Swallow your pride and ask for help: The challenge for family caregivers

Carolyn Rosenblatt of AgingParents.com says she learned a lot while listening to a discussion of family caregivers at the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California event. She blogged for Forbes.com on advice from experienced family caregivers. Here are some of the caregivers’ answers when asked, ““what advice would you give to other families who may be just starting out as caregivers?”

One woman said that she hesitated too long in asking for help. She thought she could do it all. It just got too difficult eventually, and she found a great resource in the Alzheimer’s Assn. support groups. She still attended them weekly. She got respite care for her husband, too.

The man who was caring for his mom said he wished that he had more help from his family, but none was forthcoming. He finally also swallowed his pride and asked for help outside his family. He got it, though he had to also learn to deal with his very difficult and unpredictable mother.

Another woman on the panel said she wished doctors and others would stop telling her “take care of yourself”. She said she was always doing the best she could. She took care of herself when she was able to do so, and her job as caregiver allowed only a little of that.

via Swallow Your Pride and Ask for Help: The Challenge For Family Caregivers – Carolyn Rosenblatt – Aging Parents – Forbes.

November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month: SafetyNet expert provides tips to help protect loved ones with Alzheimer’s from wandering

Currently, an estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s and, according to Maria Shriver, 10 million women are affected by the disease—either as patients or caregivers.

Recognizing the enormity of this issue, SafetyNet is a service that enables public safety agencies to search for and rescue people with Alzheimer’s and other conditions who wander and become lost – a common, yet life-threatening issue.

SafetyNet Law Enforcement Director Scott Martin has these valuable tips to help keep Alzheimer’s patients safe and offer peace of mind to caregivers.

PROVIDE INFORMATION TO HELP WITH SEARCH AND RESCUE:

* Advise Local Responders First – Fill out a 9-1-1 Disability Indicator form and submit it to your local public safety agency. The information on the form alerts public safety that a person residing at that address may require special assistance during an emergency. Also, fill out a more detailed handout with this information that you can provide to first responders and search and rescue personnel in the event of a wandering incident.

* Inform Your Neighbors– Give your neighbors a similar handout with a picture of the person you are caring for, physical characteristics and emergency contact information. You may want to describe the person’s fears, habits and explain how to best communicate with and calm them. Ask them to contact you immediately if they see this person wandering outside their home.

* Tag Personal Items – List emergency contact information on tags in shoes and on clothing in case your loved one does wander and become lost.

SAFEGUARD THE LIVING SPACE – INSIDE AND OUT

* Hide Triggers that Might Encourage Departure – Remove items such as hats, coats, boots, scarves, keys and suitcases that may prompt your loved one to go outside.

* Hang a “Do Not Enter” Sign on the Door – This sign may help redirect and discourage a person with Alzheimer’s from opening the door.

* Install a Fence Around Your Property – Set latches on the outside of gates and make sure they are in an area where the person you are caring for can’t reach them.

* Use Simple Monitors, Remote Alerts and Locks – Attach a monitor to the door that detects when it opens; use a caregiver chime alert unit, which sounds when the door is open; combine these with locks on all doors including front, garage and basement.

REGISTER AND/OR ENROLL IN PROGRAMS THAT PROMOTE A SAFE RESCUE

* Register Your Loved One’s Information – With information registered in a secure database, such as the National Silver Alert Program, emergency responders are provided with critical information necessary in the event of a wandering incident or a medical emergency.

* Consider an Identification Bracelet – An ID bracelet, like the one offered through the Alzheimer’s Association’s MedicAlert + Safe Return program, helps the police or a Good Samaritan get a missing person back home safely or medical attention.

* Consider a Program that Offers a Personal Tracking Device – Programs that feature Radio Frequency (RF)-based personal tracking devices, such as SafetyNet, are an excellent source of peace of mind for caregivers and help protect and locate someone in the event they do wander and go missing. An RF device is ideal for people at risk of wandering because, unlike a GPS or cellular device, it has strong signals that can penetrate buildings, garages, water, dense foliage and steel structures.

via November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month: SafetyNet Expert Provides Tips… — WESTWOOD, Mass., Nov. 2, 2010 /PRNewswire/ –.

Alzheimer’s warning sign – money problems

The country is observing National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month in November. Here’s an important story from The New York Times on an  early warning sign of Alzheimer’s – a problem handling finances.

Renee Packel used to have a typical suburban life. Her husband, Arthur, was a lawyer and also sold insurance. They lived in a town house just outside Philadelphia, and Mrs. Packel took care of their home and family.

One day, it all came crashing down. The homeowners’ association called asking for their fees. To Mrs. Packel’s surprise, her husband had simply stopped paying them. Then she learned he had stopped writing checks to his creditors, too.

It turned out that Mr. Packel was developing Alzheimer’s disease and had forgotten how to handle money. When she tried to pay their bills, Mrs. Packel, who enlisted the help of a forensic accountant, could not find most of the couple’s money.

“It just disappeared,” she said.

What happened to the Packels is all too common, Alzheimer’s experts say. New research shows that one of the first signs of impending dementia is an inability to understand money and credit, contracts and agreements.

via Alzheimer’s Warning Sign – Money Problems – Vanishing Mind – NYTimes.com.

Family, friends may spot early dementia best

When it comes to the onset of early Alzheimer’s disease, a person’s family and close friends are better able to spot the initial signs of trouble than traditional screening by doctors, new research suggests.

The finding, reported online in the journal Brain, is based on the apparent accuracy of observations gathered from family and friends in response to a carefully designed dementia questionnaire that is available in several languages and is already in use in clinics worldwide.

Called Ascertain Dementia 8 (or AD8), the questionnaire is designed to draw out observations on someone’s judgment, activity levels, learning capacity, forgetfulness, repetitiveness and overall thinking skills.

Answers given by family and friends to the questionnaire, which can be completed in two minutes, appear to correlate accurately with biological indicators of Alzheimer’s disease more often than standard physician testing, the researchers found.

via Family Friends Seem Best at Spotting Early Dementia – MSN Health & Fitness – Alzheimer’s Disease.

Police study wandering of Alzheimer’s, dementia patients for search and rescue

Steven Williams, a San Francisco firefighter who lives in Oakland, Calif., had just finished a 24-hour shift when he returned home and told his mother’s caretaker she could take the rest of the day off.

His 88-year-old mother, Katherine Oppenheimer, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and requires constant supervision. Still, Williams thought he could get away with a 15-minute nap.

He awoke to find that she had wandered out of the home. “It was one of the scariest experiences I’ve ever had,” he said. “I would rather run into a burning building than go through that again.”

This time, Williams’ harrowing moment ended well. He found his mother quickly, a few floors up in the same apartment building where she lives. But like a growing number of families coping with the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease, he fears a repeat episode.

In 1980, about 2.8 million Americans had Alzheimer’s disease – the most common form of dementia. But with longer life expectancies and advanced treatment for other diseases such as cancer, that figure has nearly doubled in 2010, to 5.3 million, according to Elizabeth Edgerly, a chief program officer with the Alzheimer’s Association, a national advocacy group.

In all, 42 percent of people 85 and older will get Alzheimer’s, Edgerly said.To deal with the increasing numbers, police agencies are training officers how to search for wanderers.

“The ability to recognize dementia has improved over the last 20 years,” said Rick Kovar, emergency services manager for the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office. “The science behind searching for people with Alzheimer’s has become efficient and scientific.”

via Path of dementia less of a mystery – Family – Modbee.com.

World Alzheimer’s Day is September 21

World Alzheimer’s Day — Tuesday, Sep. 21 — is the only day of the year that unites people around the globe in the dementia movement. If you are reading this you are part of the movement! But don’t stop reading yet — take time to process the following numbers.

The number of people with Alzheimer’s disease or a dementia worldwide is 35 million. It is expected to nearly double every 20 years, to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050. Nearly 5.3 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to be over 16 million by 2050.

Chances are you know someone with this devastating disease that is progressive, fatal and robs a person of their ability to remember and reason. Perhaps you are one of the 200,000 Georgians who lives with this disease, or one of the nearly 11 million Americans providing care for someone with Alzheimer’s. Perhaps you are a woman that has reached age 55, and has a 1-in-6 chance of developing Alzheimer’s in her lifetime.

via Alzheimer’s, dementia sufferers face challenges — and you can help | The Augusta Chronicle.

