Aging well: helping our elderly parents get the most out of their lives

This article could help you think about ways to inspire your aging parents to get the most out of their lives moving ahead. 

It focuses on lifestyle, motivation, activities, and social interaction. Read it here:

Alzheimer’s in the family? Should you test yourself?

Here is a very thought-provoking recent article from the Globe & Mail about whether those of us caring for aging parents with dementia should consider getting ourselves tested to see if we have the gene that will more than likely ensure we end up with Alzheimers. It will make you think about this pressing dilemma. 

A blood test can reveal if you carry a hereditary gene, but many people decline to find out.

Marty and Matt Reiswig, two brothers in Denver, knew that Alzheimer’s disease ran in their family, but neither of them understood why. Then a cousin, Gary Reiswig, whom they barely knew, wrote a book about their family, The Thousand Mile Stare.

When the brothers read it, they realized what they were facing.

In the extended Reiswig family, Alzheimer’s disease is not just a random occurrence. It results from a mutated gene that is passed down from parent to child.

If you inherit the mutated gene, Alzheimer’s will emerge at around the age of 50 – with absolute certainty. Your child has a 50-50 chance of suffering the same fate.

The revelation came as a shock. And so did the next one: The brothers learned that there is a blood test that can reveal whether one carries the mutated gene. They could decide to know if they had it. Or not.

It’s a dilemma more people are facing as scientists discover more genetic mutations linked to diseases. Often the newly discovered gene increases risk, but does not guarantee it.
Sometimes knowing can be useful: If you have a gene mutation that makes colon cancer much more likely, for example, then frequent colonoscopies may help doctors stave off trouble.
But then there are genes that make a dreaded disease a certainty: There is no way to prevent it and no way to treat it.

Marty Reiswig, 37, saw his father, now in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, slowly lose his ability to think, to remember, to care for himself or even to recognize his wife and sons.

Reiswig knows that if he has the gene, he has perhaps a bit more than a decade before the first symptoms appear. If he has it, his two young children may have it, too. He wavers about getting tested. “Sometimes I think, ‘This is a terrible storm on the horizon that could absolutely devastate us, and I want to know if it is real or not.’ Other times I say, ‘Gosh, if I do find out that it is real and I know I will die that way and I know probably the age I will die – that is an almost unbearable amount of information about my future.’

“People say you could go sky diving or ride a bull. But you can only do things like that as long as time and income provide. You still have to get up in the morning and go to work and pay your bills.”

He joined a study at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis in which researchers are following members of families with the genes for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. At a recent meeting, he recalled, he found himself in a room full of people like himself: All had a parent with an Alzheimer’s gene.

All were at risk of having the mutated gene themselves.

Reiswig asked the group, “How many have been tested?” Half raised their hands. “Of those of you who have been tested, how many regret it?”

He was met with ominous silence.

Then a man spoke up. He said he had been tested and learned he has the gene.

As for regrets, “it depends on the day,” the man said. “I have battled weight issues and the suicide issue, and I have had problems with my marriage ever since I found out. Some days I really regret it. It is a huge burden. Other days I am glad I know.”

Reiswig has been thinking it over. He has decided not to be tested.

“For me, the return is not worth the investment,” he said.

His 41-year-old brother, Matt, who lives nearby with his wife and five children, was plagued by the fear that he had the mutated gene. Every time he lost his keys or forgot a name, he thought: Alzheimer’s.

“I was already living every single day, every single moment assuming I had it,” he said. “I did not want to find out I have it. I wanted to find out I don’t have it.” He decided to have the test. “To me, it is just so obvious,” he said. “Worrying about what the truth is, is far more damaging, and it doesn’t change the conclusions.”

Knowing the truth, he added, “frees you from making the wrong assumptions.”

Matt Reiswig got lucky. He does not have the gene. He wept when he got the news, thinking of all the time and energy he had spent thinking he had it. All the emotional heartache.

