Caring for a Parent with Dementia – Caregiving Challenges

Dementia and Caregiving challenges

  • Sleep problems and caregiver exhaustion are two of the most common reasons persons Senior lady and her granddaughterwith dementia are placed in nursing homes. Causes of sleeplessness in dementia patients include pain, lack of exercise and activities, anxiety, agitation, or too much fluid or caffeine late in the day.
  • Urinary incontinence is the second leading reason that families institutionalize their loved ones with dementia. Urinary incontinence in persons with dementia should be evaluated for treatable causes, including urinary tract infections, electrolyte and calcium abnormalities, prostatic hypertrophy, and estrogen deficiency. A regular toileting schedule at two to three-hour intervals or verbal prompting may also alleviate this symptom.
  • Agitation and aggressive behavior have been reported in 65 percent of community-dwelling persons with dementia. Reasons for agitation or aggression include overstimulation, physical discomfort, unfamiliar surroundings or persons, complicated tasks, and frustrating interaction, as well as more serious reasons as paranoia, delusions, or hallucinations.
  • Caregivers may be embarrassed or ambivalent about discussing inappropriate sexual behaviors exhibited by persons with dementia.
  • Persons with dementia are often reluctant to stop driving when safety is at issue.
  • Repetitious questions may be due to short-term memory loss and an under-stimulating/over-stimulating environment leading to anxiety, feeling out of control, or fear.

Information for this blog cited from the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Medical Association

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Caring for a Parent with Dementia

When a diagnosis of dementia is made, the physician is pivotal in providing the doctor-with-elderly-patient-and-daughter-consulting-dementiaknowledge and resources that are needed to care for the patient. Because family members provide the majority of care for persons with dementia, they are an essential resource for the patient and the health care system. Making sure physicians who are overseeing medical care for your loved one understand your needs as a family caregiver and the challenges you face are essential aspects of caring for the person with dementia. A physician/caregiver/patient relationship is the recommended approach for meeting the needs of both you and your loved one.

Make sure your love ones’ physician

  • Understands that you are physically, emotionally, and financially vulnerable.
  • Understands that to be an effective and knowledgeable caregiver, you often rely on physicians to provide information about dementia symptom management and the availability of support services.
  • Physicians can provide a proactive approach to support by linking you with resources (e.g., the Alzheimer’s Association). This can improve your capabilities as a caregiver and lead to more successful and enduring caregiving.
  • Make sure your loved ones’ physicians work collaboratively with their other physicians, nurses and/or social workers who are knowledgeable about symptom and behavioral management strategies.

Needs of caregivers to dementia patients

Because dementia has a deteriorating course over an extended period of time, care problems can be anticipated and planned for well in advance.

  • The physician can help family members anticipate changes, plan for role transitions, and arrange for education and support that is needed to provide care.
  • In the earliest stages of the disease, it is helpful for caregivers to identify a health care proxy for the person with dementia. Encourage the completion of a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care form (your physician should have copies available in their office.) The copy of completed form becomes part of patient record.
  • Caregivers need to maintain their personal health and vitality to provide continuing care for the demented patient. (see Fundamental Rule of Caregiving and Recognizing Caregiver Burnout)
  • Caregivers should become familiar early in the illness with adult day-care services and in-home or in-facility respite services.
  • It is helpful for caregivers to visit and evaluate several long-term care facilities well ahead of the need for placement. Understand that institutionalization may be a normal progression in the process

Information for this blog cited from the Alzheimer’s Association and the American Medical Association

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10 ways to Maintain Your Brain© from The National Alzheimer’s Association

  1. Head first: Good health starts with your brain. It’s one of the most vital body organs, brainand it needs care and maintenance.
  2. Take brain health to heart: Heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s.
  3. Your numbers count: Keep your body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol and blood sugar levels within recommended ranges.
  4. Feed your brain: Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet that features dark-skinned vegetables and fruits; foods rich in antioxidants; vitamins E, C and B-12; foliate; and omega-3 fatty acids.
  5. Work your body: Physical exercise keeps the blood flowing and encourages new brain cells. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous activity. Do what you can – like walking 30 minutes a day – to keep both body and mind active.
  6. Jog your mind: Keeping your brain active and engaged increases its vitality and builds reserves of brain cells and connections.  Read, write, play games, do crossword puzzles.
  7. Connect with others: Leisure activities that combine physical, mental and social elements may be most likely to prevent dementia.  Be social, converse, volunteer, join.
  8. Heads up! Protect your brain: Take precautions against injuries. Use your car seat belts; un-clutter your house to avoid falls; and wear a helmet when cycling.
  9. Use your head: Avoid unhealthy habits. Don’t smoke, drink excessive alcohol or use street drugs.
  10. Think ahead – start today! You can do something today to protect your tomorrow.

