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As we know, the journey through dementia in its many forms usually starts at home.  And we as caregivers desire for our loved ones to maintain their independence for as long as safely possible.

I want you to know about some helpful products shared with me by Nicole Lascurain of Healthline.com that may help your loved one exercise his/her memory and maintain independent living.

The following was written by Kristen Fischer for Healthline.com and medically reviewed by Dr. Steven Kim, MD on November 19, 2015.

To go directly to Healthline.com to view and/or order the products described below, click here.

The article by Kristen Fischer follows:

We selected these items based on the quality of the products, and list the pros and cons of each to help you determine which will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means Healthline may receive a portion of the revenues when you buy something using the link.

About 5.3 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Of them, about 5.1 million are over the age of 65. Because of our growing elderly population, those numbers are only going to increase each year. The Alzheimer’s Association projects that, by 2025, the number of senior citizens with the disease will reach 7.1 million — a 40 percent increase from 2015.

 

Clocks

These can be an important device to help the person keep track of dates and times. Clocks such as this one have large digital faces that spell out the full date. It also has a sharp, nonglare display that can be useful for anyone with visual impairments. In case confusion between different times of day is a persistent issue, this clock tells you whether it is morning, afternoon, evening, or nighttime.

Big Calendars

Large print calendars like this one are an effective way to remember important dates. A large wall calendar is also hard to miss, helping anyone to keep track of dates, appointments, and special occasions.

Mind Games

Not only can games be wonderful to keep our minds active, but they can also introduce a social aspect. Match the Shapes is made specifically for people who have dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as is Match the Dots. The latter involves matching up the dots on domino tiles, which can also trigger positive memories. People who enjoy playing cards might like Match the Suits, which has a similar concept. People who like word games will probably appreciate Grab & Go Word Search puzzles, which feature a simple layout and larger print.

Timed Pillboxes

A good pillbox can prevent confusion and help a person with Alzheimer’s disease ensure that they are taking the right medications at the right time — and not taking pills over and over again. This one has five different alarm times, plus a countdown timer to ensure medication is taken on time.

Picture Phones

Staying connected is important, especially when your friend or loved one has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The Memory Phone can be programmed with numbers and images so the user only has to push the person’s picture to call them. VTech makes a phone that has those same features, plus a portable safety pendant that you can use in case you need emergency assistance but can’t reach the phone.

Locators

The Emergency Medical Alert Bracelet might be a good option if the person you are caring for wanders. If the QR code on the bracelet is scanned, the scanner will see a message saying “provide location.” When he or she provides the location via a smart phone, tablet, or computer, any emergency contacts will receive a notification with the patient’s location.

There are plenty of innovative products on the market today that enable those with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or other forms of memory loss to live safely, whether they are fully independent or not. These products not only assist the individual but can offer much needed peace of mind for busy caregivers who want to make sure their loved ones are always safe.
References:

•2015 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.alz.org/facts/

Copyright © 2005 – 2018 Healthline Networks, Inc. All rights reserved. Healthline is for informational purposes and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment recommendations.

Rising health care costs in the United States have led seniors affected by Alzheimer’s to travel to other countries for affordable treatment.

In the United States, the financial costs of Alzheimer’s are staggering. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, out-of-pocket costs for Alzheimer’s care total $34 billion. When you add Medicare, Medicaid and other sources, the total cost to the nation comes to around $203 billion.

It’s no surprise that seniors and their families are looking for more affordable options for Alzheimer’s care. Many have found those options in foreign countries.

I received a most interesting and unusual response from caregiver David Duce following the publishing of my previous blog “Long-Distance Caregiving”.

David writes, “After caring for my 94-year-old grandmother with latter stage dementia at home for two years, I relocated her four months ago to a full-care nursing home in Transylvania, Romania.”

Please keep in mind that Dave and his partner are parents of three young children under the age of 10.  After his grandfather’s passing Dave became the caregiver of his grandmother.    With Dave’s permission I am sharing with you his story.

This article happens to be much more lengthy than others, but I felt the family circumstances deserve notice in order that you may understand what led him to make such a choice for his grandmother’s care.

Granny’s Story

My granny, we soon discovered, had Alzheimer’s.  And within a few months her condition rapidly deteriorated.  I brought in a daycare helper for about $800 per week (not nearly enough for the work she did).  She cooked, cleaned the house, bathed, and loved Granny like family.

