Mar 20, 2012

Alzheimer's Caregiver Life Keep Dotty Active Works Miracles

It appears at the moment that Dotty has some new awareness and is more engaged. Yes, like always I am amazed, and greatly heartened.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

I had a long conversation with Carole Larkin yesterday about how Dotty has recently "perked up". She is more alive and more aware.

As this happens, I always ask myself, what changed, what variables are causing the difference? What am I learning, or relearning, that could help or benefit other dementia caregivers?

I think a key word is relearning. It is amazing how I have to relearn something I already learned over and over as an Alzheimer's caregiver for my mother.

AD caregiving is difficult. There is always so much going on. One of the things that make it difficult is that the variables are always changing, the person living with dementia is always changing. As persons living with Alzheimer's change, so do the tasks you perform each day change.

In a way, at least for me, this sometimes makes it difficult to stick to the routine, to stick with the program. To do the things that are necessary to help keep the dementia patient attached to the world, and aware.

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One reason that I get distracted from our routine is that I have to deal with the reality that Dotty's condition continues to worsen. This is not unexpected, but nevertheless dealing with the "expected" as it happens is taxing emotionally and psychologically. So I think this explains in part why I sometimes get distracted and fall out of our routine. It takes a lot of energy to deal with the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Recently, I have been distracted because Dotty can barely walk. We are now using the wheelchair every time we go out the door.

Dotty can no longer walk the 60 or so feet to go see Jim and Ruth. I must tell you this does make me a bit sad. That drains energy. Dotty can no longer "mosey" on down to see Jim and Ruth. This means she can't go get her own social interaction. This means I have to take her down, or find a way to fill in the void. Again, emotionally, psychologically and energy draining.

It took me a while to figure out what we were going to do adjust to these new circumstances. As a result, while I was making a plan, we fell out of our routine a bit.

A few weeks ago, I finally gathered up the energy and focus to start pushing Dotty around in the wheelchair. The purpose is simple, get her out into the sunlight for a big injection of Vitamin D. Yes, I think the level of vitamin D is important. You absorb vitamin d from the sun. So, if Dotty is not getting enough vitamin d she gets dull, bored, and less communicative.

Recently, we have been getting some very large doses of sunlight. This happens on our wheelchair walks, and on our renewed trips to the pool.

I have to assume that sunlight is one factor that is making Dotty more aware and more communicative.

Let me throw this out while we are here. The sun is out folks even if its cloudy or dingy out. Keep that in mind.

During the last trip to pool Dotty started saying some things and making some observations she had not made in a long time. I wondered about this. The only thing I can conclude is that the trips to the pool are "throwing Dotty back in time". In other words, she talks and acts a bit like she did in the long ago "days". I see this as a big positive. Why? Well, at least Dotty is initiating some talk and make some observations. This seems to carry over at home.

For the last two days, Dotty has started to say over and over, "I'm hungry, I'm starving". I had not been hearing this for a long time. So yes, it catches my attention. Why? The sunlight? The pool? The rides in the wheelchair? Me? Or, all of them in combination?

I think it is all of them in combination plus I am paying more attention to Dotty.

Topic - Connecting with a Person Living with Dementia

Another thing that fascinates me is that Dotty is starting to have conversations with new Harvey. Even when Harvey was with us, the conversations and interaction that Dotty was having with Harvey had dropped off to almost nothing.

On Sunday I started singing real loud with new Harvey. You have to learn how to stop and start to use the parrot effectively. So there we were singing away. I looked over and Dotty was mesmerized. She was looking at the parrot as if she had never heard him sing before. She looked happy. The thing is, she was looking right at him and she was engaged.

When we stopped singing, Dotty said to new Harvey, "you have a good voice". She praised the parrot.

It appears at the moment that Dotty has some new awareness and is more engaged. Yes, like always I am amazed, and greatly heartened.

You might be wondering why I am trying to figure out which elements, which factors, are causing this improvement in mood, thinking, and behavior. The reason is simple. I want to be able to communicate these factors to other caregivers so they can try the same things and see the results for themselves.

Topic - Alzheimer's Activities Tips

Once again I must add, you get to choose, burden or joy.

You decide.

Miracle? Maybe not. But it does seem like it to this Alzheimer's caregiver.

Closing note. As I am editing this article Dotty coughed. The parrot coughed back at her. She said, "are you making fun of me"? Uh oh, now she is YouWho(ing) me. And since I didn't answer she is now telling new Harvey they are home alone.

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+Bob DeMarco  is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The blog contains more than 5,000 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

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