Alzheimer's Disease

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Alzheimer's Disease
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    Living Your Best Life With an Alzheimer's Disease Diagnosis

    My mom and grandma had Alzheimer’s disease. I knew it was a possibility that I could have Alzheimer’s disease too — but then again, maybe I wouldn’t. I started having memory loss symptoms in my 40s, but I chalked them up to the small strokes I had previously had. My other symptoms from the strokes improved, so there was no reason to suspect my memory wouldn’t improve too. In my mid-50s, though, my memory loss continued getting more severe. I didn’t have time to worry about myself, though, because I was busy taking care of my mom. A few years after Mom died, I was buying a new refrigerator when I went to fill out a check — but couldn’t figure out how to. I felt so embarrassed as the salesman watched me struggle. He helped me by telling me what to write, but I still had a hard time. I told him to fill it out, and I would initial it to give my approval. That’s when I decided it was time to see a doctor about my memory. A few weeks after a long test, I received my diagnosis: Alzheimer’s disease. I originally told my husband not to go with me to the doctor’s appointment because I thought my challenges would just be because of something else. I went calmly to the doctor, but she told me my symptoms were more than likely Alzheimer’s disease. As I sat stunned, she proceeded to tell me to get my affairs in order. I was only 60 years old. It has been four years since then, and I still live my best life. My “best” is a little different than it was four years ago, but I’m still enjoying life. My husband helps me with things like paying bills, taking medications, cooking, and watching the grandchildren. Yes, I may have declined in the last few years, but I have also picked up new activities and new friends even though I’ve lost friends too. I go to lunch with friends, to the gym, play pickleball, go to drum circles with my djembe drum, mow our five acres of land, take care of the house, and help get the grandchildren up, dressed, fed, and out the door every morning. My memory doctor’s office has a strong support team and activities too. I participate in an art class, a music program, and a support group. I also wear a medicine patch that helps bring clarity to my life. My Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis may have been devastating, but it’s not the end. To help support others with a dementia diagnosis, I have started a Mighty group called Living With Alzheimer’s. If you’re living with dementia, remember that we can all support one another!

    Monika Sudakov

    8 Things to Do While Self-Isolating With COVID

    I’m on day seven of isolation due to COVID and I must admit that I’m starting to get some serious. cabin fever. I managed to avoid getting COVID for two and a half years. I got my vaccinations and boosters, wore my mask, and rarely went out. A week and a half ago I went to a trivia night thinking infection rates are low and I should be safe. Well, that was a mistake. Myself, my friend, and her husband all came away from that event with COVID. While I’m lucky that my symptoms haven’t been awful (thank you, Pfizer), my mental health has taken a beating, partly because of the isolation, partly because of the hyper-vigilance of not wanting my husband to get sick, and very likely due to COVID itself, which has been linked to an increase in mental health-related symptoms, particularly in individuals who already struggle with mental illness. Fortunately, I have managed to keep myself largely occupied, engaging in various activities depending on how I was feeling and how much brain fog I was experiencing. In no particular order, here are my top eight favorite activities that have helped me pass the minutes, hours, and days of being alone. 1. Watch television and movies. Yes, we all have gotten really good at bingeing Netflix or other streaming services over the past couple of years. But more specifically, I have been re-watching the same shows and movies I’ve seen many, many times. There is actual sound psychology behind this. Those who tend to be anxious crave predictability, order, and repetition. It helps us to feel safe when we are otherwise feeling emotionally dysregulated. For me, it’s a form of escapism and it helps to tap into the safe place that I have established in therapy. Aside from starting “Schitt’s Creek” all over again, I’ve watched the unofficial Céline Dion biopic “Aline” five times. It’s like a two-hour-long hug for my nervous system and I’m not ashamed to admit it. 2. Play games. While I’m not a video gamer, I do enjoy playing a handful of games on my phone. They don’t require much thought and they pass the time. I know that for many, video games can provide a similar kind of escapism to television and movies. There is also some science that suggests playing video games, particularly ones where you are interacting with other people online, can help build a sense of emotional connection and resilience, which of course is extremely important while in isolation. And role-playing games in particular can help process traumatic memories, enabling us to take control of the outcome and in essence empowering us where we once felt disempowered. The key is not to overdo it. Setting time limits on play can help keep that in check. 3. Channel your inner student. I’m one of those people who, if given the opportunity, would gladly go to school for the rest of my life if they’d pay me to do it. I love learning new things. It’s probably why I tend to stick to reading non-fiction and watching a lot of documentaries. There are a ton of great apps that you can use to learn something new. My favorites include Duolingo (I managed to break into the top tier of French language learners this week), Blinkist (which is like Cliff Notes for educational books and podcasts), and Khan Academy (which offers thousands of interactive media on practically any subject you can imagine). The bonus: learning something new every day is good for your mental health. It bolsters your confidence by empowering you and giving you a sense of accomplishment and mastery. And depending upon what you are studying, some activities can actually help your brain become more resilient against the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 4. and 5. Assemble a jigsaw puzzle while listening to music or a podcast. This one is a twofer. I’m on my second 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle in a week. Aside from passing the time, I find it challenging and stimulating. And talk about a good hit of dopamine when you finally complete it! It also is something I can do while listening to music or a podcast. I have been catching up on some of my favorite podcasts including “A Little Bit Culty” and “Ask Kati Anything,” both of which have longer episodes that I usually don’t have time to commit to. 6. So much reading to catch up on! I have a confession — I’m a book hoarder. At any given time, I have 10 books sitting on my end table and on my phone. I often read three or four at a time and it takes me forever to finish them because my time is limited and my attention span is stretched too thin. I’ve finished three books I had in various stages of completion already and just started a new one called “Emotional Inheritance” by Galit Atlas, Ph.D. No interruptions, quiet and endless hours of free time make isolation the perfect opportunity to catch up on all of those stockpiled books. And, just like with re-watching familiar shows and movies, re-reading old favorite books can be just as good for your mental health. 7. Get crafty! I admit that I’m not much of a craft person, but I do enjoy drawing and coloring. I spent some time on my “Schitt’s Creek” coloring book while watching the show and worked on a calligraphy project. If you love to knit, sew, crochet, bedazzle, paint, or whatever cool crafty thing that I’m super untalented at… this is the time to channel your inner child and play! And thanks to Amazon Prime, you can even have a craft kit shipped to you overnight and discover a whole new passion you never knew you needed in your life. The possibilities are literally endless! 8. Cozy up with your furbaby. While I was a tiny bit concerned about getting my elderly cat sick with my COVID germs, I cannot imagine having endured this past week plus without him. I have been careful not to get too close to his face, but he has been curled up next to me keeping me calm every night and it’s been most welcome. There’s nothing quite like the warmth of a purring feline to soothe your soul.  And knowing I needed to keep him fed, watered, and his litter box clean gave me at least some kind of sense of purpose to make my days feel less like I wasn’t accomplishing anything useful, something that my perfectionist overachieving people-pleaser self struggles with at the best of times. COVID sucks. I don’t recommend it. But if you do happen to catch it and find yourself holed up for a while, I hope that this list of things to do will help you pass the time splendidly. And don’t forget to get plenty of rest, take your meds, drink lots of fluid, wash your hands, and nourish your body. Get well soon!

