Do brain games make a difference in staving off brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s or are they just harmless fun? While studies have been all over the map on this issue during the last few years, lately they indicate that at least formal brain training may help, which indicates to me that well designed informal brain training would have at least some validity. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has this to say:
Dear Carol: My mom is 94 years old and frail. She has a weak heart and bad lungs, yet she hangs on. I’m a 73-year-old widow. I took care of Mom at home for over five years, but two years ago I placed her in a nursing home. I felt terrible guilt about doing that because I’d promised her that I wouldn’t, but my own health was deteriorating and I couldn’t physically transfer her anymore. There was no other choice. Apparently, we both had outdated ideas about nursing homes or we would have done this sooner since we are both pleased. But Mom is now bedridden and can barely murmur a few words. There is no quality in her life that I can see and I find myself wishing that she could just let go. Then I feel ashamed. She’s very religious and isn’t afraid of death, and neither am I, but I'm still confused about my feelings. Guilt and shame nag at me even though I know that her current situation is miserable. How do I deal with this feeling of disloyalty about wanting her life to end? SL
It’s difficult to watch our parents age. As their hair grays, wrinkles form and age spots multiply, we adult children can find ourselves feeling protective. We want to keep them healthy. We want to know that they are safely at home when there’s the slightest risk of bad weather. We don’t want them taking risks that could result in an injury. That’s love, after all, and parents appreciate being loved. It’s a mistake, however, to make yourself the director of your parents’ lives simply because they are piling on years.
Alzheimer’s is a global issue that is on track to bankrupt worldwide health systems if a cure is not found. Therefore, funding for research is paramount, not just for those who have the disease but for future generations, as well. However, large numbers of the people who have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia at this time are trying to make the point that it is equally important to put imagination, research, and funding into how to care for those who already have this incurable disease.
Memory loss can be one of the first symptoms a person experiences with Alzheimer’s, and those living with Lewy body dementia may also become easily confused. These varied symptoms can make maintaining relationships more difficult, but friendships are no less important for people with dementia than for the rest of us. Maintaining relationships, however, especially among friends who are not pressured to continue involvement because of a new sense of duty over a person with dementia, can take work. This guide discusses how caregivers can help by educating willing visitors who want to be helpful but simply don’t know how to make a visit tolerable, let alone, meaningful.
Dear Carol: My mom passed away a month ago from a major stroke. Since her death, I seem to either be in a fog or collapsing into tears. My sister, Carolyn, had been caring for mom until two years ago, but then Carolyn had a sudden heart attack and died. She was only 43. Mom then came to live with us. Mom had COPD and heart disease. My husband has always been a rock of support and love and my two kids have handled Mom's death well. They are trying to help me even though they, too, are grieving their aunt and their grandma. I’m the one who is a mess. I miss my mom more than I ever thought possible. My grief seems to be more consuming than that of other caregivers who’ve lost a parent. I’m not sure what to do with my overwhelming feelings. I’m not even sure what I’m asking for except that I need guidance. SC
Our culture is steeped in language that makes accepting the terminal diagnosis of ourselves or a loved one more difficult to accept than it needs to be. Doctors say, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do. You might want to look into hospice care.” Patients tell their doctors that they want “aggressive treatment,” until there is nothing else that can be done, then they will go on hospice care.The crux of these conversations is that medicine will do everything possible and then when you give up you will go on hospice care.
It seems shocking to hear people ask whether dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s since it’s the best known, is as hard on the caregiver as it is on the person with the disease. After all, developing dementia of any kind is one of our greatest fears, even overtaking cancer. A caregiver who asks this question must be incredibly heartless and selfish, right? Yet, people who've never been a caregiver for someone with dementia need to think this through. When a loved one develops dementia, both the care receiver and the caregiver have entered an incredibly challenging time of their lives.
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.
Valentine’s Day, anniversaries, and birthdays have traditionally been celebrated with balloons, gifts, cards, parties, and food. Sadly, when dementia enters into the picture, such general mayhem may overwhelm a person already confused by his or her surroundings. Even attempting to celebrate love can become a challenge. The choice about whether or not to mark special days is often fraught with pain for the caregiver.