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The Ribbon - Care for Caregivers
Volume 6, Issue 23
November 17, 2002

1104A Murfreesboro Pike
PMB 114
Nashville, TN 37217-1918

We've been having some crazy weather around here the past couple of weeks. Last week it was in the upper 70's with tornadoes popping all around and today I don't think we made it to 40 and will have possible snow flurries tonight. It's hard to know from one day to the next what type of clothing I need to wear. Can you imagine being the person with dementia? If it's hard for us it has to be doubly hard for them. Just keep an eye out and make sure your loved one isn't over dressed or underdressed for the weather.

Things are pretty calm here for the moment. Nick went to the mall today to do a bit of Christmas shopping. He told me when he came home that he was afraid to go to far into the mall because he didn't think he'd know how to get back out. I am glad that so far he is able to talk to me about his fears and doubts. We have had a few problems though, such as tonight at supper. I asked him if he wanted baked beans or pinto beans. He plain as day told me baked but when we sat down to eat he was upset because we didn't have pintos. He swore up and down that he told me pintos. Sometimes I doubt myself....did he really say baked or did I just think he did?

I solved the problem by warming up some pintos for him. It's just a good thing that I cook a huge pot each week so that we can have them when we want them. Of course since Nick is Hispanic that is almost every meal. <smiling>

Next week is Thanksgiving. I'm expecting my sister, my brother, and my sister-in-law. I plan on sending lots of leftovers home with them so I don't have to deal with it. My sister is going to put up my tree and then we will go over and decorate Mama's house. I plan to start wrapping some presents this week. I don't like the looks of a tree without presents under it.

Happy Thanksgiving from Tennessee!


Peace Be With You

by Mary C. Fridley RN, C

It's that time of year again when I'm flooded with questions about how to manage a love one with dementia while trying to maintain the holiday cheer. So here's my annual column, I hope it's helpful.

Has everyone noticed that the Christmas Holidays have come earlier this year or is it just me? It used to be that my stress level increased and my tolerance decreased just before Thanksgiving. But I swear I saw stores decorated shortly after Labor Day. Yes, the Holidays are joyous times but they can be down right stressful too.

The gamut of emotions experienced by us "normal" folk is nothing like those experienced by our loved ones with dementia. The sense of excitement they perceive but don't understand increases confusion that results in more frequent and difficult behaviors. This in turn makes an already stressful situation harder for everyone. In order to keep the peace and enjoy the holidays, I have put together a few tips.

There are four basic rules:

  1. Maintain your loved one's daily routine. Bathe, eat, and nap at the same time as normal. If you are hosting a meal, schedule it to fit into the routine.

  2. Limit and structure time to prevent fatigue and mood changes.

  3. Minimize noise and crowds. Too much noise or crowded places can cause an exaggerated reaction. Provide a quiet room for your loved one to retreat to, and

  4. Schedule rest and naptimes for both of you.

Knowing your loved one's level of understanding and physical ability will help you to provide activities that he/she can manage and enjoy. Play music and sing songs especially old holiday melodies. Reminisce with photo albums while telling family stories. Include the children to make it a rewarding experience for both young and old. Encourage self-expression and creativity by making craft items like holiday fans or paper garlands. When baking, encourage your loved one to help. He/she can cut out cookies using large cookie cutters or decorate them using a cookie stamp. Make sending holiday cards a joint effort, too. Your loved one can participate by putting cards in or stamps on envelopes. Keeping your loved one involved gives him/her a purpose and a sense of accomplishment.

Most importantly, take care of yourself. Rest as often as you can. Carve out an hour each afternoon to put your feet up and close your eyes. Remember to breathe. When you're feeling stressed take two steps back, inhale slowly, hold your breath to the count of four, then slowly exhale. Repeat three times or until you feel calmer (try not to hyperventilate!). Humor and laughter are great stress busters so laugh with your loved one and others. Don't be afraid to hire help while you shop and prepare. Arranging for respite-time using an adult day center or in-home service can be a blessing.

To help foster the bond between you, make a gratitude calendar. For each day of the twelve days of Christmas, write a reason why you are thankful for each other. Try to remember what the Holidays are really about, keep things in perspective, and don't sweat the small stuff.

Happy Holidays and God Bless.

