To help with Alzheimer's disease awareness I have reprinted my Caregiver Handbook Open A Window in large print. Below is the list of caregivers that would benefit from reading my book and the first two chapters of the book. This book is designed to help all caregivers understand what Alzheimer's disease or dementia does to people. From reading my book, I hope to give you some idea about how to help people with this dreadful disease. The list is as follows To use for education al training sessions and inservices for caregivers taking care of residents in long term care or on an individual basis in Home Health Care. For family members who need education about Alzheimer's so they understand why a person acts the way they do. Once they understand, they will be better caregivers. For use at Alzheimer's support groups to help educate caregivers. This book works as a wonderful ice breaker which gets caregivers to share their experiences. As training in high school health classes so they are able to be more comfortable in a Nursing Home setting when they're doing their clinical. Useful in hospice situations while the caregiver is taking care of someone in the home. Educational for hospice personal that visits the homes. Chapter 1. The Key Is Understanding Because I chose to be a certified nurse aide (CNA) that makes her living in a care center, I’ve always thought of myself as a caring person. I believed I was good at my job. It took helping my mother care for my father, who had Alzheimer’s disease, to make me realize I had much more to learn. After my father’s death, I returned to work at the care center and began to see the residents in a new way. I felt the need to dig deeper into my grab bag full of skills and emotions I carried inside me to put the emphasis on care in caregiving. Times have changed. We care for and treat the physical ailments of frail, elderly people as we always have, but now we’re caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia from ailments like strokes or Parkinson Disease. With the increase of Alzheimer's, we've had to learn new skills and terminology. It takes practice to perfect skills CNAs learn for the most part through on the job experience. Just when we think we have it down pat, the procedure that worked once on a person won’t work anymore, because of the changes in that person’s brain. Since Alzheimer’s disease affects each person differently as the disease damages the brain the procedure the caregiver practiced on someone else might not work at all on the next person. We need to be fast thinking and flexible enough to switch to another approach. Above all, we need to be patient, calm, soft spoken and act like we really care. A variety of tried examples that have worked for other caregivers doesn’t hurt either. That’s why it’s important for the caregiver at home or in long term care to research all the approaches to find the reason why something works for someone with Alzheimer’s disease. An important part of taking care of someone is knowing that person’s likes, dislikes, hobbies and life stories. A relative taking care of that person has it made in that regard. Long term caregivers have to play a guessing game which may lead the person to frustration, anger, and a bad day. Find out from relatives what you need to know to keep the person from going home or trying to find their children. Help that person enjoy a conversation about a subject she or he likes. Memories may have faded, but you bring up something that was a pleasant memory for her or him. See how fast she or he begins to take interest and add their thoughts to the conversation. Contact your local Alzheimer’s office and ask for educational materials, books and videos from their lending library that are loaned out free for a month and get the free pamphlets to give family and friends to educate them. The Association mails the material to caregivers that aren’t able to come to the office. Caregivers feel the need to be clinical as we rush to make it through each day whether it be at home or working an eight hour shift in a facility. There’s no time to spare when we have a schedule to keep. Let something slow us down and it has a snowball effect to screw up our schedule for the rest of the day. So we watch the clock, try to keep on schedule, and at the same time do a good job of caring for the loved one at home, or the residents in a nursing home. That rush - rush attitude only creates a frustrating atmosphere for the person with AD. Their brain doesn’t process fast anymore. They need much more time to digest what's going on around them or what is said to them. They need time to think about their response to us. We need to slow down for the person with AD. That fast moving caregiver was me until I helped Mom take care of my father in his home. Now I see images of Dad as he was through the long, ten years he suffered with Alzheimer’s from an open window in my healthy brain’s memory room. Comparing my experience with my father to the people I have cared for since has changed how I view my job. Five million people have Alzheimer’s disease. In the next few years that number will triple as the baby boomers become retirement age. That means health care workers may very soon have the experience of caring for someone in their family who has Alzheimer’s disease as well as being flooded with a rising number of residents with dementia in long term care. We need to get our caregiving techniques down pat. Time for that is running out. However, caregivers don’t have to have someone close to them afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease for them to develop an empathy for people who have the disease. As professional caregivers, take the time to get to know the people you’re caring for. Think about the dreadful, terminal road ahead of them. As the saying goes, “Walk a mile in their shoes. See how it feels”. The key to caring is getting to know and understand what a person with Alzheimer’s is all about. Not just what you see on the surface, but the person behind the curtain of Alzheimer’s disease. -- Fay Risner Chapter 2. Windows In The Brain This is my description of what happens to a person’s brain when they have Alzheimer’s disease. When we are born, our brain is full of well lit, airy, vacant rooms with an open window in each one. Knowledge and experiences flow