Signs of Dementia

Service Dog     wheelchair

For some disabilities and diseases there are quick ways for others to recognize the disability and certain limitations with the individual. Things like a wheelchair, crutches, walkers, and disability assistance dogs easily identify an individual as having special needs. For dementia though there are usually no obvious signs. Jorge looks like a perfectly normal adult. Only when you begin to interact and communicate with him is when you notice something a little different. And this is usually fine, but in some situations it can be helpful for others to recognize that you’re with someone that may need additional help or assistance.

The Garcias traveled by airplane recently and the adventure through the airport had its ups and downs. The most tolling portions though were interacting with security personnel and the wheelchair assistance personnel. They didn’t understand what dementia was and that Jorge while he could walk and move around normally he could not easily take directions on how to walk through the scanning machines or to understand why he needed to sit down in the wheelchair. The employees would get frustrated and could not understand why a perfectly healthy adult wouldn’t listen to them.

Notification cards would only help if the person understands the disease and what the person can and cannot do. There are disabilities most people are familiar with like hearing loss, loss of mobility, and blindness, but other mental or development disabilities like Autism, Tourette’s, Down Syndrome, or dementia are less well known. So when Jorge interacts with individuals at the airport or even just people at the park they don’t understand why he’s acting the way he is and they don’t know how to help or what’s unhelpful. I think a huge step in the right direction would be more awareness for mental illnesses and how they can affect people. The brain is such a complex organ it’s hard for people to understand how a mental disability can affect people and it changes and it’s different for each individual with the illness. But the closer we can bring people to understanding would be helpful.

The other thing that I think could be helpful is a fun, colorful button or sticker that says “I have dementia. Talk to my family to learn more.” And then using this button as a way to spread awareness as well as a tool to provide immediate recognition that he may not be able to do things that you might think he could. So we’re going to look into getting some buttons created!

Daily Dementia Innovations

 Eatwell Bowl & Spoon Eatwell Yellow Set

Article: Tableware Designed for Alzheimer’s Patients

Author: pedro

It’s interesting to find the emergence of new products, innovations, and life hacks around Dementia and Alzheimer patients. Ones I’ve seen so far have centered around new styles of caregiving communities or around entertainment and music. This is the first one I’ve seen around food and eating, which I find more intriguing because of my Dad’s relationship with food.

The Eatwell product line is a series of plates, cups, and utensils designed to be easier for Dementia and Alzheimer patients to use. The products were also designed in a way where it’s the basic utility geared towards some common issues that these patients and caregivers have around meal times. The products are also less distracting with simpler colors, but it’s very similar to what you would expect to find in a barbie doll playhouse kitchen.

I like the psychology around this product innovation and the improvements they offer over typical eating utensils and bowls. We now exclusively give Dad bowls to eat in so he doesn’t scoop the food off the plate. But I also think minimizing the number of things in front of Dad while he’s eating is a critical component in keeping him concentrated on the current task. He will try to grab everything at once, so we rotate the items he eats and drinks rather than having all plates, bowls, and cups in front of him at one time. (This idea resonates also holds true with other activities like coloring and playing ball).

So I did some research after reading this article and found a single set (bowl, spoon, cup) on the website for $60. Unfortunately, that’s a bit pricy for me to realistically consider since that money should be spent on our caregiver, dental cleanings, and other improvements for his life. So I’ll be looking into lower cost solutions to see if I can achieve this same innovation.

Puddles, the Almost Therapy Dog

 Puddles  Cat

Article: HOW ANIMAL THERAPY HELPS DEMENTIA PATIENTS

Therapy dogs are pretty common for many different illnesses and difficult situations. Simon recently found the article above about how therapy dogs can help with dementia and it resonated with him. This article focused on how therapy dogs or cats can particularly bring improvements in reducing agitation, improving physical activity, improving eating, and providing pleasure to dementia patients.

The Garcia family has Puddles – a seven year old English Springer Spaniel. She’s a great dog – very loving, well trained, and fairly calm now that she’s getting older. Puddles has been with the family her whole life including when Jorge was in earlier stages of the disease. What’s great is that Jorge still seems to recognize her when she’s around even though she doesn’t currently live with him. But when she’s around it seems to provide a sense of familiarity.

