Friday, October 19, 2012


Normal routine call this morning at the usual time.  Mom seemed to be doing fine.  Snickers and Popcorn visited her later today and she seemed more confused and slept most of the time they were there and Popcorn worked on getting her chair repaired.  Mom doesn't initiate any conversations but will respond as YOU make mention of things to her.  I remember one time when I called her and "Firecracker" was there.  She mentioned it and sounded like it really made her day.  

Dr. S. D. Gordon tells of an old Christian woman whose age began to tell on her memory.  She had once known much of the Bible by heart.  Eventually only one precious verse stayed with her, "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day."  (2Tim.1:12)  By and by part of that slipped away and she would quietly repeat, "That which I have committed unto Him."   At last, as she hovered on the borderland between this and the spirit world, her loved ones noticed her lips moving.  They bent down to see if she needed anything.  She was repeating over and over to herself the one word of the text she remembered, "Him, Him, Him."  She had lost the whole Bible but one word, but she HAD the whole Bible IN that one word!  AMEN!   

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Church Day

Called Mom a little earlier than usual this morning to check and see if she was up for church.  She said, "I don't know."  (She is starting to say that a LOT lately)  I asked her to let me talk to one of the staff.  I heard her say, "Would you talk to my son?" as she handed the phone to someone.  It was Tiffany.  I asked her if Mom was ready for church this morning and she said that Mom was all dressed in her church clothes and ready to go.  I thanked her and she hung up.  I called Mom right back and told her that everything was fine and that I would be there within thirty minutes to pick her up for church. 

Mom was in her usual spot on the couch in the front room when I arrived.  She seemed to give me a double take before it looked like she recognized me.  She didn't have her cane.  They are now getting her used to using her walker instead.  I got her signed out around 9:20am and we slowly made our way out of the East wing - down the hall - through the front waiting room - to the front door.  I had my pickup parked at the curb by the front entrance.  I got Mom secured and bucked up in the passenger seat and placed her walker in the bed of the pickup.  Rather than trying to initiate the conversation I decided to see if Mom would talk on her own.  It was a very quiet ride to church.  When we arrived, I got the walker out of the truck bed and Mom made her way up the ramp into the sanctuary.  Ladybug was already there playing the piano.  I said , "Isn't that a beautiful piano player?"  Mom just looked at me and smiled.  Ladybug told me later that she wasn't sure if Mom recognized her.  During Sunday School, Mom sat with her hands on her legs, fingers straight, pointed to her knees and often had her eyes closed. In between Sunday School and the morning worship service I helped Mom find the rest room.  After the congregational singing, Ladybug went and sit  next to Mom to help find the scriptures for her in the Bible during the preaching.  Mom said she didn't want to read them but would just listen.  

After the morning service, we had a noon meal served in the fellowship area and I got Mom all set up with a bowl of chili and a small plate of food.  She really didn't eat very much.  After dinner, I helped Mom back out into the sanctuary and after sitting there for a few minutes she seemed slightly agitated so I asked her if she needed anything.  She wanted to know why it was taking them so long to clean up in the kitchen.  I said, "Well, Mom some people just now finished eating and there aren't very many that are helping with the cleanup.  Are your getting tired?  Do you want me to take you home?"  She said, "I don't care."  It seemed to me that she was starting to get a little cranky, so, I made arrangements for some of the other brethren to take care of the duties I usually perform and loaded Mom back up in the pickup and we returned to OAR.  I signed her back in at 2pm.  

We had received word that Mom's brother Glen (who also was an Alzheimer's patient) Passed away last night.  I didn't say anything about it to Mom.  When I talked to Snickers this afternoon, she and Popcorn were headed over for a visit with Mom and planned to tell her about Uncle Glen.  Mom was the oldest of eight siblings and now she and her youngest brother are the only two survivors in the family.  

Friday, October 5, 2012

Watch the medication.

Had a good visit with Mom on the phone this morning.  She seemed to be back to her old self again.  Snickers had requested that they cut back on some of her medication after the problems earlier in the week.  In doing some follow up reading about the side effects of some of the medication they have Mom on, Snickers noticed that the negative side effects coincide with many of Moms recent symptoms.  One medication actually said "Not recommended for dementia patients."  She is going to OAR today with this info and "is ticked".  (pray for them)   I'll try and get better data on this medication thing and post it here later.  One of the side effects also explains Mom's sudden weight gain. 