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    Sky Taylor

    'This Is Us' Gives Insight Into Alzheimer's Disease From 3 Generations

    “This Is Us” has never been one to shy away from tough conversations. From Randall’s anxiety, Kevin’s addiction, Jack’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Kate’s body image and fertility struggles, Toby’s depression, to everyone’s grief — this show has tackled a lot (and then some). And after six years, millions of fans sat down Tuesday night for the last time to watch the Pearsons close out their story. The final season has largely focused on Rebecca’s (Mandy Moore) Alzheimer’s and how both her and the family have been navigating it. There have been so many storylines that have hit me, but this one was different. My grandmother moved in with my family when I was 8 or 9. Her husband (my grandfather) had passed away and her Alzheimer’s was starting to get worse. At least in the beginning, she still knew who we were. As time passed, we eventually had to put her in a home — and every week without fail we’d visit and have lunch with her. It continued every week until she passed. I watched the progression of Alzheimer’s all the way through. It is a brutal, brutal disease for everyone involved. Most of the time when you follow a story, you experience it with the main character. Watching this plot unfold, I was experiencing it through the generation of grandchildren — Randall, Kate, and Kevin’s kids. My mother and her sisters are Randall, Kate, and Kevin. Miguel/Jack is who my grandfather was when he was alive. And then there’s Rebecca. Seeing what it was like for her gave me insight into what it may have been like for my grandmother. How frustrating it must have been at times, how scary. And it gave me a lot of empathy for my parents. Raising three kids while taking care of your mother who doesn’t remember you — while working full-time? I can’t imagine. I wish I had had that same empathy as a kid. I could see how hard it was for my mother, but I could never really understand. And I still can’t, but I can see it much more clearly now. To see Randall, Kate, and Kevin struggle with their mother’s disease — struggle to make decisions on her care, struggle to accept what was happening, struggle to truly see her — I can only begin to imagine what my mother and her sisters went through. “This Is Us” gives us the beauty of perspectives from three generations. And for diseases as complex as Alzheimer’s, to have that many points of view — to be able to see it from that many sides — is something special. And of course, Dan Fogelman being who he is, did it great justice. I don’t think I’ve seen another TV show that tackles Alzheimer’s. In terms of popular entertainment, “The Notebook” is the first thing that comes to mind, but I can’t think of much else. And more than that, from my experience at least, “This Is Us” got it right. Even down to the toy pet Kate got for Rebecca, talking about how it can improve the mood of those with dementia. I remember the lifelike pet dog my grandmother had and how much she loved it. This show has been a true gift to its viewers. We share a special bond. Once you’ve shed that many tears together and have had your mind blown by Dan Fogelman’s writing that many times — you’re connected. You just are. And what a beautiful second family this is. I have yet to finish grieving the loss of this truly wonderful show, but in the words of our beloved William (Ron Cephas Jones): “The way I see it, if something makes you sad when it ends, it must have been pretty wonderful when it was happening. Truth be told, I always felt it a bit lazy to just think of the world as sad, because so much of it is. Because everything ends. Everything dies. But if you step back, if you step back and look at the whole picture — if you’re brave enough to allow yourself the gift of a really wide perspective — if you do that, you’ll see that the end is not sad. It’s just the start of the next incredibly beautiful thing.”