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A Fundamental Rule of Caregiving (that No one can seem to Follow)

An essential imperative of caregiving is: Take care of yourself.  However; the majority of family caregivers are so busy taking care of others that they neglect to care for themselves.  The sad irony is that if caregivers made it a priority to care for themselves FIRST they would actually have MORE energy to help others and therefore be more available to help those around them.

Research by the Family Caregiver Alliance shares some significant reasons to make self-care a priority:

 Caregivers are in worse health.

  • 11% caregivers report that their physical health has gotten worse.
  • Caregivers reported chronic conditions (including heart attack/heart disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis) at nearly twice the rate of non-caregivers (45 vs. 24%).
  • Caregivers suffer from increased rates of physical ailments (including acid reflux, headaches, and pain/aching), increased tendency to develop serious illness and have high levels of obesity.
  • Caregivers have diminished immune response, which leads to frequent infection and increased risk of cancers.
  • Caregivers exhibit exaggerated cardiovascular responses to stressful conditions putting them at greater risk for cardiovascular syndromes such as high blood pressure or heart disease.
  • Women who spend nine or more hours a week caring for an ill or disabled spouse increase their risk of heart disease two-fold.
  • Women caregivers are twice as likely not to fill a personal prescription because of the cost (26% vs. 13%).
  • 72% of caregivers reported that they had not gone to the doctor as often as they should, and more than half (55%) had missed doctor’s appointments.

Paying the ultimate price – Increased mortality

  • Elderly spousal caregivers (aged 66-96) have a 63% higher death rate than non-caregivers of the same age.
  • In 2006, hospitalization of an elderly spouse was found to be associated with an increased risk of caregiver death.

Don’t become a statistic!

Simple steps to a healthier you:

  • Schedule time DAILY to take care of yourself (and stick to the schedule) – start out small and then increase the time each week (ex – 10 minutes of quiet time before bed – ½ hour walk after dinner)
  • Enlist family support – share with your spouse, kids and other family and friends that your scheduled time needs to be respected and supported.
  • Set boundaries – this can include scheduled visiting days/times with your elderly loved one (not every day), specific days of the week that the kids can have their friends over or go to a friend’s house.
  • Schedule a physical – this should be done ANNUALLY.  There are no ifs, ands or buts about it!

Here’s the good news – if you make self-care a priority, create a support system and set boundaries you can be healthier, happier and live longer.  Pro-active and preventative health measures are vital to helping those you love, because if you don’t take care of yourself, sooner rather than later, you wont be around to help those you love.

Start TODAY!

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****A portion of my book sale proceeds go to support breast cancer research.

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Caution: Idiots May be Offended by this Post

If I were an Idiot, I could

  • Be offered a contract with a major publisher to write a “how to have 6-pack abs and zero brains” book that my “people” would pay some PR agency large sums of money to promote for me all over the country and get me on “Dancing with the Stars” which has become more like “Dancing with the Who the Hell is that?” show.
  • Secure interviews on national radio and TV shows to discuss how to become famous by being a drunk, crazy, freakish slut on national TV. (Yep!  I said it slut!  The media’s endorsement of promiscuity and the dumbing down of our society is out of control and I’m done being PC about it!).
  • Get offered my own reality show so that every week viewers could witness firsthand what a crazy, drunk, slutty idiot I am.
  • Hold major political office and conduct myself in such a corrupt fashion that it would win me national attention and a 6-figure book deal (I’m keeping this one from my 1st “Idiot” post I Wish I Were an Idiot, because I’m from Illinois where lie detectors are nowhere to be found because the constant beeping noise would send all of the dogs in the state into complete frenzy!)

