September 2012 Newsletter

Approaching and greeting loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease

Friends come and go, but loved ones stay true forever.  Or at least that is the hope for families with a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.  Gary Joseph LeBlanc believes some family members and friends stop visiting loved ones with Alzheimer’s because of a lack of knowledge about how to approach someone living with the disease.  LeBlanc, the author of a weekly column called “Common Sense Caregiving,” writes that not visiting patients with Alzheimer’s is much worse than watching our loved ones fade away right in front of our eyes.  By serving as his father’s primary caregiver for nearly 10 years, he can offer his knowledgeable advice to others.  LeBlanc provides a few tips to help those struggling with how to approach a loved one with Alzheimer’s in the moderate to latter stages.  When you go to visit your loved one, do not rush up to them, approach at a normal pace.  You should walk up to them from the front, never approach from behind or from one side, LeBlanc wrote.  Before you begin to speak to them, ensure the loved one sees you.  The columnist recommends doing these steps with a smile on your face.  In addition, we all know someone who likes to keep a little distance between friends while talking; the same rule of thumb applies for patients with Alzheimer’s.  LeBlanc suggests standing to one side to leave some personal space and an escape path for your loved one.  You should also introduce yourself and state your relationship.  Do not start the visit by asking a question, especially not, “Do you remember me?”  Instead of asking a question, making a statement such as, “I remember when we…” is a better way to maintain the connection with your loved one, LeBlanc wrote.  The writer added two other tips, including lowering yourself to their level and allowing them to shake and hold your hand, if they feel like it.  It may take a while to master these tips, but LeBlanc says, “Practice makes perfect.”

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Cue cards help “Alzheimer’s proof” the home and communicate ideas

As your loved one progresses through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease, one of the things caregivers need to do is “Alzheimer’s proof” their residence.  For caregivers looking for some help, Right at Home, which provides in-home caregiving services for a variety of situations in over 250 locations, produced its own version of Alzheimer’s cue cards.  The organization designed the cue cards to help caregivers enhance the safety of the home environment and help prolong the independence of the love one with Alzheimer’s.  Allison Juceam, writing for Right at Home, describes the cue cards as “easy to read.”  Each card features a drawing of the function of various rooms, appliances, equipment, and furniture, she wrote.  The cue cards serve as a method that helps your loved one safely navigate their home environment.  With a little imagination, the cards could also give loved ones with Alzheimer’s the thrill of some new activities.  Cindy Marino, Right at Home’s director of marketing, says the cards communicate to patients with Alzheimer’s what is happening or what is about to occur, instead of relying on constantly asking questions.  By letting the person know step by tiny step every detail of what you are doing relieves stress, she said.  The cue cards also provide support to the caregiver as well, Marino said.  Caregivers, who want more information, should send an e-mail to mjuceam@rahcentralgulfcoast.com or call (941) 929-1966 and ask for Michael Juceam.

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Higher rates of AD, but African-Americans absent from volunteer studies

African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than whites, but people of color are usually less informed about the disease and available resources.  The latest statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association finds that more than 21 percent of African Americans age 71 and older have Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia, while the rate for whites in the same age category stands at 11 percent, wrote reporter Gracie Bonds Staples.  The writer begins her piece by telling us about the family of Fred H. Singleton, Jr.  Singleton died at the age of 81 from Alzheimer’s.  His daughter, Dr. Christa-Marie Singleton, and her family decided to donate his brain to the Registry for Remembrance (Remembrance study).  The goal of the registry is to raise awareness, educate, and recruit African-Americans for long-term research participation in neurological studies, according to a flyer for the initiative.  Emory University’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center established the registry in 2009.  Singleton said by us donating his brain to research, hopefully the Emory team can ‘go where his brain has been’ to find ways to better prevent this devastating disease.  Singleton and Karen Jackson, whose mother was recently diagnosed with dementia, want African-Americans to know how important it is that they become involved in the registry and a current, ongoing study called Caregiver Opportunities for Optimizing Lifestyles-Alzheimer’s Disease.  Dr. Monica Parker, an assistant professor in Emory’s Department of Medicine, and a principal investigator for the Registry for Remembrance, attributes African-Americans’ higher rate of vascular disease as one reason it affects this population more than others.  While Alzheimer’s affects different racial populations the same way, how it manifest in African-Americans is not as clear cut, Parker said.  That is why more African-Americans need to volunteer to help find the answers.

