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Caregiver Blog

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Cognitive Impairment Screening 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014  by jhblogger

Do you ever feel you are losing that sharp edge to your memory? Perhaps you are not thinking as clearly as you might like. Has your spouse, son, daughter or close friend asked about or mentioned that you seem to be having problems remembering? Are you worried that your age or your chronic medical problems are negatively impacting your memory? These are all good reasons to ask your doctor to screen you for memory impairment.

There is considerable debate around the question of whether people should routinely be screened for memory problems. Arguments against screening including not having a cure for Alzheimer’s dementia and that the medications we currently have available are of limited effectiveness. When the United States Preventive Service Task Force (USPTF) reviewed whether to recommend routine screening for memory impairment, they could not definitively say yes or no.

What might be some solid reasons to inquire about being screened for memory problems? Remember, finding memory impairment does not mean you have an irreversible dementia. Other potentially reversible causes of memory impairment include side effects of medications, depression, thyroid and other endocrine disorders, and other acute and chronic illnesses. These and other potentially reversible causes of memory decline can be effectively treated once recognized. Almost half of people over the age of 80 years are identified as having some form of dementia making advancing age a good reason to be screened.

Screening negative for memory impairment can greatly reduce some of your health care concerns, at least in the short term. But what if you screen positive and your physician does not uncover a potentially reversible cause? What if further tests demonstrate a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other dementia? Is there any advantage to knowing early? Some potential advantages to knowing the diagnosis of dementia include:

• Other illnesses associated with memory impairment can be identified and treated;

• Starting medications to treat Alzheimer’s dementia early on may help slow (but not halt) progression of the disease;

• You can plan ahead for your needs including identifying your goals of care over the long term and updating your advanced directives;

• You can work with your lawyer to make certain your will and other legal documents are updated and kept current with your wishes;

• Family members and caregivers can be educated and prepared for future needs;

• Safety issues can be recognized and addressed.

Screening is quick and easy, involves several questions, and takes only 5-10 minutes. There are no current blood tests or radiologic examinations appropriate for screening. Further evaluation by your primary care physician and specialist referrals are readily available. A lot more research is needed to identify means to prevent dementia and effectively treat existing dementia. For now, keep yourselve informed and plan ahead. Discuss your concerns with your physician and consider, once you feel fully informed, being screened for memory impairment.

--Dr. Michael Lindberg; Physician-in-chief, Hartford HealthCare's Geriatric and Palliative Care Institute

For more information about scheduling a memory screening please call the Connecticut Center for Healthy Aging at 1-877-424-4641 top Top

Maximizing Strengths 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014  by jhblogger

     How could caregivers maximize an older adult’s strengths and foster independence? When we think about aging, we focus on decline; decline in health, memory, and losses. What about focusing on what someone can do for themselves? There are so many ways to modify activities of daily living or pleasurable events so that your older adult can still participate. This is the mind set we hope that our caregivers and families can begin to think toward. As a caregiver, you may want to “do” for the person because it is easier than, for example, watching them struggle to dress. The important thing is to allow the senior to do as much for themselves as they can, safely and within reason. By doing this, skills, such as zipping a zipper or peeling a carrot, are not lost. Modifying the activity may be as simple as the caregiver assisting with buttons, but still allowing the loved one to pick out their clothing for the day. Continuing to encourage the person to do things for themselves will help to maintain independence and improve self-esteem. Challenge yourself to be patient, and see what your loved one is still capable of doing for themselves! top Top

Caregiver Corner 

Thursday, June 27, 2013  by jhblogger

Creating an Environment for Better Communication-


On a day to day basis, communicating with your aging loved one can be a challenge. From hearing deficits to dementia, conversations can be distorted creating barriers to effective communication. Here are some tips to help combat these challenges:


-Ensure that your loved one has their hearing aids and glasses on. As simple as this may be, sometimes we forget to check such an obvious barrier. This will allow for you to be heard and body language and expression to be seen.


- Approach the person from the front. Talking from the side or behind can scare the person or make it difficult for them to hear you.


- Limit noise and distractions. Turn down the TV, put your cell phone on silent, and find a quiet place to talk. Although we are used to multi-taking and can tune out everyday noise, this isn’t always the case for our loved one.


-Use body language and unspoken communication such as pointing or gesturing to help guide the conversation. Visual cues are also a good tool to help clarify what you are saying or asking.


-Use simple words and sentences; complicated instructions or lengthy stories can get “lost in translation”. top Top


Tuesday, May 21, 2013  by jhblogger

Transitioning from a home to a community such as, Arbor Rose or Jerome Home, can be difficult for both the new resident and the family. Leaving a home that a person has lived in for 30+ yrs, full of memories and belongings, can be a grieving process.  Here are some tips that may help you and your loved one through this significant life event:

-Feel comfortable and confident with your selection in the community/facility. Take the time to tour and meet staff.  Also find out if the facility meets specific needs of your loved one (medical, social, and emotional). For long term care, place several applications (at least 3) to be waitlisted at your choice facilities

-Your reaction to the move will have an impact on your loved one's response. Be mindful of your own stress and emotions. Allow your loved one time to acclimate and get used to staff before taking them out

-Share information and history about your loved one with the staff. Completing a life history, including likes/dislikes and daily routine are important to a successful care plan

- Before the move, decide how much you would like to talk to your loved one to prepare them for the upcoming changes. Provide patience and comfort; try and understand what fears or worries they may have

-Accompany your loved one on the day of the move to provide support

-Ask for a list of the staff that you may contact for an update; you are the advocate and should take part in the care planning process

-Seek support from other family members, friends, or a support group during this time.  Even though your loved one has moved to a facility, you are still their caregiver and this may be a difficult transition for you as well top Top > Comments   (1 comments)

Planning Ahead for Long Term Care Expenses for Assisted Living Residents 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013  by jhblogger

     The key to being prepared for the future of your loved ones care is advanced planning. First things first, gather financial and legal documentation which will include:

will, powers of attorney, bank account statements, ownership statements (car/ home), pension benefit summaries, Social Security payment, stock and bond certificates, and insurance policies. All of these documents will be helpful in estimating how many years of finance your loved one may have to pay for care and to identify documents that still need to be completed. You will also want to gather these documents to complete skilled nursing facility applications, the VA pension application (if applicable), and eventually to apply for Medicaid.

The costs you will want to consider and calculate for the future will be medical treatment, prescription drugs, personal care supplies, and the cost of care for Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Facilities. Now is also the time to tour skilled nursing facilities and place your loved one on waitlists. Although the person may not be ready for this care now, completing applications and choosing the right facility take time. This step in planning will hopefully avoid it having to be done in a crisis situation. It is best for the person to be on at least three waitlists, as your first choice facility may not have an opening when the time comes for your loved one to need placement.

You may also want to find out about financial assistance programs that can help extend financial resources within Assisted Living. There are three programs that are available to assist with the payment of care. The Connecticut Home Care Program for Elders, the Pilot Program, and VA Aid and Attendance. Choosing a new prescription plan during open enrollment may also alleviate some unnecessary expenses. For more information on any of these programs please call Kate Lubin, MSW at 860-356-8281. top Top

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