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As many of us caregivers realize, reaching the point when we can no longer safely care for a loved one at home and entering that loved one in managed care can be a gut wrenching decision never taken lightly. Actually, we may hold on much longer than is good for either our loved one or for ourselves as caregivers.

As the movie “Still Alice” captures an Oscar for its fictional portrayal of Alzheimer’s effect on a woman and her family, I would like you to view a video about a man who opens up about his feelings the day his memory-impaired wife moved into a dementia care community in this real-life story.

Click to view An Alzheimer’s Love Story: “First Day of the Rest of My Life”.

Appreciation is extended to Scott McCaskey and Silverado Care for bringing this video to our attention. For more information go to http://www.silveradocare.com/johnandkerry.

Life Changes

Dear Readers,

Since my last writing a dear friend has slipped away, the one I have told you about from time to time, the one I enjoyed taking in her wheelchair for pizza outings whom I could trust in confidence with anything.

It happened two days after Christmas.  She had enjoyed breakfast in the nursing home dining room and was in good spirits I was told.  Within the space of a half hour she was gone.

It had been three weeks since our last lunch, and holiday preparations for family arriving took precedence for my time. I kept getting inner nudges that I needed to go over if only for a brief visit, but I did not make it.

Life is what it is. I would have appreciated one more visit.

Her sons brought me into the intimate family circle to be a part in planning her memorial service. However, early on the morning of the day of her service my husband awoke with a paralyzed right side. He was having a stroke.

I called 911. Our EMS arrived within minutes and rushed him to the hospital where he was able to receive in time the special ‘clot-buster medication that brought the feeling back to his limbs.

Both experiences have impressed upon me ever again the preciousness of life and its opportunities.

Stuck

How does one negotiate change in a family system that no longer works?  I want you to know about a close relative of mine, who is the sole caregiver of her 90-plus-year-old mother, who now suffers from dementia.

The living arrangement worked for many years.  The mother, a single parent, worked throughout her active years and later retired but with only a social security check as income each month.  Her daughter became a teacher in the public schools, never married, and eventually built a home on family land for herself and her mom to enjoy.

Family gatherings in their home were much looked forward to, with both mom and daughter excellent keepers of the family cooking traditions.  I guess, myself included, we thought it would always be this way.

But then the mom’s memory for her special recipes began to fade until eventually the daughter had to pick up the slack for dishes her mom was known for – the baked chicken and dressing, the fresh cocoanut cake, the sweet potato pudding… and on and on.

The one brother who lives nearby stops by to visit.  The second brother, living hundreds of miles away, calls every day.  However, I believe neither has a clue about what really happens behind the scenes – the bed that usually needs fresh linens each morning, the constant vigilance to make sure their mom doesn’t unlock a door and walk out into the night or worse yet fall down the basement stairs, care to make sure the family cats are not fed birdseed instead of their own dry food.

A home health aide does come 25 hours a week to provide some relief for my cousin to get to the grocery and run errands.  But the bottom line of making sure the correct meds are in proper supply and taken at the prescribed times, the running of the home, and meal preparation fall to my cousin.

I have a feeling I am describing a lifestyle that many of you are only too familiar with.

I remember how it used to be when our mom was residing with me in our home in Ohio.  I treasured the moments of solitude, usually late at night, to carve out a bit of alone time.  The respite breaks provided by my brother kept me sane during that year and a half.

Which brings me to offer a suggestion for your gift giving at this special time of year.  A gift of time might just be the best gift you could offer to a caregiver friend.

How about taking that friend’s mother or father out for ice cream or a lunch once in a while if the elders are able.  For my friend who resides locally in a nursing home, once a month on the average we head out on foot, with her in her wheelchair, up the street to a pizza parlor for lunch – even when the weather is less than perfect.  (I just ask for a couple of blankets and out we go!)  The best part of this is not having to ask nursing home aides to lift her into the car.

And for the cousin out of state, a couple of times a year I make the trip and stay a few nights with her mom, making it possible for the cousin to leave town for a day or so.  Will her older brothers catch on – maybe so and maybe not.  What matters is knowing I am helping out a little and also enjoying one-on-one time with a precious aunt.

As you know, caregiver health can break down from stress.  The relief you may be able to offer, if only for a few hours a month, will be most surely appreciated.  And for a caregiver just the realization that he or she is being kept in regard can do wonders for the spirit.

One of my major concerns for our mother in the early days of her dementia was making sure she was taking her meds at the proper time in the prescribed dosages.  Being remote caregivers, my brother and I had a huge problem.

