Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dementia and Driving; Plus a Few Updates

I thought I would write a bit about dementia and driving. This was one of the toughest issues for Jim, and for me. Jim has always been a car nut. He appreciated a fine car and always had a sporty car that he enjoyed driving.

Giving up driving is very, very difficult for many folks. Whether it is dementia or some other physical ailment, it still represents a loss of independence. Regular readers will remember that we flew home from wintering in Florida, due to my concern for Jim's driving. By that point, I knew that he should not be driving.

There may be some folks who give up driving without a fuss, but that certainly was not the case for Jim. I have a few strategies that I use to help with this difficult transition:

   * I make certain that I am first out of the door and then quickly jump into the driver's seat. I also get real chatty as we start to head out the door, trying to distract him with conversation so that he won't have an opportunity to think about driving. Most times this works, and Jim just meanders over to the passenger side.

   * Be ready with excuses. A few times Jim would knock on the driver's window and tell me he wanted to drive. I would respond cheerfully with "OK. But I have to run into the house to go to the bathroom. I'll be right back." I would then go into the house for a few minutes and then return to the garage to inform Jim that I had an intestinal upset and needed to stay home. This always worked. He is fearful of being without me, so I never worry about him wanting to drive away without me.

   * Distraction and strategic positioning: When returning from the store (or any other outing), I position myself as we walk across the parking lot so that it is  natural for me to get in the driver's seat. I also put any package/groceries in the back seat on the passenger side, and then open that door for Jim as I quickly go around to the drivers side. I also do the chatty conversation, trying to distract so that there is no opportunity for him to ask to drive home.

   * Be ready with more excuses. I've never had to use it, but if we were out and about, and heading back to the car, I am ready with another tactic should he suggest that he drive home. I would simply say "We received a notice that your license has expired. We better go home and check it out." His memory is so poor, that once we were home this would be long forgotten.

I have read of ways to rig the car with a kill switch, but I've never felt that I needed to resort to this tactic.

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Some updates: Jim's communication skills continue to decline. He has started to use what is called neologisms, which are made-up words. It is increasingly difficult to understand what he is trying to say. So, how do you respond to someone when you have no idea what they are saying? Obviously I try to take current circumstances into account. Also, I respond differently depending on his mood. If his mood is good I respond with saying something upbeat, positive or neutral, depending on the circumstances. Examples: "You are right about that." "I believe that is so." "I agree with you on that." If he is upset, my approach is a little different: "Everything is all set." "I will take care of it." Sometimes I say "show me" if I think he is able to point out what is bothering him.

I don't always get it right, but it works better than trying to quiz him about what he means. It is very upsetting to him if he thinks I don't understand him.

Jim's brother came for a visit last weekend. There will be a bit of a learning curve, as he learns how to best communicate with his brother. The hardest part for him was to make sure to include Jim in conversations, rather than talking around or over him. By the time he left, he was doing much better at this. He seems receptive to my guidance and expresses a very real desire  to be of help to both of us. I continue to be cautiously optimistic that this may turn out to be an opportunity for some very real support to me. He plans to come in every other weekend. Eventually I'm hoping that it gets to a point where I feel it is OK to leave the two brothers alone at home, while I go out by myself  for a bit. I can't wait!

There is a website I want to share with those who are caring for someone with dementia. It is connected with an Alzheimer's forum in the UK. In all of my searching I have found this to be the best forum. It is called Talking Point.

Well, that is the latest in our world of dementia. Thanks for stopping by.


 

Friday, August 4, 2017

Alzheimer's Disease with Psychosis

It has been a rough few weeks. It seems that every time I think that things are relatively stable, there are some new challenges that arise in our world of dementia.

Jim's delusions, and now hallucinations, are worsening. It's hard to watch him suffer so. I've been in touch with his doctor and her guidance is invaluable. Medication adjustments continue to be made in order to help Jim be more content and less anxious and upset. 

I'm grateful for medications to help Jim as he suffers from this cruel disease, but at the same time I know there is no perfect pill to help all that is wrong. In addition there is the consideration of balancing benefit against possible side effects of medications. I sure am grateful for Dr. S. to help us on this journey. 

This article provides some good information about Alzheimer's Disease with psychosis (AD + P). I learned that approximately 50% of folks with Alzheimer's Disease will have a psychotic component. That's a pretty large number! Unfortunately Jim is part of this unlucky group. 

The hallucinations Jim has are usually of other people being in our house or in our yard. These experiences are worrisome for Jim, so I've learned to say "I've asked everyone to leave." He accepts this, until he "sees" someone again.

His delusions are frequent, and almost always troubling for him. The other day he was certain that we were going to jail. My very best efforts at distraction and calming were not effective. That was one rough day!  

The article points out that those with AD + P have a more rapid cognitive decline than those without the psychotic component. This helps to explain why Jim's decline has been so fast. 

I took a chance.....I had a dentist appointment. Mike offered to come over and help with a couple of computer issues and stay with Jim. I figured at the last minute if Jim was not willing to stay back with Mike, I would just bring Jim with me to the dentist appointment. Either way there was a big risk of him being unhappy. 

He seemed to be content to stay with Mike, so I went to the dentist alone! First time alone in many months! Things did not go well for Jim. According to Mike, things were OK to start, but went downhill after about 45 minutes. By the time I got home (gone an hour and a half) Jim was beside himself with anger. Angry at Mike, angry at "the people in our house", etc.  It took quite a bit to get him settled down. 

Some encouraging news....Jim's only sibling will be coming to visit us sometime in the near future. This will be the first time they have seen each other in about 3 years. I am cautiously optimistic that things will go well. I've been emailing and have had a few private phone conversations to prep him for this visit. 

Some other good news....I found a handyman on Angie's List! I have a few things that need to be done around the house that are beyond my ability. He installed our new dishwasher earlier this week. I had an opportunity to give him a "heads up" about Jim. He was wonderful with him. So polite, soft-spoken. I'm having him come back next week for a few more things. What if I could hire him to come once a week, and Jim could "help" him with projects? We'll see how next week goes. 

Another post is written. As always, thanks for stopping by. I so appreciate you!