Ah, fall. The air gets crisp, the leaves change and the pumpkin patch becomes the number one family destination for indoor and outdoor decorations.
I love Halloween not only because it's the official start of the holidays but also because I love everything pumpkin.
Pumpkin pies, cookies, ice cream and coffee. Nothing says loving to me more than pumpkins!
It took a while for me to get over what I now refer to as the "Great Pumpkin Disaster of 2001"
Growing up I had sidewalk envy. We lived on the side of the street where there were no sidewalks. That meant no bike ridding, roller skating or playing hide and go seek around the block unless an adult was around to watch me cross the street.
Being sidewalk deprived was especially hard during Halloween, talk about isolation! As the houses across the street were filled with brightly lit Jack-O-Lanterns and happy kids ringing doorbells our house looked like the haunted mansion in Disney World.
And so I would sit all costumed out with my basket of candy and no one came- other than a few brave teenagers who I'm sure only did on a dare.
In 2001, when I moved with to a street with sidewalks, I vowed that my kids would never suffer the same fate that I did.
Our first Halloween, we went to the local church pumpkin patch and bought three of the biggest pumpkins we could carry and a few small ones to boot. We got out our stencils and carving knives and made the scariest hollowed Jack-O-Lanterns and set them out with candles. I was so excited and couldn't wait to show mom. Her reaction wasn't what I expected. She freaked, panicked and ran back into the house.
And that's when I learned that due to mom's stage of dementia a carved, lit pumpkin was not a harmless decoration in our house.
And neither was the cute battery operated ghost candy dish that grabbed your hand as you reached in for a piece of candy!
It only got worse on October 31st. Hoards of trick or treaters dressed in their scariest costumes visited our home. My kids loved them but mom's dementia couldn't allow her to process why mini Freddy Kruggers were coming to her house!
Between the doorbell, dogs barking, decorations, dressed up kids as zombies yelling "trick or treat", laughter and screams it became way too much for mom. She was overwhelmed.
Mom also grew up behind a cemetery, think spooky 365 days a year!
Needless to say, I learned a lot about how the most innocent of childhood holidays can be a source of stress and anxiety for a person with dementia.
Here are my 5 Dementia Zone tips for dealing with Halloween.
- Keep decorations to a minimum. Any decoration that changes the "normal" look of the house may lead to anxiety and confusion
- Avoid the fun but scary Halloween doormat, if it scares a 6-year-old, it will scare a person with dementia.
- Putting out a fake cemetery and hanging goblins from trees may get you in the holiday spirit but don't be surprised when mom refuses to walk in or out of the house. Passing a head stone that reads, "Here lies Fred who choked on bread" can bring up bad memories.
- Avoid night time use of flashlights and candles, especially in pumpkins. A person with dementia will have visual perception changes and the eerie glow that they cast can lead to high anxiety.
- Try to stay away from the malls while the little ghosts and goblins are trick or treating. It may be a safer way for the kids to enjoy the holiday but for a person with dementia it will just add to the confusion (and they may later avoid going back to the mall).
- Put the candy in a safe place. I used to keep our basket of sweets at the front door and there it stayed until the last piece was eaten, until a trip to the doctor revealed that mom was making herself sick on the candy.
Above all, know that Alzheimer's care does not mean not enjoying this holiday. During different stages of dementia, it may be necessary to cut back on the decorations but you can still have a ghoulishly good time watching Herman and his family.
There must be something in the air or the tooth fairy was working overtime because I've had three separate calls from caregivers about tooth problems and dental problems.
In the first case, the patient was in excruciating mouth pain, the second had an infection and the third had a broken molar.
Last I checked, I am not a dentist...
In fact, I hate going to the dentist for my own personal reasons. Do you recall those commercials where the person is smiling because the dentist gave them a “great check up”? Nope, never happened to me.
My dentist actually smiles with glee when he sees my name on his list! I’ve paid for his swimming pool, vacations and kids college. Yep, he loves me!
Growing up I had the best teeth in town and was pretty much cavity free until I had my first child. After Stephen was born, it was all down hill.