His cousin Brian Whitney, 43, was not as fortunate.

His father has the gene and has Alzheimer’s. When he was 40, Whitney, who lives in Manson, Wash., decided to have the test, telling himself that he had to know for the sake of his family, and especially his two-year-old daughter.

Would she have to watch him start to lose his memory when she was just 10? Would she have to see him die? Might he have passed the gene on to her?

If he had the gene, he told himself, he would volunteer for research studies; he would do anything he could to help scientists understand the disease and treat it, if not for his sake then for his daughter’s.

Whitney’s test came back positive. He has the gene. He thought he was prepared, but nothing really prepares a person to hear such news.

On good days, he almost manages to forget about what is coming; on bad days, it is all he thinks about. He’s entered a clinical trial: A nurse comes to his house each month to inject him with an experimental drug. It has become a monthly reminder of the future.

Friends have said to him that they cannot understand why he put himself through the torture of knowing, not to mention getting a drug that might make matters worse, for all anyone knows.
“I shake my head and say: ‘You have no idea what you are talking about. My only control is being involved in research. Live my life and have my family history before you judge me.’”

© Copyright The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved


Elderly parents may be taking wrong medications


This is an interesting and worrysome article about how many aging people are taking the wrong medicines:

If you haven't, it might be a good time to ensure your aging parents and loved ones are taking the right meds. Talkk with them; ask their pharmacists to go over what they take. And don't forget over the counter medicines and vitamins.

Summer safety for our elder parents and even us!

Most of us look forward to summer. Those who can often take vacation during this season, and many families use it for opportunities to visit their loved ones especially if they are far away from where we live year round.

For those who can, summer is often a time of recreational outdoor activities which may include long walks, swimming, going to beaches and such activities as cycling. Of interest is the fact that with the expansion of the older population many what have been referred to as seniors or elders are now actively involved in physical activities including those outdoors.

So with that in mind here are a few tips to keep safe over the summer months.  First of all there is issue of BBQs which are very popular pastimes for summer eating. It is nice way for families to enjoy time together. We have now learned a very important lesson, especially when grilling chicken and meat patties (burgers) but true of all meats in general. They must be well grilled, if possible using a thermometer and make sure that the centre of the meat is cooked as well. Do not leave food sitting out un-refrigerated or chilled while waiting to BBQ. Do not let the juices of the meet sit on a board or plate where other food will then be transferred. Do not reheat meat that has been allowed to cool and sit around for a while. If you are making mayonnaise salads like potato salad do not let it sit around in the warm air for any prolonged period; use right from the cooler or frig to the table.

I am amazed that I often see seniors cycling wearing sun hats to protect themselves from the sun, but not cycle helmets to protect their very vulnerable heads and brains from a concussion from an unexpected cycling mishap which can happen very easily. Sun protection is fine, with sun screen and wide-brimmed hats, but when it comes to head protection the helmet supersedes the hat on the head but a long shot. 

Ask for the rest—good sensible choices are the first order of business. For long walk good supportive walking shoes.  Make sure you and your aging parents are adequately hydrated if it is a hot day. Wear sunglasses to decrease the glare in your eyes and a sunhat to protect your head and decrease the risk of heat exposure. Lastly, if it is a very hot and humid day, limit outdoor exposure and make sure there is time in the shade. If for some reason the place where you or your aging loved ones is likely to become very hot, find a place to stay with friends or relatives for a few days to avoid the risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Enjoy the summer; safely!


How technology could help with dementia care

Here is a really interesting recent article on hoe evolving technology could do more to help in the home where demential is an issue and challenge:

A chance conversation was all it took to give Alex Mihailidis’s burgeoning career a new focus.
As a graduate student in 1996, the now 41-year-old met a man whose wife had developed dementia in her early 50s. Her bizarre behaviour, such as taking soiled toilet paper, folding it up and hiding it around the house, had her husband at wit’s end.

