ELDER RAGE

Elder Rage: How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents
By Jacqueline Marcell, Author, ‘Elder Rage’ www.ElderRage.com

For eleven years I pleaded with my ‘challenging’ elderly father to allow a caregiver to help him with my ailing mother, but he always insisted on taking care of her himself. Every caregiver I hired soon sighed in exasperation, ‘Jacqueline, I just can’t work with your father. His temper is impossible to handle and he’s not going to accept help until he’s on his knees himself.’

When my father’s inability to continue to care for my mother nearly resulted in her death, I stepped in despite his loud protests. It was heart-breaking as one minute he’d be my loving dad and then some trivial little thing would set him off and he’d call me nasty names and throw me out of the house the next. I took him to several doctors, only to be flabbergasted when he could act completely normal when he needed to.

Finally I stumbled upon a thorough neurologist, specialized in dementia, who put my parents through a battery of blood, neurological, memory tests and P.E.T. scans. After ruling out numerous reversible forms of dementia, such as a B-12 and thyroid deficiency, and evaluating their medications, I was stunned by the diagnosis of Stage One Alzheimer’s in both of my parents–something all their other doctors missed entirely.

What I’d been coping with was the beginning of Alzheimer’s, which starts very intermittently and appears to come and go. I didn’t understand that my father was addicted and trapped in his own engrained bad behavior of a lifetime of screaming and yelling to get his way, but that it was coming out intermittently in inconsistent spurts of irrationality. I also didn’t understand that demented does not mean dumb (a concept not widely appreciated), and that he was still socially adjusted never to show his ‘Hyde’ side to anyone outside the family. Conversely, my mother was as sweet and lovely as she’d always been.

Alzheimer’s makes up 60-80 percent of all dementias and there’s no stopping the progression nor is there yet a cure. However, if identified early there are four FDA medications (Aricept, Exelon, Razadyne and Namenda–and many more in clinical trials) that in most people can mask dementia symptoms and keep the patient in the early independent stage longer.

Once my parents were properly treated for the Alzheimer’s, as well as the often-present depression in dementia patients, and then my father’s aggression, I was able to optimize fluid and nutrition with much less resistance. I was also able to manage the rollercoaster of challenging behaviors. Instead of logic and reason, I learned to use distraction and redirection. I capitalized on their long-term memories and instead of arguing the facts, I lived in their realities of the moment. I also learned to just go-with-the-flow and let hurtful comments roll off. And most importantly, I was able to get my father to accept two wonderful live-in caregivers. Then with the tremendous benefit of adult day health care five days a week for my parents and a support group for me, everything finally started to fall into place.

Alzheimer’s disease afflicts more than 5.4 million Americans, but millions go undiagnosed for many years because early warning signs are chalked up to stress and a ‘normal’ part of aging. Since one out of eight is afflicted with Alzheimer’s by age 65, and nearly half by age 85, healthcare professionals of every specialty should know the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s and help educate patients and families so everyone can save time, money–and a fortune in Kleenex!

TEN WARNING SIGNS OF ALZHEIMER’S
www.ElderRage.com/Alzheimers.asp

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Jacqueline Marcell is the author of ‘Elder Rage’, a Book-of-the-Month Club selection receiving 480+ 5-Star Amazon reviews, 50+ endorsements www.ElderRage.com/review.asp, is required reading at numerous universities for courses in geriatrics and considered for a film. EXCERPT: www.ElderRage.com/samplechapter.asp. She is also an international speaker on Alzheimer’s, as well as breast cancer which she survived after caring for her parents. She also speaks on caregiver stress and illness, and Alzheimer’s now being termed ‘Type 3 Diabetes’, the Obesity Epidemic and Sugar Addiction. www.ElderRage.com/speakingengagements.htm

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Doctor, can you hear me?

Patient safety

To a doctor schizophrenia is: “A long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.”

For his psychiatrist the treatment for Rodger entailed medication to control his symptoms and regular visits to assess his thoughts and behavior. He was treating the disease. Every three months Rodger would assure him he was taking his medication and he was not experiencing hallucinations or hearing voices.

“She worries too much. Don’t listen to her.”

At home I was dealing with the illness. Despite Rodger’s insistence that everything was fine, I knew it was not. He paced the upstairs hall day and night, muttering and gesturing. I found him on his hands and knees trying to catch something scooting across the floor. Something only he could see. I reported all that and more to his doctors on every visit.

They listened to him. They got tired of hearing from me.

I knew when he was hearing voices. It was evident in a certain tilt of his head as he listened to the silence around him and in the sudden bursts of laughter when he was alone in his room. They goaded him into seething resentment when I insisted he take his medicine resulting in accusations of mistreatment.

