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

Post-holiday concerns about an aging loved one? Senior Care Reality Checklist can help.

Holidays bring families together to celebrate the season and enjoy sharing time together.  They also offer opportunities for us to spend lengthier periods of time with aging parents and loved ones — sometimes long enough to observe changes in habits or lifestyle that give rise to concerns about their health or well-being, especially when they live on their own. The changes can seem slight or innocuous:  a forgotten face, a mismatched outfit, a wrong turn on the way to the grocery store.  Or, they can be more alarming: 

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Home Care for the Elderly or Ailing - 7 Tips for Choosing a Qualified Provider

web-senior-lady-doorway

As the nation's population ages, more Americans are being confronted with the need to seek assistance with in-home care of elderly or sick parents, or extended family. Couple that fact with the ever increasing trend toward same-day, out-patient surgical procedures, and assessing the qualifications of private duty home care for recovering patients of any age takes on an even greater urgency.  It's a difficult task for a lot of people. Because it is not pleasant to think about parents or family members becoming ill or needing medical help, many persons avoid planning in advance for those possibilities. When they suddenly have a need for home care, they don't know where to start in choosing a private duty provider. 

Given the rise in reports of elder abuse and the potential for unknowingly retaining illegal or unqualified workers, there is valid cause for concern. However, there are several key inquiries that can be made to help in selecting a qualified provider.  Be sure to ask the same questions of each prospective service. You can then compare responses "apples-to-apples", and that should help in making the right choice. The seven questions below address some of the most important areas of consideration:

  1. Experience of principals - Who owns the staffing service and what background does the owner or owners have in the healthcare or medical staffing field?
  2. Length of time in business - When was the service established?
  3. Licensing and professional associations or organizations - Is the service licensed in your state, and is it affiliated with any recognized healthcare, private duty or home care staffing organizations?
  4. Screening of employees - How are the service's employees screened for appropriate medical skills and certifications, and what type of background checks are conducted?
  5. Tenure of employees - On average, how long have its private duty workers been employed with the staffing service? Testimonials of private duty clients - Can the service provide testimonials or references attesting to the quality and level of service they have provided to other clients?
  6. Client intake process - How are the needs of the patient assessed and what type of care plan is prepared to record shift activities and make sure there is clear communication with patient and family throughout the term of care?

 These are important questions that any reputable service should be happy to answer - and during stressful times, it's important that you feel as comfortable as possible with the persons who are providing in-home care.

Copyright © Christine Hammerlund – 2008.  Christine Hammerlund is a registered nurse and the owner of Assured Healthcare, a healthcare staffing service headquartered in Gurnee, Illinois.