Hidden Health Hurdles Ahead
If you are caring for a friend or family member with dementia, keeping yourself healthy can sometimes be difficult.
Tara Maltman-Just, founder and executive clinician at Vitality Integrative Medicine and speaker at the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba’s upcoming Care4U conference, says studies show caregivers are at an increased risk of having health issues.
“Caregivers need to pay attention and make sure they’re taking time for their own health needs,” Tara says.
Tara offers a few simple tips caregivers can do to keep healthy.
Get a good quality sleep
Sleep affects many different areas of the body and if you’re having problems sleeping due to stress, it will have “cascade effects”. Tara suggests paying attention not only to the amount of sleep you’re getting, but also to the quality of your sleep. This is because stress affects a hormone called cortisol, which can cause frequent awakening, mind-racing and long-term sleep disruption. She suggests dimming the lights in your home as early as after dinner, as light can affect the body’s ability to prepare for sleep.
“If people are exposed to light, planning and working hard into the evening, this can be detrimental to both their cortisol and their melatonin levels (the “sleep hormone”),” Tara says.
Tara also recommends ensuring the room you are sleeping in is quite dark.
Live in the moment
Tara says she encourages those who are especially focused on caregiving to make a concerted effort to take at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted time each day to focus on doing an activity they enjoy.
“Turning off technology and reading a book that’s inspirational, or meditating can be really helpful,” recommends Tara.
She also suggests listening to calming music, or petting your dog.
“Choose something that brings a smile to your face, whatever that may be,” Tara says.
Plan your meals
One impact of stress is that it causes the body to naturally want to release sugar and build fat, which can often result in “waist-centered weight gain”. “As the body becomes prone to craving things that will give it an energy boost, like caffeine and carbohydrates” Tara says, adding either will give an instant energy high followed by a low.
Even if people are not able to focus on choosing the ideal things they think they should eat, Tara suggests ensuring meals incorporate fat and protein.
“Including fat and protein in meals limits the highs and lows caused by sugar spikes,” explains Tara.
She also recommends choosing fruits and vegetables that are rich in magnesium, vitamin C and B vitamins to replenish nutrients that might become depleted when the body is under stress.
While Tara says these tips are generally a good way for caregivers to stay healthy, each caregiver’s situation will be different and it’s important to focus on lifestyle changes that work best for them.
Recharging with Respite
Caregiving is demanding – and it’s normal to need a break.
When caregivers take time to “recharge their batteries”, they allow themselves to catch up mentally and physically. For a lot of caregivers, respite gives them this chance.
Alan Chalkley’s wife, Beverley, has dementia. Every Tuesday, Home Care comes to Alan and Beverley’s home to spend time with her. This is respite for Alan, a period of time that allows him to have a break and do the things that make him happy.
“I often don’t plan anything specific. Sometimes I head out to the park where I sit on a bench, read or people watch. I like to take in the sights of the city and explore different places around Winnipeg. Getting out in the fresh air and enjoying the beautiful day is nice,” says Alan.
The Home Care support worker has become a companion to Beverley. Alan finds comfort and peace of mind knowing his wife is spending time with another caring individual.
Respite is about more than having time to get things such as grocery shopping or visiting the hairdresser done. It’s also about using time to do something that gives you a “boost”.
“Caregivers often set aside their own needs,” says Norma Kirkby, Program Director at the Alzheimer Society. “They concentrate their time and energy on the person with dementia. Though this is understandable, it’s important for caregivers to remember they will provide the best care when they are energized.”
Taking a break helps a caregiver to recharge so they can resume their caregiving responsibilities with a fresh outlook and better care for the person with dementia.
Taking breaks for the things you enjoy can give you a needed uplift. These breaks are just as important as the times when someone comes to stay with your family member to allow you to go out and do needed errands.
“I often spend the extra time with my daughter to talk and get up to speed on everything. The respite I receive from Home Care is a great thing. It’s a time to relax,” says Alan.
Some caregivers choose Home Care, and others choose to have the person with dementia attend an Adult Day Program. Whichever the choice, it’s important to remember that respite services can benefit the person with dementia as well as the caregiver.
“It’s normal to need some time for yourself,” says Kirkby. “When caregivers remove themselves from their demanding responsibilities for even just a few hours, it allows them to enjoy the world that goes beyond their role of caring for someone with dementia”.
Caregivers can learn more about self-care and other caregiving techniques at the Alzheimer Society’s upcoming Care4U Conference on November 2. Click here to learn more about the Care4U Conference.
Options in Community Living
As the needs of your friend or family member with dementia change, it may be time to consider a transition from their home to a more supported setting.
While it may sometimes be assumed that for people with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, a move to a long-term care setting is the next step, there are other options that allow people to remain in a more community-like setting.
Jane Van Dam, Manager of the Department of Social Work at Misericordia Health Centre, says there’s not one solution for everyone. No matter the living arrangement, maintaining a degree of independence is important.
“Seniors value independence and we want to maintain that in a climate that provides the support and care they need,” she says.
Research and planning ahead to determine the best living option is important. Jane suggests discussing options with your family over time, rather than when the move becomes a necessity. It is important to choose an option that is financially sustainable, yet offers the services that are needed.
Sheila Hunter, Executive Director at Metropolitan Kiwanis Courts, an assisted living facility that offers a service package including three meals per day and cleaning, echoes Jane. “Planning ahead is key, especially when you’re looking for affordability.”
