Weekly ACA’s Weekly Email February 12, 2021

Take a moment to read the below blogpost for Valentine’s Day, written by Rita Jablonski, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, FGSA.  Rita is a nurse practitioner, researcher, tenured professor, and former family caregiver and a very wise lady. Her research and practice involve all aspects of dementia management; she is best known for non-drug strategies to address dementia-related behaviors. Visit her blog athttps://makedementiayourbitch.com/2021/02/11/happy-valentines-day-2021/

Valentine’s Day last year, most of us had no idea of the drastic and looming changes that would disrupt our lives. We heard rumblings about a pandemic across the ocean. We heard about Chinese officials asking people to refrain from New Year travel. But it all seemed so far away. Then, in mid-March, the bottom fell out. Respite centers and daycares closed. Our memory care appointments had to happen over a computer. We became isolated. Some of us watched loved ones deteriorate without consistent social outlets or exercise regimens.    So this year, I want to update my annual Valentine’s message to care partners of persons living with dementia. You are all heroes, true front-line caregivers:

Chocolates, plush animals, and romantic cards. Maybe even masks with cupid decorations. These are today’s Valentine’s Day staples. But want to see REAL LOVE in action? Watch a care partner for someone with dementia.  (Apologies to Saint Paul; I used his First Letter to the Corinthians, verses 4-13, as the platform for this post).

  • Love really tries to be patient. Especially when I try to figure out why a certain behavior is happening.
  • Love is kind; I play to his or her strengths instead of dwelling on the not-so-great parts.
  • Love gently provides the same answer to the same question asked 6 times in the last 5 minutes. Especially about the masks we have to wear now.
  • Love sweetly listens to the same stories over and over again.
  • Love is entering the person with dementia’s reality to understand the behaviors.
  • Love is creative as I find meaningful activities that respect his or her preferences. Which is even tougher without respite. I’m grateful for the weekly Zoom sing-a-longs, but it is just not the same.
  • Love is laughing at oneself and seeing the humor in the situation.
  • Love is understanding that the person with dementia is not doing things to be disagreeable; the person with dementia is trying to make sense out of a sometimes scary and nonsensical world with mixed-up memories.
  • Love is sometimes trying to be brave and cheerful when visiting my relative in an assisted living, plexiglass between us. Trying to explain why I can’t come in and hug her. So I tell her I have a bad cold and don’t want to get her sick.
  • Love is fighting to stay at his side while he is in the hospital, visiting restrictions be damned.
  • Love is becoming the memory.
  • Love is helping to dress and bathe.
  • Love is feeling thrilled that he put the left shoe on the left foot today.
  • Love is feeling joy that she knows who I am today.
  • Love is feeling triumphant because I figured out how to get him into the shower without a fight today.
  • Love can be boastful: “Yay!! Look what WE did!!”
  • Love never fails, although I feel like I do at times. But where there are yucky days, they will pass. Where there are challenges, they will fade. For we know in part how to handle situations because we are learning, and every day brings more ideas and abilities than the one prior.

Before I became a care partner, I talked, thought, and reasoned differently. When I became a care partner, I began to see the world through my loved one’s eyes.

Faith, hope, and love remain. My faith gives me the strength to do some pretty difficult things. My hope helps me to persevere, because I am optimistic that this journey will continue to yield positive and surprising lessons.

But it is my love for my care partner, the greatest of the three, that make it all complete.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the greatest examples of love: the care partners for persons with dementia. ~

Upcoming Webinars:

Aging Through Traumatic Stress: Analyzing the Effects of Stress and Race on Alzheimer’s Disease (Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, February 17, 4:40 ET)

Brain-Behavior Connections in Frontotemporal Degeneration, (AFTD, February 17, 3:00 CT secure your spot today!)