But in describing ways to coach his wife through basic behaviours that most of us take for granted, such as getting dressed in the morning, brushing our teeth or going to the bathroom, it lit a fire in Dr. Mihailidis’s mind.

“He said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if computers could do all this for us,’ and for my first thesis and my masters I developed a computerbased prompting system for people with Alzheimer’s,” Dr. Mihailidis says.

Now the scientific director of Age-Well Network of Centres of Excellence Inc., based at the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and hosted by the University Health Network, Dr. Mihailidis’s work is focused on improving the daily lives of elderly patients.

Robotics plays a key role in his work, but not the sort that pick people up off a bed or the toilet. Instead he works with the kind that provides reminders and prompts to guide people through the steps involved in everyday tasks.

“It’s more meant for older adults who have some kind of cognitive impairment, so that’s kind of a project that’s taken off and is garnering a lot of interest and potential down the road for these robots to become commonplace in people’s homes,” he says.

Besides, as Geoff Fernie, the institute director for research at Toronto Rehab, says, robots aren’t really suited for that in their field of work.

“Robots actually aren’t very strong,” says Dr. Fernie, who has worked with Dr. Mihailidis for more than 20 years. “Unlike the robots you see in Transformers, they are generally pretty weak, and if you have a strong robot you usually want to be a long way away from it.”

Alongside robotics, big data and predictive algorithms also form an important facet of Dr. Mihailidis’s work. One of his main goals is to ensure that people can continue to live and function in their home as they get older, and using sensors to reveal and interpret patterns of behaviour are some of the tools that he and his team use to capture that.

Age-Well collaborated with a team based at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Ore., which put sensors in the homes of about 300 seniors in the Portland area, monitoring things such as movement in the home. On looking at the collected data, Dr. Mihailidis and his team realized that comparing real-time data with historical data enabled them to tell if there had been a change in a person’s behaviour.

That kind of big data can prove revealing when it comes to understanding the well-being of a patient.

“For example, we have some early results that show that, just from three months’ worth of data collected in a person’s home, it’s [with] about 90 per cent accuracy [that] we can predict that that person is going to develop dementia down the road,” he says.

Telltale signs that Dr. Mihailidis would be looking for in this case are diminished activity around the house, as well as a decrease in walking speed. But to do that it is essential that those habits are monitored on a daily basis. As he explains, part of the problem with the current assessment tools used by doctors to check in on patients is that the patients only see a doctor every six months or every year and the evaluation is done on how they’re feeling at that moment in time. There’s no long-term assessment.

For instance, older patients with congestive heart failure or diabetes are required to monitor their vital signs on a regular basis, but cognitive impairment can affect their ability to comply with this. Consequently, Dr. Mihailidis and his team have been trying to combine sensors into daily routines so that the patients don’t even have to think about them.

They have been working on embedding sensors in the cushions of a sofa to take an electrocardiogram while someone sits there, or a floor tile that can measure blood pressure while someone is standing on it, even in shoes and socks.

“It’s really taking the approach of smart home systems. As you go through your morning routine, right there the house is already sensing your heart rate, blood pressure, weight, etc., on several occasions to get that longitudinal data,” he says.

© Copyright The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved


Study shows better palliative care needed

Posted on May 2016 by

This is an interesting and relevant article that should be of interest to all of us who are caring for  declining older parents and other loved ones:

Thousands of Canadians are suffering unnecessarily each year because they do not have access to palliative care, says a new study by the Canadian Cancer Society that calls on governments to make end-of-life care part of a new federal-provincial health accord.

The new study comes one week before provincial healthcare ministers sit down in Vancouver with their federal counterpart to discuss a new deal on health. It also comes as governments consider new laws to allow doctor-assisted death in response to last year’s landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling. That ruling, which removes physician-assisted death from the Criminal Code, is set to take effect next month, but on Monday the court heard arguments from Ottawa asking for a sixmonth extension of that deadline.

