Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Some Tips That Might Help

From time to time I like to list the therapies and also the things that have happened by serendipity that have helped my mother do so well for so long, just in case others might be helped. She is 87, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 8 years ago and exhibited symptoms a half dozen years before that; and yet she is still in the mid-stages of the disease.  

Before you read the list below I need to say this: lots of people with strong faith in God nevertheless have a rocky time progressing through Alzheimer's.  Many factors, including the part of the brain that has been damaged by the disease, affect the progression of dementia and the manner in which symptoms present.

So, don't feel badly if these things don't apply to your situation or do not help your dementia patient. Depending on the stage your loved one is in, all you can really do against such a formidable foe as Alzheimer's disease is to keep hoping and praying and doing the best you can day by day.

Disclaimer:  This is in no way medical advice for others.  See a doctor before you implement any supplements or therapy! Even something that seems so innocuous as caffeine or fish oil can have effects on other medications.  
1.  Mom has a strong faith that God is in control. 
2.  She journals.  This habit was established long before she had A.D. (in other words, don't buy your A.D. patient a journal and then feel upset when it is not used--but you might consider establishing the habit yourself. Studies have shown that people who journal do better with early dementia...). She uses her notebook as an auxiliary memory, checking it often to see what has happened during the day. She writes things like this:  8:00 Linda brought breakfast.  9:00 love the music that's playing  9:30  bathroom break  10:00 better get dressed.  Things like that. 
3.  There is a clock and a whiteboard with the date and year within her line of vision. 
4.  Her room has a great big south window that floods her apartment with light.  Her chair is in front of this window.  We put a bird feeder just outside the window so that she looks into the light.  I'm convinced that this light therapy is beneficial for her.  
5.  Music that was familiar to her in the past plays all day long.  I load her cd player with three cd's and press "repeat."  She likes jazz, hymns, and barbershop quartets.  She sings along.  She writes the lyrics in her journal.  
6.  She takes Aricept, Namenda, Prozac (antidepressant), Colestipol (cholesterol med that also controls her irritible bowel symptoms) Lutein (to prevent macular degeneration), fish oil, a daily antihistamine (Chlortabs),  a multivitamin for those over 50, and Calcium with D.  
7.  We take her for a walk each day.  
8.  She has a 4-year-old great grandson who comes to visit twice or three times a week.  He doesn't interact much with her but she likes to watch him run around.  
9.  Her granddaughter visits with her once or twice a week.  
10.  I'm  in and out a half dozen times a day.  
11. She likes caffeine (coffee and diet coke, for Heaven's sake don't give your dementia patients a caffeine supplement--many people need to avoid caffeine for other health reasons--check with your doctor).  Some studies have shown that caffeine is helpful to make dementia patients more alert and to do better on cognitive tests.  
12.  We taught her early on that her apartment is her "house" and our part is our house, and that you don't go into someone else's house.  Our situation has been tolerable because we have our own space.  Her apartment has its own entrance--but she doesn't ever leave.  See how unique she is; most AD patients would take off.  Mama doesn't like to move.  Going outside would take way to much effort.  
13.  We pray for her. When she starts doing poorly in any way, I call my prayer group members and we hold her up to the Lord. 
14. She has a cat.  The cat is the best therapy she receives; a constant companion. It is amazing how that cat takes care of her--gets her up in the morning.  Urges her to get out of her chair.  Sits on her lap.  They are buddies.  The cat doesn't like me but that's another story. 

And, here are some factors that you really can't (or shouldn't) duplicate but have made our lives easier: 
--Mom is overweight and does not like to get out of her chair.  Therefore she does not wander.  Sitting and sleeping are two of her favorite activities.  
--She has always loved to journal, to read, and to listen to music; pursuits ideally suited to being an easy-to-care-for Alzheimer patient
--She has few aches or pains.  Almost every day she says, "I'm so lucky to feel so well even though I'm old.  And I think clearly too!"  (Well, when you've had A.D. for 8 years, 50% accuracy is pretty good).  

Let me make clear that my mother is often demanding, sometimes rude, and occasionally throws a fit (a few weeks ago she threatened to call 911 because I didn't answer her call--I was in the shower).  I've nursed her through food poisoning, a broken collarbone from a fall, and pneumonia. Her presence with us is a 24/7 responsibility and is sometimes burdensome. I don't want you to think our path has been all sunshine and roses.  But the general timbre of our lives is, at this point, pleasant.  We are grateful.  

I have compassion for those of you who have, over months and years of time, had a more difficult caregiving journey than mine.  My prayers are with you.  I know our journey is likely to become more difficult.  I also know that the same God who has seen us to this point will see us safely through.  

God bless each of you as you find solutions for your own unique situations.  

Love n' prayers, Linda


  1. I hope your mother knows how blessed she is to have you as a daughter!

  2. Living on Less Money, Mom does often say she is grateful to me and to the Lord. But because of the nature of her dementia she also sometimes acts resentful and as though I'm an employee who isn't doing a very good job. She's actually correct on both counts--God has engineered our path and deserves praise and glory--but I often don't do a very good job of being kind and empathetic to her!

  3. Such great advice and as you say, it doesn't apply to everyone but it sure is a good base to form your own plan of action. You are such a loving, caring daughter. Your Mom does as well as she does because of your care.

  4. Your mom is lucky to have you. You are also blessed to be able to care for her. In my family, my sister won't allow anyone to care for our mom. That has caused more stress than anything.

  5. Thanks for this list. Loved reading your book also.

    Hugs and prayers,