Monday, November 26, 2012

A Holiday Wish

Thanksgiving is that special time of year that we count our blessings and thank God especially for all of our friends and family. We, at Alzheimer’s Services hope all of you had a very Happy Thanksgiving season. We are deeply grateful to all of you who support of our mission. As the holiday season continues, please remember in your prayers those who are stricken with Alzheimer’s disease and cannot remember all the wonderful memories we reflect upon during this time of year.  Also, please remember to pray for their caregivers to have strength, courage, and patience during the difficult journey of caring for those who are affected by this debilitating disease. 
Again, we are grateful for the many blessings and our many successes during 2012, and we feel poised and ready for the challenges ahead because we have the support of people who see our work as important. Please join us soon for a Cause to Remember, so you can see first-hand the person-centered care that takes place, not only in Charlie’s Place, our respite center, but throughout the entire organization. Dates are listed on our website. Again, Happy Holidays!

Debbie Little, Development Director

Monday, November 19, 2012

Change of Seasons, Change of Colors

I had the chance to visit the Texas Hill Country recently and the rich Fall colors from sycamore, maple and oak trees bordered the winding highway to create a most enjoyable ride throughout that special area of my home State.

What an awesome feast for the eyes! An accumulation of emotions surfaced as my eyes focused on tree after tree in passing. I thought about the change of seasons, the change of colors, the change of time, the journey of Alzheimer’s.

Why do these leaves change color anyway? A short Science lesson tells us that plants use glucose as food for energy for growing. The way plants turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugar is called photosynthesis. A chemical called chlorophyll helps make photosynthesis happen. Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color. As summer ends and autumn comes, the days get shorter and shorter. This is how the trees "know" to begin getting ready for winter.

During winter, there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis. The trees will rest, and live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making factories. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As the bright green fades away, we begin to see yellow and orange colors. Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves all along. We just can't see them in the summer, because they are covered up by the green chlorophyll. The bright reds and purples we see in leaves are made mostly in the fall. The brown color of trees like oaks is made from wastes left in the leaves.

I was thinking about these changing colors of leaves, and the Thanksgiving holiday, as I met with a distraught caregiver whose wife has Alzheimer’s. He is definitely in the winter of their lives.  The sun has faded into non-existence for him, so to speak, and his family is changing routines and gatherings, much like the leaves change their colors. The “bright green” has definitely faded from their once “chlorophylled” lives, where the wife/mom took care of the family, organized and prepared holiday gatherings and gloated over children and grandchildren.

When “winter” comes harshly for a caregiver…those days when he/she has given every ounce of strength and emotion in caring for their loved one with the disease and nothing works...we should go to our “food” that we have stored during our “summer” days...those days when there was some cognition with our loved one, the days when he/she was manageable, the days when the whole family enjoyed a myriad of present moments  This “food” or captured memories provides us with a means to sustain us, the opportunities to store that biographical history of our loved ones and opportunities to educate ourselves on the progression and characteristics of the Alzheimer’s journey. Our colors only change when we peel back those layers of green chlorophyll and allow ourselves to bring forth the yellows, and reds and purples, and then, wisely, throw away all the browns, the wastes, which are the regrets, the guilt, the “could’ve/should’ve/would’ve” mantras that occupy our minds in the caregiving process.

So, as the majesty of Fall colors fade, as leaves make piles on the ground, as we change seasons and draw near holiday gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas, hold a single leaf in your hand. Think about how its life has changed through the seasons, its purpose in providing food, nurture and protection, and its wonderful aspect of being something of unique beauty that the eyes can behold. 

That’s someone with Alzheimer’s, too. It’s just that the world is sometimes too busy to recognize the change of colors. 

Dana Territo, Director of Services

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Recollection Collection Home Care Giver’s Kit

Even when memory fails and abilities diminish, friends and relatives can find activities that engage their loved one by adapting favorite hobbies from the past or trying new ones such as listening to or playing music, doing art projects or making cookies together. The key is to keep trying to include the person in activities even if they're relatively simple.

People with dementia may not react the way they did before they got sick, but they still need company and stimulation.  You might see their eyes light up.  They may be able to smile, make a joke, or engage in a way that may surprise you.  

A few months ago, an elderly woman in a skilled-nursing facility was thought to be nonverbal until music therapy was implemented in her daily activities.  Hearing some familiar music she once enjoyed, the woman joined in with words and happy gestures. She is still singing to this day! 

We at Alzheimer’s Services are tweaking some last details to something NEW for our Care Givers!  The Recollection Collection Home Care Giver’s kit.  The kit will include activities for cognitive, sensory, and visual stimulation for your loved one.  These activities are sure to help maintain a meaningful connection with your loved one.  The handy travel case will allow you to travel with it for those holiday trips out of town! We will announce more on this exciting project in the near future!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Preventing Falls

Falls are a common cause of injury in older adults.  Broken hips are just one of the risks of falling.  Plus, the fear of falling may cause a person to limit his or her mobility.  But you can do a lot to reduce the chances that you or someone you care for will fall.  Look below for tips that can help. 

Most serious falls occur at home.
  • Look around the house for items that may cause someone to trip and fall.
  • Make sure all rugs and mats are skid proof or secured with carpet tape.
  • Remove electrical cords from pathways.
  • Keep floors and stairways free from clutter.  Pick up papers, books, clothes and shoes.
  • Roll up hoses and pick up tools in the yard.

Improve lighting in the home.
  • Brighter lights can help a person see better and may prevent a fall.
  • Have a lamp or night light near the bed.
  • Even if the room is familiar, always turn on a light before walking into a dark area.  Consider using motion-, voice- or clap-activated switches.

Make the bathroom safer.
  • Place a non-slip mat in the shower or tub.
  • Install grab bars in the shower, tub and next to the toilet.
  • If a person’s balance isn’t reliable, a shower bench with non-skid tips can be used in the shower or tub.
  • A raised toilet seat is helpful for people who have trouble getting up and down from a regular toilet.

Wear safe shoes.  Use a cane or walker if needed.
  • Choose shoes that are easy to walk in and give good support.
  • Avoid shoes with slippery soles and those with high heels.
  • Using a cane or walker can help you maintain your balance.

Poor vision can lead to a fall.
  • A regular eye exam can determine if glasses are needed or if the current glasses are the right strength.
  • An eye doctor can also check for cataracts or other conditions that may limit vision.

Regular exercise is important.
  • Daily exercise helps maintain balance, flexibility and strength.
  • Ask a health care provider about which kinds of exercise are best.

Review medications with a health care provider.
  • Some medications or combination of medications can make a person drowsy or lightheaded.  This can increase the risk of falling.

Falls contribute to many serious injuries in older adults.  But falls are often due to hazards that are easy to fix.