With end-of-life issues now on the national agenda, the cancer society says it’s time for governments to guarantee all Canadians access to palliative care through new legislation.
The new study finds there are gaps in the system, there is no common definition of palliative care and there is a lack of information on what is available where. It recommends that a national standard be developed that includes clear measures.

It is expected that 75,000 Canadians will die of cancer this year, but about half will spend their final hours in an emergency room or acute-care hospital bed, said Gabriel Miller, director of public issues with the cancer society. This, even though studies show most patients want to die at home.

“It has been a shameful secret of Canadian health care for many years that there are massive holes in the way that we care for our very sickest people, especially as they approach the end of life,” Mr. Miller said. “This issue is now getting some attention because the courts have forced governments to grapple with end-of-life issues, and now it is up to governments to act.”

While some pockets of the country are addressing the issue, including Quebec – which has included palliative care as part of its new law on doctor-assisted death – the study finds there is inconsistent and inadequate palliative care in many parts of the country.

The federal government has promised to invest $3-billion over four years in home care, and Mr. Miller is hopeful some of that will be earmarked for improvements in palliative care.
“If we can’t do something to make end-of-life and palliative care better in this country at this moment, we will never do it,” Mr. Miller said.

Maureen Taylor, co-chair of the provincial-territorial expert panel that made recommendations late last year on the issue of physician-assisted death, stressed it should not be framed as an either-or debate.

The top recommendation of the panel was a national strategy for palliative and end-of-life care that includes physician-assisted dying.

Ms. Taylor became an advocate for medically assisted dying following the death of her husband, well-known Toronto physician Donald Low, and said that even with a robust system of palliative care, some patients will choose assisted death.

As well, she said some patients who die without palliative care may have rejected the option when it was offered. More education is required among the medical community and patients and their families about the benefits of palliative care, she said.

© Copyright The Globe and Mail Inc. All Rights Reserved


Childless, unmarried baby boomers warned to prepare for future

Childless, unmarried baby boomers warned to prepare for future.
Dr. Mireille Norris says elder orphans are a growing problem across the country.
A new study is raising awareness about the problem of "elder orphans" — seniors who have no children, spouse or any other family member to care for them as they age.
The research comes on the heels of an incident earlier this week in North Carolina in which an 81-year-old cancer patient with no caregiver called 911 to ask someone to buy him some food.
Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, the chief of geriatric and palliative medicine at North Shore-LIJ Health System, recently completed a case study and literature review that she will be presenting to The American Geriatrics Society's Annual Scientific Meeting this weekend.

 Dr. Maria Carney says that the problem of elder orphans is growing.
"It seems that, with increasing longevity and the trend toward having fewer children and families being fragmented, that this risk of aging alone is increasing," she told CTV's Canada AM from New York.
In Canada and the U.S., the number of seniors is expected to grow dramatically over the next 10 to 15 years. Statistics Canada says the proportion of seniors in Canada could rise from 15 per cent in 2011 to 23 per cent by 2031.
Carney's study found that nearly one-quarter of Americans over 65 are currently at risk of becoming elder orphans. That proportion could grow. U.S. census data show that one-third of Americans currently between the ages of 45 to 63 are single — a 50 per cent increase from 1980.
Although the number of elder orphans is likely rising, very little research has been done on these seniors and the issues they're facing.
"The first challenge is one of awareness that this is a vulnerable population," Carney said.
As well, there is little research on how these seniors will affect society and the medical system in the years to come. Hospital social workers and geriatricians already see elder orphans in their work every week, but there are few guidelines about how to help them long term.
"It's a societal problem we all have to address and we are hoping to draw attention to it," she said.
Not only do aging seniors living alone struggle with isolation and loneliness, they often grapple with growing health problems, says Carney. Some also struggle with dementia and have no one who can help them make decisions about their own care.
Elder orphans are also hard on the medical system, says Carney, since they are often in crisis and need to seek help from costly hospital emergency rooms. The better approach, she says, would be to have care plans in place for these seniors so they don't end up in crisis in the first place.
For single adults who are in now their 50's and 60's, Carney has this advice: start making plans.
"Think about advanced directives," she advises. "Who will be that decision-maker for you if you are unable to make decisions? Get a health care proxy; find an advocate, create a strategy for yourself."

