Tag Archives: Alzheimer’s caregivers

Caregiver Burnout: Signs, Symptoms and Solutions

Posted by on March 8, 2013 under Caregiver Corner | 4 Comments to Read

Caregiver Health Statistics Snapshot:

  • 20 hrs: Average hours per week of unpaid in-home care provided by family caregivers
  • 87%: Percentage of caregivers who are not getting enough sleep
  • 91%: Percentage of caregivers whose own health is in decline & who report depression
  • 4-8 years: Average life expectancy decrease for those caring for an Alzheimer’s patient

Chances are, if you’re one of the 75 million adults in North America caring for an elderly, ill, or disabled family member, you’re managing symptoms of depression, high levels of stress and often feeling overwhelmed.  For caregivers who are also raising children or holding down a full-time job (known as “The Sandwich Generation”) the combined pressures of working, running a family, and caring for a loved one actually hinders their immune system’s ability to fight disease – leading to a doubled risk of developing chronic illness earlier in life.

Caregiver burnout is real, and it is serious.  The last thing a working caregiver needs is to struggle with a decline in their own health – so take a moment to learn the signs and symptoms of burnout, as well as five easy tips to help you recover.

Signs and Symptoms: 

Because burnout is not immediately obvious when you’re functioning in a high-stress environment, it’s often noticed first by friends or family.  If loved ones have expressed concern about your health, take those concerns seriously.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you been feeling pessimistic or dissatisfied?
  • Do you find yourself withdrawing from friends or avoiding social interactions?
  • Are you emotionally exhausted?
  • Are you less interested in work or hobbies that you used to enjoy?
  • Do you find yourself becoming impatient, irritable, or argumentative more often?
  • Are you increasing your alcohol consumption or prescription medication so that you can relax?
  • Do you feel like you’re under the weather more often?

If you’ve answered yes to two or more questions, you may be suffering from caregiver burnout.  Fortunately, what is done can be undone!  Here are 5 tips to help you recover from burnout and to avoid it in the future:

1. Set firm limits.  Emotional health is like a bank account.  You can only give – or lend – your available funds.  If you’re consistently “overdrawn”, be realistic about how much time and energy you can spend on caregiving, and set firm limits.  If you find yourself getting “low”, make time to replenish yourself in any of the ways listed below.   If you give until there’s nothing left, you not only can’t be a successful caregiver, but your own health could be at risk.

2. Build time for yourself into your schedule.   It’s not easy, but try to incorporate “me” time into your schedule.   Think about activities you’ve enjoyed in the past, and try to find a way to work them into your routines.  Whether it’s listening to music, gardening, cooking, working on a puzzle or walking the dog – try to find time for activities that take your mind off your daily routine.

3. Join a caregiver support group.  If you’re reading this article, then you’re already looking for guidance and support.  Don’t stop there!  There are caregiver support groups everywhere – try calling your local senior center, hospital, doctor’s office or place of worship to inquire about meetings. If you can’t leave the house, there are plenty of caregiver support groups available online.  Caregiver support groups offer a safe place to vent your frustrations, share experiences and ask advice from people in similar positions.

4. Start a journal.  Whether it’s in a notebook or on a computer, writing can be a therapeutic exercise.  Journals provide a private place for you to express your concerns, frustrations and emotions.  Not comfortable writing?  There are other options – some people turn to creating art, including everything from ink-and-pen drawings to cutouts and craft-paper.  Creative projects can be the perfect way to express feelings that can’t be put into words.  For more on this technique, see our blog article: Creativity and Self-Care.

5. Take care of your health.  No, seriously!  Take extra care to maintain a healthy diet, including super foods such as bananas, blueberries, dark chocolate, fish, nuts, eggs, and dark leafy vegetables (yes, we said chocolate!).  Exercise for at least 20 minutes, 3 times a week—even a short walk around the neighborhood can help.  Try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night (regular exercise will help you sleep better, too), and visit your doctor for regular check-ups.

