Caregiving Tools for Alzheimer's Disease

If you are caring for a senior with Alzheimer's Disease, check out this website which provides some really clever products to assist you with caregiving for those with memory loss at all stages.

My family has always turned to humor to assist with dealing with the difficult issues, especially when my Grandfather suffered from memory loss.  He more than once offered his own coat to someone who was leaving, thinking it was their coat.  And we would all just laugh.  Definitely in the beginning stages, one must find a way to laugh at the actions, because they really are funny sometimes.

So, if you were wondering where you could find a fake bookcase poster to tape to the sliding glass door or windows, or a confounding door lock or some memory stimulators, this is the place.  They really do have everything you could want for Alzheimer's care:   www.alzstore.com

 

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10 Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

Everyone has their own story of how they discovered a loved one was experiencing memory loss.  One of my girlfriends tells the story of a family friend who picked her daughter up from school and said she thought the weather was cooling and it would be a perfect night to make chili for dinner.  So they went to the grocery store to buy the ingredients and went home to enjoy a dinner of chili.  The next night the Mom picked up her daughter from school and again said the weather was cooling and she thought it would be a good night to make chili for dinner.  She forgot they had chili the previous night.  When this happened a third time, the family began to compare notes and realized something was not right. 

The Alzheimer's Association offers many wonderful educational programs to help seniors and family members understand how to best deal with this disease - knowledge is power, especially when you have the luxury of early diagnosis. 

The 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease, courtesy of the Alzheimer's Association:

1) Memory loss

2) Difficulty performing familiar tasks

3) Problems with language

4) Disorientation to time and place

5) Poor or decreased judgment

6) Problems with abstract thinking

7) Misplacing things

8) Changes in mood or behavior

9) Changes in personality

10) Loss of initiative

 

 

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Elder Care Abuse

The number one type of elder care abuse is actually financial abuse.  As a former owner of a senior home care agency, I witnessed many situations where the family members went beyond the call of duty to assist a senior loved one with their care needs.  I also saw situations where sometimes just one family member was inappropriately trying to take advantage of the senior's kindness and financial generosity.

Unfortunately, seniors are an easy target for those looking to take advantage, especially when they are lonely and hungry for friendship and attention from anyone who will offer it.  At the same time, there may be adult children who have drug or alcohol addictions which lead them to take advantage of a senior parent with memory loss or who has no one else to turn to for assistance.  I had one client who was retired and living on a healthy pension as a retired government employee but his daughter with a cocaine addiction continually stole his checks and nearly every piece of furniture in his house before the state appointed a court-ordered guardian. 

If you are caring for a senior or have a senior neighbor of friend who you feel is being abused, either from physical neglect or financially, the first step is to call your local elder abuse hotline.  They will professionally step in to assess and manage the situation for the senior's benefit.  Confidentiality is provided.

You can find the contact in your state on Caregiverlist's "by state" list.

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A Banana a Day.......

A new study presented on Saturday at the American Society of Nephrology's annual meeting, found consuming too little potassium may be as big a risk factor for high blood pressure as eating too much sodium.

This study supports previous studies that also made this conclusion about potassium and blood pressure.

 "The lower the potassium in the urine, hence the lower the potassium in the diet, the higher the blood pressure," lead study author Dr. Susan Hedayati, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said in a news release issued by the conference organizers. "This effect was even stronger than the effect of sodium on blood pressure."

 

 The link between high blood pressure and low potassium was strong even when age, race, and other cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking, were factored in. About half the study participants were black, and they tended to consume the least amount of potassium in their diet, Hedayati said.

 Laboratory research for the study suggests that the WNK1 gene may be responsible for potassium's effects on blood pressure. More research is being done to test how fixed levels of potassium in a diet affect blood pressure and the gene's activity.

 Meanwhile, the researchers urged people to consume more potassium and less sodium. "High-potassium foods include fruits such as bananas, and citrus fruits and vegetables," Hedayati said. "Consuming a larger amount of these foods in the diet may lower blood pressure."

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Obama's Grandmother Passes

Regardless of your political choice for president, you can share in the sadness of Barack Obama's Grandmother passing away just a day before the election.  Madelyn Payne Dunham, 86, died peacefully in her Honolulu home on Sunday night, after battling cancer.  She chose to stay at home with care provided by a caregiver.

Hospice training teaches that emotionally, it is easier to go through the process of grieving when you are able to plan for the death and say goodbye ahead of time.  Barack learned this, he said, when he did not make it to his Mother's side before she passed away.  As he did not want that to happen again, he took time off from his historic campaign to visit his Grandmother a couple of weeks ago.

