Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Books to Snuggle Up With on a Cold Winter's Day...Helpful Caregiving Reads

By Deanna Leyh Page's cold outside! What's better on a cold winter's day when it's snowy and dark out than curling up under a blanket with a good book? When the weather is bad and you can't get outside, it's nice to catch up on some reading. There are a plethora of helpful and interesting reads on caregiving--below we've highlighted some good books specific on caregiving, dementia, and age-related issues. Be sure to check out your local bookstore or library and explore some of these titles!

There’s No Place Like (Nursing) Home – Stories of Dementia, Dying, and Peeing on the Christmas Tree by Paul Tedesco

"I have an Nh.D...Doctorate in Nursing Homes. I got it at the University of Experience. One day my mother moved into a nursing home. On another she died there. What happened in between changed my life. This is a book for my 'friends', almost all of whom I haven’t met. There are over millions of them across the country. They, like me, are getting older. So are their parents. Many are or will end up in nursing homes. Most who do will die there. Whether my friends learn to smile in between can change their lives too. The book is a short folksy memoir, a compendium of stories about what I saw, learned, and felt, and how I learned to smile again, then and now. Three-part dementia-inspired operas will do that. So will an old man trying to pee on a Christmas tree. I found laughter amidst my tears. In the midst of the tempest, I also found serenity for a troubled soul. So can my friends."

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

"Still Alice is a 2007 novel by Lisa Genova. The novel is about a woman who suffers early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Alice Howland, a 50-year-old woman, is a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned linguistics expert. She is married to an equally successful husband, and they have three grown children. The disease takes hold swiftly, and it changes Alice’s relationship with her family and the world. It was Genova's first novel."

The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins

"When someone in your family suffers from Alzheimer's disease or other related memory loss diseases, both you and your loved one face immense challenges. For over thirty years, this book has been the trusted bible for families affected by dementia disorders. Now completely revised and updated, this guide features the latest information on the causes of dementia, managing the early stages of dementia, the prevention of dementia, and finding appropriate living arrangements for the person who has dementia when home care is no longer an option. You'll learn:
  • The basic facts about dementia
  • How to deal with problems arising in daily care-meals, exercise, personal hygiene, and safety
  • How to cope with an impaired person's false ideas, suspicion, anger, and other mood problems
  • How to get outside help from support groups, friends, and agencies
  • Financial and legal issues you must address."

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast

"Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is a graphic memoir of American cartoonist and author Rosalind "Roz" Chast. The book is about Chast's parents in their final years. Her father, George, died at the age of 95 and her mother, Elizabeth, who worked as an assistant elementary school principal, died at the age of 97.[1] The author derived the book's title from her parents' refusal to discuss their advancing years and infirmities.[2] Chast's cartoons have appeared in The New Yorker magazine since 1978.[1] The book was appreciated for showcasing Chast's talent as cartoonist and storyteller. It received several awards and was a number 1 New York Times Bestseller."

The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent by Barry J. Jacobs

"Caring for a parent whose health is in decline turns the world upside down. The emotional fallout can be devastating, but it doesn't have to be that way. Empathic guidance from an expert who's been there can help. Through an account of two sisters and their ailing mother--interwoven with no-nonsense advice--The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers helps family members navigate tough decisions and make the most of their time together as they care for an aging parent. The author urges readers to be honest about the level of commitment they're able to make and emphasizes the need for clear communication within the family. While acknowledging their guilt, stress, and fatigue, he helps caregivers reaffirm emotional connections worn thin by the routine of daily care. This compassionate book will help families everywhere avoid burnout and preserve bonds during one of life's most difficult passages."

Creating Moments of Joy by Jolene Brackey
"Jolene Brackey has a vision. A vision that will soon look beyond the challenges of Alzheimer's disease and focus more of our energy on creating moments of joy. When a person has short-term memory loss, his life is made up of moments. But if you think about it, our memory is made up of moments, too. We are not able to create a perfectly wonderful day with someone who has dementia, but it is absolutely attainable to create a perfectly wonderful moment; a moment that puts a smile on their face, a twinkle in their eye, or triggers a memory. Five minutes later, they won't remember what you did or said, but the feeling you left them with will linger."
When the Time Comes: Families with Aging Parents Share Their Struggles and Solutions by Paula Span
"What will you do when you get the call that a loved one has had a heart attack or a stroke? Or when you realize that a family member is too frail to live alone, but too healthy for a nursing home?

Journalist Paula Span shares the resonant narratives of several families who faced these questions. Each family contemplates the alternatives in elder care (from assisted living to multigenerational living to home care, nursing care, and at the end, hospice care) and chooses the right path for its needs. Span writes about the families' emotional challenges, their practical discoveries, and the good news that some of them find a situation that has worked for them and their loved ones. And many find joy in the duty of caring for an older loved one.

