Caregiving Language – Use It to Uplift and Embrace

Caregiving Language - Use It to Uplift and EmbraceIf you are caring for someone who is living with Alzheimer’s disease, maybe you can relate to this experience:

“Are you with me or not?” my father asked sternly.

“Yes, I’m with you!” I replied without hesitation.

Alzheimer’s disease had progressed between the mid- to late-stage of the disease for my father.

I scanned his face and the area for clues. None. I had no idea what he was talking about.

He looked annoyed at me – at my inaction. “We have to get going, now!”

“How about you take the lead? I’ll be right beside you.”

He walked to the front door. We stood there and waited.

It turned out, we were waiting for the train from California to England to fight with our “fellow countrymen.” My father’s never been to England. His fellow countrymen are Armenian, not English. And, of course, no train travels from California across the ocean, but none of that was important.

Even when someone is making so little sense, how you respond as a caregiver matters to your relationship with them. Even when a person with dementia can express himself, we might still be left asking ourselves, “What is he talking about?” You can’t be a mind reader, and you don’t have to be. Choose your words carefully with kindness to help this person feel secure and safe in your company.

The Negative Nature of Our Language

The words we choose impact how secure we help our care recipients feel. Oftentimes, we don’t realize how our language affects others.

After initial mishaps, I learned to align with my father’s requests.

When he says he wants to drive somewhere, I hand him the keys. Like the improvisational artist, I try keep the scene moving, having no idea what to expect. The fact is, he cannot legally drive anymore.

After he moved to California from his Wisconsin home of 45 years, I knew the new setting would be disorienting and he no longer had a car to drive. With some confidence I’d reply, “You had the car last. I don’t know where you parked it.” My strategy was to go along with him, not argue or correct.

He’d take the car keys and walk rapidly, pause, look at the car keys – two postal box keys, two house keys and a car key fob. Confusing to a man who was used to plain similarly sized keys. Distracted by something else, he set the keys down. Each time, I thought, Phew, that was a close call!

Ask yourself, “Do my words push people away or do they bring them closer?”

Our goal is to give verbal hugs with language that embraces. I aligned with my father’s request to drive and even handed him a set of keys. We want to uplift those we care for with our remarks.

It’s quite a challenge, because the English language limits our choices.

We speak mainly in either-or, black or white and yes or no. There are few words to describe the greys, the in-betweens and the maybes. Furthermore, our use of language tends to skew negative.

For example, consider one deflating yet all-too-frequent response to a compliment. A server, receptionist or a customer-care employee, may reply, “No problem.” After I uplift a person with words of praise, hearing “no problem” is deflating. I wonder, when did this become a “problem?”

It might feel more uplifting to reply with, “You’re welcome” or “My pleasure.” These words can feel more like an embrace.

Consider practicing these three tips to embrace and uplift with your words.

Language-Use Tips

Say what is.

Instead of saying what we don’t want or what isn’t –

“What did you think of that?”

“Not bad!”

“What would you like to eat?”

“Not ham!”

Practice using words to express what we want.

“I’m really in the mood for a small piece of roast beef. That would really hit the spot, right now.”

We spend so much time on the exception or what we don’t want, we can lose sight of the plentiful buffet of options before us.

Keep things positive with encouragement such as, “I’m in the mood for…” and keep a conversation going rather than shutting it down with a negative. Reread the italicized replies, above and take note of how you feel.

In general, this negative slant in our language-use, may be one reason our goals are elusive. When we focus on excluding or what we don’t want, that’s what we often get. When our attention and efforts are aimed toward what we want in life, we’ll have a better chance of achieving it.

Habits are hard to change. When we muster the courage each day and commit to apply these skills, we’ll have a better chance of success in day-to-day care of our loved one. Adding an improvisational tool will help, too.

The goal with improvisation is to keep the scene moving. The primary way to accomplish this is to respond affirmatively. Improvisational artists will say, “Yes.” They’ll also add “and” followed by a new piece of information.

While presenting a keynote recently, I briefed a volunteer and then asked her, “May I have $5.00?” She replied, “Yes.” As she reached into her pocket, she asked, “And may I have a $20?”

The audience laughed. She kept the scene moving, instead of refusing with “No” or “I don’t have a “five.”

Practice responding in such a way that you align yourself with your care recipient’s interests. Instead of shutting down communications and creating feelings of insecurity, you’ll strengthen your relationship and find space to add a touch of humor.

Add Humor
When the conversation is flowing, it frees-up creative energy. In the example above, the attendee’s response was a win-win. I got what I wanted and her clever response got her even more. Plus, we entertained the audience.

Interactions that include laughter (even smiles) bring people closer and strengthen feelings of security.

Are You with Me?

As my father and I stood at the door waiting for a train that would never come in our lifetimes, I remained clueless. I had no idea what he had in mind. Without challenging his resolve, I asked tangential questions.

“Do you think the train will take us from California to England?”

He looked at me quizzically.

“I mean, will we need to board another train?”

Trying to assess my sincerity, he replied, “We’ll be traveling through the night, making many stops to pick up others.”

Oh my! This is going to be a challenge. What the heck is he talking about? I tried another approach.

“Since we’ll need our strength, shall we eat, first? I’ll check the schedule to make sure we don’t miss the train.”

“Sure, let’s eat. Let’s make sure we don’t miss the train.”

After all that, I learned we were in the midst of WWIIHe had been paging through an issue of LIFE magazine.

In my personal experience as a caregiver, I have found that using these strategies results in uplifting and embracing communications and improving our relationships.