My parents were fanatical when it came to dental care and oral hygiene. My dad pretty much had all his teeth and lived to 99 years. While my Mom also lived a long life, she had all her teeth capped or crowned. She even made me promise to retrieve her “kings ransom” from her mouth before burial.
Last month, my trip to North Carolina was delayed for three days because of a dental problem. I first noticed a problem on Sunday night, including severe tenderness. I thought brushing, flossing and a good treatment with Listerine would cure my problems. On Monday I continued with my good intentions and stoic European background and I even took a few Tylenol to boot. By Tuesday afternoon I realized that my good intentions were getting me nowhere and on Wednesday I finally broke down and called my dentist.
Due to our good relationship, and the fact that one of his kids is now in grad school, they immediately got me in.
As it turned out, I had a severe infection, which explains the past few weeks where I was feeling run down. I needed immediate invasive help and a ton of antibiotics.
Dental Care for Alzheimer's and Dementia Patients
Dental exams and Alzheimer’s disease is not something that you hear about and you should. There are tons of good studies that show that dental hygiene and physical health go hand-in-hand.
Regardless of the stage of dementia, dental care should not stop when a person is diagnosed. As a caregiver, this is a not-to-be-missed step in their care. Often times, family members get so caught up in all of the “other important” appointments, the dentist gets put on the the back burner.
While dental problems are not a direct cause of dementia, they can cause difficult behaviors and speed up the decline in health and mental functioning. No matter what stage of dementia the person is in, good oral hygiene is a must.
Here are my 5 Dementia Zone tips for good oral hygiene:
- There are 22 steps to brushing your teeth. The ability to initiate all of these steps can stop a person from being successful. Think about this: You need to pick out YOUR toothbrush, recognize the toothpaste, unscrew the cap, put on the right amount, bring it to your mouth, put the tooth brush in, brush the teeth, spit etc.... it’s confusing!
- Depending on the stage of dementia, be realistic. If a person is having problems taking their medications or preparing meals or taking a bath, they are probably having problems brushing their teeth.
- A mouth infection can be the cause of a difficult behavior. During my latest mouth infection I was fatigued and cranky. I didn’t realize that I even had an infection, and a person with dementia won’t either.
- Keep up the twice-year checks up. As we age, our mouth shrinks and our teeth become loose. This gives plaque and gingivitis a perfect storm for periodontal disease, which will lead to physical health problems.
- Check the dentures. Many of my clients are not taking them out and cleaning them as they should. Old food will sour and anything they ingest (food or liquid) will taste bad. This can set the stage for dehydration and constipation.
Getting our elders to brush may seem like a job for Jobe, but there is always Mighty Mouse to the rescue
In my last article, I talked about the challenges of Driving with Dementia. As the stages of dementia increase in your loved one, this will become a common issue for many people. One of my readers quickly responded with the following comment:
"Don't tell me how to track someone who is lost. Give me ways to convince them NOT to drive."
I know how hard this decision is to make. I also know that every family is different. Times have changed, and now driving with Alzheimer’s (or any form of memory loss) is now a major issue.
I can remember the scene as if it was yesterday...
Mom received a visit from one of Miami Beach’s finest--a policeman--and came to the house to deliver the news that another motorist noticed mom's erratic driving, reported it, and now mom would need to take a driving test or surrender her license.
My mother was quite the charmer and tried to dissuade the officer with coy laughter and excellent reasoning. She said that she and a “neighbor” weren't getting along, and this police report was retaliation at its finest. Mom even tried to get the name of the person who reported the incident so she could go personally talk to them. We learned mom had not only been swerving, but had cut the person off!
Needless to say, I was personally thrilled that this anonymous Good Samaritan had reported my mother. Even before the stages of dementia had set in, Mom had been a lousy driver. She often took offense at being the brunt of our jokes. I thought my dad (who also didn’t trust mom’s driving skills and would often call me to be his chauffeur) would be as thrilled as I was that the officer had threatened to take away mom's driving license.