Angela Mulholland,; Published Friday, May 15, 2015 8:43AM EDT 



A special place for elderly with severe dementia

A special place for elderly with severe dementia is showcased here:

In a Dutch town about 20 kilometres outside of Amsterdam, a small community lives in what at first glance seems like a real-life version of The Truman Show.

Hogewey has a grocery store, a theatre and a barber shop. The only twist is that many of its 152 residents live unaware that their orderly community is actually a nursing home for people with severe dementia.
"We protect our residents from the unsafe world. They do not understand the world outside this because the outside world doesn't understand them," says Yvonne van Amerongen, an employee at Hogewey who also helped develop the concept.Hogewey was officially opened in 2007, but the idea has now caught the attention of health-care professionals in Ontario and Alberta."We protect our residents from the unsafe world. They do not understand the world outside this because the outside world doesn't understand them."
​Rhonda Desroches, who helped create a smaller-scale Hogewey in Penetanguishene, Ont., says relatives of the residents are pleased with how happy their family members seem to be in the new facility.Dementia is a growing problem. According to the Alzheimer Society Canada, one out of 20 Canadians over 65 has Alzheimer's Disease, and that figure jumps to one in four for Canadians over 85. In 2012, the World Health Organization declared dementia a public health priority.Many dementia patients move into nursing homes, where they are monitored in a safe setting. But some medical professionals want to shift patients away from unfamiliar, clinical settings and into spaces that resemble more typical surroundings.The citizens of Hogewey share a house with about six others, and are classified according to one of seven lifestyles.
For example, former tradespeople often live together in homey accommodations and eat a lot of Dutch comfort food. Those used to an upper-class lifestyle may join the Gooi group, named after a posh Netherlands region, and are more likely to feast on French cuisine in a stylishly decorated abode.Each household has at least one health-care worker present who helps with housework and other tasks.Residents are free to stroll all through town."You will see [residents] sitting in a restaurant with a glass of wine or buying a box of chocolates from the supermarket," says van Amerongen of those who still understand the concept of money. A worker and a resident from each house walk to the market daily to buy groceries.Employees organize day trips to nearby shopping centres or towns. Special bikes allow two people to sit side by side so residents and health-care workers, volunteers or family members can cycle in pairs.Nearby townspeople frequent Hogewey's amenities, and often go to concerts or the annual Christmas fair. On Sint Maarten, a Dutch holiday similar to Halloween, children knock on residents' doors to sing songs in exchange for candy.

Like all Dutch nursing homes, Hogewey is partially funded through taxes. Residents pay a portion of the cost based on their income.Van Amerongen says she regularly consults with organizations outside the Netherlands that want to create similar facilities. Plans to transform four existing nursing homes and build two new ones in Oslo, for example, have progressed "quite far," she says.One of her colleagues frequently travels to Canada where there's increased interest in developing the concept. Researchers from the University of Alberta recently visited Hogewey to study it.
Last August, Georgian Bay Retirement home in Penetanguishene, Ont., opened a section designed to recreate the look and feel of the 1950s and '60s.Theme rooms include a vintage kitchen, a garage with a 1947 Dodge and a nursery with dolls designed to feel like actual babies, says Rhonda Desroches, who helped create the space. The idea is to try and transport patients to a time they may recall that is associated with positive feelings.
All the doors in the theme rooms look like bookshelves, so residents won't recognize them and stray.In Florida, a company called Miami Jewish Health Systems wants to create a program that reflects Hogewey's philosophy "to really make living as normal as possible within the scope of the disease," says Marc E. Agronin, the company's vice-president of behavioural health and clinical research.Miami Jewish Health Systems is planning a transformation of its 28-acre campus to give dementia patients more freedom by creating a safe space where they're not confined to their rooms.Total honesty can cause 'significant problems'

While certain health-care professionals see Hogewey as the future of dementia care, others criticize it for being dishonest.Some aspects of Hogewey seem "fantastic," says Julian Hughes, the deputy chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in London, England, which studies ethical issues in biology and medicine and advises policy makers.

