Sunday December 1, 2013
Got all of your presents purchased, wrapped and ready to go? Well then, you're more on top of it than I am, though sometimes that doesn't take much!
In case you're still searching for that perfect gift- and the person for whom you're searching is someone with Alzheimer's disease (or another kind of dementia) or a caregiver, I've put together a few ideas that might help with that dilemma of, "What do I buy? What do they really need? What would be a meaningful gift?"
First, for the person who is in the early stages of dementia, here are some ideas that hopefully would be helpful and encouraging: Gift Ideas for People with Early Stage Dementia
Next, how about those who are more towards the middle stages of dementia? While there's no clear line that people cross when they progress from one stage to the next, those whose symptoms of dementia (such as memory, word-finding and judgment) are increasing may benefit more from some of these ideas: Thoughts on Gifts for People with Early to Middle Stage Dementia
What if your loved one's symptoms are more advanced? For those with symptoms of dementia that fit more with middle or late stage dementia, here are some suggestions for gifts that may be helpful for them: Gift Suggestions for People with Middle or Late Stage Dementia
How about the caregiver? If you have a friend or family member who is the caregiver for someone with dementia, do you know what she'd really like? Try these possibilities: A Dementia Caregiver's Wish List
Last but not least, perhaps you're in the middle of providing care for a loved one with dementia. Here's an idea: give yourself a gift this holiday season. While that may strike you initially as selfish, I assure you that it's the exact opposite. Taking care of yourself through some of the ways mentioned in this list below (or other ways) is one of the best gifts you can give to your loved one with dementia. So, have at it: For the Caregiver: Gifts to Give Yourself
Sunday November 24, 2013
Thanksgiving- the time of year when we pause to be intentional about gratitude. You may be overflowing with thankfulness this year and not even sure where to start when listing off the reasons you have to be thankful this year.
If you're in the "or not" category, where, when you try to think of specific reasons for gratitude, you're coming up empty, this is for you.
Thanksgiving doesn't have to mean that you place your rose-colored glasses on your nose and decide that all is right with the world around you, when that clearly isn't the case. It doesn't mean that you have to be thankful for your cancer or your Alzheimer's disease or the loss of a family member.
So, what then? If Thanksgiving doesn't require a fake smile and an "everything is fine" facade, what do you do when life is hard and your heart is heavy? How can you celebrate Thanksgiving when that chair next to you at the table is empty, and it shouldn't be? What's gratitude-worthy about dementia, either for the person experiencing it or the family member watching it, or for any of the other hard things that may have come your way this year?
The answer, in my opinion, might be, "Nothing." Yet. For now. In that situation.
But, consider this: you will be doing your heart and mind a favor by seeking some reasons to be thankful, even if they are minute, even if you can come up with only one thing. Thankfulness typically begins with one small step, and that usually grows to another.
According to research, gratitude can help you cope with challenges and loss. Maybe, despite your situation, you can find a reason to be thankful about something, or anything, in your life. Maybe, once you start, you can release a little of the hurt or grief or anger or despair or emptiness, and replace just a little of that space with one pebble of gratefulness. And, maybe you can be in the midst of the hard places and at the same time, have gratitude for someone or something.
Maybe you can be grateful for the wonderful caregiver that helps care for your wife, or for the good day your dad had today, or for the knowledge that you don't have to walk the road alone. This Thanksgiving, what's one thing you're thankful for?
Using Gratitude to Cope More Effectively with the Challenges of Dementia
Observing the Holidays after Losing a Loved One- Coping with an Empty Plate at the Table
Sunday November 17, 2013
Recently, two research studies looked at how music affected people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. The aim of these studies was to figure out if music did more than just calm people with dementia- an already established important benefit.
One study was published in The Gerontologist and involved 89 people with dementia whose mental ability was measured prior to the study with a variety of cognitive tests. For 10 weeks, they participated in one of three randomly assigned groups- a musical singing group, a musical listening group or a usual care (control) group. After the 10 weeks, their cognitive functioning was again evaluated. The participants in both the singing and listening groups showed improved orientation, remote episodic memory, executive functioning, and mood. Those who were in the singing group also specifically improved their short term memory and working memory.
A second study that was presented last week at the Society for Neuroscience meeting involved residents of a secure dementia unit who were assigned to either a singing group or a listening group. After four months, those who were in the singing group showed significantly higher mental status test scores compared to those who were in the listening group. The cognitive assessments included the Mini-Mental State Exam and the clock drawing test.
The take-away? For me, there are a couple of things here. One, participating in music by singing familiar songs (often songs from the person with dementia's younger years) is not only a meaningful activity to pass the time, but also a way to maintain and even improve cognitive functioning. That could be a more effective treatment than most of the medications approved by the FDA.
And two, it provides a great example of why we can't just throw in the towel when someone is diagnosed with dementia. Yes, it's a progressive disease currently without a cure. But there are ways to slow that progression and improve the quality of life for both the person with dementia and their caregivers. And that's hope.
How to Use Music in the Different Stages of Alzheimer's Disease
What to Do After a Diagnosis of Alzheimer's: Coping and Practical Next Steps
12 Benefits of an Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer's
Sunday November 10, 2013
It's November. In addition to being the month in which we celebrate Thanksgiving, November is also designated as Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, two causes that are near and dear to my heart.
So, let's talk about Alzheimer's disease awareness. Perhaps you're painfully aware of Alzheimer's disease, whether you're trying to cope with a recent diagnosis of it yourself or walking along side a friend or family member who's struggling with its effects. But are those around you also aware?
Perhaps you could share a few facts with them at an opportune time. After all, until someone speaks up, most of us think that diseases and challenges - unless they're currently happening in our own circle of family and friends - are things that only affect other people. This attitude is usually not intentional; it's just a way of mentally weeding out things in life to which we will and won't give our attention.
A few quick facts from the Alzheimer's Association:
- Did you know it's ranked in the top 10 for causes of death at number six? (See the US CDC report here.) And, out of those causes of death, all other top ten causes have some type of effective treatment, except for Alzheimer's disease.
- One out three older adults dies with Alzheimer's disease.
- Every 68 seconds, an American develops Alzheimer's.
- 203 billion dollars- That's how much Alzheimer's will cost the US in 2013.
Alzheimer's Disease Information at a Glance
Here are a few articles on some of the common questions about Alzheimer's disease:
Statistics on Alzheimer's Disease: Who Gets It?
Is Alzheimer's Disease Inherited?
Symptoms and Stages of Alzheimer's Disease: What Does Alzheimer's Disease Look Like?
For the Caregivers
Now to highlight the caregivers. Despite the challenges of caregiving (and in Alzheimer's disease, these can be significant), caregivers often talk about the honor and privilege they feel in being able to care for a loved one who is living with dementia. For many, caregiving ends up being a unique blend of being stretched to (and beyond) their limits and being blessed at the same time.
Caregivers at a Glance
10 Things to Stop Doing if You're a Caregiver
What NOT to Say to Caregivers
7 Signs of Caregiver Overload: Preventing Burnout