Monday, July 29, 2013

Missouri Woman with Alzheimer's Still Missing!

Hellen Cook who has Alzheimer's has been missing since July 13 from her Warsaw, Missouri, home. She is 72 years old, weighs 97 pounds, has brown hair and hazel eyes. She is 4'10" tall.

Some of her personal items were found near a large pond, but divers and search dogs have not found Hellen. Dogs lost her scent at the highway so it is possible that someone gave her a ride.  Her family is frantic to find her. Please, if you see her, call 911. Pass her picture on to all your Facebook friends in other states.

Keep looking and keep posting until Hellen is home. Remember her and her family in your prayers.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Search for Missing Missouri Woman with Alzheimer’s

Hellen Cook, Vulnerable Adult Missing
It’s every Alzheimer’s caregiver’s nightmare—a loved one has gone missing and can’t be found. On July 13, Hellen Cook tended to yard work while her husband mowed at their home in Warsaw, Missouri. Her husband left for fifteen or twenty minutes to return his mower to the barn, and when he returned, Hellen no longer sat on the porch swing. She had vanished.

Yes, I know that heart-stopping moment firsthand. While we were still seeking a diagnosis for Jim, he accompanied me, and several members of our Board of Directors on a business trip to Las Vegas. Everything was going fine until we were at the airport headed home. While I went to get our boarding passes, Jim had to go to the restroom. It was within sight of where I was standing. I finished and then became concerned about why he hadn’t returned.

One of the directors went into the restroom to check on him, and discovered that he wasn’t there. “We’ll find him,” Francis said, probably with much more confidence than he felt. The directors fanned out and within ten minutes had found Jim.

“He was pretty easy to spot,” Don Joe said with a laugh. And he was, wearing a bright red Kansas City T-shirt and a cowboy hat.

That was only the first of many searches. I was by myself when I lost him at the mall. Security helped me find him. Once again, he had gone to the bathroom but went the wrong direction when he came out. I lost him at Silver Dollar City—twice—and one of those times he had our grandson with him. I learned the hard way that the bathroom had two exits.

All it took was for me to be distracted for a few minutes and he would be gone. I was folding clothes one time and my sister-in-law called to say Jim was walking down the road in front of their house. One time a neighbor found him several miles from home and close to the highway.

Of all the times he went missing, the scariest one was the night I woke up to discover he wasn't in bed. After I searched the house and realized he was gone, I was frantic. Thankfully, he always stayed on the road and walked the same direction, so I did know where to start looking. I got in the car and found him within a few miles of home. He was fully dressed, complete with dark sunglasses, cowboy hat, and using his cane.

Even the best caregivers can lose track of someone with Alzheimer’s. Sixty percent of people with Alzheimer’s wander. The Alzheimer’s Association has two programs to help with the search efforts. One is MedicAlert + Safe Return. Jim was registered with Safe Return. Although it doesn’t keep them from wandering it does help activate the search immediately. The ID jewelry will alert others that the person is memory impaired and all they have to do is call the toll free number.

A new program, Comfort Zone, uses technology to remotely monitor a person with Alzheimer’s. If they leave the pre-set safety zone, family members can be alerted via email, text message, mobile phone, or the internet. I’m excited about this new program and could see how it would be more reliable than counting on neighbors to notice that a person with dementia seems to be lost.

If your loved one is lost, don’t search for more than fifteen minutes without calling for help. When you dial 911, tell them a vulnerable adult is missing. Beginning a timely search is crucial to finding your loved one. The Alzheimer’s Association shares the statistic that ninety-four percent of people who wander are found within a mile and a half of where they disappeared. The more people who search immediately, the better chance you have of finding your loved one.

Hundreds have joined the search for Hellen Cook, who went missing two weeks ago. Dogs were used early on but they lost her scent at the highway. That led everyone to believe that she had been picked up by someone in a car. Family, friends, and other volunteers, including the Alzheimer’s Association local chapter, conducted a ground search. In a wooded area near a pond they found boots, a scarf, and a hat believed to belong to Hellen. 

