Dementia and Spirituality Survey

A friend of AGE is conducting a survey dealing with knowledge of and attitudes toward dementia, faith, and spirituality as a part of a masters thesis project.  For those who might be interested, see her invitation below:

INVITATION

I invite you to take a few minutes for an online survey that has nothing to do with the economy or politics or a consumer product!

I am pursuing a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation from the Seminary of the Southwest (SSW) in Austin, Texas.  I am conducting this survey as part of my senior study of attitudes toward and knowledge of dementia, faith, and spirituality.  The survey is for anyone.  The larger the number and wider the diversity of responses, the more helpful the study will be.

Your willingness to give honest answers to fairly personal questions will be deeply appreciated.  Responses are completely anonymous and not connected to you as an individual.  The general findings and implications will be offered in a workshop in Austin, Texas in the coming months and included in a final paper.

I hope you’re curious enough to take the survey.  And, please invite your friends, family, and associates to participate by giving them the link!   Responses are requested as soon as possible and no later than two weeks from the date of this notification. Just click here to take the survey now.

Many thanks for your consideration!

Barbara Wiederaenders
[For more information or questions, contact me at bwiederaenders@att.net]

The “Sandwich Generation” should be called the “Hero Generation”

(Guest Post by Caregiving Cafe)

According to Pew Research’s report titled “The Sandwich Generation,” 47% of US adults in their 40’s and 50’s have a parent who is 65 or older and are caring for a child 18 or younger, or are supporting a grown child.  Many are providing caregiving as well as financial and emotional support.  [Pew Research, January 2013]

With advancing age, the likelihood of an aging parent needing help by the time a child becomes a young adult is rather great.  The picture becomes a bit more complex as grown children experiencing hardship (financial or emotional) pull at their parents’ heartstrings (and wallet).

I have had a taste of this dubious “sandwich” while caring long-distance for my mother and raising our daughter.  Mine was actually loaded with the “extras,” as I also began to care for my husband when our daughter had just turned 13.  He became disabled as a result of CRPS, a painful and debilitating neurological disease. Continue reading

Older Americans Month 2013: Unleashing the power of age!

Here are a few of the things we know about the older adult population:

  • The older population (65+) numbered 41.4 million in 2011, an increase of 6.3 million or 18% since 2000.
  • Over one in every eight, or 13.3%, of the population is an older American.
  • Almost 3.6 million elderly persons (8.7%) were below the poverty level in 2011.
  • The Round Rock-Austin metropolitan area had the fastest growing “pre-senior” (age 55-64) population in the country, with a 110% change.
  • Older Americans MonthGrowth of the senior (age 65+) population ranked second nationally over the same period.

In the news, most of what you hear about aging is reflects negative or worried attitudes like how the ‘silver tsunami’ is coming and how the community isn’t ready to adequately deal with the booming population of older adults. At AGE of Central Texas, our business is to face the negativity head on to meet the needs of seniors in our community and help older adults age with dignity and vitality.

Thankfully, the time is upon us to focus on the positivity of aging– May is Older Americans Month! Every year since 1963, May has been the month to appreciate and celebrate the vitality and aspirations of older adults and their contributions and achievements. It is a proud tradition that shows our nation’s commitment to honor the value that elders continue to contribute to our communities. Continue reading

Spring Lawn Care: Or When His (Or Her) Jobs Become Your Jobs

[This is the fifth installment of posts from Faith, AGE’s CaregiverU Coordinator and personal expert on being a family caregiver – you’ll continue hearing from her on a range of topics once a month.]

