Sunday, September 14, 2014

Walk to End Alzheimer's

Today, at Potawatomi Park in South Bend, Indiana, it was a beautiful day to walk for a great cause. Family, friends, caregivers and even those who live with dementia gathered to support a cure for Alzheimer's.  A disease that takes away precious memories in our lives that we work so hard to build and preserve, we strive as a community to find coping mechanisms such as music to bring back livelihood to those with dementia. As reported today, September 14, 2014 at 2:00pm: There was over 25,000 dollars in fund raising given to the Alzheimer's Association by contributors far and wide.  This afternoon we walked to remember, provide support, and give to the debilitating disease of Alzheimer's. The sun was shinning and the wind blew the colorful pinwheel flowers that were symbols of support during the ceremony and moving walk. Together, lets commit to aid in finding a cure for dementia.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tuesday Tidings: Phase 2

"I am awake, I am ready to get up," explained a client of mine.  He questioned, "Why is it so dark outside?"  Not knowing that it was 4 o'clock in the morning, I reoriented my client in making him aware that it was early in the morning.  I was more than willing to get up with him if he wished, but he decided to go back to sleep.  Instances such as this becomes more and more prominent as a patient progresses through the second phase of disorientation in Alzheimer's disease.  Phase 2, time confused, brings about loss of cognitive abilities and "time travels" between past and present. Though, the patient responds to touch and warm eye contact, and they know who is genuine. 

It is important to remain calm in every situation, for Alzheimer's patients feed off of a caregiver's energy and attitude.  There are many reliable sources in which support and enable us as caregivers to cope effectively when caring for a disoriented loved one.  If is crucial to communicate with everyone who has contact with an Alzheimer's patient.  Being able to have meetings and also getting away for a bit to free your mind are essential for healthy caregivers. 

Is there someone you know who is time confused with Alzheimer's?  Do you or loved ones take the imperative time to communicate?  Do you need assistance in organizing your thoughts and actions to better be prepared for this journey?  I wait patiently for your responses. :)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tuesday Tidings: Phases of Disorientation

Distrust and repeated anger are often signs of a very important phase of disorientation known as malorientation.  Individuals with Alzheimer's who experience this stage, which is phase 1 of 4, tend to be unhappily oriented to life, are regularly accusatory, and typically do not maintain eye contact.  My belief is that it is our duty as caregivers to never judge situations and comfort our loved ones in the best way possible.  Naomi Feil's Workshop Handouts give basic guidance information when caregivers need extra support.  No one, patient or caregiver, should have to go down the long road of Alzheimer's disease without helpful advice from trained professionals who care.

In attempts to give Alzheimer's patients top priority over our own when it comes to emotions, we must remember this key expression: Alzheimer's is a disease of the mind that is uncontrollable.  When we as caregivers are having a bad day, we should stop to center ourselves.  As Carrie Gallahan, Certified Validation Worker and Group Practitioner expresses, close our eyes and imagine our favorite color entering our bodies each time we breathe in - all the way down to our toes.  Take a few minutes to do this until the body and mind feel relaxed.  Start off the day with a fresh slate, leave worries and everything negative at the door.  This will allow us to give our undivided attention and empathetic emotion to our dear elders.      

Has anyone tried using the Validation Technique?  How about attempting to center yourself?  Did either of these approaches provide benefits throughout the day of caregiving?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Technique Tip #5

"Did you ask Margaret where she was going?"  These were the words from one of my clients as she was waking up from her nap.  Knowing in my mind that I had not been introduced to Margaret, I simply stated, "No, I was not able to ask her."  This response might seem a bit outlandish to some individuals on the outside, but I wanted to preserve my client's feelings.  I did not want to make her feel as though she was speaking out of the blue, making her feel uncomfortable. 

When a client or loved one speaks to you in terms that you do not understand, it might be best to use ambiguity of pronouns to substitute for your not knowing.  As I stated, I wanted to spare my client's dignity.  My experience was months ago, and now that I know my client a bit more, I might respond a differently if it were to happen again.  It all depends on what kind of bond you have with your loved one.  Some individuals may feel more comfortable using the non-verbal technique of ambiguity.  Whichever technique chosen, we want to make sure our Alzheimer's patients are at the center of our reasoning and responses from the heart. 

Has anyone had someone with Alzheimer's ask them a question that made no sense?  How did you respond?    

