by John Peake
An alternative to sitting in a “care” facility waiting to die: How about enjoying your final days!
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative neurological disease that ends in death. That may sound harsh but it is a simple, unspoken truth. This disease will affect 16 million Americans and their families in the next 30 years.
Not much is known about Alzheimer’s except that it attacks brain cells, causes short term memory loss and odd behaviors, is tragic for the families live with it, and, at this time, there is no cure.
Can you delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s? Anecdotal evidence suggests a busy mind and social life may help, or you may want to investigate the handful of pharmaceuticals that claim to slow the symptoms for a while. Personally, I like Europe’s approach. Studies from Germany and Sweden show a significantly reduced risk for succumbing to Alzheimer’s by drinking coffee and beer. Cheers!
While science struggles with a solution for this debilitating disease, can we make a difference? Yes. The single most powerful thing we can do is change our point of view from “cure” to “care.” When we make this perceptual shift we open our hearts to new ways of caring for someone. Instead of waiting for a cure we move forward with the real work at hand, which is making people with Alzheimer’s more comfortable, happy, and free of stress. By increasing our mindfulness of their moment we allow people with Alzheimer’s to BE who they are becoming.
Sounds like a place we would all like to live in doesn’t it? You can help create their new world with the following proven Alzheimer’s caregiving tips:
* Join Their Journey – Do not constantly correct someone with this disease. It’s frustrating for you and causes them anxiety. If they think you are the mailman then just reply, “Here’s your mail!”
* Never Negative – Always be positive! Remove things that upset them and add things that make them happy. Play with children and dogs. Do not listen to media news and serious conversations.
* It’s Not About You – Get counseling so that you understand the psychology necessary to let go of you and embrace them, the new them. Take yoga classes and meditate to help you stay grounded.
* Innovate – We take one of our patients to a water park every summer. She gets a great tan and loves playing in the kiddie pool! Try things you would never, ever consider and you may be pleasantly surprised.
* Stop the Clock – Fold clothes and wash vegetables. Again. Then again. And again. Try retooling your thinking from doing things efficiently to doing things in a relaaaaxed manner.
* Appetite Therapy – Most folks who pass away with Alzheimer’s due so because they stop eating. Try new and different foods to appeal to their changing tastebuds. Prepare good smelling foods in their presence such as bacon or garlic. Throw nutritional guides out the window and be deliciously creative.
* Humor – The good thing about Alzheimer’s? You’re always meeting new people! Everyone of our patients has responded to humor much better than seriousness. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to spend their waking hours in a fun, light atmosphere?
* Ice Cream All Day – WHY NOT? It’s what they want and not what you want for them. It has been our experience that a lot of companions and caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s need to lighten up.
* Body Talk – They are communicating with you all of the time and it’s not with words. You will need to slow down and become mindful of this unspoken language: Their eyes speak volumes, as do their facial expressions, toe wiggles and fidgeting.
* Pro-Active Everything – Anticipate your Alz person’s needs and offer drinking water, snacks/food, and visits to the toilet regularly.
We wish you strength and inspiration as you change to help someone travel through their change!
Sugar House residents John and Elizabeth Peake are passionate, light-hearted caregivers who are happy to share their knowledge and ideas about aging gracefully. Ask them about a special, free program designed to assist in the activities of daily living for those with Alzheimer’s. §
For more information, please call 801.560.2100 or visit