Dakim Blog

July 23, 2009

Blog with Dakim

Written by: Dakim

We all know that protecting our brain health is very important; and exercising our brains is just as important as working out our bodies for the long haul of health. And no matter what age, we have all walked into a room not remembering why we’re there. People may call it a “senior moment,” but it happens at all ages and either sex.

Now for the hard facts: Someone develops Alzheimer’s every 71 seconds. 5.3 million people may have Alzheimer’s or Dementia, but millions more are affected through the gradual loss of their family member or loved one. I can’t even imagine someone I love slipping away from me, or how they must feel at losing thoughts and memories. It’s why it is important, at any age, to work out our brains, all six domains of it, whenever possible.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association report, family members care for about 70 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease, creating an impact on the entire family. And, there’s no relief in sight. By mid-century someone will develop Alzheimer’s every 33 seconds. By 2010, there will be nearly a half million new cases of Alzheimer’s each year; and by 2050, there will be nearly a million new cases per year. And the direct and indirect costs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias to Medicare, Medicaid and businesses amount to more than $148 billion each year.

Dementia isolates those affected (both the person with the disease and their care partner). But in the modern world of social media websites (like Facebook, MySpace and many, many others), there are new and exciting ways to make connections, and share your experience, knowledge, strengths and hope.

Like you reading this blog…..

We’re all on the same path in that we all age–whether we want to or not. Some are lucky or have better genes, but we all have experiences to share and tips to give. Whether you’re a caregiver, a son, daughter–a loved one of any kind–Alzheimer’s disease and dementia touch everyone at some time. It’s the fastest growing disease we have right now on the planet.

We would LOVE to hear your stories of hope or your experience as it relates to Alzheimer’s or dementia. If you or your care provider would like to send us your story…we’ll post it to share with others who are walking down the same path as you.

Send your stories or experiences to: Jodi@dakim.com

-Submitted by Jodi Seidler, Office Manager

June 24, 2009

Friendships and Alzheimer's Disease

Written by: Dakim

I am the Dakim Midwest Ambassador, I have worked with people with dementia and their families while working at the Alzheimer’s Association and as a medical social worker at St. Cloud Hospital in Minnesota.

I have prepared the following tips for friends of those affected by dementia based on this experience:

“My friends don’t come around anymore. I miss them.” This is a lament I frequently hear from those who have Alzheimer’s disease. I explain that this is a typical reaction when someone is afraid of and uneducated about a disease. This type of isolation contributes to the depression and grief of those already struggling with the reality of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

How can you, as the friend of a person now dealing with a memory loss disorder, demonstrate that you are loyal and caring? How can you overcome your discomfort and fear to be one of those greatly appreciated friends who stays connected and supportive?

Here are some suggestions:

1) Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s disease. Contact the Alzheimer’s Association chapter in your area to learn about available classes and offer to accompany your friend and their family to one of these educational sessions. Ask for the free brochures from the Association to be sent to you so you can be a trusted source of information for your friend. There are also resources available at your local library at no cost. Let your friend know that you are concerned and want to learn how to support them in meaningful ways.

2) The onset of Alzheimer’s is gradual, but it is a progressive disorder. This means that inevitably the person will have more and more difficulty functioning. As painful as it may be to see this happening to your friend, your presence will provide comfort and familiarity in a time of multiple losses. Maintain regular contact–call and visit. Reserve dates to see your friend, make sure these are on their calendar and then keep your commitments.

3) Keep humor and light-heartedness in your friendship. It will help both of you relax and enjoy your time together. Tell jokes, share funny happenings from your daily life, watch a comedy together. Even when the disease limits comprehension, laughter between those who share history and affection is one of the gifts of a comfortable companionship.

4) As the capacity to plan tasks and activities becomes impaired, boredom becomes an issue for people with Alzheimer’s. Take your friend out for walks, drives, attend a musical event, visit the senior center together, help with a craft, go to a favorite restaurant, or tour a garden. Be creative about ways to keep your friend physically active and mentally stimulated.