I am writing today to encourage your visit to ALZCOM (www.alzcom.com), a simple and free Internet-based way to gently remind a dementia patient of daily tasks, events and appointments. It is purported to work on any device that has a modern browser, iPad, Android tablet or “cousin Bobby’s old laptop.”  I can imagine this form of communication as being beneficial for a loved one with a mild form of dementia.

Ralph writes, “My partner and I have been using the ALZCOM prototype since 2013 – he in his home with his wife of over 40 years and me remotely with my mother in her home in Berlin, Germany.  Both are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and both his wife and my mother have had great success with the ALZCOM prototype; but now we need help in order to further develop the solution.

So I’m writing you today to ask for your help in generating feedback for us. We are looking for as many caregivers as possible, along with the loved ones they are caring for, to use the site as early testers so we can get a better idea of any bugs, response times as well as suggestions for improvements. 

The site is free and we want to keep it that way, without advertisements, and we will not share user information. Thank you for your consideration.”

Feedback and questions regarding ALZCOM should be addressed to rj@alz.com.

Alzheimer’s Identity Book

As dementia deepens, your loved one may gradually lose the memory of family and even the identify of self and who he or she was during active, productive years. I would like you to know about a project that young Evelyn Jackson has undertaken to create photo books meant to help Alzheimer’s patients and their families to cope with the disease as it progresses.

Evelyn, working on her Girl Scout Gold Award, has created a brochure of clear, simple, step-by-step directions for making an “Alzheimer’s Identity Book” for your loved one. I especially like her suggestions about what photos are most meaningful and how to proceed with simple captions or descriptions easy for your loved one to follow. The making of the Identity Book for a loved one can become a fulfilling activity for family enjoyment.

Thank you, Evelyn, for sharing this excellent resource! To access the Alzheimer’s Identity Book brochure, click on the link below:

EJackson Identity Book_single pages(F)(1)

Are you having to watch your loved one’s financial resources melt away toward care expenses? Have you desired information to be proactive in planning ahead to preserve your loved one’s hard-earned savings? I very recently learned about InsuranceLibrary.com. and want you to have this timely information provided by Founder Justin Blasé.

Expert Answers To Your Alzheimer’s Related Insurance Questions

Have you ever wondered how having Alzheimer’s disease might impact your ability to get life insurance? How about whether or not Medicare is able to cover nursing home care for those impacted by Alzheimer’s disease?

InsuranceLibrary.com is a website that has set out to provide free, professional assistance to those that need to know the answers to these questions and others. Insurance Library was launched in the spring of 2013 and it serves as an online knowledgebase of the most commonly asked consumer insurance questions – and the answers to these questions are provided by licensed insurance agents.

The website has over 20,000 answers to insurance questions – covering a range of topics from health insurance, life insurance, Medicare, long-term care, disability and even property & casualty insurance.

This past spring, Insurance Library rolled out a new section of the site dedicated specifically to insurance questions related to Alzheimer’s disease – which serves as an excellent resource of information for any person or family that is impacted by the disease.

Additionally, if you cannot find the answer to your questions within the knowledgebase, you can easily ask your own question at no cost – and a licensed insurance professional will typically answer the question in less than 24 hours. You can even be notified by email when answers to your questions are posted.

What questions do you have related to insurance and Alzheimer’s disease? Head over to http://www.insurancelibrary.com today to browse the existing Alzheimer’s topics, or ask your very own question.

————————————————————————–

Justin Blase
Founder, InsuranceLibrary.com

It all began for me with pre-admission testing prior to scheduled thyroid surgery a few weeks ago. When my doctor was going through her list of questions at my exam, one of them was, “Do you snore?”

At that I let out a brief laugh, remembering the night before my younger granddaughter Nikki remarking to me, “Grandma, you’re snoring!” So I had to answer that, “Yes, I guess I do.” (And over the years my husband has remarked about same.)

My doctor was not smiling when she responded, “Pat, you are going to have to pass a sleep study before I can okay you for surgery.” I was told that older people with sleep problems sometimes endure complications arising from undergoing anesthesia.

I had less than a week before the surgery date and time was of the essence, so I went full speed ahead to get scheduled for the sleep study. My doctor’s staff went the extra mile on my behalf to get me in with a private sleep medicine practice the following evening.