Unfortunately for me, I’m not…


  • Someone who has devoted 25 years of my life to creating tools and educational forums to assist the estimated 65 million family caregivers who are trying to make sense of the health care system while being inundated by idiots on every “news” forum out there.
  • Passionate enough to live out my mission in life by writing books and creating programs that will actually help family caregivers.
  • Somebody who has reached out to a variety of media venues to help me share this vital information, but faced the reality that it’s not sexy or scandalous enough for the media to share as this information would actually HELP people and not entertain them

My commitment to help family caregivers isn’t flashy or exciting.  However, neither are issues related to elder care. 

The reality is that elder-care will effect each of us at some point in our lives, either by caring for an elderly parent or relative; through someone we know who is caring for their loved one; or as we experience our own aging challenges.

I’m asking you to partner with me in spreading the word about my books: the caregiving resource guide Along Comes Grandpa and the caregiving novel If I Walked in Her Shoes Click here for the Kindle edition of these books

i_wish_i_was_a_unicorn_poster-r6b37017ade8345c089b563146f128461_wqa_8byvr_324And share my information with your friends, family and co-workers

This blog:



I think that if a drunk and disorderly “Reality Star” can sell over 25,000 books about herself, I would be hopeful of selling at least twice that number of books that actually help people!



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I’m Fine!

FineWhenever someone asks me how I’m doing, I usually have the same response, “fabulous”.  I started using this response several years ago, because I recognize it not only adjusted my mind-set but the responses I received from the person asking were priceless.  Some would follow-up with “Really?”, others would make comments such as “What are you drinking, I want some!”, others would laugh, most would smile.  I became conscious of the idea that what I put out there as far as my attitude during my day is a choice and that the spirit in which I answer will affect those with whom I have come in contact.

Several years ago I was at a wonderful presentation by Greg Risberg on Hugs & Hope.  During the program Greg went though the different hug “techniques” and then talked about the use and meaning of the word “fine”.  Have you ever noticed that in passing conversations when asked how things going, most of us answer “fine”? Recently at a doctor’s appointment when asked how I was feeling I answered “fine”.  We use this word to mean “OK” or “alright” or, if said with clenched teeth to our spouse “you really stepped in it this time buddy” (lol).  Become aware of how often this word is used in our day to day lives by those around you without even realizing it. It’s a passing response to a random question usually asked out of politeness.

Anyway, during his seminar Greg shared his definition of the word “Fine”:

  • Frustrated
  • Irritated
  • Neurotic
  • Exhausted

Sounds more like what most of us are truly feeling right???  So what steps can we take to change our “fine” into “fabulous”?

Points to Ponder:

  • No matter what is going on in the world around you that you cannot control, you can always control your response to it.  Being “fabulous” is a choice that you can make right now and the responses you receive will continue to lighten your spirit.
  • Let your face know what’s going on.  You can’t be fabulous with a sour puss.  Try spending today being conscious of your demeanor and put a smile on your face.  Maybe even say a random “hi” to people you pass in the grocery store who look like they just sucked on a lemon.  Smiles are contagious! (no joke try it!)

When someone tells you they are “fine” respond with “sorry to hear that” and watch how a real conversations evolves from that simple response.  It will affect your life in ways you could not even dream of.

Choose to be fabulous today!  Smile randomly and become contagious!

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Forgiving Abusive or Neglectful Parents (Part 2)

For many, forgiving parents will undoubtedly be difficult; particularly in cases where a parent was abusive.

However, it is in these cases that we must be even more diligent about practicing forgiveness. To not do so and to choose to continue to live in the grip of what happened means that a part of one’s self must still mentally dwell upon the abuse, even if in our subconscious.

In doing so, the exact same feelings created by the abuse are allowed to continue and we constantly relive these horrible events in order to keep those feelings fresh and alive.

So then, even when a parent never apologizes or takes responsibility for her or his actions, consciously releasing bitterness associated with their memory and endeavoring to forgive them, instead, allows us the freedom to overcome the abuse and stops its control over our lives.

We are all  familiar with the phrase “Time heals all wounds?” This is one I often hear people say as they try to brush aside traumas and hurts in their lives. In all actuality, time doesn’t heal anything, time simply passes. It is what we do with our lives while time is passing that either helps us, heals us or keeps us stuck.

Forgiving does not condone what someone else did, it simply releases us from the pain of their actions and sets us free.

(to be continued)

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