“The others are here.” I’d tell myself, bracing for a difficult day. For weeks I watched as his behavior deteriorated. I scheduled appointment after appointment.

“She worries too much. Don’t listen to her.”

The doctor treated the disease the only way he knew how. More medication. It didn’t work. We didn’t know he was hiding it in his cheek and spitting it out.

The others came again and again. Then they stayed. Relentless. Aggressive. Unyielding. He broke. His mind a cyclone of confusion and suspicion.

He arrived at the hospital in the back of police car.

“Why did you wait so long to bring him in?” the admitting doctor asked. “He is in desperate need of treatment,” he added before calling for an orderly to take Rodger to the psychiatric ward.

I’d been telling them that for weeks. I was the one who worried. I was the one they should have listened to. Where they saw only the disease I was living with the illness and he paid the price.
Doctor, please hear me. Listen to the caregivers and heed their concerns. Caregivers see what you do not see. Caregivers hear what you do not hear. Caregivers live with the illness and that is often far more difficult than treating the disease.

Caregivers, do you find it difficult to communicate with your loved one’s doctors?
Do they heed your loved ones when they minimize your concerns?

Have you found a way to communicate with medical personnel that works for you and your loved one? Please share your comments in the space below. I’d love to hear from you and maybe the doctors would too.

Click here for an excellent post on this subject on The Caregiver Space.

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Sometimes Even Breathing is Difficult for Caregivers

How you breathe affects the way you care for yourself and others.

Guest Post by Kelly Sheets, Founder of TheSpunkycaregiver.com

Remember the lyrics in that old song “The hip bone is connected to the thigh bone?” Well, it’s true everything is connected. The systems of the body are not separate. The health of your breath affects every system of your body in some way.

Learning how to breathe fully can:
• Help you manage pain
• Reduce feelings loneliness, frustration, anxiety and stress
• Strengthen immune response
• Enhance peace, joy and engagement in life
• Increase mental and physical alertness

When you are caregiving for a loved one, life becomes more complex and even small tasks can feel overwhelming. Paying attention regularly to how you are breathing can help you shift your experience of caregiving, and your life, in a moment.

The way you breathe affects the patterns of your thoughts. If you are breathing shallowly and rapidly your mind will follow. Shallow breathing triggers your sympathetic response system (your fight or flight system). For example, imagine someone approaching from behind at night. You jump, lift our shoulder up, and take a quick shallow inhale of breath. This is fear, and it triggers a fear response. The body triggers that system any time you are breathing shallowly, because it thinks you are in a stressful situation or might need to react quickly. In addition, the mind starts racing looking for threats and possible solutions. These are the thoughts patterns that give us feelings of overwhelm and uncertainty that things will ever become more manageable.

When you breathe fully, expanding your lungs in all directions, your mind calms and your thoughts become clearer. When you breathe fully, engaging the diaphragm, the body triggers its parasympathetic system, which then releases calming chemicals into your body. A common example would be when you get angry and someone suggests you “count to ten.” Breathing fully and slowly, again engaging the diaphragm, while counting to ten, gives the body time to release the chemicals that will calm the angry thoughts. You can feel the calming sensations as you slow down and deepen your breath.

When I am aware of my breath, I feel more in control of my mind, which in turn, affects my body. When I feel discomfort in my body, physical or emotional, I pay attention to my breath, change its rhythm and then watch how it affects my body. For example, when I feel anxious and overwhelmed by things I have to do, I stop for a minute and check if I am breathing deeply. Most likely I have been holding my breath longer than necessary or I am shallowly breathing only into the top of my lungs. I can relax my body and deepen my breath. Almost immediately I feel a softening in my mind and my anxiety decreases. Or when I am feeling a headache, I stop and check if I am breathing deeply. Since deep breathing triggers a relaxation response, I imagine my neck muscles are softening and the tension causing my headache releases.

It takes practice to create a new habit of paying attention to how you are feeling and noticing that the rhythm of your breath affects how you feel. It also takes practice to create a habit of breathing more fully moment to moment. To see a video that explains how to breath deeply go here: http://wp.me/P36OIN-oV

Kelly Sheets is the founder of TheSpunkyCaregiver.com. Kelly is a consultant who focuses on staff development for seniors care organizations. Her other passion is teaching yoga to seniors. To learn more about healthy breathing and how to help others to breathe well, read her books, Breathe – The Simple Guide to Better Breathing for People 50+ and How To Lead Meditation Groups For Seniors both available on her website www.thespunkycaregiver.com or on Amazon.

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