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Technique Tip #4

Charlie Barnet, Peggy Lee, Glen Miller, and Frank Sinatra are all 1940's musical artists.  Not only are these individuals from an awe-inspiring decade, these musicians are some of my client's favorites.  I found this out one Sunday afternoon when I decided to turn on the radio in my client's home.  I was cooking lunch and didn't want her to feel lonesome in the living room.  What I discovered was an astonishing and marvelous find.  She started to bop her feet up and down and hum along with the words on the radio, bringing her back to a place, in her words, "the good ol' days."  This non-verbal technique of music lead me to yet another door in which I could bond with my client.

My dear companion was a teenager during the 1940's, and the music reminded her just how wonderful of a life she has lived throughout the years.  As the songs kept coming, she then started to conversate with me about them and what she remembered most about life when listening to her favorite musicians.  She would get so excited when she heard a song that she really loved; singing aloud and smiling from cheek to cheek.

I could tell using the non-verbal technique of music was just what she needed that day to keep her spirits high.  Alzheimer's patients often times get frustrated and irritated with the world.  With the music rolling and the memories flowing, listening to melodies of the client's or loved one's choice just might be a charming redirective.  Memories from childhood are the special remembrances that do not seem to fade with Alzheimer's.  If we can rekindle the consciousness of music, why not bring back a piece of happiness to our loved one's mind?

Do you have a precious elder in your life that goes "ga ga" over music of their day?  Who are their favorite artists?   

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Technique Tip #3

Slam on the breaks, deer in the headlights looking directly at you...this is what I experienced when I attempted to tell my client of the time change that has recently occurred.  She did not understand what in the world I was referring to when I told her I had changed the clock time that night in order for us to be aware of the correct time when she got up the following morning.  In her day and age, she had not had to change the clock for daylight savings time.  Only in the past several years has South Bend/Mishawaka had to do this, and she was as confused as she could be.  In order for me to clarify what I was trying to tell her, I had to rephrase my explanation.

The verbal technique of rephrasing is a beneficial route to take when an individual with Alzheimer's does not comprehend information.  Instead of me telling my client, "we have to move your clock back an hour, that is why it is reading seven o'clock when it is actually eight o'clock," I simply rephrased my wording as, "I have changed the time of your clock to read seven o'clock rather than eight o'clock."  In restating this information, I also used a shorter sentence as to keep confusion at a minimum. 

Even though my restating the material got the point of time change across to her, which she said she understood, she still stuck with her testimony that the clock was still going to be wrong in the morning. :)  I sincerely agreed with her that, "yes, the clock will be wrong in the morning."  Rephrasing helped my client understand the issue of the time change, yet there were underlying matters that she still disagreed with.  There was no harm in allowing her to think what she wants.  Besides, in the morning, the clock would show the correct time and she would then agree. 

The use of verbal techniques allows us to be resourceful and interpret the unclear.  Does anyone have a story of how rephrasing information opened another door of knowledge?  Did your client or loved one truly understand the whole picture, or were there underlying circumstances?  I would love to her your report.      

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Technique Tip #2

Bathing will usually come second nature to a person when they feel sticky from sweat, or smell an odor emerging from their body.  With a patient who has Alzheimer's, this might not be the case.  In fact, these individuals might even down right refuse to cleanse themselves.  Some may insist that they have already taken a bath today, yet we as caregivers know that it has been two days since their last wash.  A method I use as a caregiver is to give the patient two options as to when they would like to get cleaned up.  You might want to ask: "would you rather take a bath now or in an hour?"  This allows them to make their own decisions, but enables us to assist them in duties that they would not think of to accomplish.  Remember to give reminders to concerns of this nature.  Tasks, such as bathing, become increasingly difficult to conduct when Alzheimer's patients progress into the middle stages of dementia.      

Unforeseen behaviors can arise with Alzheimer's disease that an individual in their earlier years would have never been known to possess.  This occurs throughout all of the stages, though may become more pronounced and identifiable in middle stages of the disease.  We as caregivers must know what to expect and be prepared for the unthinkable to come our way.  In doing so, we can somewhat ready our minds, or at least lessen the blow of the emotional exhaustion we may experience.

Would anyone be inclined to share an experience of their loved one's behavior that has changed since their development of Alzheimer's disease?  This does not have to be a negative experience, for dementia can open doors to different varieties in practices of bonding.  How did this actuality make you feel?