The reality was, taking away Mom’s license meant that she would be in the house all day, and that was unacceptable to my father. No matter what I said about mom getting hurt, or both of them getting hurt, or the risk of death to innocent strangers, it all fell on deaf ears.
Dad gave me an ultimatum: Make sure mom passes her driving test or else!
After many heated arguments, I did what most of us do with our parents. I caved in. And so, every day, for two to three hours, I coached my mother through the state's driving exam book. She was not yet diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and we didn't know to be alert for the various stages of dementia. It was a difficult process and I secretly believed mom would flunk the test. After all, she couldn’t even remember what she had for breakfast. There was no way she was going to remember the rules of the road, be able to sit in a car with a stranger and get through the actual road test, right?
So, on the day of the exam, I gladly drove my mom to the testing site and sat inside watching her open the exam. I figured she would give up once she saw the questions and we’d be gone in five minutes.
One hour later, she proudly walked over to the window with her test in hand to be graded. You could have knocked me over with a feather when they said she passed and now would take the driving test.
Whoa! How in God’s name did that happen?!
Well, at least the driving instructor would catch on that she was the worst driver in Dade county and flunk her, right? Even though I didn't know how the stages of dementia were affecting my mother at that time, I trusted the driving test would still be too much for her. With this in mind, I took a deep breath and practiced my condolence speech to her and my dad.
I should have used my time more wisely, because I never got to give that speech. Yep, my mother passed the road test, too.
So, since my Plan A, "Fail the Driving Test" hadn't work, I had to quickly spring into action and put into place:
- Plan B: Hiding the keys
- Plan C: Flatten a tire
- Plan D: Remove a spark plug
- Plan E: Lock the garage door and take the key with me
Each time I was thwarted by my father, as well meaning and determined as he was. It dawned on me that no matter what I did, my dad would have his own agenda and rationale for wanting mom to drive.
Drastic Times Call for Drastic Measures
At that time, I had just given birth to my daughter, Sloane. She was my parents' only granddaughter. Now, it was my turn for an ultimatum.
"Either mom stays off the road, or I will not bring your granddaughter to the house."
Once again I appealed to their reason and the safety of myself, their grandchildren, society. All to no avail.
When dad would call to ask when I was coming over, I would ask if mom was on the road. She usually was from 10-5pm. So my answer would be, "NO!"
I refused to drive into their area of town, unless I knew for a fact that Mom would be safely off the road. I stuck to my guns, which was very hard, and in about three weeks of me coming over, usually past 7pm with very cold, late meals, my dad eventually caved in. Dad finally took the keys away from mom.
My Lesson: In my family, the way to taking mom’s car keys away was through my father's stomach!
Each Family is Different
If you are like me, and have problems with speaking up to your parents. So here are 7 practical solutions you can use for getting your loved one suffering through the stages of dementia off the road more safely:
1. Have the doctor speak to your loved one about medication and driving.
Doctors carry with them a high level of authority. Ask the doctor to explain how medication can affect reaction time, and that your loved one shouldn’t drive for at least one month, until their medication has stabilized.
2. Have the doctor recommend a professional driving evaluation.
Be firm that your loved one mustn't drive until they get evaluated. Make an appointment and stand firm.
3. Have the doctors office fill out a letter to the state.
Each state has a place where you can download a form for your doctor to report impaired driving. In Florida, the form is located at: http://www.flhsmv.gov/forms/72190.pdf
Reporting impaired driving is mandatory in some states.
4. Report the impaired driving yourself.
Reporting impaired driving can be done anonymously, and the state will send a letter to your loved one requesting a driving exam.
5. Disable the Vehicle.
Depending on the loved one suffering through the stages of dementia, you may try my Plan A-E. Just know that each person is different, and you will need to make sure that you are not endangering them or other drivers. My mom was car safety conscious and would check the air pressure daily. Driving on a flat would not have happened in her case, but for others it will. Consult with other members of your family.