Source: Homewatch Care Givers – By Brenda, Avadian, MA, The Caregiver’s Voice

8 Facts to Know About Lewy Body Dementia

Most people mistakenly believe that all types of dementia share similar symptoms, like the hallmark signs of forgetfulness and confusion that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). However, Lewy body dementia (LBD), the second most common type after AD, is characterized by unique symptoms that make it difficult to diagnose and treat.

It’s important for family caregivers who are looking after aging loved ones to familiarize themselves with some of the basic signs of various age-related diseases like LBD. Noticing strange new behaviors or quirks early on can help ensure a senior gets the medical attention they need in a timely manner.

Facts About Lewy Body Dementia

  1. It affects millions of seniors. 
    According to the Lewy Body Dementia Association, LBD affects approximately 1.4 million individuals and their families. Although it is widely unknown, it is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease.
  2. LBD is not Alzheimer’s disease.
    Many people use the terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s disease” interchangeably, but dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a progressive neurological disorder that affects cognitive function, of which there are many different kinds. Alzheimer’s is one form of dementia that is characterized by impaired memory, issues with decision making, trouble with problem solving and difficulty learning new skills.
    There are crucial differences between AD and LBD. For one thing, people with LBD experience unpredictable changes in cognition, regardless of the time of day, whereas people with Alzheimer’s tend to have more trouble in the late afternoon and evening—a symptom known as “sundowning.” Those with LBD also tend to have more visual hallucinations and movement issues, while the hallmarks of AD include memory loss and trouble performing familiar tasks. Furthermore, abnormal alpha-synuclein protein deposits in the brain called Lewy bodies are the hallmark biological marker of LBD, unlike Alzheimer’s, which is caused by the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles in brain tissue.
  3. LBD is difficult to diagnose.
    As with Alzheimer’s, LBD can only be conclusively diagnosed through an examination of brain tissue after a person has died. However, medical advancements have significantly improved the certainty with which doctors can diagnose living patients.
    Doctors consider the person’s symptoms, interview their family members, perform physical and mental evaluations, obtain a family and personal medical history, and conduct blood tests and brain imaging tests like MRI, PET and CT scans. Symptoms of LBD include problems with depth perception, hallucinations (often visual), delusions, paranoia, Parkinsonism (body stiffness, tremors, trouble walking), and physical issues like heart rate and blood pressure fluctuations, constipation, and fainting spells. To be diagnosed with LBD, an individual must have dementia as well as several of these symptoms.
  4. Medications and LBD can have adverse interactions.
    An accurate, timely diagnosis of LBD is essential to avoiding dangerous medication reactions. Many drugs prescribed to people with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease—especially antipsychotic drugs used to control hallucinations—can have a dangerous effect on people with LBD. Neuroleptic malignant syndrome (NMS) is a neurological disorder brought on by a negative reaction to antipsychotic medications that often occurs in people with LBD. Individuals who develop NMS can experience muscular rigidity, high fever, variable blood pressure and severe sweating. Anticholinergic medications, benzodiazepines and over-the-counter sleeping pills can also have negative effects on seniors with Lewy body dementia.
  5. Parkinson’s disease and LBD are very similar.
    People with LBD often exhibit the same symptoms as those with Parkinson’s disease dementia (PDD). While the two conditions start off differently, their biological underpinnings are closely related, and people with Parkinson’s disease can be diagnosed with either PDD or LBD. The factor that physicians use to distinguish between these two conditions is the timing of the onset of cognitive symptoms. People who develop dementia within a year of their Parkinson’s diagnosis are thought to have LBD, while those whose dementia symptoms start beyond the one-year mark are thought to have PDD.
  6. LBD affects sleep quality.
    Sleep issues and dementia often go hand in hand, but there’s a specific sleep condition that appears to disproportionately affect people with LBD. Studies indicate that as many as two-thirds of LBD patients struggle with REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). RBD is an ailment that causes movement, speaking and gesturing during the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, which is usually characterized by paralysis in healthy individuals.
  7. Like most dementias, LBD is unpredictable.
    One of the biggest challenges facing seniors with LBD and their families is the fact that symptoms of the disease tend to worsen and improve erratically. Periods of mental fog, aggressive behavior, movement issues and vivid hallucinations can last seconds, minutes, hours or days. Fluctuations in symptoms can be caused by underlying infections, medications or general progression of the disease. Because of this, it can be nearly impossible to determine how far LBD has progressed in a given individual. However, if the exacerbating factor is capable of being fixed (like a urinary tract infection), then the person with LBD can often return to their prior level of functioning after receiving treatment for the secondary issue.
  8. LBD has no cure.
    There is currently no way to cure or halt the progression of LBD. Instead, treatments are aimed at controlling the cognitive, psychiatric and motor symptoms of the disorder. Those who have been diagnosed with the condition may benefit from palliative care, which focuses on using drugs and nonpharmaceutical treatments to manage symptoms and improve a patient’s comfort and quality of life. For instance, cognitive issues may be addressed with cholinesterase inhibitors, a type of medication that promotes brain cell function by regulating the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. To improve sleep quality and minimize the effects of RBD, careful treatment with clonazepam (Klonopin) or melatonin might be prescribed. Levodopa may be used to mitigate the motor effects of severe Parkinsonism. Occupational, speech and physical therapies are the most common nonpharmaceutical approaches to helping people with LBD manage their condition and maintain day-to-day functionality. Average life expectancy after diagnosis is about 8 years, with progressively increasing cognitive and functional disability.