through the open windows to fill the rooms as we grow, and flow back out as we mentally call on them to create the type of human being we become. Imagine if by the time you are in your sixties, you were to find yourself searching for a thought in the memory room. You find that the room had become dark, the drapes are drawn. You strain to see the familiar object you are searching for in your mind, trying to remember what it looked like the last time you saw it, but you can’t find that object in the dark. That’s what happens to a person who is afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. One such person was a large framed, boisterous farmer who spoke with a loud voiced, salty vocabulary. First, the memory room in his brain became dark, then other rooms darkened as they were covered with a black shroud called plaque that continued slowly to spread from room to room. As it entered the open windows, the plaque closed them, and the drapes drew shut to put out the light. As this happened to the farmer, he became a shell of the man his family and friends once knew and was admitted to a care center. In time, he forgot how to feed himself, had trouble swallowing, couldn’t do his activities of daily living skills, and could barely stand long enough to transfer from the bed to the wheelchair. The only vocabulary he had left was loud, frustrated profanity unless he chose to parrot short sentences he heard from the aides such as “It’s time to eat.”, or “It’s bedtime.”. There came a time when the farmer quit repeating what he heard. His face became expressionless, and his eyes stared vacantly. I was sure that most of the windows in his brain had shut, became locked, and would never reopen again. I was wrong! Since the farmer was in his room most of the day, I had taken to sitting him in the living room with the other residents after the evening meal. I hoped people talking, and Vanna White flashing across the television screen would stimulate his mind. As time went by, I gave up hope that what I was doing would trigger anything in the farmer that I would see outwardly, but I consoled myself with the idea that I didn’t know what was happening inside those dark rooms in his brain. You know how the window frames in an old house doesn’t fit quite tight, and a small amount of air seeps between the sills and the frames? I thought maybe that might be how the windows in the farmer’s mind were working so I felt I shouldn’t give up trying to stimulate him even if I couldn’t see I was helping him. One evening at bedtime, I pushed the farmer’s wheelchair across the living room. As we neared a visitor, sitting by his wife, the visitor reached out his hand and patted the farmer’s knee. “Hello,” the visitor greeted. “Hello,” the farmer returned in his booming voice, and he called the man by name. The blank expression on the farmer’s face changed to one of joy at seeing an old friend. “He knows you!” I exclaimed in surprise as I realized the farmer recognized the visitor, and he actually spoke without repeating another person’s sentence. The farmer’s eyes remained focused on the visitor. “He should,” the visitor replied. “We’ve been friends for years, and we were both on the board of a business in town for a long time, weren’t we?” “Yes,” the farmer answered with gusto. I could see a calm look of contentment on his face as the memory room’s window crept open to let out the memories I had been so sure were trapped forever in darkness. “We went to a lot of those board meetings together,” the visitor continued. He patted the farmer’s knee again as he said, “This is the man who made a lot of the important decision at the meetings, didn’t you?” Tears welled up in the farmer’s eyes as he struggled to grasp memories long forgotten. I hated to see him so sad, and I didn’t want this to be an uncomfortable situation for him or the visitor so I tried to add a little humor to the conversation. “Oh, sure! Were those important decisions what time to go get the beer after the meetings were over?” Both men laughed at my teasing as the farmer slowly boomed out, “Yes!” Then I explained to the visitor that it was the farmer’s bedtime so he had to leave. By the time I had wheeled the farmer the short distance down the hall into his room and closed the door, his face was expressionless again. His eyes stared vacantly, focused on the drapes behind his bed which were closed across the window just like the pair that darkened the window that had shut again in his mind. For all my trying, I hadn’t been the one to open a window for the farmer, but that’s all right because I was there to see it happen, and that was enough incentive to make me keep trying. One inspiring source to read for caregivers is Jolene Brackey’s book titled Creating Moments Of Joy. Her website is another place to check out for helpful information which is http://www.enhancedmoments.com. She always has helpful articles designed to make pleasant days for people with Alzheimer’s. I was thrilled when Jolene used my Open A Window story in the third edition of her Creating Moments Of Joy. She even autographed her book for me. That for me was a moment of joy I hope I never forget. When one door closes, another opens -- Alexander Graham Bell How do I know this book works. The examples I've provided for helping someone with dementia are ones I used many times. I was a CNA for over fifteen years at the Keystone Nursing Care Center and facilitated an Alzheimer's support group. I helped my mother take care of my father. He suffered for ten years with Alzheimer's disease, and we took care of him at home except for the last month of his life. I wrote a book about my family's experiences during that ten years if you want to read Hello Alzheimer's Good Bye Dad – A Daughter's Journal. Both books can be found on Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paper back and ebooks and on https://www.smashwords.com/ I've been be recognized over the years for my efforts to help people with Alzheimer's disease. I was awarded the 2004 Nurse Aide award from the Iowa Health Care Association and the 2006 Professional Caregiver Award from the North Central Iowa Alzheimer’s Association. I've was a volunteer speaker for the Alzheimer’s Association for many years.
A woman that has worn many hats in my life time. Join me here and find out about those hats.