Having Puddles around often seems to give him a sense of responsibility as well. He enjoys taking care of something and the sense of independence. It’s a nice change to him feeling like he’s the one being taken care of. He’ll walk her on the lease and throw or kick a ball for her. He’ll often sit on the couch and pet her for a while too. It seems to help him stay calm and comfortable even in unfamiliar situations. So we’ll keep bringing Puddles around and hopefully she’ll keep adding pleasure to his life.

A Lesson from Nelly – I am #1

No. 1 Pin Acoustic Guitar

ARTICLE: Overcoming the Stigma of Dementia

Today I read the interesting article above that hits on several points that we’ve definitely experienced as well as pointing out a different way of thinking about things. The unique perspective in this article notes that man dementia patients feel let down by their communities, feel misunderstood, scared, and have a lowered sense of self-esteem due to how society stereotypes people with the disease. Their opinions and conversations are “discounted and dismissed.” I know this happens with Jorge and it’s hard when there is mental damage. The article also emphasizes other things we’ve seen with Jorge – the need to accomplish something and performing daily activities. The author highlights that all people feel better about themselves when they have a sense of their own worth and importance and that everyone feels the need to accomplish or do something valuable. So we need to help find ways for Jorge to achieve this each day.

The other thing that was really interesting about this article is it talked about seeing caregiving help. That’s a hard topic because like the author iterates no one wants to abandon their loved ones. She talks about how it’s better to setup care giving and look for adult day cares early on in the diagnosis because change is more readily accepted then. She also recognizes like in most situations – like ours – the caregiving search doesn’t happen until the the middle stages when caregiving becomes more difficult. She offers comfort though. Whenever adjustments happen, whether introducing a new caregiver or a new environment, the key is to help your family member or friend connect with the new situation so they begin to associate feelings of safety, happiness, and comfort with it. They may not remember the person or place or people’s names, but the feelings are being stored in their brain and they will recognize “safety and companionship and they respond to that.” She also mentions how singing and music help with this process. We know Jorge loves music and all the articles I read emphasize this. Music and songs (what she calls rhythmic responses) need less mental processing and music is usually a positive trigger for people. The Garcia family is very musically talented and is always singing and playing instruments so I think that’s why music is a very strong positive stimuli for Jorge.

The final item that I found interesting is this – “thanks to the amygdala, that adjustment period is often shorter than most people expect.” I think this is encouraging. It may take Jorge a little while to adapt to new situations and we’re scared because we don’t want a bad reaction and it’s hard to explain his situation to society, but because he is storing positive feelings we just need to focus on helping recreate those feelings until he becomes comfortable. We saw this with Jorge and how quickly a new caregiver has helped and become his friend.

So we’re just going to keep playing music!

Minority Demand

United Nations flag

ARTICLE: Suburban Senior Day Cares Cater to Dramatic Ethnic Population Growth

There’s a growing demand for day cares tailored to a niche group of minority adults. As the population of baby boomers keeps aging and the number of Dementia cases continues to rise, the demand for these day cares services continues to grow. The aging baby boomer population is also no longer traditional english speaking, American-raised adults. There is a growing number of culturally diverse individuals that come from all different backgrounds. Spanish. Chinese. Japanese. Russian. Groups that not only speak different languages (often with little to no understanding of English), but who also enjoy different activities. Music, interests, and activities they’re familiar with may be different. These individuals need care personalized to help them and better understand their needs.

In our experience, we’ve had issues finding a day care center where Dad feels comfortable and where the nurses can understand and meet his needs. As a human being he wants to be understood and this has been a challenge. It’s already difficult as some of his language skills and understanding declines, but then to add the complexity of him not understanding English makes it impossible for him to partake and understand the English instructed activities. We haven’t been able to find a Spanish speaking day care center in Atlanta. We did find one in Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, but these cities aren’t the only ones with Spanish speaking populations anymore.