Source: AginCare by Anne-Marie Botek

No Small Roles in the Fight to End Alzheimer’s

Actress Nikki DeLoach is best known for her role on the series “Awkward” and her television movie roles on the Hallmark Channel. In the past year, her family has faced both her father’s diagnosis of Pick’s disease, a type of frontotemporal dementia (FTD), and the open-heart surgery of her newborn son Bennett.

Tell us about the last year and your experiences with your son and father.
In my house, we call the past year “the best and the worst” year of our lives. In the past year, I’ve experienced two open heart surgeries with my baby and the diagnosis of my father with Pick’s disease.

Both experiences were extraordinarily challenging and traumatic, however, my faith has grown exponentially. I am reminded daily of all of the miracles that have happened, the times we’ve been given mercy and grace as a family. We have hundreds of angels surrounding us — dropping off food, taking my oldest son on playdates and sleepovers, prayers … lots and lots of prayers. We are very blessed to be surrounded by an incredible community of people who have lifted us up in our time of need.

We live in times where there is still a stigma around sickness. My husband was hesitant to share information about my son’s heart defect with others. My mom felt the same about sharing my dad’s diagnosis. I knew from past experience that it is critical to not only reach out and ask for help but to share your story. When I gave birth to my first-born, Hudson, I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was going through severe postpartum depression. The shame I felt about not having those warm, fuzzy feelings other mommies felt after giving birth was palpable. I was struggling, and I waited a very long time to seek help, which was detrimental to me and my family.

I approached Bennett’s heart condition differently. I knew I would need help. After getting the word out about what we were dealing with, we had a referral for an appointment with the top children’s heart doctor in the country within a week. I have seen firsthand the power of asking for help when you need it; I no longer wait to ask. Also, by you sharing your story, you empower others to open up so that they no longer have to move through their pain in isolation.

When it came to Dad’s diagnosis, I said to my family: “People want to help us. People want to reach out. There are other people going through this, and we will never know how sharing our story may help another family.” When I know someone else is going through what I am going though, it helps me as much as it helps them. It helps us all feel less alone. I want people to be able to speak more openly about the help they need, because I have been there, and I know how important it is.

Dad’s diagnosis of Pick’s disease is very rare and affects the frontal lobe of the brain. It is fatal, and very aggressive. This illness completely changes the person. My dad is not the same person he once was. He was my touchstone, my moral compass … the most kind, loving, honest, patient and emotionally available human. I always used to say that he was so calm that he was one step above being asleep all the time.

There is not an ounce of that in him now. His patience is nonexistent. He can’t sit still; he sits down for five seconds and then begins pacing or heads out the door again. His memory doesn’t seem to last more than 60 seconds.

Dad always prided himself on “looking sharp”, as he would say. He wore nice cologne and loved to put on a crisp, ironed shirt. Now, we have trouble getting him to shower and wear clean clothes. One morning my mom discovered that he had put on four different shirts and two pairs of pants.

Although Dad was diagnosed just last summer, his symptoms have swiftly progressed. He may not even know who his kids are in six months.  We saw this with my grandfather, who passed away with Alzheimer’s disease. In that case, however, grandpa progressed slowly, and my family was able to wrap our brains around each transition. With Dad, it has been dropped at our doorstep. “Boom! Dementia is here.” Oh, and did I mention that he is only 64 years old? Yes. 64 years old. It’s devastating and so painful to watch and experience.

How has your mother been coping as a caregiver since your father’s condition has progressed?
It has been so hard. She is not only losing her husband, she is losing her friend. She has to be ten steps ahead of him all of the time, which is exhausting. She often lives in fear of him hurting himself or someone else because he is losing his ability to understand safe behavior.

We have to be super mindful of the spouses of people with the disease. They often experience a decline in health as well. The wear and tear caregiving does on the body and mind is substantial. It is a 24-hour job.

My mother has risen to the occasion in such a way that nothing short of heroic. However, heroes also need a team of people that lift them up and support them. This is why I encouraged her to reach out to her local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. The people who have been supporting her there are angels. They are helping her learn how to cope with what is happening to her and how to help my father.

Soon after reaching out to The Alzheimer’s Association for help, my mom did something incredible. Working with the Association gave her the wings to create a support group in her community, somewhere she felt safe talking about Dad — her local church. She is bringing in speakers and people involved with the Association who can help anyone and everyone who needs it. I am beyond proud of my mother for doing this. She has turned her pain into purpose, which is so courageous. I hope the group will grow as more people see how important it is to talk about what they are going through.

Can you talk a bit about your experience as a long-distance caregiver? How is your role different from those of your other family members? How do you all work together?
I live in Los Angeles, and to be away from Dad has been gut-wrenching. My dad does have support, as my whole family lives on our farm in south Georgia. This includes my mom, dad, brother, sister and her husband, their kids, my cousins, uncle, grandmother – my entire family.  But because I have a baby who has had two open heart surgeries in the last year, I have not been able to travel back home the way I used to. This has made everything even more difficult. In the past, I would fly home every other month.

There is nothing more I would love than to be able to be home, helping both my mom and dad. He did so much for me as a child. He was an amazing dad. I am desperate to give back to him for all that he has done for me. It’s just not possible right now, not until Bennett is completely well.

However, I support my family in other ways — phone calls, connecting my mom with people who can offer her local support making sure everyone in my family is on the same page and connected, or having my mom come stay with me in L.A. to give her a break. By staying connected, I can also track how my mom is coping and stay ahead of her needs at all times.

I am flying home with my older son in a few weeks to see my dad, and while it never feels like enough, I have to remind myself that I am doing the best I can given the circumstances facing my family.