There are 45 million Americans caring for family members currently, and as the 77 million boomers continue to age, this number will only go up. Paula Span's stories are revealing and informative. They give a sense of all the emotional and practical factors that go into the major decisions about caregiving, so that readers will be better able to figure out what to do when the time comes for them and their loved ones."

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Suicide in Older Adults

By Deanna Leyh Page

Suicide among older adults is a large issue, especially because attempts made by older adults are more lethal, or likely to result in death, than younger people. Men ages 85 and older have the highest rate of suicide than any other group in the country. As caregivers of older adults and people who work with this population, it is important to be aware of suicide and depression in the aging population. It's particularly important to assess for suicide in older adults because they tend to use more deadly methods and they are less likely to recover from an attempt because of physical frailty.

There are many warning signs to be aware of when working with older adults to assess for suicide. There are some warning signs listed below, which may indicate that a person is in danger and could use urgent help. If you notice any of these signs, please
1) Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself;
2) Looking for a way to kill oneself;
3) Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose;
4) Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain;
5) Talking about being a burden to others;
6) Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs;
7) Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless;
8) Sleeping too little or too much;
9) Withdrawing or feeling isolated;
10) Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge; and
11) Displaying extreme mood swings.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these warning signs or you suspect they might be feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Re:Solve Crisis Center at 1-888-7-YOU-CAN (796-8226).
To learn more about suicide in older adults, there is also an upcoming program offered through the Pitt School of Social Work and School of Nursing called the Assessment, Intervention, and Prevention of Suicide in Older Adults: An Inter-Professional Approach that is being offered on Friday, March 2nd from 9am-12pm in Room 2017 at the Cathedral of Learning. This program will offer CEUs and will cost $75.00. This learning activity will provide attendees an understanding of risk factors of suicide in older adults, screening for suicide, intervention strategies, how to implement prevention strategies across settings with older adults, and professionals' roles in preventing and intervening with older adults. To learn more information or to register online, please click here.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Understanding Dementia

By Deanna Leyh Page

Many people are diagnosed with dementia or a specific type of dementia every year. They get the diagnosis from their doctor, and more often than not, they end up leaving the doctor’s office with more questions than they came in with. They have questions like, “What’s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?” and “So this means mom is just losing her memory?”  There’s a lot to understand about a dementia diagnosis, so below is a bit of starter information to help you and your loved ones get some answers to your questions about dementia.

Dementia is not a specific disease, but it is an umbrella term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills that is severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks or activities. There are many types of dementia that fall under the dementia umbrella, and Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60-80% of all dementia cases. There are also other types of dementia, including vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, dementia with Lewy Bodies, and mixed dementia. Typically when people hear the word dementia, they think of memory loss or forgetfulness. However, dementia symptoms do not just include memory loss, but also confusion, challenges in planning or problem solving, difficulty understanding visual images and spatial relationships, decreased or poor judgment, and changes in mood, personality, and behaviors. Dementia usually occurs in later life, when people are 65 and older, but it can occur in those in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s.

On average, people live dementia 4-8 years, but many people can live with it for up to 20 years or longer. There are three main stages of dementia: early-stage, middle-stage, and late-stage. In early stage, people can still function independently, but they may start to have memory lapses where friends and family start to notice difficulties. People can also have trouble coming up with the right word, challenges performing tasks in social situations, and trouble with planning or organizing. Middle stage is the longest stage and can last for many years. Symptoms will become more noticeable, and can include forgetfulness of one’s own personal history, feeling moody and withdrawn, confusion about where they are or the day, needing more helps for their activities of daily living, changes in sleeping and eating patterns, personality and behavioral changes, and trouble controlling their bowels or bladder. In the late stage, people lose the ability to respond to their environment, carry on a conversation, and to control movement. They often have extensive personality changes and need much more help with their ADLs. It is in late stage that people have changes in their physical abilities that can lead to death, like losing the ability to walk, sit, swallow, and even breathe on their own.

At this time, there is no treatment to cure, delay, or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. There are some FDA drugs to temporarily slow the progression of the disease for a short period (6-12 months) if given in earlier stages of the disease, such as Aricept, Namenda, and Exelon. Exercise and physical activity has been shown to help slow the onset or slow the progression in some people with dementia.  

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Mesothelioma and Its Impact on Seniors

By Sarah Wallace
Oftentimes when we think of cancer, we think of a special person, such as a coworker, family member or friend, who has battled or is currently battling the disease. Because cancer does not discriminate and impacts people of all ages and backgrounds, it is very rare to meet someone who has not been touched by the devastation it can bring. Although cancer can affect anyone, different cancers can target specific people. For instance, mesothelioma cancer is most often diagnosed within the senior community.


What is Mesothelioma?

Mesothelioma is a rare form of cancer caused primarily by the inhalation of asbestos fibers. If asbestos dust is released into the air and is then inhaled, the fibers embed into the lining of the organs where mesothelioma can form. 2,500 mesothelioma-related deaths occur in the U.S. each year, and the average age of diagnosis is 75 for males and 72 for females.

