How to Communicate with Someone with Alzheimer's Disease

How do you talk to someone with Alzheimer's Disease?

How do you begin a conversation with someone with dementia?


These are common questions asked by caregivers for those with memory loss. Alzheimer's disease affects a person’s communication skills which leads to difficulty with concentrating, thinking clearly, remembering names and topics of conversation and causing confusion. As the illness gets worse so do these problems. 


Caregivers that are taking care of Alzheimer’s patients may have a client with one or more of these challenges and should become trained in how to communicate effectively when interacting with someone with memory loss (online caregiver training courses include information on activities for seniors with memory loss and communication skills).


How to Communicate with someone with Memory Loss:


  • Always talk to Alzheimer’s patients from the front - approaching them from behind may startle them

  • Use a gentle and relaxed tone

  • Identify yourself each day (hey may not remember you every day so don’t be offended by this)

  • Ask questions with “yes” or “no” answers and avoid lengthy sentences which may overwhelm them

  • Give patients extra time to respond to better understand what you have said

  • Alzheimer's patients tend to copy people’s actions so use positive body language

  • Be patient and supportive and expect that they may not always cooperate with you

  • Use positive encouragement such as “good job” or “you’re doing great”

  • Always call your patient by their name and be respectful

  • Help them feel like the healthy adult that they once were

  • Smile

  • Go with the flow.....meet them where they are each day


Caregivers should remember that communicating with someone with Alzheimer's disease requires understanding, good listening skills, and most importantly, patience. Caregiverlist provides a caregiver training course for Alzheimer’s disease care that caregivers can take to learn more about helping people with the Alzheimer’s.


The Caregiver Stress Relief Photos of the Week also are nice conversation starters and a way to just sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Think of a common activity that you can keep as part of the routine each day, as a way to consistently have a conversation ice-breaker. Photos are one way to have daily conversation starters.



Brain Health Index Score Helps Seniors and Caregivers Manage their Minds

Brain health may soon be proved to be the most important component of healthy living and aging, as our brains connect to all the other functions in our bodies. The human operating system is turning out to be greatly impacted by our state of mind. Researchers now say our brains are the most important organ, creating memories, driving emotions and controlling every movement in our bodies. Now you can be proactive about managing your brain health with an online brain check-up tool.

One of our favorite authors, Deepak Chopra, and his pal Dr. Rudi Tanzi, also have a new book coming out called "Super Genes, Unlock the Astonishing Power of Your DNA for Optimum Health and Well-Being", as a follow-up to their book "Super Brain" and you can pre-order it. This book discusses how 95% of disease-related gene mutations are fully deterministic and influenced by diet, behavior and other environmental conditions.

Cleveland Clinic's Six Pillars of Brain Health can help us preserve our memory and lower our risk for brain disease. The recent suicide of actor Robin Williams, who was suffering from Lewy Body dementia, we now know, reminds us how vital it is to be able to properly diagnose our health issues. However, some types of dementia are difficult to diagnose in the early stages. Especially when there is an early onset of Alzheimer's disease, it can be mistaken for schizophrenia, drug abuse and all kinds of ailments that add even more stress to the situation.

Keep Memory Alive is a non-profit organization created to increase awareness and raise funds for the research, management and treatment of brain disorders (they are located in Las Vegas and receive sponsorship money from Caesar's - it's good to know there are gambling dollars going towards something positive). The Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is supported by Keep Memory Alive and treats patients with:

  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Huntington's Disease
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Fronto-temporal Dementia 
  • Multiple Sclerosis
The Healthy Brains free brain check-up will help you manage your brain health and to be "mindful" of how to best care for your brain. When you take the Cleveland Clinic's free online brain check-up, you can also join their healthy brains research registry which also connects you to a community of people who are willing to participate in clinical research as we work to better understand how to treat illnesses impacting the brain.

6 Pillars for Brain Health
  1. Physical Exercise
  2. Mental Fitness
  3. Food & Nutrition
  4. Sleep & Relaxation
  5. Social Interaction
  6. Medical Health
Clinical trials are necessary to study better ways to treat memory loss. Right now, more than 70,000 volunteer participants are needed for more than 150,000 Alzheimer's Disease and dementia clinical trials. Participants are needed who are both healthy as well as those who already have a diagnosis of memory loss. Find clinical trial openings at Cleveland Clinic. Plan ahead for senior care needs or those of a loved one by learning about what Medicare and Medicaid cover and available care options near you.

