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For Caregivers

August 16, 2016

Diagnosis Dementia: Simple Survival Secrets for Caregivers

The dementia epidemic is worldwide

They refer to it as the Dementia Epidemic. As many as 5.2 million people in America are living with this disease.

Dementia is an umbrella term describing a variety conditions that develop when nerve cells in the brain die or no longer function normally. The damages to these nerve cells cause changes in one’s memory, behavior and ability to think clearly.

When your loved one has a diagnosis of dementia, it brings with it a whole different dimension in caregiving. It brings the dementia epidemic home. Today I’d like to share a few practical strategies to help cope with a multi-faceted issue I experienced first hand.  Emotional, social and psychological implications we’ll discuss in future installments.

My vibrant, independent Mother was slipping. It started subtly enough, with forgotten appointments, missing keys, expired milk in the fridge.

These things happen, right? Then, past-due notices on the bills. What bills? She didn’t remember any bills. Unexplained scratches and dents on her car and finally, friends calling to report she was seen driving down a one-way street…the wrong way. What next!?

A referral to a wonderful, kind neurologist confirmed her diagnosis: Dementia. Mom’s neurologist and I would become close partners in her care over the years. There were a few medications available at the time, and we tried them all without much success. Coping with- not curing- the disease was the only path available. Coping with as much grace as possible was our shared goal.

Diagnosis dementia

In the early stages, dealing with memory loss requires making adjustments to the patient’s environment. It’s not enough to encourage the patient to remember, you must help them remember. Do your best to set them up for success. Here are a few suggestions I found helpful:

A bold calendar in a prominent place, marking appointments and important dates on the calendar. I would call Mother every morning and have her look at the calendar, review what was on for that day to help keep her on track.

Purchase a pill container with days and times, and you or another responsible caregiver will need to fill it, then monitor that the patient is being compliant. Special programmable pill containers are available to prevent overdosing.

A basket placed by the front door gave her a place to put her mail each day (until I could go through it) and kept the bills from being discarded.

Along with the memory loss, Mothers’ balance and coordination were affected. We noticed that in order to steady herself she had to hold on to the furniture and walls as she moved about the house. After several falls resulted in trips to the ER, we purchased a rolling walker which she kept constantly by her side. That rollator gave her self-confidence a real boost, and allowed her to continue to be mobile for years to come.

rolling walkers help with balance and coordination

Mom wanted to stay in her own home at all costs. Fortunately, it was an accessible rancher that she had built for my Dad when he became wheelchair bound, so the accessibility assets were already in place. If that’s not the case for you, a safety audit will help you identify potentially dangerous hazards that may need to be addressed.

Bathroom safety is a big issue. Read our blog post Four easy steps to a safer bathroom for some great suggestions.

 

Even though I lived nearby, was my Mother safe alone? Sometimes she couldn’t remember basic things- like using the television remote, or dialing the phone. Sometimes she would invite complete strangers inside her home- just because they came to her door. This scared me to death! What would she do in an emergency? emergency dialing telephone system with emergency pendant

We had to insist, but eventually we added an emergency dialing phone system. It came with a pendant Mom could wear even in bed or while showering, just in case. It was set up to dial several personal numbers (the gal next door and me, of course) as well as 911 for fire and police. Knowing she had that phone and pendant gave us real peace of mind.

 

Dementia is a progressive disease, and learning to manage your loved one’s care will be a work in progress…stay tuned for further articles on coping with dementia, and God Bless!

 

August 11, 2016

5 Fantastic Accessible Playgrounds

Jakes Place accessible playgrounds

Playgrounds have come a long way over the years- check out these accessible playgrounds

It’s not enough anymore to make sure that basic ramps are in place or that standard safety measures are applied. These days, accessible playgrounds are meant for everyone—young and old—to have fun, interact and experience the freedom of learning and play. These places cater to people of all ages with sensory, physical or psychological  needs, as well as the needs of their friends, parents and caregivers.

Here are a handful of our favorites:

Clemyjontri Park, Fairfax County, Virginia

Managed by the County of Fairfax, Clemyjontri is two acres of color and imagination, with everything from a wheelchair drag strip to a wheelchair accessible carousel. A little something for everyone, whether you want to climb and run, or just touch and interact.

6317 Georgetown Pike  McLean, Virginia 22101

Accessible playgrounds Little girl in X'Cape wheelchair wearing TuTu

 

 

 

Jake’s Place, Cherry Hill, New Jersey

Located in Challenge Grove Park, creators refer to Jake’s Place as a “boundless” playground that offers children and adults with special needs with action, lifts slides and sensory activities.  There are even special areas where autistic kids can take off by themselves.

