Supportive Care Bulletin
Helpful tips for family caregivers
This month offers a reminder to think about home security for your loved one. Older adults experience thirteen times more property crime than crimes of violence. Some precautions involve modifications in the building, but others simply require a shift in daily habits. Speaking of “shift,” our middle article about anticipation offers tips to use a mental shift to reap maximum benefits from your caregiving breaks. In our last article we discuss the symptoms of Lewy body dementia (LBD). If the changes you notice in your loved one don’t seem to fit classic Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, it could be worth a second opinion to rule out LBD.
- October is National Crime Prevention Month
- Putting anticipation to work for you
- What is Lewy body dementia?
October is National Crime Prevention Month
It’s unpleasant to imagine that your loved one might become the victim of crime, but it’s worth considering. There are valuable preventive steps to take. Unless your relative lives in a high-crime neighborhood, their greatest risk is a property crime in or around their home. In fact, older adults experience thirteen times more property crime than violent crime. Home invasions and theft are the main concerns.
Secure the perimeter.
- Install motion detection lights and test them often. Light is an excellent deterrent to those who mean no good. Be sure the front and back doors are particularly well lit.
- Put gravel on walkways. It’s difficult to sneak up quietly while walking on gravel.
- Consider installing a video camera at the front door. One that allows those inside to view out before deciding to open the door.
Lock up the house. With the increasing boldness of home invasions, encourage your relative to keep windows and doors locked, even during the day.
- Exterior doors should have deadbolts, with a peephole or video camera for viewing anyone at the door.
- Inside, install a solid bar lock, much like they have at hotels, so your loved one has the option to open the door slightly without letting someone in. (Chain locks are too flimsy.)
- Have them bring their phone in hand when they answer the door so they don’t have to look for it to call for help. If your relative has a personal medical alert pendent, they can use that in an emergency.
- Train your relative to ask for ID before letting a stranger inside. Even if they say it’s an emergency, call the company to verify employment and the purpose of the visit.
- Add plexiglass or security film on windows if your loved one lives in an area where break-ins are common.
- Ensure curtains or blinds are closed at night and thick enough to block the view of activities indoors.
- Have your relative keep valuables in a safe and vehicle keys out of sight. Home invaders are looking for easily available, expensive items to grab quickly.
Putting anticipation to work for you
Do you ever wish you could wave a magic wand for more joy? Patience? Optimism? Motivation? Maybe less irritability and stress? It’s actually accessible now, no wizardry required. Just a shift in attention. Welcome to “anticipation.”
You may have noticed that half the fun of a vacation is the anticipation of the journey beforehand. Research shows that anticipation gives people an emotional lift in the weeks before actual takeoff. Simply put, you can amplify the positives in your life by intentionally looking forward to them.
You don’t have to plan for a big expensive trip to get the benefits. Setting your sights on several small, near-term pleasures can deliver the same effect. It appears that the human brain can hold only so many feelings at once. Like a bucket. If you are anticipating several small pleasures—a phone call with a friend tonight, a delicious dinner tomorrow, a coming weekend off from your caregiving responsibilities—they start filling your bucket. This leaves less room for negative emotions and concerns.
Anticipating an experience delivers more happiness than looking forward to a material object. (Planning for a coffee date gives a bigger boost than planning to buy a pair of shoes.)
Plus, you can use anticipation as a motivator. Let’s say there’s a task you are not looking forward to, but you need to do it. (Drive your mom to visit her brother.) Mentally reframe it so that the drive is merely the “before” to the massage or a matinee you are planning as a treat after.
To leverage anticipation, all you need to do is make plans for something pleasant. Then give those plans prominence in your awareness. Why not try it now? Before you go to bed tonight, write down one thing you are looking forward to tomorrow.Return to top
What is Lewy body dementia?
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are many other conditions that also bring on memory problems. It is important to accurately identify the cause, even if there’s no cure, because this will shape the best strategy for addressing difficult symptoms.
Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the second most common form of dementia. But it is not nearly as well known, even by doctors. It’s easy to misdiagnose because it shares symptoms with several other dementia conditions. It also varies a lot from one person to the next.
Signs of Lewy body dementia
- Swings in ability to remember or concentrate. This may be mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease. However, the swings can be greater from day to day. Plus, short-term and long-term memory can be affected.
- Changes in mood and/or behavior.
- Increased sleepiness and confusion.
- Physically acting out dreams while sleeping. This may be one of the earliest signs, occurring years before other symptoms develop.
- Difficulty with movement, much like Parkinson’s disease.
- Visual hallucinations. People with LBD see things that are not visible to others. Medicines usually given for hallucinations can be damaging for people with LBD. They worsen movement problems and can lead to kidney failure.
Three out of four individuals with LBD were first diagnosed with another condition. If your loved one is having odd symptoms that don’t match up to their diagnosis, ask about possible LBD. A thorough exam by a neurologist or neuropsychologist can tease out the distinctions. Two tests are available: One a skin biopsy, the other a spinal fluid test.
If your relative’s symptoms seem all over the map, you aren’t going crazy. It could be one of these lesser known conditions. You don’t want your loved one getting medications designed for something else. Ask for a second opinion if you think there might be a mismatch.Return to top