January 1st - Tip of the Day

Even when the Alzheimer's patient in your care has reached the deeper levels of stage 3 of the disease, there may be times you can recapture a piece of their past through the use of music. It may not work often, but is well worth the effort. First pick out a piece of music they once enjoyed. A good example would be a song they sung in church, or a favorite song from their childhood. Play the song and start to sing along yourself.

This technique has been shown to work in those with Alzheimer's who have not recognized friends of family members for quite some time. The Alzheimer's patient may surprise you by joining in the song and singing along note for note. This can be a very pleasureable experience for for all those involved with this interaction technique.

 

 

January 2nd

 

Mealtimes can and should be a pleasant time that can offer a social opportunity between the Alzheimer’s patient and family. Please allow plenty of time for each meal as people with Alzheimer’s may take an hour or more to eat, so it is important you stay calm and relaxed (in fact you will find that patience is a recurring theme in many Alzheimer’s caregiving techniques. A theme that in theory is easy to understand, but in the “heat of the moment” can be hard to put into practice). You should also offer encouragement as the Alzheimer’s patient eats. But do not patronize or treat them like a two year old (more on that concept in future tips).

 

 

 

January 3rd

 

People with Alzheimer’s often have a sweet tooth. Ice cream and other treats can be used to encourage them to finish a meal or other activities. Be sure though to always attempt to provide the Alzheimer’s patient with a balanced meal. It can be tempting to use treats too often to achieve what you perceive as success. Just remember that the Alzheimer’s patient does not process things as others do. There is a natural temptation to interact with the Alzheimer’s patient like you would a child. That approach is wrong and will only lead to a faster decline in the Alzheimer’s patient. So while you can use the sweet treat as a useful device. Don’t abuse this technique. There is a fine balance to achieve with this technique. Use your best judgment.

 

 

January 4th

 

Frustration in caring for an Alzheimer’s patient is very common even for the most prepared caregiver. The key (and this takes lots of practice) is to remember that Alzheimer’s is a disease. That the person you are caring for is sick (what often leads to frustration is when the Alzheimer’s patient may be physically sound and appear “normal”, and thus your natural reaction is to expect them to react “normally”). But they are indeed sick. Afflicted with a disease that is very hard to deal with. It may take lots of training of your caregiving skills to achieve a consistent level of patience to deal with the reactions you will receive from the Alzheimer’s patient. Some of these skills may never be mastered. But don’t give up. There will always be good and bad days for you as a caregiver. Like anything else in life, practice and implementation of skills learned leads to success and satisfaction. But don’t try to be a hero or martyr. Caregiver burnout affects 75% of all caregivers on a regular basis (more of caregiver burnout in future tips).

 

January 5th

 

Studies show that the hardest adjustment for all those involved when a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease comes is the acceptance of the disease by adult children of the person afflicted. Many think they understand the diagnosis, but often they are in denial about the severity of the disease (long term). If diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, many adult children can’t reconcile what the doctor says and what they see in their parent. This is especially true for children who don’t see their parent on a daily basis. They may catch glimpses of their parent when the affects of Alzheimer’s are not clear-cut. Thus they begin to ignore the reality of the long-term prognosis of the disease. The tip in regards to this common denial is to GET EDUCATED about the disease. The internet alone offers a wealth of quality information. Just google Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

 

January 6th

 

The term Alzheimer’s disease in general is well known amongst the general populace. What is not known by the vast majority of the population is how to interact with someone with Alzheimer’s. In past generations families had no idea how to react or interact with their loved one who suffered from dementia (often termed senility in years past). The dementia sufferer was often immediately put into a nursing home, or if they stayed at home with a family caregiver they were treated like a toddler. Or worse they were put into a corner chair or sofa and ignored for most of the day. Today there are tools (like this website) that offer numerous techniques, tactics and general useful tips to help the caregiver interact with the Alzheimer’s patient. So, what tip can you take away from today’s info? The knowledge that not only is the medical community aggressively working towards helping Alzheimer’s patients, but so are many other non-medical providers by educating the public on interaction methods that can provide you the caregiver and the Alzheimer’s patient with the best possible treatment and interaction techniques available. Please realize that you are not alone in your caregiving efforts. Join us each day for tips and techniques on Alzheimer’s interaction techniques.