Lawn care.  Hmmm, not my expertise.  I do enjoy the sight of a well tended lawn, though.  Thick green grass, nicely edged, pretty stones in a ring around each tree, neatly trimmed trees, front flower Green Lawnbed blooming.  All very nice, but I am clueless as to how to create that, and probably not much better on knowing how to maintain it.  You see, I’ve been married close to 45 years and we’ve had a system called ‘his work’ and ‘her work’.  I took care of the inside of the house and he took care of the outside.  The work inside of the house and all my other responsibilities took up all of my time and then some, so I paid little attention to the work in our yard.  Seven years ago when we moved into our current house, I was eager to learn how to do yard work and hoped to work together with my spouse to plan the landscaping and share in the labor.  My dear husband was insulted by those plans—refer back to ‘his work’ and ‘her work’ above.  The yard was definitely his domain and I’d best remember that.  In the name of peace and harmony, I took my rightful place, and simply enjoyed the loveliness.

I enjoyed it until now.  Now my spouse is not so capable of planning and organizing the yard work.  He sometimes forgets how to start the lawn mower and claims it doesn’t work.   Our good neighbor comes over to get it going, and tells him the mower just needed an adjustment.  Helpful friends give him bedding plants for the flower beds, thinking he would enjoy digging in the dirt again.  He enjoys the digging and puttering, but then becomes very anxious because the plants aren’t thriving.  That’s when he asks me what to do, and, I’m –clueless.   He worries about the bald spots in the front lawn and then I worry.  Surely bald spots are not a good thing, but what does one do? Continue reading

Making the Most of the Holidays: Helpful Tips for Caregivers

[This is the third installment of posts from Faith, AGE’s CaregiverU Coordinator and expert on being a family caregiver – you’ll continue hearing from her on a range of topics about once a month.]

We all carry visions of what the holidays should look like and often those visions don’t jibe very well with reality! At this time of year, many of us visualize a Norman Rockwell type scene with everybody gathered happily around a perfectly laid holiday table. Reality is often a bit different!  In addition to that image, I also carry around in my head visions of previous holidays when life was different.   That is, when the kids were younger and my spouse was cognitively able to partner with me in all the holiday preparation.  Today my husband has a cognitive disability and the children are young adults with spouses and responsibilities of their own.  Part of the holiday experience is traveling to their homes for visits and hosting them in our home, all the while helping my spouse cope and have a good time.  As a caregiver, managing the holidays has come to mean managing many different issues—disruptions in schedule and routine, traveling, adapting to new surroundings, decorating the home, shopping for gifts, and preparing food, to name a few. Continue reading

How does Alzheimer’s affect the youngest among us?

My name is Emily, and I am the Development Associate and resident blogger at AGE. And I am a grandchild of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Or rather, I am a grandchild of a woman with dementia, likely caused by Alzheimer’s. It started when I was just 10 years old, and it has been over 15 years since my grandma started disappearing. It is no easier now than it was as a child.

First, she stopped cooking. It was how she showed her love and doted on us. I knew something was really wrong when my Grandpa, who had never really cooked, took over what had once been Grandma’s domain.

Then the more bizarre behaviors began- things that really mortified the kid I was at the time. Grandma would take out her dentures at the most inappropriate places to clean them, or she’d ask for ketchup at a Mexican restaurant because she couldn’t differentiate that from salsa, or she started to lose her ability to know when she should whisper in church or the movie theater instead of loudly observe things that you don’t say aloud in public.

And, of course, in crept the tell-tale sign of asking the same exact questions over and over and over again.

Grandma had an ‘angry’ period where she was occasionally physically and verbally violent, mostly towards my Grandpa. Then after a while, she became more and more juvenile- in the most joyful way. She became so affectionate, always reaching for a hand to hold.  And then, she became too affectionate, even with strangers. She has been known to sneak a kiss when a friend would try to just give her a hug, and since she’s in a wheelchair it’s quite easy for her hands to wrap around and give someone a little squeeze on the behind- it’s even happened to our pastor.

Mood swings and personality changes are common for those with dementia, but that was difficult to understand as child and even as a teenager. I sometimes felt annoyed at her behavior, angry at her outbursts, indifferent, confused, sometimes amused, and so very often deeply sad. Most of all, I felt beyond guilty for feeling anything but pure love and gratefulness for this woman.

