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“My 84-year-old dad continually asks about his mother who passed years ago…”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:20:17 PM
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My 84-year-old dad continually asks about his mother who passed years ago.  How can we keep this from causing friction?

As people advance through the stages of Alzheimer’s, they often lose the ability to distinguish between past and present. They may not recognize their own family members, or mistake them for friends or relatives long since gone. People and events from their past become real to them again, and they may persist in statements you know not to be true. At this stage, it’s best to switch from a reality orientation to validation.

Make an effort to distinguish between their reality and yours. Your loved one is not “wrong” or intentionally denying the truth; they are simply trying to cope with their own truth. Recognize the disease for what it is and go along with them. Understand that what they’re really seeking is the comfort and assurance their memories contain. Direct the conversation toward those feelings and respond in a positive way. If they ask about Mom, you can answer, “Your mom was really special, wasn’t she? I bet she was a great cook.” Above all, avoid arguing or adding to the frustration you both already feel. After all, as your loved one suffers through this tragic disease, how important is it to be “right?”

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

 

“How do we know when it’s time to look for care outside the family?”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:19:50 PM
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Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s is an ominous task. In addition to the physical demands, there can be untold mental stress as you witness a loved one evolve from the self-sufficient individual you knew into a helpless stranger. The decision to seek an alternative is one each individual or family must make on their own.

Obviously the most important consideration is the health and well-being of the person with the disease. When their physical and social needs become more than you can satisfy in the normal functioning of your daily life, it’s time to look for an alternative. But other considerations are important too, including your own health and well-being.

More than 40% of Alzheimer’s caregivers rate the emotional stress as “high” or “very high”, and approximately one-third show symptoms of depression. At some point, care outside the family is in everyone’s best interest.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“It’s obvious Dad can no longer care for Mom by himself…”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:19:28 PM
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It’s obvious Dad can no longer care for Mom by himself.  How can we get him to accept the facthe needs help?

Caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s can be overwhelming, especially for someone whose own abilities may be in decline. Yet telling your Dad he needs help can cause resentment. Put yourself in his shoes and the reason may become clearer.

Chances are your parents lived their adult lives making their own decisions. Now, because of circumstances beyond their control, their independence is slipping away. That’s hard to accept. So despite your good intentions, your Dad hears suggestions to get help as criticism, confirmation that he’s no longer able to meet his “responsibilities.”

The best advice is to try to see the world through his eyes. Offer suggestions instead of “orders.” Avoid language he might perceive as criticism. If he has friends in similar circumstances, ask how they’re doing. Emphasize the positive, that getting help probably made their lives better. Plant ideas that allow your dad to reach the right conclusions on his own. But take it slow. Suggest that checking into help now might make it easier “down the road,” in case the time would come he couldn’t care for Mom.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“My dad has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. What changes can we expect in his behavior?”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:19:03 PM
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People diagnosed with Alzheimer’s may initially react with a sense of dread. As the disease progresses and things once easy for them become increasingly difficult, we find they can get frustrated and depressed. We know that understanding and emotional support are just as important as physical support.

In addition to loss of memory, Alzheimer’s disease causes loss of communication skills and loss of judgment. Family members often notice changes in the person’s behavior and personality. This can be devastating to relationships. Recent studies we’ve seen estimate that nearly 10 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. More than 40 percent of caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high, and approximately one-third show symptoms of clinical depression. Thus the victims of Alzheimer’s extends beyond just those with the disease to include their networks of family and friends as well.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“My wife keeps insisting that we ‘go home’ to the place where she grew up 70 years ago…”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:18:40 PM
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My wife keeps insisting that we ‘go home’ to the place where she grew up 70 years ago. How should I handle this?

For people unaccustomed to dealing with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, the endless questioning and insistence on “truths” that are not true, can be both trying and heartbreaking. As the disease progresses, people with the disease often lose their ability to distinguish between recent events and memories implanted long ago. Mom and Home brought comfort in the past. And to someone with the disease, past and present are interchangeable.

