Many adults sit by the side of their dying loved ones, sometimes for days, working on accepting the loss of their physical presence and what this loss means in their lives. Then, a spouse, parent, child or friend suddenly rallies, becomes more stable and in some cases wants to talk. We grasp at what seems to be a turnaround and sigh with relief. They are going to hang on for a while; or are they?
A procedure that that is already being used for the treatment of some brain diseases is receiving increased attention as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Called deep brain stimulation (DBS), an implanted neurostimulator delivers electrical signals that help regulate abnormal signals in the brain caused by the disease. n the U.S., DBS is currently only approved for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor. But the potential for its use is expanding, with more researchers looking into the procedure for epilepsy, depression, bipolar disorder, and now, Alzheimer’s disease.
A small study at UCLA has shown evidence that a strict protocol concentrating on lifestyle changes can reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms. We frequently hear about some promising new potential drug breakthrough, yet there is at this time no medical cure and it’s not likely that there will be one anytime soon. Thus, the interest in exercise, diet, vitamin and herbal remedies and brain challenges.
Exhausted caregivers often say that one of the hardest things for them is that they can’t get quality sleep. Even caregivers who have loved ones outside of their homes can have problems since they are still on call day and night for frequent emergencies. However, it’s the Alzheimer’s caregivers who have the hardest time since Alzheimer’s disease can cause severe sleep disruption. Experts still aren’t sure about all of the reasons for the poor sleeping patterns of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors feel that there may be some change in the brain, perhaps the same as with other aging people but more intense, that cause this distressing situation.
Whether known as Granny flats, in-law flats or intergenerational apartments, there is a small trend in real estate toward families living together. They may be adding onto homes or even installing or building separate dwellings on their property so that their elders can live with them yet both generations have significant independence. I reviewed the book ‘In-laws, Outlaws and Granny Flats’ Beautiful, Practical Guide to Intergenerational Living in the past and have been revisiting the topic lately to see how the trend is holding.
An amazing book of stories that will touch your heart and encourage you, especially if you are a caregiver. Carol Bradley Bursack also has an excellent web site devoted to the elderly and their caregivers. - Carol Heilman
Dear Carol: My mother lives in an assisted living facility. She has arthritic pain and is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, but she usually does well with the support that she has. When I visited her last Saturday evening she seemed upset and confused and she told me that she didn’t feel well. I suggested that she rest and reminded her that I’d see her in the chapel the next day for services. The next morning it seemed like a lot of the residents in the chapel were disgruntled, including Mom, who hadn’t improved overnight. We’d had a huge air pressure change in the last day, and I began to wonder if weather causing problems with health is myth or fact. I even mentioned it to one of the nurses after I escorted Mom back to the common room. The nurse nodded her head and said, “Oh, yes. We sure see it here.” She said that a full moon affects the residents, too. Now I'm beginning to wonder if there is something to this idea. What do you think? Jen
Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese practice, is a self-paced system of movement where you perform a series of postures in a slow, graceful manner. This form of gentle exercise helps lower stress levels and encourages focus. Recently, the National Institutes of Health has said that tai chi has the ability to help reduce falls in older people, as well.
Dear Carol: My mother’s memory has gotten very poor, her arthritis puts her at risk for falls, and she has severe asthma, so she decided that she’d be better off in assisted living. My brother and I were in agreement and we went with Mom to look at available facilities. We were thrilled with what we thought was the perfect home. Since the move, though, Mom has lost interest in everything. She won’t do her once cherished crossword puzzles, even when I bring the newest ones published. Her magazines pile up unread. She won’t participate in any of the interesting activities that the facility offers and has to be begged to go to group meals. It’s like she pulling in on herself. We have to sell her house to continue paying for her assisted living, but now my brother and I feel guilty. What if she wants to go back to her old home? She says, no, that’s not what she wants. She likes feeling safe. Yet she shows no interest in life. To be fair, this was coming on long before the move, but it’s worse now. How do we handle the situation? Tim
Middle-aged and worried about your memory slips? You probably don’t have dementia. The majority of the memory slips that concern this age group, and even those significantly older, are due to stress and other factors rather than impending dementia. However, researchers have now found that people who are suffering from memory loss but are unaware of their problem are most likely developing the disease.
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