Mary C. Fridley RN, C is a Registered Nurse board certified in gerontology with more than twenty years experience in the geriatric health field. She provides community workshops and motivational seminars on caregiver, eldercare, and aging issues as well as writes articles and caregiver advice columns for websites and publications. Mary will be glad to answer any questions you have and can be reached at P.O. Box 573 Riva, MD 21140, or by email:

Enhancing Life For the Older Adult with Alzheimer's Disease or Other Dementias: Some Gift Ideas

From Archives

by Stephanie Zeman RN MSN

Most people with AD are fairly mobile and able to participate in some kind of activity for at least a few years. Gifts which promote activities have the potential to improve the person's quality of life, provided that are carefully selected to match the functional level of the person with AD..

The following suggestion have been divided into gifts for early stage dementia, the moderately impaired, and the severely impaired. These are only a handful of ideas from which to choose..

Early Alzheimer's and Related Dementia

Most individuals at this stage are: able to communicate fairly well, quite active and need to be engaged in some activity 60% of the day. They are aware of their condition and struggle to remain independent. Gifts that enhance independence or encourage activity are excellent choices..

  • Games: Simple, but familiar games, such as dominos, large numbered cards, an invitation to a Bingo game (be prepared to watch over your guest's card). Low priced items, but they have potential for quite a bit of enjoyment.

  • Tickets to a concert, musical, circus. Ball games can also be excellent choices. Any event without a plot to follow is a good choice. For safety either take the person or send along a companion.

  • Taxi charge account for transportation to visit friends (coordinate plans on both sides of the trip). This gives the person a sense of freedom and independence when they can no longer drive.

  • Old family photographs highlighting the major events in the person's life. Useful and enjoyable throughout the course of dementia.

  • Fruit basket or flowers are always a welcome gift.

For the Moderately Impaired

Persons with moderate stage AD will have some difficulty communicating, will need help dressing, and be unable to manage most daily activities without supervision or help. Wandering is often seen in this group. Exercise is important but attention spans varies so activities are best limited to fifteen minutes..

  • Simple to manage clothing. Tube socks are easy to put on correctly. Shoes are available with Velcro closures since shoelaces can be a problem. Jumpsuits with back closures for those with incontinence problems are very good choices.

  • Materials to sort. Sorting is an activity that most people with AD can enjoy. Try pennies and penny folders, a bag of buttons, or large beads.

  • Music. Especially the old songs often can bring back wonderful memories. Try to locate stores that have remakes of old albums. Also religious music or music of their country of birth can bring great pleasure.

  • Tape Church or religious services. Many people with dementia can no longer attend religious services. This can bring a great source of comfort.

  • Short car trips. See Christmas lights, flowers, seasonal changes.

The Severely Impaired

At this level the person has almost no understanding of the spoken word and is unable to speak coherently. Attention span is very short. In this stage of the disease people do not have the capacity to deal with anything but the simplest of tasks. Often times their long term memory takes them into the back and they may believe they are living in the home or community of their younger years..

  • Photo albums, family pictures, memory books. A gather of pictures from the persons past can help if any memory is still intact.

  • Pet visits. Most people with late dementia still enjoy the visits of dogs, cats, and other small animal.

  • Recordings of old music.

  • Cuddle animals or even a lifelike cuddly baby doll.

  • Video tapes with pleasant sights such as garden, fish tanks and sounds can be soothing.

  • Hand/body lotions. Most people with late stage Ad still derive comfort from touch. Try giving a hand or body massage. (Do not massage legs, as blood clots can form in this population.

These are just a few ideas that may bring pleasure to those with AD during the holidays and on special occasions.

Stephanie Zeman has a Masters in Nursing, specializing in long term care and gerontology in since 1961. She has developed Geriatric Education Resources in 1987 to provide educational workshops consultations and support for family caregivers. This article in an excerpt from her book: Gift Givers Guide. For more information about this guide she can be reached at Geriatric Resources PO Box 7144 Fairfax Station 22039-7144

New Holiday Shopping Ideas

Visit Caregiver's Store to see a whole new line of products and designs. We now feature, Gathering Place and Recipe Corner logos, as well as other caregiving designs. Choose a patriotic design, or maybe something warm-hearted, or whimsical! A great way to remind someone how special caregivers are. A small percentage of the sales go to to help defray costs of running the website and publishing our newsletter.