The following write up  explains so much.
"Ever walk into a room with some purpose in mind, only  to completely forget what that purpose was?  Turns out, doors themselves are  to blame for these strange memory lapses.
Psychologists at the University of Notre Dame have discovered that passing through a doorway triggers what's known as an event boundary in the mind, separating one set of thoughts and memories from the next. Your brain files away the thoughts you had in the previous room and prepares a blank slate for the new locale."
It's not aging, it's the door!
Whew! Thank goodness !!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Mom was having another bad morning today. She was very fearful. She said she didn't know who she was or what she was supposed to do. Snickers called her and she simply handed the phone to the staff. Staff told Snickers that Mom was having a very stressful morning and extremely anxious. Snickers said she was coming in for a visit this morning. They got Mom to take her medication and Snickers texted me for an update. When I called Mom around the usual time, she still seemed very un-nerved. She recognized my voice and settled down a little. She said she didn't even remember how to pray anymore. I told her that is why God gave us the promise in Romans the 8th chapter that the Holy Spirit would pray for us when we didn't know how to pray and asked her if we could pray together on the phone and she said yes. We had a good little prayer time and she said a hearty amen at the end. She was doing better. Unbelievers would probably say that her anxiety medication was probably kicking in but I think it was the prayer.  

Elderly Anxiety Disorders 
By Jeannette Franks, PhD

We all experience anxiety-worrying about the future is part of being human and helps us plan ahead and make better decisions. Some anxiety is normal and even productive. However, when anxiety becomes disruptive and disabling to a person's life, it is considered an unhealthy psychiatric disorder. As many as one quarter of all people experience anxiety to an unhealthy extent, and older people can be at particular risk. Seniors may experience more troublesome anxiety than other age groups for several reasons: they experience more losses, suffer from more pain and chronic conditions, are often on multiple medications that might exacerbate anxiety, and have confounding ailments such as Alzheimer's disease or depression. Some experts suggest that in general anxiety is equally prevalent in all adult age groups but perhaps is less often reported by seniors, and not as accurately diagnosed and treated as in younger people. A large study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry(1998, A. Beekman) found that 10 percent of adults 55 to 85 years of age had elderly anxiety disorders-the same prevalence as for other age groups.  

Major types of elderly anxiety disorders in older people
• Acute stress disorder: Anxiety and behavioral disturbances that develop within the first month after exposure to an extreme trauma.
• Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): Symptoms of acute stress disorder that persist for more than one month.
• Panic attacks: A sudden, unpredictable, intense, illogical fear and dread.
• Social anxiety: A preoccupation with how a person is viewed by others.
• Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD): A pattern of excessive worrying over simple, everyday occurrences and events.
• Phobias: Irrational fear of situations such as heights, or fear of objects, such as snakes.
• Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD): A pattern of intrusive thoughts that assault the mind and produce extreme anxiety that can only be mitigated by an action, such as hand washing in a ritualistic way.

The latter two are perhaps less common in older people, because they can and often are successfully treated in youth or middle age. Few long-term studies track elderly anxiety disorders, so there is little information on how these problems vary with age. It is important to recognize that anxiety disorders are not because of some moral weakness or lack of character, but a genuine biochemical disturbance. There also appears to be a genetic predisposition. A recent study of identical twins found that if one twin had a generalized anxiety disorder, there was a 50 percent chance that the other twin would as well.  

Acute and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Rebecca's mother screamed frantically when the aides in the nursing home tried to give her a shower. Regardless of how kind, gentle, or persuasive the caregiver was, she began yelling and sobbing hysterically when brought to the bright, white, shower room, where the aide attempted to remove her clothes. The social worker spent an hour talking to the woman and determined that she had been raped in the high school gym shower room as a teenager. The staff changed the bathing routine to a quiet, homey room with a bath tub and soft lights and music. Bathing was no longer a battle. Acute stress disorder develops within the first month after exposure to an extreme trauma. Symptoms include: repeatedly experiencing the trauma in images, thoughts, dreams, or flashbacks; extreme distress when exposed to cues that remind the person of the trauma; avoidance of reminders of the trauma; a numbing of emotions; and symptoms of agitation, arousal, insomnia, anger, irritability, and inability to concentrate.  

When these symptoms persist for longer than a month, the anxiety is diagnosed as PTSD. Often the elderly did not receive therapy for traumatic events such as rape, abuse, torture, or war. Until a trigger such as the shower situation or dementia-which can disinhibit protective behaviors-these older people have never expressed their emotional pain and horror. The woman in the dementia care unit screaming may be a Holocaust survivor. The man who panics at the sight of the Asian face of his well-meaning caregiver may have been a prisoner of war. They may be re-experiencing horrifying events in their mind's eye over and over again. Reasoning with people who have these issues is not effective. Nor is simply demanding that someone toughen up and "get over it."