At the end of the day, we have each other’s backs and stand together as a family. If you don’t have that family support, ask friends if they can be part of your support system. I’ve found that ten times out of ten, people will raise their hands to help.

What are some of the ways you’ve been spreading awareness of Alzheimer’s and dementia?
I’ve brought awareness to Alzheimer’s and dementia by starting a Walk to End Alzheimer’s team, posting blogs on my website “What We Are,” and speaking at events and on television. For Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month in June, I hosted Hallmark’s morning show “Home and Family.” I wore purple and spoke on air about my dad, his illness and how people can help.

In the film industry, there are no small roles. Whether its hair and makeup, grips, PAs, an actor with one line or the lead, every role matters. I believe in this outside of the industry, too. There are no small favors. There are no small acts of service. In raising funds for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s with my friend Ashley Williams, we started by asking for small donations. After all, if 100 people give $5, that is fantastic. Every dollar raised, every friend that showed up to the walk, every person who posted on social media — it all makes a difference.

I’ve overcome so much in my own life. And now I am certain that that entire struggle was just preparing me not only for the last two years of my life, but to be able to use my platform for good. Between Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the Alzheimer’s Association, I feel a tremendous sense of purpose in my life being able to help others.

How do you share the life lessons you’ve learned and your bond with your dad with your own children?

It’s my dad’s mind that has a disease, not his soul or spirit. We have to just keep finding ways to connect with his soul. Music is a really big part of our story. He has always loved music and it has helped tremendously in his struggle with dementia. It’s like the music passes right through the disease into his spirit and being. My dad and I always bonded over music and I’ve passed that along to my children. We always have music on in the house and it brings great joy to our lives. And, in a way, I feel like I am passing along the legacy of my dad through music.

Every day I teach my boys about kindness, patience, giving back and being responsible – all the things my dad taught me. And I don’t just teach it, I live it. My philosophy is that you live your beliefs not through your words but through your actions. Walk the talk. I also am very involved in their lives. Just like my dad was my basketball coach and drove me to voice lessons, I am on three committees at my son’s school. I am there all the time.

What advice do you have for others grappling with Alzheimer’s or dementia in their family? What advice do you wish you had been given?
I recently completed a movie in Vancouver, and it was no accident that my driver to and from set was a woman whose dad also had Pick’s. For us to be paired together every day on that project was divine. We were meant to meet in that van. She gave me a really amazing piece of advice. She told me to love my dad, but not just with my heart. She said: “Touch him, hug him, kiss his face, give him all the physical contact and love you can possibly give. It’s not just for him; it’s also for you.” I thought that was beautiful. Every time I am with my dad, I hug him, I hold his hand, I rub his back and comfort him. In those moments, he connects with me. It’s almost as if our physical connection, like that with music, reaches his spirit.

Another piece of advice came from my dear friend Ashley Williams. Ashley and her sister, Kimberly, would text all the moments they experienced with their mom to each other – the difficult, heartwarming, and hilarious. They wanted to remember it all … together. I loved that. It’s like sharing a journal with your siblings. Sometimes you neglect to recall these stories when you are in the midst of the disease, but if you keep a text message chain going, you stay connected.

What lessons have you learned along the way?
I’ve found that you have to find the humor in the more difficult moments. I remind my mom of this daily. She was recently belaboring over her grandkids eating too much sugar. “These kids are going through Pop-Tarts like crazy!” Then she went out to my dad’s truck. There were piles of boxes and boxes of Pop-Tarts that he had been stockpiling; one of his many odd behaviors due to his disease. Yes, it is heartbreaking. But at the same time, it’s a 64-year-old man hoarding Pop-Tarts! You have to laugh.

Surprisingly, working in the entertainment industry has helped me cope with everything that comes with Dad’s diagnosis. I know not to take anything personally. You can only control your reaction to something, not other people’s behaviors. Especially when they have this disease. He or she will forget your birthday. You may not get a Christmas gift. You will be sick and they won’t think to make you soup or take your temperature. You will get yelled at or called names. It comes along with the territory. When someone you love with Alzheimer’s says something hurtful, you have to remember that it’s the disease speaking, not the person.

I’ve also been given great purpose in the last few years. I used to believe my purpose was to be an actor, producer, writer. Now I know that those things are my job. My purpose is greater than any job. You can definitely live out your purpose through your job, but it is not your purpose. My purpose is to become the best version of myself in this lifetime and to leave the world in a better place than I found it. I want to help make people’s lives better. I want to make a difference. Being a spokesperson for the Children’s Hospital of L.A. and a champion of the Alzheimer’s Association has given me tremendous purpose, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Life can be devastating and heartbreaking and you can also find great purpose and so much good in that pain. Miracles are all around us. A fantastic support system is just one call away. There is goodness all around us. We just have to be vulnerable and brave enough to open our hearts to it.

About Nikki: Nikki can be seen in the Hallmark movie “Reunited at Christmas,” which she also executive-produced. She also participated in the Los Angeles Walk to End Alzheimer’s on November 3 with friends and family.

All photos are courtesy of Nikki DeLoach.

Source: Alzheimer’s Assocition

CDC: Alzheimer’s disease, dementia cases to double by 2060

CDC: Alzheimer's disease, dementia cases to double by 2060The number of people projected to have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in the United States is expected to double by 2060, a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

In 2014, there were 5 million people in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The CDC estimates by 2060, that number will grow to 13.9 million.

“Early diagnosis is key to helping people and their families cope with loss of memory, navigate the health care system, and plan for their care in the future,” CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield said in a statement.

The study, which the CDC said is the first to forecast estimates of Alzheimer’s by race and ethnicity, found non-Hispanic whites will have the most total cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia. However, because of population growth, Hispanic Americans will see the largest projected increase in cases.

