August 31, 2009

Care for Caregivers: Knowing When to Take a Break

Caregivers are a blessing for the patient who is no longer able to perform many of the daily tasks of life for him or herself. In addition to the foregoing, the services of a dedicated caregiver will become more and more important as an illness progresses and further impairs a patient’s ability to manage even the simplest aspects of daily living. Yet while caregivers are such important people, they have a lot more to deal with than meets the eye.

Considering that many caregivers are close family members, oftentimes grown up children caring for their parents, the change in the parent child relationship is quite often devastating for the caregiver. It is indeed hard to look at a parent whose health is failing, who is no longer able to care for her or himself, needs help with feeding and perhaps even toileting, and then remembering the strong individual this person used to be. Sometimes grown children are not ready for this transition and wish it were progressing slower, or are simply afraid of the inevitability of the patient’s fate. Of course, the patient, very often the parent, may not be ready for this transition in the parent-child relationship either, and in addition to the physical and metal impairments may experience severe emotional distress that finds no outlet but against the caregiver.

As you can see, these care giving situations are a potential breeding ground for anger, frustration, discord, and great emotional upheaval, and there are times when a caregiver literally needs a time-out. Yet how will you know when to take a break? Here are four tried and true tips that will help you to ascertain when it is time to step back for a breather.

1. If you find that emotionally or physically your well being is beginning to suffer, it is time to take a break. For example, if you suffer from health challenges yourself but have them under control, yet suddenly they flare up worse than ever before you know that your role as caregiver is beginning to affect your health. Similarly, if you suddenly realize that you are suffering from a bout of depression or clinical anxiety, or if you find your relationships with others marred by withdrawal, irritability, or sudden angry outbursts, you know that it is time to step back. Obviously you cannot do away with your care giving, yet this may be the time to either find a support group that will allow you to channel and vent your anger in a safe environment, or perhaps you may wish to find a relief caregiver who can come in when you need a break. Ideally, these two combined will help you preserve your emotional and physical health. ...

Read more: Care for Caregivers: Knowing When to Take a Break

August 24, 2009

Safety Issues to Consider for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Patients

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia, which slowly and progressively reduces the patient’s ability to care for her or himself. More and more dependent on caregivers, the patient will not only experience memory loss but also the inability to make sound judgments. What she or he would have previously recognized as a dangerous situations, no longer holds the same value judgment, and very often Alzheimer’s patients have grievous and even life threatening, accidents.

Caregivers are able to avoid many such accidents by observing a number of safety rules and suggestions. The top seven safety issues to consider when dealing with a loved one who suffers from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are as follows:

- Please remember that Alzheimer’s patients oftentimes get disoriented. They tend to wander off, oftentimes with a specific location in mind, yet somewhere along the way they either get lost or forget the location for which they are headed. Adding to this the suspicions that sometimes take hold of the patient’s mind, they rarely stop to ask for help. For this reason it is best that you, as the caregiver, are able to monitor the comings and goings of your loved one. For example, this may mean having to relocate deadbolts and door locks out of reach toward the top of the doors. There are also doorknob covers available that will prevent a round doorknob to be turned by someone who does not know how to work the contraption. If your loved one lives on a busy street, this may very well save her or his life.

- Confine hazardous liquids, such as cleaners, paints, or garden chemicals, in one or two locations and keep these cabinets locked. An Alzheimer’s patient may not remember that certain substances are poisonous and may mistakenly ingest some. Again, there are some great products out there for childproofing such areas, and perhaps it may not be a bad idea to do so.

- Avoid accidental poisonings by helping your loved one to take her or his medications. Overmedicating is often a cause for accidental poisonings since the patient will not be able to remember whether or not she or he has already taken the daily dose of the pills prescribed. For the remainder of the time, keep the medications out of reach for your loved one.

- While you want to give your loved one as much as space as possible, you still want to make sure he or she is safe even in your absence. Yet forgotten toaster ovens, irons, or coffee makers may present severe burn hazards. There are automatic shut off devices available for these appliances, and it may be worthwhile to invest in some of them.

- Another important aspect of safety for Alzheimer’s patients is the prevention of falls. Very often this may be accomplished by adding lighting to stairwells, and overall areas of the home that previously were a bit dark. Obviously, you don’t want the light to be glaring, yet some well placed additional lights that help your loved one to safely navigate stairs or the entry way are appropriate. Similarly, you may wish to install some nightlights in the outlets throughout the home to add some light even at night so your loved one will be able to easily find the light switches. ...

Read more: Aging Caregiver and Safety Issues to Consider for Dementia and Alzheimer’s Patients

August 19, 2009

How to Handle Incontinence in Alzheimer’s Patients

Alzheimer’s disease is a much feared illness in part because it is still incurable, but in part also because it reduces active, healthy adults who are accustomed to their independent lifestyles to suddenly become dependent on others not only for assistance with such tasks as shopping and house cleaning, but even such intimate aspects of living as feeding and even toileting. Incontinence - while sometimes a normal aspect of aging - may be a hugely embarrassing aspect of this illness to someone who suffers from the gradual diminishing of her or his faculties; more often than not it is perceived as adding insult to injury. Caregivers as well often have a hard time seeing the gradual mental as well as physical decline of their loved one as the disease progresses.