6. Have an off-duty police officer come to the home to speak to your loved one.
7. Tell you loved one that the insurance company cancelled their policy and that you are checking around for new quotes.
Some people will stop driving if their license is taken away, others will forget that they don’t have a licence and will drive no matter what.
Depending on the situation, I reccomend a variety of strategies.
Driving was so much simpler in the Bedrock!
What worked for you? Please share or e-mail me. And to Donna, I hope this helps.
Oops, It happened again!
The second I hit Florida after driving back to Miami with the pups in tow, I was greeted not only by palm trees and orange juice at the welcome center, but also by a huge overhead electronic billboard notifying me to be on the lookout for another lost soul.
Silver Alert (http://www.floridasilveralert.com) is for cognitively impaired persons who are lost driving, just like the milk cartons are for lost and missing kids. The only difference is that you're not reading a milk carton while driving 90-plus miles an hour and looking for unmarked state troopers!
And so every few miles, depending on where the billboards are, they flash the make of car and license plate number of the cognitively impaired lost senior.
Florida is a long state, and I saw the same alert in Jacksonville all the way down to Miami. My first thought was OMG they are still missing!!!My second thought was, "Thank God there are no accidents."
As of August 2011 there have been 356 Silver Alerts issued. The total direct recoveries by Silver Alert is 30. In the past few months, most of the alerts have been issued for males. Go figure--they will NEVER stop and ask for directions!
What may start out as an innocent drive to the grocery store, beauty shop, or just a family visit, may turn into an all-point bulletin flashing on roadways and making headlines in newspaper reports hours later.
The reality is, individuals who are cognitively impaired should not be driving and need to be kept off the roads! Family members need to know that even though Silver Alert exists and may provide some peace of mind, the typical driver on today's highways is not going to be able to find your loved one. Today's drivers are operating autopilot, looking for more important things like state troopers, exit signs and reckless drivers. Your loved one is an after thought.
If you got lost in a strange or unfamiliar area, you would simply stop the car and ask for directions, or turn around and go back home.
A person with dementia can’t and won't ask for help. They will just keep on driving until they are out of their neighborhood, county and state!
As a caregiver, we often think that wandering only happens by foot. Nothing could be further from the truth.
When our loved ones drive and get lost, they are wandering. Think about that for a moment. That is why there are so many Silver Alerts on the electronic expressway signs.
So I would like to give you a list of things you can do to ensure your loved one's safety either by foot or by car. In my book, “Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias: The Caregivers Complete Survival Guide” I go into more depth about what to look for, but for now I’m going to touch on the basics.
Here are 6 Dementia Zone Tips to Keep your Loved Ones Safe:
1. Make sure that the person is wearing a Safe Return or Medic Alert bracelet. Get yours at http://www.alz.org/safetycenter/we_can_help_safety_medicalert_safereturn.asp
2. If your loved one carries a cell phone with them, and keeps it turned on, consider buying a cell phone that has a built in GPS. You can use the GPS feature to find your lost loved one, or help keep track of a loved one's whereabouts to make sure they are in a safe place.
3. If your loved one has a favorite jacket, pants or purse, consider putting a small portable GPS device in their coat. You can activate the device at any time to check on your loved one's location.
4. There is a new GPS shoe on the market. Yes, they’re fugly and expensive ($300), but they may help locate your wandering loved one with dementia. I say "may" because I contacted the manufacturer to see if they work when wet (such as in rain puddles) and they haven’t gotten back to me yet. Also, know that at 3am your wanderer will choose their own shoes! However, you may want to look at the GPS Shoe to see if this solution is right for you.
5. When a person with dementia decides to drive, whether they have a license or haven’t driven in 5 years, they may just suddenly decide to take the family car for a spin. Consider having a GPS device installed in the car. Some GPS devices may only work in areas that get a wireless and/or satelite signal, so make sure you know the capabilities of your device before installation.