It's worrisome when a village or aspects of it are deliberately deceitful, says Hughes, who was part of a working group for Nuffield's 2009 report on ethical issues in dementia, including truth-telling.

There are those that believe deceiving dementia patients breaches their trust. As the council's report states, some say it "serves to undermine the remaining grip the person with dementia may have on the everyday world." Patients who realize something is amiss could become upset and slightly paranoid, Hughes says.

Van Amerongen insists that kind of criticism comes from people who misunderstand how Hogewey operates. The people who work at Hogewey aren't merely actors trying to create the illusion of a normal neighbourhood, she says.

There are nurses on staff, but the amenities are operated by real cooks, waiters and other employees who aren't health-care professionals. They're just trained to deal with dementia patients.

"There's no trick here," says van Amerongen.

She says that while some Hogewey residents recognize the caregivers as nurses, others simply think of them as "a nice friend." Hughes says it's morally acceptable not to ruthlessly tell dementia patients the truth about certain situations. "There's a difference between a Potemkin village where everything is just a facade [and] a place like Hogewey."

In its 2009 report, the Nuffield Council determined it's important to consider a person's best interests, like whether the information would needlessly distress them. The council said sometimes it may be best to evade or give partial answers. When you tell someone suffering from dementia that a loved one has died, they may not remember, says Agronin from Miami Jewish Health Systems. It often makes little sense to repeatedly deliver the news, traumatizing them each time.

Agronin says that for him, it's about making people feel comfortable and oriented. That can be achieved by some of the things Hogewey does, like furnishing a patient's room and common spaces to be reminiscent of their previous home."There's a difference between a Potemkin village where everything is just a facade [and] a place like Hogewey."

Aleksandra Sagan · CBC News
May 4, 2015

Planning an elderly parent’s long trip

Planning an elderly parent's long trip requires thought and caution.

Your 80 year old mother wants to visit her sister who is older than she is and still lives in their small village in Scotland.

She says, "it is her 85th birthday coming up and if I do not visit her now I may never see her again". She is right and has a point; but the question is whether it is a good idea to go and if so alone or with someone? Flying has become a real chore and for elders it has many challenging components.

First of all, depending on your mother's health, there maybe issues with getting to the airport well in advance and waiting around for the flight to leave. There is the extra security hassle that is not kind to seniors as they must often wait for long period in line. Then there is the flight itself: unless one can afford to fly executive class it is not easy, especially if there are extra bathroom urgent needs. Changing planes often adds a lot more time and stress so all that has to be taken into account. The last thing is if there are pre-existing illnesses which there almost always are: they have to be stable for travel insurance to be reasonably secure in its coverage.

So if the decision is to go here are some things for you to consider and arrange:

  • If someone can accompany your mother that would be great
  • If there is a direct flight that would be preferable
  • Explore with the airline what kind of security and boarding assistance they offer
  • See how early really you have to be at the airport if you make all the proper arrangements
  • Check insurance companies to make sure that if you get a policy it will really fulfill its promises should something terrible happen
  • Make sure that at the arrive destination there will be proper greeting arrangements
  • See what medical access there is in the place she is going

So what about Scotland? Depending on the season and the cities there might be direct flights or, if not, just one stopover.

  • Medical care is very high quality.
  • The people in general are very helpful.
  • The food although not to everyone's taste is quite safe and nutritious depending on how much fish and chips you eat.

If she really wants to go, there is something to said for helping her to this as if not she may regret not having gone when it becomes too late, for the rest of her life.

