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,

Things We Learn

The Things We Learn Along the Way –  by Jeff Nunham

Adult In Home Supervisor, Jeff Nunham talks about the things we learn along the way. There was clearly a bit of strain and tension on the face of the care provider who sat down in my office. He was about to explain why, after less than three months as a care provider, he was resigning from Helping Hands. He came to us as a promising student heading for medical school. His father is a prominent doctor in Grand Rapids. He was very clear when I interviewed him three months earlier that his goal was to become a great physician like his dad. However, after working with several of our families, he realized that working this close with another person did not give him the kind of reward he thought it would. This realization prompted him to make a life changing decision. Now, he was about to explain it all to me. He would no longer study to be a doctor, but would instead seek a career in medical business. This was a giant decision.
What impressed me, was the fact that his time spent with a couple of our clients helped him clarify what he really wanted to do with his life. This encounter for me was one of those “aha” moments. This is when something that previously had been obscure, suddenly becomes crystal clear. Our clients are helping our care providers.
I regularly interview, train and supervise care providers who come to us to help families by caring for a loved one with a disability. They come with great compassion and idealism, focused on extending care to another person. The direction of their thinking and effort is always toward the person. “I’m here to take care of you” is the general thought process. My “aha” moment was the realization that the person we are helping is actually having an equal or greater impact on us who are the care providers.
The wonderful people we serve, some with extreme and multiple disabilities, are teaching us how to love and be loving. By virtue of their need, they call us to a greater level of commitment, making us better men and women. They reveal the strengths and weaknesses we hide within us, thus coaching us to change toward growth and maturity. What an incredible gift. And we thought we were here to help them.
We, as an agency are always seeking ways to improve what we do. The same perseverance we see in many of our clients call us to work harder to solve problems. The creative ways some of our clients communicate, urge us to think outside the box as we are being challenged by licensing authorities to require more of our staff. When you serve people who never seem to give up, they call us to a higher standard. Aha!


Jeff Nunham is the Adult In-Home Care Supervisor at Helping Hands Respite Care. He is a former pastor and often has great inspiration and advice about how we do our work. 

Helping Reluctant Seniors

A personal story about helping reluctant seniors to receive help. Shared by Helping Hands Respite Care’s  Adult-In Home Care supervisor, Jeff Nunham.

My son, who is 30 years my junior and a successful business man, will sometimes say to me; “ You had better be good to me because I’m the one who is going to decide which Old Folks Home you’re going to live in.” We laugh about this and I try to say something about inheritance which always comes off very lame. However, this issue is actually a very difficult time of life for the aging parent and the supportive adult child. It is especially difficult when the aging parent is in denial about their failing abilities and their vulnerability for falling.

Helping Reluctant Seniors Acknowledge Their Need for Help

Gratefully, my mother (86) is in pretty good health and emphatically tells me that she will never be cared for by her children. Instead she will take herself to the retirement center of her own choosing. Whew! That was easy. However, getting someone to acknowledge that they need help can be a daunting task.
I like that saying ” denial is not a river in Egypt” it makes me think of my friend and neighbor Frank. He is showing very obvious signs of dementia which are making his life difficult. The simple tasks of everyday life are now impossible. From his perspective, every appliance he owns is broken. When he complains and I take a look at the broken appliance, I discover that he simply doesn’t know how to turn it on or set the timer or push the “send” on his phone. I recently stopped by the house and found him extremely frustrated with his cell phone. He complained that it was broken so that he could not make a call. When I asked him to let me see if I could get it to work, he handed me the remote control for his TV.
From my perspective, Frank’s most menacing problem is not dementia; it is denial. Frank is convinced that there is nothing wrong with him except some signs of aging in his hips. My greatest challenge with my friend is convincing him that he needs help and that he should be thinking about medical care and the possibility of assisted living. He will hear nothing of it. So, what does one do with a person who refuses to admit that there is a problem?

Two Strategies for Helping Reluctant Seniors

The tack my wife and I have taken is very simple and two fold. First, we are readily offering and giving assistance to Frank, but we also make sure that he understands the failures he is having. We look for times to gently, but firmly, present the realities of his confusion and other struggles. Our suggestions that he should see his doctor are rebuffed. However, over time and after “layer upon layer” of helping him see his condition for what it truly is, he is beginning to acknowledge that he has a need.
The second aspect of our attempts to help Frank is a little scarier. We have come to see that for the person who is adamantly refusing to acknowledge his need, the best form of meaningful communication are the consequences of his condition. This may mean letting him feel the frustration of not being able to do those simple tasks which once were done without thought. We do not “rush in to rescue” Frank from his struggles. When he is forced to face the reality of his struggle, he will begin to acknowledge that there is a problem.
I am happy to say that Frank has just recently consented to having an MRI and will be having an evaluation by a Psychiatrist in a couple of weeks. We believe that Frank will benefit from the treatment of his doctor. For my wife and me, we will continue to lovingly help Frank navigate the murky waters of dementia; hopefully without getting caught in the Egyptian Eddies of Denial.
For more help in navigating the murky waters of Dementia, visit this helpful website

To learn more about Helping Hands Respite Care’s Adult In-Home Care, contact Supervisor Jeff Nunham at 517.372.6671×105 or Jeff@HelpingHands, his office hours are Monday – Friday 8am to 3pm.