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Senior Care Considerations During Polar Vortex

Since most of the United States is locked in the grip of a fierce “polar vortex”, or sub-zero temperatures, I thought it might be a good time to revisit special considerations of elderly care during this time of extreme weather. Here in Chicago, yesterday’s low temperature was -16F, with a windchill of -50F. Elsewhere in the Midwest and Plain states, all-time low temperature records were broken. Exposure to the elements could result in frostbite or hypothermia in just a few minutes.

The elderly are vulnerable during extreme weather, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia who are prone to wandering. In New York state, an elderly woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease left her home and was found dead in the snow, not more than 100 yards from her door. So as the frigid temperatures make their way east and south, all the way down to Florida, be on guard for the special needs associated with the aged.

Older adults lose body heat more quickly than the young, and hypothermia can set in fast. According to Stay Safe in Cold Weather, by the National Institute on Aging, “for an older person, a body temperature colder than 95 degrees can cause many health problems such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.”

Certain medications can make it easier for the elderly to get hypothermia, so check with a physician if that’s a concern.

Keep the house warm by restricting open rooms. Shut their vents and doors to maximize heat in the living and sleeping areas. Close blinds and curtains to help eliminate drafts.

Food is fuel, so make sure the senior eats enough. Also, cold air is drier, so make sure they keep hydrated. Caregiver training recommends a senior drink 64oz. of liquid (preferably water) daily.

If space heaters are used for supplemental heat, be sure they are turned off before bed and when unattended and make sure a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector are nearby, as these are common concerns.

If your senior family member or client shows the following signs, call 911 immediately, as these are signs of advanced hypothermia:

  • moving slowly, trouble walking, or being clumsy
  • stiff and jerky arm or leg movements
  • slow heartbeat
  • slow, shallow breathing
  • blacking out or losing consciousness

As always, if you or a senior in your care needs special help, contact your state's Area Agency on Aging. Until this arctic weather passes (and it shall, just not soon enough!), Caregiverlist wishes all seniors and their caregivers to stay warm and safe.

 

Living and Aging Well at Home

Caregiverlist welcomes Dr. Doris Bersing, PhD. as our new Home Care Expert. Dr. Bersing is the founder and president of Living Well Assisted Living at Home, Dr. Bersing discusses how to successfully age in place at home. If you have any questions regarding the elderly aging at home, especially those with Alzheimer's disease or dementia, feel free to post your questions here.

How to Have More Choices to Age Well at Home?

We all hope to age in a healthy way and most of us avoid thinking about frailty or problems before they arise. However, If we force ourselves to plan, we can make informed choices.

90% of people want to live in their own homes. This has been true for all of our history. Moving out of home to an “age segregated community” is a modern phenomenon. Maximize your choices by planning your estate, your home, your health, and your wellness.

To Maximize your Choices:

Do some planning: financial and legal

It’s no surprise that with age, seniors often experience increased limitations, the loss of certain abilities and require more assistance with the activities of daily living. It is equally unsurprising that one’s finances largely influence the types of services and long-term care available to that individual. An experienced financial planner and long term care specialist can provide you with invaluable advice on money issues and more, to help you find the appropriate solution to your particular situation.

Aging well at home usually involves not just healthcare but money and legal matters, as well. That might include estate planning, getting legal forms such as advance health care directives and power of attorney for finances in place, and understanding the coverage and policies -such as Medicare and Social Security benefits – available to you of the person in your care.

Look at your home

Is it safe? Can you make it more safe? Can you use new techologies to enhance your wellbeing. These technologies are improving everyday and offer real benefits. Look into Universal Design options. Can your home be made more suitable for your changing needs? Does it make sense to move to smaller home and use the extra money to pay for your support?

Be active

It matters less what you do, but that you do something that is meaningful to you and that uses your mind, spirit and body. No need to commit to one thing – change your mind as often as you want, and give any challenge a try!

Take charge of your health

Your Doctor may know best, but does she know and hear you. Do you have a system for understanding what you need to do to care for yourself and for learning about recommended procedures? Are your medical records and Powers of Attorney in a safe place? NOBODY should face serious medical decisions alone. We all need advocates. Medications are potent (that’s why they work). Learn about them and find ways to take them as prescribed.