6. Contact Project Lifesaver, an especially good resource for rural areas. They use small, personalized transmitters that emit a personalized tracking signal. If your loved one goes missing, they can pinpoint their exact location. It makes no difference whether the person is in a high-rise building or in the woods, Project Lifesaver will be able to locate them. Check them out at http://www.projectlifesaver.org/
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Keeping an eye on person’s with dementia is not easy.
Daily, the newspapers are filled with reports of people with dementia who have wandered away from home.
Some people are safely returned and reunited with their caregivers, while others are not so lucky.
As I wrote in the last post, a person with dementia at some point will wander off. Know that a wandering behavior is not intentional or purposely done to upset or scare you.
For a person with dementia, wandering is a purposeful activity.
In the mind of a person with Alzheimer’s, or other form of dementia, they are trying to get somewhere--and their somewhere is a strong memory in their mind.
Wandering is often due to anxiety. The person with dementia is anxious--they want and need to be somewhere, but they can’t remember where.
People with dementia will and have wandered. I’ve had clients wander away from day centers, assisted living facilities, religious services and their own homes. They are reported lost in airports, rest stops, malls and grocery stores. They may board a bus while on a walk or catch a ride with a good Samaritan, or not.
Why am I so passionate about wandering?
I have personally lived through it with my mom and know how frustrating and terrifying wandering can be.
Dad would call me at all hours of the day and night to tell me that mom was “missing,” which was our code for "Houdini has left the building" and for me to come over right away and find her.
And so, I did.
I’d strap in my two young kids into their car seats and drive 20 miles to find my mother, who would either be by the canal in the backyard or pruning trees in the frontyard, at 10 o'clock at night!
I will never forget the time my mother was missing for more than eight hours--off property--only to be chauffered home by a police officer. The Officer had helpfully filed a stolen car report. We found the car the next day, more than six blocks from where my mother “thought” she had parked it!
Mom’s sense of time was gone and so was her judgment.
Here are some Dementia Zone tips to reduce your anxiety and to keep your loved ones from wanderlust and safer in the home:
1. Add additional locks on the doors, either up top or down at the bottom where a person with dementia will not notice them.
2. Make (or buy) a sign that says, "STOP," "Do Not Enter" or "Danger."
3. Place a black or dark colored mat in front of the door. To a person with dementia this will look like a big hole in the ground.
4. To avoid triggers, move the keys, jackets and purses you usually keep at the front door to another location.
5.To alert you that they are leaving, install a motion sensor device or alarm on all doors.
6.Make sure that all doors and windows are securely locked (yes, a person with dementia will try to escape from a bathroom or bedroom window.)
7. Lock and secure all fences and gates.
8. Put up a curtain to disguise the door.
9. Let your neighbors know that your loved one has dementia and to notify you when they see them outside.
10. Change the doorknobs to round handles with childproof grips.
11. Don’t forget the sliding glass doors. It’s inexpensive to put a broomstick in the doorframe to keep them from opening.
12. Secure the perimeter of the home. Put up a pool fence or gate to the lake or canal. A person with dementia will not recognize water or traffic.
Wandering does happen. When you first notice your loved one has gone AWOL and have checked the house, call it in to 911. Do not concern yourself with being embarrassed or causing a false alarm. The longer a person goes missing, the greater the chance of physical harm.
In our next Dementia Zone article we will cover how to keep your loved one safer on outings. Be sure to subscribe to this blog so that you don't miss an article. Until then, take a deep breath and hum along to this Disney sing-a-long:
Last night I had an “emergency” Skpe session I’d like to share with you.
What started out as a lovely outing at the mall had turned into three gut-wrenching, heart-pumping, nerve-wracking hours. My cleint lost her brother in the mall!
As she was telling me about the security search and rescue and how her brother was finally located, she left out
one important detail--how it happened.
Listening to her story, I knew how it happened. She went to the bathroom.
Asking her confirmed it. “I told him to wait” she cried, “Why didn’t he wait?”
“He’s never done this before,” she went on to say....
That’s what I had heard from two other clients earlier today. Maybe it’s the full moon, or a Forest Gump moment. The statistics show that more than 125,000 people with dementia wander away every year.
