Care & Share

Welcome to our Care & Share blog! This blog features care advice for caregivers, family members, and friends of those with dementia. We also have information on caring for caregivers. If there’s a topic you would like to see addressed, please let us know! You can give us a call at 901.854.1200 or email our Program Director, Sheri Wammack at sheri@pagerobbins.org.

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  • November 1, 2019

    Thanksgiving

    I was planning to write a blog post on the benefits of thankfulness. I was going to talk about how gratefulness reduces stress and improves mood. I was going to share some tips on incorporating more thankfulness into your daily routine. But then I realized… instead of telling you how to be thankful, I should tell you why I’m thankful for you.

    Caregiver, I am so very thankful for you. Bask in that for a moment. You are appreciated. You are seen. We see your efforts, sacrifice, and love. You may feel ordinary and frail and like a total failure. Be encouraged. You are worthy of thanks.

    1. I am thankful for your strength. You push through each day, even when you are tired, even when you feel like you don’t have anything else to give.
    2. I am thankful for your bravery. You are brave enough to ask for help. You are vulnerable enough to say: “I can’t do this alone.”
    3. I am thankful for your example of love. You do 1,000 little things each day to give your loved one the best days possible.
    4. I am thankful for your selflessness. I am thankful for the difficult days and sleepless nights when you tend to your loved one’s needs.
    5. I am thankful for the way you advocate. You stick up for the one you love. You work with doctors to make sure your loved one is as healthy as possible. You work with other family members to make important financial and care decisions.
    6. I am thankful for your humility. I am thankful that you reach out to others for support and information. You call or stop in with questions, attend support groups, and lean on the wisdom of others.
    7. I am thankful for your humor. You don’t take everything too seriously. You still smile and laugh. You go out of your way to make your loved one laugh.
    8. I am thankful for your respect. You treat your loved one with such dignity. You know your loved one is an adult and not a child. You respect their history and agency.
    9. I am thankful for your perseverance. You know this is a marathon and not a sprint. I am thankful when you recognize you need to care for yourself, too. When you realize that caring for yourself doesn’t make you selfish, but rather strengthens you for the days ahead.
    10. I am thankful for your trust. I am thankful that you allow us to care for your loved one and to be a part of your lives. And I am thankful that you keep us in the loop even after your loved one has left our care (because we miss you so!).

    September 30, 2019

    Caregiver Wish List


    One struggle that we often hear from caregivers is that they feel alone and isolated. Caregivers say that family and friends no longer come around. One caregiver said, “When we go out to a family event or get together, it’s like we have a bubble around us, and no one wants to penetrate that bubble to come talk to either of us.”

    Caregivers say that people will offer to help by saying the usual: “Let me know if you ever need anything.” “Let me know what I can do.” But it never gets past that. Caregivers say thanks but don’t know what to ask for in the moment. Often times, a well-meaning friend or family member doesn’t know what to offer, but they are willing to help if given a task.

    Our advice to caregivers: Be specific.

    Write out an actual wish list (just like you would write out a Christmas list). What are things you would like for someone to do for you and/or your loved one? The items on this list can free up time for you to have a break from some of your responsibilities or can give you a break financially for things you would otherwise be paying for.

    Here’s some example wish list items to get you thinking:

    • Deliver a hot meal every other Tuesday
    • Make an extra casserole or a double batch of soup
    • $ for in-home care
    • $ for a day at Page Robbins
    • Take loved one to get a manicure while caregiver runs errands
    • Visit every other Saturday for a few hours
    • Call once a week to check in
    • Rake the yard
    • Invite loved one over to watch a football game one Saturday

    Be specific. Make out a wish list. Type it up. Write it out. Jot it down on a piece of scrap paper. Decorate it with glitter stars and doodles. Put it in your phone. Whatever works for you! The next time someone asks you how they can help, give them something specific from your list, or give them the whole list and have them pick.

    Our advice to family, friends, and neighbors of caregivers: Ask for specifics, and listen.

    Rather than: “Let me know if you need anything.” Ask: “What can I do to help you?” Then, listen. If they don’t have a response, encourage them to make a wish list. If the first time you ask, the caregiver says no help is needed, it’s okay to ask again later. Show the caregiver that you are sincere in your desire to help.

    Some good questions to ask:

    • I made an extra batch of soup. When is a good time for me to drop it by?
    • Can I come over to help you with your honey-do list? Change light bulbs? Fix the leaky faucet? I’ve got free time every day around lunch time next week.
    • Can the kids and I come over and rake the yard this weekend? It will be a good family activity. We would love to help.

    Ask for specifics. Listen. Encourage your caregiver friend to make a wish list. Keep in mind, it can be hard to ask for help. Be ready to help where and when you can. Check out our recent blog post on 31 Ways to Care for Caregivers. It might give you ideas for ways you can support your caregiver friend.

    This post is a part of our #iCareforCaregivers campaign. Want to learn more about #iCareforCaregivers and how you can join in? Check out the official webpage at pagerobbins.org/icareforcaregivers.

