The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation receives a lot of questions from visitors to our website, readers of Preserving Your Memory and others who call our offices. Here are a few of the questions we hear frequently.
At what point should a person with Alzheimer’s not be allowed to drive? My dad drove me to the store the other day, and his driving really scared me. What can I do?
It may come as no surprise that there is substantial scientific evidence that people with Alzheimer’s disease pose a significant traffic-safety problem, both from accidents and from impaired driving performance. The American Academy of Neurology, a professional organization for physicians who specialize in brain disorders, has issued guidelines for physicians regarding the risk of driving by people with Alzheimer’s. Your doctor should be able to guide and counsel you on this matter.
Making the decision that it is no longer safe for a person with Alzheimer’s to drive is difficult, and the decision needs to be communicated carefully and sensitively. The person may understandably be upset by the loss of independence and the need to rely on others for going places, especially in areas where public transportation is limited or nonexistent. Nevertheless, safety must be the first priority. Here are some suggestions from the National Institute on Aging:
- Look for clues that safe driving is no longer possible, including getting lost in familiar places, driving too fast or too slow, disregarding traffic signs, or getting angry or confused.
- Be sensitive to the person’s feelings about losing the ability to drive, but be firm in your request that he or she no longer do so.
- Be consistent—don’t allow the person to drive on “good days” but forbid it on “bad days.”
- Ask the doctor to help. The person may view the doctor as an “authority” and be willing to stop driving if the doctor recommends it. The doctor can also contact the Department of Motor Vehicles and request that the person be re-evaluated for driving ability.
- If necessary, take the car keys. If just having keys is important to the person, substitute a different set of keys.
- If all else fails, disable the car or move it to a location where the person cannot see it or gain access to it (www.alzstore.com sells products that can help).
Source: The National Institute on Aging “Caregiver Guide: Tips for Caregivers of People with Alzheimer’s Disease”.
My aunt, age 83, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. What can I do to be better prepared to help her?
As the family member or caregiver of a person with Alzheimer’s, one of the most important things you can do is increase your knowledge of the disease and its management. Here are some of the ways you can do this:
- Get involved with local organizations that serve the Alzheimer’s community in your area, such as your local Office for the Aging, or regional Alzheimer’s Association chapter.
- Learn about programs and services available in your community, and take advantage of them!
- Join a support group for caregivers, or participate in Internet support networks (Like www.ALZTalk.org).
- Ask your doctor to help you locate services appropriate to your loved one’s needs, and ask if he or she can recommend quality programs or visit: www.ALZinfo.org/resource-locator.
- Visit a local library or bookstore to find books about Alzheimer’s disease and about coping as a caregiver.
I’m a caregiver and sometimes, I have to admit, I get really worn out. After a long day, I don’t always feel like I have the energy to cook for my kids or take care of my own home. How does being a caregiver affect your health over all? Should I be concerned? Is there anything I can do now to prevent burnout? And, what do I do in the very last stages?
At the same time that you are managing the health and day-to-day needs of your loved one, you must not overlook your own health and well-being. Your health can suffer from the stress of round-the-clock responsibilities and the emotional toll of witnessing the disease’s devastating progression in a loved one. Be mindful of your physical, psychological, and spiritual needs. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to better care for your loved one.
Studies have shown that caregivers who are under chronic (prolonged) stress may have a diminished immune response, which can potentially make them slower to heal after injury and more susceptible to common infections such as the flu or common cold. To combat this, caregivers need to learn how to manage stress and find ways to relieve the tremendous burden of constant care for a loved one. Don’t become isolated; enlist support from other caregivers, a caregiver support group, family, and/or friends so you can carve out time to pursue activities that you enjoy and maintain social connections.
Many communities or long-term care facilities offer respite programs that enable caregivers to take needed breaks from caregiving while knowing their loved one is well taken care of. Such services may be available from home health care agencies, assisted living facilities, or nursing homes. Enrolling the person with Alzheimer’s in an appropriate adult day care program can also provide a necessary period of respite for the caregiver.
In later stages of Alzheimer’s, it may be necessary to investigate hospice care for your loved one. Hospice care is a service for people who are terminally ill. It may be provided in the person’s home, in a nursing home, or assisted-living facility, or wherever the person resides. The goal of hospice is to keep the person with Alzheimer’s as comfortable as possible in the final stages of disease and enable the person to spend precious time with family and friends.
A team of professionals, which may include a medical director, the person’s attending physician, nurses, social workers, counselors, clergy, and home health aides, provides hospice care. In order to ensure the best care possible, the team typically meets regularly to evaluate and coordinate the plans of care. A member of the team should be available 24 hours a day to address questions, concerns, and problems.
My Mom passed away due to Alzheimer’s a little over a year ago. I’m still having a difficult time with it. they have to find a cure... it’s so horrible to see your loved one going through the stages and then not knowing you at all. It is so heartbreaking. I don’t want my son to go through with me what my sister and I did with Mom, so I want to know what I can do to help Alzheimer’s research?
The best thing you can do to help is to donate and stay informed. The cost of Alzheimer’s research is expensive and without private donors, under-financed. Choose a charity that gives most of its revenue directly to research.
Some people hold fundraisers, which raise awareness and funds, but another great way to help raise money, which not a lot of people know about, is through Employee Giving. One of the easiest ways to give to Alzheimer’s research is through your employer’s Matching Gift program. Thousands of companies, including corporations, foundations, not-for-profit organizations, and associations, match their employees’ charitable contributions— sometimes for as much as double the amount of the initial gift. Companies have various methods for matching gift request submissions: online forms, automated phone systems, or a paper form that you submit to the foundation itself. Many companies will match personal gifts, such as cash, stocks, marketable securities, and the value of your volunteer time. Companies may also match gifts from employee spouses, retirees, and board members.
Here’s how to take part:
- Contact your employer’s Human Resources office to determine if your company matches employee donations. If your company does not currently match employee donations, you might suggest they consider doing so.
- Obtain a Matching Gift form and review the program guidelines to ensure that your charity of choice is eligible to receive matching gifts. Conditions and criteria for gift matching vary by employer.
- Complete the donor section of the form and submit it, along with your check or credit card authorization, to the address of your chosen charity.
Do you have a question you would like to ask the experts at the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation? If so, please call 1-800-ALZINFO, visit ALZinfo.org or send surface mail to Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, West 46th Street & 12th Avenue, New York, NY 10036 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have a question for our experts, let us know.
Source: www.ALZinfo.org. Preserving Your Memory: The Magazine of Health and Hope; Winter 2007.