Seasonal Reminders

By Robert Elmer III on December 19, 2016 in Uncategorized
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The other evening, I received a telephone call from someone that had just read my book, Join the Journey-Care for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver. He had been dealing with his father who was struggling with Alzheimer’s disease and he wanted to compliment me on my advice in two of the Chapters that focused on The Holidays. Unfortunately, he commented that he wished he knew the information sooner, as it would have made him a better caregiver. I reminded him, in the words of Maya Angelou, “…now that you know better, do better.”
This is a wonderful time of year for most. Regardless if you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or like many I know, combine them, it’s a time of socializing with friends and family, merriment, music, Peace on Earth and very busy social schedules. As the song goes “it’s the most wonderful time of the year” unless of course you’re dealing with Alzheimer’s or other similar dementia.
Anti social behavior is one of the many symptoms of Alzheimer’s as it’s difficult for many (not all) of those afflicted, to process and separate the music, conversation, socialization and everything else that makes this season so wonderful. It’s easy for them to become overwhelmed by being in a houseful of Holiday happiness with laughing children, a holiday table full of delicious choices they may not recognize and conversation they may not understand with people they may not know or remember. If your loved one suffers from expressive aphasia they’ll have difficulty finding the right words and if they suffer from receptive aphasia, as you’d expect, they have problems understanding what’s being said. Those that may be visiting from out of town or local guests that haven’t been around your loved one also need to understand their limitations.
In most cases, if you’re loved one has had enough, they’ll simply ask to be removed from the situation or circumstances that’s making them uncomfortable. Listen to them and even though you may feel disappointed, frustrated, irritated or even angry, please don’t let it show. Regardless of how much effort you may have put into trying to make things special for them, there’s no convincing them to stay with you and your guests if they don’t feel safe and aren’t comfortable. 90% of aggressive behavior is caused by something that’s going on in their environment; a fact every caregiver should always keep in mind.
I recently gave one of my talks for caregivers and the topic of The Holidays came up. After my presentation, one of the audience came up to me and asked… “My Aunt with Alzheimer’s is coming to my house for Thanksgiving. What should I expect?” Without any knowledge of his Aunt I couldn’t and certainly wouldn’t even guess at how her day would go. What I did do was recommend he have a Plan B in case she decided that she needed to be in a quieter place. Make sure that there was going to be a designated driver for her in case she wanted to return to her “home.” If she was staying with you and leaving is not an option, remember therapeutic fibbing and make sure you provide adequate and appropriate accommodations for her. A room with no “toe grabbing” throw rugs, perhaps a night light and a clear and understandable path to the bathroom will go a long way to helping her feel safe as well as keep her out of harms way.
I refer to Alzheimer’s as a “snowflake” of illnesses as there are certain behaviors that all those afflicted display. In spite of that, no one displays all of the familiar behaviors. If you’re the the one that’s going to be hosting a loved one with Alzheimer’s this Holiday season, I’ll thank the Boy Scouts for my final bit of advice. “Be Prepared.”
If you have any questions, please email me at repe@careforcaregivers.org and remember, Join the Journey.

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Robert Elmer IIIView all posts by Robert Elmer III