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    How do you manage your own health conditions while also tackling your caregiving responsibilities?

    <p>How do you manage your own health conditions while also tackling your caregiving responsibilities?</p>
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    What I learned from working in a Behavioral Health Hospital

    Part 1 of 2 I started working at a predominate Florida behavioral health facility in 2017. I was excited and a bit nervous. None the less I was filled with a passion and desire to help the patients. Since the age of 15 I had a growing interest in #MentalHealth and badly wanted to have a career in it. I thought that a position as a #MentalHealth Technician was a great way to enter into the field. I worked at this facility for a little over 3 years. I learned a lot, I saw a lot, I cried a lot.

    I encountered some of the kindest souls I have ever met. I witnessed those in anguish, comforting one another. I heard stories of patients’ lives, some made me cry, some made me angry for them, some I will remember for the rest of my life. I saw humans at their most vulnerable. It was the most humbling time of my life. Knowing that only grace and circumstance separated me and the patient. The shifts were challenging, some patients were challenging. I had to stop fights, both verbal and physical. I was kicked in the chest my first month working there. I was cursed out. I’ve had food thrown at me. I’ve had a used diaper thrown at me. It was the hardest and most rewarding job I have ever had.

    There were 3 units. One was the geriatric adult unit, one was the acute adult unit and the other was the pediatric unit. Working on Pediatrics was too difficult and heartbreaking. Most children there were wards of the state and hearing their back stories tore a hole in my heart that’s still there to this day. I normally worked on the geriatric adult unit. On that unit we had patients that were dealing with both mental and physical illnesses. I liked that unit. I got on well with the older patients, probably because I pictured the females as my mother and the males as my father. I would enjoy hearing stories of their youth or their grandchildren, their children, their spouses, they shared the story of their lives and I loved every minute of it. Talking with the patients, spending time with them was my favorite part. I hated the clinical side of my job. It felt too cold. I remember this one senior gentleman, he had #AlzheimersDisease and had lost his ability to walk and talk. He was from the islands so I was sitting with him on one of my shifts and pulled my phone out and put on some island music and suddenly this man started bobbing his head and smiling and swaying in his wheelchair. His whole face lit up. It’s those moments that I cherish.

    I found that treating the person, talking to the person, seeing the person was the best and most effective way to deliver care. These are people, not merely patients. These are people in anguish, people who have been abandoned by family and other loved ones, people that are homeless, people that tried to take their life but were (thankfully) unsuccessful, people battling #Addiction , these were people who needed our care, who needed our help.

    More than half of the patients admitted to the behavioral health facility I worked at had a criminal history, usually an extensive one. These weren’t bad people, they were people that were hurting, people who were gravely effected by their environmental conditions, people whom would have benefited from receiving proper #MentalHealth care much earlier in their life but did not have the resources readily available to them.

    One problem we’re seeing, along with other states, is the growing number of individuals with serious #MentalHealth that are being incarcerated. According to data collected by Psycom, more than 2 million people in the United States with serious #MentalHealth are arrested annually and over 550,000 people with serious #MentalHealth are siting in jail on any given day. A survey conducted by Prison Policy Initiative found that 66% of people incarcerated in federal prison reported not receiving any #MentalHealth care while incarcerated. In 2021 The Tampa Bay Times covered a story about a reform bill that would broaden the criteria for involuntarily holding someone for #MentalHealth reasons. In this story it was stated that the state of Florida spends at least $233 million annually, jailing those with mental illnesses and $368 million housing them in prisons. These numbers are astronomical and unacceptable.  When prison has become the most populated “psychiatric facility” THAT is a problem.  I am not asking for these individuals whom suffer with #MentalHealth to be pardon for the crimes they have committed. What I am trying to shine ligh

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