Many dementia caregivers feel as though they are treading water just to avoid sinking under the often exhausting pressures associated with dementia care. But consciously changing your attitude can, with practice, significantly change how your days, and those of your loved one, unfold. Here are some tips to get started.
Dear Carol: My mother has severe spine and knee problems and should be using a walker but she refuses. She’s only in her 60s and she says a walker makes her look old. She also complains that a walker keeps her from getting close enough to the cupboards and sink to cook, which is something that she loves. I admit that they are bulky and get in the way. They also keep her from carrying dishes around and I understand that. Still, she’s taking a terrible chance. When she’s having a lot of trouble she will use a cane, but that doesn’t do enough. Her mind is fine but, apparently, her ego just can’t take this blow. I know that she fights pain, but the worst seems to be her bitterness over her disability being seen by others as well as the inconvenience of using a walker. How do I convince her that safety is more important than some inconvenience or presenting a youthful look? CD
Too much emphasis on the negative aspects of aging has encouraged society to believe that all older people are on the verge of dementia and a drain on families and the economy rather than a treasured resource of wisdom and experience. Yes, aging brains think differently. Recall slows and those frustrating times when a word escapes the aging brain become more frequent. Aging bodies may become more prone to disease, causing these little cognitive slips to arouse even more suspicion among family members.
When it comes to Alzheimer's Disease (AD), the sad reality is that there is no cure. But a significant number of people have an increased risk due to genetics, and everyone has an increased risk as they age...What do we do, just give up and give in? Or do we look for ways that may give us a better chance to get through our last years without signs and symptoms of this devastating disease? I say let’s fight. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have determined that winning may be possible. Some people will develop the disease no matter what they do but, according to these researchers’ latest study, there are everyday factors that may influence our risk of developing dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s.
Whether or not it’s a conscious thought, many of us look at a new year as a time to make changes in our lives. We become energized for a few days. However, most of us are quickly caught up in routine. Whether or not we like the routine, it’s familiar, and the status quo often provides the path of least resistance. Therefore, even if we’re stuck in a life that’s not satisfying, we stay with the familiar. Change seems too hard. This is a glaring truth that most caregivers recognize.
Many people are celebrating Christmas Day, today, December 25th. Caregivers may find the word "celebrating" a little over the top, but try not to be too dismissive. If you are caring for a parent or spouse who doesn't recognize you for who you are, that doesn't mean your efforts are unappreciated. Know that on some level, your love is understood. Celebrate that. If you have rushed around like a wild person trying to make a perfect holiday happen for your family, well, today you are done, no matter where you are in the process. Celebrate that.
The decisions caregivers of elderly loved ones must make during the Christmas holidays are fraught with opportunities to make mistakes in judgment. Chief among them is how much to include a loved one who has dementia in the festivities. Will the Christmas tree bring Mom happy memories of past Christmas pleasures or will it remind her of the Christmas tree fire in her home when she was a five-year-old child? Will the gathering of loving relatives bring her a feeling of being loved and cared for or will she suffer from horrible anxiety because of all of these people who have become strangers?
...We can plan ourselves silly, but the unexpected will always occur. The only remedy for this is to not take ourselves or our plans too seriously. Life throws curve balls, but many of them aren’t that huge if we don’t exaggerate their importance. Is it really that important if the order for the fruit try got lost and you end up just grabbing a fresh pineapple? Will the world end if intended recipient of the errant package opens a box that contains a bag of cookies and an IOU for the gift that will arrive late?
Elderly people often eat more food when they are on a program of frequent, smaller meals than the standard three larger meals a day. Available snacks can also help people with Alzheimer’s who tend to wander. An informal experiment at the Parker Jewish Institute in New Hyde Park, N.Y. found that if they provided people with dementia who became anxious and agitated at night with a snack, they would often calm down and return to bed.
Nobody invites dementia of any type into their lives but once dementia is a part of the family it will be part of the holidays. The person with dementia will have good days and bad days and will change as the disease progresses. One thing we can count on, though, is that a loved one with dementia will need special consideration. How does a caregiver cope with the holidays and remain sane?