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Dear Caregiver,

If you are caring for a loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s disease, you do not need us to tell you that it’s not easy. This progressive disease is difficult to cope with – for both the person living with it and their loved ones. People living with Alzheimer’s may become frustrated when they find themselves struggling to do things they used to do without any problem. And it is hard for you, as the caregiver, to watch the person they once were gradually fade away. They may have brief moments of clarity where it feels like they are themselves again; only to break your heart when the moment is gone. 

While there is nothing anyone can do or say to “fix” what you and your loved one are going through, we want you to know you do not have to face it alone. The Alzheimer’s Association has an abundance of resources for both those living with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. There are support and educational programs available for both, as well. Take advantage of these resources. They are there to help make things a little easier.

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

It all starts with gaining a better understanding of the disease and how it progresses. Alzheimer’s leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. This results in the brain shrinking dramatically over time which impacts nearly all its functions. 

Although scientists are not completely certain what causes cell death and tissue loss in a brain affected by Alzheimer’s, plaques and tangles appear to be the culprits. Plaques form when protein pieces called beta-amyloid clump together, and tangles destroy a vital cell transport system made up of proteins. Plaques and tangles tend to spread through the cortex in a predictable pattern as Alzheimer’s disease progresses, but the rate of progression varies greatly.

Early Stage

In the earliest stages, plaques and tangles begin to form in brain areas involved in learning and memory, as well as thinking and planning. In this stage, a person can still function independently but may start to notice they are sometimes forgetting familiar words or where to find everyday objects.

Someone in this stage may struggle to:

  • Think of the right word or name for something
  • Remember the name of someone they just met
  • Remember something they just read
  • Plan or organize things

Middle Stage

In the middle stage, more plaques and tangles develop in the regions of the brain important for memory, thinking, and planning. This leads to the development of problems with memory or thinking that are severe enough to interfere with work or social life. In this stage, someone with Alzheimer’s may have trouble handling money, expressing themselves, and organizing their thoughts. Plaques and tangles also spread to areas involved in speaking and understanding speech and the sense of where your body is in relation to objects around you. It is in this stage that many people are first diagnosed.

Symptoms vary from person to person, but may include:

  • Forgetting events or personal history
  • Feeling moody or withdrawn
  • Being unable to recall personal information such as their address
  • Confusion about what day it is or where they are

Late Stage

Most of the cortex is seriously damaged by the time someone reaches the late stage of Alzheimer’s disease. By this point, the brain shrinks dramatically due to widespread cell death. Individuals often lose their ability to communicate, recognize family and loved ones, and to care for themselves in this stage.

In this stage, symptoms are severe and may include:

  • Need for around-the-clock personal care
  • Loss of awareness of recent experiences and their surroundings
  • Changes in physical abilities such as walking and eventually swallowing
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Vulnerability to infections, especially pneumonia

Resources for Each Stage

The Alzheimer’s Association provides excellent resources for caregivers for each stage. Visit the links below to learn more.

Yours truly,

Grane Hospice

Dear Caregiver,

When you take on the responsibility of caregiver, you also take on a lot of extra stress. Between tracking medications and keeping other family members in the loop, you have a lot on your plate. We want to help lighten the load so we’ve put together a list of a few free* mobile apps that you may find helpful in keeping it all together.

*Some apps include both a free version and a ‘full’ version available to purchase.

Stress Management

You have a lot going on. With work, home, and caregiving responsibilities pulling you in a million different directions, you feel the pressure. And we can’t blame you. So we’ve chosen a couple of stress management apps to help you remember to pause and take a breath. You need it.

Oak

iOS | Android

Oak helps you decompress by transforming your meditation practice from an experiment into a habit. It includes both guided and unguided meditation and breathing exercises, as well as progress tracking. Help calm your mind at bedtime with the guided breathing exercises designed to help you relax as you drift off to sleep.

Reflectly

iOS | Android

Journaling is a proven method to reduce stress. Use this digital journal to vent your thoughts and feelings, to track your mood, and increase happiness. Never journaled before? That’s ok! The intelligent journal system gives you personalized prompts and affirmations to help combat anxiety and build a healthier lifestyle rooted in mindfulness.

Organization

Caring for a loved one comes with a lot to keep organized. These apps can be helpful in keeping things in order, such as communicating health updates to other family members and keeping track of medications.

CaringBridge

iOS | Android

Sometimes part of the stress of caring for a loved one is keeping other family members in the loop. CaringBridge is a free, secure online tool to help you share healthcare updates with family and friends, all in one place. Simply create a site using your email address or Facebook account and start sharing updates. Features include a journal where you can post updates for family members to react to and a planner that allows you to ask for help with errands and tasks. Set up co-authors to allow other people to post updates.

