Dementia and Night Wandering

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A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia brings its own unique set of challenges apart from typical aging issues. This class of disease robs one of their mental capacity while leaving their physical body unscathed. The result is someone who may be physically strong and healthy, but without the ability to reason, make good decisions, or even communicate their wants or needs to their caregiver. Aging brings its own challenges with advancing years. Loss of flexibility makes us more vulnerable to falls, changes in dietary needs may make us gain or lose weight to unhealthy levels, and reduced ability to see or hear further limits our connection to the world we live in. Add to this the confusion and frustration of dealing with dementia and you have a recipe for disaster waiting to happen.

One common fear most of us have as we age is the danger of falling, especially at night in the dark. As we age, we may get up in the night for bathroom needs or a drink of water. When someone with Alzheimer’s disease feels these urges they might not remember where the bathroom is, or what to do when they get there. If they begin to wander at night as the disease progresses, they could end up injuring themselves badly if they trip and fall.

Does this possibility prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep? If so, you’re not alone. It’s quite reasonable to fear your mom or dad will become a victim of their nocturnal rambling in the dark. If this worry disrupts your sleep patterns, you could end up getting sick yourself and become unable to provide the care they need. Many family caregivers struggle with getting enough rest when their loved one becomes a night wanderer, but there are things you can do to make the situation safer and more conducive to helping you sleep through the night.

For starters, you might put a baby monitor in your loved one’s room so you will hear them when they get up at night. There is also technology that puts sensors under the mattress or on the floor beside the bed that will emit an alarm when the sleeper gets out of bed. And if you really need to sleep through the night, you could ask a family member or hire a professional caregiver to sit up at night outside your loved one’s bedroom door so they can intercept the wanderer and help them get resettled in the night. Here are more suggestions for managing wandering both at night and during the day. It’s true that the better you can rest, the better care you can give.

Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about losing sleep over things that go bump in the night.

When You Need a Back-Up Plan

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Family Caregivers shoulder a lot of responsibility when they accept their role in caring for an aging loved one or spouse. In addition to the responsibilities they already have, they must now also handle the needs and wants of another person, and sometimes handle the other’s obligations as well. We make God laugh when we try to tightly control our lives because He is always in control and He already has a plan laid out for us. Surprises come out of left field that leave us staggering back, wondering how we can manage this along with everything else. Because your life is complicated and unpredictable, having a back-up plan is critical to managing all you do as a family caregiver.

The great news is that none of us are in this alone! The better you get at building a support team around you, the more secure you will feel when you need to activate your Plan B. No matter how skilled, how flexible, how healthy and well balanced you might be, there will be times when you have to trust someone else to step in and give you a hand when you can’t be there. When this need arises, you don’t want to be scrambling and trying to figure out what to do at the last minute. Rather, you want to have your resources in place so the transition to the new plan can be as painless as possible for you and those you care for.

Knowing where to turn to find the help you need is the first and most important step to help you win at caregiving. For this, you need to fully understand and be able to communicate your responsibilities to someone who can help you put a plan in place. You might have this conversation with other family members, your pastor, a parish nurse, someone in the medical community, or a professional provider in the senior care industry. You could also talk with a friend who has been down this road before and ask where they found their best resources. Keep in mind that having these strategic conversations doesn’t mean you are weak or incapable of fulfilling your caregiving commitments. If anything, it means you are looking ahead and taking full advantage of every opportunity to make certain your loved one has the care they need, even if you can’t be there.

From here, you will want to explore the avenues that have been suggested to you and choose the best path to follow. Begin to schedule time to have additional conversations within your chosen direction. Ask questions, describe in detail what would be needed, and listen to your heart even as you listen to the answers being given. Don’t be afraid to be graphic or to challenge statements that seem less than committed to the task at hand. A family member who suggests they might be able to help out probably won’t when the crisis is at hand. You must feel your way through this part, but don’t let that frighten you. Remember, God is STILL in control, even through your planning process. Let Him direct your path and bring forward the best solution to meet your needs.

Once you have your Plan B in place, you will want to periodically revisit it, just so things don’t get out of phase. Touch base with the people or professionals who have committed to being your back-up plan. Revisit and update the care needs of your loved one. Maybe even involve them periodically in a respite-care situation so you can take a break and they can build a relationship with your loved one. Then if you have to be away unexpectedly there is already familiarity with the situation.

When you work through this process all the way to the end, you’ve positioned yourself and your loved one in the best possible situation. You’re doing a great job as a family caregiver, and if you need help in a pinch, you’ve got that covered as well!

Betsy and I hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about finding reliable helpers.

 

What’s On Your Nightstand?

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What’s On Your Nightstand?

