For this new decade, caregivers looking after someone with dementia are better off focusing on tasks that will help them power through another demanding year.
The following resolutions may be unexpected, but they're heartfelt and truly helpful:
1. I will order my priorities so that I come first.
Selfish? More like practical common sense, because if you fall apart physically or emotionally, you put the welfare of those you care for in jeopardy.
2. I won't beat myself up if I lose my patience.
Because you know you will. (Both lose your patience and berate yourself for it.) Dementia care can be immensely frustrating. You wouldn't be human if you didn't vent. Try to mostly vent to others with well-functioning brains (or to a pillow or a workout), but cut yourself slack if you occasionally bloop and take it out on the person with dementia.
3. I will spend less time chasing cures and more time embracing today's "new normal."
Obviously you want to practice some of the many ways how to slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease. But don't get stuck in "battle mode" when there's no cure; better to reserve your energy for maximizing the quality of each day, which may not be like the day before.
4. I won't sweat the medium stuff.
If you've dealt with dementia for any length of time, you probably don't sweat the small glitches of life much anymore (keys in the trash, repetitive stories). Now add even bigger things to the list of things you'll be impervious to –- so long as nobody's in danger, it's amazing what can be "okay."
5. I will read something that lets me wallow in my sadness a little.
Escapism has its plusses, but so does insight. And there's a title for nearly every circumstance. Three great recent choices: Mother in the Middle by Sybil Lockhart (a neurobiologist is pregnant when her mom is diagnosed with Alzheimer's); I (Still) Do: Loving and Living With Alzheimer's by Judith Fox (a photographer about her husband); Pig Candy: Taking My Father South, Taking My Father Home by Lise Funderburg (making a dying dad's wishes come true).
6. I won't force.
Here's one that makes things easier for you. When you get to that point where you're exerting excessive energy trying to make something happen, step back. It's probably not worth it, whether you've been forcing someone to take a pill, forcing him or her to get in the car, or forcing some personal matter. Reassess whether it really matters. Drop it. Try later.
7. I will eat more chocolate.
Call it a corollary to #1. Make it dark and keep the portion moderate, and you can keep this resolution every single day. Katherine Hepburn reportedly did – no cost to her waist, big boost to her mood.
8. I will stay engaged even if I get very little back – because I am getting something back.
I'll tell my loved one about my day even though he or she is unresponsive. I'll touch my loved one even if he or she never reaches for me. I'll smile even though my loved one frowns. Thing is, these actions do more than benefit the person with dementia. You, too, get a stress-dropping payoff from reaching out – a bonus of being human.
9. I won't forget the saying, "There but for the grace of God go I."
Good for helping you bite your tongue the 51st time you're asked (in 60 minutes), "What time is it?"
10. I will do what I can to protect my own brain health.
You have a front-row view on the toll dementia can take. Make that -– not thinner thighs or fewer wrinkles –- be your incentive for taking charge of your health as best you can this new year and new decade.
In this new year, I will……….
Learn to take one hour out of each day just for myself to read, enjoy a hot bath, journal my thoughts or call a friend.
Attend at least one caregiver support group to realize that I am not alone and that I can learn from others.
See my doctor for a physical exam and give my own health needs more priority.
Use respite care at least once a month so that I may get a break and be refreshed. I will consider using the time I have to discover the benefits of massage therapy, the joy of a musical concert, self expression in a painting class or a day at the spa to find stress relief.
Eat a balanced diet and exercise at least 20 minutes three times a week even if all I can do is walk around the house, up and down the stairs or exercise from a chair.
Seek out one new resource to support my caregiver role such as chore services, housekeeping, home care programs or delivered meals.
Try to find a way to laugh or find humor in the day amidst the sadness or discouragement I may feel.
Reach out to my family and friends to help with my loved one so that the weight of my responsibility can be lifted and shared. One way I can do this is to keep a list of needs handy so that when help is offered, I can be ready with an answer.
Seek spiritual support or personal counseling to gain perspective of my life, clarity of my role and keep my mental health in check.
Finally, by focusing on these resolutions, I will be able to reap the rewards of caregiving, maintain balance in my life and provide care longer for my loved one.
As families across America get together for the holidays, many will be presented with difficult decisions regarding the care of an aging parent or other relative. To help caregivers more effectively identify issues and communicate with their loved ones who might be in need of additional support and services, Caring.com, the leading online destination for caregivers, has developed a list of tips to help lead productive discussions about critical caregiving issues.