Among people who are 65 and older, African-Americans have the highest prevalence of Alzheimer’s and dementia at 13.8 percent, followed by Hispanics (12.2 percent) and non-Hispanic whites (10.3 percent).

By 2060, researchers project 3.2 million Hispanics and 2.2 million African-Americans will have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The CDC said as more people survive other diseases and grow older, the odds of being diagnosed with dementia go up.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Kevin Matthews, a health geographer and lead author of the study with the CDC’s Division of Population Health within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a statement early diagnosis is key not just for patients, but for caregivers who need support.

“It is important for people who think their daily lives are impacted by memory loss to discuss these concerns with a health care provider,” he said.

Source: USA Today by Brett Molina


BE AN INSPIRATION TO OTHERSWe find inspiration from people – what they say, what they write, and what they do. Ultimately, these individuals can stimulate us to achieve new levels of success or become a better version of ourselves. As we gather our inspiration from others, we can also serve to inspire the people around us.

In what ways can you inspire others to go beyond their limits to achieve a greater potential?

You become an inspiration to others when you:

Serve as a positive example.  People will listen to what you say, watch what you do, and learn from your attitude and behavior. The example you set may have a positive or negative effect on those around you. Strive to model the way for others by conducting yourself with the highest standards and values.

Show that you care. When you genuinely care about people, you create a stronger bound of understanding and interaction with them. Individuals who feel valued will be more likely to believe that you have their best interest at heart and follow your lead.

Provide encouragement.  During difficult times, encouragement from caring people provides us with a sense of belonging, builds us up, and propels us to move forward. When you encourage others, you are motivating them to achieve the best in their endeavors and themselves.

Share your own vulnerabilities. Failures are part of life. Be willing to share your vulnerabilities with others to demonstrate how failures can ultimately lead to successes. People can relate to your failures when you describe them in terms of lessons learned and opportunities for personal growth.

Promote confidence and purpose. It takes the combination of confidence and purpose to build a rewarding life. By guiding others to develop personal goals and values, you will enable them to embark on a focused direction. When you acknowledge their achievements, you will give them a sense of self and a level of confidence to continue their journey.

Encourage taking risks.  To achieve our dreams, we must be willing to take risks. With your reassurance, people can go beyond their comfort zone to experience greater achievements. A risk worth taking requires opening new doors. Help others to find the right keys to better opportunities.

Champion integrity.  People with integrity structure their thoughts and actions around values rather than personal gain. Even when it becomes easier to choose wrong over right, encourage others to find the strength to practice high principles. Ultimately, getting ahead means very little if one’s integrity is compromised in the process.

Embrace change. While change is inevitable, it is what we do to adapt to change that counts.  Individuals who are willing to view change as an opportunity will be more successful than those who don’t. Expose others to the techniques needed to be flexible and resilient in today’s rapidly changing world.

Demonstrate self-discipline. People with self-discipline control their feelings and desires with the intent to improve themselves even when they don’t feel like doing it.  The ability to exert self-discipline connects actions in the present with positive results in the future. Mentoring people to engage in self-discipline will open them up to new possibilities.

Model the way for continuous improvement. Always seek to be and do things a little bit better each day. Reflect upon your daily interactions to determine what went well, what could have gone better, and where to make improvements. Educate others on the value of using lessons learned from past experiences to construct a more successful present and future.

Becoming an inspiration to others starts first with yourself. As you focus on developing the best version of yourself, others will take notice. Your efforts and accomplishments will demonstrate achievement. Your motivating insights and powerful lessons will give them a guide to becoming the best version of themselves. So, share your gift and help others to achieve a meaningful and productive life.

Success isn’t just about what you accomplish in life. It’s about what you INSPIRE others to do.
– Author Unknown

Source: Age Gracefully America

Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living

“Mini-Strokes” Can Have Mega Health Effects

Carolyn Howard-Johnson was at the base camp of Mount Everest researching local monasteries on the internet when it happened. The life-long writer and author of several books could no longer read.

 “I suddenly noticed that I wasn’t understanding what I was seeing on the computer screen,” she recalls.

The feeling soon passed and Howard-Johnson went to bed that evening without mentioning the episode to anyone else in the camp. The next morning at breakfast, after making an off-hand comment to their guide and consulting the expedition doctor via telephone, Howard-Johnson found herself on an emergency flight to a hospital in Beijing.

Hours later, the doctors told her that she had suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA), which is often referred to as a “mini-stroke.”

What Is a Mini-Stroke?

A mini-stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is temporarily obstructed, usually for only a few seconds or minutes. When compared with a full-blown stroke, a TIA may seem like a minor incident, but these events can have a lasting impact on a person’s physical and mental health.

“Research suggests that one or more mini-strokes can progressively interfere with cognition and other brain functions that support balance, strength and gait,” says Dr. William Likosky, a board-certified neurologist and medical director of the Swedish Neuroscience Institute’s Stroke Program.

Furthermore, mini-strokes can also alert patients and doctors to an impending major stroke. According to Dr. Ivan Mikolaenko, FAAN, a board-certified neurointensivist based in New York, “Ten to 15 percent of people will have a major stroke within three months of experiencing a TIA.”

The Sneaky Symptoms of TIAs

Most mini-strokes happen quickly and receive little attention, which makes them particularly dangerous.

“It wasn’t that severe and it went away fast,” says Howard-Johnson of her TIA in the Himalayas. Her primary symptoms included slight dizziness and a temporary disruption in her reading comprehension. The experience was certainly odd, but she didn’t think much of it. Howard-Johnson’s subtle signs came and went within minutes, but in some people the symptoms linger a little longer.

