Category Archives: Faith Community

What did you do on your summer vacation? Tips for Caregivers

Every fall, teachers ask, “what did you do on your summer vacation?” Summer vacations are a rich tradition for many people. But as our loved one ages, memories of family trips — and the hopes of them continuing — seem to fade. As July turns the page into August, summer’s end appears too soon on the horizon, especially if what used to be your favorite family vacation is no longer do-able. Or is it? How do you vacation with — or do you need a respite from — your loved one with dementia?

If you have a trip planned with a family member or friend with dementia, there are a few important tips that should be part of your vacation plan. With a bit of planning, your trip can still be one of recreation and enjoyment for everyone.

  • Consider sticking to familiar destinations that require few changes in daily routine.
  • Keep travel simple. Avoid elaborate sightseeing trips or complicated tours, which may cause anxiety and confusion.
  • Travel during the time of day that is best for the person with dementia, much like the way a parent plans for a toddler’s nap or meals.
  • Have a bag of essentials with you at all times that includes medications, your travel itinerary, emergency contact information, a comfortable change of clothes, water, snacks, and activities. Wouldn’t you do that for the younger traveler among you?
  • If traveling by air, arrange for special accommodations such as a wheelchair escort through security and to the gate, and alert airline staff. Most airlines will work with you to accommodate special needs. Dementia is a “special need.” No shame here, ask for help!
  • Prepare for wandering. Enroll in MedicAlert® or another 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for individuals with dementia that wander or who have a medical emergency.
  • Carry a picture of your loved one with you or have one available on a mobile device.
  • Create a business-style card that says, “The person I am traveling with has Alzheimer’s. Please be patient.” Include your contact information on the backside.
  • If visiting family or friends, prepare them by explaining dementia and any changes it may have caused.

Need respite instead?  There is no shame in needing a vacation from your loved one and the day-in, day-out caregiving you provide. Respite care provides short-term relief for primary caregivers. It can be arranged for just an afternoon or for several days or weeks. Care can be provided at home, in a healthcare facility, or at an adult day center. Don’t miss your vacation this summer — it will give you the energy to meet the coming challenges of fall and winter. For more information, visit: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-respite-care.

Beth Propp, RN is a Certified Master Trainer (CMT) for AGE-u-cate® Training Institute, CMT Lead Mentor and lives in Green Bay, WI with her husband Scott.  She may be contacted at beth@ageucate.com.

http://www.AGEucate.com

Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout Not to Miss

It is a rare occasion when either speaking to or meeting with family caregivers that I do not have tucked away this invaluable list of signs and symptoms of caregiver burnout to share with them before I leave.    My advice to caregivers is to print this list out and place in a plastic sleeve and tape it to your bathroom mirror.  Every single day you should be aware of these signs – often that creep in slowly- and zap our ability to cope, quickly leading to caregiver burnout.

What should you do if you see yourself exhibiting these signs or symptoms?  Be proactive, and seek out a caregiver support group, licensed professional counselor, Stephen Minister or pastoral counselor at your faith community or a healthcare professional.

Caregiver burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that may be accompanied by a change in attitude — from positive and caring to negative and unconcerned. … Caregivers who are “burned out” may experience fatigue, stress, anxiety, and depression.  It can often lead to anger, rage, or guilt that results from unrelieved caring for a chronically ill dependent.  

With over 44 million unpaid caregivers in the US alone,  it is imperative that we are all looking out for others – this fast-growing and vulnerable population who desperately needs support, education, and access to resources.   Caregiver burnout can lead to neglect and abuse for those whom they are caring for.  It is a serious public health issue and too often goes unnoticed as caregivers tend to isolate themselves, especially when they are stressed.

Please print this list out and share with others who are caring for a loved one:

Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Burnout

  1. Altered eating patterns
  2. Increased sugar consumption or use of alcohol or drugs
  3. Increased smoking or strong desire to start again
  4. Frequent headaches or sudden onset of back pain
  5. Increased reliance on over-the-counter pain remedies or prescribed drugs
  6. Irritability
  7. High levels of fear or anxiety
  8. Impatience
  9. The inability to handle one or more problems or crises
  10. Overreacting to commonplace accidents
  11. Overreacting to criticism
  12. Feelings of anger toward a spouse, child or older care recipient
  13. Alienation
  14. Feeling emotional withdrawal
  15. Feeling trapped
  16. Thinking of disappearing or running away
  17. Not being able to laugh or feel joy
  18. Withdrawing from activities and the lives of others
  19. Feeling hopeless
  20. Loss of compassion
  21. Resenting the care recipient and/or the situation
  22. Neglecting or mistreating the care recipient
  23. Frequently feeling totally alone even though friends and family are present
  24. Wishing simply “to have the whole thing over with”
  25. Playing the “If only” games; saying over and over “if only this would happen’; or “If only this had not happened”

Pam Brandon is President/Founder is AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.   For more information on our training for professional and family caregivers, please visit our website.  

http://www.AGeucate.com

Alcohol-related Brain Damage (ARBD) and Dementia

3D collection of alcoholic beverages bottles isolated on white background

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, UK, Alcohol-related brain damage is a brain disorder caused by regularly drinking too much alcohol over several years. The term ARBD covers several different conditions including Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome and alcoholic dementia. None of these is actually dementia, but they may share similar symptoms.