Remember, you’re not alone.  Reach out for help if you need it; call a friend, family member, or even a volunteer from a senior center or church – there are many resources available if you’re willing to ask!   If you can afford it, give yourself time to recharge by hiring a caregiver from a reputable home care agency, or check with your loved one’s insurance carrier to see if they provide part-time outpatient care.

For more caregiver advice, visit our Caregiver Corner blog on TotalHomeCareSupplies.com.

Fearing the Onset of Genetic Alzheimer’s

Posted by on February 15, 2013 under Resources | Be the First to Comment

buy adult diapers at totalhomecaresupplies.comWhen we think about Alzheimer’s, we usually think about older adults.  That’s because approximately 95% of the Alzheimer’s cases we hear about have developed later in life – after age 60.    The causes of Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease are still not fully understood, though researchers suspect that a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors  contribute to our likelihood of developing the disease.

For a small percentage of Alzheimer’s patients, however, there is very little question about the cause of their disease.  Familial Alzheimer’s Disease (FAD) is a form of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease that is caused by genetic mutations on any of three different chromosomes:  21, 14, and 1.  A child whose parent developed Familial Alzheimer’s Disease has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the mutated gene, and if so, they will very likely develop FAD.  FAD occurs in people between the ages of 30 and 60 years old.

The New York Times recently published a poignant article written by a woman whose grandfather and father both died of the disease.  Her father – driven to a career in neurology by his own father’s onset of Alzheimer’s – taught his young daughter all about the disease he would later succumb to.  With a 50/50 chance of developing FAD herself, she voices her own anxiety and fears.”

“I’m not losing track of my car keys, which is pretty standard in aging minds,” she writes. “ Nor have I ever forgotten to turn off the oven after use, common in menopausal women. I can always find my car in the parking lot, although lots of ‘normal’ folk can’t.  Rather, I suddenly can’t remember the name of someone with whom I’ve worked for years…am I losing track of me?”

In her article, Nancy Stearns Bercaw voices the fears we all fight off watching the slow deterioration of the ones we love.  You can read the entire article, “Waiting for the Forgetting to Begin” on the New York Times website.

For more information on the 10 Early Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s, check out the Alzheimer’s Association web page.

Is it Alzheimer’s? 5 Treatable Conditions Mistaken for Alzheimer’s

Posted by on February 7, 2013 under Caregiver Corner | Be the First to Comment

Are you concerned about increasing forgetfulness?  Is your loved one showing signs of Dementia?  If you’re afraid you’re overreacting, you’re not alone: according to the Sun Herald, a recent report looked at nearly 1,000 people with Dementia and found that up to 30% didn’t have Alzheimer’s Disease.  Instead, the true culprits were treatable medical conditions that caused Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, including negative reactions to medication.

worried woman image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Some treatable medical conditions include:

  1. Vitamin deficiencies.  Extremely low levels of folic acid, niacin, or vitamins B-1, B-6 or B-12 can cause Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.  Not sure what your vitamin levels are?  Ask your doctor for a blood test to rule a vitamin deficiency out!  According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, older people are at a higher risk for low levels of B-6 and B-12.
  2. Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs).  A lesser-known culprit, bladder infections can cause delirium in the elderly.  And when incontinence is part of the diagnosis, signs and symptoms of a bladder or urinary tract infection can be hard to spot.  Need to check?  Contact your doctor right away if you have any suspicions.  Signs and symptoms in the elderly can include sudden onset confusion, loss of appetite, or incontinence.  Untreated UTIs can lead to kidney damage or even life-threatening blood infections, so don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you’re concerned.
  3. Underactive Thyroid.  20% of women and 5% of men over 60 suffer from an underactive thyroid gland, which slows down the metabolism to unhealthy levels.  This condition, called hypothyroidism, can cause fatigue, weakness, depression and forgetfulness.  A simple blood test to check hormone levels is all it takes to rule this condition out.
  4. Depression.  Depression in the elderly is a widespread problem, but it’s not normal.  Many common symptoms of depression can be part of the aging process, making it difficult to detect and diagnose.  Some of the most visible symptoms include fatigue, appetite loss, and trouble sleeping, all of which can increase confusion and forgetfulness.  Fortunately, when diagnosed, depression is very treatable – just ask your doctor do a depression evaluation.
  5. Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH).  Another underdiagnosed condition, NPH may be difficult to pronounce, but thankfully it’s not as difficult to treat.   NPH is an abnormal increase of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, which happens when the normal flow is blocked in some way.  The elderly are a high-risk group for NPH, although it can happen at any age; causes include head trauma, infection, tumors or surgery, among others.  The increased pressure on the brain causes symptoms that mimic Alzheimer’s, including mental impairment or dementia, difficulty walking or slower movements, and impaired bladder control.  Once the extra fluid is shunted away, behavior usually return to normal.  Only a medical professional can diagnose NPH.