For example, Joe Parsons, founder of PFS Funding, a residential mortgage brokerage company, was doing his daily crossword one Tuesday when he first noticed his writing was a bit sloppier than usual. Brushing it off, he went to work and tried to ignore a slight weakness in his leg that produced an uncharacteristic limp when he walked.

Parsons’ leg gradually weakened further and his hand became increasingly unsteady. After 48 hours, he finally decided to contact his insurance company’s on-call nurse hotline. The nurse told him that he was likely suffering from a stroke and that he needed to find someone to drive him to the emergency room immediately.

The Importance of Early Treatment

If left untreated, a mini-stroke may resolve on its own but it’s difficult to know how serious the circumstances are without a thorough medical workup. A person experiencing classic stroke symptoms like blurry vision, disorientation, sudden headache, numbness and weakness in the face or extremities, and slurred speech should always seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Another telltale sign of a stroke is when any of these symptoms occur on only one side of the body.

Familiarizing yourself with these symptoms will allow you to act quickly, which is crucial for avoiding permanent brain damage. Parsons’ doctor said that he was lucky he came in when he did. If he had waited much longer, the blockage in his brain could have caused irreversible harm.

Research has shown that people who receive treatment for a mini-stroke within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms could decrease their risk for having a major stroke in the near future by up to 80 percent. Fortunately, the treatment for TIAs is relatively simple. After testing, patients typically receive a combination of drugs meant to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and prevent clotting.

This treatment is important for remedying current symptoms and preventing additional strokes. Even if a major stroke is avoided, recurring TIAs can have a cumulative negative effect on one’s brain health and cognitive function. In severe cases, vascular dementia may result from untreated cerebrovascular events.

A Stroke of any Magnitude Can Be Life-Altering

While a person’s risk for having a stroke of any sort increases with age, even younger, healthy people need to take mini-strokes seriously. Smokers, diabetics, those with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and a personal and/or family history of stroke or heart disease are at the highest risk.

It’s hard to consider a TIA as a blessing, frightening as it is, but a mini-stroke can provide the necessary wake-up call that immediate medical attention and lifestyle changes are necessary. A minor warning of an impending cerebrovascular incident can present an invaluable opportunity.

Interestingly, Howard-Johnson had just passed a rigorous physical examination to receive clearance for her expedition to Everest. Nonetheless, the experience taught her to take her health more seriously. Both she and Parsons have improved their exercise regimens. Now that they know what a TIA looks and feels like, both also claim that they are far more likely to forgo any hesitations and get to the hospital if they feel something is wrong.





HOW TO MOVE ON FROM THE PASTLife is a mixture of positive and negative experiences. Over time, these experiences intertwine with each other to create a balance. In this give and take scenario, the negative experiences allow us to more fully appreciate the good in life. Secondly, they often serve to strengthen our character by providing us with new opportunities for personal growth and development.

In most situations, our negative experiences are simply painful bumps in the road.  We can often bounce back from them with relatively few scars. However, in rare cases, these adverse experiences may keep us stuck in an endless cycle of painful memories. They can cost us our happiness, health, and relationships. When this happens, it can become difficult to get out of our whirlwind of negativity.

So, how can we successfully let go of a trauma that causes us substantial pain and suffering? What steps can we take to move on from the past to a healthier, happier, and more productive life?

Acknowledge your emotions.
After going through a trauma, it is quite common to experience a wide range of negative emotions such as hurt, anger jealousy, revenge, betrayal, sadness, hatred, shame, guilt, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, fear, loneliness, hopelessness, revenge, and others. To identify and openly express your emotions will help you get these emotions out of your system. Try writing down your emotions, venting to people you trust, or speaking directly to the other person to more fully understand the catalyst and magnitude of your pain. The trick here is to feel your emotions then release them before they begin to gnaw away at you.

Make the choice to move on.
The decision is yours. Until you make a conscious commitment to move on from your negative past, you won’t. You must be willing to leave the past in the past and to forge ahead. Unless you make this commitment, you will end up self-sabotaging your efforts and reliving a situation you can essentially no longer control.

Learn from your experience.
Positive effects can come out of a traumatic situation if you are open to learning. Take a step back and determine the following:

  • The Trauma: What happened? Why was it traumatic? How did it make you feel?
  • Gains/Losses: How much did the trauma cost you in terms of time, money, self-esteem, lifestyle, energy, relationships, future opportunities, and physical well-being?  Did your gains ultimately outweigh your losses?
    As an example: Over a three-year period, Barbara worked for a manager who constantly belittled and treated her poorly. Most days, Barbara left work feeling stressed and unhappy. When she finally got fired, Barbara was hurt, embarrassed, and angry. Despite quickly finding her next job, Barbara kept fixating on her past work experience.  Point of fact, Barbara’s new job was in the same industry (a positive), closer driving time to her home (a positive) for less money (a negative) but with a supportive manager (a positive) and more potential for growth (a positive). Barbara’s gains were overall greater than her losses.
  • Key learnings: There are lessons to be learned from every negative situation. Be proactive. Make it a point to learn from the past without dwelling in it. What were your important takeaways from the trauma? And how can you apply these learnings to benefit your present and future endeavors?

Focus on the here and now. 
To successfully move on from the past, focus on your present. You have no power to undo what has happened, but you have lots of power to make the best of your life today. Concentrate on the joys of each moment and quickly dismiss any memories that might creep into your consciousness (of which they will do from time to time). Remind yourself that the past is the past and release yourself from any inclination to stay there. Embrace the positive of living in the here and now.