Mesothelioma can develop in the lining of the lungs, heart, abdominal cavity and even the testicles. The most common type is pleural mesothelioma, which forms in the lungs and accounts for 70 to 80 percent of all mesothelioma cases.

While all caregivers do their best to keep their loved ones safe, they unfortunately may still be at risk. Symptoms of mesothelioma are dependent on where the cancer develops, and are often confused with other more common illnesses such as pneumonia or influenza. An accurate diagnosis is further complicated due to the latency period of the disease. Typically, the time between a person’s first exposure to asbestos and the development of mesothelioma is anywhere from 20 to 40 years. The person you are caring for may have been exposed long before the risks of asbestos were known. 

The most common symptoms of pleural mesothelioma include chest pain, weight loss, fatigue, fever and night sweats. Because there are many complications surrounding an accurate mesothelioma diagnosis, most patients are not properly diagnosed until the cancer has progressed to stage 4. Often, the only option at this stage of mesothelioma is palliative care.


How Mesothelioma is Contracted:

Exposure to asbestos, a naturally occurring fibrous material, is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer. The material was heavily used throughout the 1970’s in the United States in both commercial and industrial settings, as well as in a variety of consumer products. The popularity of the material stems from its resistance to heat, fire and electricity.

While there have been attempts in the past to ban asbestos in the United States, none have been successful. The toxin is currently regulated to protect consumers and workers, but many people believe that these restrictions are not enough. Until there is a complete ban on asbestos in the U.S., millions of people are at risk of developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. The material is banned in at least 60 countries around the world. Some of these bans are partial or allow exceptions, but most are complete bans on the importation and manufacture of asbestos.

A Preventable Disease without a Cure


Currently, there is no cure for mesothelioma. If the person you are caring for ever worked in an industry where they were in contact with asbestos, it is in their best interest to talk to a doctor and maintain regular check-ups.

Roughly 91 percent of individuals diagnosed with mesothelioma are 55 or older. Early detection is crucial, because there is strong correlation between the age at which a person is diagnosed with mesothelioma and survival rate:

It is important to take the time and speak to the person you are caring for about a possible history with asbestos. By exploring their work history, learning more about the toxic material and recognizing the symptoms of mesothelioma - you can help safeguard your loved ones health.

Sarah Wallace is a health advocate for patients and caregivers dealing with the burden of mesothelioma cancer. She focuses on raising awareness about this rare cancer, educating others about prevention, and supporting the cancer community as a whole.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The Caregiver’s New Year’s Resolution: Self-Care!

By Deanna Leyh

It’s a new year, which means it’s time for people to make their New Year’s resolutions. Most people make resolutions about eating healthier or going to a gym, but why not focus on your overall well-being and make a resolution to take better care of yourself altogether? Not just physical health, but also mental, emotional, and social well-being. Self-care is especially important for caregivers of older adults, and should always be a focus for them. So for those family caregivers, let’s make 2018’s resolution to be better self-care! Here are some ways that you can improve your own self-care and focus on taking care of you.

1)      Take a deep breath. Stress is something that many caregivers face on a daily basis, and deep breathing is an easy and effective way to combat caregiver stress and burnout. Deep breathing has a relaxing effect on the body and the mind.

2)      Practice mindfulness. Do you ever drive somewhere, get there, and then think, “I don’t remember anything of my ride over here”? That’s an example of not being mindful, or aware of the present moment. Take time each day to take in and appreciate the current moment. Notice your surroundings and pay attention to how you feel and your senses.

3)      Take a walk regularly. Walking and regular exercise is not just great for your physical health, but also a great way to get you a break from caregiving and time to yourself, which can sometimes be hard to come by.

4)      Give yourself a break. While it is also good take a break from caregiving, it’s also good to be lenient and not too hard on yourself. Caregiving is a tough job! Ask anyone else who has ever been in a caregiving role, and they’re agree with you. It’s okay if the laundry piles up a little or you don’t wash the dishes right away.

5)      Accept help that others offer. As a caregiver, it can be tough to recognize the need for help from others. We feel that we can or should be able to do everything ourselves or that people don’t really mean it when they offer help. However, people often don’t offer their assistance without meaning it, so take them up on it. If they can make dinner so you don’t have to cook or can watch your loved one for a day, try saying “Yes, thank you”!

6)      Do something fun for yourself. While you’re accepting that help from family or friends, have them watch your loved one so that you can plan a weekend getaway or meet up with friends you haven’t seen in a while. Take time to read that book you’ve been wanting to crack open or whatever it is that brings you joy and happiness.

When you’re so focused on taking care of someone else, it’s easy to put your own care on the back-burner. But remember, you are just as important to take care of! If something happens to you, what would happen to your loved one? Remind yourself of that and keep that focus on your self-care this year so that you can improve your well-being and continue to be an amazing caregiver!