I was 500 miles away with a career, two young children and another on the way.  At 92 years of age and still fairly mobile, Granny had a number of small accidents, leaving the sink tap running a couple of times flooding the house, and boiling the kettle dry on more than one occasion.

Then those words I had spoken to her years before came back to haunt me:  “No, I won’t put you in a nursing home, Granny.”  So I rented her house out for $1150 a month and she was collecting $1500 in Social Security benefits.  She had $45,000 from Gramps’ retirement.

We packed her things in a small moving van and we road tripped, singing along the way, “California here we come, right back where we started from..”  It’s weird, you know; even in her demented state she would say things that were so true and cutting to the bone.  I couldn’t help but question is she there inside trying to get out, or was it me reading into her statements.  The connection was subliminal, but it struck a chord deep inside.

We continued with a daycare aid about $1000 per week, and I took over the night care and weekends.  I found her naked and confused in the corner of the room a few times in the middle of the night, so I put a safety rail on her bed with bells and a baby monitor next to her so I could hear if she was getting out of bed at night.  I could hear when she was restless, and we soon got into a routine midnight bathroom run.  She still managed to get up and take off her clothes a few times after that, and I was worried that she was going to take a fall.

At that time I was earning about $60k per year and my partner was helping with Granny and managing the household. Granny still had a good sense of humor. And although I loved the time I spent with her, the stress and sleepless nights began to take their toll. Wiping butts and cleaning up messes was the least of it. Even reassuring her that everything was okay wasn’t a problem. She never really asked about Gramps; I became the man in her life. Whether it was her brother who had passed on many years earlier, or her dad, I played the role.

After nearly a year with Granny, my aunt offered to look after her for a while. She left her job to take care of her mom full time, but there was conflict. My granny was verbally abusing my aunt, who is the kindest person and already had a full house. Things took a turn for the worse. Granny had a couple of falls and visits to the emergency room but fortunately no broken bones. Additionally, Granny was not happy at my aunt’s; and when I would speak with her, she would insist that I come get her because they were trying to kill her – not true, I’m sure. My granny would call out the window for the police and had numerous conflicts with family members, whom she never really liked. She knew she didn’t want to stay there. Then there were some 911 calls, and you know, they send the whole entourage, fire trucks, etc.

My aunt did a fine job, but I could tell it was just a matter of time before something bad happened. I explored the option of a home; and with the condition she was in (skilled nursing) care started at around $5k per month. I would have to sell her house worth about $220k. I had to do something.

We met with an estate planner. His advice was to spend down the assets so we could get my grandmother into a Medicaid-covered home. This didn’t seem like the right plan.

I had been working in Eastern Europe over the years and had fallen in love with the countryside of Romania, Transylvania, to be precise. The food is natural and the exchange rate is very favorable, about 4 to 1. Admission into the European Union has opened the door for funding grants, and the medical profession has benefited tremendously.

So I thought we’d give it a try. After investigating our options, we found a brand new nursing facility owned and operated by The Church. We were fortunate in finding a home that provides exceptional care at an affordable cost.
I stayed there (in the immediate area) for the summer and visited most every day at different times of day. The adjustment for my grandmother wasn’t difficult. For about the first week she asked when we were leaving, then that was about it. I would tell her the new house wasn’t ready yet, or we were still on vacation.

We had one really bad day where she thought a nurse had hidden her rings. They were quick to recognize the problem. The nurse took off her white coat and reassured Granny that she was her friend, and had her calmed down in a matter of minutes.

Granny has been there nearly six months now. She has a healthy appetite and is very strong. I have independent people, who check on her at twice weekly and report directly to me. She developed a rash on her face, which the staff was quick to remedy.

Our situation has turned out better than I anticipated, so well in fact that I am starting a service to help other families who are in a similar situation,  Angels Respite Program.