Before you jump to any conclusions about this caregiver, just let me just say at some point of caring for a person with dementia this will happen to you.
I have had clients wander from home, church, parties, the mall, airports, picnics, weddings and funerals. My mother was a serial wanderer. I never reported her missing because up until recently you had to wait 24 hours to file a missing persons report.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that if a person can’t walk they can’t wander. I had a client who wandered from home in a wheelchair and was picked up on the highway entrance ramp.
Why people wander is a mystery. Finding them alive and unharmed is a gift.
Here are my Dementia Zone tips to keep your loved ones safe:
1. Wandering and dementia go hand in hand
The brain changes and the person becomes confused.
2. 60% of people with dementia will wander
Don’t be fooled into thinking that it won’t happen to you. The 60% are first time wanders and many become repeat offenders.
3. One minute they are fine, the next minute they are gone
A person with dementia will not dress for the elements nor do they care about the weather conditions. They will not recognize unsafe areas such as the woods, neighborhoods or highways.
4. A person who has wandered is scared and confused
Many times, especially outdoors they will hunker down and hide. They may not respond to their given name. Instead of Robert try calling for Bob or Bobby.
5. Wandering poses serious threats
According to the Alzheimer’s Association about 50% of people who wander will suffer serious injury or death if they are not found in 24 hours.
We are all wanders to various degrees. Next time I’ll show you how to keep your free spirited loved one with dementia safer.
Mark and I typically drive up to North Carolina from South Miami, Florida. Yes, it takes about 12 hours, but we have a great time listening to music, talking and eating junk food. The dogs seem to love the adventure, too, as long as they are not squished in the back seat surrounded by our luggage!
So, to make this a more comfortable ride for everyone, we put our stuff (everything except for my computer) in the back of our truck. It was 103-degrees outside, but we were cool inside since the air conditioner in the car was recently fixed.
What wasn’t so cool was the next morning I opened up my vitamins, which had been stored in the back, and they were all stuck together! Since it was a new bottle I had just opened, I wrote the company and asked if the vitamins were still safe and effective to consume. Their response was “probably not.”
I wasn't convinced, or happy about throwing away over $100 in vitamins! So I called my favorite pharmacist for his opinion. That's when I heard the sad news that every prescription and over-the-counter medication I had with me (and yes, that included my beloved vitamins) needed to be thrown away.
What I learned was this: Improper storage can cause medications to break down and lose their potency. And when that happens, it can be a direct threat to your health to consume them. You must throw them out.
Over the years I have counseled families about storing their medications in a cool, dark place, and not in the bathroom medicine cabinet, next to the stove or on the kitchen window sill. With a little research, I discovered that medications should be stored in the 60- to low 80-degree Farenheit range to be effective, and that freezing temperatures are just as damaging to medications as heat.
On this trip I was guilty as charged!
So, in addition to worrying about drug interactions, side effects and medication errors, caregivers need to also worry about the safe and proper storage of medications.
Here is the Dementia Zone cheat sheet on proper medication storage:
1. When you pick up your medications go straight home.
Those little errands take longer than you think and now you know how temperatures can destroy their effectiveness.
You wouldn’t pick up the ice cream first thing in the grocery and then drive all around town doing errands, would you?
2. Store your medications in a cool, dark place.
You may think the only way to remember to take your medicine is to see them when you open the medicine cabinet for your toothpaste or deodorant. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so put up a sticky note to remind yourself.
3. Know that even creams and ointments can separate when stored at the wrong temperature and will also be ineffective.
When you go to use them and the color or consistency changes. Call your pharmacist or the manufacturer and ask them if they are still good to use or how you should dispose of them.
4. If the medication says store in the refrigerator, then do it!
Heat changes the properties of medications, and what was designed to heal you can make you sick! This is especially important for liquids such as antibiotics and insulin.
5. If, over time, your pills smell funny, crumble or break apart, do not use them.
Check the expiration date of each medication.