Still, death of a loved one is never convenient or easy, even with knowing ahead of time.  While visiting France one summer, I went to dinner at a small country restaurant.  The owners were a married couple who made the rounds to all the tables to chat with their guests.  Upon learning that I worked in senior care, they told me to be sure to visit the bathroom before I left.  There was a mural painted on the bathroom wall that included the 17th Century Nun's Prayer.  I later had my Mother write it in calligraphy and framed it for my Senior Care Agency's office wall.  Many caregivers who passed through the doors asked about it and requested a copy and now it is included as a resource on Caregiverlist.

 

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Free Memory Screenings at more than 2,000 locations

My Mother thinks that I am always keeping tabs on her memory. After working in senior care, I have seen first hand that early detection of memory loss can make a positive difference.  I have seen senior's memories improve after starting medications and developing a regular routine with a caregiver to guide them.  I have also witnessed the agony that memory loss can cause for the senior and their loved ones, especially when proper diagnosis of the type of dementia occurs too late.

It greatly helps family relationships when everyone understands what is happening when the memory loss first begins.  Sometimes during a conversation, my Mom will inform my Dad that I am really quizzing him on his memory.  My father has a better memory than I do and so far so good with Mom.  Her father suffered from memory loss, which was never formerly diagnosed as Alzheimer's Disease, although now, looking back, we are all sure that it was.  The early diagnosis and tests were not widely performed 20 years ago.  I remember that my Grandfather would "read" the Wall Street Journal upside down,- which actually might not be a bad idea with the recent market turmoil -a different view might be nice.  But that was just one example of some of the ongoing confusion he experienced.

On November 18th, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) will offer free memory screenings at more than 2,000 local sites across the country as part of its 6th annual National Memory Screening Day.

This annual initiative is aimed at promoting early detection of memory problems and appropriate intervention.
The AFA encourages adults with memory concerns, a family history of Alzheimer's disease or a desire to establish a baseline score for future comparison to get screened and to pick up educational materials about memory concerns, successful aging and local resources.
Alzheimer's disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
The face-to-face screening takes approximately five minutes and consists of a series of questions and tasks. Sites, spanning all 50 states, include the entire chain of Kmart pharmacies, senior centers, houses of worship, assisted living facilities and doctor's offices.
The results do not represent a diagnosis, and screeners encourage those with abnormal scores as well as those who still have concerns to pursue a full medical exam.
How are they able to pay for this?  The drug companies are sponsors - so another good reason to take advantage of the free memory screening since you are sort of paying for it anyway through your medication purchases.
If you are a caregiver for a senior, find out if there is a location in your area.
For information about National Memory Screening Day, including screening sites, visit http://www.nationalmemoryscreening.org or call 866-AFA-8484. 
 
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Assist Seniors to Vote next Tuesday

The Federal Election Commission created a National Voter Registration Form which is accepted by most states for the registration of voters. Organizations providing care services and assistance to older adults were able to assist them to register to vote by providing this registration form.  In addition, those seniors who are homebound could apply for absentee ballots after registering to vote (or if they are already registerd to vote, they could apply for the absentee ballot).  This allows homebound seniors to participate in this year's important presidential election.

If you are providing care services for a homebound senior, find out if they were able to cast an absentee ballot, and if not, you can assist them to vote ahead of time if this is offered in their area or to get to the polls on election day.

Check with your local Department on Aging if you or another senior needs transportation to the polls on election day as there are volunteers available to assist in most communities.

And to find out where to vote:  www.maps.google.com/vote

 

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Hospice Volunteering Opportunity

Hospice provides many services to terminally ill patients, from end-of-life planning to hands-on care with a Registered Nurse who will manage the overall care.  A Certified Nursing Aide is available for bathing visits and assistance with personal care.  Hospice also provides a Social Worker to assist with managing family and personal issues.  In addition, many hospice services provide volunteers who will visit the hospice pateint to offer companionship services and assist them with any specially requested tasks.

If you have lost a loved one and are looking for new activities to fill your day or have an interest in becoming a caregiver, contact a local hospice company to find out about possible volunteer opportunities.  You will gain as much as you give.

 

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Advantages of a Senior Home Care Agency

Seniors needing additional care services provided by a Caregiver have the option of hiring a Senior Home Care agency to professionally provide the services or of finding a direct-hire Caregiver.

