition of happiness and joy. But I do believe that there can be satisfying moments for people with dementia and their caregivers.