ARBD is defined as long-term decline in memory or thinking caused by excessive alcohol use and a lack of vitamin B1 (thiamine). Thiamine is needed to provide energy to the body. It is especially important for brain and nerve cells because they use so much energy.

Alcohol misuse causes ARBD in a range of ways. Regular heavy drinking over time damages nerve cells because alcohol is a toxin. It also causes chemical changes in the brain and the shrinkage of brain tissue.

The second way that alcohol misuse leads to ARBD is by causing thiamine deficiency. This is partly because heavy drinkers tend to not look after themselves and have a poor diet. Alcohol also irritates the stomach lining, leading to vomiting and poor absorption of nutrients. Thiamine deficiency also happens because alcohol interferes with the way the body stores and handles the vitamin.

Alcohol can also cause ARBD through repeated head injuries. People who misuse alcohol are more prone to falls and getting into fights.

Finally, heavy drinking damages blood vessels and is linked to high blood pressure, raised cholesterol levels and an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. All of these conditions can damage the brain.

According to a  study, published recently in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research found that regular consumption among older populations is on the rise.
“Given the larger number of Americans we are going to have (as the population ages), that’s going to increase the need for more public health programming,” said study author Rosalind Breslow, an epidemiologist at the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
People who have a form of dementia, whether caused by alcohol use disorder or not, are likely to suffer more serious memory loss if they consume alcohol. In part, this is caused by reactions between dementia medications, other medications for other ailments, and alcohol. It can also be caused by alcohol itself, especially in the later stages of dementia. Older adults who binge drank twice per month were 147 percent were more likely to experience cognitive decline and 146 percent more likely to have more memory problems compared to those who did not drink.
Families need to look for signs of alcohol misuse and seek help immediately.   Besides the harm that older adults are causing to their own bodies, they should not be driving or causing any potential harm to other people because of their use of alcohol.  Seeking treatment is essential and should not be taken lightly.
Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  
http://www.AGEucate.com

Caregiver Resentment and How it’s like Weeds in your Garden!

I just can’t help but talk about gardening this time of year.  I admit it – I’m addicted.  It’s not uncommon for me to get my garden gloves on early on a Saturday morning and still have them on when at sundown.  Once I start working in my garden, I just can’t stop – especially this time of year.  So why am I going to talk about caregivers resentment and weeds in your garden?

Weeds can take over a garden – very quickly.  And before you know it, the weeds are all there is in the bed.  It’s unsightly and worse, it keeps the good stuff from popping up.  They zap the energy in the earth, grabbing all the good minerals for themselves, and leaving those gorgeous flowers to fend for themselves.  So what’s the answer?  Pull them!  And keep pulling them – don’t stop!  Because if you do, they’ll soon find out they are unwanted and with proper bed preparation, the weeds eventually get the signal that there is no room for them.

Caregiver resentment, like weeds, can creep into a caregivers world and take over quickly.   Caregiver resentment is not healthy, does not allow the beauty to shine and certainly is not good for your overall health.  So let’s have some straight-talk on caregiver resentment.  Have you heard this from someone else or be honest – have these words come out of your own mouth?

“I’m just exhausted.  Mom has been in rehab for over a month and once again my brother hasn’t made it in, my sister came for a few hours – LIKE ALWAYS- I’m the one holding down the fort.  I’m there every waking moment, running home to care for the dogs, water the plants and make sure the mail is taken in.  No one seems to EVER get that I have a job and other responsibilities.  I guess their upcoming vacation is just taking all their time in planning.  Gosh, it must be nice.”

I’m going to stick my neck out here and say this is not only resentment but a serious case of caregiver martyrism.   We’ll call this fictitious (but very real) person Mary.  Obviously, Mary is very resentful of her siblings not stepping up to the plate.  We don’t know if Mary has expressed to them the need for help.  It has happened before, so either her siblings have not been told that they need to take on some caregiving responsibilities or maybe Mary has just determined she would take it all on.  I would venture to guess that she might even be a little resentful of the dogs, plants, and mail – not to mention her mother!

Mary is experiencing caregiver resentment – toward her siblings, added responsibilities and quite possibly her mother.  I’m guessing that her visits with her mom may be stressed-filled and hurried.  In addition, her resentment might be affecting her other relationships with loved ones and friends.

If Mary were to offload some chores, and either accept that her siblings are not helping, or seek assistance from other sources, she may find the weeds of resentment begin to shrivel up.  Her visits with mom may be more pleasant,  and she might even have time to spend with her family, friends, and hobbies.  Of course, I would suggest that Mary dig in the dirt and actually do some weed pulling herself!  It’s great therapy and teaches you so much about what’s important in life while learning little nuggets of truth along the way.

Caregivers, please watch for those weeds of resentment that may be creeping into your life and before they take over, please do some digging.  Resentment is not healthy for you, and it’s not fun to be with someone who is carrying this with them.

Remeber to pull the weeds and water the flowers – it’s a gift to yourself and those around you!

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.  A longtime family caregiver herself, she has devoted the last 10 years to helping caregivers better care for others and themselves.   

http://www.AGEucate.com