Improv for Alzheimer’s, dementia patients

Five of the six members of the Memory Ensemble were gathered in a nondescript conference room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, ready to begin their weekly improvisational acting workshop.

“Where’s Irv? We need Irv,” one said.“Oh, he’s always late,” said another. “He’s very dependable that way.”

At first glance, they could have been any group of energetic older Americans dipping their toes into amateur theater. But it was soon evident that this was not a social event: Ensemble members exhibited pronounced physical and verbal tics, abrupt lapses in conversation and other telltale signs of the cognitive disorders that characterize dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

A collaboration between the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and the Lookingglass Theater Company, the Memory Ensemble is what organizers believe is a first-of-its-kind program that seeks to improve the quality of life for people dealing with the early stages of memory loss.

The seven-week pilot session is designed to give newly diagnosed participants a “safe and supportive environment where they can challenge themselves but still feel secure,” said Christine Mary Dunford, an ensemble member at Lookingglass Theater.

via Chicago News Cooperative – Trying Improv as Therapy for Those With Memory Loss – NYTimes.com.

Alzheimer’s patients will ride Alzheimer’s Express float in Rose Bowl parade

A new float will cruise down the avenue during the 122nd Rose Bowl parade in Pasadena, Calif., on New Year’s Day.

In an effort to raise awareness of a disease headed for epidemic proportions, the once low-profile Alzheimer’s Association has upped its image in recent years, and its latest effort is “The Boomer Express” float, a locomotive created from purple strawflowers, iris and other blooms. The float, a joint collaboration with drugmaker Pfizer, is the group’s first-ever entry in the parade.

Onboard will be people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, as well as family and friends touched by the disease. A whistle will blow every 70 seconds, as often as someone develops the brain-wasting illness.

Alzheimer’s is a national crisis, says Angela Geiger, chief strategy officer for the Alzheimer’s Association. “As the first wave of Baby Boomers turns 65 this January, the devastating impact of this disease is only going to skyrocket unless we can change the path.”

via All aboard the Alzheimer’s Express at the Rose Bowl – USATODAY.com.

Alzheimer’s Disease: iPhone apps for caregivers

Alzheimer’s caregivers with iPhones or iPads should check out the iTunes App Store, where there are several Alzheimer’s-related applications. Among them, an app that identifies everyday objects to spark memories in dementia patients and an app that uses animation to explain brain function and anatomy to caregivers.

There are several iPhone apps that help individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and their carers. Alzheimer’s Cards is an Alzheimer’s iPhone app that displays images of foods and objects. iAlz Pro is an Alzheimer’s disease assessment app.

via Useful Alzheimer’s iPhone Apps for Seniors and Carers.

Neurology: Alzheimer’s Disease: An Overview Medical Animation from Focus Medica for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad on the iTunes App Store.

Holiday season stressful for Alzheimer’s patients, caregivers

The holiday season is officially upon us, and for most people, it means a time filled with joy, cheer, and family. But for many seniors, especially those living with Alzheimer’s disease, the holidays can be stressful — for the very same reasons it brings happiness to most others.

People with Alzheimer’s disease thrive on familiar routines; adding guests, loud conversation, and activity can be disorienting to Alzheimer’s sufferers. Wrapping gifts can be a soothing activity for Alzheimer’s patients.The stress isn’t limited to the person with the disease, however.

Caregivers and other family members often become concerned and worried whether their loved one will be uncomfortable with guests, overwhelmed by activity, or feel isolated. Even young children can become confused if a loved one no longer recognizes them or mistakes them for someone else.

Anxiety is often amplified if the person is traveling to stay with other relatives during the holidays; removing Alzheimer’s sufferers from their familiar environment can be stressful. This is true both for those living at home and individuals residing in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, who often stay overnight with loved ones over the holidays.

via Holiday Season Tough on Alzheimer’s Sufferers « SeniorHomes.com.

A Massachusetts family struggles with early-onset Alzheimer’s

Bruce Vincent, just 48 years old, has Alzheimer’s disease. The Boston Globe plans to report on this Massachusetts family’s journey with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Bruce Vincent works his way up and down the aisles of the grocery store he has owned for two decades, methodically unpacking crates of food, stocking shelves, and breaking down the empty cartons.

Midway down aisle 2, Vincent hesitates, unsure where the fudge-coated peanut butter cookies go. The redesigned package throws him, so he tucks them amid crackers on the top shelf and continues down the row.

On closer inspection, Vincent has left behind a trail of similar mismatches, which his 26-year-old son, Brian, now the boss, wearily but discreetly fixes. Used to be, the elder Vincent would gently correct the mistakes of his son, who started sweeping floors and stocking shelves at Vincent’s Country Store when he was 10 years old.

That was before Alzheimer’s disease.

via A family struggles with Alzheimer’s – The Boston Globe.

Coventry, R.I., using SafetyNet to find missing people

Coventry is the latest community to begin using SafetyNet technology to track down missing people.

On Tuesday, the Coventry Fire Department demonstrated the new SafetyNet system.

Designed for people with Alzhheimer’s Disease, autism, or other cognitive disorders, the SafetyNet system comes with a transmitter that the patient wears on their wrist. If the person goes missing, the fire department can usually locate them within a matter of minutes.

via Coventry using SafetyNet technology to find missing people | WPRI.com.

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.

Nutrition in Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease progressively lose many of their skills, such as the ability to care for themselves. As the disease worsens, patients may have problems getting proper nutrition. In moderate Alzheimer’s disease, patients may have difficulty preparing their meals. With severe Alzheimer’s disease, patients cannot eat without assistance. Some of the complications of the disease can also affect nutrition.

MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, notes that Alzheimer’s disease patients may suffer from malnutrition and dehydration. So what can caregivers do to help with nutrition in late-stage Alzheimer’s disease?

via Nutrition in Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease – EmpowHER.com.

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/ –.

Chicago tower purple in recognition of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month

Chicago’s Willis Tower lights are purple during the first week of November for National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.

The building’s architect, Bruce Graham, died of Alzheimer’s disease this year.

“It is not a secret that Bruce Graham was a magnificent architect,” said Erna Colborn, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Illinois, in a news release. “Mr. Graham helped shape the city skyline of Chicago designing such buildings as the Willis Tower and The John Hancock Center. He undoubtedly left his mark on the Windy City. He also battled Alzheimer’s disease, a disease which affects more than 500,000 Illinoisans.”

via Chicago’s Willis Tower turns purple in recognition of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month | abc7chicago.com.