Complex Care Management for People Living with Dementia (National Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center, March 11, 2021 at 1:00 CT)

Understanding and Overcoming the Challenges of an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis (Home Instead, Inc., April 1, noon CT)

Zoom Support Groups available online:

Alzheimer’s News:

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than celebrating the incomparable Tony Bennett?  Bennett’s family recently revealed his 2016 Alzheimer’s diagnosis.  Still able to sing and remember lyrics at age 94, his neurologist describes Alzheimer’s disease as a “spectrum disorder,” one that varies greatly from person to person. Quality of life, progress of the disease and how long a sufferer lives depend on what kind of brain they bring to the situation. “And Tony Bennett,” his doctor says “brought an amazingly versatile brain.” Despite cognitive issues,  his brain is still resilient and functioning well.  He is doing things, at 94, that many people without dementia cannot do. She calls him a “symbol of hope for someone with a cognitive disorder.”   Read Tony Bennett’s moving story:  READ MORE

Check out the AlzAuthors podcast.  Tuscaloosa neurologist, Daniel C. Potts, MD, FAAN discusses dementia from the perspectives of both son and physician, and how the expressive arts can bring comfort, peace, and joy to those living with dementia. AlzAuthors, has curated hundreds of powerful and profound stories.

https://alzauthors.com/podcast/

ACA volunteers have helped deliver robotic pets to many people on our service programs.  We have been amazed by the comfort and joy they bring.  Watch a video of Esther and her cat.

https://alzca.org/educational-materials/.  Scroll down to the third of our videos: Esther and her Joy For All robotic pet.  The pets can be found on Amazon or at CVS.  Please contact ACA if you need assistance purchasing a pet for your loved one, 205-871-7970.
Read a Q&A session with Drew Ramsey, MD, who is a Nutritional Psychiatrist and author of the new book, Eat to Beat Depression and Anxiety.  According to Dr. Ramsey,  the right food is not only good for your body, but can act as medicine for the brain.  And get this, eating daily dark chocolate is correlated with a 67% decreased risk of depression!  Click  HERE

While water is essential for brain health, there are 3 other drinks that can be very beneficial.  Learn what 3 drinks a neuroscientist recommends for better brain health:  READ MORE

Alzheimer’s disease can cause changes in sexuality in both a person with the disease and his or her caregiver. People with Alzheimer’s may be stressed by the changes in their memory and behaviors. They may not remember their feelings toward their partner or their life together. Or they may show an increased interest in sex.  Learn more about changes in sexuality in Alzheimer’s disease on NIA’s website.

The debate about whether the FDA should approve the aducanumab continues.  Read an an opinion piece by George Vradenburg, Chairman and co-founder, UsAgainstAlzheimer’s,   There recent A-LIST survey found most people at-risk for or living with Alzheimer’s want access to treatments that could slow the advance of Alzheimer’s.

AFA’s Teens for Alzheimer’s Awareness College Scholarship Essay Contest is an annual competition for college-bound high school seniors.  Applicants are asked to write a 1,200 to 1,500-word essay that describes the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on themselves, their families or their communities, and what they have learned in light of coping with the brain disorder. The grand prize winner receives $5,000, with additional prizes awarded for runners up. 2021 Essay Submission Deadline: Monday, February 15, 2021. Alzheimer’s Foundation of America | <AFA’s Teen Scholarship Essay Contest> (alzfdn.org)

Check out AFA’s Teal Room (www.alzfdn.org/afatealroom) for free daily offerings of virtual therapeutic and activity programs, including music, art, dance/movement, chair yoga and virtual field trips.

The Dementia Action Alliance will be offering live engagement programs starting February 1st.  A full schedule of programs and simple sign-up process will be posted on DAA’s website starting Monday, January 25th.  Participants living with dementia really can enjoy offerings, such as Poetry Club, Guided Meditation, Whimsical Art, and Sports Club, as well as the opportunity to connect with others.

Placemats needed for “fidget blankets”.   Volunteers from Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church have made hundreds of fidget blankets out of discarded placemats.  All kinds of trinkets, fabric, zippers, etc. are sewn on the placemats giving them interesting textures.  The blankets are used by family caregivers to help with agitation and boredom and have been distributed to many on ACA’s service programs.  If you have any placemats that could be recycled for this purpose, please contact Miller Piggott, mpiggott@alzca.org.