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Pain and dementia: observing body language important when people can’t articulate pain

A number of years back, my dad, who had developed dementia after a surgery to correct problems from a World War II brain injury, was seized by sudden, horrendous pain. While Dad had to cope with considerable pain from arthritis and some back issues, this was different. I knew his pain was acute and extreme by his body language and vocalizations, even though he couldn't articulate exactly what was wrong Read more →

Guilt over placing a loved one in a nursing home

If we could control events, most of us would never want our elders to be so sick that they need the care of a nursing home, especially homes that are still operating in the dark ages, as some of them still are. Many homes have now moved forward into person-centered care, and reluctant caregivers often find their elders thrive, once they have adjusted. Still, it's hard. Read more →

Changes in nursing home environment improves Alzheimer’s care

Nursing homes of old were modeled for the efficiency of the staff, many being replicas of WWII military hospitals. Times are, thankfully, changing. Much of this change in the US has been lead by people involved in the Pioneer Network, an organization dedicated to culture change in elder care. However, world-wide, culture change in the care of the aged is happening in a big way. Read more →

Cancer and Alzheimer’s disease: when do we treat It and when do we let go?

A friend recently came to me in tears with the news that her mother, who is in mid-stage Alzheimer's, had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. My friend was beside herself with grief, mostly because she didn't know what to do. She felt the full responsibility of making the decision to treat or not to treat her mother's cancer was on her shoulders. I had a few suggestions for her, but only she and her family can decide what the next best step is. Read more →

Family can help loved one accept Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Dear Carol: My 87-year-old widowed mother has been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s disease. She’s been quite independent, and is very upset over the diagnosis, even though her symptoms are mild. My siblings and I don’t know how to comfort her. I know she’s already thinking ahead to the worst stages of the disease. How do we help her? -Dennis Read more →

Preserving dignity of elders should be a top priority

When speaking to groups of caregivers, I often think of the phrase "parenting our parents" as having a negative connotation. While I completely understand the analogy between caring for a child and caring for an elder in decline, I feel the phrase itself is demeaning. Yet, I've had to use references like this, myself. Sometimes, it's nearly unavoidable. But I do try. In the article "Why you can't parent your parents," I compare an elder's life to a rose - the promise of the bud, the full bloom of maturity, followed by the loss of petal after petal as the rose diminishes until all that is left is the nub of death. Read more →

Culture creation: a concept based on person-centered care

Recently, I came across an article that made me smile - really smile. I've written copiously about "culture change" in nursing homes. Part of culture change, pushed with great skill by the Pioneer Network's great work, is that nursing homes are becoming person-centered, rather than set up for staff efficiency. The irony of all of this is that once person-centered care is in place, the residents of the nursing home are generally much easier to care for. Read more →

Should you quit your job to care for your aging parent?

You already know what may be gained by giving up employment and becoming the sole caregiver for your parents. You are the hands-on person and know their care intimately. You know how they are doing day and night and you hope they will appreciate your help. They raised you and you want to give back. Read more →

How helpful will new FDA approved test for Alzheimer’s be?

The contradictory nature of new studies and approaches to fight Alzheimer’s disease can be mindboggling. Just as one approach seems to show great promise, follow up information can seem to throw cold water on it. Case in point: on April 9, 2012 a Wall Street Journal online article announced that the FDA has approved a test a that detects protein levels in the brain indicating Alzheimer’s disease. Read more →

Depression, mental illness and Alzheimer’s still carry stigma

People who have depression, dementia and other illnesses that affect the brain still suffer from social stigma. We, as a population, like to think that we are more enlightened than this, but most of us don't need to follow a study to see this stigma in action. Insurance companies still treat mental illness separately from physical illness, even though many, if not most, mental illness has a physical component. Some policies still deny coverage for mental illness or provide less coverage. Read more →