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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Patience May 30,2013

Written on my phone so please forgive the errors.
How often are we told to have patience? Ever since we are old enough to speak we are asked to
Wait to do something we want to do in favor of another perSon's wishes or desires . 
As  children we accept therequest often  poorly often loudly. As adults we suffer in silence. But we do suffer and quietly build resentments that form walls between loved ones.
How much worse that is when we become caregivers to a demented spouse or parent. We try to have the person maintain as much dignity as possible. We try to let him or her do as much as she can. 
But so often the repeated questions and the delay which we know will mean what we ask will be forgotten make us lose patience or do the task ourselves.
Even now with my husband in a memory care center it is difficult to be patient if he is napping when we come to visit.
Do we wait? Leave and come back later?leave and not come back? Wake him up?
And what if he is hungry for a snack and we know he won't eat his dinner if we give him French fries now?
Let's try to remember our 2013 goal
Comfort instead of crisis
Take it easy leave if you are tense or in a hurry.
New studies. Show our lovEd Ones respond to the emotions of those around them. If we are calm and patient there is more chan ce their anxiety will decrease.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Connections Sunday, May 26, 2013

It is so heartwarming to send and receive mail when I am far from home, probably now more than ever before as I am traveling alone on a journey of discovery for my book about my grandparents' survival during the Holocaust.

For many years, my husband and I were thrilled with the opportunity to travel together and to visit many parts of Europe and Asia neither one of us had seen before. We were able to trade our apartment in New York city for others' in Denmark, Scotland, France, The Netherlands, Italy and  Spain but never in Germany because although I was safely born in the United States, my relatives were caught in Nazi times and I boycotted the country until 2006 when I met some wonderful folks who are keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive in Germany to ensure that atrocities like those never occur again.

So now I am ready to explore the route taken by my grandparents after they were deported from their beloved Frankfurt Germany to Poland and beyond. I will write my second book about their journey and about mine as I discover the sites they traversed, meet some of the people the encountered and recall the resilience and the fortitude they had to be able to withstand the harsh conditions they faced and arrive in the US after the war whole and ready to recompose their lives with their family.

I could never have done this journey without the daily presence of my son Steve who watches over my husband   at his memory care center. He sends me daily texts about the games they play with the ball, about the success he has looking through the Popular Science and Ranger Rick magazines and of course the walks they take around the home. When Steve writes "Bob is happy," I am too.

When the dozen or so folks on my email list respond to me, I feel connected and able to go on, reliving the ordeal my grandparents withstood, without getting lost in the difficulties and being able to concentrate on the connections that are so important in all our lives.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Sleep Problems May 24, 2013

Do you have problems sleeping at night? Does your partner complain of your snoring or wheezing? Are you a lean person because we know that obesity alone often interferes with normal sleep?

Here's another study trying to find causation for Alzheimer's disease. A study found that lean people with sleep disturbances were more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. 

When my husband and I moved to Arizona, one of our primary care physicians, Dr. R. suggested that sleep   problems including loud snoring and breath stopping( I could count to fourteen before my husband inhaled after a loud snore which awakened me) might be causing his Mild Cognitive Impairment with which Bob had been diagnosed in 2006.

But my husband refused to follow through with the sleep assessment. He didn't want to stay overnight in the physician's office with a cathode attached to his finger and electrodes attached to his head and a clinician watching him sleep. And the treatment isn't any fun either. It is hard to get used to the machine that helps one breathe without interruption.I understand but if it were me, I'd pay attention because I now know what a difficulty it really is to lose oneself to Alzheimer's disease.

Not that anything is guaranteed, we know. We may suffer the inconvenience of a sleep apnea machine and still develop Alzheimer's disease. And I do ignore most of the correlational study results, but this one makes sense to me. The study participants who were lean and had sleep disturbance had smaller hyppocampus development. That is the region of the brain where memories are formed and stored.

Schedule cuddle time with your partner for the early morning and save yourself--literally--for your old age.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Contentment May 22, 2013

What does it mean to be content? Does contentment suggest a lack of ambition, a sense of satisfaction with the status quo? Are we programmed by Madison Avenue never to be content? Do we want an iPhone6 or a new XBox 360 even if we received the last one this past Christmas?

"May contentment reign within its borders, peace and happiness within each home." That's a sentence from  a prayer for our country recited every Saturday morning during Sabbath services.