The search continues for Hellen and her loved ones are more fearful each day. Please be on the lookout for Hellen, and remember her and her family in your prayers.

Copyright (c) July 2013 by L.S. Fisher


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Caregiver Emotion #7 – Grief

A primary caregiver has a tremendous emotional stake in meeting his or her responsibilities to his loved one. Although taking care of the physical needs of someone who has Alzheimer’s is challenging, a survey of caregivers revealed that their biggest challenge was grief.

When you are a caregiver, your grief is anticipatory. Once you’ve heard the diagnosis and accepted the inevitable outcome, you can’t help but grieve about the future. The future looks bleak, and you may want to grab time and make it stand still.

My first reaction after hearing the Alzheimer’s diagnosis was, “There is medicine for that, isn’t there?” I had paid scant attention to Alzheimer’s, but had heard that treatments had been developed. It was a real wake up call to find out the treatment for Alzheimer’s only helps with symptoms and does not slow down, much less stop, the disease.

Grief for a caregiver is also ambiguous, without a defined beginning or end. You may not begin to grieve until you’ve completed tests to rule out treatable conditions. Since Alzheimer’s is often diagnosed by ruling out other possibilities, you may go through a time when you think that what your loved one has will get better with time. Some of the theories we heard: depression, low blood sugar, vitamin B deficiency, stroke. It’s pretty bad when you latch onto the possibility of a stroke. Yes, strokes are bad, but there is hope that you can recover from a stroke.

After all the tests, and treatments for other possible conditions, Jim continued to lose more skills. So when did the grieving process begin? I’m just not sure. Was it the day he asked me to tune his guitar? Jim was a master musician who played by ear and it always seemed magical to me how he could hear the slightest nuance when something was out of tune. Me, I can’t tune a guitar, never could, and never will be able to, and Jim should have known that. Could it have been the day I realized he could no longer read the books he loved? Maybe it was the time he couldn’t remember how to work the remote control.

I really don’t remember the day when the grieving started, and I can’t remember when it stopped. All I know is that it was always there right beside me throughout the years of dementia and loss. It didn’t even stop when he died. I know a lot of people say their grieving is done before death happens. Well, it didn’t work that way for me. Death was another loss in a series of losses. I wasn’t able to shut the grief off magically.

It’s often the little things that remind me of the great big hole Jim left behind. After I figured all the grieving was finished, and I’d put it behind me, I noticed it at odd times. There was the day I decided to donate his clothes to charity. Yeah, I know I should have done it sooner. I could have given away his clothes once I realized he wouldn’t be wearing anything other than sweatpants, T-shirts, or sweatshirts. No, I waited. I was doing pretty good until I came across his very favorite shirt. I just couldn’t part with it. Maybe some day I’ll be able to, but it felt like trying to let go of his memory and I wasn’t ready.

That’s the thing about grief. It’s personal and lives inside of us. No one can make another person let go of the grief until it is time. You won’t wake up one morning and find that the grief has just gone away. Nope. It leaves when it’s good and ready.

The thing about grief is, you learn to live with it until you can live without it. Eventually, you begin to look forward to the day, to life, and have a greater appreciation of family and friends. You have learned that time is much too precious to waste, and you refuse to let unbridled grief steal it away. The best way to honor the memory of a person you loved and lost is to live life to the fullest.

Copyright (c) July 2013 by L.S. Fisher

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Caregiver Emotion #6 – Defensiveness

Caregiver Emotion #6 – Defensiveness

After the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you probably delved deep to find all the information you could to be the best caregiver possible. You searched reliable sources on the Internet, contacted the Alzheimer’s Association for educational opportunities, and attended support group to learn about first-hand experiences. After all your work and dedication to caregiving, cousin Sally breezes in for a ten minute visit and proceeds to list things that you are doing wrong and critiquing your job as a primary caregiver. Is it any wonder you become defensive?