Caregiverlist.com only connects seniors with services provided by professional Senior Home Care Agencies.  This is because these senior care agencies meet the legal guidelines established in their states for providing senior home care and also meet Caregiverlist's quality standards.

Although it might seem like a cheaper option to go out and find a caregiver to provide the senior care services on your own, it rarely turns out to be the case once care begins.  When I owned a senior home care agency, over and over again we would begin care services for a client who first hired a caregiver on their own who did not work out because they either were not trained properly to provide the care, became burned out without management to vent to, started to charge the client for any services they deemed as "extra" from going to the grocery store to their travel time to get to the senior's house.  This is because senior care is very different from child care.  There is not a Mother and Father there at the beginning and end of each day to supervise the care needs and keep the checks and balances in place.   Seniors also are dealing with many emotions as they are accepting age-related illnesses, the deaths of friends and constant change.  Because of this, senior caregiving presents challenging days for a caregiver which can take an emotional toll.  Seniors may be resistant to care, too, even though they know the care is needed.  This resistance along with memory loss and emotional challenges all present the need for customized training and case management support.  I have seen situations where even wonderful caregivers can begin to take advantage of the situation when they do not have professional supervision and support.  Some seniors are difficult to care for - they may be unhappy, angry, pinching pennies and they then will take out all of their frustrations on the caregiver.  A professional senior home care agency knows how to step-in and professionally mange the care and the caregiver.  Agencies also have experience in understanding the best approach for each senior.

The senior home care agency fee will also take care of all payroll taxes, as required by law, and insurance coverages which will not be present in a hire-direct situation.

The news stories that you see about caregiver theft are not about caregivers working for senior home care agencies.  Senior home care agencies have proper systems in place to prevent theft and insurance coverage which requires them to implement policies and procedures for added protection.  A caregiver would never have access to a senior's bank account information nor the power to make purchases with the client's money.  A Supervisor would set-up systems for these purchases to be made by the home care agency and then billed to the client.

On Friday, the news media reported on a recent caregiver theft of $304,000 from a senior's estate - another hire-direct caregiver situation.  The Caregiver, Marilyn Fenderson, withdrew $304,000 from accounts the senior had intended to be for donations to three nonprofit groups in Sonoma County.  This caregiver was given power-of-attorney, another mistake which a senior home care agency would prevent.  Unfortunately, there are individuals who seek the hire-direct caregiving jobs in order to take advantage of these opportunities for theft.

Background checks come in many flavors.  It is good protocol to understand the various levels of background checks.  Run fast from a website that says they are providing "free" background checks as rarely will a free check absorb the cost of a multi-state criminal background check matching every past address of the applicant, along with name and social security number verification for past addresses.  Senior Home Care Agencies understand how to do background checks and screening which will go beyond the background check (if someone was given community service for a crime, which is very common for the first couple of offenses, it most likely will not show on their record)  and how to hire quality caregivers who will both provide care and protect a senior from anyone who would not have the senior's best interest in mind.  Caregiverlist also connects individuals seeking to work as caregivers with hiring senior home care agencies and other senior care companies in their area and explains all the necessary skills and requirements for working as a senior caregiver.

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Barack Obama: Taking Time Out for Grandma

This week, Barack Obama's campaign announced that he will be taking time off from the campaign trail to visit his ailing Grandmother in Hawaii.  Barack's Grandma, Madelyn Dunham, age 86, is in declining health and her situation has become critical after being discharged from the hospital.

We will all be Caregivers at some stage of life.  As a family or professional caregiver, you will experience the daily challenges of assisting someone else with their "activities of daily living".  This is the term used in the care industry for all the tasks we engage in throughout the day from eating to bathing to exercising.  Seniors with memory loss may also require additional reminders to maintain their daily schedule.

Hospice training teaches that the healthiest way to lose a loved one is to be able to plan ahead for their death.  This allows you to better come to terms emotionally with the expected loss and to have quality time to share with them to say the things you would like.  Just being able to say goodbye makes the loss a little easier. 

I have found that this only comes true after the person you love has passed on.  It is still difficult to make peace with the loss ahead of time, as you are still dealing with anger, sadness and perhaps denial.

I respect Barack for maintaining a relationship with his Grandmother and for making the time to spend with her to say goodbye.  This sets a nice example for dealing with the loss of a loved one for other's to follow.  And it also highlights how much more difficult caregiving can be when you are a long-distance caregiver.  Caregiverlist tries to assist in long-distance caregiving by providing information on services in each state.

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