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ADI report finds 25 percent of AD patients hide their diagnosis

About 25 percent of people with Alzheimer’s cite the stigma of the disease as the reason why they conceal their diagnosis.  That is one of the statistics in the World Alzheimer Report 2012, produced by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), an organization based in London.  Nicole Ostrow, a reporter for Bloomberg News, summarizes the report, which takes into account the effects of Alzheimer’s on a global scale.  Nearly 36 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s and that number will rise to 115 million by 2050.  The report places the global costs of Alzheimer’s at $604 billion.  As a comparison, Ostrow uses statistics related to the battle against Alzheimer’s in the U.S.  For this year, the Alzheimer’s Association estimates the costs of Alzheimer’s in the U.S. to reach $200 billion.  Most experts place the total current number of cases of Alzheimer’s in the U.S. at 5.4 million.  They predict that number will rise to 16 million by 2050.  That number basically covers costs to the government health insurance programs Medicare and Medicaid, Ostrow wrote.  While complying its report, ADI surveyed 2,500 people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers in 54 countries.  About 66 percent of the respondents said there was little to no understanding of Alzheimer’s in their nations.  The survey also found that 75 percent of patients and 64 percent of caregivers cited the negative associations for people with Alzheimer’s.  If you would like to read the report in a PDF file, please click here.

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Choosing to be happy results in better health for everyone

Family caregivers who go through the day by choosing to be happy with a positive attitude show less wear and tear from the stress of caregiving, Victor Imbimbo wrote for The Huffington Post.  Imbimbo, the president and CEO of Caring Today, said he works with many family caregivers, and as a group, he sees a wide range of attitudes and emotions.  His company conducted a national survey to uncover the attitudes and issues involved in caregiving.  About 60 percent of the respondents reported that they felt very positive about their role as a family caregiver, Imbimbo wrote.  They said their role as a caregiver strengthened their relationship with a family member and provided them with the emotional benefit of giving back the love they received.  Caregivers, who retain a positive attitude, were more focused and worked harder at creating quality life experiences, Imbimbo wrote.  When he interviewed these caregivers, he said they clearly discussed their desire to focus on optimism and happiness.  Imbimbo recounts how he worried about waiting for the next shoe to drop as he served as his mother’s caregiver.  During his anxiety of constantly fearing the worst for his mother, he also feared the worst for himself.  While Imbimbo realizes it may not be easy to do, he advises us to choose to be happy.  He recommends six steps to practice to make oneself a happier person.  First, he wants us to define happiness for ourselves.  Secondly, we should prioritize the areas in our life that bring us enjoyment.  Next, realize as a person you should focus on what you can control and do your best to accept what you cannot.  His fourth step is to practice gratitude daily.  In the fifth step, provide encouragement to at least two people every day.  Lastly, Imbimbo says we should choose to be happy today and stay in the present.

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Make the move to a new residence less stressful for Alzheimer’s patients

The time may come when moving your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease to a nursing home or assisted living facility is the best option for both the patient and the caregiver.  The Staff at the Mayo Clinic provides a strategy that gives caregivers some idea of how to prepare for such a move.  As usual, the first step involves planning for the inevitable.  The staff recommends talking to your loved one while they are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s as a good way to learn and understand their wishes.  After learning of their preferences for living arrangements, caregivers should visit a few facilities to check whether they meet the loved one’s expectations.  You may want to include your loved during these visits.  That is a good idea as long as the visits do not create stress and anxiety for the patient, the staff said.  After making a selection, bring some of your loved one’s favorite items to the new environment to make the space look and feel as comfortable as possible.  Pictures of loved ones and friends, a favorite chair or quilt, and other meaningful possessions are some of the suggested items.  Adding familiar belongings to the living space helps trigger feelings of connectedness and ownership, the staff said.  It also helps boosts your loved one’s sense of security.  When it is time to make the move, the staff recommends sticking to the normal routine as much as possible.  They also suggest that your loved one’s best time of the day is the perfect time to make the move.  While moving is never fun, keeping a positive disposition will help make the transition a little less stressful for the caregiver and help the loved one feel safe and secure in the new environment.  After the loved one is settled into the new place, the caregiver should trust the employees of the facility to help with the next big part of moving: the departure of the caregiver.  The separation from your loved one can cause feelings of grief, loss and guilt for the caregiver, while at the same time, it could take a couple of months for your loved one to adapt to their new living arrangement.  To alleviate these feelings, the staff recommends the caregiver frequently visit their loved one and encourage family members and friends to do the same.

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