Flamingos raise money for autism and Alzheimer’s wandering program in Massachusetts

Flamingos will soon be flocking at locations around town as the Plymouth Networking Group and Sunrise Rotary Club of Plymouth team up to raise money to assist families who cannot afford to participate in a new search and rescue program for those at risk of wandering.

Nothing’s more frightening than the thought of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, autism or other condition wandering away, according to local nurse Connie Hinds, a member of both the networking and Rotary clubs.

The groups plan to flock a few select locations to help increase public awareness of the new SafetyNet tracking program soon to be offered locally. Hinds said both groups share an interest in protecting local seniors. They suspect that bright pink flamingos on laws will help bring attention to the search and rescue program.

“We want to increase public awareness of the program and have fun, too,” she said. “Flamingos can’t help but get a lot of attention.”

SafetyNet outfits seniors with a personal locator unit worn on the wrist or ankle. If a loved one goes missing, Hinds said, local law enforcement and public safety agencies trained and certified on search and rescue procedures will use SafetyNet search and rescue receivers to track the radio frequency from the locator.

via Flamingos for fun and funds – Plymouth, MA – Wicked Local Plymouth.

Alzheimer’s Caregiving: Benefits CheckUp

Bob DeMarco of Alzheimer’s Reading Room points to a great resource, Benefits Check Up,  in this post:

Benefits Check Up is one of my favorite sites if you are looking for programs to assist you as an Alzheimer’s caregiver.

This service from the National Council on Aging will give you real help in identifying all the services that are available to the elderly or to someone that has Alzheimer’s disease. They ask specifically if the person has Alzheimer’s disease in their questionnaire.

The thing I like best about this website is that it streamlines the process of finding programs that could be of benefit to you. This is accomplished through one simple questionnaire that searches all national/Federal, regional and local assistance programs.

You can answer the questions for someone that is older or suffering from dementia. You answer as if they were answering the questionnaire. You do it for them.

Don’t overlook this opportunity, if you are currently caring for someone and not working or on a low income, you can also answer for yourself to determine if there are programs available for you. I find that Alzheimer’s caregivers often over look this option.

via Alzheimer’s Caregiving — Benefits CheckUp.

Can dementia be prevented?

In retrospect, Bernice Osborne realizes there were warning signs more than eight years ago.

Her mother, Mary, who was then 64, was having to re-read everything at her hospital job to grasp it. And she got lost one day going for a walk in their Dorchester neighborhood, where she had lived for 40 years.

Now nearly 73, Mary is in the throes of Alzheimer’s, unable to remember her own children, who care for her at home. With four aunts also diagnosed with the disease, Bernice, just 39, worries about her future.

“There are moments,’’ she said, “when you walk into a room and you forget what you were doing and you think, ‘Do I have it?’ ’’

Scientists think Alzheimer’s begins to damage the brain years before memory lapses and other symptoms appear, and they are developing screening tests to detect victims in these silent early stages. A reliable test would not only give people like Bernice an answer, but might enable physicians to prevent or delay the dementia with drugs or other therapies — much the same way patients with high cholesterol readings are treated with statins to stave off heart disease.

via Can dementia be prevented? – The Boston Globe.

DVD on fall prevention for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, family caregivers

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America AFA recently released “Preventing Falls: Practical Steps to Reduce Fears and Risks,” the latest DVD in AFA’s “Your Time to Care” series of educational programs for family caregivers, in the hopes of helping caregivers reduce their own risk of falls and prevent their loved ones from falling.

Falls are a very common and life-threatening occurrence and are particularly worrisome for caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, a brain disorder that primarily affects people older than 65. In fact, according to federal government statistics, one out of three individuals over the age of 65 will experience a fall, resulting in 20,000 deaths annually.“What’s really important to know is that a fall is preventable,” said Laura N. Gitlin, Ph.D., one of the experts featured in the DVD and director of the Center for Applied Research on Aging and Health, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia.

With this in mind, “Preventing Falls” provides insight into why dementia intensifies the incidence of falls and offers practical strategies from experts and family caregivers on how to reduce risk factors, including communication techniques, home modifications and lifestyle changes.

via Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Releases New DVD on Preventing Falls.