Create new successes.
While the past makes up our history, it does not define us in the present and future. Use the rest of your life to build upon your successes. This cannot be accomplished if you are constantly looking back at closed doors. Take your wisdom from the hard knocks of life and put it into good use. Design your awesome tomorrow!

Practice gratitude.
As part of your process, always be thankful for your blessings and the many positive people and opportunities that have come your way. Be at peace with yourself.

 Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Executive Director, Smart Strategies for Successful Living



BALANCING YOUR PRIORITIES IN LIFELiving a productive and meaningful life is a balancing act. With the pressures of today’s demanding and high paced world, most people struggle to find a reasonable balance. We can easily be drawn away from our priorities when one aspect of our life consumes the bulk of our time. To a large extent, it is much like walking a tightrope. When we drift too much in one direction or the other, we become unbalanced.  To sustain what we value most in our lives, we must constantly maintain our equilibrium as we move forward to achieve our purpose and goals.

Are you dedicating enough time and energy to the most important aspects of your life? Or do you find yourself focusing on one major area at the expense of the others?

Commit to finding your balance in life.
Take a good look at your life. Do you feel consistently stressed, physically exhausted, mentally drained or emotionally devoid of happiness? Are you dropping the ball with key responsibilities in your personal and professional lives?  Do you neglect your own well-being for the sake of others? If your answer is “yes” to any of these considerations, you may be out of balance. To find your balance, make a commitment to work through these next steps.

Here are some useful techniques on how to balance your priorities in life: 

1. Determine your priorities.
Set aside time to define what you would consider to be the most significant aspects of your life. Do they include such priorities as family, friends, work, community, and self? How do your priorities factor into your life? Which of them consume the most time, energy, and financial resources? Which ones are the most rewarding to you? Overall, how do they add and subtract value to your spiritual, mental, and physical well-being? Focus on creating priorities that are achievable and make the most sense to you.

2. Establish and execute an implementation plan for each priority.
You have a finite amount of time and energy in any one given day.  In response, how do you plan to implement your priorities? To develop your plan, establish specific strategies for each priority and tie them to your overall plan to maintain balance.  If one priority is to care for your father with Alzheimer’s, how can you accomplish this goal when you are working full-time with two teenagers? What specific steps will you take to manage your efforts? As you execute your implementation plan, align your actions to your words. Your priorities will be revealed to others by how you live.

3. Evaluate your progress.
Take time to periodically assess how well you are carrying out your priorities. Acknowledge your accomplishments and areas in need of improvement. If you continue to feel unbalanced, be willing to adjust your priorities or implementation strategies to bring you back into alignment. As your priorities change, alter your implementation plan to sustain your balance. This will be an ongoing process if you wish to keep moving forward.

4. Stand your ground.
You own your priorities and how they balance your life. No one else can determine what is best for you even when they may try. Be prepared to walk away from difficult situations and to say no to unreasonable requests that ultimately compromise your balance. Consider it a personal victory when you have the strength and courage to protect what is important to you. Don’t relinquish your power to the unreasonable demands of others.

5. Allow yourself time each day to center yourself.
An essential part of balancing your life is to take time for yourself. Make it a daily habit to spend some quiet time during your day to relax and let go. Turn off your cell and other distractions and just check out for even a short period of time.

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities– Stephen Covey

Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living


10 Signs of Kidney Disease

10 Signs of Kidney DiseaseMany people who have chronic kidney disease don’t know it, because the early signs can be very subtle. It can take many years to go from chronic kidney disease (CKD) to kidney failure.

What Causes Kidney Disease?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the leading causes of kidney disease. These conditions cause about 70 percent of kidney failure cases. A person is also at risk if they have heart disease or close relative who has kidney disease. Early stages have no signs or symptoms. The only way to know if your elderly parent is experiencing kidney problems is to get checked.

Kidney disease does not go away. It may get worse over time and can lead to kidney failure. Once these organs fail, the only options are dialysis or a kidney transplant. This disease can be treated. The sooner you know your parent has it, the sooner you can take steps to keep their kidneys healthy longer. Here are the top signs and symptoms of kidney disease to look for.

1. Changes in Urination

  • Waking up at night to urinate
  • Urinating more frequently than usual
  • Urine that is foamy or bubbly
  • Urinating less often, or in smaller amounts than usual with dark colored urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • A feeling or pressure while urinating
  • Difficulty urinating

2. Swelling

Failing kidneys don’t remove extra fluid. As a result, the fluid builds up in the body causing swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, face or hands.

3. Fatigue

When the kidneys are healthy, they make a hormone called erythropoietin that tells the body to make oxygen-carrying red blood cells. As the kidneys fail, they make less erythropoietin. With fewer red blood cells to carry oxygen, the muscles and brain become tired very quickly. This condition is known as anemia.

4. Feeling Cold

Anemia can make a person feel cold all the time, even in a warm room.

5. Dizziness and Trouble Concentrating

Anemia related to kidney failure means that the brain is not getting enough oxygen. This can lead to memory problems, trouble with concentration, and dizziness.

6. Shortness of Breath

When kidney disease is present, extra fluid in the body can build up in the lungs. In addition, anemia can leave the body oxygen-starved and short of breath.

7. Back Pain

Some people with kidney problems may have pain in the back or side related to the affected kidney. Polycystic kidney disease, which causes large, fluid-filled cysts on the kidneys and sometimes the liver, can cause pain.

8. Rashes

When the kidneys fail, the buildup of wastes in the blood can cause severe itching and skin rashes.