Every year, nursing home and assisted-living administrators share the same story: Around the holidays, admissions spike. The reason? Adult children who haven't recently visited their aging relatives come home and are shocked by what they see: a once well-kept house now in disarray, or a formerly robust relative looking startlingly frail.
"The holidays present a great time for families to productively discuss critical caregiving issues, because everyone's together," says Paula Spencer, author, family life specialist, and senior editor for Caring.com. "If you're the caregiver, it's a good time to reevaluate your parent's or loved one's needs. If you feel you're carrying too much of the burden, it's an opportunity to express concerns with family members and present alternatives for getting help."
Before an adult child can help, he or she needs to get a realistic picture of what's needed. Asking direct questions right off the bat may put relatives on the defensive. A lot can be learned, however, simply by looking around. Some tips fromCaring.com include:
- Look in the fridge. Is the freezer full of TV dinners and the vegetable drawer empty? Has the milk gone sour? Are there multiples of a single odd item (a sign it may be repeatedly bought and forgotten)? A quick scan can tell you whether your parents are still able to shop for and prepare healthy meals.
- Take a peek at the mail. Unopened junk mail is nothing to worry about, but personal correspondence that piles up unread may be cause for concern. Unpaid bills are a real red flag of trouble managing finances.
- Note the pets and plants. Your parents' ability to take care of other living things may offer clues to their ability to manage their own care.
- Identify some benchmarks. How are your parents doing compared with this time last year? How have their lives, interests, and activities changed? A marked decline from one year to the next may mean it's time to start looking into additional supports.
Bringing up concerns about how well your loved ones are coping independently risks triggering a holiday-wrecking blowup. Rather than launching into your concerns, or announcing what you think they ought to do, take time to express what you see thoughtfully. Ask what worries them or what they'd like help with, and offer to brainstorm solutions together.
Spencer, who served as a caregiver herself, offers these tips to help families have meaningful conversations that result in healthy support and positive actions (and more peaceful holiday meals together!):
- Use "I" statements. Avoid "you" statements that put others on the defensive, making them less likely to listen and more likely to attack. Shift the focus and put the emphasis on you: "I'm not sure I'm being understood," or "When this happens, I feel like . . . "
- Be specific. If you're the stressed caregiver, think about specifics that make things easier on you rather than just telling your sister that you need help caring for Mom. Ask for help with shopping, or have a cousin take Mom to doctor's appointments. You might discover that family members are relieved to learn about specific ways to participate in caregiving.
- Focus on loved ones. Remember this is about providing the best support you can for your parent or relative. It's not about personal preferences or old family habits. If things get off track, ask, "How is this helping Dad?"
- Ask questions to gain understanding. Don't assume you know what your brother's comment meant. Ask questions, and you might learn something surprising that sheds a new light on the situation.
Taking the time to follow these communication ground rules will help caregivers navigate this stressful time with less tension and more positive—and productive—interactions.
Article from caring.com
The holidays are a time when family and friends come together and share memories, laughs and good cheer. But for families living with Alzheimer's, the holidays can also be a difficult time.
Caregiving responsibilities layered on top of keeping up with holiday traditions can take its toll on Alzheimer families, especially the caregiver. The person with Alzheimer's may also feel a sense of loss during the holidays.
With some planning and adjusted expectations, your celebrations can be filled with joy and magical moments to cherish forever.
Adjust your expectations
No one, including yourself, should expect you to maintain every holiday tradition or event.
- Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage
- Choose holiday activities and traditions that are most important to you
- Host a small family dinner instead of a throwing a big holiday party
- Consider serving a catered or takeout holiday meal. Many grocery stores and restaurants offer meals to go.
- Start a new tradition. Have a potluck dinner where family or friends each bring a dish
Involve the person in the festivities
There are many manageable activities the person and you can do together, such as:
- Wrap gifts
- Bake favorite holiday recipes together. The person can stir batter or decorate cookies.
- Set the table. Avoid centerpieces with candles and artificial fruits and berries that could be mistaken for edible snacks.
- Talk about events to include in a holiday letter
- Prepare simple foods such as appetizers
- Read cards you receive together
- Look through photo albums or scrapbooks. Reminisce about people in the pictures and past events.