There are a number of steps a caregiver can take that will help both her or him as well as the loved one take this new hurdle of incontinence in a stride, and with a bit of preparation and know how, the embarrassment may be reduced and a feeling of dignity will be preserved for the patient. Here are five suggestions to make this process easier:

- The urge to use the bathroom propels us to excuse ourselves from activities and go in search of these facilities. Unfortunately, when a loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, she or he will sometimes not recognize this urge anymore. She or he may literally forget to use the bathroom prior to leaving the house or during activities. This will then result in embarrassing episodes of loss of bladder or even bowel control. Knowing that this is part and parcel of this disease, the caregiver should purchase adult incontinence products, such as adult briefs, that will help to reduce the occurrence of embarrassing public moments. Be certain that your loved ones has the products easily accessible and knows how to put them on. Similarly, it will not hurt to have a couple of spares in your purse when accompanying your loved one to go shopping or on other errands.

- While at home, make sure that your loved has easy access to the bathroom. This means that it is only a few short steps from her or his bedroom to the bathroom, and it also means that you, as the care giver, ensure that your loved ones dresses in such a manner that clothes may be removed quickly and easily when visiting the bathroom. There are many attractive clothing options available for patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, and none of them have cumbersome buttons, snaps, drawstrings or zippers that make using the bathroom harder than necessary. ...

Read more: Alzheimer’s Help: How to Handle Incontinence in Alzheimer’s Patients

August 10, 2009

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Disorders Can Mimic Them

Alzheimer’s disease is that dreaded condition among the family of dementia illnesses that is most feared by patients. More than four million United States citizens are affected by this slow-progressing illness for which no known cure has been found. This disease attacks brain functions, in particular the center of the brain that deals with memory, communication, and decision-making. Symptoms may be:

- Memory impairment that becomes worse over time

- A duration of illness that may be anywhere from three to twenty years from the first symptoms

- Gradually apparent bouts of disorientation with respect to time and location, inability to make sound judgments, being given to rash decision making, and misplacing items in strange locations

- As the illness progresses, the ability of take care of oneself is greatly diminished and patients will need assistance with such basic tasks as feeding, toileting and personal hygiene.

While these symptoms may not all be present all the time, they are frequently going together.

However did you know that there are some illnesses that may actually mimic the symptoms of Alzheimer’s? It is true! Take a look at these diseases that may cause you or your loved one to fear the dreaded Alzheimer’s:

- Hypocalcaemia, which is a term denoting and overage of calcium in the bloodstream. The causes may be either a tumor secreting the electrolyte or hyperparathyroidism. One of the effects of a calcium overage in the blood is that of severe injunction of memory capability, which is similar to the loss of memory function experienced in Alzheimer’s patients. When hypocalcaemia is treated, either by surgery or through medication, the Alzheimer like symptoms diminish as well.

- Vascular dementia, which is the destruction of brain tissue caused by one or multiple strokes, may sometimes be misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s. The brain tissue is destroyed because blood vessels in the brain are blocked with tiny blood clots, which are a result of the strokes. CT scans of the brain may be used to diagnose this condition for certain, and anytime that Alzheimer like symptoms are suddenly apparent, it would be wise to check for such alternative problems. ...

Read more: Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Disorders Can Mimic Them

August 03, 2009

Alzheimer’s Statistics from the USA and Worldwide

Alzheimer’s disease is a startling illness. It is incurable, and it slowly, gradually, and unstoppably ravages a patient’s ability to communicate, remember events, function in society, or simply make sound judgments. So, the patient will be dependent on loved ones to gradually take care of her or him, and eventually a long term care facility with a trained staff may oversee the care of the individual until the end of life is reached.

Statistics about this illness abound. Here are but a few from the United States:

- In the August 2003 issue of the Archives of Neurology it was estimated that more than 4.5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, this number is said to have doubled since the year 1980.
- A 1992 Gallup survey of 1,015 Americans revealed that one in ten had an immediate family member who suffers from the disease while at least one in three had a friend or acquaintance that has this illness.
- In 1989, the Annals of Neurology reported that it is not unheard of for individuals in their late thirties or early forties to be affected by this disease in the form of an inherited kind of Alzheimer’s disease.
- In 1989, JAMA advised that one in ten Americans over the age of sixty-five, and at least half of Americans aged eighty-five and older were affected by the disease.

These are sobering statistics indeed, yet one wonders how they compare around the world. The United States Census Bureau has released its 2004 research figures, and according to their data, Alzheimer’s disease is in rapid development throughout the world.

- Central America, as defined by the populations of Guatemala, Belize, and Nicaragua, show almost 293,000 cases of Alzheimer’s disease.
- South American cities, namely Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela made up for almost another 4.5 million individuals affected by this illness. ...

Read more: Alzheimer’s Statistics from the USA and Worldwide