Here is how it went. After a lengthy consultation and gathering of medical history in the afternoon, I reported at the sleep study lab that evening around 7:30, bringing with me pajamas and toiletries for the night. A pleasant nurse/tech showed me to my ‘bedroom’ and had me dress for bed. My first thought was how in the world was I going to be able to fall asleep at 10 in the evening, when my normal bedtime is not before midnight. Then and there I began to feel a bit uneasy.

The next step was being taken to an examining room where I got my first glimpse of the many electrodes that would soon be attached to my head and body via a gooey glue paste. The wires were attached to a board that would enable mobility, should I need to get to the bathroom during the night.

I was given an hour or so to ‘relax’, sitting at a desk beside my bed and thumbing through some very out-of-date magazines. Around 10 the tech reappeared, asking me if I were ready for bed. (I really felt more like running around the block a few times than hopping into bed.) But I answered, “Okay.”

I was told that the monitoring equipment was down the hall, but I could call my tech’s name at any time and she would hear me. To pass the test I was told I had to have 15 or fewer breathing lapses during sleep. And should I go over the 15, I would be immediately placed on a CPAP machine for the remainder of the night.

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. Its function is to provide a continuous mild air pressure to keep an airway open, typically used for people who have breathing problems such as sleep apnea. I was told the CPAP is the most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea, which I now know I have.

I had absolutely no idea I had this condition until I undertook the sleep study. However, I do remember my mother’s interrupted breathing and my tensing, waiting for her next breath.

Getting back to my sleep study experience, once the light was turned out, my room was pitch black except for the red outline of the video camera trained on my head. Even though the bed was most comfortable, sleep would not come. How does one fall asleep on command?

After a half dose of Ambien, calling for a glass of milk, and consuming a few munchies I had brought along, mercifully I did drift off around 2:30 or 3:00, I learned. When I awoke sometime around 6:00, I realized I was not wearing the CPAP mask and felt good, believing I had passed.

But around 3:00 that afternoon I learned from the sleep doctor that I had a very poor showing, averaging 45 breathing lapses per hour and a blood oxygen reading down in the lower 60s. My doctor was not going to certify me for surgery; and what more, I had not slept long enough to try out the CPAP machine. Hence, I was scheduled for a redo of the study the following week.

I went through the second night of sleep study four nights ago, using the CPAP the entire night. Again, falling asleep was a challenge. This time, however, I had an average of only 18 breathing stoppages per hour, but my oxygen level fell again to the low 60s. Yesterday I met with the sleep doctor to discuss the second study results.

I was told that wearing the CPAP did help. I will be given a CPAP machine. It will be calibrated to run on Auto — that is, the air pressure will increase automatically as my breathing need warrants. My oxygen reading will also be monitored at home for a couple of days. Should I need it, I will receive a CPAP that also delivers oxygen.

You may be wondering why I am going into such detail about the sleep study. Since all of this began, I have learned that recent research suggests that ongoing sleep deficits can take a considerable toll on the brain.

From the article “Sleep Well” by Amy Paturel, M.S., M.P.H., appearing in NEUROLOGY NOW (Feb/Mar 2014) I read that, “Recently, scientists have started to link longer waking time with increased risk of cognitive impairment and a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”

From the same article I read that, “In a 2009 study of mice published in the journal SCIENCE, researchers found that sleep deprivation increases the concentration of harmful plaques in the brain.”

Further quoting from “Sleep Well” in NEUROLOGY NOW (Feb/Mar 2014), “For centuries scientists and philosophers have debated what our brains do during sleep. Now, for the first time, researchers have solid evidence that a good night’s sleep may literally clear the mind. In a study published in the journal SCIENCE, researchers found that the space surrounding brain cells — called the interstitial space — may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. Previous research shows that proteins linked to neurodegenerative diseases, including beta-amyloid, build up in the interstitial space.”

According to Dr. Adam Spira, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of mental health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD, “These findings provide a potential mechanism for the link between poor quality sleep and greater cognitive impairment,” (again quoting from “Sleep Well”, NEUROLOGY NOW from Feb/Mar 2014).

Same article, quoting Dr. Rashid Deane, Ph.D., research professor in the department of neurosurgery’s Center for Translational Neuromedicine at University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, “The restorative function of sleep may be due to the switching of the brain into a state that facilitates the clearance of waste products that accumulate during wakefulness.”

Again, credit for the article, “Sleep Well” in NEUROLOGY NOW from Feb/Mar 2014 goes to Amy Paturel, M.S., M.P.H. I hope you will access this article and do further looking on the relationship between sleep deprivation and buildup of beta-amyloid.

How many of us have sleep apnea and do not realize its possible ramifications!

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