Sometimes only a fellow veteran can help

This wonderfully touching story happened here locally.  A dementia patient who was reverting back to his time in Vietnam with the Air Force – he thought he needed to report back to duty and nothing the family or staff told him helped.

So a plea was put out on social media for a hail mary pass, was there someone who could show up in uniform to let him know his service was over?

Read here for the outcome of the hail mary pass: The war is over

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Aging and Loneliness

Imagine a living a week with no interaction with other people.  No social media, no visits, no phone calls, no outings, nothing but your own company.  How would you fare?  Many seniors live this way.  One man tries this (anti) social experiment … watch and let me know what you think.

A week alone

Project Lifesaver – Peace of mind for the caregiver

My father was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia at the age of 53.  He was physically quite fit, although his mind was slipping away.

It started becoming routine that Dad would start walking away, in the store, from the house, just about anywhere.  I can recall trying to convince my dad to return to the house while he was walking out of the neighborhood towards a very busy high speed roadway with little to no pedestrian area.  At one point he told me that if I didn’t leave him alone he would call the police (he didn’t know who I was at that time) I remember responding to please call the police (I knew they would help me get him home).  In the end he returned home without police intervention and no major problems but I was shaking and terrified.  I know that my siblings and mom also have similar memories.

Dad’s wandering was hardest on Mom, she had to be worried about him getting up in the middle of the night, wandering off and getting lost.  She did some research to see if there was anything out there that would help and she found Project Lifesaver that was being operated through our local sheriff’s office.

This isn’t a GPS device or really any super fancy tech.  It’s remarkable in its’ simplicity.  A watch-like device is fastened to the wrist of the dementia patient much like a hospital ID wristband is attached.  In the “watch” part is a simple radio transmitter on a unique frequency and a battery all in a waterproof case.

The idea is if the dementia patient wanders and is missing the sheriff’s department can send out cars to the last known location with devices to listen for the unique frequency and signal and triangulate the current location of the dementia patient.

A deputy sheriff would come out once a month to replace the device to ensure the battery was always working at  100%.

Take a look into their services here: Project Lifesaver  You can check to see if they are working with the police or sheriff’s department in your area.  If they aren’t encourage your local department to become involved.

Should I have some wine with my Xanax?

We should all be aware of medication side effects and interactions.  It’s important to know what we should or should not take with our prescribed medications or even many over the counter medications.  Some medications have shown to have lower efficacy or dangerous side effects when mixed with certain foods or beverages.  The one beverage that has the most potential to create dangerous situations with many medications is alcohol.

This list from Simplemost is a good quick reference for many interactions.  I would go a step further and recommend speaking with your pharmacist about specific counter-indications for the medications you are currently taking.  Don’t forget to mention any over the counter medications and/or supplements you may be taking as well when speaking with your pharmacist.

How can you do a job like that? I could NEVER do something like that!

love best medicine

When I began my journey as a caregiver I had people asking me how I could do such a thing, that they would never be able to do that.  They wanted to know how I could stand to see to the most personal needs of my father and then grandfather.  They couldn’t understand how I could find the compassion and patience to spend 30 to 45 minutes feeding my dad four or five times a day.

The simple answer is they’re family and that’s what family does.  The deeper explanation is, they did it for me.  From the time I was born my family has been there caring for me.  THEY changed my diapers.  THEY fed me.  THEY dressed me.  THEY bathed me.  I spit up and threw up on THEM.  I bled on THEM.  When I cried THEY comforted me.  THEY taught me, loved me and encouraged me.  How can I not reciprocate when THEIR time of need comes?

To that people will often concede the point but now that I have lost both Dad and Grandpa they ask why I continue to do this for strangers.

The honest truth is two-fold.  First of all, once I meet the people I am charged with providing care for they are no longer strangers.  They become surrogate family members.  I care for who they are as a person.  I try to learn about who they are, what makes them happy and how to encourage them.   They often have as much of a positive influence on my life as I hopefully have on theirs.

Second, I think of all the people outside of my family who had an impact on who I am today … teachers, neighbors, family friends, camp counselors, clergy, and random strangers providing random acts of kindness.  Most of these people are no longer in my life, but each of the people I care for were the teachers, neighbors, family friend, camp counselor, clergy or random stranger providing random acts of kindness for someone else.  So in my mind, in some odd concept of karma or whatever way you’d put it, I am returning the favor to a stranger in hopes that someone else is doing the same for those non-family members who had a positive influence on my life.

I have another reason for doing what I do.  I have seven wonderful nephews and four awesome nieces.   I believe the best way to show the future generation how to be compassionate, active, caring adults is by example.  I hope that by demonstrating to them how we should care for our family and strangers that I will have done my part to make the future just that much brighter.

So, to answer the question “How can I do something like what I do?”

I do it joyfully with hope, compassion and love.

Caregiver dilemma: I’m scared of doing it wrong

Becoming a caregiver for someone you love can be a wonderful, but terrifying experience.  If you approach the experience with a deep love for your family member and the determination to make sure they are safe, loved and fulfilled as a human being should be then you will be wonderful as a caregiver!

integrity

My most terrifying moment as a caregiver was the day we brought Dad back home.  He’d arrived via medical transportation and shortly afterwards I was alone with him for the first time.  I stood there scared beyond everything.

I was completely responsible for Dad’s health and well-being.  I had completed the coursework, testing and clinical experience required by my state to do this work.  I even had the little piece of paper to prove it!

But as I stood by Dad’s bedside that fateful afternoon I was nearly paralyzed with fear.  I was scared that I would do something wrong.  I was worried that I would cause him unnecessary harm with my ineptitude.

I took a deep breath.  I exhaled.  I did it a few more times – just to make sure I could.  I decided to start with the basics of caregiving.

I took Dad’s hand, told him that I was going to do my best for him and that I may have a bit of a learning curve.  I let him know that everything was going to be ok.  I spent several minutes talking to him, holding his hand and comforting him.

In comforting Dad I found that I was also comforted.  In telling him everything would be ok I felt that it would be ok.

I began to relax.  The fear that had frozen me dissipated and I was able to begin providing the personal care Dad needed.

There were times I made some mistakes, those mistakes didn’t make his condition worse.  The mistakes were a part of my learning curve and I did learn from them.  I used these lessons to provide even better care for Dad.

In the end I knew I had done everything I could to honor my father.  I had given him the care he needed.  I had ensured that his final days, weeks and months had been spent surrounded by love.  I do not regret forcing myself through my paralyzing fear – I would do it a thousand times over.

Nothing’s better than comfort food

There’s something special about sitting down to a hearty soup when the weather’s cold and blustery outside.  I honestly think it provides comfort to the soul, peace to the heart and when it’s also healthy, serenity for the mind.

This beef barley soup hits on all three counts, and since you can pop the ingredients into your slow cooker to simmer all day it also provides a stress free dinner!

Beef Barley Soup

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