 

Questions regarding this arrangement along with Dave’s answers:

  1.  Steps you took to get your grandmother accepted:  “In all fairness credit is due to family friends.  They found a recently completed full-care nursing facility.  The application process was very simple; a copy of blood work, medical history, and an interview.  I also provided three months worth of medications for the transition.”
  2. How you made the long trip with her:  “As you can imagine I was very nervous before the flight, not knowing what to expect, ruminating about all of the possible scenarious, a freak-out scene at customs or refusal to get on the place.  None of that happened.  I told her we were going to Europe, and she seemed excited and was the perfect patient/passenger the whole way.  At 94 she sleeps a lot.  We flew Lufthansa andthey were great to help with wheelchairs and a family waiting room during a layover in Frankfurt.  I gave Granny a baby aspirin and dressed her with some compression sleeves and socks per doctor before the flight.  She even had a glass of wine.
  3. Did you go it alone:  “I didn’t take her alone; my partner and I were also travelling with our three young kids.
  4. How do you communicate with your grandmother long distance?  The nursing facility arranges for us to talk via Skype.  Granny has some hearing problems, but we just speak slowly; she recognizes me most days.  The Internet/Skype connection is good, and I have someone there to make the connection for us.  She likes to show her pictures she has colored.”
  5.  How are financial arrangements handled?  “I have set up an electronic payment through an international bank, where it is converted to Romanian currency Leu (Lay).”
  6. What about elder care in Romania at this time?  “There is much to share here; Romania is at the historical crossroads of Europe.  The discovery of insulin, invention of the fountain pen, and jet engine – all Romanian.  Since the end of communism there has been a technical and medical revolution, bringing Romania back to the forefront.  E.U. funding has allowed the latest medical equipment to flood into this developing economy.  But more importantly it’s the people; there is a certain passion about them, a positive energy that is undeniable.  I see it in the eyes of the nurses; they get it!”

To learn more by communicating with Dave Duce directly, go to:  angelsrespite@hotmail.com.

 

 

 

 

Caring Long Distance

My Aunt Eunice has resided in a nursing home since 1982 when her hip gave way due to osteoporosis at the age of 55.  Like my grandmother, my aunt always walked with a limp.  She was my dad’s younger sister and was dearly loved by her family, loved perhaps too much in that, having some developmental delays, she was protected at home and never ventured out for any kind of employment.

Only 14 years older than I, my aunt was fun to be with.  My grandfather always kept her favorite snacks at the ready, such as Royal Crown Cola and ‘Brown Mules’ in the freezer.  They bought her a piano and made sure she had lessons for years.  (That piano never seemed in tune!)  But since I didn’t have a piano, I gravitated to hers and taught myself to play hymns and other tunes when we visited.  My aunt only made it in public school through the 4th grade, but she was my buddy growing up.

After the hip fracture in 1982, she never really walked again.  She is now 88, and I am her guardian and long-distance caregiver.  My mother did this for her as long as she was able.

Our grandfather provided well for my aunt, but when her money eventually ran out, she had to rely on Medicaid.  As I may have told you previously, I visit her every few months.  Our outing for the day includes going out for breakfast and then to a store like Wal Mart to shop for whatever she needs.  Since she can’t walk, we enjoy breakfast in the car and she waits while I shop.

This arrangement has been good for a number of years.  However since my husband’s health has become fragile over the past several months, I can’t leave him overnight like I used to.

Not wanting to neglect my aunt, I came up with an idea early today on a way to let her know she is still loved.  Online I discovered there to be a grocery store within a mile of my aunt’s nursing home.  And this grocery has a fax line!

So late this afternoon my Aunt Eunice was able to enjoy a Dr. Pepper and a slice of cheese from her stash of goodies delivered by the store.

Meet Caregiver Amy Goyer

For many of us our days come down to a constant juggle between managing life, work, and caregiving.  I would like you to meet Amy Goyer, who is a primary caregiver to her parents ages 85 and 88.  She also happens to be AARP’s Family Expert and media spokesperson on a variety of caregiving issues.

November happens to be NATIONAL CAREGIVERS month.  I found a recent recorded interview with Amy Goyer most refreshing with insightful, practical ideas and suggestions.  To enjoy her interview click here.

She is the author of Juggling Life, Work, and Caregiving, loaded with tips on how to manage caregiving along with life and work.  This book is available at a discount through Amazon.com.

Is the Effort Worth It?

“Momma has very little recall with short term memory, so a card or a phone call would be enough. We all just do the best we can.”   Those were my cousin’s words for me as I was trying to decide about attending her mother’s 95th B-day celebration (out of state) set for this weekend.  I believe she had resigned herself to ‘the way things are.’

