When the average person thinks of dementia, generally Alzheimer’s disease comes to mind. At the same time, the person will likely think of memory loss. Both of these conclusions are understandable since Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and memory issues are often, though not always, the first symptom of that disease. Surprising then, to many people, is the fact that there may be earlier indicators of potential Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia than frequent memory lapses.
I've been through many Valentine's Day celebrations with my parents where I tried my best to help them carry on their past traditions. It was grueling for me and only somewhat satisfactory for them, but I felt that it must be done. I'm now collecting a few stories for publication in an article that I'm writing on Valentine's Day celebrations. For this, I'd like to hear from spouses who try to carry on the Valentines Day (or anniversary or any day celebrating their love) traditions. I'd also like to hear from someone who feels that it's best to skip marking that day and when or why they made that understandable decision.
Please send stories via the www.mindingourelders.com "contact" box, or message me on Facebook or Twitter (@mindingourelder). I'm looking for little vignettes of around 100 words. I want to credit you so please give the name as you'd like to be credited. The state or province where you live would also be nice.
Whenever possible, I like to share your stories with a huge readership. This will be an article for HealthCentral.com so your stories will help a lot of people.
Thanks to all of my dedicated readers, caregivers, seniors, spouses and loved ones.
Dignity and identity are often tied to independence. As aging issues eat away at our loved ones' ability to follow through on tasks that they always loved, the feeling that life is worth living can fade as well. Our task as a caregiver is to encourage activities that contribute to our loved ones' feelings of self-worth while watching for safety concerns. If, as a caregiver, you are in doubt, it's generally best to err on the side of encouraging more independence rather than less.
If a caregiver is anxious because of job stress, he or she likely takes that anxiety home in some form and transfers some of it to the person they are caring for. This is not intentional, but even body language can transfer anxiety. The person being cared for picks up on the anxiety of the caregiver. His or her anxiety may stem from not knowing what is causing the person caring for them to be stressed, so they blame themselves. Or they may just absorb the feeling of generalized anxiety that radiates from the caregiver.
As I watched my 90-year old grandparents grieve the loss of many friends. I had to wonder how much fun it is to be the last one standing. My parents faced much the same situation. Mom, who once loved getting Christmas cards, found that not only did the number of cards she received dwindle, the ones that she did get often contained sad news of death or disease. As she and many other older folks have said, "aging isn't for sissies."
Defining the point in time when a caring child or a loving spouse crosses the threshold into being a caregiver isn't easy. That point is different for everyone. Some people will deny the caregiving label entirely because they feel that they are simply doing what a good adult child or spouse is supposed to do. Others will grab onto their new title as soon as they are asked to help unscrew a bottle cap because Mom's arthritic hands make opening certain containers difficult. The point is, how important is defining your role as a caregiver to you, and when is the time to do so?
When store employees wish us "Merry Christmas!" we smile back and return the greeting. When acquaintances wave and shout "Happy Holidays!" across a parking lot we wave back with good wishes. When we take part in our work holiday celebrations we put on our happy face. Yet many of us don't feel merry or happy during this time of celebration. Caregivers, especially, may be even less likely than others to be looking forward to all of the hoopla associated with the expected happy holidays. Some of us dread even thinking about it. How do we beat this feeling of holiday blues so that we can get through the next few weeks?
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems have found evidence that long-term testing starting well before any signs of Alzheimer’s symptoms are evident could be a valuable tool in detecting which people will need intervention with therapeutic drugs that are now in clinical trials. This type of intervention could possibly halt or even reverse cognitive damage while the patient is still symptom-free. The long-term testing would be done in conjunction with brain scans.
Frustrated caregivers often wonder why their loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s sometimes reacts with anger as the caregivers attempt to help. Understanding why a spouse, parent or grandparent behaves this way can help the caregiver limit these stressful, frustrating times. To do that, the caregivers must understand life from the point of view of their loved one’s impaired mind.
According to the national Alzheimer’s Association, in 2013, 15.5 million family and friends provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer's and other dementias. Also, Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers had $9.3 billion in additional health care costs of their own in the same year. Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high, and more than one-third report symptoms of depression. Remember, this is just the cost for caregivers.