In addition, some medications used to treat depression, anxiety, acid reflux, Parkinson’s disease, allergies and overactive bladder can trigger dementia-like side effects.  These drugs block acetylcholine, which Alzheimer’s patients already have in reduced levels.  Another medication that could be a culprit is digoxin – which is used to slow your heart rate if you have atrial fibrillation or heart failure. If you notice a change in behavior shortly after starting a new medicine regimen, call your doctor immediately.

For more information on Alzheimer’s signs and symptoms, visit the Alzheimer’s Association: http://www.alz.org/.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Announces Free Educational Conference For Caregivers| New York, May 18, 2012

Posted by on May 3, 2012 under Caregiver Corner | Be the First to Comment

This just in from the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA):

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America to host a free educational conference for caregiver in New York on May 18, 2012.  Entertainer David Cassidy, Nutrition Expert Joy Bauer will address caregivers

NEW YORK, NY—As government leaders increasingly acknowledge the need for greater education about Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) will provide an understanding of the disease and practical strategies to handle daily challenges at a free, care-focused conference on May 18 in New York City.

The all-day “Five Boroughs Concepts in Care Conference” at the Crowne Plaza Hotel-Times Square will include separate sessions specifically for people with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, family caregivers and healthcare professionals.

Award-winning entertainer and multi-platinum recording artist David Cassidy, well-known for starring in TV’s “The Partridge Family” and numerous roles on other TV shows and Broadway, will share “A Son’s Story” as the keynote luncheon speaker. Cassidy’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease seven years ago, and he has since become a spokesperson and activist for the cause.

The conference will also feature Joy Bauer, nutrition and health expert for the “Today” show and a best-selling author, who will discuss smart lifestyle choices for brain health.

Also on the agenda is Teepa Snow, a renowned dementia care expert whose engaging presentations are packed with practical tips. Snow will present strategies to manage challenging behaviors, and to ensure better communication and safety.

Among other experts, Max Rudansky, M.D., chief of neurology at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, NY, will present a medical update on Alzheimer’s disease.

It is estimated that more than 450,000 New Yorkers have Alzheimer’s disease, according to a report by the New York State Coordinating Council for Services Related to Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias. In the report, council members emphasized that “one of the greatest challenges is debunking myths and demystifying Alzheimer’s disease,” and identified the immediate need to provide accurate information and outreach to the public and healthcare professionals.

The conference, which takes place from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., will also include an exhibit hall and interactive activities.

Addressing the emotional toll of dementia, attendees will participate in a candle lighting ceremony to pay tribute to individuals with the disease. Also, AFA will display about 40 heartfelt panels from its AFA Quilt to Remember, the nation’s first large-scale quilt that portrays life stories of people affected by the brain disorder.

Focusing on symptoms of the disease, AFA will offer confidential memory screenings—a non-diagnostic tool that can signal a need for further evaluation; and the Virtual Dementia Tour, an interactive tool developed by Second Wind Dreams that helps people better understand what it feels like to have dementia.

The conference will also include breakfast and lunch, as well as respite care for individuals with dementia who need supervision while their family members attend the conference.

For more information call 866.232.8484

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