Tackle your fears about memory changes

Learn about what things you need to worry about and what you can adapt to. Don’t panic! Don’t let others around you panic! – But don’t deny and pretend you are OK, if you are having problems. Changes to your environment and social support can make all the difference. Talk to your friends, doctors and family. Dementia is not a new problem – humans have been having memory loss for centuries – let’s learn from our predecessors.

Be open to smart technology

There are numerous studies, projects, and research aiming to use integrated information technology systems to support and enhance the health, safety and social connectedness of older people living in their own homes. Currently, there are many exciting technologies being developed to help seniors to stay independent and aging in place are many, some of these are: home-monitoring systems, telemedicine devices, tracking systems like GPS shoes and GPS watches, electronic walking aids, intelligent phones, and even robotic nurses.

Never give up your home without weighing all the choices

Is this the right time? Be curious about why you are making life changing decisions, weigh the consequences, think about your motivations, get input from trusted people. It’s rarely a good idea to make a life transition when grieving, adapting to a change in health status, or because you are appeasing anybody. It somebody tries to persuade you to make big changes during these times, question their motivation. The old choices of struggling alone at home or moving to an institution are being replaced by new ones. Stay on the cutting edge. Learn what the options are, participate in creating those options. Make your voice heard. 

Alzheimer's Research Charity: August Quilts

The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative auctions 27 quilts online each month. Quilts range in size-- 9' x 12' and smaller. Please take some time to view the August quilts for auction the 1st through the 10th. All proceeds from the auction fund Alzheimer's research.

Read more on the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative

Please look at a few of the quilts for auction below.

 

 

 

Review all August 2013 quilts here.

The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative® is a national, grassroots charity whose mission is to raise awareness and fund research. The AAQI auctions and sells donated quilts, and sponsors a nationally touring exhibit of quilts about Alzheimer's. The AAQI has raised more than $916,000 since January 2006. Ami Simms of Flint, Michigan is the founder and executive director of the AAQI, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit operated entirely by volunteers. She is a quilter. Her mother had Alzheimer's

Caregiver Stress Relief Photo of the Week

Caregivers employed with senior care companies know the realities of caregiver stress. Caregiverlist invites all family caregivers and professional caregivers to take a moment for relaxation with our photo of the week and inspirational quote. This week's photo features tulips that may bring color into your life as a caregiver. Thank you for caring for our seniors and please refer your friends to apply for part-time and full-time job positions on Caregiverlist.com and visit our career center for additional career tools.

Caregiver Stress Relief Photo of the Week Tulips

"Opportunities are never lost. The other fellow takes those you miss."

Anonymous

 

Alzheimer's Research Charity: July Quilts

 

The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative auctions 27 quilts online each month. Quilts range in size-- 9' x 12' and smaller. Please take some time to view the July quilts for auction the 1st through the 10th. All proceeds from the auction fund Alzheimer's research.

Read more on the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative

Please look at a few of the quilts for auction below.

Review all July 2013 quilts here.

The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative® is a national, grassroots charity whose mission is to raise awareness and fund research. The AAQI auctions and sells donated quilts, and sponsors a nationally touring exhibit of quilts about Alzheimer's. The AAQI has raised more than $916,000 since January 2006. Ami Simms of Flint, Michigan is the founder and executive director of the AAQI, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit operated entirely by volunteers. She is a quilter. Her mother had Alzheimer's.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

Elder abuse happens—about 2.1 million seniors are victims.  Additionally, for every case reported, an estimated 5 elder abuse cases go unreported.

The senior population continues to grow, with seniors living longer lives while needing senior caregiving services for some of those years.  By 2050, this age demographic will be the largest. With this in mind, we should acknowledge World Elder Abuse Awareness Day approaching on June 15th

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day recognizes seniors going through abuse, neglect, and exploitation. This day serves as a time for people to understand the cultural, social, economic and demographic process that lead to ill treatment, negligence and manipulation.

The Administration on Aging provides helpful information on warning signs of elder abuse, how one can protect themselves from abuse, and other information to create awareness.  Building an understanding of this problem purposes this day.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day has been an annually recognized since 2006 by the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, the WHO and the UN. The United Nations recognizes elder abuse as a public health and human rights issue.

The caregiving job has never been a light one. There are many responsibilities—planning and preparing meals, providing medication reminders, assisting with hygiene, running errands, and so many more—that make up the job description. Even though much accountability comes with this job, caregivers gain companionship.

Caregiver companion stories help other caregivers get through their day.  Caregiverlist.com builds a community for caregivers through one of their many resources, such as the Caregiver Experience Sharing. The submissions share caregiver’s stories of their senior companion—a small, but thoughtful token of appreciation.

