Tuesday, August 19, 2014

How to Travel With A Loved One Who Has Dementia

Assisting and helping elderly people


Guest article by Derek Hobson-Nahigyan

Surprisingly, most family caregivers decide not to travel with loved ones living with dementia. They figure, if the family wants to be together, then they’ll have to visit. Bringing the family to you is a reasonable option, but you shouldn’t fear traveling; especially, given the technological advances to make life easier.

What is the best way to travel?

In general, if you talk with caregivers about their experience traveling with an elder living dementia, they’ll tell you the best way is the most direct–by car or plane. Taking the train or bus, while potentially more cost-effective, can be more stressful. Numerous stops, combined with disorienting symptoms of dementia, may result in one getting lost just trying to use a restroom.

When you’re driving, you can better control the environment and help your loved one if s/he experiences sundowning or mood swings.

Airport staff is equipped to help you assist your loved one through the confusing maze of air travel, today. Be sure to request assistance when you book your flight. Even though your loved one may not require a wheel chair, this will expedite processing through the terminal and security until you reach the departure gate and then to the baggage claim area.

What is the best place to travel?

The best places one with dementia may enjoy are those that are familiar–whether old neighborhoods and family homes or places visited from years ago and still fondly recalled.

Familiar places also have the advantage that if your loved one should become lost, you have a better chance to locate him/her. And if you still know people there, you can involve them via social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. Not long ago, a senior was missing in Issaquah, Washington, when the family posted a notice on Facebook. Less than a day later, he was found. Although, social media can facilitate locating a lost loved one in an unfamiliar place, it’s easier when the place is familiar.

If you are traveling to an unfamiliar place, bring keepsakes that trigger positive reactions in order to comfort your loved one in case, s/he becomes agitated and upset.

Which technological advances can help locate elder loved ones?

There are devices to help find elders with dementia who wander. The Alzheimer’s Association’s MedicAlert and Safe Return offers two products to help locate wandering loved ones with a tracking system. In addition, more companies are targeting the elderly demographic with innovative apps/products to help monitor their whereabouts. Some of these devices are easily affordable while others cost more money. It’s best to weigh your options between peace of mind verses cost.

Travel with your elderly loved ones living with dementia is possible if you weigh three items–mode of travel, location, and technological advancements.


Derek Hobson, BA is the editor for Concierge Care Advisors, a senior care referral agency. He developed a passion for elder care when he became the primary caregiver for his grandmother living with dementia. Since then, he has sought to inspire fellow caregivers. “There is no success without hardship.”

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

How To Care For Two Parents With Dementia

My mom and dad both have dementia. I am all alone taking care of them since my sister passed away I have no one to help me. I get sad and frustrated with them both. How do I deal with my feelings?
These are powerful words. It's a "cry from the wild" which will touch the heart of most caregivers. Many of us feel alone when we are trying to care for our aging parents and there are no siblings to help, or if siblings won't help with caregiving. When we have one parent who has dementia, it is hard. When we have two, it is often nearly unbearable.

My dad had dementia from surgery. There are many kinds of dementia. Mom developed a more subtle type of dementia, the type they used to call "senile dementia." Now it's called "organic brain disease." Whatever the type – Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, Pick's disease, dementia due to Parkinson's or just plain "organic brain disease," which sort of applies to them all - it's painful for the caregiver. Sometimes the pain is so raw and isolating that the caregivers become more ill than those they are caring for.

Statistics vary, but upward of thirty percent of caregivers die before those they are caring for. Some of those are adult children, lonely and depressed, isolated and frustrated, often torn by guilt. These caregivers can develop cancer, commit suicide, or have heart problems and other ill health that can likely be traced to the stress of caring for their loved ones.

For awhile, my mom's dementia was just some minor memory loss and she was able to be a fairly active part of my dad's care team after his brain surgery left him demented. However, her dementia worsened and I was soon coping with both of my parents' demented behavior.

One scenario: Their wedding anniversary was the day after Christmas. I would always bring to the nursing home tiny bottles of champagne and their 25th Anniversary champagne glasses. I'd also bring other treats and we'd have a party. Oh, yeah. I'd also bring cards for them to give to each other.

I would sign Dad's card to Mom, as he couldn't and didn't really know what it was. Mom would sign her card to him, but soon after would generally forget what it was for. I would then pile the things into Mom's walker bag and take her down the nursing home hallway to Dad's room (they each had a private room on the same floor).

Generally, I'd have to drag Dad out of foggy sleep, sit him up and - big smile on my face - give them each their cards for the other, explain what they were for, read them with gusto, pour champagne, explain again what they were doing, let Dad fall back to sleep in his chair, then bring Mom back to her room. Like a puppeteer, I'd arranged bodies, moved limbs, orchestrate a production. I'd go home exhausted.

Why did I do this, you ask? Because I didn't want to have to lie a week later when Mom become aware that their anniversary had passed, because she happened to be looking at her new calendar I brought for her wall.

I knew I'd hear, "We missed our anniversary! Why didn't you….?" I'd hear this whether we "celebrated," or not. So I did it. It felt like a sham, but I did it. How did I cope? After I got home, I cried. I cried for them. I cried for me. Pain, frustration, anger, exhaustion, pity – for them and my self, sorry to say, it was all there. The seeming futility of the production was more draining than the actual activity.

So, my friend, you ask how do you cope with your frustration? You are a better person than I if you don't have times when you wonder why you do a lot of the things you do. Much of your frustration is grief, and even anger. Yes, anger. It's okay to say that. Your sister died and she left you with two demented parents. You are all alone. Logic tells you your sister didn't do this "to you" on purpose. But this isn't about logic. It's about your feelings and your feelings are human, painful and justified.