 

 

January 7th

 

Numerous recent clinical studies have proven that mental stimulation can not only ward off or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, but mental stimulation in the early stages of Alzheimer’s can delay the progression of the disease. Puzzles are a great stimulation tool. Even in the later stages of Alzheimer’s the patient may enjoy participating or watching you the caregiver put together a puzzle. From a simple four-piece puzzle to more complex styles, a puzzle can be a wonderful tool for the Alzheimer’s caregiver. (many more mental stimulation ideas in future tips of the day).

 

 

January 8th

 

Video games are not just for kids. They can be a wonderful tool for the Alzheimer’s caregiver for patients in the early stages of the disease. The Nintendo Wii machine offers wonderful mental and physical activities in its basic sports package (that usually come with the game console itself). The most popular is the bowling game. Even someone in a wheelchair or with limited mobility can play this simple (and very fun) video game. A bit of persuasion may be needed to convince the Alzheimer’s patient to try the game. Caregiver participation is often the key to this any and activity you engage in with the Alzheimer’s patient. Unlike other video games, the Nintendo Wii machine employs physical action beyond just pressing game controller buttons. The Wii is now becoming popular at senior centers, nursing homes and really can be a useful tool for the in-home Alzheimer’s caregiver.

 

 

January 9th

 

The United States Government in its recent long term projections for senior care recommend that seniors stay at home for care as long as possible. This is especially true for Alzheimer’s patients. A home environment can be one of the few things that offer security and comfort for the Alzheimer’s patient in the earlier stages of the disease. The old days of shipping mom or dad off to the nursing home at the earliest signs of dementia should no longer be anywhere near the first choice for family members making a decision as to how to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. There are numerous in-home care options for families that are competitively priced to nursing homes and assisted living facilities (and the in-home care is often less expensive). Home Instead Senior Care is the largest of the in-home care companies that offer respite care for family caregivers. They also can provide full time in home care as well. Home Instead is the only company that currently has a program that trains their staff in detailed Alzheimer’s interaction techniques and care (that special training program has received acclaim by the U.S, Department of Health and Human Services). Never consider a private duty caregiver or nurse. If you need help with caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, always chose from among the national companies that not only properly train their staff, but also bond, insure, drug test, and do criminal background checks on their staff.

 

 

January 10th

 

What exactly is caregiver burnout? It can be as simple as noticing you are more fatigued then you used to be (prior to being a caregiver), to being as extreme as severe depression. This is a very detailed subject that we will go more in-depth on in future tips of the day. But for now you must realize the single most important aspect of caregiver burnout is acknowledging you are burned out. There are many techniques to combat burnout. Today’s tip is to not pass off your struggles with burnout. Do not say to yourself “oh, it’s no big deal, I’ll get through it” or “I have no choice, I have to provide this care and I have no options”. While you may have to provide care, there are options for you to keep yourself healthy (mentally and physically). So don’t hold back. If you are stressed, acknowledge it. And check back here for more tips down the road on how to combat caregiver stress.

 

January 11th

 

Second and third stage Alzheimer’s can be especially difficult on a caregiver. One of the hardest situations is when the Alzheimer’s patient you are caring for starts exhibiting outbursts. These can be verbal or physical (or both). Not every Alzheimer’s patient does this, and the hardest aspect of this occurrence is when these outbursts come from a person who always has had a gentle nature their entire life prior to being stricken with the disease. This is very hard on family members who are still physically viewing the same person they have known their whole life, but now that person is having violent outbursts. The hard part is separating the fact that the outburst is not directed at you the individual. It is the disease that is causing it. To hear a loved one shout obscenities for the first time in their life, or to see them throw objects at you, can be so very overwhelming. I wish I could offer a simple tip or technique to get you through this difficult aspect of the disease. Often the key is to try and emotionally remove yourself from the situation. This takes great control and composure to do so. The best way to employ this technique is to think about it before the event happens. Go over in you mind how you would like to react. Once again, in theory this can help, but in the heat of the moment it is hard to employ. Alzheimer’s takes its toll on all those involved. And this situation is among the most difficult to endure.

 

January 12th

 

Spending time with an Alzheimer’s patient in a nursing home or a facility environment can be very stressful for family members. Sadly, many families put their loved one in a facility prematurely. Virtually every study of the last decade has shown that first and even second stage Alzheimer’s patients do much better in a home environment as compared to a nursing facility. The Alzheimer’s patient’s symptoms progress slower when they are able to stay at home longer. Every effort should be made to keep the Alzheimer’s patient at home for as long as possible. Today there are many more options for medical and non-medical home care than there were just a decade ago. You can reference our January 9th tip of the day for our recommendation on in-home care. But when nursing home care becomes the most logical option for the Alzheimer’s patient, careful planning and consideration should be utilized. Many facilities have waiting lists for their Alzheimer’s units. Carefully choose a facility as far in advance as possible. If you are receiving home care from a large nationally known company, discuss with them what facilities in your area may best fit your Alzheimer’s patient. If you have employed a professional caregiver in home with the Alzheimer’s patient, consider keeping that person on as the Alzheimer’s patient transitions into the facility. But don’t short cut on transition time. Evaluate as you go.

 

January 13th

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Monitoring TV viewing should be a priority for the Alzheimer’s caregiver. Don’t get caught in the “easy” course of placing your Alzheimer’s patient in front of the TV whenever you need a break or to pacify them. Sure, there are times TV viewing can be a beneficial activity, but it should not be the default activity. Plus, many Alzheimer’s patients sometimes think the events in TV shows are happening in their lives and they can incorporate those feelings (in a dangerous way) to their real time events.

If you find yourself using the TV as your main activity for your Alzheimer’s patient, be sure you are closely monitoring what they are viewing and be sure to see how they are reacting to the events on the TV. Better yet, move more activities away from the TV. Go for a walk or a drive. Experiment with a variety of activities. Limiting TV exposure will often be your best option when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

 

January 14th

 

 

A big problem for the family caregiver (and the professional caregiver) can be dealing with family members of the Alzheimer’s patient who are not involved on a regular basis with the patient. Many of these family members really have no clue what the day-to-day caregiving routine is like. They may even make some comments like “oh, things aren’t so bad, are they?” or “she seems like there is nothing wrong with her today”. This can become a source of great frustration for the primary caregiver. The key here is to try and rise above it. Know that you are doing what you can to be a good caregiver and that others often can’t handle the reality of it all. This takes a great deal of patience and wisdom for many to not get angry in these situations. Just know there are thousands and thousands of others doing what you are, and share your situation. Seek out strength by perhaps joining a local caregiver support group or find an online message board to exchange ideas. A few good ones are http://boards.webmd.com/webx?14@@.599cedaa and http://alzheimers.infopop.cc/eve

 

 

 

January 15th

 

 

Alzheimer's disease obviously increases your patient’s risk of injury. There are several things you can do to help prevent injury:

Avoid throw rugs and any clutter that can cause your Alzheimer patient to trip or fall. Clutter on a stairway is a common problem.

Install locks on cabinets that contain medicine, alcohol, guns, toxic substances, dangerous utensils and tools.

Set water-heater temperature no higher than 120 F to prevent burns.

Make sure you have a first-aid kit, a fire extinguisher and working smoke alarms in your home.

And above anything else, use common sense. Survey the home and look for possible hazards.