9. Metallic Taste in the Mouth

A buildup of wastes in the blood (called uremia) can make food taste different and cause bad breath. A person with kidney problems may also notice that a metallic taste in the mouth. They may suddenly stop liking to eat meat, or they may lose weight because they don’t feel like eating.

10. Nausea and Vomiting

A severe buildup of wastes in the blood (uremia) can cause nausea and vomiting.

Testing for Kidney Disease

If you suspect kidney disease, get blood and urine tests to check for kidney disease. A blood test measures GFR, which indicates how well the kidneys are working. GFR stands for glomerular filtration rate.

A urine test measures the amount of protein in the urine. Protein can leak into the urine when the kidneys are not working well. Ask your healthcare provider about blood pressure medicines that can help slow down kidney disease.


I Have Alzheimer’s Disease – Changes in Relationships

Alzheimer’s may affect your relationships. While your abilities may change over time, your ability to live well with Alzheimer’s depends on how you choose to continue to be a partner in your relationships.

How Alzheimer’s affects relationships

It is crucial to remember that you are still the same person you were before the diagnosis. However, after sharing your diagnosis, you may find that others are uncertain about how to respond. Some individuals may shy away, while others may be eager to stand by you and provide support. You may find that people with whom you once had a close relationship are now uncomfortable talking to you or asking you about how you are coping.

Establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships throughout your experience with Alzheimer’s can enhance your ability to stay both physically and emotionally healthy.

It can hurt to realize that certain family and friends you thought would be there for you can’t meet your expectations now. They may have discomfort about your diagnosis, as it stirs up fears about their own futures. People who can’t be a part of your support circle now may join later once they have had time to adjust to your diagnosis.

You may find it difficult to participate in social activities or interactions that were once enjoyable for you. Anxiety, frustration or loss are common emotions that you may experience about changes in your ability to follow a conversation, stay focused with competing background noise, or have enough energy to participate in social activities. For many, these changes in relationships can lead to isolation, withdrawal and depression, which can have a negative impact on your physical and emotional well-being. Learn how others are coping with Alzheimer’s and changing relationships by joining ourALZConnected message boards and seeing Tips for Daily Life.

Role changes

As your abilities change, there will be changes in your roles and responsibilities with family and friends. As a result, you may feel:

  • Excluded from conversations about long-term planning and other important decisions.
    1. – Family members may have conversations or make plans for the future without
      your presence or feedback.
  • Loss of independence or specific functions that were your primary responsibility.
    1. – Those close to you may feel the need to make the decision for you about when to
      stop driving.
    2. – You may experience a loss of employment or a loss of your role as a bread-winner.
    3. – Others may feel that you should no longer make financial decisions.
  • Fear of burdening others with a caregiving role or other responsibilities that you once managed.
  • Becoming more dependent on spouse, family or friends.

All of these issues and feelings can affect your relationships. You may find that those closest to you have good intentions, but may provide help that feels invasive or unnecessary at times.

It can be difficult to do, but adapting to changes and accepting help from others can be a way to acknowledge the value their assistance brings to your life. The more you can be involved, the fewer negative feelings you may have.

How to keep your relationships positive and productive

  • Be open about your feelings.
    Share your experience living with the disease.
  • Be specific about how you would like to continue relationships and how you would like to be treated.
    Let others know what social activities you feel most comfortable doing and the best ways to share time together.
  • Learn how to ask for help.
    Tell others how they can help and your expectations for support.
  • Strengthen trusting relationships.
    Focus on those relationships which are supportive, and show your gratitude for the people you love and appreciate.
  • Reevaluate relationships.
    Don’t dwell on people unable to support you at this time or are unable to have a positive presence in your life. Give them the time to adjust to your diagnosis. Try not to take their pulling away personally.
  • See yourself as unique and human.
    You have much left to experience.

Intimacy and sexuality

Throughout your life, your need for physical and emotional closeness and your sexuality and how you experience it, undergo changes. Some of these changes come with maturation, while others reflect changes in life circumstances, such as a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The disease may affect sexual feelings and behavior. Take your needs and expectations for intimacy into consideration as the disease progresses.

dementia changes

If you have a sexual partner, openness about sexual changes is a key part of maintaining closeness. The more open and honest you can be with each other, the more you can avoid assigning blame, feeling guilty or lowering the self-esteem of either partner. It is important to educate yourself and your partner about the changes that occur and how to respond appropriately.

Your interest and expression of intimacy and sexuality may be affected by Alzheimer’s in the following ways:

Changes in roles and responsibilities: You may experience uncertainty, frustration or reduced confidence because you need help with things you once managed on your own. These emotions may lead to stress and changes in feelings toward your partner. Your partner may experience some of these same feelings and may need to make adjustments if there is uncertainty about your comfort level with sexual contact or activities that were once pleasurable for you.

Medical issues: Depression can lead to a loss of interest in sex. Speak to your doctor if you or others have expressed concern about your emotional health. Some medications may have side effects that alter your sexual desire. As the disease progresses, you may experience significant increases or decreases in your sexual behavior. Speak with your doctor if these changes are problematic for you or a partner.

Tips for coping with changes in intimacy and sexuality:

  • Accept that changes in your intimate and sexual relationships will occur over time.
  • You may want to explore new ways to express sexuality and obtain satisfaction. This may include non-sexual touching or sharing memories about intimate moments.
  • Communicate with your partner. Discuss new ways to connect and express closeness in ways that are mutually enjoyable.

Download Sexual Relationship Changes and Alzheimer’s

Source: Alzheimer’s Association