Caregivers Can Help Assess Whether Older Adults are Dealing with Delirium

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

Delirium is a sudden change in mental status that often occurs when older adults are in the hospital or after they have surgery. More than 20 percent of older adults may experience delirium.  The condition can lead to longer hospital stays, the need to be placed on a respirator (a machine that helps you breathe), long-term changes in your cognitive (mental) health, physical disability, and even death.

Acute illness (illnesses that happen suddenly, as opposed to chronic conditions that you live with over a longer period of time), surgery, and medications can contribute to delirium. In addition, disrupting regular routines may trigger sudden confusion or changes in behavior for certain people.

When healthcare professionals don’t recognize or diagnose delirium, it can delay an older person’s recovery.  Prolonged delirium can have a lasting impact on health and well-being. What’s more, delirium is distressing for caregivers—the family or friends involved in caring for an older adult. In hospitals, healthcare professionals screen (“test”) for delirium. However, despite routine screening, more than 60 percent of older adults with delirium are not diagnosed in hospitals. Continue reading

Home-Based Activity Program Reduces Severity and Frequency of Behavioral Symptoms and Maintains Function for Older Veterans with Dementia

JAGS graphicJournal of the American Geriatrics Society Research Summary

People with dementia often have behavioral symptoms. These include problems with memory, language, and decision-making abilities. People with dementia can also experience changes in mood, such as increased irritability, depression, and anxiety. They often need assistance with their daily activities, such as feeding, dressing, using the toilet, and bathing themselves. These symptoms are often troubling for people with dementia, as well as for their caregivers.

These dementia symptoms can reduce quality of life for people as they age. This can make them dependent on other people, which can lead to caregivers feeling distressed. It may also lead to people with dementia being hospitalized or placed in a nursing home, even if it is not what they would prefer for their care.

There are no effective drug treatments for dementia or its symptoms. Therefore, researchers have been exploring treatment options to improve symptoms that don’t involve using medication. A team of researchers studied one of those programs, called the Tailored Activity Program (TAP). TAP matches activities to the interests and abilities of people with dementia. Then it teaches caregivers how to use those activities daily.

The researchers initially reported positive results in a small study of 60 people. They then studied TAP in a larger group of veterans living with dementia. They reported their results in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Continue reading

When a Doctor Becomes a Caregiver

Quratulain Syed, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Division of General Medicine and Geriatrics
Emory University School of Medicine

Late last year, I encountered the realities of caregiving personally. Although my father had officially retired, he was still working as a professional banker at the time he was diagnosed with an advanced cancer. I have over 6 years of experience practicing geriatric medicine, where I am used to giving bad news to patients and caregivers, and lecturing caregivers on caregiver stress.  However, none of this had prepared me for the roller coaster ride awaiting me and my family during my father’s illness.

I was lucky to have the privilege of playing the “doctor card” as a caregiver.  I got consultative advice from colleagues and friends whenever I needed it, and had access to medical experts who were beyond supportive and courteous in providing care to my father. Despite all of this, however, my administrative assistant’s comment that “you are falling apart” truly expressed my state of mind. The last six months of my father’s life gave me an in-depth view of the invaluable role of caregivers, who navigate a very complex health care system, often without having a medical background.

In this blog, I’d like to share a few tips from caregivers’ literature, which I found helpful: Continue reading

A Daily Loss: How to Help Someone with Alzheimer’s Cope with Loss

Written by Michael Longsdon
Creator of ElderFreedom.net

It’s hard enough to have to tell your mother or grandmother that her spouse has passed away. It’s another thing entirely when she has Alzheimer’s and you need to repeat this news often – maybe daily or even several times a day. With Alzheimer’s, every day is different, and every moment is unpredictable. The grief of losing a life partner, especially if that person was the primary caregiver, can be extremely distressing for a person with Alzheimer’s.

It’s going to be excruciating watching their grief happen over and over. With Alzheimer’s, both short-term and long-term memory can be affected. A person with Alzheimer’s might not be able to remember that her husband recently died, but she might also ask about people who died much earlier in her life, from days long before dementia set in. In addition, Alzheimer’s can affect behaviors and the person may have trouble using a fork, sleeping, or controlling their impulses. When their spouse passes away, they might not remember or they might become deeply distressed when they do. Here are a few ways you can help them cope: Continue reading

Cleaning (as if someone else might have to)

Nancy Lundebjerg resizedNancy E. Lundebjerg, MPA
Chief Executive Officer
American Geriatrics Society

It started with the shoes in the corner of the bedroom—and it continued through three closets, two dressers, a huge chest in my living room, a small filing cabinet, the front hall closet, and even the desk in my office at work. Some might call this spring cleaning but, for me, it’s more episodic and usually sparked by something like being annoyed enough by the pile of shoes in the corner to find them a home.

As always happens during one of these all too rare bouts of purging, I think about the family cleaning events I’ve been part of as parents, aunts, and grandparents moved on. I was having dinner with a few friends last week and we were swapping our caregiver cleaning stories. I found that my late father’s desire to hold on to his power tools was matched by my friend’s father’s desire to bring them all with him to his new assisted living facility. I somehow ended up with a drill, hammer, and a ruler from my dad. The hammer is spattered with paint and the head may be a little loose but I think of my dad every time I use it and could not imagine purchasing a shiny new one. The ruler is an artifact in my curio cabinet – along with the rotary phone from my parent’s bedroom. They’re Items with no current purpose…and they make me smile.

I also spent several years as my aunt’s primary caregiver. Moving her out of her apartment was easier but still no less daunting. I had reached the point where I couldn’t maintain her at home given her advanced dementia, and so I undertook the hunt for a quality nursing home that she could afford and that would take her (Sidenote: “Would take her” is a thing…and a thing for an entirely different blog post!). Having found one, there came the task of cleaning out her apartment. My sister, niece, and I found that she had a closet filled with lightbulbs ordered from some charity (beware the telemarketer and your older loved one). There were bricks in that closet—from where and for what we still do not know. She also had a cedar chest (made by my grandfather) filled with old ConEd bills.

Continue reading