November is Alzheimer's Disease Awareness National Diabetes Month

Assured Healthcare recognizes client and veteran, Fergal Patrick Gallagher, as we celebrate Veteran’s Day on November 11th.

Fergal at the Washington Monument

Fergal at the Washington Monument


Ask the Nurse - 'Holiday reality check' gives aging parents a safety net

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Ask the Nurse: Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare Staffing and Nurse

As Thanksgiving and Christmas approach, it is smart to be aware of changing roles with aging parents.

You have the full turkey dinner at your mom and dad's house. You do the cooking as you have for the last few years because mom is not quite up to pulling off such an event by herself as she did when she was your age.

So you get to do the honors. It it exhausting but satisfying. All your kids will be there. Aunts, uncles and cousins, too.

Mom and dad are getting older now, and you're always concerned about them because they are living on their own. In recent days, you have become very sensitive to the changes that age can impose. It's the price of being a caring adult child. But this was the first year you started to pay special attention to them this way.

These had been those years when your roles had shifted subtly, and you took pride by helping them in ways they used to help you.

One of these days you'll be the one who makes “the decision”. When will it be time for residential assisted living or in-home help to keep them safe? Or perhaps it's a more systematic method to organize their outings or regularly monitor their domestic needs.

You know it's no longer merely a question of chronological age to think of these issues. But life conditions change. Health changes. Fitness changes.

But how do you know when to pay special attention and what you should be looking for?

As it turns out, there are good tools to help you. Those of us who train in-home nurses use a checklist of symptoms and clues. Over the next few weeks as you ratchet up to the whirlwind of Christmas or Hanukah, I'll offer the “holiday reality check.”
 
If you are worrying about missing some basic signs, here are five categories from the “reality check.”

  1. Is your parent starting to have difficulty with basic tasks? Is walking and talking becoming a stressful chore? And does getting dressed every day seem difficult?
  2. If there are stairs in their home, do they have a problem getting up and down easily? Even on the main floor, do they find it more difficult every day to move from room to room? Is it harder for them to organize how they cook and eat?
  3. Is their personal hygiene becoming more unpredictable? Do they bathe as often as they once did or do they seem sloppy when they once were fastidious about personal appearance and dental hygiene? Perhaps they're not worrying about their hair being combed and washed.
  4. Check around the house to see if they are tending to basic household chores. If they have piles of unopened mail and unpaid bills, it's a sign. If they have regular medications, maybe they are managing it less effectively. Check for low food supplies; dents and scratches on their car. One telltale sign is a growing number of cigarette burns on furniture or carpets.
  5. Then there are significant changes in basic good health. Do you see weight loss, difficulty sleeping, hearing loss, bed-wetting, and bruises from falls, or skin burns from cooking accidents? Do they spill more items during cooking than seems explainable? (Some of us have always been clumsy.)

None of these signs by themselves mean your parent needs nursing help. Everyone has accidents and trends in their behaviors.

But it's equally important to know how to read signs that someone you love needs support and help.

If you are beginning to wonder if some level of private duty nursing help would make their lives better, be sure to review our Top 7 things to consider when choosing a Qualified Home Care Provider.


November is American Diabetes Month and National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month

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Diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. It can cause blindness, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other health problems if it’s not controlled. One in 11 Americans have diabetes – that’s more than 29 million people. And another 86 million adults in the United States are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

To learn more, visit the American Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.org

November is also National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month. To Learn more about the disease and how to support patients and their caregivers visit Dementia Day by Day at www.dementia-by-day.com and The Alzheimers Reading Room websites at www.alzheimersreadingroom.com.