Medisafe Medication Management

iOS | Android

You have a lot to keep track of, including medication management. This app allows you to ensure your loved one is taking their medication at the correct time and in the correct dosage. It also includes a visual of what the medication looks like to help make it easier to keep track of what is what.

Task Management

Your to-do list is growing and growing, and you sometimes wonder how you will ever keep it all straight. The apps below can be helpful in keeping your tasks in order so you are sure not to miss anything. 

Microsoft To Do

iOS | Android

With a never-ending to-do list, it may feel impossible to keep track of everything you need to do. With the Microsoft To Do app, you can create to-do lists, reminders, and notes to help keep you organized. Create lists so you can categorize your tasks, share tasks with others, and stay focused using the My Day daily planner feature.

Allrecipes Dinner Spinner

iOS | Android

Sometimes it can be difficult to find time to plan ahead for dinner. The Allrecipes Dinner Spinner app makes it easy to search for recipes by keyword, ingredients, cook time, and more. It also includes step-by-step instructions to follow along with, as well as a shopping list feature that allows you to add the entire recipe or individual ingredients to your grocery list. 

These are only a few examples of the many apps available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. We hope you find them helpful in managing your journey as a caregiver. And remember, you’ve got this! You’re doing GREAT!

Yours truly,

Grane Hospice

Dear Caregiver,

We celebrate you for your dedication to taking care of your loved one. You work tirelessly to ensure they have all they need, often after coming home from full-time jobs and hectic schedules of your own. But in all of your daily appointments and to-do lists, does it say ‘self-care’ anywhere? While we recognize the importance of taking care of your loved one, we also want to remind you of how imperative it is that you also take care of yourself.

Stop Feeling Guilty

We know you have grown accustomed to putting everyone else’s needs before your own. And we know you may feel guilty and think you are being selfish by taking time for yourself. But that is not the case. No, there are not enough hours in the day. And yes, you have so many other things you need to do. But if you do not take care of yourself, you will not be able to effectively take care of those who need you. If you are overtired and burnt out, how much help and support can you really provide? So think of it this way: it is actually helping the ones you love when you take care of yourself. Because with a little ‘me time,’ you can be the best version of you for those you love.

Find Someone(s) YOU Can Lean On

Sometimes all you need is someone to talk to who truly gets what you are going through. That support can come in the form of a friend, family member, or even a Facebook group for others in your shoes. There are groups for people caring for elderly parents, caring for a loved one with Dementia, and so many more! There is even a group where you can ask questions and get answers from award-winning nurse and end-of-life educator Barbara Karnes.

Remember...

So don’t forget to add ‘take care of me’ to your to-do list and take some time for yourself. You are not selfish for doing so. You deserve it. And you need it.

Yours truly,

Grane Hospice

Dear Caregiver,

Determining it is time for hospice can be a difficult decision to make. Add on top of that the pressure of choosing ‘the right hospice’ for your loved one, and you may feel completely overwhelmed. We understand the importance of making sure the hospice company you choose is the right fit for your family so we put together a list of questions to ask to hopefully make your search a little bit easier. We also included our answers to these questions to help you get to know us a little better.

Who will be part of the team that cares for my loved one?

We use an interdisciplinary approach, with a team that consists of you (the patient’s caregiver), their physician, the hospice medical director, nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, chaplains, bereavement coordinators, and volunteers. We also offer an extra level of care through our Pampered Patient Program and the We Honor Veterans Program.

How often will the team visit?

The hospice medical director and assigned RN Case manager will meet with you to determine visit frequencies that accommodate both the patient’s needs and yours.

How and when can I reach you?

We have staff available 24/7 to take your calls and answer questions or to come see the patient if there is a change in their condition. You can reach us at 1-800-379-0129. 

Do you have Medicare approval?

Yes, we are certified by Medicare.

Will you provide training for the family/caregiver(s)?

Yes, our staff will provide training to help you feel confident in safely and effectively caring for your loved one when we are not there.

Do you offer bereavement support and for how long?

We offer unlimited bereavement support. We typically provide services for at least 13 months following the patient’s passing.

What makes you different than other hospices?

We offer the Pampered Patient Program, which is unique to Grane Hospice. This program provides an extra level of care for patients and includes services like manicures, hairdressing, reading books, crafts, playing games, and much more!

It can also be helpful to read online reviews of the hospice companies you are considering. This will allow you to get a better understanding of what type of care they provide by hearing it directly from others who have been in your shoes. 

Ultimately, you have to decide what is important to you and your family, but we hope this list can serve as a starting point for you in your search. If you have any additional questions about the services Grane Hospice provides, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Yours truly,

Grane Hospice Care

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