6. Ask for replacements.
All may not be lost. Check with your insurance carrier and pharmacist about replacing spoiled medication. My vitamin company did not replace mine, and I will never buy from them again. But you may get more lucky with a better brand. It doesn't cost anything to ask.
From here on out I’m going to channel my inner Estelle Getty. This could explain why she always carried a purse!
Hurricane Irene and Hurricane Lee missed Florida, but other states didn’t fair as well.
Lots of homes are without electricity and nothing says "envy" more than seeing lights in the neighborhood around you while you are sitting in the darkness. Hurricane Marie is on the horizon, but you still have time to prepare.
As someone who has experienced several hurricanes over the years, a question I get asked is, “How do you do this all the time?”
Well, frankly, the answer I give is this: The day before the storm is not the time to prepare. Especially if you are caring for a person with memory loss.
I learned how fickle storms could be after sixteen years of caring for my mother. Actually it was more like 24 years, and that was when I lived on a street where every time the wind blew, the power did too. Once the power comes back on and the clean-up starts, I can ensure you, life will return to normal.
Follow these Dementia Zone tips for greater peace of mind before the next storm hits:
1. Locate potential shelters in advance.
As I write this, summer prices at hotels are the lowest of the season. Most have emergency generators and liberal cancelation fees. If a hurricane is immenent, make your reservation a week in advance. You can always cancel if the hurricane changes track.
2. Wash your hair before the storm!
Nothing says "yuckie" like having no power and sitting around with dirty hair! In the hours leading up to the storm, think about the little things you can do now, that you won't be able to do after the power and water go out. Take care of the little chores, like washing the dishes and doing your laundry. They may not seem important now, but you'll be glad to have one less thing to worry about in the hours following the storm.
3. Besides food, water and batteries...
Of course you need everything in your hurricane preparedness list, but you'll also want a few extra things in your kit. I like to also have on hand:
- Dry shampoo
- Wet wipes
- Bug spray
- Sun block
- Coffee press
- Flea spray (for pets)
4. Corn starch and light body cream or spray
These two things are a must. Humidity and heat add to discomfort. Heavy creams make you feel worse. Use corn starch to help keep you and your loved one feeling dry and comfortable and light body cream or spray.
5. Stay Cool After the Power Goes Out
Channel your inner Cleopatra and buy a battery operated fan that has a water mister.
6. Your Pair of Rain Boots
...yep, you heard me right, rain boots. Puddles may look like fun and a good way to cool off, but the reality is that there may be broken glass, debris or downed power lines hidden in the water.
7. Stay Out of Those Puddles
Unless your idea of fun is swimming in a cesspool, resist the urge to play in large puddles. Sewer systems back up--that’s why the water is out there!
So unless you plan on meeting a cute doctor at the ER, resist your inner urge to cool down.
8. Clean Out your Freezer and Refrigerator
During the storm months, I keep my fridge looking like Mother Hubbard's cupboard. Why?
Years of experience with power outages has made me realize that without electricity, food will spoil and I will not want to cook. It will just be too hot and clean-up sucks!
Even once the power goes back on, you never know what will be safe to eat or not. Nothing is worse than opening your fridge a few days after the storm and being greeted by the smell of spoiled food.
9. Open your electric driveway gates BEFORE the storm
Nothing screams prisoner faster then finding out your roads are clear and your car is on the wrong side of the fence.
10. Let Your Garden Hose Be Your Outdoor Shower
Unwind your garden hose and let it lay stretched out in the sun. In a few hours you will have enough hot water to take a quick shower. Or, you can take a hokey pokey shower. If you have only cold running water and the thought of an ice cold shower is not your idea of fun, do like the song says: Wash one part of your body at a time, and then go for a final full-body quickie.
Now it's your turn. What's the most unexpected item you were glad you had (or really wished you'd had)?
Instead of waiting to the clouds to part and the sun to shine, as a caregiver for a person with dementia you will fare better when you learn to sing in the rain:
Growing up my favorite time of the year was summer. Long lazy days spent fishing on the lake, outdoor grilling and enough corn on the cob and watermelon to fill the county fair. Just thinking about the summer of my youth brings back fond food memories and my appetite increases.