132 Bortons Mill Rd Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

 

Can-Do Playground, Wilmington, Delaware

Located inside the Alapocas Run State Park, this park is nestled in and around gardens and trees, creating an oasis of play for everyone.  Adapted swings, raised sandboxes and mazes give children with almost any level of ability something to do.

Accessible playgrounds two boys playing, one boy in Quickie 2 wheelchair

4361 Weldin Road Wilmington, DE 19803

 

 

Reese’s Retreat, Pasadena, California

What’s better than pirates and a ship to go with them?  Reese’s Retreat is almost a half-acre of accessible fun, with wheel-chair friendly flooring, along with the water and sand play any pirate might expect.

360 N. Arroyo Blvd Pasadena, CA  91103

Accessible playgrounds, special needs child in stroller with lady

Preston’s H.O.P.E.

The largest fully accessible playground in northeast Ohio. Preston’s has everything from kid’s sized houses and stores to sand area and theater.

26001 South Woodland Rd. Beachwood, Ohio 44122

 

July 20, 2016

Bringing the patient home: 5 things you should know following a hospital stay

SpinLife.com : Bringing home the patient

Bringing home the patient – 5 simple steps to take following a hospital stay.

I recently helped my mother bring my father home from the hospital after quintuple bypass surgery. This transition was an eye-opening experience. I realized how emotionally draining and stressful it can be for everyone involved. When it is time for the patient to come home, everyone is relieved. At the same time, though, they may be wondering…what happens next?

Whether the hospital stay is a long or short one, there are some basic steps I’ve learned that you and your family can take to make sure the transition is as stress-free as possible.

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June 14, 2016

Give Dad a Lift on Father’s Day! Ultimate gift ideas…

Now it’s your turn to give Dad a lift! Two ultimate gift ideas to make this his best Father’s Day ever.

Remember all those times he picked you up after practice? This Father’s Day return the favor and give him the gift of mobility!  At the top of my “ultimate gift ideas” list this year is the new Buzzaround EX Scooter from Golden Technologies, a Spinlife online exclusive. The Buzzaround Ex is lightweight, and convenient, small enough to take apart and transport in the trunk of a car, but powerful enough to go all day on a single battery charge!

travel scooter with big batteries Ultimate gift Ideas

Buzzaround EX 4 wheel

The secret? The Buzzaround Ex is equipped with U-1 batteries- like you would expect on a full-size scooter- but in a travel scooter body. The cleverly designed two-part battery box eliminates the heavy lifting, but still carries batteries that travel up to 18 miles on a charge.

Two-part Battery Box for easy lifting Ultimate gift Ideas

Two-part Battery Box for easy lifting

A full front and rear suspension makes for a smooth ride, and the 9” tires give the Buzzaround EX 4” of ground clearance – practical for use both inside and out. There are also many convenience features packed into this new model. A bright LED headlamp will light his way if he’s out after dark, and the charging port is up on the tiller- close to the key switch, so it’s handy for charging. This speedy scooter is sure to make Dad smile this Father’s Day!

And here is another ultimate gift Idea…

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June 1, 2016

How to Size a Ramp? Here’s a helpful guide.

size a ramp suitcase style

If you or a loved one uses a mobility aid every day, access over even a small threshold or step can present a challenge.

I’d like to offer some suggestions on how to correctly size a ramp, and discuss different options that are easy, affordable and available.

If you look at ADA guidelines on how to size a ramp, the regulations are based on what would be a comfortable slope for a person in a manual wheelchair to propel themselves up the ramp without assistance.  Under those assumptions the recommendation is 1 inch of rise for every foot of ramp length. That make for very long ramps, indeed! That is the slope that is acceptable for permanent ramps on commercial buildings.

For today’s discussion we’re going to concentrate on Pre-fabricated portable ramps. This is the type you would use to allow access for an individual using a chair or walker going up a curb or a couple of steps. If you are using a scooter, power wheelchair or if you will have the assistance of a caregiver to help you the rules on how to size a ramp are much more flexible.

If someone is pushing from behind, you can easily size a ramp at 2 inches of rise to one foot of ramp length. The calculation looks like this: to get up a 6 inch curb, your ramp would need to be 3 feet long. (measure the height of the step and multiply by .5 to get that slope)  That is an easy size for a portable ramp, and perfect to carry along with you in your car for access when there is no curb cut available. That style is called a suitcase ramp.

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