Apr 24, 2023
With Meryl Comer, Award Winning Journalist and TV Producer
When you’re a caregiver for an adult with a cognitive disability such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, there could be numerous challenges involved in taking that individual out in public. Simple errands such as going to the grocery store or dining out at restaurants can prove to be an exhausting endeavor, filled with unpredictable behaviors. Parents of autistic children often experience the same thing. When you’re the parent of a child with autism, a big part of their recommended treatment plan is establishing a comforting daily routine. Along with providing a safe and familiar home environment, it’s equally important to allow for regular social interaction, time spent outdoors in the fresh air, and keeping the child engaged with regular activities.
Sensory overload or unfamiliar circumstances can be upsetting and confusing. The disruption in an individual’s daily routine could lead to a public meltdown with tantrums, or violent outbursts. For the caregiver witnessing these behaviors is not only unsettling and embarrassing, but it also requires knowing how to safely extricate the child or adult from that situation and find a way to calm their outburst. It helps to have on hand a tool kit of soothing items such as noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses, fidget devices, and anti-bacterial wipes that might distract them. For a cognitively impaired adult, understanding the source of their anxiety or removing the trigger could help, as well as re-focusing their attention on you. The most important thing is to remain calm. Raising your voice or demanding that he or she calms down, will only make the situation worse. Instead, experienced caregivers often carry a small pocket card that they hand out to restaurant employees or others explaining that the person has dementia and that they’re simply having a “bad day.”
If you would like to learn more about the challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you’ll want to listen to Florine’s 2022 interview with Meryl Comer. A former award-winning journalist and TV producer, Meryl is well-versed in caring for a loved one with cognitive disabilities.
What You’ll Hear on This Episode:
What are some of the things people can do to reduce their risk of dementia?
What are some of the risk factors for dementia?
How does it affect men or women more?
What are some of the symptoms of early dementia?
Could Alzheimer’s be genetic?
Dementia has become the leading cause of death for women in the United Kingdom and Australia surpassing heart disease. In the United States, women over the age of 60 are twice as likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's as they are with breast cancer.
Meryl discusses both her mother and husband developing Alzheimer’s and the physical, emotional, and financial toll it took on her family.
Meryl talks about Us Against Alzheimer’s, and why feels so passionately about their mission.
What is the current research behind Alzheimer’s, and are we making any headway against solving it?
How does medical insurance typically handle covering Alzheimer’s, and why can it take such a financial toll on families?
What treatments are there today for someone diagnosed with early onset of the disease?
Why is so little known about Alzheimer’s compared to other diseases?
Meryl talks about the personality shifts that often accompany an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Why is it so important to establish a daily routine for the patient?
Why are women so often misdiagnosed in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease?
Currently, two-thirds of all Alzheimer's patients worldwide are female. Dementia has become the leading cause of death for women in the United Kingdom and Australia, surpassing heart disease. In the United States, women over the age of 60 are twice as likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s as they are with breast cancer. The sad truth is that many women’s health symptoms are often ignored, misunderstood, or even dismissed. As women, we might be led to believe that mild cognitive impairment or forgetfulness is just our hormones or a normal sign of aging. But what if that’s not the cause? In women, early symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease might be attributed to brain fog, fatigue, depression, or simply distraction due to rigorous family and work schedules. But knowing your family history and paying attention to the early warning signs are critical for proper diagnosis.
It’s also important if you are the one caring for a family member or loved one with dementia that you establish a strong support network. As a primary caretaker, the toll upon your own health and wellness can be enormous. Make sure you have others who can pitch in to help and that you connect with a local caregivers group with whom you can ask questions and share advice. It’s important to note that not all symptoms of dementia lead to an Alzheimer's diagnosis. There are a variety of treatable conditions that can cause dementia-like symptoms such as untreated sleep apnea, Lyme disease, thyroid problems, or even vitamin deficiencies. But it’s vitally important to consult a trained medical professional to properly evaluate the symptoms and
determine the cause in order to begin proper treatment. I’m Florine Mark and that’s “Today’s Takeaway”.
“No one is prepared for the cost of this disease.” — Meryl [6:41]
“That age of 50 to 70 is a really critical period for identifying risk and resilience — Meryl [7:09]
“All you’re doing is really staying healthy until science catches up. That's your target.” — Meryl [7:38]
“If you have a loved one in your home, you’d better show up at unexpected times. And you’d better show up and watch what's going on and pay close attention.” — Meryl [20:54]
“For those listening who are on the frontlines of the care, you live with very small victories, just getting through the day. Don't get so far ahead in the disease because you shut yourself down. You need the stamina.” — Meryl [33:18]
“I just want honesty from the doctors. I think we have to push the doctors to tell us what's going on.” — Meryl [37:50]
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