Category Archives: caregiver

Dementia and Medication Distribution–a Daily Challenge for the Caregiver

Small pill organizer

By Larry Peterson

In America, one in ten people over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s Disease. (Alzheimer’s Disease is only one of many types of dementia. There are also other types, such as Vascular Dementia or Lewy Body Dementia and many others). Please note: There is no “magic” pill that can cure Alzheimer’s Disease.

Since I was the caregiver for my wife, Marty, who had this insidious illness, I thought I could share some of my experience in dealing with the medication factor. It was a challenge, to say the least, because the meds were being constantly adjusted and oftentimes changed to something different.

Medicine distribution by the caregiver could be the most critical factor in a person’s quality of life. Medications are powerful and, if used as directed, cannot only prolong the patient’s life but can also help maintain a better quality of life for a longer period of time. Please note: There is no “magic pill” that cures Alzheimer’s Disease.

My first tip is, and I believe this may be the best tip I can give anyone: You called a plumber when you had a broken water pipe so now you have called a doctor for a damaged loved one. You need their expertise and you should expect crisp, clear answers to any questions you may have. Whether or not the patient is your spouse, child, parent, grandparent or old Aunt Lucille, never be afraid to ask a question.

Alzheimer’s Disease presents in three general stages; early stage (mild), middle-stage (moderate), and late-stage (severe). During the early stages, the patient will still be able to interact with you about the medications they are receiving. However, as time goes by, invariably these meds will change and increase in dosages. In addition, the patient will start to lose the ability to understand what is going on. That is when your responsibility begins moving into high gear especially when it comes to med distribution.

Marty suffered from several illnesses. Besides Alzheimer’s Disease, she was recovering from cancer, (Lymphoma),  had A-Fib (Atrial Fibrillation is a leading cause of strokes) and a severely broken ankle. This required the involvement of not only her primary care doctor but also an oncologist, a cardiologist, and an orthopedist. They had all prescribed different meds.

The first time you are presented with a bag of various medications it can be an intimidating experience. You look in the bag and see a bunch of vials and a packet of paperwork. The paperwork includes individual explanations and descriptions of each of the meds in the bag. Take a breath, stand each vial on the table or counter and match each one to its corresponding paperwork.

Next step is to make a list of every one of the meds, the dosage of each, and how many times a day it is supposed to be given. (FYI–the letter X denotes times per day so a 3X means three times a day). I entered my list into a word.doc format and stored it on my computer. This way it was easy to update as doses and meds were changed by the doctors. I also printed copies out and always had one with me when visiting one of the doctors or making a visit to the hospital.

The next thing you MUST do for yourself is to purchase a pill box organizer. These are (in my opinion–indispensable). Since I had to distribute meds 4X a day I purchased an organizer that had four rows of seven-day pockets with snap-lock lids. I also had an organizer that had two rows of seven pockets which I used for vitamin supplements.

Once a week, usually on a Saturday evening, I would clear the table and spread the medicine vials out. After several weeks I began to know exactly where everything was supposed to go. For example; Furosemide (a water pill aka Lasix) could only be given on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, Coumadin (a blood thinner, was given in doses of  6mg  4X a week and 7.5 mg 3X a week). The pillbox organizer made it quite simple to separate these meds properly into their designated days.

Once the pill box organizer was filled I was ready for the week ahead. When Sunday morning came the routine started all over. I just had to open the Sunday morning box and take out those pills and give them to my patient. Then it was off to Mass.

©Copyright 2017 Larry Peterson

Alzheimer’s Keeps Reminding Me Why I Love being Catholic

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

I have written about my wife, Marty’s, Alzheimer’s Disease several times. This is another. It was unplanned and spontaneous, triggered by the unique world she and I have come to share together.

pineterest.com


I was trying to write something but I was stuck in “neutral”. No pencil scratching, no pen sliding, no keyboard clicking. Then Marty came in and stood there just looking at me and not saying anything.  I smiled at her and said, “What’s going on?”

She shakes her head and says, “I really do not feel like going to work tomorrow.” (She has not worked in almost ten years)

I nonchalantly reply, “Okay, then don’t.”

“Larry, please don’t start with me. You know I have bills to pay.”

“Well then, I’ll call in for you. I’ll tell them you are not feeling good.”

She quickly throws a curve at me. I back away, surprised at the sudden diversion. Raising her voice she says, “We had better get a few things straight. I have standards and I am not going to be living in sin. I cannot be living here if we are not married.”

I did not know what that had to do with her ‘job” but I mentally bobbed and weaved and circled around. Quickly I said, “We are married.”

She was stunned. She stared at me and I stared back. A moment passed and she said, “We are?”
“Yes Marty, we have been married for ten years.”

“I suppose you know this for a fact? How can you be sure?”

“We have the papers to prove it.”

 I quickly said an emergency “Hail Mary” asking for help. God knew I was in over my head and immediately sent one of His special people. Maybe it was St. Therese or St. Joseph or maybe St. Martha. I really did not care who it was but just like that I had a “thought”. (These folks do not fool around when sent on a mission).

