Category: our articles on Caring and Support for Those Living with Dementia
Larmax Homes is proud to work with veterans and support them as they age. We understand that their unique life experiences require different approaches and skills in an assisted living home. With permission from Debra Levy Eldercare Associates, we are reposting their informative blog on this topic. To learn more about Debra Levy Eldercare Associates, please visit their website: https://care-manager.com/
If the person you care for is a combat veteran, you may not have heard much about those experiences. You are not alone. In generations past, veterans made it a point to put the war behind them and “forget.” But things can take a dramatic turn in later life. As they face the challenges of serious illness, many vets start having symptoms that appear to be a delayed form of PTSD.
Physical pain, need for medication, or dependence on others can bring up old, traumatic memories. Dad may start to have nightmares or insomnia. Or you might notice an unexplained change in Mom’s temperament. Researchers believe this comes on because the stress of illness makes it too hard for the mind to continue suppressing the bad memories. For instance:
- Trouble breathing from an illness such as COPD brings up past anxieties.
- Pain can provoke memories of one’s own or another’s injuries.
- Medications for pain or other conditions can cause fuzzy thinking. This in itself interferes with keeping combat memories at bay.
Moral and spiritual concerns
Sadly, combat veterans have experienced the worst humanity has to offer. Your family member may have had to bury feelings about things he or she was called on to do in the line of duty. As the reality of “meeting one’s maker” draws closer, overpowering emotions of shame, guilt, and regret may arise.
What you can do.
Veterans typically don’t like to talk about their wartime experiences. But they will talk with another vet. The Veterans Administration is aware of these late-life issues. They have counseling available for vets and for family members. In addition, hospice and palliative care programs often have a “We Honor Veterans” program. Their practitioners are specially trained to support the care needs of those who selflessly answered the call of duty.
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is upon us, and we think about finding the perfect gift for everyone on our list. But, what do we give to the older members of the family, especially those who are frail or disabled? Gift-giving for older adults can be a challenge.
The most valuable gift is your time. Set aside time during the holidays to visit with the older family member. This will provide an opportunity to engage in conversation and reminisce about the past. You might even learn something new about your relatives! Take your family member for a walk, play music or bring food to share. Giving of your time can be a special gift for both of you.
In addition to time, everyone enjoys unwrapping a holiday package. For the person who is confined to a chair or wheelchair, consider a small blanket to cover her lap and legs. Warm slippers or comfortable socks are always appreciated, as are cozy pajamas. In addition, there are many varieties of wheelchair cushions that can be purchased on-line or at a medical supply store. A cushion for the chair or wheelchair can provide a whole new world of comfort for an older adult.
Items that encourage participation and engagement are beneficial not only for the older adult, but also for those who provide care. Such gifts include magazine or newspaper subscriptions, large print playing cards, or talking books. Recorded music is always a hit, especially tunes from the individual’s younger years.
Consider awakening the senses when providing gifts for older individuals. Lotion or scented soaps help the individual to feel special. Remember that the lavender scent can be calming, while the smell of citrus may improve mental clarity. Dry shampoo is a helpful gift for those who are physically limited. And lip balm is always needed in colder weather.
Other gift ideas include:
- A new calendar with large pictures and family dates clearly marked.
- A dry erase board to hang in the person’s room for messages and instruction.
- Gift cards for a massage or a haircut and style
- Blooming plants
- Favorite foods. Always check with family or facility staff prior to offering food, to assure that there are no restrictions. For the individual who lives in his own home, consider making arrangements to have meals delivered on a regular basis.
- A photo album or framed enlargements of family pictures. If the person has memory issues, label the pictures with individual names.
- A bird feeder to hang outside the window
- A large clock
- An adult coloring book with a container of colored pencils
- A Scrapbook filled with memories from the person’s life
- A night light
- Colorful mobiles to hang in the window
- Comfortable, easy-to-remove clothing
The holidays are a special time to recognize and honor the older members of the family. A personal gift from the heart will have special meaning for those who are frail or isolated this season.
Kate Caldwell, Gerontologist
Founder of ElderTree Care Management Services
According to the Institute for Dementia Research & Prevention, there are at least 5 million individuals in the United States with age-related dementias (other sources put the number much higher). Of these, Alzheimer’s accounts for approximately 70%, with vascular dementia counting for the majority of the remaining cases. Living with dementia is not only difficult for people who receive this diagnosis but also for their families. Understanding the complex and often misunderstood cognitive losses associated with dementia can leave all of us wondering what to do to ensure that our loved ones can LIVE with dementia, not succumb to its challenges and even the myths associated with it.
As part of our broader commitment to this field of study, Larmax is partnering with the Dementia Action Alliance to bring one of the world’s renowned experts in the field, Dr. Gayatri Devi, to Washington on September 24, 2018 for a program designed to help both those diagnosed with dementia as well as their care partners understand how to have a positive perspective and impact on their lives while living with this disease. Her recent book, The Spectrum of Home: An Optimistic and New Approach to Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, was featured on CBS This Morning. If you would like to hear Dr. Devi speak, visit https://www.cbsnews.com/video/neurologist-on-alzheimers-spectrum-treatment-myths/. I encourage both those diagnosed with dementia or their support partners to read this book as it will give you hope.
While it is impossible to share the wisdom found in Spectrum of Hope in a blog, several points cannot be overlooked:
- Dementia is unique to each person, presenting different symptoms, progress and treatments. In fact, the progression of dementia in even the same person can vary over time.
- The majority of people with Alzheimer’s disease are living functional lives in their communities.
- Attending to the emotional needs of a caregiver is as important as those of the patient. Without personal time, burnout will happen, whether you are a family member or paid caregiver.
Understanding the real story, not the myths and the emotion, about dementia is critical to successfully navigating the journey – either as a support partner or patient. Decisions should be made on facts, not fear. One thing is clear from Dr. Devi’s work, with the right perspective, knowledge and professional assistance, people can LIVE with dementia. The road might not look like the one you planned to take; nonetheless, there can be joy and successes. We will, in future blogs, offer some tools to make the journey a little easier. In the meantime, we encourage you to come hear Dr. Devi speak and read her book. It’s enlightening!
Click here for more information on the September 24 event.