Metropolitan Kiwanis Courts is a non-profit organization, which Sheila says makes them one of the more affordable options.
Sheila says one of the main benefits of choosing an independent living site early is that a person with a recent onset of dementia can establish a routine and get comfortable.
Like Metropolitan Kiwanis Courts, Lindenwood Manor allows its residents to age in place longer without moving into a personal care home.
The not-for-profit assisted living facility offers a variety of programs to its residents, including music and pet therapy, and provides two meals a day.
Elaine Kroeker, Director of Recreation and Volunteers at the facility says these programs really allow staff and residents to connect.
“We’ve had residents say they feel like they live in a house with a whole bunch of family members,” Elaine says.
What sets Lindenwood Manor apart is having home care staff who work only at their site. Elaine says this allows consistency and flexibility of care by staff familiar to the residents.
Like Lindenwood Manor, the supportive housing program at Lions Manor supports their residents by providing meals and activities, while giving them a sense of security and safety, says Margaret Coquete, program manager for the supportive housing at the facility.
Because Lions Manor encompasses independent living, supportive housing and a personal care centre, residents have access to a number of different activities, which Margaret says decreases social isolation.
Once residents are no longer eligible for supportive housing, they may choose to transition to Lions Care Centre.
“Not only are they in the same building, chances are they have seen staff and residents before and things aren’t all that new,” explains Margaret.
You don’t have to feel like you’re alone when you are considering potential living arrangements. The Alzheimer Society is available to provide support, information and resources to guide you through the process. Call 204-943-6622 or the regional office nearest you.
For someone with dementia, the events, emotions and experiences associated with their home provide security, stir memories and help them remain as active as possible.
A safe environment helps the person with dementia enjoy the benefits of remaining in their home.
Some ways to increase safety in the home for a person with dementia are:
- Increase lighting.
- Label drawers, rooms or home fixtures that the person uses frequently.
- Check on stored food to ensure it’s not outdated and that cooking utensils are clean.
- Clear the house of excess clutter. Remove rugs, cords or objects that could increase the risk of falls.
- Turn off electrical appliances the person doesn’t regularly use. Use ones with automatic shut-offs.
- Remove or lock away appliances and home cleaning products that could cause harm if not used correctly.
- Install a home security system that will alert you if the person with dementia were to leave the home without your knowledge.
- Take expired or unused medications to the pharmacy for safe disposal.
Upcoming Family Education
Informed Choices: Benefits vs. Risks with Dementia Medications and Natural ProductsTuesday, October 22
7 – 8:30 pm
1000 Molson Street (map)
Click here for poster Click here to register
Hoarding & Dementia: Exploring Causes and ConcernsTuesday, November 26 7 – 8:30 pm Golden Links Lodge 2280 St. Mary’s Road (map) Click here for poster Click here to register
Living with Alzheimer’s Disease or Another Dementia Workshop
9 am – 4 pm
Fellowship Church in Gladstone, Manitoba.
For more information or to register, contact Karen Lambert (204-239-4898) or firstname.lastname@example.org.Saturday, November 23
9 am – 4 pm
Brandon Regional Health Centre (4th Floor Assiniboine Centre) in Brandon, Manitoba.
For more information or to register, contact Tanis Horkey (204-578-4572) or Grace Loewen (204-729-8320) or email email@example.com.
Upcoming Telehealth Sessions
The 7A’s: Exploring the Effects of Dementia on the BrainPresented by Joyce Klassen, Dementia Care Educator Alzheimer Society of Manitoba Tuesday, October 8 6:30 – 8 pm
An Individualized Approach to Managing BehavioursPresented by Dr. Lesley Koven, Ph.D., C.Psych Tuesday,October 15 6:30 – 8 pm Click here for more information about Telehealth
Care4U Family ConferenceSaturday, November 2 9 am – 4 pm Canadian Mennonite University – 500 Shaftesbury Blvd Click here to register
Caregivers needed for research study
Researchers from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute are looking for people who care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease to share their experiences through a questionnaire. This information will be used to create guidelines to help designers and engineers understand the needs and requirements of people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, which will help them to build better technologies.
If you are a caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s disease who:
- provides at least 7 hours/week of unpaid care to a person with Alzheimer’s,
- can speak, read, and write fluently in English, and
- is not a formally trained caregiver (e.g. registered nurse)
then you are invited to share your experiences through a questionnaire.
Make your coffee count this September and October!
Coffee Break® is continuing throughout October!
Coffee Break® is the Alzheimer Society’s nationwide annual fundraiser where participants make a donation in exchange for a cup of coffee.
A Coffee Break® can be hosted at your business, home, school or anywhere you can serve coffee! It’s so simple! Gather your co-workers, friends and family for your Coffee Break® to raise funds to support programs and services for people affected by Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.
Click here to register as a Coffee Break® host.
Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Trivia Challenge
Caregiver Research Study Challenge your brain at the 5th annual Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Trivia Challenge!
Join the Alzheimer Society on Thursday, October 24 at McPhillips Station Casino from 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm. Teams of 10 will compete in 10 fast-paced rounds of trivia for the title of Grand Champion! Registration is $30 per person with a maximum of 10 people per team.
Funds raised help support programs and services for people affected by Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.
Click here to register for Trivia Challenge.