    August 29, 2019

    Hallucinations and Delusions

    Often, people with dementia experience or believe things that are not real. This is called a hallucination or delusion. Hallucinations are false sensory experiences – perceiving something with your senses that isn’t real.Delusions are persistent false beliefs – believing something that isn’t real.

    These moments can be frightening. “There is someone living in my bathroom, and they see me when I’m naked.”

    They can also be a bit odd. “Christopher Columbus? I used to date him!”

    And sometimes, 1+1=3. The blanks get filled in with erroneous information. There is a noise coming in the from the bedroom window.  Someone must be breaking in.  I am in danger and need to call 911.  (When it’s just a tree limb brushing against the window.)

    Caregivers need to be investigators. What could my loved one be seeing or hearing? What conclusions could my loved one jump to?

    For example, if your mom says: “There is someone living in my bathroom, and they see me when I’m naked.” She may be seeing herself in the bathroom mirror and not realize it’s her own reflection. It’s troubling to think some strange person might be lurking in your bathroom

    On the flipside of that same scenario, we once had a participant who would peep into the restroom to have long conversations with “her grandmother” (in the mirror), and she was so glad that she could visit with her grandmother at Page Robbins. In this case, the false perception wasn’t disturbing to her. It was comforting.

    If your loved one is experiencing hallucinations or delusions, you need to tell your loved one’s physician. It could be a side-effect of medication. It could be a sign of another issue. Or it could be a part of the disease process. Not all hallucinations/delusions require treatment. If it’s not disturbing to your loved one, it might not need to be treated, but it’s good for the doctor to be aware.

    Some hallucinations/delusions are especially troubling. It’s important to be aware of these because the person experiencing them may react in ways that are potentially dangerous to themselves or others:

    • Someone is trying to break into my house, so I need a weapon to protect myself.
    • My babies are home alone, so I need to leave to go get them.
    • My spouse is having an affair, so I don’t want them to care for me anymore.
    • Someone is stealing all my money, so I need to hide it.
    • There are monkeys in the attic. I need climb up there and get rid of them.

    If your loved one is experiencing a troubling hallucination/delusion, you must consider: Are there guns in your home? Kitchen knives that are not secured? Are the car keys put away? Individuals with dementia often elope because they are on a mission to do something – to go to their other house, to take care of the children, to work, to care for their mother who needs them. Be aware of the potential for a harmful situation.

    How to respond when your loved one is experiencing a hallucination or delusion:

    • Listen. Don’t argue.
    • Respond calmly.
    • You don’t have to agree or disagree. Give a non-committal answer like: “I don’t hear the voices you hear, but it must be frightening to you.” (from The 36 Hour Day)
    • Reassure them that they are safe.
    • If you can, try to reorient back to reality, but if not, don’t push it.
    • Try to distract the person: “Let’s go to the kitchen to get a snack.” Once distracted, they may not see the hallucination. (from The 36 Hour Day)
    • Do what you can to calm the person. If your loved one is seeing a mouse under the bed, go in with a bag and catch the mouse. This may seem like lying, but this is your loved one’s perceived reality. You are doing the right thing by comforting them. (from The 36 Hour Day)

    Accusatory hallucinations and delusions are often directed at the person who is closest to the individual with dementia. Those accusations are hurtful. It’s hurtful when your spouse of 50 years accuses you of infidelity.  It’s hurtful when your dad accuses you of stealing from him. It’s hurtful when mom blames all her troubles on you. How do you best respond?

    • Try not to take these attacks personally. This is part of the disease process.
    • Talk to your loved one’s physician about the hallucinations/delusions.
    • Learn to say, “I am sorry.” And “I will try to do better.” Even if you didn’t mess up, sometimes this will just disarm your loved one and calm the situation.
    • Try to distract and change the subject.
    • Reassure them that you love them.

    If you have questions about your particular situation, give us a call (901-854-1200). We’re happy to help.

    July 30, 2019

    Self-Care for Caregivers

    Being a caregiver is hard. Being a caregiver for a loved one with dementia is even harder. You hear it all the time: “You need to take care of yourself.” I’m sure caregivers get tired of hearing it because it is much easier said than done. Taking care of yourself takes time and effort that quite frankly, you just don’t seem to have. 

    But the truth is you MUST take care of yourself. If you ignore your own mental and physical well-being, it’s quite possible that you won’t be around to care for your loved one. There are lots of scary statistics out there about health problems brought about by caregiver burnout. Unchecked, extreme stress can be detrimental to health, so it’s important to address it.

    There are small steps you can take to maintain and improve your well-being. We don’t suggest you try all the following suggestions at once. Pick 2. Pick one that you WANT to do and know you can accomplish. Then, pick another that you know you NEED to do (even if it scares you a little bit!). Ask a friend to help hold you accountable.