Let us know what you think of the new store. All designs were submitted by Ribbon readers. If you have an idea for a new slogan or design, please send it to

Are you doing any shopping online? If so, please use this link to get to, then do your shopping as usual. Again, a small percentage of the sales will go to, without increasing your purchase price. staff appreciates your support!

Site Manager,
Care for Caregivers

Town Hall Meeting and Webcast

On November 20, 2002, from 7:00 to 9:00PM Eastern, National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA) and WHYY will partner together to host a town hall meeting on the costs of family caregiving - to families, businesses and the community. Moderated by WHYY's Tracey Matisak, Creating Community Solutions to the Costs of Caregiving, is one in a series of town hall meetings presented across the country by NFCA. WHYY will serve as NFCA's media partner for all of the town hall meetings, providing live webcasts at

The town hall meeting will provide an opportunity for family caregivers, recipients and others whose professional roles put them in daily contact with family caregivers to share concerns and explore solutions regarding the costs of caregiving with a panel comprised of policy makers and leaders in position to create change in the lives of caregiving families.

Please join us - and spread the word to people you think would be interested. Family caregivers and their loved ones are encouraged to attend.

The WHYY Technology Center is located at 150 North Sixth Street, Philadelphia. This event is free and open to the public.

  1. For reservations to attend the town hall meeting, please call 215-928-2443.

  2. To access the live webcast, please go to Click the town hall meetings icon. It is a good idea to register in advance and to run the "Wizard" to determine whether your computer is ready to display all aspects of the webcast. Free software is available if you need it.

We hope you will join us!

While you are visiting NFCA's website check out the National Family Caregiver Story Project as well (it has its own icon) - caregivers can submit their stories directly online. There is information for professionals on how to support the effort and how other National Organizations can help and be part of the project.


Daniel Johnson
Communications Manager
National Family Caregivers Association
10400 Connecticut Avenue
Suite 500
Kensington, MD 20895-3944
Phone: 301/942-6430
Fax: 301/942-2302
NFCA's website

New Search Tool for Nursing Home Information

The U.S. Government web site has a new tool to search for information on nursing homes. By going to, you will find "Nursing Home Compare". After a series of click you can pick the state, which will lead you to choices of nursing homes to review. This study has been done at 17,000 nursing home facilities and may help caregivers to make a better, and more informed decision, for their loved one. - The Official U.S. Government Site for People with Medicare

In Passing: Those We Must Remember

Please join us in extending your sympathy and thoughtful wishes to Sylvia, a snail mail reader. Sylvia lost one of her grandmothers last week. She continues to be a caregiver as she helps her mother care for her grandmother in their home. She is also touched by others who are caregivers and patients. She is the Pharmacy Tech at our pharmacy. She is very special to me.

Before I Forget

A PWiD's Perspective

Peter Ashley, a Trustee and Council Member of the UK Alzheimer's Society and a DASNI member, gave a plenary session address at ADI 2002. It is entitled "Living with Dementia". You can see the website at 18th International Conference of Alzheimer's Disease International (

Go down and click on Peter's name. It is an awe inspiring speech.

Touched By An Angel

Last night the show was about Tess, the Angel, getting Alzheimer's Disease. It progressed very fast but I think the show was very well done. Next Saturday night will be the conclusion. I'm sure they will do a synopsis of this weeks show to catch you up. I for one will tell you that I was crying my heart out at the end. It really touched me.
Touched by An Angel CBS Saturday night 7pm CST

Alzheimer's Prayer

Please grant my visitors
Tolerance for my confusion
Forgiveness for my irrationality
And the strength
to walk with me into the mist of memory
My world has become.

Please help them take my hand
And stay awhile
Even though I seem unaware of their presence.

Help them to know how their strength
And loving care will drift slowly
Into the days to come
Just when I need it most.

Let them know when I don't recognize them,
That I will, I will.....Keep their hearts
free from sorrow for me
For my sorrow, when it comes
Only lasts a moment, then it's gone.

And finally, Lord, please let them know
How very much their visits mean
How even through this relentless
Mystery, I can still feel their love.

Author Unknown.



** Hormones may prevent Alzheimers **
Taking hormones for a decade or longer may slash a womans risk of developing Alzheimers disease, researchers found in a study that adds yet another consideration into the heated HRT debate.

The Ribbon hopes you and yours have a Happy Thanksgiving! Send us a note and let us know what you are doing for the holidays this year.

Hugs and Peace
Karen and Jamie

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