Identifying Dementia Symptoms in an Aging Parent

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Dealing with dementia symptoms in your own parent can stretch the limits of your sanity. Sometimes you may not even notice the first symptoms of dementia -- the slow decline of your aging parent's memory. The symptoms of dementia may continue until your aging parent starts exhibiting signs of other mental disorders, such as paranoia or delusions, which frequently piggyback on the effects of senile dementia. These symptoms may keep reappearing, until you can't ignore them and you're forced to take action like I was. Hopefully, this article will help you identify dementia and other mental problems in your aging parents and help you deal with the problem by getting their condition assessed by a professional. My own mom taught school most of her life. She was highly organized and extremely independent. She read constantly and became quite adept at oil painting. At the age of 76 she moved closer to my sister and I, but her canvases and brushes never seemed to make it out of the moving boxes. I bought her a VCR for Christmas, hoping that renting movies could help her shake her newly-found disinterest in life. But the new VCR was never turned on unless I happened to visit with a movie in hand. It became, like the microwave I had gotten her a year earlier, another piece of unused technology. It never dawned on me at the time that my mom had stopped wanting to learn new things, or that this could mean that her aging mind was showing early symptoms of dementia.

Believing that Mom's depression was a result of her unhappiness with her living situation, my sister and I began a search to find her senior housing. We placed our hopes on a retirement community that offered a full-time social director to rescue her from the depressed mood we were fighting. The retirement home helped her find new friends and subdued the paranoia, but only temporarily. Soon she insisted we change her banking accounts. She accused the banks of stealing money from her safety deposit box. She also became absurdly paranoid about my brother-in-law, who she suspected, had a master key to her apartment. All missing items were blamed on this poor fellow. We never suspected that paranoia could be a symptom of dementia.

The amazing part of all this is that my sister and I continued right on with our lives, denying Mom's odd behavior while helping her change bank accounts and get new locks for her apartment. We just figured it was normal for our aging parent to become strange when she turned 80 years old. We never suspected dementia was taking her away from us.

Symptoms of dementia are insidious, because they start so slowly. Often they are mixed with periods of what appears to be normal behavior. So just when we thought she was showing symptoms of dementia, she'd return with what appeared to be complete clarity, asking us about our spouses and giving the usual motherly advice we had grown up with and trusted. Looking back, I can clearly see the progression of the disorder. But at the time, senile dementia sneaked in and stole Mom from us without a clue. Because of our busy schedules, hectic lives, and maybe a little denial, we didn't see it until it was too late.

There was also a strong fear going on. I remember thinking that if my mother was showing symptoms of dementia, I must be showing symptoms of dementia too. She was so close to me that I had a lot of her same thinking patterns. She dictated reality to me when I was growing up. I worried about this a lot. I really wanted her to be "normal" so I could feel normal. I didn't want anyone to find out my mom was acting crazy. I could just imagine everyone at work hearing the news and moving their fingers in circles around their ear saying "Ah ha! That explains it!"

So we took Mom to doctor after doctor trying to find a cure for her symptoms. Was it low iron, low zinc, or low potassium? They drew countless pints of blood trying to rule out what could be causing her behavior. But eventually, most of the doctors proved worthless in offering real help. Not one seemed to be able to tell us what was wrong. None of her five doctors could give us any advice that would help her. They all seemed to deny there was any problem. Fortunately, we met a geriatric counselor who advised us to take her to a local hospital for a geriatric evaluation. I wish we had done this evaluation five years earlier.

If your parent is acting strange and you're not getting results or a concrete diagnoses from your doctor, consider a geriatric counselor. You can find them in the yellow pages or on the Web. The small amount of money you'll pay for their services will help you retain your sanity through the decisions you'll soon be facing. A geriatric counselor will also relieve you of a fair amount of guilt as you carry out the future decisions that become necessary when an aging parent develops dementia.

William J. Grote is the author of the book "Helping Your Aging Parent -- A Step-by-Step Guide". William cared for his aging mother and made plenty of discoveries along the way. Hopefully his book can help you down the road of care giving -- which for many of us who survived the 60's and 70's, may be a completely new experience.

You can download a free checklist "Warning Signs of Dementia and Mental Illness" to help you identify unusual behavior in aging parents at http://www.boomer-books.com