As for the rest of the family, there have been stages of grief, denial, and bargaining for my parents and my aunt as they transitioned from being this woman’s children to being her caregivers. It has been an incredible journey of highs and lows, questions and transformations that have all fundamentally altered what my family looks like. Dementia changed my Grandmother, but it also changed us.

The irony is that she’s almost as fit physically now as she was five years ago. There’s no indication that she’s giving up yet, even if her mind has. The grandma I once knew has been almost completely devastated by whatever has taken residence in her brain. It has been a long progression. She hasn’t been able to walk for a few years now. She doesn’t really recognize any of us anymore. I don’t think I’ve heard a purposeful sentence from her in over a year. And these things can be hard for a child to witness and accept. “She looks fine, why won’t she talk to me? Why doesn’t she know you, Mom? How can she forget that she’s married?

I know my experience is not special or unique:  1 in 8 older Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. And there are over 15 million Americans providing unpaid care for a person with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia (Alzheimer’s Association). That is a massive amount of individuals, spouses, children, and grandchildren being dragged through the mud of this disease. You are not alone. We can learn from our shared experiences. It’s important to tell your story. And it’s important  to include the children of your family in discussions about what’s going on with your loved one with dementia.

For those of you who have a child facing the immediate reality of dementia in either a parent or grandparent, there are some lots of resources out there to help you talk about dementia or Alzheimer’s. This disease is a bit different from others in that Grandma, or your uncle, or your Mom may look perfectly healthy on the outside. Kids need some help understanding the mechanics of this disease and that you can’t always see that something is wrong when someone is sick in this way. The two resources listed below have great information ranging from how to make the conversation developmentally appropriate to concrete tips and talking points:

Ultimately, I do not want to detract from unbelievably heartbreaking experience of those, like my Grandma, who are dealing with dementia themselves. Because it isn’t really about the pain of the rest of the family at all, it’s about allowing your loved one to experience the rest of their life with as much dignity and vitality as possible. Helping the children in your life understand what Alzheimer’s is doing to their loved one will make it easier for them to continue to see the person instead of the disease.

Reflecting back on the beginning years, Grandma never once talked about being aware of her diagnosis or what it was like for her. She sort of just slipped from the beginning stage where she was just ‘mildly’ forgetful to a place where she could no longer contemplate a question about her state of mind if she tried. I wish I knew what it was like for her. This journey has shown me that there many things I don’t know, and that there’s no ‘right’ way to be a supporter for someone with dementia. What I do know, Grandma, is that I will continue to love you wherever else this road takes us.

For those in the greater Austin area, AGE of Central Texas has a number of resources for caregivers and for those experiencing dementia. Click here to visit our website for more information.

Meet Anne, A Volunteer

 

Anne is a Texas transplant- she moved here just over 6 months ago following the sudden death of her husband. She came to Texas looking for a fresh start and the chance to put down new roots in the aging industry, in which she has extensive experience. After attending a Get Acquainted with AGE monthly tour and luncheon, she found herself so taken with what AGE does that she decided to start volunteering. Anne wanted to keep herself busy as she settled into her new city, but she also wanted the chance to get to know the community and network with other professionals.

So, Anne began spending at least one day each week with the clients in AGE’s Austin Adult Day Health Center and another day providing administrative support to AGE’s health equipment lending closet. Immediately, it was clear that she has a special gift for this work.

Ultimately, Anne discovered that the purpose of her volunteer days goes much deeper than just networking and filling her time- she’s been impacted by her relationships with staff and clients alike. Her journey in the past year has not been easy, but her desire to serve others and give of herself has not faltered. Instead, Anne’s passion for helping others has helped her to find a place where she is needed and belongs.

Anne has a unique perspective as a seasoned volunteer and as a professional within the senior services arena. She says, “This community would be severely impacted if AGE was not here to offer services to older adults. One of the most concerning issues for seniors is isolation, and AGE does so much to connect their clients to things they love to do, to each other, and to the rest of the world.”