Family caregivers are often very hard on themselves. It’s easy to feel as though you never do anything right when one day seems to fade into the next without any noticeable improvement over your current conditions. But did you know that what you read, watch or listen to feeds our souls and influences our thoughts and actions in surprising ways? Music, television, movies, podcasts, books, and social media all contribute to how we engage and interact with the world around us. When so much of that content is about bad things, it’s easy to feel like we can never be good enough again.

 Research has shown time and again that people who feed their minds with positive thoughts are happier, more productive, and more hopeful than those who dwell on their “half-empty glass” experiences. But if you are someone who struggles to stay positive, what’s the best way to overcome those negative thoughts?

 One way to turn your thought processes around is to change your routine to include reading or listening to something positive and uplifting before sleeping at night. Think about what’s on your nightstand. When you go to bed at night, do you read before you turn out your light? Studies show this is a great way to unwind and calm your mind before you go to sleep. Alsoreading or listening to material that is positive, uplifting, inspiring, and makes you feel good is a better choice than the latest suspense novel or a great murder mystery.

 A scriptural devotional collection or your Bible is an excellent option for consideration; some of those Biblical heroes and heroines have highly engaging stories. Biographies or autobiographies of people you admire are also excellent choices, as are tales of heroism in the face of adversity. Even feel-good novels like the Mitford series by Jan Karon can lift your spirits and increase your “feel good” hormones.

 Audio podcasts are also a great source of positive messaging you could listen to before you go to sleep. If you’re not into readingconsider an audiobook subscription. The focus of this exercise is to take in good thoughts, positive words and ideas, and concepts that motivate and influence you to change your learned thought patterns from negative to positive. When you change how you think, you change how you feel, and that can change your life!

 Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about how you nourish your heart and soul to keep yourself mentally strong, emotionally positive, and totally amazing!

 

 

As the Weather Turns

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Temperatures are finally cooling off, and the changing weather brings opportunities to refresh wardrobes and get a change of scenery. Right now pumpkins and fall mums seem to be everywhere you look! Leaves are turning brilliant reds, oranges and yellows before being swirled into the wind as they fall from the trees. The sun’s light even seems more golden in the evening at this time of year. All of creation is signaling that the seasons are changing.

This is a great time to pick up a new sweater or pull one out of storage from last year. Freshen up cozy throws and winter coats that have been packed away. Warm fuzzy socks are a welcome haven for cold feet. During the summer months we didn’t do a lot of baking, but now it’s time to fire up the oven for pies, cookies, and hearty soups. Maybe you will even need to turn up the thermostat as mornings are chilly in the kitchen. Afternoons call for a hot mug of tea, freshly baked cookies and a good book to read.

For a more active lifestyle, the cooler temperatures always tempt me to go on a walk through the neighborhood or along a path in the woods. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise you can get. It’s aerobic, it’s weight-bearing, and it’s good for stiff joints. Added to all that goodness is God’s creativity on display everywhere you look with autumn’s vivid display of colors. What better way can you think of to get a little exercise and burn off some stress while taking full advantage of the season?

 Look for activities you can do together to create memories. Bake those cookies, hang a fall wreath on the door, go for a drive. Pick up some colorful leaves from the yard or along your walking route and create a vivid leaf collection to enjoy indoors. During my mom’s final months her gingko tree, her pride and joy, was pure gold and held onto its leaves far longer than usual. I went out one afternoon in November and filled a shallow bowl with the bright yellow leaves and brought them into her bedroom so she could see how lovely they were. I described the tree to her; the leaves that surrounded it on the ground seemed almost to shine their own internal light. The yellow leaves in the bowl held their color for weeks and she enjoyed them until she closed her eyes for the last time. Those memories are mine now to cherish, and I often reflect on the joy simple things brought to us in my mother’s last few weeks.

 We hope you’ll join the conversation this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about enjoying God’s handiwork with those you care for.

Renewing Your Faith

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“I am the vine and you are the branches…if you abide in me, and I in you, you will bear much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

How does your spiritual life feel these days? Are you on a mountaintop or are you in the desert? Do you feel energized and excited by worship when you are alone or with others, or do you feel uninspired and distracted? Does the Holy Spirit call you to scripture study each day, or does reading your Bible feel like an obligation or an imposition on your time?

Providing care for an aging loved one is hard work. Unlike professionals, Family caregivers usually don’t receive compensation, have difficulty taking time off, and may have a limited support system to backfill for them when their health or obligations take them out of action for a time. The pressure of managing a caregiving journey could leave you feeling empty, lonely, hopeless, angry, overwhelmed, and a whole host of other emotions.

