10 Ways to Cope:
This information is for all who care for seniors, especially Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia and Elders that face severe pain and confusion from treatments and medications:
Dear Francy; I am at my wit’s end with my mother, she’s in the middle of Alzheimer’s and is getting so nasty to me that I am exhausted. Why all this anger and how do I remember who I am — when I’m under so much pressure?
Amen…the question of the season…well buckel-up because we will talk about you and the pressure so we can all learn from frustration that builds to a boiling point for both patient and care giver.
IDEAS FOR COUNTERING ALZHEIMER’S/DEMENTIA ISSUES:
- In times of calm without an event happening go ahead and ask questions that you would like to get answers. I will ask about up coming events and what my husband would like to attend or not. I will talk about something that has to be fixed around the house. I will talk to him about family issues and get his input.
RE-FOCUS//Now since the above conversation will not be remembered by your Alzheimer’s senior — take note. I keep a notebook with things that I have talked to my Georgie about. I put down the date, time and then add the topic and write a note about what we decided. In times to come when the Alzheimer’s patient or other family members bring up the subject: I can go to my journal and there is the information. This will remind you that you were considerate and included your senior in the decision, and their opinions were noted and the decision that you went on to make or the action you took was based on this shared issue. This will cut your frustration over important information being shared with early, mild, moderate Alzheimer’s. After that there will be less and less calm time that they are able to speak or share in decision-making and you will be on your own. But you will have years of prior experience of making decisions with your Senior so you will be able to make solid decisions on your own.
- Day filled with high event…that means that the dementia senior reacted in a very negative, disorderly or confused way during the day
RE-FOCUS// Take short note of an incident or full day downfall of senior and what the basic ideas of the problems were, without great detail. These notes are very important to show the doctor what kind of things set off the patient. That way the doctor can prescribe medication to fit the reactions of the senior.
EXAMPLE// George twisted ankle in back yard. I treated it with ice, IBPro, and resting with foot up. Two days later he twisted same ankle in bathroom in middle of night, this took four days to feel better. Next week, he twisted ankle in bathroom, again! When I spoke to him about a change of slippers and sitting longer on side of bed before he got up and went to bathroom in middle of night….he could not remember the first two incidents. I took careful notes on this, because if it turns out that his balance is being effected the doctor has to know and I must have George do balance exercises to help him or plan on using a walker at night.
- Simple Family Gathering with high emotional stress shown. Away from home, not able to easily leave the event.
RE-FOCUS//Take the patient out of the immediate room into the kitchen or bathroom area. Ask the patient to help you and they will follow you to that area. Do soothing things for yourself with them. Have a drink of water, take a few very deep breaths together, get cloth or paper towel wet and put under the ear area on the neck where cold will shock and calm. Take a moment to rethink the party area and have a plan of where to bring the senior when you re-enter the room of friends or family and sit the senior down next to a calm, slower speaking person with soothing voice. They will take note of the placement and nod to them and they will then talk to the senior and re-direct the focus back to a slower and less stressful level for the senior. Remove yourself so the interaction is there’s without you.
- Suddenly the day is going bad. You are out and about, doing chores, doing bill paying, doing shopping and the Alzheimer’s senior is getting nervous and upset, tired and cranky. What to do when you need to make a few more stops??
RE-FOCUS// Take time to go to a drive through and order both a protein item and sugar item with water. Have them eat, often. The combination of sugar and protein can lift the blood sugar up and give them renewed energy. Pop into a shop or a section of the store that they enjoy instead of just where you are shopping. Example of this is– I have an ACE Hardware in our neighborhood, a few minutes of George looking at the shelves, gives him calm and he is ready to walk next door to the bank and the Dollar store for my errands. Take note of this event and make a personal note that only 2-4 errands with the senior in your car. They are like young toddlers, they will only last so long before they lose interest and their anger or energy shifts.
- Senior has gotten upset over a very small item and repeatedly complains or gets really angry over it.
RE-FOCUS//George can get caught in a circle over very small things. I set a personal time limit for this behavior. I will say to myself, he can go on for 30 min then I will come in and get him into another task. I leave him to stew and deal with the issue and then in the alloted time frame that I have set up (as the care giver) I return with a new adventure that I have devised. I will come in with a file of pictures to be sorted, or a basket of clothes to fold, or a magazine just arrived in mail. I will use coupons that need to be sorted. I will ask for help with a task I can not do alone. I make it happen because I make myself release the problem and go in another direction.
- Senior is sleeping a lot and wants to stay in bed. Doctor says sleep is a very normal side effect of dementia so letting them rest is OK.
RE-FOCUS//When this happens it is your time to shine. You can call a neighbor and ask if they will come and watch TV for a couple of hours while you go to the store. You can go outside and work in the garden or do cleaning, or just take a nap yourself. Do not let one of these down days make you feel like the patient needs to be up and about. Relax and let it all just work for you, not bother you.