These situations demand patience and understanding on the part of loved ones and caregivers. The best approach is to transition from a ‘reality’ orientation to ‘validation’. Instead of confronting your wife with “the facts,” try to shift your conversations to her underlying feelings. Her childhood home obviously holds a special place in her memories, so make an effort to reinforce those memories in a positive way. “That was a beautiful place, wasn’t it. I bet your neighbors envied you.” Understand that your wife’s disease has created a wall between her reality and yours. She’s not “wrong” or intentionally denying the truth; she is simply trying to cope with her own truth.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“We finally convinced Mom that she can’t take care of Dad by herself anymore…”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:18:09 PM
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We finally convinced Mom that she can’t take care of Dad by herself anymore. But how can we keep her from feeling so guilty?

Your parents have cared for each other the entire time they’ve been together. It’s only natural that when one is no longer able to do that, there would be a sense of guilt. But evidence suggests that your mother’s continued efforts to care for your father herself puts her own health at risk. In fact, over 60% of those caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s actually die before the one with the disease.

Moving your father to a ComfortCare Home is more like a change of address than a change of lifestyle. Unlike an “institution,” a ComfortCare Home provides individualized care in a residential setting complete with each Resident’s own furnishings and mementos. Nothing alleviates feelings of guilt more convincingly than the realization that both the person with the disease, and the caregiver, are better off when care is entrusted to us.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“What kind of environment is best for caring for someone with Alzheimer’s?”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:17:31 PM
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In quality medical care, as a general rule, bigger is better. Where memory loss is concerned the opposite is more often true. In addition to loss of memory, Alzheimer’s disease causes loss of judgment and communication skills. As the disease progresses, physical coordination diminishes and the person with Alzheimer’s faces increased risk of injury, becoming disoriented or wandering off. A proper caregiving environment takes all of these factors into account, not only in planning, but also in staffing and daily operations.

As functioning becomes increasingly impaired, the person with Alzheimer’s becomes more dependent on caregivers for help with tasks such as dressing, washing and even eating. And with this dependency comes an increased demand for safety. For these reasons, care is best provided in a secure, home-like environment with familiar surroundings and a high ratio of caregivers to residents, where there is greatest opportunity for one-on-one attention and interaction.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s: Stage 1 – “Business As Usual”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:17:04 PM
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Firsthand experience with people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can be misleading – symptoms appear, the diagnosis is confirmed, and the individual soon shows increasingly severe signs of cognitive impairment. As time goes on, the decline becomes even more evident and more rapid, but we’re only seeing the end result of a process long in the making. The fact is, from Stage 1 through Stage 7, the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease may take as long as 25 years or more.

Medical evidence reveals that Alzheimer’s disease may be damaging the brain for nearly two decades before the first symptoms appear. During this time – the period researchers have identified as Stage 1 – the person shows no outward signs. Cognitive function is normal, and for the individual it’s seemingly business as usual.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

“When is it time?” Answering the critical question.

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:11:46 PM
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Throughout our more than two decades of dealing with families of Alzheimer’s sufferers, the single most common question we are asked is, “How do you know when it’s time to place someone with memory impairment into long-term care?” Rather than a single answer, a family’s decision may be influenced by several factors, the most important of which is determined by what’s in the best interests of the person with the disease. Regardless, the first step must be an accurate diagnosis. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests consulting your primary physician, geriatric psychiatrist or psychologist.

Should a diagnosis confirm that your loved one is in the early stages of dementia and not some treatable disorder, and recognizing that their cognitive decline will create difficulties with basic activities of daily living and ultimately affect their ability to live alone, a family will want to consider other factors. These include not only the individual’s physical wellbeing, but their emotional and psychological health, and the impact that providing care has on caregivers and families. I’ll discuss each of these in future columns.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

The 7 Stages of Alzheimer’s: Stage 2 – “Just Getting A Little Forgetful”

Thursday, January 19th, 2017 12:11:37 PM
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Minor forgetfulness is the most typical symptom exhibited by people in Stage 2. However, “forgetfulness” is a familiar

complaint among members of our nation’s 65-and-over population, even those not suffering from Alzheimer’s. In fact, at least half of all persons in this age group report occasional mild difficulty in recalling someone’s name or remembering where they left items such as keys or eyeglasses. Forgetfulness can be caused by any number of factors, many unrelated to Alzheimer’s Disease. But while forgetfulness is simply a normal aspect of aging and may not be particularly noticeable to loved ones, or even the family physician, persons with these symptoms may later be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

In confirmed cases of Alzheimer’s, it is routinely discovered that the individual had previously exhibited “Stage 2” symptoms.

Please support our local Alzheimer’s Association at 316-267-7333.

 

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