Caregiver dementia

Caregiver dementia: oh yea, it's real.
There's an overlooked type of dementia, and it's more common than Alzheimer's.
For years, we’ve read that Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia. That’s not entirely true.The leading cause is “caregiver dementia,” which strikes an estimated 100 million overwhelmed and stressed-out caregivers worldwide. The term was used initially in the 1980s, and while not an official medical diagnosis, it includes symptoms such as disorientation, forgetfulness and depression.Stressful conditions produce high levels of the hormone cortisol, which, over time, may contribute to memory loss. Think about it: You’re working long hours, you see no end in sight and you’re exhausted. Who can think straight under those conditions?In my late 30s, while in the throes of caregiving for my father with Alzheimer’s, I couldn’t recall what year it was while writing a check at the grocery store. How does a woman in her late 30s ask the twenty-something cashier what year it is? Mustering the courage, I asked and she laughed, then looked away as if I were joking. Thinking I could leave that part of the check blank – but I couldn’t even recall the month or day – I asked again in desperation. She refused to tell me. If it weren’t for the older woman behind me who offered, “Honey, it’s 1997,” I’m sure I would have left without my groceries. The woman’s kindness enabled me to relax and surprisingly, the month and day easily came to mind. Despite the positive outcome, I felt anxious as I left the store and drove home.Imagine if I had been caring for my spouse instead of my father. A 2010 Utah study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society of 1,221 couples tracked for 12 years found that seniors caring for a husband or wife with dementia had six times the risk of getting dementia as members of the general population. Surprisingly, men were most susceptible, facing double that risk.   

Fortunately, caregiver dementia is reversible, as is dementia caused by depression, drug or alcohol abuse, hypothyroidism and vitamin B-12 deficiency.
Even undiagnosed urinary tract infections may lead to sudden behavior changes such as confusion, agitation, withdrawal or delirium according to the Alzheimer’s Society in the U.K.Medicines will also have varying effects, as we grow older. As we age, our liver and kidneys don’t work as efficiently resulting in a buildup over time of unprocessed medications. These chemicals become toxic leading to dementia symptoms or delirium.Which leaves us with caregiver dementia.Until caregivers are able to take proactive steps to overcome feelings of hopelessness resulting from the stress of caring for another person, they’ll continue to endure embarrassing and even scary moments.While on a familiar road, I had a momentary lapse of where I was, when it was and even who I was. It was scary, because I was driving. I maintained enough self-control to keep steering straight (fortunately, the road was straight) while maintaining a steady speed. This incident and a number of other wake-up calls made me finally reach out for help with caring for my father.

Caregivers are a hearty bunch, but we won’t be for long, unless we take notice when multiple alarm bells ring. If we don’t heed the warnings soon enough, many of us will die before those for whom we are caring. We lucky ones will wonder, as my husband and I did, if we were getting Alzheimer’s while trying to keep up with my father’s care. Seriously! There was a time we were looking for home-care options … for us!
The onset of caregiver dementia is real and it strikes primary caregivers. Those who heed the call and take action will survive.But there’s more to being a caregiver than just surviving. We need to apply both legs of our “caring” and “giving” nature to overcome and thrive. We start with a break. As little as a five-minute respite can make all the difference. Ultimately, we’ll need help. Today, caregivers have a variety of options to choose from, including in-home and adult day care, residential care and assisted living. The only other cure is to stop caregiving, and this is not an option for many.

Brenda Avadian, M.A., is the executive director of The Caregiver’s Voice, bringing family and professional caregivers knowledge, hope and joy since 1998. She is a caregiver expert speaker at state and national conferences. The author of nine books, Brenda’s career includes university professor, executive coach, keynoter, corporate consultant and caregiver. She also serves as a STUFFologist at STUFFology 101, where she advises people on how to declutter, while helping elders prepare to downsize. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Brenda resides in rural Los Angeles County, California. She serves as a director on the board of the Independent Book Publishers Association and loves hiking in the Angeles National Forest.