It’s also been difficult finding centers that ease the burden for the caretakers. The centers near us only have activities and support until 3PM. If my brother and I work until 6 what are we supposed to do? There’s a need for centers that are available during business hours – just like how child care centers are open a little before and a little after the traditional 9-5 work hours.

We’ll continue to look for the right fit for Dad.

– Pedro

Toys for Entertaining Dementia Patients

Stacking CupsTambourine

We had a lunch and learn at work today about innovation and diversity. The main points were innovation comes from blending diverse ideas together. Two existing but unique ideas when combined together can create something innovative. Another point was coming up with lots of ideas. Not all are going to work well, so constantly come up with ideas and combining different ideas and eventually one should stick. And the final point was about the process of getting to a great idea. Most great ideas or new innovative products don’t come about in one grand action or plan. Most ideas form after small iterative attempts to create something great or to solve a problem. Often taking the smallest step is the hardest but the first in creating the great and innovative solution.

So during the lunch and learn I kept thinking about all the ideas Pedro has come up with to help with his dad and tried to determine what the smallest steps are that we can take to help his dad. Yesterday we were hanging out with Rachel and Mateo and some small comment made him grumpy and we didn’t have a great way to help him become happy again. So I was thinking about toys and games or something that could distract him and make him happy. So what are some toys out there or toys we could create as a first step in helping increase his happiness.

Here are some ideas I found on the internet or thought would be good to invest in.

Since many of these are kids toys I’m going to reach out to my family and see if they have toys my younger siblings and I are now to old to play with. These can probably also be easily found at garage sales which traditionally have lots of children’s items. I’ll report back which items we tried and which ones George enjoys.

Creating the Best New Normal

Statue of Libery Welcome Sign

ARTICLE: DEMENTIA VILLAGE INSPIRES NEW CARE

I read this interesting article a couple days ago about a Dutch village made entirely of residents with dementia. The residents were allowed to go anywhere in the village and it was setup so there was only one door to get in or out. All the stores and events in the village were managed by caretakers that were trained in caring for dementia patients as well as some skill like cooking, grocery clerk, cutting hair.

What I liked about this article was that the residents could walk around freely. They could explore and feel like this was their home and community while still being supervised at every moment. This article and one of the videos also touched on the power of music. I think I’ll do some more research on the link between dementia and music because there’s some really powerful elements there.

But this village is a really interesting read. The author highlighted that these residents live longer, eat better, and report a higher quality of life. I think that’s attributed to the freedom and “independence” they experience as well as the sense of ownership and having a home all their own.

I know this is something we’re working to create for George. He’s currently living with Mateo and Rachel so he can be supervised, but how can we create a place for him that he feels like is his and where he has the freedom to roam around and not get into anything troublesome? I think the other key takeaway here is having activities like music, grocery shopping, courtyards where he can be engaged and not bored during the day.

What are some other activities that can help with engagement levels – activities that are not overly complicated but that will keep engagement up for a time?

Arnold Had It Right

Body Builder Weight Plates

 

article: PUMPING IRON COULD WARD OFF DEMENTIA

I read the article above today from The University of Sydney’s Brain & Mind Research Institute. The study had patients suffering from mild cognitive impairment, which is often a precursor to dementia, do weight lifting exercises for six months. The patients’ cognitive functions improved after the six months and continued to persist at higher levels a year after the study. Planning, organizing, strategizing, and visual memory function improvement were specifically called out.

I think this is a fairly easy idea to grasp. I grew up learning exercise is good for us. It decreases stress levels and depression, helps reduce heart disease and high blood pressure. It releases serotonin – the feel good hormone – and increases energy. So it’s seems obvious that exercise is good for those suffering with a mental disease as well.  I think the exciting part of this study is the opportunity that exercise presents for maintaining and even improving mental capabilities in dementia patients.

Weight training is interesting too. They didn’t have the patients walk or play sports or any other type of exercise. The study was looking at if the hormones released during weight training  that lead to muscle growth might also help lead to brain growth. And it seems there’s a correlation. Pedro’s done some weight lifting exercises with George before. George seemed to have a good time with it. Although it can be a little scary when he gets distracted lifting a free weight above his head! We definitely need to invest in some of those small colorful free weights. I’m sure TJ Maxx and Ross have some pretty cheap ones in their workout equipment section.