If you agree with Anne and think that what AGE of Central Texas offers is important to the community, please click here to learn more about how you can support the services that directly impact older adults in Central Texas. If you would like to find out more about how you can volunteer and get involved, please click here.

We at AGE of Central Texas are so grateful for the hard work and dedicated support from all of our volunteers and donors. Thank you for caring about the older adults in our community!

Keeping Seniors Safe in the Texas Summer Heat

This summer may have started out kinder and gentler than last year, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. The heat makes summer a dangerous season for everyone, but seniors are at a higher risk of suffering complications from the heat. Many seniors take medications that could dehydrate them or make them more sensitive to the sun. For seniors who are not as mobile or depend on others to come by to care for them, they may not be able to move themselves to a cooler spot or help themselves if they start feeling heat-sick when they’re by themselves. And they may have trouble recognizing when they are experiencing symptoms of disorders caused by heat before it’s too late. There are two main kinds of heat conditions:

Heat stroke is a very serious heat-related illness. Symptoms include dizziness, weakness, nausea, spots before the eyes, ringing in the ears, bright red dry skin, rapid, strong pulse, and a body temperature of more than 103 degrees.

Heat exhaustion is a more mild heat-related illness, but should still absolutely be treated. Symptoms include cool and clammy skin, a body temperature of up to 103 degrees, weak and rapid pulse, and shallow and quiet respirations.

If you notice someone who has these symptom, get to a doctor immediately!

Below are a few ideas and suggestions to help keep older adults cool:

  • wear light colored or loose clothing
  • use sunscreen, even if going outside for just a short period of time
  • wear a hat that is wide-brimmed to protect the face (but isn’t so tight as to prevent ventilation)
  • stay hydrated with water or other non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated drinks
  • keep a spray bottle with cool water nearby to lightly spritz the face and body
  • a shady spot outdoors may be cooler than inside, so sitting on a covered porch with a portable or ceiling fan may be a good option
  • if you are inside with no AC, stay on the lower floor of your residence (which is typically cooler)
  • mobile seniors should try to spend a few hours each day in a place with A/C: either a mall, library, a movie, or restaurant

Unfortunately, many seniors either cannot afford or don’t have access to air conditioning to combat the severe Texas heat. Below are a few suggestions to help:

Tips to help cool your home:

  1. When it is safe to do so, leave windows open (even at night) on both sides of your house to get a cross-breeze.
  2. Utilize portable fans and ceiling fans to amplify your A/C’s reach, or help substitute when you don’t have one.
  3. Close curtains or shades on sunny windows, or find a way to cover them if they don’t have draperies already.
  4. Clean and replace air filters regularly to maximize your AC and vent systems.

AGE of Central Texas is a community partner in Family Eldercare’s Fan Drive, so we have box fans available for those who are over 55, disabled, or have children under the age of 18 living in their house. They must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level ($22,340 annual income for one person or $30,260 for a couple), and be able to provide an ID and proof of income. Call us at 512.451.4611 for more information.

For more information on how heat affects the elderly, click here for resources from the CDC.

What’s the Difference: A Look at Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Dementia: The presence of multiple cognitive deficits by both memory impairment and one or more of the following:

  • Executive functioning (planning, organization, sequencing, abstraction)
  • Aphasia, Apraxia, Agnosia
  • No delirium
  • Interferes with social or occupational functioning

Alzheimer’s Disease: A slowly progressing brain disease, which is the most common form of dementia. It affects recent memories first, then begins to affect emotions, decision making, personality, eventually destroying long-term memory and ability to interact with the world. In the moderate stages you might notice mood and communication changes, delirium, and wandering.

It is not easy to distinguish between dementia (and its other causes) and Alzheimer’s.   They are often confused because they share a similar set of symptoms, but Alzheimer’s is just one of many possible causes of dementia.

