Ask the Nurse and Preserving Dignity | Alcohol Awareness Month

They're losing enough; don't take their dignity too.

by Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare and "Mother"

Part three of a four part series about Christine Hammerlund and her Mom.

When a person becomes less capable of caring for themselves - or even functioning as a thoughtful adult - your first reaction as a loving adult child is to take away every choice they have. Don't.

Don't treat Mom as if she was a child, even though her behavior is childlike. It is very important to maintain their dignity.

My Mom is a very dignified person. She's has earned the right to have that dignity respected and supported.

Especially with dementia it is hard to tell what a parent is absorbing, and what they are not.

I've found with Mom that she remembers more clearly when it is important to her. So, if you talk down to her, she'll react negatively. Again, I try to give Mom some household responsibilities that she can handle to help her feel she's a vital part of the family.

It is very important to me that Mom continues to do what she can for herself for as long as possible. I think it strengthens her independence and preserves her dignity.

Next month, part four and the final piece in our series: It's your Mom. You didn't expect her to surrender her sovereignty did you?


April is Alcohol Awareness Month

Be aware of how much alcohol is being consumed.

Be aware of how much alcohol is being consumed.

Drinking too much alcohol increases people’s risk of injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease, and some types of cancer.

If you are drinking too much, you can improve your health by cutting back or quitting. Here are some strategies to help you cut back or stop drinking:
• Limit your drinking to no more than 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.
• Keep track of how much you drink.
• Choose a day each week when you will not drink.
• Don’t drink when you are upset.
• Avoid places where people drink a lot.
• Make a list of reasons not to drink.

If you are concerned about someone else’s drinking, offer to help.

For more information visit National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence website:
www.ncadd.org

Celebrating Spring and March | Ask the Nurse: forgetting the life you lived

The pain of forgetting the life you lived

by Christine Hammerlund, President of Assured Healthcare and "Mother"
Part two of a four part series about Christine Hammerlund and her Mom.

One of the obvious effects of even moderate dementia is that a person afflicted by it forgets.

Forgets events. Forgets faces. Forgets names. Forgets facts.

But the deepest fear for a thoughtful, independent person is to lose the memory of everything in life that mattered. To have all the rich events and experiences wiped away. It is a fundamental loss of humanity that dementia inflicts. It is a deep fearsome pain in the soul to confront that future.

There are a few things that really surprise me and continue to baffle me about Mom's dementia.

I can't always anticipate what she clearly remembers and what she forgets. She talks a lot about her life as a child, but can't remember her husband of 40-plus years or her children's names or when her birthday is.

She often asks me if I remember the neighbor down the street when she was growing up.

Most of the time she accepts that her memory is fading, but sometimes she cries because she realizes that she remembers less and less. Dementia is not painless.

Mom often asks me the same thing over and over again. I try to be patient and answer as if it were the first time she asked. I would advise those caregivers out there to never say, “remember you just asked that question and I answered you” because they don't remember. It is painful and depressing for seniors to realize they can't recall or retain new information.

Some of that missing information involves decisions that had been carefully considered and decided.

When she first moved in with me, she constantly talked about going home, and I had to explain to her that she would not be able to return home. She now suggests that infrequently.  She often tells me it is fine to leave her alone and that she'll be OK. But I have caregivers with her during the day, while I work; so she is never alone.  She hasn't totally accepted her functional limitations and often asks me what she can do to help me around the house. She wants to feel useful and helpful, and I struggle to give her small chores such as setting the table for dinner and folding the laundry. Because of her poor eyesight, she is unable to help with any of the cooking.

Look for Part 3 of this special series next month: They're losing enough; don't take their dignity too.


6 Healthy Reasons to Love Spring

Birds are chirping. Flowers are blooming. The good news is that all the things we love about spring are surprisingly good for us!

Extra daylight. Springing forward for daylight saving time feels rough the day after, but once you’re recovered from a night or two of sleep deprivation, the benefits are far-reaching. In addition to giving us more time to spend outdoors and serving as a natural mood booster, that extra hour of light may help reduce traffic accidents and fatalities.

A healthier home. During warmer weather, open your windows and let the sunshine in while you spring clean, declutter, and organize your home.

A spring-cleaned diet. Sweep the cobwebs about of your cold-weather diet with a dose of fresh spring produce.

Outdoor exercise. If winter is too cold and summer is too hot, spring is just right for outdoor exercise.

No more winter skin. Gone are the freezing temps and harsh winds that wreak havoc on your skin and hair.

Spring break! Have you taken a break yet? Whether at home or away a break from routine and daily stresses can reduce risks for diseases such as breast cancer and cardiovascular disease, as well as help manage stress long-term.

* Referenced 6 Healthy Reasons to Love Spring article by Annie Hauser


Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with this healthy green Monster Veggie Burger

Veggie burgers often get a bad rap, but this wholesome recipe will change your mind. Made with chick peas, veggies, and just the right amount of seasoning, these patties are loaded with both flavor and good-for-you perks.

Ingredients:
1 15-oz. can Progresso chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed
1 egg
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. coarse (kosher or sea) salt
1 c. chopped fresh spinach
1/2 c. shredded carrot
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
3/4 c. Progresso panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp. canola oil
Toppings, as desired (avocado halves, cilantro leaves, cucumber slices, tomato slices, sweet pepper strips, lettuce leaves)
Sauces, as desired (spicy mustard, Sriracha, ketchup, citrus vinaigrette)

Directions:
In food processor bowl, place chick peas, egg, garlic, smoked paprika, coriander, cumin, and salt. Cover; process with on-and-off pulses about 45 seconds or until nearly smooth. Stir together bean mixture, spinach, carrot, and cilantro until well combined. Stir in bread crumbs. Shape mixture into 4 patties, about 3 1/2 in. in diameter and 1/2 in. thick. In 10-in. nonstick skillet, heat 2 tbsp. canola oil over medium heat until hot. Cook patties in oil 8 to 10 minutes, turning once, until brown and crisp. Serve veggie burgers stacked with toppings and drizzled with sauce. Makes 4 servings. Recipe provided by Betty Crocker

Identifying Dementia Symptoms in an Aging Parent

senior-man

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