I think the other key here is investing the time to figure out some weight training exercises that are simple, repeatable, and easy enough to practice. Also, first get doctors approval for participation. The study did weight training sessions twice a week. And do a warm up before and cool down after working out.

Here are some activities they used or that the CDC recommends for elderly weight training.

  • squats
  • lunges
  • bicep curls
  • overhead press
  • walking up stairs
  • resistance band rows

Maybe in a future post Illl record which activities George enjoyed best.

Additional Resources

CDC Exercise Activities for the Elderly

Welcome to the Garcia Family Blog

WHO WE ARE

Family photo Christmas 2014

Family photo Christmas 2014 – Ana, Dorotea, Puddles, Pedro, Kelsey, Daniel, Maria, George, Simon, Sofia, Mateo, Rachel

Tumadro is the Garcia family incorporated. It was born out of the entrepreneurial spirit of the family and as the first step in creating the family company. The Garcia family is expansive, but the core family unit is Dorotea, George, Mateo, Pedro, Maria, Ana, Simon, and Sofia. The family has begun to grow with Mateo marrying Rachel and I dating Pedro. I’m lovingly called the IT Department by Pedro which is why I’ve taken the first step in managing this website and setting up a blog. My goal in setting up this blog is that they can begin to capture the hundreds of ideas and opportunities they come up with each day. That may be me capturing them to begin with, but over time their voices will be active on here as well.

The Garcia members are are entrepreneurs at heart – all ambitious to create something great and to do it together. They all have very different skill sets. Mateo in the medical industry making huge strides in South American sales as well as having degrees in physics and industrial engineering. Pedro is by far the most personal and relatable person I know – he can talk to anyone and makes friends so easily. He’s also got a degree in industrial engineering and is my go to Excel wizard. Maria is so talented in a way I could never dream up – designing amazing stages for some of the largest events in the world (superbowl, Ultra, rock of roll hall of fame, and many more). Ana is the free spirit – business focused but never settling for the easy road. Degree in international relations minoring in economics and business. She’s leveraged her passions working with several startup companies since graduation. Simon is the talented opera singer about to begin his college adventure studying under world renowned professors. Sofia is the two-time student body president of her high school (going for the third and final run this semester)! She’s also very musically inclined with a great Nora Jones kind of jazzy voice. I should mention they’re all musically inclined – singing, playing guitar, piano, trumpet, trombone, saxaphone. Dorotea heads the family and has a lot of the characteristics of her kids – artistic, great at connecting people, discovering opportunities, helping friends and family. George is the good natured father. He was a cattle rancher when they were all growing up in Colombia (they moved to the US in 1997). In the past few years George has developed Dementia. He’s young and this has put a lot of stress on the family to take care of him in a way that honors him. I think many of these blog posts will focus on that journey as they seek out more information about this disease as well as the battles they continue to face in helping care for him.

Ana, George, and Maria walking around in Atlanta.

Ana, George, and Maria

Mateo, Simon, and Pedro at Mateo's wedding.

Mateo, Simon, and Pedro

Simon, Ana, Sofia, and Dorotea

Simon, Ana, Sofia, and Dorotea

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHY AND WHAT

The intent of this blog is to capture ideas.

  • About dementia – how to prevent brain and function deterioration, breakthroughs in science, coping emotionally. This disease still has many unknowns and I think others are struggling with similar situations. Hopefully this blog may help others with ideas or provide an opportunity for idea sharing.
  • Home renovations and design – I bought a house recently! And it’s a bit of a fixer-upper, so if the family ever runs short of ideas (or more likely just hasn’t shared them yet) I may share some of the projects I’m working on in my house (idea sharing, feedback).
  • Opportunities – this entrepreneurial family is full of ideas and it’s time to start capturing some of them to see if it’s worth bringing them to life.

If any of these ideas are interesting to you I hope you’ll find this blog valuable. And I’ll try to flag the category of the blog post since these are pretty broad!

Please leave comments or email us with any thoughts, questions, or suggestions at info@tumadro.com.