For those of you caring for a person who has dementia one of the frequently asked questions I get is, “How do I get Mom to eat”?
The obvious answer is serve food the person liked when they were growing up.
You see, over time our taste buds and our food preferences changed. The foods we prefer later in life are not always food that we liked when we were younger.
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I just had a deja vu week. Leaving the criters and hubby behind, I arrived back to Miami just in time to prepare for Hurricane Irene.
In August 1992, after spending six weeks in the Canadian outback, with two small kids, I was fantasizing about spending hours in a hot tub and the luxury of an inside flushing toilet. My fantasy was short lived. Instead, I spent my days preparing for a storm and bringing my parents from their safe home in Miami Beach right into the eye of that storm!
Hurricanes are fickle and do what they want. The projected path of that storm was dead set on Miami Beach, where my parents lived. Nobody predicted that the storm would change course and barrel head on into south Miami.
So, being a Florida baby, I am well-versed in hurricanes and their destructiveness.
In the 1960s Hurricane Donna had my parents putting mattresses in the hallway--the safest place in the house because there are no windows or doors. Hurricane Cleo in 1964 was a direct hit and in 1965 Hurricane Betsy ruined my birthday party when she did an about face around Orlando and set her “eye” on Miami.
I have a great respect for the power of the storms and their aftermath. Here's what I know to expect:
- No electricity for days, or sometimes weeks.
- No hot showers
- Boiling water on a BBQ grill
- Filling the toilet tank with water from the pool so it will flush
- Eating meals with the National Guard, who walk around with flashlights
- Living and sleeping with no air conditioning
Yep, I’ve been through it all.
Billions of dollars of damage are caused each year from floods, high winds and flying debris. Hurricane Irene just past us and is heading towards the eastern seaboard. Make sure you're ready: http://www.ready.gov/america/beinformed/hurricanes.html.
Storms come and go in the Hurricane Zone. As much as we hear from the insurance companies, Florida is not the only place that takes a beating. No matter what the size of the storm, there are a few things that you won't find on the typical Hurricane preparedness list.
Hurricane Preparedness for Caregivers
If you are caring for someone with dementia, than here are some extra tips you can add to the government checklist for hurricane preparedness:
Tip #1: Be Prepared
The typical hurricane season is from May-October. Don't wait until there is a crisis and then run around like a chicken with its head cut off. Beginning In May, start to put together your hurricane box with all the supplies you will need. Besides candles, batteries, dry goods and essential survival items, be sure you include the little things that will make your day a little better. Include instant coffee or tea, dry milk, handi snacks, cheese and crackers, chocolate and marshmallows, and anything else that will keep you happy and sane. Being hot and sticky without air conditioning is not the time to worry about nutrition!
Tip #2: Pack Plenty of Ziplock Bags
Being without running water is no fun and neither is taking a cold shower!
Hurricanes hit in the summer and once the storm passes, the skies clear and the sun shines. Fill up your ziplock bags and put them in the sun. They will heat up quickly and you will have hot water for bathing and food.
Tip #3: Charge Everything
Make sure you charge your electric toothbrush and face scrub brush in addition to your cell phone, mobile devices and computer. And if you use them, don't forget to charge your electric wheelchair or electric scooter. No matter how many days the power will be off, at least you'll have some comforts to get you by.
Tip #4: Always Have a Long Extension Cord Handy
Just because your power is off doesn’t mean your neighbor's power is off, too! Power and phone lines run on different grids, and you may be able to hook up to someone else's power source. Be ready!
Tip #5: Battery-Operated Lights
Flashlights and candles are good, but after our last hurricane fire (don’t ask) I now have battery operated lights in my kitchen, closets and bathroom. Theses handy lights can be attached by sticky tape or screws. I prefer the tape so I can move them around.
Don’t be Fooled
While hurricanes up North are not as vicious as in the South, they can still cause extensive damage. Don't be fooled by where you live.
Be like Flipper and stay safe!