For seven years I have kept Jim’s ties in a bag. I wanted to make a memorial wall hanging for our son that would truly spark memories. Jim was a school psychologist and family therapist. Some of the ties he wore had Santa, children, and frogs on them to help interest the children he saw.
The Emergency Departments of today are scary places for caregivers and those with dementia. A person with dementia is essentially experiencing slow and steady brain death in various but relatively predictable areas of the brain. As the disease progresses, the person will have all of their senses affected in some way: sight (narrowing of the field of vision), sound (loud noises hurt and are scary, constant noise causing sensory overload), taste ( changes of likes and dislikes), smell (loss of detection of smoke, gas, chemicals, body odor, spoiled food, urine or feces) and touch (more sensitive). Because of these sensory changes, the caregiver constantly adjusts the environment at home to reduce anxiety and have a more predictable (routine) and successful day.
Holidays are exciting times of the year, but they can be very stressful and fraught with many pitfalls if you don’t plan carefully beforehand. When planning for those special events you must take into consideration how far into the dementia your loved-one is, how much help they will need, how quickly they become overstimulated, how much rest they require, and how much recuperation time they must have after the event is over.
The other night I had a dream, really a nightmare I guess. It was one of the most emotional and anxiety producing dreams I have ever had. The setting wasn’t clear, but I think I was in a high school classroom, and we were taking a test. It wasn’t all written. Some questions you had to answer on paper, some were multiple choice, but others were a test of following through with the directions and completing a finished product.
Most of the dementia drugs presently prescribed are cholinesterase inhibitors. To understand how this works in the brain, we have to learn how the neurons function. We have over 100 billion neurons in our brain. Neurons are the message relaying cells. They consist of a cell body that houses the nucleus , mitochondria, and other important systems that keep the neuron alive. Each neuron also has an axon, which is a long “conducting” tube that extends from the cell body. At the end of the axon are the dendrites or “small branches” that extend into the space between the dendrites of the next neuron. The neurons don’t physically touch each other, so how does the electronic message get from one neuron to the other?
As we all know, life throws us curve balls. Some of them can turn out to be, in the end, a very positive, rewarding, and enlightening experience. Sometimes the fear is what we are running from and not the tasks at hand, the planning required, or the outcome.
Too often the caregiver doesn’t think about this scenario of becoming ill until it happens. At that time it’s really too late and way too stressful to deal with arrangements that need to be made. Caregivers need to think about the possibilities when they can think clearly, weigh their options, and plan with less stress. Here are some pointers in making plans in case such a scenario/sickness/incapacitation comes your way!
Whether you are recovering from the loss of a loved-one after dementia caregiving or some other event, grief is different for everyone. Just because one person behaved a certain way doesn’t mean that you have to follow in their lead.
Dealing with the Alzheimer’s diagnosis is always challenging. Although we were “glad” to have the diagnosis because it meant that Jim and I weren’t “nuts” noticing all the changes that Jim was going through, the diagnosis certainly singled us out. Being a person with early-onset or the caregiver of one brought with it special circumstances that made me feel like “the odd man out”.
Singing in the Rain: Weathering the Storm of Dementia with Humor, Love, & Patience is a book about dementia caregiving…