Panic attacks Margaret, a 74-year old widow, volunteered twice a week at a senior center a half-hour drive from her house, which she found very satisfying. It kept her in touch with friends, gave her a chance to contribute and feel productive, and she enjoyed the hot lunch in a social atmosphere. One day, while crossing the bridge over a large river between her home and the senior center, she experienced a horrendous feeling of dread. Her heart pounded and her hands began to shake. She thought perhaps she was having a heart attack. As soon as she got over the bridge she pulled over, sweating and weak. After a few moments, the feeling passed. She drove herself to an urgent care clinic and the doctor there could find nothing wrong. She met with her primary care physician a few days later-he assured her that she was fine. The next week, driving over the high bridge, she didn't experience another attack, but felt nervous and worried that it would happen again. She tracked down the social worker at the senior center and described the experience. The social worker asked, "Do you think that it might have been a panic attack?" After discussing what comprised a panic attack, they agreed that one had occurred. Margaret drove home, comforted by the diagnosis and the knowledge that not only might it never occur again, but if it did it would quickly pass. She never had another panic attack.

 It is normal to feel panic at a terrifying event such as an earthquake or car crash. But people with a panic disorder may experience horrific terror with no discernable trigger or cause. For some minutes they experience intense and overpowering feelings of fear that leave the sufferers helpless. Physical symptoms may include fainting, dizziness, heart palpitations, sweating, and or difficulty breathing. A panic attack can come once in a person's lifetime or frequently. Attacks can begin at any age and are twice as common in women. There is a genetic pre-disposition. If one identical twin has this disorder, there is a more than 80 percent chance that the other will. How to help someone who is having a panic attack • If you know the person's relaxation methods, do them together • Be calm and gentle • Go together to a safe, quiet place where he or she can sit or lie down • Help the person slow down breathing by slowly inhaling and exhaling together • Use imagery such as, "We are lying in the warm shade of a beautiful, tropical beach listening to the gentle murmur of the waves," • For some people the gentle contact of hand holding or an embrace can be reassuring.  

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) GAD is common-as many as 5 percent of the population experiences this disorder during their lifetime. There appears to be a genetic component. If one identical twin is diagnosed with GAD, the chances are 50 percent that the other twin will too. However, in non-identical twins, the chance is only 15 percent. People with GAD tend to be pessimists who expect the worse, and often interpret everyday mishaps as major disasters. Rather than seeing the glass as half full; it must be half empty. Simple setbacks such as a dented fender are exaggerated out of proportion and cause the person far more pain than such minor events would normally merit. GAD is often a chronic condition, with negative events exacerbating the disease. Perhaps half the people with GAD are clinically depressed and there is a tendency to attempt to self-medicate with overuse of alcohol, over-the-counter and illegal drugs, and prescription medications. Most people with GAD know they shouldn't worry so much, but are powerless to change their thinking. Symptoms include tight muscles, back pain, or headaches for which a physician can find no biological cause. People with GAD often feel restless, on edge, and are easily startled. Chronic anxiety can cause the body to feel tired, exhausted, or fatigued, all of which are made worse by the insomnia associated with GAD.  

Social anxiety disorder Many of us feel uneasy meeting strangers or speaking in public. But people with social anxiety disorder are so terrified of social situations that they withdraw and refuse many social occasions. This problem may be exacerbated in older people because of hearing impairment, issues with incontinence, or embarrassment over using a walker or wheelchair. Social anxiety occurs in perhaps 10 to 20 percent of the population and is the third most common psychiatric disorder, after substance abuse and depression. It can cause an increased spiral of isolation and inability to interact socially. Treatment All of these elderly anxiety disorders usually respond well to a combination of talk therapy and medication. While prescription drugs should be used with caution in the elderly, and often at lower doses, there are now some particularly effective medications that a physician can prescribe such as Paxil®, Prozac®, and Zoloft®. Numerous studies have indicated that for a medication to be most effective, the patient should also be meeting on a regular basis with a skilled counselor, therapist, or social worker. Other treatments effective for some people include meditation, biofeedback, massage, and acupuncture.

Jeannette Franks, PhD, is a passionate gerontologist who teaches at University of Washington and Bastyr University; she is the author of a book on assisted living and numerous articles.