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The Ribbon - Care for Caregivers
Volume 2, Issue 17
September 3, 1999

I hope this issue finds everyone looking forward to a long Labor Day Weekend. Enjoy yourselves on this last long weekend of the summer.

Medical Problems

People with dementing illnesses can also suffer from other diseases ranging from relatively minor problems, like the flu, to serious illnesses. They may not be able to tell you they are in pain (even if they are able to speak well) or they may neglect their bodies. Cuts, bruises, or even broken bones can go unnoticed. People who sit or lie for long periods of time may develop pressure sores. Their physical health may gradually decline. Correction of even minor physical problems can greatly help people who suffer from dementing illnesses.

You may have experienced a feeling of mental "dullness" when you were sick. This phenomenon can be worse in people with dementing illnesses, who seem to be especially vulnerable to additional troubles. A delirium can be brought about by other conditions (flu, a minor cold, pneumonia, heart trouble, reactions to medications, and many other things) and it may look like a sudden worsening of the dementia. However, the delirium (and the symptoms) usually goes away when the condition is treated. You should check routinely for signs of illness or injury and call them to the attention of your doctor.

People who cannot express themselves well may not be able to answer yes or no when you ask them specific questions such as, "Does your head hurt?" Even people who still express themselves well may fail to recognize or may be unable to report pain.
All indications of pain or illness must be taken seriously. It is important to find a physician who is gentle, who understands the patient's condition, and who will take care of general medical problems. Do not let a doctor dismiss a patient because she is "senile" or "old". Insist that her infection be treated and her pains diagnosed and relieved. Because of the person's vulnerability to delirium, it is wise to check with the doctor about even minor conditions, such as a cold.

Signals of Illness:

  • Abrupt worsening of behavior (such as refusal to do things she was previously willing to do)

  • Fever (a temperature over 100 degrees F). When taking a temperature, use the new liquid-crystal thermometers that are placed against the skin or thermometers with a plastic-coated "probe". These are available in drug stores. Confused people may bite a glass thermometer. Older people may not have a significant fever even when they are seriously ill. Lack of a fever does not mean that the person is well.

  • Flushing or paleness

  • Rapid pulse (over 100), not obviously associated with exercise. Normal for most people is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Have a nurse show you how to find a pulse in the wrist. Count for 20 seconds and multiply by 3. It is helpful to know what a normal pulse is for the individual.

  • Vomiting or diarrhea

  • Changes in the skin (it may lose its elasticity or look dry or pale)

  • Dry, pale gums or sores in the mouth

  • Thirst or refusal of fluids or foods

  • Change in personality, increased irritability, or increased lassitude or drowsiness

  • Headache

  • Moaning or shouting

  • Sudden onset of convulsions, hallucinations, or falls

  • Becoming incontinent

  • Swelling of any part of the body (check especially hands and feet)

  • Coughing, sneezing, signs of respiratory congestion, or difficulty breathing.


Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has the person had even a minor fall?

  • Has she moved her bowels in the last seventy-two hours?

  • Has she had a recent change (within the past month) in medication?

  • Is she suddenly not moving an arm or leg?

  • Is she wincing in pain?

  • Does she have other health problems, such as heart disease, arthritis, or a cold?

If a person begins to lose weight, this may indicate the presence of a serious disease. It is important that your doctor determine the cause of any weight loss. A person who has lost 10 percent of her weight needs to be seen by a physician as soon as possible.

Medical News

LSU Scientist Says New Drug Will Save Brain Cells Attacked By Neurological
Injury Or Disease

NEW ORLEANS, La., Aug. 24 - A new drug that may prevent the death of brain cells endangered by Alzheimer's disease, head injury, stroke or epilepsy was described here today by Nicolas G. Bazan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence at Louisiana State University. He presented his findings at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. Bazan said he has found the gene responsible for producing an inflammatory protein known to precede brain cell death in conditions of injury or disease-and discovered how to switch it off. Both gene and protein are called cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2). Injury or disease triggers a chain reaction that signals the gene to produce the chemical messenger RNA, which in turn instructs the gene to produce the killer protein. His new drug prevents the production of COX-2 and stops the signaling process before the genes can be affected.

Bazan's discovery of a novel mechanism to inhibit the expression of pathological genes led to the development, in collaboration with organic chemists, of a drug that renders these genes inactive in animal models of neurodegenerative disease. His laboratory will now enter the pre-clinical phase of research.

