Monday, September 30, 2013

Changing Seasons?

Image from
In the midst of changing seasons, does this visual image snag attention?  The topic and image, at first sight, may be how many individuals view nature this fall.  Though, at a second glance, this image represents much more than simply the changing of seasons.

Nature plays a huge role in how I view the world.  Somehow, I always seem to find a metaphor between my thought process and outdoors.  The picture shown here allows a connection to be made linking youthfulness and maturation of the mind.  With Alzheimer's, the main portion of an individual's life before the disease is spent being able to recall and remember day to day information and activities.  This is represented by the green leaves.  The next stage, being middle-aged, is the slow process of forgetfulness that a large number of people experience.  Yellow leaves depict this progression.  The occurrence of memory loss might begin to set in as we mature and grow older.  Brain degeneration and loss of information is exemplified by the orange and red leaves.  Once these leaves, or in the case of Alzheimer's disease, memories, are disconnected and no longer have pathways to sustain life, they are gone and cannot be brought back.  Data "leaves" from the mind.

Orange and red leaves are physically detaching from the head of the image.  These also can be thought of as the most recent memories an individual has acquired.  In Alzheimer's disease, it is known that the most recent cognizance is among the first to be forgotten.  For this reason, Alzheimer's patients have difficulty reiterating what was said to them five minutes ago.  In the course of going about our daily routines and memorizing a fair amount of statements that have been spoken, please remember, they cannot.  As the leaves on the trees become less and less from summer to winter, memory and analytical skills fade from individuals with Alzheimer's.
What was the first thought that came to your mind when you viewed this image?  Do you feel as though you would be able to link the image to the topic of Alzheimer's in a different way?

Suggested Methods of Coping

Reaching out for support and effective coping methods to aide an individual with Alzheimer's disease can be a challenge within itself.  Proud to say, I have geriatric clinical training from Southwestern Michigan College and Home Instead Senior Care.  Many hours of case studies and lectures have provided me with extensive and meaningful instruction that I'd love to share.  Here, I am ecstatic to share essential tips in upholding an exuberant relationship between you and your loved ones:

  • Agree
Even if you have a different opinion, allow an individual with Alzheimer's to dominate.  Alzheimer's patients tend to have mood swings at times of which they cannot control; wouldn't it be better to keep things calm instead of causing a commotion?

  • Back Down
When the detrimental workings of Alzheimer's takes over, these dear people believe they know best.  They are, as a whole, unaware that they have a disease that is affecting their brain and memory.  Give them the pride they have accumulated throughout the years; you, as a caregiver, do not always have to be right in every or any situation.

  • Forgive
As stated earlier, Alzheimer's disease causes our loved ones to experience attitudes and emotions that might not normally be a part of their character.  Do not take things to heart, let it go and forgive.

  • Involve Them
It is possible that an individual with Alzheimer's can feel stripped of their decision making and freedom.  At any time viable, involve them and allow them to feel in control.

  • Redirect
A person's brain with Alzheimer's is being eroded in a progressive process.  They might out of the blue speak of someone who has long ago past, or get angry about something that they feel happened two minutes ago, but in reality happened two years ago.  What us as caregivers have a responsibility to do, I believe, is to redirect them.  Flow the conversation into another more pleasant subject.

  • Compassionate Lies
Caregivers who are just beginning may feel that telling a compassionate lie to a person with a disease is shameful.  On the contrary, sometimes it can pave the way for a brighter day.  I've known an individual suffering from Alzheimer's, and she absolutely despises all of the medication she has been ordered to take.  When I bring her the medication, she gets angry and demands that, "this has got to stop."  I agree with her and tell the compassionate lie of, "I will call the doctor on Monday to arrange some of the medications to be cancelled."  She needs these medications to allow her to function in a more natural state throughout the day, and if she does not take them, it could cost her, her health.  In this instance, telling a compassionate lie benefits the client.

  • Small Amounts
Alzheimer's patients tend to be overwhelmed with too many stimuli going on at once, or choices to choose from.  Our society today is comfortable with having the television on while listening to the radio, and having a conversation.  This is too much and overwhelms a person with Alzheimer's disease.  Try having one type of entertainment going at once, or only give two options for them to choose from for dinner.  This makes decisions easier to handle, or perhaps able to be done.

  • Task Participation
Allow them to do as much for themselves as possible; such as dressing or bathing.  Give your loved one small tasks to keep them occupied throughout the day as well.  When it is time to fold the laundry, give them one item at a time as to not smother their thoughts or actions.

For the Caregivers:

  • Arrange breaks and outings for yourself in order to avoid the feeling of drowning

  • Cherish the time you have together with your loved ones

  • Take proper precautions; such as setting alarms on doors, or taking away car keys when necessary ~ Alzheimer's patients tend to wander and can find themselves lost

  • Keep schedules consistent, as our treasured individuals tend to be more relaxed this way

Does anyone have an experience that they'd like to share?  Have you tried one of these methods and it did not work? Perhaps tweaking it a bit is all that's needed.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Insight to Creation

Leading a daily life with Alzheimer's is a challenge that reappears in what feels like every minute of the hour to those affected.  What’s more, is the fact that self-esteem and dignity can be lost throughout this progressive process.  What sometimes gets overlooked, however, is how loved ones and caregivers fall victim to stress, anger, and ineffective coping methods when assisting individuals with Alzheimer’s disease.  For these reasons, I have compiled many ideas I have learned during my clinical practice and Alzheimer’s training to assist those in need of direction when aiding Alzheimer’s patients; more to come.

While working as a caregiver myself, I developed an interest in allowing Alzheimer’s clients to live life to the fullest, in the happiest ways possible.  Too many times have I come across a family who lives in hostility because the proper precautions and understanding is not present.  I previously had a client who lived with their partially mentally disabled daughter.  Her having the slight disability affected they way she was able to understand her parent's condition.  My client would say something that resulted from a temporary behavior change that I had been taught to overlook.  These things happen at times with Alzheimer's patients.  The daughter did not understand that, and she would begin to argue.  The proper precautions had to be implemented in order for the family to get along with one another.

There are correct ways to go about caring for a person with Alzheimer’s, and there are incorrect ways.  I would like to extend my knowledge of effective coping methods to others who care for these precious individuals.

The importance of coping effectively aides households tremendously without compromising relationships.  Individuals who learn to cope effectively in caring for Alzheimer’s patients have a lighter heart, and the actual person with the disease is able to have restored dignity. 

Has anyone ever felt lost in terms of providing assistance to an individual with Alzheimer’s disease?  What approaches have you taken in communicating/coping with someone suffering from Alzheimer’s?  Was this approach effective?  Comments and conversations are welcomed as we take on this journey of caring for those most dear to us who have unfortunately developed Dementia and Alzheimer’s.