Dementia – Take Another Look

It’s happened twice in the last couple months. On two separate occasions, I have found myself sitting with a person who is being consumed by that dreaded, later in life condition called Dementia. It’s like a skulking, silent plague that randomly picks its victim, moves into a home and slowly begins its cruel work. I say dreaded because it is. I have discussed this numerous times with my mother (age 86) who thankfully does not have it, but unfortunately speaks of it daily. I suspect that each of us knows someone whose home has been invaded by this disease. By this time, everyone knows someone who has IT.

Twice now, I’ve watched eyes filling with tears as we have discussed the future and the necessary supports that must begin in order to make life as good as possible, considering the prognosis. I am part of that support system which can make it possible for a person with dementia to continue living in their beloved home. At this point reader, I want to let you know that the two occasions I’ve mentioned in this article are not the people with the diagnosis, but are the primary care givers of a loved one with this horrid disease. When this disease comes to a family, every person in the family is affected by it, especially the spouse or the adult child of the stricken loved one. The primary care giver is never out of thought or touch with it. The burden of the disease typically falls on one of these two.

As you began reading this article, your thoughts no doubt were upon the person with the diagnosis. You may have looked right past the silent, sometimes invisible care giver who is always dealing with the effects of their loved one’s disease. I don’t fault you if you did this. For, the reality is, the person we call the primary care giver, does exactly the same thing. These amazing selfless family members take little or no thought of themselves. This usually leads to fatigue and often a progression toward resentment, then anger, then guilt. If they do not ask for help, they will see the deterioration of their emotional and physical health. They need help! But they usually don’t ask. This is where Helping Hands Respite Care comes in. We are here to “Care for those, Caring for Others.”

I would like to make two suggestions: First, do you have a friend who is a care giver? Take another look at them. Do they need help? Be their friend with helping hands. Second, are you a person caring for a loved one? Take another look at yourself. Read carefully read the 5 signs of Care Giver Burnout and take an honest look at yourself. Please accept help when offered or reach out to someone in your life who can be a help. Seek help through support groups, professional counselors, clergy, and persons or agencies who provide respite care.


5 Signs of Care Giver Burnout in the Case of Dementia

1. When the Primary Care Giver no longer engages in preferred and pleasurable activities because they are no longer interested. Certainly, available time for recreation may be limited, but not wanting to do these activities for lack of interest is the issue.
2. If you know the Primary Care Giver fairly well, do you notice their emotions coming to the forefront more than usual? Do you recognize anxiety, worry, irritability or anger that seems unusual or possibly more intense? Like over-reacting to disappointments or expressions of being overwhelmed by things that are not that significant.
3. Does the Primary Care Giver easily tear up when they hear words of affirmation, sympathy and concern? They may be dealing with fear, feelings of isolation or guilt.
4. Does the Primary Care Giver seem detached, indifferent or unable to accept offers of help?
5. Is the Primary Care Giver neglecting their own personal care or the personal care of the one they are caring for?
Addition information about Care Giver Burnout can be found soon on our website as part of the Family Care Giver Respite Education project.
If this article stirs your heart in some way, please feel free to call me. I would love to talk with you.
Jeff Nunham, Adult In Home Care Supervisor, 517-372-6671 ext. 105,

Self Care in the New Year

For family caregivers of children with special needs, it may be time for self care in the New Year. With the perceived pressure that we must accomplish a year’s worth of work in less than a month, we’re stressed. And whether they can articulate it or not, kids are hypersensitive to our feelings, so they feel our stress magnified. So how do we bring the stress level down? Give yourself permission to let it go.
I know we are all busy and finding time to take care of yourself can be a challenge. But if you don’t take care of yourself, it won’t be long till you start to break down both mentally and physically.
Self-care is not a one-time deal, it the constant repetition of many tiny habits, which together soothes you and makes sure your equilibrium is stable emotionally, physically, and mentally. According to scientific research, the best way to reach your optimum is to implement tiny self-care habits every day. The following is a list of ideas of self-care activities you can fit into a short amount of time.

Self Care Ideas for the Mind

1) Be selfish: do something today because it makes you happy.
2) Mindfulness activities: take five to ten minutes of your day to body scan and become aware of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations. There are free mindfulness apps you can download on your phone.
3) Change your routine: mixing up your routine in small ways can create new neural pathways in the brain to keep it healthy.

Self Care Ideas for the Body

1) Exercise: any type of physical activity releases endorphins which are natural stress-fighters. Getting yourself into that exercise groove helps get your mind off the things stressing you out.
2) Oxygenate: take three to five deep breaths to help regain a sense of control and balance of your mind and body.
3) Narrow your food choices: Pick two to four healthy meal choices to rotate for the week.

Incorporating self-care activities in your daily life will help you keep in tune of your mind and body. You will feel more connected to yourself and the world around you.
Which one will you try first?

Need for Volunteers at BBT

Here at Breaking Barriers Today we are focusing on the importance of volunteers. Currently,we are working on a new goal to build a volunteer base. We are receiving inquiries from participants who will be starting either in December or January. We are proud to report that since we opened BBT, the enrollment numbers have tripled. Granted, some of these participants do not attend regularly yet, and some only during breaks.


Why Volunteers Needed

As a participating family you may be wondering what more volunteers will mean to you and your loved one? It means that the participants will have more individualized attention, even though the ratio could be 2:1 or 3:1. With volunteers on board we can create a balance of care providers and volunteers so the volunteers can step in where needed to engage with participants while the care provider performs critical care activities of setting up goal-related activities for individual participants.
Since moving to the Gier Community Center and changing our scope of services, it has opened some doors for new programming.  This means we will need more hands on a regular basis. Additionally, we are hoping to get some volunteers on board during our Winter Break time when our numbers will go up.


If you, or someone you know, are interested in volunteering, please contact us at Helping Hands Respite Care. We would be happy to answer questions and get you signed up. It is with pride that I watch this program continue to grow and evolve. It is a privilege to get to know our new participants and their families.Until next time, please enjoy this Holiday season, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!