Bazan's laboratory also studies processes that could lead to the regeneration of diseased and damaged neural pathways. This work focuses on the design of small molecules capable of passing through the blood brain barrier. "The combination of a fundamental understanding of neurobiological processes, coupled with the actual power of genetic manipulations, is creating an environment of unparalleled excitement and unlimited possibilities," Bazan said.

Editor's Note: The original news release can be found at
Contributed by NotelyJoan


A reminder to those who are interested in attending the Gathering of Friends in Nashville, TN on Oct 8, 9, 10. We have only 5 weeks left but there are reservations to be made NOW. If you wish to attend you will need to email both LIZA 513 and Russell363 by this weekend. We know that situations have changed for many over this year and there may be some who can now make the trip. There are also many newcomers. Again, if you wish to attend send that email NOW!!

Disclaimer: This "Gathering" is being arranged by a group of friends. It is not spontored by Better Health or AOL. therefore, we ask that you not discuss it in any of the caregiver support chats as their purpose is to provide support for caregivers, not to do planning. Thanks for your cooperation.


Click here: TIME Magazine: Taking Care Of Our Aging Parents

Click here: InteliHealth - Home to Johns Hopkins Health Information: Health News

IPA CONGRESS: Aricept Effective, Well-Tolerated For Long-Term Alzheimer's Treatment

E-mail Bag


Hi Everyone:

After 15 months of being a primary caregiver, I was able to plan and actually go on a much needed vacation. A cruise in Alaska, which I carefully planned since last October. My sister, re-organized her life and time to take over for me at home, while my younger brother (with Down's Syndrome) was allowed that same week off to be "the man in charge". Although I had a few apprehensions, and was re-assured by my sister that all would be fine, my fears disappeared as soon as I boarded the airplane for Vancouver. I refused to call home the entire week to check on things. I knew my sister had emergency contact numbers just in case. My trip was enjoyable and much needed. My God-Child accompanied me and we both had a great time. On my return, Mom almost knocked me over when I came in the door. She was very happy to see me and glad that I had a good time. The very next day, as we had breakfast together, Mom said, "I missed your laugh this week, say something funny and laugh please?" I thought "hmmmm" and said, "OK Mom, every day I am going to make you laugh, since you like to hear me laugh." And I have. It's not hard, I start singing a silly song or tell a story and she starts giggling with me. I think my being silly and laughing from time to time has helped her recovery. I decided to hang a plaque outside my front door that says "Dark clouds not allowed in this house. Leave your bad moods outside, or don't bother to enter. Be prepared to LAUGH!"
I am looking forward to next year's vacation.....I just may make a tape recording of my silliness for Mom to listen to when I am away.
Peace to all of you!
Dee a.k.a. ESKIMODEE


dear karen
thks for news letter,, i read the letters and i know we are not alone , one day i will write and tell you about my experience with this dreaded disease my letter may be a bit different then most you receive , as my wife is still in denial about her mom.,(my nana),she will not go and visit her, and i doubt she ever will pop pop goes and visits every other day , nana says she wants to go home, but pop tells her not today , and she is fine with that , she just smiles and says "ok" but soon.. after reading the 7 stages , nana is a close to a 6 . i still get teary eyed when i think , i had to put her there, ,pop had his kidney removed and no way he could take care of her, plus he is 88 and the toll on him was too much . nana is getting the care she needs, is clean again, relaxed, and content. the nurses and aides are wonderful special people, i could never do their jobs. they all know nana , give her hugs, and truly care about her. i am sure this was the only and right decision ,people shd not feel guilty. it is so much better than her sitting in her chair day after day , just smiling and not talking, take care

From Mtty82

I would like to know how to get some one to let you bath her with out fussing about it In short, my mom is 80, never got out much before AD, so she does not like people. She smokes, watches some TV, and looks out the window, I got her a bird today so she could watch it. Every day I tell her its time to get dressed or wash up, she says, tomorrow or she does not need it , so we go through a fussing period. Could you send me some tips on how to deal with this. I have the 36 hr. book but it does not tell you how to deal with washing up, eating, taking medicine etc

Have a Relaxing and Safe Labor Day!!

Hugs and Peace,

Karen (KMenges581)
Jamie (DrMOM1955)

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