With the growing senior population, the need for caregivers grows in the job market.  People seeking to become caregivers can apply for a job on Caregiverlist.com. Refer-a-Friend provides and opportunity for people to refer their friends to a caregiving job and a chance to enter to win $50 or a free t-shirt!

Inside the Dementia Epidemic: Indie Award-Winning Author Shares Story About Caring for Mother

Martha Stettinius is the award-winning author of the book “Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter’s Memoir,” and until recently a “sandwich generation” caregiver for her mother, Judy, who had vascular dementia and probable Alzheimer’s disease. When Judy, 72, could no longer live alone in her remote lakeside cottage—when she stopped cooking and cleaning, lost a lot of weight, and was in danger of falling—Martha encouraged her to move into her home with her husband, Ben, and their two children. For 8 years, until Judy passed away late last year, Martha was her primary caregiver at home, in assisted living, a rehab center, a “memory care” facility, and a nursing home. Martha serves as a volunteer representative for the Caregiver Action Network (a national organization providing caregiver support and advocacy) and as an expert in dementia care for the website eCareDiary.

In this short excerpt from “Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter’s Memoir,” Martha writes about taking her mother to visit her old cottage, and learning that day to see dementia differently.

In late October, two and a half years since she moved in with us, I bring Mom along with me and Ben and the kids for an afternoon at the lake. I imagine that she will light up at the sight of the cottage, but as she sits outside with me in the front yard in the shade of an umbrella, and watches the waves, her expression is flat, muted, as if the yard is just a place like any other.
At first, I feel deflated, but within moments I realize something: It’s time for me to stop trying to bring my mother pleasure through what’s left of her memory. If she no longer recognizes the deep blue swell of her lake, if these pieces of her life no longer move her, then truly there’s nothing but the present moment—and other people.

I decide to take her out for a rowboat ride. I wonder if feeling the rowboat rock softly on the water will help my mother experience the joy in the lake she used to feel in her canoe, or when she watched the waves from her desk.
Ben helps me support Mom under her arms as she steps in. Mom sits in the middle of the wide seat along the back of the boat, Andrew [our 12-year-old] squeezes into the bow, and from the middle seat I row the three of us a hundred feet out into the lake. I keep my eyes on hers. She grips the edge of the seat, her back ramrod straight, her eyes wide but not scared. We bounce gently on the waves and Mom releases her hands from the seat to stretch her arms and clasp the sides of the boat. She smiles. When I tell her that she can lean against the high back wall of the boat, she scoots her bottom toward the wall and relaxes.

Back on shore, there’s a problem. We find that Ben has gone off to the store; Andrew and I have to pull up the heavy boat and get Grammy out on our own. I call Morgan [our 10-year-old] out of the house for her help. We hold Grammy’s hands and coach her to walk up the length of the boat from the back, which is still in the water, to the bow so we can help her step out onto the beach. She stands on the seat in the bow, too high to step down. I ask Andrew and Morgan to find a stool in the boathouse and they bicker about who should go. Andrew finds my garden stool, which has wheels, and I wedge it between my feet beside the boat and try to persuade Mom to step down on it.

“Don’t make me cry,” she says.

My heart flares for a moment with guilt, but she trusts me and her fear passes quickly. She holds my hands firmly as I ask Andrew to carry over one of the lawn chairs. Mom hesitates, then lifts one leg over the rail of the boat and steps onto the chair, brings her other leg over, pauses, then steps down to the garden stool and then onto the shale, where she tucks her slender shoulders into my arms. Such a production! I can’t believe I asked my mother, who just recovered from a pelvic fracture, to clamber in and out of a boat.

But I’m glad I did. In the boat Mom seemed to absorb it all—my attention as I held her eye and smiled at her, the breeze, the blue-green waves, the gentle push of the oars, the firmness of the boat’s floor under her Keds. When we passed our neighbors on their dock Mom had let go of the side of the boat to wave with a big smile.

Without memory, I think to myself, what’s left? Not destinations like going to the cottage—not the pleasure of their anticipation and repetition—but moments like these, of sense and touch, rhythm and movement, patience and reassurance.

"Inside the Dementia Epidemic: A Daughter's Memoir” is available through all major online book retailers as a paperback and e-book. Martha can be contacted through her website and blog, www.insidedementia.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+.

 

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