SET SELF RULES// Tell your self that two days of down in bed is fine, but after that the senior needs to be up and walking so they retain their muscle strength and have good bowel movements. So even on down days…food is eaten in a chair or the kitchen, back to bed is fine, but food is meant for sitting up and swallowing properly. Set time frames, go ahead and sleep today, but this evening we have a special show on TV. Then get them up for dinner and a little TV. That way they have a reason to move and to engage with family.
- Dont know what day it is or what is happening starting to forget the time and the days?
RE-FOCUS// Have a calendar that you write-on up on the wall. Use those whiteboard markers and have the Senior put the days in the month and add in appt and family events, birthday and so on. What day to take out garbage, what day to pay a bill…put it up on the wall so you and your senior can see it and count it down. It makes it easier when they SEE something not just talk about it. You can take small pictures of family to tape to the calendar for birthdays and events that way the senior can remember and understand well. Ask the senior each day…what day is it and then let them know, ask them during the day what time is it? So, they too can count down a day clock in their mind.
- Senior complains about food. Never enough, never tastes good, does not want to eat.
RE–FOCUS//Most dementia patients on drugs can be effected with a side-effect of not being hungry. So you have to not only remind the senior to eat, but keep their intake of calories up and healthy. Make small meals all day and have the senior enjoy a 5 -10 minute rule. The senior will be able to eat whatever can be eaten in 5-10 minutes. If the meal is complicated or has too much time in-between sitting down and finishing…you will lose your senior’s attention and not be successful. If the senior is in the TV area a tray is fine, but you need to sit down with them as they eat and encourage them to eat. Turn off TV if it distracts them, and keep them chewing and swallowing. Even early signs of dementia can become problem eaters. Do not let your senior worry about choking, make foods easy to eat and simple to swallow. Make snacks easy like cookies, cupcakes and muffins…make cereal, a small amount with bananas cut thin. Make meat easy to chew and go ahead and pre cut if they have trouble doing so. Salads and lettuce need to be in small pieces as do all the other raw veggies. Drinking water with the meal is the most important, it might be the only time they get real fluids so encourage it. Use low-fat yogurt as a major treat, they come in all sorts of different flavors now days.
- Senior is having problems understanding TV– they are starting to have hearing problems or is it concentration?
RE-FOCUS// This is easy, just turn on the Captions that you find on your actual TV panel under settings. It is not on the cable or satellite dish remote, it is on the actual TV. Then the senior and you will see captions to enhance their viewing. Take note of confusion, if certain shows start to raise lots of questions, do not watch those more complicated mysteries or interview shows. Stick to: how-to shows, history shows, movies, news, or specials. That way the major tv area is for general viewing, speciality viewing for you as the care giver can be in the kitchen, or other private area. You see your shows the Senior sees their shows and you share evening fun viewing together
- Nothing you have done today is right, you are tired, you are mad, you are falling apart at the seams – how do you cope?
RE-FOCUS//It becomes the time to just release. If you can remove yourself from the home, then do so, call a friend to come and visit or go to the store and stop off at a coffee shop for some alone time. Use your laptop to visit with friends or watch a TV program that you missed this week. Step outside and sweep the walkways and water the lawn or rake the leaves. Bake cookies or get out a craft project and take your mind away by doing something you enjoy. Make a call to an old friend you have not seen in a while. Take a break and sit with your feet up, have a nice cup of sweet green tea, have a glass of sparkle water or a cup of cocoa. Walk in place or do some stretches holding on to the counter in the kitchen. Sing a song or listen to some music. Read a good book or go to the library and look at magazines. Get out of your everyday routine, so your mind is open to new thoughts and can reboot.
When you return to the senior in care, you are refreshed and able to change the energy and break the spell of negative into positive. Just like a young child your senior will have had time to process, to forget, to calm, to change their energy too and the situation will heal.
We can not change our Seniors but we can change ourselves and how we view our lives. We can take the step forward instead of dragging behind. We can make a plan for our day and stick to it as close as we can. We can connect with friends instead of feeling lonely. We can bless where our senior is and still expect the most from them each day.
Life deserves quality each day…just allowing anger or upset to pull you away from your senior will not only upset you but will take your senior to a place that they will not return from again. Their minds are not going to heal, dementia is not a cold it is a permanent condition that slow or fast – it will get worse. Allowing the Senior to find their place of comfort and still pushing them to do new chores and think new ideas and feel happiness with laughter…that is what a care giver and family or spouse does. When that love is given, it will fill your heart as well as your senior’s. I know you can do it, you do it every day. I just also know you can do it with love, creativity and a happy heart.
I join you, in the troops of care givers all over the world that are giving quality care to their own seniors. We are a special breed and we have a lot to be proud of – I salute you ! francy
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