 Jesus knew that the disciples were going to experience all of these emotions in the days ahead when he spoke with them about being the vine in John 15. He was giving them hope before they even knew they needed it! He wanted them to remember that He was their source of energy, strength, and productivity. He wanted them to continue on their mission, to bear fruit, even after He was gone from their sight, and He wants to have a vibrant, living relationship with each one of us today. His love for us is overwhelming, extravagant, and always sufficient for our needs. He promises that if we remain in Him we will bear much fruit. As a family caregiver, the fruit we bear (Galations 5:22-23) is truly all we need to thrive in our role of nurturer and provider for those who depend on us.

We all go through spiritual deserts when it’s hard to get excited about much of anything related to our faith walk, but Jesus will never leave us or forsake us and as we keep on crying out to our Savior, He will carry us to the mountaintop of His love again and again. Dwell with Him and He will renew your strength and restore your hope each day. Cling to Him through personal worship, corporate worship, and scripture study. Rest in His arms and find revival.

 Chris and I hope you’ll join the conversation this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about finding spiritual renewal while caregiving.

 

Are You Lonely?

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How lonely are you? A 2018 Cigna Loneliness Survey revealed that nearly 57% of adults in America have no meaningful social interaction in their day, so if you are feeling isolated in your role as a caregiver, you are not alone. Many family caregivers struggle with the social isolation they discover when they accept the role of caring for aging loved ones. Take the Cigna Loneliness Survey here to see how you measure up.

When Betsy stayed with her mother during the last few weeks of Sarah’s life, she struggled with the loneliness of being out of her routines and away from family and friends. In her words, “That time was richly spent with my mom, but socially I felt cut off from my family and friends back at home in Virginia. The social isolation I experienced left me feeling tired, frustrated, depressed and angry in turn, and my experience was only a microcosm of what most family caregivers go through over the months, years, or even decades they navigate while caring for those they love.”

Social isolation has many dangers; among these are emotional eating, sleep disruptions, depression, weight gain or loss, cognitive decline and other physical symptoms that can reduce your capacity to care for yourself or someone you love. In fact, research shows that social isolation or loneliness has the same impact on death rates as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!

Conversely, people with healthy, regular social engagement are healthier overall and lead more productive lives. We are all made in God’s image, and He made us as relational people. We need a relationship with God and with each other to live healthy lives that avoid social isolation. We can accomplish this through church activities, coffee with a friend, a book club or caregiver support group, an exercise class, or even by having regular online or phone contact with distant family members. The important thing is to make it happen.

If you feel socially isolated, reach out to others for help. Ask a friend or family member to come and stay with your loved one for an hour or two regularly so you can connect socially with others. Hire a homecare company to fill in a little or a lot so you can regain some balance in your life. With some effort, you can get reconnected and feel socially supported by your safety net of family, friends, and others in your resource pool.

We hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver and share your heart about managing and avoiding the dangers of social isolation in your own life.

 

Dialing Up a Healthy Life

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 Do you know the secret to staying healthy and aging well? Actually, it’s not a secret at all, and it’s also not just one thing; it’s several components that, when used together, create harmony, balance, and energy in your life.

 I realize this might sound like eastern mysticism, but I promise you it’s not. Actually, it’s more like keeping an automobile in good working order. When we learn to drive, we all have to learn how to read the dashboard dials to know the health of the vehicle. The gas gauge, oil and water levels, battery life, tire pressure, and speedometer all give us valuable information that guides us on how to keep the car running safely and efficiently. Likewise, when one of these dials indicates a problem we attend to the need in a timely manner.

As family caregivers, we all need to stay healthy and strong in order to help those we care for have their best possible life. To facilitate good health and adequate strength we must establish and follow a healthy routine that includes prayer, scripture study, robust nutrition, adequate hydration, daily exercise, and sufficient sleep and social engagement every day. Think of these focus areas as your life’s dashboard dials.

So how do you rate when it comes to your seven dashboard dials? If your answer is a resounding, “I’ve got this! I pray daily, eat healthy most of the time, get in my exercise several times a week, drink lots of water, sleep well and spend time with friends at Bible study weekly,” then good for you! Keep up the great work and look for other family caregivers you can encourage and support.

But if your immediate reaction is a discouraged sigh as you realize your dials need a lot of work, don’t be disheartened! With just a little attention and some fine-tuning you can turn what feels like a clunker into a well-tuned machine. Start by focusing on just one dial. Make a commitment to changing one thing in your day or week. Take small steps and celebrate your victories often. Perhaps you could start by having a healthy breakfast every day or every other day. Start a new Bible study or carve out a daily time to pray. As one dial comes into alignment you may find yourself inspired to begin improvements in another area. Over time you can undergo a complete transformation in all areas of your life. You might even inspire those you care for to begin making their own life changes when they see your progress. That’s not mystical, that’s just smart!

 Chris and I hope you’ll join us this week at Heart of the Caregiver to share your heart about dialing up a healthy life in mind, body, and spirit.