Some causes of dementia may sometimes be treatable, so it is important to talk with your doctor to try and figure out exactly what is going on. A diagnosis of dementia does not necessarily mean the person has Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, Alzheimer’s cannot technically be diagnosed while someone is alive, because the only definite way to identify Alzheimer’s is to examine brain tissue upon a person’s death. It can be very challenging to deal with not being able to find an absolutely definitive diagnosis.

Information care of Kim Butrum, RN, Gerontological Nurse Practitioner from The Memory Center at the Seton Brain and Spine Institute

Below is a video from aboutalz.org which explains the process that occurs within the brain with Alzheimer’s:

AGE serves an average of 40 older adults every day who need daytime supervision and assistance due to a memory impairment. AGE’s Adult Day Centers provide a community where older adults can engage with their peers in therapeutic and stimulating activities under the supervision of a full-time nurse and trained staff. This program helps these vulnerable older adults avoid early nursing home placement and instead keeps them at home with their families. This gives family caregivers the respite they need to continue to work and balance taking care of their families and themselves.

If you would like to join the AGE of Central Texas family by giving towards the direct services that benefit clients and family caregivers who are dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s, please click here or send a check to AGE at 3710 Cedar St # 2 Austin, TX 78705. Feel free to reach us at www.ageofaustin.org or 512.451.4611.

 We are ever grateful for those who support us in deed and word in our mission to serve older adults and those who care for them. With your support, we hope to continue to meet the needs of this community.

Meet Wilbur, A Client

“We all need assistance; we all need a helping hand. No person’s an island.”

Wise Words and a Personal Perspective:

‘Good Afternoon: My name is Wilbur.  I am a client at AGE’s Adult Day Care Center.  I am 87 years old and a World War II Army Combat Veteran.  I served in combat with the infantry in the European Theatre and in the Army of Occupation in Japan.  After my military service I was employed in the United States Postal Service from April 1946 until my retirement in January 1985.

He won a trophy today for ‘Best Dancer’ at the Carnival.

When my wife of 56 plus years of marriage passed away in November 2003, I, like so many elderly people had a decision to make.  To my good fortune my son and daughter-in-law gave me the opportunity to make my home with them in Austin.  Both my son and daughter-in law were still in the workforce.  Early in January 2004 my son and I visited Elderhaven (AGE’s Adult Day Health Center)- My first reaction was like most people.  Would I like Elderhaven and most of all would staff and clients accept me?  Not only was I accepted, but the clients voted me February King and my friend Queen.  I had not danced in years, so after we were crowned we danced like royalty.

The Activity Director at AGE’s Adult Day Health Center here in Austin is Theresa.  Theresa schedules our activities, and at the start of each month every client receives a calendar of daily activities for the month.  Every day we walk and we do exercise.  Some of our activities are arts and crafts, music, entertainment, games, trivia, sing-a-longs, dances, and a lot more.  All activities help the body, mind, and soul.  We have a snack in the morning and in the afternoon.

If you are considering someone who needs day care where you are treated with respect and all clients are treated equally, Elderhaven meets your needs.  Clients are from different ethnic, social, and economic backgrounds and we get along great.  At Elderhaven we have clients from 30 years of age to the mid 90’s.  We pray, laugh, and sometimes shed a tear.  I consider my fellow clients my second family.’

It is clients like Wilbur who remind us that community and compassion is so important in absolutely everything that AGE does. For those who don’t know, AGE’s funding (and that of several local non-profits) and ability to provide services to clients was severely damaged this week by the withdrawal of a major supporter. If you would like to join the AGE of Central Texas family by giving towards the direct services that benefit clients like Wilbur, please click here or send a check to AGE at 3710 Cedar St # 2 Austin, TX 78705. Feel free to reach us at www.ageofaustin.org or 512.451.4611.

 

Thank you for your love and support. And thank you for caring about the older adults of Austin and Central Texas.