Category: Uncategorized

Striving for IDEAL via Support Groups

Being a care partner to an individual with dementia is hard. Each stage has new challenges, and adapting to them is demanding. So, when I read the newest research on living well with dementia, my initial knee-jerk response was “great—it is all back to us—the care partner.” But the truth is, at this point in dementia care, we are the only change agents.  Improving the Dementia Experience and Enhancing Active Life, better none as the IDEAL study, is a longitudinal study looking at ‘living well’ with dementia that is being conducted in the UK that started in 2014 and will…

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Of Mice & Men

As we move into a new world with outdoor exercise, masks, and less of our got-to exercises, research is giving us new validation on the value of exercise. Research does not always distinguish a dementia type in a study which allows us to generalize to our lives with dementia. In the case of exercise’s impact on dementia, there really are no down sides whether aerobic and or strength training. Exercise’s impact on dementia is a continually growing field of research with a recent study looking specifically at Parkinson’s Disease and long-term voluntary exercise.1 This eight week study used mice as…

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Brain Connections via Digital Connection

As the CDC continues to promote that older adults are safer at home, those of us caring for an individual with dementia may be finding our routines are suffering from lack of cognitive and social connections. Research specific to dementia care partners is still sparse, but anecdotally we are hearing care partners expressing sadness, anxiety and depression resulting from isolation. Those who had routines that included live memory cafes, social gatherings and even adult day attendance are struggling with the prolonged isolation that has resulted from staying at home as protection from COVID-19. Almost three months in, some of us…

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Dementia Comfort & COVID-19

As a dementia care partner, the global pandemic has created a new set of concerns and stressors.  Referencing the latest research may help guide you as you navigate the new care landscape. Alzheimer’s Disease International1has offered clear and concise guidance on day-to-day approaches in this graphic: These practical tips are helpful, and yet as we continue to practice Safer-at-Home, care partners may be finding their mental health at risk. ADI suggests that we need not only physical protection but also mental and psychosocial. In an overview of China’s efforts in addressing COVID-19’s impact on dementia care, the need for psychological…

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Enduring the Pause

This season is one of a lot of symbolism in the Judeo-Christian culture. Whether it is saving an empty chair at the Passover Seder for Elijah or the wait between Good Friday and Easter Sunday—there is a pause. As a world we are experiencing a pause, with vague hopes of what will return, trepidation of what will be different. Being in the present is confounded by our internal fears, our impatience and our discomfort with change. As dementia care partners we too have many pauses, whether they are valleys of decline or plateaus of stability—the difficulty lies in staying focused…

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Connecting Through Technology

Social distancing does not have to feel like a jail sentence. But when you are feeling socially isolated and caring for a loved one with dementia, it can certainly feel like it. How can we navigate the changes in both our lives and theirs? Perhaps your loved one enjoyed attending a group, a center, eating out or going to the gym with you. Perhaps you were able to flee the house for a few hours and do self-care things.  Now as we navigate COVID-19, we are called to adapt. Technology can be an asset. If you are intimidated by technology,…

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Springtime Light

As Spring gets closer, we see changes in light. Whether it is Daylight Savings Time and springing forward or a subtle change in trees budding—our world is moving toward more light. As our care partner’s brain changes, we must change to give care. That change can bring up feelings of resentment, anger, guilt, shame, loneliness and depression. Even as the natural world gets brighter, our path may feel full of shadows. Spring light holds a lesson for caregivers.  A gardening resource explains that light comes in colors.1 In Spring, red light provides the energizing chlorophyll to make a plant green….

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Sweetheart Messages

In the season of conversation hearts, a candy that has long represented Valentine’s day, how can we express our love to individuals who are changing as quickly as their brain changes with dementia? Dr. Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages describes how individuals have a primary and secondary love language.1 The five love languages are: Words of Affirmation Quality Time Receiving Gifts Acts of Service Physical Touch As a caregiver you may be able to define your loved one’s primary love language by reflecting on the way they have expressed love in the past. Did your mom give gifts more often…

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Romancing Dementia

Living with dementia results in a lot of changes, particularly in terms of touch. Whether you are a wife, husband, daughter or friend—it becomes difficult to know how best to respond. The use of touch can be very effective. The Functional Assessment Staging Tool is a tool widely used to assess where individuals are in the seven stages of dementia progression.2 This well validated tool shows that as a person’s brain degenerates, they move back in time to younger ages of emotional and cognitive processing. Concepts, skills and emotional connections that were normal as an adult start regressing into adolescent…

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Hindsight & 2020

As we enter 2020, a year that came faster than most of us imagined possible, we can use it as a year to focus on perspective. As caregivers of loved ones with dementia, focus and perspective are often warring elements.  We focus on the changes we are witnessing and often lose sight of the bigger picture. Or get so focused on the long-range that we miss what is right in front of us. When we revert to hind sight we may be able to reflect on early signs that our loved one’s brain was changing.  Perhaps it was an increased…

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