More Caregiver Tips with Master Alzheimer’s Caregiver Jo Huey
By Estate Planning Attorney Rick Law. Senior Advocate at Law Elder Law in Western Chicago, IL. Q: How common is it for an older person suffering from Dementia or Alzheimer’s to falsely accuse a younger person of theft or manipulation? A: I’ve seen some attorneys conduct family meetings in their office, and I believe that is the right strategy. You get everyone together and spend time just getting acquainted and then you can pick up on what’s really happening by watching the body language of everyone in the room. Body language can be much more informative than just listening to their words. After the family meeting, have the people separate and then talk to each one about the same things. When interviewing the client, ask questions like, “Tell me what you need your money for. What are you going to do with it? What are your plans? Who do you want to have your money and things after you’re gone? Why?” This type of interview will help the attorney sort out whether or not their client still has the ability to appreciate what they have and what is really happening around them. I think the attorney needs to be very calm during these meetings. An attorney can provide great value to the client and family, because most families seldom get around to having those types of discussions. If you look at the model of a geriatric care manager, one of the first things they do is go to the home and interview the individual who needs care as well as the family. They do this before they work on the care plan. If the attorney would consider the model of the geriatric care manager, they would get the family together and do an assessment before the attorney decides on the right course of action. Too often, I’ve seen situations where the attorney “charges the enemy” before really knowing who is hostile and who is a friend. Q: Is it very common for people to go through the full Alzheimer’s disease trajectory and then actually die of Alzheimer’s? A: Although Alzheimer’s disease is an illness that ends in death, most often people die from other causes first, such as stroke or heart attack. The most common death for people with Alzheimer’s or a related disorder is infections, especially pneumonia and sepsis (an infection that goes into the bloodstream). The most common forms of sepsis for people with Alzheimer’s tend to be from things the ordinary person wouldn’t even think of, mainly urinary tract infection, also called UTI, or a bowel backup. The tough reality is that it’s very difficult for a person with Alzheimer’s to tell you what’s going on internally and it tends to get overlooked by the care staff because the behaviors of somebody with a urinary tract infection often are not seen as an infection. They get very ill very quickly and it happens so fast. Q: Will you share with me some principles to improve communication with someone affected by Alzheimer’s disease. What do we need to know? A: The name of my book is “Alzheimer’s Disease, Help and Hope: Ten Simple Solutions for Caregivers”. The 10 Absolutes are communication tools to allow caregivers (and perhaps lawyers) to know what to say and what not to say when working with people affected by Alzheimer’s. My goal is to help people motivate those with Alzheimer’s to do the right things, such as taking a bath. I also want to help people to avoid the non-stop battles and enjoy what time they have together. There are still lots of things that a person with Alzheimer’s may be able to do, and they still need to have some meaning and purpose in their lives. Too often, everything is taken away from them and they feel like there is nothing left worth living for. The Ten Absolutes are:
- Never argue; instead, agree.
- Never reason; instead, divert.
- Never embarrass; instead, distract.
- Never lecture; instead, reassure.
- Never say, “Remember”; instead, reminisce.
- Never say, “I told you”; instead, repeat/regroup.
- Never say, “You can’t”; instead, do what they can.
- Never command/demand; instead, ask/model.
- Never condescend; instead, encourage/praise.
- Never force; instead, reinforce.