Are we not content when we are striving? As we repair the winter's damage to our homes and lawns, as we plant and weed our gardens it seems we have many feelings, but I guess we feel mostly that we have a chore to do and that we may feel content when it is done. But everything is never done. Do we take the time to become contented with the successful completion of whatever we actually do?

As caregivers we ask ourselves what did we like about our day as each day is different and we cannot expect life to be routine or remain the same. We need to cultivate a feeling of contentment from smaller and smaller accomplishments from ourselves and from our loved ones.

Anxiety is a great part of Alzheimer's disease because we all know what's coming and the afflicted person also has some awareness of what has already been lost. Some of our loved ones remain sweet, but their anxiety shows when they ask the same questions over and over again.

So it is very surprising for me that my husband who was diagnosed in 2006 and who became very anxious, aggressive and belligerent, has now become mellow, happy and yes, content.

He knows the routine under which he lives, he looks forward to the predictability of each day, enjoys company and plays relatedly--not for a long time at any one activity because he forgets, but his anxiety is gone which makes my life so much better too.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Media Hype May 16, 2013

We know that financial concerns influence what researchers study. Sometimes large pharma or other companies provide grant money to institutions and steer research in ways that may benefit them.Of course   there is always the potential that a new breakthrough will benefit science and all humankind.

Companies exist to make money. If the product or service they sponsor helps the consumer that's wonderful; the business grows and everyone is better off.

Alzheimer's disease is in the forefront these days for research grants and for new business start-ups. That's great as we need new breakthroughs to discover the cause and the prevention of this devastating disease.

I belong to a google search Alzheimer's disease which every week lands descriptions of the most popular new research trends   and failures into my inbox. Two of these which came to my attention this morning are of concern to me. 

The first is a research which studied over a period of three years which study subjects developed squamous cell or basal cell carcinomas (skin cancers) and which developed signs of dementia and came up with a correlation that suggests that folks who have these non-melanoma skin cancers are less likely to develop dementia. 

The second is a new business which claims to assess an individual who pays $1200 or $1500. to a new firm to come up with a Brain Reserve Index. The higher the number the greater would be the person's ability to resist  the development of Alzheimer's disease. If the number is low, the firm would provide specific diet and exercise to improve the person's score.

With the speed of the internet these articles get wide attention for good or not. I can see folks reading the headlines and deciding "skin cancer's not so bad; this way I won't get Alzheimer's."

I can also see folks paying large sums of money to see if their Brain Reserve Index is high enough to prevent Alzheimer's.

CORRELATION is NOT CAUSATION.  So far dementia is random, hitting any of us at any time. Don't be lulled into false hope. Stay healthy, eat well, exercise in moderation and read carefully. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Can't Take Time to Relax? May 15, 2013

I was handed a flyer last week in a support group, written by Emma Haak, and published in Oprah.com this past February, which describes the consequences of stress on our bodies.

Our brains are the first place stress begins by setting off our 'fight-flight' alarm signal. Adrenaline and cortisol are produced which increase heart rate and blood pressure. All these are wonderful for short term escape from danger, but under constant stress these signals remain active and the higher cortisol level can increase the risk for depression, hypertension and even some cancers.

Stressed folks are about 40% more likely to develop Mild Cognitive Impairment too, because those same hormones(cortisol and adrenaline) may damage or shrink the hippocampus region of the brain, which is the place where memories are created and stored.

Heart attacks and strokes are 34% more likely if there is stress between spouses or long-term friends.

Stomach upsets are reported in 25% of people who live stressed-out lives because prolonged anxiety slows digestion. Our nervous systems direct  energy to the organs and muscles needed for survival, causing nausea, indigestion, constipation and bloating.

Fertility problems can also be aggravated by anxiety. A study showed that women undergoing IVF were 2.6 times as likely to be successful if they also participated in a stress-management program. 

For many of us, summertime can be a bit more relaxing, but caregivers are not relieved of their responsibilities  according to the school calendar or slow business seasons. We caregivers have to permit others to help us care for our loved ones who are physically disabled or who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer's disease or other life-limiting illnesses,whether by recruiting volunteers, family members, paid respite care workers or residential facilities. But stress relief we must find. Our health is in danger.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Expectations Sunday, May 12, 2013


Here comes another holiday when we have expectations, obligations, a sense of entitlement perhaps and often enough the day ends with disappointments, resentments and a feeling of disillusion.

Why? The practice began with the fourth commandment: Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother. How exactly are we to do that? 

