Tag Archives: Dementia

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month!

Most of us are familiar with the effects of Alzheimer’s disease: memory loss, difficulty completing familiar tasks, confusion with time or place, decreased or poor judgment, etc. But one serious effect often gets overlooked: how Alzheimer’s impacts caregivers.

Caring for an older adult with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is a beautiful, selfless Caregivers and the Elderlyexpression of love. But it can also be a thankless job frustrating on the best day and completely overwhelming on the worst. Yet, studies show that caregivers take on their role with little to no training or additional support. All of this means that caregivers, who are often spouses in susceptible years themselves, are at serious risk for emotional, mental, and physical health problems.

In honor of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month, let’s consider the risks to and preventative measures we can take to protect and support those who care for others.

What are the risks to caregivers?

Stress

Being solely responsible for the health and wellbeing of another 24/7 is stressful. Period. But on top of the pressures of being responsible for the care of another person, caregivers can feel frustrated, angry, drained, guilty, or helpless, especially as the health of their loved one declines. Many caregivers report feeling that they cannot handle their caregiving responsibilities. And, somewhat ironically, chronic stress puts caregivers themselves at increased risk of cognitive decline.

Depression

Caregivers also have higher levels of depression than their non-caregiving peers. Estimates show that between 40 and 70% of caregivers experience clinically significant symptoms of depression (according to pp. 12-37 of a National Consensus Development Conference report). And those feelings of depression can actually increase when families decide to move a loved one with Alzheimer’s to a fulltime assisted living facility. So the negative effects of caregiving may continue even after the burden has been lifted.

Injury

Another serious concern about caregivers is the increased risk of physical injury. Because many caregivers take on their new roles without much or any training, they may unwittingly attempt tasks that are beyond their physical ability. For example, attempting to lift, bathe, or turn one’s spouse could cause a hernia or other serious injury. Additionally, living alone with an Alzheimer’s patient means that in the event the caregiver becomes incapacitated in some way, he or she may not receive emergency assistance in a timely fashion. PBE’s Safe at Home emergency system reduces this risk. Caregivers can wear a fall detection pendant that automatically triggers a call to emergency services in the event of a fall.

Neglecting their own health

Finally, caregivers are often so busy that they neglect their own health. Caregivers are less likely to keep up with annual preventative check-ups and more likely to miss doctors appointments. They often lack the time and energy to prepare proper meals for themselves or exercise. Sleep can be interrupted as well. Also, chronic stress has been associated with an increased risk for heart disease and stroke.

If you are a caregiver, make sure that you are aware of the risks and that you take time out for self-care. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Keep in mind that if you’re not healthy, you can’t care for your loved one either.

What can we do to support the caregivers in our lives?

Give them a break

If you know someone caring for a person with Alzheimer’s, you can help by offering to give the caregiver a breather. Why not stop by to cook a healthy meal? Or offer to sit with the Alzheimer’s patient while the caregiver goes for a walk or to see a movie? Even a short break can do a lot to lift everyone’s spirits.

Encourage relaxation techniques

Your loved one ‘in the trenches’ might not realize how important it is to recharge from time to time. Caregivers take up the mantle of “soldiering on” and sometimes need a gentle reminder that relaxation is as important as keeping up with daily tasks. Encourage mom to set aside some time each day (multiple times a day, if possible) to do something just for her. Reading a good book, sitting to pray or meditate, or engaging in her favorite hobby are all great options.

Encourage them to get moving

Physical movement is one of the best ways to improve your mood and reduce stress. Movement increases blood flow and jumpstarts the metabolism. This is an activity that a caregiver can do together with his patient too. There are many exercises that can be done safely while sitting in a chair. That mobility is difficult is no excuse to become completely sedentary.

Offer a hand

Because caregivers are responsible for the care of another, psychologically, it is difficult to ask for help, even if help is desperately needed. Caregivers may be afraid to impose on others or worried that the request will be rejected or resented. So one of the best ways to offer support is simply by showing a willingness to pitch in. Ask the caregiver if they’d like help and in what way you can be most helpful.

Despite the fact that the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on people with Alzheimer’s are so familiar, the effects on family members and especially, caregivers often go unnoticed. This month, let’s make ourselves aware of ALL the risks and take steps to help the caregivers in our lives.

PBE is ready to do our part. Our affordable services make independent living safe for both those being cared for and those providing care. Contact us today.

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Keep your loved ones from being spooked this Halloween

Halloween can be a really fun holiday. It is such a joy to see the kids dressed up in their cute costumes trick-or-treating around the neighborhood and on their way to school parties or trunk-or-treat events. But Halloween can also be a confusing or even scary time for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s and Dementia. With the festivities also comes unfamiliar noises, constant doorbell ringing, loud knocks at the door, strangers wearing masks, teenagers pulling pranks, etc. all of which can be unsettling for anyone, but especially for Alzheimer’s patihalloween Dementia Patientsents.

Fear not! None of this means you can’t celebrate. A few simple adjustments will help to ensure the whole family enjoys All Hallows’ Eve:

  1. Discuss your Halloween plans with the older adults in your life: Describe ahead of time how the day or evening will go. Talk about trick-or-treating and engage with older adults as they recount fond memories of past holidays. Involve children in the discussion by encouraging them to show off their costumes before getting dressed for school or parties. Show your loved ones any decorations before putting them out and ask, “Do you like this?” If he or she says, “That scares me,” then respect this perspective. If you are feeling extra creative, make some decorations together.
  2. Avoid leaving Alzheimer sufferers alone on Halloween: If you are heading out to a party or to take the kids around the neighborhood, make sure to ask someone you trust to stay with your loved ones. Having someone there to answer the door and reassure an Alzheimer’s patient when he or she hears strange noises will put everyone’s minds at ease.
  3. Have the grandkids take off the masks when visiting grandma: Kids love to strut their stuff on Halloween, but make sure they understand that some parts of their costumes might not be appropriate for all audiences. Even a simple, cute mask can appear frightening or confusing through the eyes of someone with Dementia (and many masks are downright ghoulish). Elaborate make-up can also be confusing; if it belongs on the set of a movie, have the kids wait to put it on until after visiting grandma. Plastic swords and guns should also stay in the car. No one wants to risk a silly toy causing a serious incident.
  4. Be aware of your loved ones’ dietary restrictions: If you keep loose candy in a bowl, it can be so easy to mindlessly eat too much (and really, who can resist candy corn?). Those with Diabetes must be particularly careful to monitor their sugar intake. So make sure to pay close attention to how many times hands are dipping into the bowl. Or even better, replace sugary treats with healthier options such as apple slices with cinnamon, celery sticks with peanut butter, or yogurt with berries.

Besides confusing and scary rituals, there is another serious concern facing Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients. Amidst the Halloween hubbub, they are more prone to wander out of the house. If this should happen to your loved ones, wouldn’t you feel better knowing they have an easy way to get back home quickly and safely? PBE’s Safe Anywhere service uses the same geo-location technology 911 uses. With this service, emergency help is available 24 hours a day at the touch of a button from any location.

PBE wants you to remember that Halloween is not just for kids! Let’s keep everyone safe during the spookiest season.