Kansas City winters can be really cold. Add in some snow and ice, and you’ve got potentially dangerous new obstacles for someone who has Alzheimer’s. As a caregiver, you’ll want to do all you can to ensure you’re loved one with dementia stays safe. Here are some winter safety tips:

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Did you make any New Year’s resolutions this year? If you’re living in Kansas City and caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, we’ve developed a potential list for you that may make your life a little easier. Here are some ideas:

  1. Improve your communication skills. It can be difficult to communicate with someone who has Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia. But you can learn to have meaningful conversations with your loved one with these communication tips.
  2. Plan inclusive activities. There are lots of activities you can do that can include someone with Alzheimer’s. For example, you can listen to music, take a walk through a Kansas City Park, or look at old photos.
  3. Discourage wandering. The thought of your loved one who has Alzheimer’s wandering around Kansas City alone can be terrifying. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to discourage or prevent wandering, which can help put your mind at ease.
  4. Learn to deal with aggressive behavior. People who have Alzheimer’s can become agitated or aggressive because they’re in pain, confused, overstimulated, or tired (or for a number of other reasons). Learning how to prevent or deal with aggressive behavior can ensure a more peaceful household.
  5. Embrace technology. There have been vast improvements in technology over the last several years that can help you and your loved one lead better lives. Many of them can be found in Kansas City department or technology stores. Some examples include communication aids, motion sensors, and GPS tracking devices.
  6. Take a break. All caregivers need respite in order to rejuvenate and avoid burnout. And respite care services will not only help you, as a caregiver; interaction with others can also be good for the person with Alzheimer’s.

Flu season begins in early October, so it’s time for yearly flu shots. If you’re caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia, don’t forget he or she will need a shot, as well.

Why Get Vaccinated?

Believe it or not, people still die from the flu, especially those who are age 65 and over. And as a caregiver, you’re putting both you and your loved one at risk if you don’t get vaccinated yourself.

Why You Can’t Get Sick From a Flu Shot

It’s hard to believe this myth still exists after all these years, but it seems like everyone has a story about how they got a flu shot, then got the flu the next day. It doesn’t work that way. First of all, you can’t get sick from a flu shot because it’s made from a virus that’s been “inactivated,” which means it can’t transmit infection.

Secondly, it takes a few days for flu symptoms to start after you’ve caught the virus. So if you get the flu the day after your shot, you already had it before you were vaccinated. Also, it can take up two two weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective. So if you get the flu within two weeks of getting your flu shot, you weren’t yet fully protected. So you would have gotten sick without the shot.

Is it Too Early in the Season (or Too Late) for a Flu Shot?

If you’re thinking it may be a bit early for flu shots, you might be surprised. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it’s okay to get a flu shot as soon as the vaccine comes out. It’s best to get it by the end of October. But flu season last throughout most of the winter, so if you accidentally miss the October deadline, go ahead and get one anyway.

Call Your Doctor Today

Your doctor’s office is a good place to get your flu shot. But if you’re in a rush, there are lots of places in the Kansas City area (e.g., Walgreen’s, CVS) where you can just drop in and get one.

Alzheimer’s disease is a life-changing illness. So if you, or a loved one, have been recently diagnosed, you’re probably wondering what to do next. Here are some idea that can help move you in the right direction.

Get information. Knowing what you’re up against can go a long way toward helping you manage your disease. The Alzheimer’s Association’s Heart of America Chapter is a good place to find accurate information you can use to read up on Alzheimer’s.

Get regular medical care. See your doctor regularly, and ask for a referral to a memory clinic (there are clinics in Kansas City and in Overland Park).

Gather support. Take note of the people you already have in your life who will be willing to help as your disease progresses. If you’re not sure, ask. Support groups can also be helpful, as many people find comfort in talking to others who can relate to what they’re going through. Fortunately, there are lots of Alzheimer’s support groups in the Kansas City area. Also, you’ll want to develop a relationship with a home health agency that can help you later with things like personal care (e.g., bathing), meal preparation, house cleaning, transportation, and more.

Update your living will. If you don’t have a living will, the time to sign one is now. It will let healthcare workers know what type of medical care you want (or don’t want) in the event you should become unable to make decisions for yourself. You’ll also want to sign a healthcare power of attorney, which will allow you to choose someone now to make healthcare decisions for you if you become unable. Your doctor should be able to help you obtain the necessary paperwork for both documents.

Do some financial planning. A financial power of attorney is also a good idea. It’s used to assign someone to handle your finances if you become unable. You may also want to go ahead and update your will. And you’ll want to consider ways to cover your healthcare costs.

Think about safety. Have a home care agency that specializes in Alzheimer’s conduct a safety check on your home. And read the National Institute on Aging’s home safety guide for people with Alzheimer’s.

Stay healthy. A healthy diet has been shown to improve brain health; and scientists believe aerobic exercise may reverse Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Adjust your work hours. If you’re beginning to have trouble doing your job, see if you can reduce your work hours or switch to a position that isn’t so demanding. You might also want to ask your human resources department about family medical leave or disability benefits. And check with your local Social Security office about applying for Social Security Disability.

Consider a clinical trial. The University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Center is currently enrolling people in research studies with the hope of finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. These clinical trials may offer treatment methods that are not yet available to others.

Keep having fun. Continue to do the things you enjoy for as long as you’re able.

Although Alzheimer’s disease will certainly change your life, a little preparation will help things go more smoothly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year, hundreds of thousands of U.S. adults who are over the age of 60 are abused, neglected, or taken advantage of financially. Many are abused in their own homes; others are abused while living with family members or in residential facilities. The abuse often goes unreported because the person may feel ashamed, fear backlash from reporting the abuse, or just be unable to communicate effectively due to Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia.

Here’s where you can help. Watch for warning signs if you know someone who could be a potential target. While watching for clues, keep in mind that elder abuse can go beyond the physical. It can also include emotional abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, financial abuse, or abandonment.

Here are some possible warning signs of elder abuse or neglect:

  • Unusual bruises or bleeding
  • Physical injuries (e.g., breaks, sprains, burns, welts)
  • Anxiety, agitation, depression, withdrawal
  • Poor hygiene
  • Bed sores
  • Drug overdose
  • Sudden change in finances

Of course, not everyone will exhibit all of these warning signs. But if you notice any of them and believe you’re seeing indications of possible elder abuse, it’s important to report the abuse as soon as possible to prevent any further damage to the victim’s health or well-being.

Here are the phone numbers for Kansas:

  • Domestic/community abuse:
    Kansas Department for Children and Families Adult Protective Services
  • Nursing home, hospital, home health agency, etc. abuse or neglect:
    Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services

Here’s the number for Missouri:

  • Missouri Department of Health and Human Services
    Adult Abuse & Neglect Hotline