Honoring our parents was defined for me as good behavior. "I don't WANT ANYTHING from my children," my parents taught "Just that you be good to each other and do well in school and in life." That doesn't mean my mother didn't appreciate the homemade or school-made cards and arts projects we created as children. She loved them. The phone calls when we were far from home, the cards we sent which were all kept forever helped us to know we were showing her Honor and Respect

There were unseen and often unspoken expectations including whom we chose to marry and how we reared their eight grandchildren which also gave my mother great happiness and reasons to feel loved. Not all of us can achieve that as some parents have difficult expectations for their children to fulfill.
Just as some parents have feelings of disappointment from their children, we children often are disappointed in our parents. No one is able to meet another's expectations fully. We just need to find even a small way to express our gratitude for the life and blessings we have on this Mother's Day. 

We were never a sentimental family, expressing our love except for signing a card until Mom was older and developed Alzheimer's disease and needed to hear us say we loved her. My children and grandchildren and I say it every time we speak-I love you- sometimes but not always with a hug.

So what do I expect from my children and grandchildren? A card and a phone call from each would be nice and I am blessed to be able to spend the day with two of my three children and two grandsons who hopefully will be kind to each other. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Aluminum and Alzheimer's Disease May 9, 2013


After my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease in 1992, I began my research into what was known then about this disease and I try to keep up with the increased studies and information out there today not only because my husband now has the disease but also to protect my own brain health as I age. One of the purposes of this blog is to share with you the reports on the research I find useful.

One of these is the qestion about the relationship between aluminum-foil,cooking pans and utensils and anti-perspirant to the development of Alzheimer's disease.In a spate of research projects that date back to 1965, excess aluminum has been found in autopsies of brains of people with Alzheimer's disease. There has been controversy about the meaning of that finding, and no conclusions or recommendatons have been drawn from it. The follow-up studies have been mixed and since aluminum is the third most frequent element in nature, it is difficult to study-- the results can be very easily contaminated.

Now the experts are saying there are more important studies to undertake to find the cure or cause of Alzheimer's disease and aluminum has fallen out of favor as a study project. But just as I watch my salt intake and my mercury intake, I can watch my aluminum intake and I have switched to deodorant which doesn't include aluminum, I use only stainless steel pots and I have greatly reduced my use of aluminum foil. I can do these things easily. Why not err on the side of caution?

The researchers, however, want us to concentrate on  other factors iwhich include things such as diabetes and heart disease — that studies have shown are strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease; Other factors we can control are our level of intellectual stimulation and educational attainment and social engagement. These factors may one day help researchers treat and even prevent the disease, 

My mother had neither diabetes nor heart disease and she contracted Alzheimer's disease anyway. My husband was diagnosed with both diabetes and heart disease although he carefully watched his sugar intake, has a high level of intellectual achievement and stimulation and a network of friends. None of these is predictive. We can only live as healthily as we can and live by doing everything in moderation.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Truth or Consequences May 4, 2013

I guess you have to belong to my generation to remember the television show I refer to in the title of this blog. In real life, I am responding to a question often asked of me.
 "How do I get my (spouse, parent, other relative or friend) evaluated for possible Alzheimer's disease when I recognize there may be a problem and the person is not cooperative?"
This is a serious question indeed, as there are now medications available that slow the progress of memory loss and permit the affected person several more years of active functioning as a spouse, companion, worker and relative. There is also as aspect of delaying no longer since it takes a while for the loved ones' friends or relatives to acknowledge they see a problem. We are all initially in denial. No one wants to know that our loved one has any form of dementia, as you remember from my book Put That Knife Away.
Your loved ones, also like my husband know something is the matter with themselves earlier than anyone else.My husband knew, by the flooding in our basement, that he had forgotten to drain the pan under the boiler because when the flood happened and I asked him to call the servicman, he knew that was not necessary. That's not what he said however. "We'll just wait for the next scheduled maintenance," was his response.
When my husband had difficulty finding ordinary things like a pair of scissors or a spatula, he blamed me for putting these things in a different place other than where they belonged, causing him not to find them, rather than admitting to me that he could not remember where they did belong.
Of course he did not want to ask a doctor's opinion about himself; he wanted me to visit with a psychiatrist!
The answer my friend is deception. Tell your loved one to get ready, we're going for a ride to visit a physician for yourself, for someone else the loved one loves and simply go.Let your loved one speak with the physician alone or with you and let the memory care clinic ask you to join in and answer the questionaire. They are professionals and they know how to respond to your loved ones' fears.