I had her sit down on the sofa and wait for me. I headed back to my “office” (some may call it a man-cave) and began rifling through the file cabinet in the corner. The top drawer is stuffed with all sorts of “important” papers and I knew that somewhere amongst the mass of unorganized stuff was our marriage license. I started scratching away, peeling papers apart.

I did not keep track of the time but when I looked at the mess of papers I had strewn about it must have been fifteen minutes. Then I hit pay-dirt. I found our marriage license. I was sure this would prove to her once and for all that we were, in fact, married.

I hurried back to the sofa and to the woman who immediately asked if I had just gotten home. “Yes,” I shouted. “And look what I have.”

The Pinellas County Marriage License was too confusing for her to understand. The print was small and even though our names were legible and the paper was emblazoned with the words, “Marriage Record”, it did not convince her. I realized she needed “Catholic” proof. That was why she had used the words “living in sin”. Now we come to why I wrote this in the first place.

I slowly headed back to the file cabinet to put the marriage license away. But I had not noticed when pulling the marriage license out that behind it was the 8 X 11 marriage certificate that the church had given us. It was behind the license the whole time. I could not believe it.

It was not a legal document but it was a BEAUTIFUL CATHOLIC document. It had our names on it. On the left side was a Cross with connected wedding bands connected to it. The church’s name was there and it was signed by the deacon and the pastor. It was also perfect for framing.

I had an 11 x 14 frame that was unused. Ten minutes later I brought it out to her. I had her sit next to me on the sofa. “Are you ready?” I asked.

“For what?”

I held this framed certificate up in front of her. She stared and stared at it and then she looked at me and began to cry. She put her head on my shoulder and cried some more. We have used the Hail Mary and the Rosary to help us over some rough Alzheimer moments. This time the purely Catholic marriage document was the answer to the prayer. It now hangs in the Florida room and she can see it every day anytime she needs to. Damn—I love being Catholic.

                                        ©Copyright Larry Peterson 2017

Alzheimer's & Marty; Their First Anniversary

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

It is now almost one year since my wife, Marty, was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease. The doctor gave us the news as we sat together. She acted as if she understood. She did not. I have told her that she has Alzheimer’s disease and she tells me that she understands. She does not. What she does understand is that something is terribly wrong with her memory. Watching her fight to remember simple everyday things such as whether or not she drinks coffee and she has been drinking it her entire life, is heartbreaking.

No one can tell she is ill, except me, of course, and several close friends that know about her condition.  When I take her with me to church and to the stores etc. and we see people we know, I always hear how “wonderful” she looks. Yeah, well the Titanic looked all bright and shiny as it headed out into the Atlantic that cold, April day in 1912. When the iceberg did its dirty deed the Titanic was doomed.  Nothing could have ever stopped her sinking into the cold Atlantic. 



A year after diagnosis Marty has become my new seven year-old existing in an older body. She is very insecure and becomes frightened if I am not nearby. She still tries to maintain her independence as a self-sufficient person even though she cannot remember where to put the forks or cups. As her caregiver my life has become disconnected and very unpredictable because of her needing so much while trying to not need anything. Alzheimer’s is never just the patient’s illness. On the contrary, it latches on to the love of those close to its victim using that love in a sordid attempt to destroy their spirit. Most times that  results in abject failure because the power of love often proves to be much stronger than the evil disease. Sometimes not.

For me, my work as a writer has become a bit scattered.  It has become a fascinating existence where focus has become an evasive shadow and cohesive sentences are written in pieces and then squirreled together at another time.  However, I am blessed. I have been given the gift of faith which allows me to trust the God above. This gift helps me to  realize that this woman is now a special treasure from Him entrusted to my care. I have told Him, “No problem Lord, I have her back and will do my best until whatever is to be will be.”  (But believe me, I do have my “knee-buckling” moments.)
 Today, more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s Disease and about 200,000 of those folks are under the age of 65. It is the only disease among the top ten that cannot be prevented, slowed or cured. The disease kills more people every year than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. It is estimated that by the year 2050, 16 million people will have this disease. Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds. They have estimated that by 2050 it will be every 33 seconds. This is an epidemic growing before our eyes. It is also becoming a nightmare for more and more moms, dads, sons, daughters, grandchildren, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends and society as a whole.
Imagine that all around the country there are people like Marty having their brains slowly erased by an invisible demon inside their heads. Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh; back and forth, back and forth, the tiny eraser keeps moving–back and forth, back and forth. Slowly but methodically the demon goes about its work 24/7. After a while, the person under attack does not even remember how to go to the bathroom. And then, after a time, the eraser stops. It stops when the disease it is part of finally erases the person’s life.
That is the course of the relentless, unstoppable, illness known as Alzheimer’s Disease. It is at work at this very moment in different minds all over the world. Somehow, someway we will have to stop it. We will need God’s help because this war cannot be won without Him.
                                       copyright©Larry Peterson 2015