Now, before you push Sally out the door and refuse to take any additional calls from her, pause to consider if anything she said had merit. She may not have presented her “help” in the right tone of voice or in a tactful way, but perhaps if you sift through her suggestions, you might find one useful nugget. Since you are the one with experience, and the one who knows your loved one best, you are responsible for using best practices while caring for your loved one, even if your least favorite cousin Sally suggested it.

When you are a caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s, you learn how your loved one reacts to environmental changes. It may not take much to throw everything out of kilter. A gathering of friends and family may once have been something you looked forward to, but now you know it will only confuse the person you are caring for. Rather than just being defensive if someone criticizes your change in entertainment patterns, take a few minutes to explain that circumstances have changed. You don’t want to isolate your loved one, but it will be helpful for friends and family to visit in small groups rather than hosting big events.

One place you do need to be defensive is if anyone tries to take advantage of your loved one. During the early stages, Jim was the telemarketer’s best friend. It seemed that he always agreed to anything they suggested. It wasn’t unusual to come home after work and have Jim say. “Someone called about that thing.”

“What thing?”

“You know, that we want.”

“Who called?”

“I have no idea.”

After a few of those conversations, I installed caller ID. I often had to call to cancel TV programs, donations to various charities, tickets to events we couldn’t attend, and occasionally say no to people we knew who really should have known not to make agreements with Jim.

Primary caregivers have to be defensive when it comes to protecting the person with dementia, but not let defensiveness keep them from accepting help or valuable information. As with every aspect of caring for a person with Alzheimer’s, you need to control emotions, like defensiveness, in order to make the best caregiving decisions.

Copyright (c) July 2013 by L.S. Fisher

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Tommy Capps, Vietnam Veteran, American Hero

Tommy Capps, Finalist for 2013 American Hero of the Year
Independence Day is a time for Americans to take stock of their freedom and think about the human sacrifice that has given it to us. As far as unpopular wars, the Vietnam War has to be at the top of the list. We were a country divided, and the very people who risked their lives to fight for our country were not given a heroes’ welcome when they returned home.

For the first time, war was brought into American homes on the news each day. Even the blood and gore we saw on TV didn’t do justice to the reality of being in a jungle with no way to tell friend from foe.

The Wall in Washington D.C. lists the names of 58,272 people who lost their lives in Vietnam. Others came home injured in body, and countless others came home with shattered spirit. Vietnam veterans became a stereotype, and Jim would often turn a TV show off in disgust saying, “Another crazed Vietnam veteran is the killer.” Hollywood’s idea of a Vietnam veteran was of a trained killer, not a young man who was drafted into jungle warfare against an invisible enemy.

When my eighteen-year-old brother Tommy was drafted and sent to Vietnam, we were all scared for what he would be facing, but my mother was terrified. Three months after his tour of duty began, I woke up one night to hear voices and my mother crying and I knew it had to be about Tommy. I kept thinking, he can’t be dead or I would feel it. I finally realized he had been wounded and was in the states.

Recently, my sister-in-law nominated Tommy for the American Hero of the Year award. This time, the phone call was good news when my brother found out he was a finalist for Hero of the Year when he didn’t even know he had been nominated.

Tommy has shown courage his entire life. After Vietnam he returned to high school and graduated the same year I did. He was a positive influence on the high school kids and I’m sure a lot of would-be dropouts continued their education. He worked in law enforcement as a deputy, chief of police, and detective. Eventually, he worked for the state of Missouri investigating child abuse cases. He was instrumental in sending 230 child abusers and pedophiles to prison. In a five-hundred word essay, Teresa only touched on a few of the highlights. Tommy’s family and friends could tell hundreds of stories about how he’s made his corner of the world better. How he’s been the one you could count on to always do the right thing—maybe not exactly what you asked for, but what you needed.

Tommy has been my hero for years, now America has a chance to make him their hero too. Go to the website and sign up for an account. Once you’ve signed up, sign in and vote once each day between now and August 6. Tommy is already a winner in the contest as well as life.

Copyright (c) July 2013 by L.S. Fisher