Holiday Food for Thought

Every year at this time my home is transformed into a warm and cozy Holiday Haven. The furniture is moved to accommodate the Christmas tree. Festive centerpieces and bowls of candy and nuts are added to every table. There are blinking lights, candles and a fire in the fireplace to set the house a glow. Looks wonderful to me….. But to someone Living with Alzheimers or Dementia, it could be very unsettling. If we reside with someone Living with Alzhemeirs…How can we minimize their stress? Which will undoubtingly minimize yours. 

First and foremost, plan ahead. You know your loved one better than anyone else. Second, use common sense. Don’t plan a six-course meal for ten people, knowing your loved one is unable to sit for an extended length of time without getting agitated. Thirdly, be flexible. Any Holiday festivity set in stone is no fun anyway. Take your cues from your loved one.

Set your loved one up for success by making a few adjustments to your Holiday grandeur. Remember, the Christmas tree may get knocked down or ornaments may be pulled from its branches. So, shatterproof ornaments usually work the best. Also, keep any heirlooms in places they can be seen but not touched. Don’t forget all the edible items we use as tree ornaments. The strings of popcorn and cranberries, candy canes and cookie dough ornaments are all very tempting. Depending on the “stage” of Alzheimer’s your loved one is currently in, you might want to skip the tree altogether. 

There are some other unedible and potentially harmful items you need to keep in mind….. Holiday plants. At some stages of Dementia and Alzheimer’s, items in the hand, go straight to the mouth, this can be very concerning. A few plants that come to mind are poinsettias, mistletoe, holly berries, yew, the Christmas Rose, Jerusalem Cherry, and Amaryllis. All vary in toxicity depending on plant and amount consumed. If in doubt, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222

Now on to one of my favorite Holiday traditions….. Food, food and more food. For starters, maybe that communal bowl of candy or nuts might need to be put out of reach before it all disappears. Back to that six-course meal. Besides the normal finger food appetizers, try modifying your recipes to finger food status. Stuffing in a square pan and cut into bitesize pieces would be great. How about potatoes cut into bite-sized pieces instead of mashed?  You and I both know anything wrapped in bacon or puff pastry is scrumptious and easy to eat. Oh, one more thing. Remind your family and friends that if they leave their plate unattended, it may be invaded by the fingers of a passerby enjoying a quick bite.

Most of you who have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia understand the dangers of an unattended candle or fireplace. What about the house lights being turned down low to enhance the twinkle of the Holiday lights? Have you ever noticed how things look vastly different in the dusk and dawn? This may be the same effect inside lighting changes have on your loved one. Their visual perception is already compromised by the Alzheimer’s. Reducing the lighting can cause things to seem stranger than they already appear. Now add to that, blinking lights and spotlights of large figures dancing on the walls. That could be terrifying.  Calm and soothing routine lighting is usually the best. So, try to keep the lighting distractions to a minimum for a much more comfortable experience. 

You know your loved one better than anyone else. Trust your instincts. Remember to them, you are their safe place. So, enjoy all your loved ones this Holiday season. You are not alone….. You can do this.   

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Morning Confusion

 

Basic Needs

I have never been a morning person. You can ask my husband or my children and they would all agree….. coffee first…. conversation later. How do you feel in the morning? If you’re anything like me…. your head is foggy, your joints are stiff and your tongue feels like sandpaper. If you were a person living with Alzheimer’s, add the confusion of not knowing where you are or who is in the room with you or why are you cold and wet? I don’t know about you but I’d be afraid, probably very afraid.

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Now this strange person is saying something about clothes and a bath….. you don’t understand…The person reaches for you and you say “No” and pull away from them and try to get through the doorway. You’re still cold, a little unsteady and that person is still following you saying words you don’t understand and reaching for you. Sounds pretty terrifying to me. You might start swearing, crying or even hitting this strange person.

A Smile and a Soft Gentle Voice

Wow ….. I thought my mornings were tough. How can we as caregivers make mornings less stressful for everyone? A smile and a soft gentle voice may help. How about a familiar tune to set the mind at ease. Remember, if we were lucky enough to sleep for six or more hours we’re probably thirsty and hungry. Try offering a favorite drink or food. Is there a favorite robe or stuffed animal that brings them comfort. Most of all be patient. It may take fifteen minutes or maybe hours to regain their trust.

 

Remember every day is a new day. So turn on a tune, enjoy a cup of coffee and be patient with yourself. It’s gonna be a good morning.

My Days Are Randomized

2I just finished updating the header photos on the website. These pictures will randomly load when someone visits the website. I chose pictures that may help explain what my wife is experiencing today. The day started off good better than most days have started off here lately.

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That was followed by her wanting to go somewhere. The where was not important, she just wanted to go see some ‘peeples’. She starves for social interaction so she will ask statue-417262_1280several times a day where are the ‘peeples’. However, she was not dressed. I attempted to explain that she needed to get dressed first then we would go out somewhere. Like I said the where is not important.

She had shown very little interest in eating so she had not eaten very much. Her agitation level is somewhat proportional to her hunger level. She has never been one who could go long without eating breakfast. Or going very long without eating. After eating a couple of breakfast bars and drinking some ice tea. Her anxiety started to ease. We always keep plates and bowls of food out for her to eat. Fresh fruit, cheese, vegetables cut up into bite-size pieces, small bites of some form of protein.

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For those who have followed me on Facebook, you should know I employ music therapy, as an emotional regulator. Soon after she had got up this morning. I put on some music that she finds soothing. About 30 – 45 minutes after eating she was dancing to the music. Her anxiety and agitation levels were now as calm as a glassy lake.

This calm lasted a couple of hours before restlessness returned, but we are still not fully dressed. This time the anxiety was brought on by the need for a bowel movement. She is not able to fully communicate what it is that is bothering her. So we a left to guess and make educated decisions. We only get so many attempts before anger sets in. And she will pop off with a remark like ‘whats wrong with you are you stupid’. Rule number 1 never argue. A typical reply at least for me is. Maybe, can you help me?

word-cloud-679919_1280Failure to determine what is causing agitation will lead to all kinds of other issues that will have to be resolved. These issues will wreak havoc on everyone involved.

What has not happened so far today is we have not hit a wall. However, the day is not over and sometimes those walls come at night when she refuses to lay down.

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WhatAreKeys