It is true, with moderate dementia, my aunt may not remember that I came to see her within a few hours after I leave.  Though she may not remember I was there, I will know that I was a part of her special day.  And her caregivers, my cousins, will feel the peace and support of having had family together, even if only for a few hours.

Thinking back to that period when my own mom was living in a nursing home miles from her loved ones and remembering a few of those slow, quiet Saturdays we used to spend together, I used to debate whether to call a few family members and say hi, or should just not bother them.  At those times I felt isolated and a bit unloved.  I wonder if our family thought that because she had dementia, that my mom had no feelings.

When family were able to make the drive to visit, I could sense her pleasure and delight as we sat quietly together.  As her disease progressed, she lost the ability to speak.  But even so, when her family showed up, there was a peace and contentment that filled the air for both of us.

What does one get a 95-year-old for her birthday? —  For my Aunt G I settled on an inexpensive necklace she can wear around her neck anytime with no fuss.

Whenever I call my cousin, as we end the phone visit, she usually asks, “Would you like to speak with Momma?”  And I always do.  My aunt has been slipping a bit with her memory for quite some time, but she can always keep up the conversation for a few moments if I do my part, asking easy questions about is she feeling well and maybe the weather.  She is still able to keep up ‘appearances’.

As many of us caregivers know, whether it be through a phone call, a note or perhaps a visit, the deep joy of connection in the moment can mean much to a loved one and their caregivers.

Permission Granted!

As a caregiver do you often wake up to days when fatigue dogs your every move?  For me those times continue to come to be rather predictable, occurring after a big push of one kind or another, whether it be traveling with my loved one or hosting a family visit.

We caregivers tend to get in a groove of caring for everyone else first.  And I do realize that you may be in a situation where there are few choices for your own physical and mental refreshment.

But what I am meaning today is keeping an open mind to caring for yourself, even if all that is possible is mentally bringing into your mind’s eye a happy thought or two.  Our loved ones, who are experiencing their own challenges of the changes that occur when no longer able to care for themselves, are unable to think about our needs as their caregivers. Their attention is on themselves.

So we must treat ourselves as gently as we can.  You know what gives you joy, the simple pleasures — be it a cup of tea, a brief walk (or longer if possible), watering plants outdoors, reading or listening to an inspiring story or a devotion, calling a friend for a brief chat, or just even a few minutes in the bathroom to be by yourself.

Or perhaps you really don’t know how to be gentle with yourself.  In such case you must explore within the parameters of your situation a few activities that provide physical and mental refreshment.

And try to dismiss that voice inside saying you are not doing enough!  I have a good friend, who gave me a few passages of inspirational advice, which I carry in my purse.  I try to commit one or two to memory to call up when needed.

My husband has experienced two major illnesses this year, a third stroke in January and gall bladder surgery recently.  I am constantly having to watch my tongue, expecting more than he is able to give.

For me the hardest periods are those transitional times of needing to take on a greater role as a caregiver, such as being the sole provider of transportation, managing family finances, etc.  It turns often into a balancing act of letting go of those tasks that can be let go of and securing assistance from an outside source or a willing family member.

Always take advantage of your local Alzheimer’s support group if you are lucky enough to have one close by.  Even if your loved one’s challenge is not dementia, you can still participate as a caregiver.

When your loved one’s strange behaviors and off-the-wall comments reveal the onset of dementia, the family faces an onslaught of decisions.  Whether we realize it or not, dealing with our loved one’s irreversible memory loss and accompanying physical symptoms are going to demand an adjustment in our lives.

Author Rosemary Barkes understands the difficulty in maintaining one’s sanity while grappling with constant unknowns.  She became desperate for answers when her own mother was diagnosed with dementia.

In her book The Dementia Dance the author shares with other families the practical wisdom she learned by trial and error, such as 1) How to minimize stress in your rapidly changing world; 2) when to take charge and when to let go; 3) tips on choosing an appropriate assisted-living facility or memory care; 4) how to economize on day-to-day items and services while maintaining quality care.

The author explains her choice of title in this way:  “Getting family members to help with managing the chaos of dementia is like being a partner in a dance of sorts, a dance that works only if you let dementia take the lead while you follow.  Whether the dance is slow and graceful or fast and furious, you can learn to cope and even find enjoyment in life.

I was privileged to enjoy this book and meet the author recently.  Short chapters make this caregiver reader friendly with many practical helps there for the taking.

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