    • Set aside time for yourself. This could be a week in the mountains or 10 minutes on the front porch with a cup of coffee. You could have a friend or family member sit with your loved one while you go to a movie or get your nails done. You could arrange respite care for your loved one and go on a trip with friends.
    • Educate yourself. The more you understand the disease process, the better you can respond to your loved one. There are resources to meet every caregiver’s needs.  Here are just a few”

    Books

    We suggest The 36 Hour Day and A Pocket Guide for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver.  Come by our center at 1961 S. Houston Levee Road in Collierville (Monday to Friday, 6 am to 6 pm) to pick up your own copies for free. We are able to provide these books to public for free thanks to a grant from the Collierville Community Fund.

    Online

    The Alzheimer’s Association’s website has lots of helpful resources, as does the National Institute on Aging. Search Teepa Snow on YouTube for practical, honest information on personal care, communication, and more.

    Educational Sessions

    Look for caregiver education sessions in your community. We host a support group called Wine & Unwind that features a monthly care topic and guest speaker.  You can learn more about this and our other support groups on the Caregiver Support section of our website.

    Save the date for Baptist’s caregiver conference on Saturday, November 16 with featured speaker Eileen Poiley, Director of Education at USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute. More information to come. Sign up for our monthly Caregiver Connection emails to stay up-to-date on this conference, as well as our monthly blog posts and support group meetings.
    • Go to your appointments. It is common for caregivers to cancel or forget their own health appointments.  But it’s important to get your annual physical, mammogram, 6-month dental cleaning, etc. Neglecting your own health can lead to more severe concerns down the road.
    • Talk to someone. Talk to a friend, counselor, minister, or fellow caregiver. Join a support group. If you hold it all in, the pressure builds, and at some point, you will explode on the wrong person. It can be hard to talk to family, as they are too close to the situation and may not share your same view. Try to find a non-family member with which to share your frustrations and worries.
    • Give yourself a break and some credit. When you lie down each night, say to yourself: “I have done the best I could with the information I have, and that is enough.” You were not perfect before, so don’t expect yourself to be perfect now. Don’t dwell on the “what if’s” and “if only’s”. Focus on your strengths and the positives. You do a lot physically. You manage a lot emotionally. Give yourself a pat on the back, even if no one else is doing that for you.
    • Ask for help. There will be times when you will not be able to handle caregiving alone. Ask a professional for help. Call a friend. Reach out to a physician. Tell another family member what you need. You are not going to know the answer to every question – ask! Call Page Robbins (901-854-1200), and we will help you navigate.
    • Give yourself a present. Get a manicure. Order a new gadget. Pick up your favorite meal. When you don’t receive gifts very often, it can be a good boost.
    • Allow yourself to laugh. Laughter can heal the soul. Turn on a funny movie or TV show, listen to a funny podcast, read a silly story.
    • Eat well. Exercise. Sleep. Food is your fuel. Eat balanced meals. It’s tempting to live on junk food and snacks because it’s easy. Get plenty of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, protein, and water. Exercise is good for your body, mind, and sleep. You don’t have to run. Walk, stretch, maybe try some yoga (a class or YouTube videos at home). A good workout will help you sleep. Sleep is important to healthy brain functioning. Don’t stay up too late if you don’t have to. Take naps, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it!

    June 28, 2019

    Dental Hygiene Tips

    Keeping Up Dental Hygiene

    Most of us take our pearly whites for granted. We brush them morning and night. We floss. We get food stuck between our teeth and can get it out. We recognize when something hurts.

    People with dementia can’t always do these things, so their caregivers assume the responsibility. It isn’t easy to get an adult who doesn’t want to brush his/her teeth to do it (especially if you’ve just had a similar battle over changing into or out of pajamas). But it is worth the effort.

    When oral care diminishes, a domino effect of bad things can happen. First, cavities, broken teeth, and bad breath. Next, teeth pulled. Then, lost appetite and weight loss. An unhealthy mouth can also lead to infections and abscesses.

    If you notice your loved one’s oral care isn’t what it used to be, here are some ways you can help:

    • Instruct step-by-step. “John, lets brush your teeth.” “Put toothpaste on the toothbrush.” “Brush your top teeth.” “Spit into the sink.”
    • Model the action. Brush your teeth along with your loved one – just slow down and slightly exaggerate how you normally do it.
    • Assist hand-under-hand. Watch this short video from Teepa Snow. She demonstrates the proper form.
    • Brush your loved one’s teeth for them. Brush at a 45-degree angle. Focus on the teeth, gums, and tongue.

    Try both a regular and an electric toothbrush to see which one works better for your loved one. The electric brush may be helpful for some but too much stimulation for others.

    Mouthwash can be a good option as well. If your loved one swallows mouthwash, look for one that’s alcohol free.

    Regular dental check-ups are important – especially when your loved one’s personal dental hygiene is failing. Call ahead of the appointment to let your hygienist and dentist know about any problems.

    If your dentist office isn’t familiar with your situation, let them know ahead of time (without your loved one present) that your loved one has dementia/Parkinson’s/etc. When you prepare the dentist, they can provide a better and more dignified experience for your loved one.

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