- Watch a favorite holiday movie
- Sing favorite carols or read biblical passages
When the person lives in a care facility
A holiday is still a holiday whether it is celebrated at home or at a care facility. Here are some ways to celebrate together:
- Consider joining your loved one in any facility-planned holiday activities
- Bring a favorite holiday food to share
- Sing holiday songs. Ask if other residents can join in.
- Read a favorite holiday story or poem out loud
Courtesy of The Alzheimer's Association
(Source: The Alzheimer's Store) - As family and friends immerse themselves in the holiday spirit one seemingly insurmountable challenge is the annual dilemma of what to buy someone who themselves are immersed in a disease. But the answer really is simple and it differs little from the principles that apply to everyone - a gift that generales a smile.
There are three keywords regarding gifts for people with dementia: familiarity, "old faithful" and success.
- Familiarity - For someone with Alzheimer's or other form of dementia, a gift that is already familiar to them requires little explanation and is always accompanied by long term memories. This alone is a formula for success.
- "Old Faithful" suggests that if it worked before, it will work again, i.e., if Mom liked the red sweater last year, then she'll probably like it again this year. The seemingly inappropriateness that you are repeating the gift may no longer apply (or find one that is slightly different).
- Success refers to the fact that with this disease, success is a rarely achieved feeling, so simple, easy-to-understand games and products bring success much closer - for both the gift recipient and the gift-giver.
If you can find a present that shares all three of these characteristics, you've hit the ball out of the park. Keep in mind also, that everyone is different and people may be in different stages of the disease. But there's one more ingredient, that only you are the expert in, that is - knowing your loved one and what works best for them.
Here are a few gift suggestions:
- Simple Puzzles - For the puzzle lover who may no longer be able to assemble the 1000 piece puzzle, consider a puzzle of fewer pieces, such as 12 or 24.
- Warm Clothing for Chilly Days and Nights - People in the later stages of dementia may no longer be able to communicate discomfort, though they may feel the cold just as much as you or me. Plus, older skin thins as we age and the insulating layers of fatty tissue beneath diminish. Look for light-weight, fashionable warm materials that are as pretty (or handsome) as they are functional.
- Hobby-related Gifts - For the man who always toyed with projects in the workshop then something as simple as a tool box is a sure and practical winner. For most, this gift is an item of pride, familiarity and function.
- Gifts That Solve a Problem - For many with dementia, the TV remote is as much an obstacle to watching TV as finding a good show to watch, despite the 300 channels we have to choose from. All the extra buttons - for video, DVD, etc. - are very confusing. But there are remotes that offer only a few buttons - for volume, on-ff and channel selection only.
- Calming Comfort - Though it may be hard for many of us to fathom, people with Alzheimer's regress, that is, as they lose their short- and mid-term memory (leaving only their long term memory). To us on the outside, they seem to move backwards in time. What is most familiar and comforting to them are now items that generated those feelings many years ago, perhaps even when they were children. As such, soft, tactile stuffed animals and dolls once again offer the warmth and comfort they did once before. They require no explanation, they do so much and they certainly generate smiles.
By the year 2030, the U.S. census predicts that the number of Americans over 65 years old will double. This means that most of the country will have at least one parent with failing mental or physical difficulties. Many families don’t have any idea or plan around how to deal with the impending senior care needs. The holidays are a great time to get together with aging parents and siblings to discuss future care options and/or current care needs.
Talk openly with your family and aging loved ones to uncover what their needs may be and if your family needs to take some action. Even if your parents are still vibrant and healthy, advance planning can help you to avoid a crisis in the future.
Things to look for during your holiday visit:
Have you noticed physical or behavioral changes in your aging parent or loved one?
-Look for signs of memory impairment: placing items in odd places, missing numerous appointments, poor money management, etc
-Look for a decline in general hygiene and personal care. (oral care, hair care, odors, etc)
-Are daily household chores now a challenge?
-Do you notice a general decline in your loved one’s strength or balance? Does it often keep them from getting out of the house?
-Have you noticed a recent weight loss in your loved one? Weight loss can be a sign of poor nutrition.
Have you ever needed to perform caregiving tasks such as:
If you notice any of the above changes in your loved one, it might be time to have conversations about care needs and options.
-Have a good understanding of your loved one’s wishes.
-Become proactive and look into every available option.
-Involve your loved one, if possible.
-Seek help and advice before you become overwhelmed!
If you believe your loved one has care needs, click HERE for help!