Tag Archives: dementia home care

Helpers for dementia caregivers

In-home helpers for dementia caregivers can be hard to find. Many readers have shared their bad experiences with aides who were not reliable or family members who won’t help. My mom’s been sick for eight years and in that time I’ve had to solve many similar problems. Here are some strategies that worked for me.

helpers for dementia caregivers

The Extra Pair of Hands — This is what I call that important person who can help with bathing, toileting and transfers into bed. The Extra Pair of Hands can come in many forms and last fall I was desperate for any one who fit the description. We had been getting support from a home health agency for nearly a year. At the beginning, the service (which is nationally known) was very helpful and I don’t know what I would have done without them. But over the course of a year, they lost many aides in our region. If our aide cancelled a shift, the agency had no one to fill in. As the service grew less reliable, so did my mother’s legs. Getting her ready for bed was becoming a strenuous, unsafe ordeal.

After dislocating my shoulder for the third time in 18 months, I felt I was near the end of my rope. It occurred to me that there must be a responsible high school student in the area who might want to earn a little money the way I did when I served as a teenage babysitter. But I wasn’t sure how I could find a responsible teen. The widespread use of drugs in just about every U.S. town makes you wonder how you can identify kids with good character. I finally decided to ask the local Girl Scout troop leaders to see if they could recommend a teen with a good school and behavior record. They had a candidate for me right away. The young lady they identified is also enrolled in a Vocational Education program to become a nursing assistant. To earn her certificate, she has to complete practicum hours at a nursing home. Although she only comes to my house once a week, on those nights her “Extra Pair of Hands” are worth a million bucks.

A Real Mom Since my mother had the episode with the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), I’ve been worried about dressing her by myself in the morning. I have a recurring fear the she will make an unexpected move and take another fall. I asked the wonderful Girl Scout leaders to see if they knew a local mom who might want to earn a few dollars by helping me for an hour after dropping their kids off at the school bus stop. Again they were quickly able to identify someone who had cared for an elderly neighbor until she passed away. Now this mom stops here for a while to add safety to my mother’s morning lifts. She also brought a side benefit: when there’s no school she brings her kids along and that gives my mom an energy boost.

The Volunteer Hairdresser:  Just because you have dementia doesn’t mean your hair should look crazy. We’ve probably all seen dementia patients who need grooming. But it’s very hard to take someone with dementia to a barber shop or salon. Through our new network of Girl Scouts and Moms we have been able to find a volunteer hairdresser who visited to cut my mother’s hair. She looked a thousand times better with a fresh haircut and you could tell it made her feel good to be told her hair was pretty. The hairdresser said she wanted to help us because she has several disabled people in her family. It means a lot when someone comprehends how hard it is to transport someone like Mom for services outside the home.

I’m sure we’ve been blessed with good luck in making some of these connections. But if you’re stressed out from caregiving without supports, I urge you to reach out to local youth development, faith-based organizations, or service groups in your community. Although some days it seems like building character is no longer part of our national tradition, I know from experience that there are good, helpful people around us. We just have to figure out how to find them.

 

Finding Strength to be Thankful

As a child, the approach of Thanksgiving hinted at coming winter pleasures: special foods, snow days, wrapped gifts, etc. For adult caregivers, these delights are often erased by stress and fear of the disasters dementia can add to holidays. What can help us recover the joy hidden by clouds of worry? Careful planning is one tool — poetry is another.

Between the Pond and the Woods

First, some planning tips from the Alzheimer’s Association which might make your holidays less burdensome and more enjoyable:

  • Call a meeting to discuss upcoming plans. The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. Invite family and friends to a face-to-face meeting, or if geography is an obstacle, set up a telephone conference call. Make sure everyone understands your caregiving situation and has realistic expectations about what you can do. Be honest about any limitations or needs, such as keeping a daily routine.
  • Be good to yourself. Give yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage. If you’ve always invited 15 to 20 people to your home, consider paring it down to a few guests for a simple meal. Let others contribute. Have a potluck dinner or ask them to host at their home. You also may want to consider breaking large gatherings up into smaller visits of two or three people at a time to keep the person with dementia (and yourself) from getting overtired.
  • Do a variation on a theme. If evening confusion and agitation are a problem, consider changing a holiday dinner into a holiday lunch or brunch. If you do have the celebration at night, keep the room well-lit and try to avoid any known triggers.
  • Build on past traditions and memories. Focus on activities that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums.
  • Involve the person in holiday preparation. As the person’s abilities allow, invite him or her to help you prepare food, wrap packages, help decorate or set the table. This could be as simple as having the person measure an ingredient or hand decorations to you as you put them up. (Be careful with decoration choices. Blinking lights may confuse or scare a person with dementia, and decorations that look like food could be mistaken as edible.)
  • Maintain a normal routine. Sticking to the person’s normal routine will help keep the holidays from becoming disruptive or confusing. Plan time for breaks and rest.

And here’s a really great idea:

  • Put respite care on your wish list! If friends or family ask what you want for a gift, suggest a gift certificate or something that will help you take care of yourself as you care for your loved one. It could be a cleaning or household chore service, an offer to provide respite care, or something that gives you a bit of rest and relaxation.

If these bits of advice don’t help you, here are a few quotations that can shift our focus to thankfulness as we confront the challenges that come with the disease.

“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road. ” — John Henry Jowett

“The best way to show my gratitude to God is to accept everything, even my problems, with joy. ” — Mother Teresa 

“Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. ” — G.K. Chesterton 

“An understanding heart is everything in a teacher, and cannot be esteemed
highly enough. One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers,
but with gratitude to those who touched our human feeling.”  — Carl Gustav Jung 

“Old age is not a matter for sorrow. It is matter for thanks if we have left our work done behind us.” — Thomas Carlyle 

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark
from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep
gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” — Albert Schweitzer

“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.”
Cynthia Ozick 

“We hope that, when the insects take over the world, they will remember with gratitude how we took them along on all our picnics.”
Bill Vaughan 

SOURCE: WisdomPortal.com; edited by Peter Y. Chou and BrainyQuotes.com

When I went hunting for poems and “thankfulness” quotes, I couldn’t help noticing that almost everything collected was written by men. Is that because women had fewer poetic ideas — or because they spent the last few centuries cooking, cleaning, and creating much that inspires our Thanksgiving attitude?Maybe they had no time left to sit down and write something clever about it.

Nevertheless, for me the most precise expression of gratitude is one of the few phrases my mom still says: Thank you! Even in stressful family situations, it’s a statement that, when offered with sincerity, makes our wheels stop and sit quiet for one sweet minute. Thanks also to readers for sharing so many concerns and solutions on this page. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!