5) Be patient with the changes in communication that are part of the disease. Your friend will have more difficulty with attention, understanding your speech, keeping a conversation going, staying on topic and using language effectively. You can help greatly by simplifying your own speech, avoiding the use of jargon, expressing one idea at a time, making eye contact and allowing ample time for your friend to find the words to respond.

-Submitted by Liz Doyle, Community Relations Ambassador for the Midwest

May 29, 2009

Does My Parent Have Dementia or Alzheimer's: What's the Difference?

Written by: Dakim

What exactly is dementia? Is it different than Alzheimer’s?

Most family members aren’t quite sure what the difference is when their loved one is first diagnosed. The questions continue:

How will our lives change? Can Dad still drive? Should Mom continue to with us? Is it safe?

I felt like I had been kicked in the gut when my mother got Alzheimer’s. I had all the ghastly images in my head of people locked in a facility, completely devoid of thought and not recognizing their family, or even who they were. I went to the worst place possible.

In time, and with much reading, learning, asking questions, and figuring out how to handle my mother physically and emotionally, I became less scared. My mother was still my mother–and perhaps most importantly–I was still her daughter.

If you’re at the beginning of this journey and you’re still in the freaking out stage, then realize you’ve got your own processing to do. In the beginning, I could hardly bring myself to say the word.

After you catch your breath, start on the learning curve.

What’s the difference in dementia and Alzheimer’s? Well, there’s no better place to visit than the Alzheimer’s Association or Mayo Clinic. When it comes to something this life changing, their research and commitment to caring for those who struggle with these diseases are unprecedented.

In a nutshell, dementia is the deteriorating of mental functions–to the point to where it effects your daily life (job, personal care, relationships). Dementia is actually a name for a group of symptoms. It can be caused by many things (alcohol abuse, accidents, other medical conditions). So consider the word, “dementia” as an umbrella term–and your first of many stops along the way.

Alzheimer’s is actually a type of dementia. It’s the most common type and it causes a severe decline in intellectual and social function. The brain begins to degenerate, which causes the symptoms to increase over time.

How Do I Educate Myself about Dementia and Caregiving?

  • Piece it together. There’s no one straight path. Go to the ‘net, but remember to “consider the source.” For medical information, stick with the professionals, for personal experience, check out blogs and other more personal experience based sites.
  • Go to the library or buy books on the subject. Get several, and make sure some of them offer practical every day advice–on how to handle behavior issues, which is a big issue when dealing with Alzheimer’s.
  • Join a caregiving support group. Most communities have one, or more. Call your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter, call your local hospital, check out your local elder affairs office or senior community center or adult day care center. There are so many people out there ready to help you. Just poke your head out and you’ll find you’re among friends.
  • Do it your way. Don’t limit yourself to just the medical community. Literature, poetry, art, and music all explore this experience and can offer you insight and relief. How you perceive dementia and Alzheimer’s effects how you deal with it.
  • Keep an ongoing list of questions. Ask everyone. Ask your doctor, your nurse, your neighbor. Questions get answers, over time–so don’t give up.
  • Don’t settle. Find a doctor you like and respect. Ask your caregiving group who they recommend.
  • Don’t try to go it alone–get home help now. Don’t wait until things are out of control.
  • Check out a care home. As difficult as that may be, take a friend with you and begin to explore your options. One day you may need them, and you don’t want to have to make a rushed decision.

Is it all bad news? Absolutely not! My mother and I still had many, many good times together after her diagnosis. We shopped, laughed, had a couple of good mother-daughter squabbles. I value that time. In so many ways, she was cuter and funnier, and I could forgive and let go of so much. After all, how do you stay mad at someone who calls you “little girl?” (That was what she called me after she forgot my name).

I learned a lot in those first few years, and the more I learned, the less afraid I became.