How do you cope with caregiving? Get support from people like those on this site. Get support from caregivers who feel what you are feeling and won't judge you for it. Get professional help, both with the care of your parents, by calling your Alzheimer's Association, and going online to your state's Web site. On the site, under "aging services" or some such phrasing, you will find "The Family Caregivers Support Program." They may have another name for it in your state, but they will have a form of the program because it's federally funded. They will help you find support. Lastly, please see a doctor for yourself. Emotional support from a professional may be needed. Medication may be needed.

You don't want to be a statistic. You need a life. Know that you aren't alone and seek out these resources. And please keep coming back to talk with us. Sometimes everything we do for those who can't remember what we did can seem worthless. But it's not. Other caregivers understand this. In the end, you be glad you did your best, whatever that is. And that's all you can do.

Dementia Signage for the Home

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Top Summer Tips for Retirees

Summer is a wonderful time to be outdoors and to be active. It is the vacation season for millions. But summer can be a very dangerous time as well. And, like it or not, once we reach the age of 65 or we develop heart disease or high blood pressure, we are at greater risk of suffering a heat-related illness during the summer. Here, then, are my top summer health and safety tips for retirees.

1. Know the symptoms of heat-related illnesses. The greatest risk, of course if heat stroke. But other problems can also occur due to summer heat. Thirst and less frequent urination are signs of dehydration. Prickly heat bumps are a really irritating skin rash. Some people experience cramps and swelling of the hands and feet. It is also possible to experience heat exhaustion (clammy skin, paleness, dizziness, nausea, fever, and headache). Heat stroke symptoms include: sluggishness, rapid heart rate and breathing, confusion and irritability, high body temperature, intense muscle aches, fever, diarrhea or nausea and even fainting and convulsions. Heat stroke is a life-threatening situation. People suffering heat stroke need to get to a hospital immediately.
2. Drink lots of water throughout the day. Water cools and prevents dehydration. Be sure to drink lots of water throughout the day, not just with meals. Sports drinks are also helpful. But avoid drinks with a lot of caffeine, lots of sugar, or alcohol because they can cause you to lose more body fluids.
3. Be smart about physical exertion. It is best to limit exercise to moderate activity. Plan to engage in any activities that require great physical exertion either early in the day (before it gets really hot) or late at night (after the sun goes down and it cools off). You will find that you have more energy at these times and that you place yourself at less risk for heat-related problems.
4. Protect your skin. Protecting your skin with either a hat, clothing or sun screen will not only prevent an uncomfortable sun burn, but it will protect your skin against the damaging UV rays of the sun and protect you from potential skin cancer. Sun Protection Factor (SPF) 30+ or higher is the best choice. If you plan to be in the water, it is important to use a water resistant sunscreen. You can also protect your face, neck and ears by wearing a hat with a wide brim.
5. Think about your clothing. Most of us dress for the occasion or the purpose. But as we grow older and our skin becomes more sensitive and our bodies are more likely to feel the effects of heat, we also need to think about what we wear a bid differently in summer. Of course, we want to wear cool clothing. Lightweight clothing is best, but with a tight weave, if possible to keep off the sun. Remember that natural fabrics breathe better than synthetics. And don't forget that black clothing tends to absorb heat while white clothing tends to reflect it.
6. Know how heat and sun interact with your medications. Some medicines make us more sensitive to the sun (increased photosensitivity), more sensitive to heat, or more likely to become dehydrated. A quick conversation with your physician or pharmacist will alert you to problems that could arise due to your medications.
7. Pay attention to Air Quality Warnings. Breathing difficulties are more common as we grow older. Smog, pollutants, allergens and humidity can make it difficult to breathe. Check your television weather information or check online to see what the air quality is before engaging in strenuous activities or before deciding to spend time outdoors.
8. Don't forget to protect your eyes. The UV rays of the sun can also damage your eyes, and will be uncomfortable, especially if you are developing cataracts. Always protect your eyes when outdoors by wearing tinted lenses, a hat with a wide brim, or sunglasses.
9. Stay as cool as you can. Staying indoors in an air conditioned place is the best way to protect yourself from the summer heat. Electric fans might be helpful, up to a point, but once the temperature passes the 90 degree mark, they really don't do enough. If you don't have air conditioning, you might want to visit a friend or family member, go to a public place, like a library, shopping mall, etc. or a "cooling center" to spend time in cooler air. Even a few hours in a cool environment can help you prevent heat-related illness. The best time to go to a cooling center is always during the hottest part of the day.
10. Rest. Try to space out your activities so you have time to rest between them. If you begin to feel the effects of summer heat, stop what you are doing and rest for a bit before continuing. The less active we are the less our bodies are stressed by heat.
In addition, be safe by paying attention to normal safety tips. When traveling, pull over to eat snacks. This year, we should all be particularly careful where we swim and especially where we dive since many lakes and ponds have been affected by this year's droughts and have significantly lower water levels. And, be very careful with fire of any kind.

Dementia Signage for the Home

Bookworm Notepad

Monday, June 30, 2014

Life Diagrams

StumbleUpon featured 21 Incredibly Important Diagrams to Help You get through Life and I was so impressed I saved them as a link on my desktop.

But what good would they do for YOU on my desktop? For a FUN diversion, I am sharing them.

Diagram Highlights:

  • 29 ways to stay creative
  • How to tie a scarf or bow tie
  • How long does food last?
  • How much to serve at a party
  • When is an avocado perfectly ripe? (I need to test this.)
  • How to brew a perfect cup of tea
  • Dining Etiquette 101 (How do I let my server know when I’m finished eating?)
  • How dehydrated are you? (We tend to neglect our thirst. Many of us need to drink more water.)

Click on: