Posts Categorized: Difficult Symptoms

Hallucinations in later life

“I don’t like that bear on my bed!” A visual hallucination such as this can occur in the later stages of dementia or near the end of life. Some people also have auditory hallucinations—hearing things that others don’t—or feel things that aren’t there, such as string in their mouth or ants on their arm. These…

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Dad lost weight!

A holiday visit sometimes reveals surprising changes, such as little food in the cupboard, a loved one’s loss of appetite, or his or her unexpected weight loss. Talk with the doctor first. A weight loss of 5% over 6–12 months is considered worthy of medical attention. (For a 130-pound woman, that would be seven pounds….

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“Lie to my mom?”

Mom taught you to always tell the truth. But in the context of caring for someone with memory loss (dementia), honesty may not always be the best policy. There may be times when the kindest strategy—the one that reduces your loved one’s anxiety or fear—is to omit the truth or bend it a little. This…

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Managing chronic pain

“Chronic pain” is pain that lasts for 12 weeks or more. The cause is usually nervous system misfiring, like a faulty car alarm system. Often there is no specific trigger, which makes treatment difficult. Chronic pain is common, affecting 50%–66% of adults age 50 and older. Opioid drugs are recommended for pain control in life-threatening…

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Conserving energy in the face of fatigue

People with congestive heart failure (CHF) often tire easily, especially if they exert themselves. In CHF, the heart is swollen with fluids and cannot beat efficiently. The body’s cells then become hungry for oxygen. If your loved one has CHF, you witness this in his or her fatigue, shortness of breath, and frequent naps. Even…

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Embarrassing Behaviors

What do you do when sweet Mom starts cursing angrily? When straitlaced Dad makes off-color remarks? In persons with dementia, these behaviors are not on purpose. They are caused by the brain changes of the disease. If you can’t find humor in the situation, draw on your patience. Believe it or not, your relative is doing…

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Exercise and COPD: an oxymoron?

Does Mom say she feels too weak to exercise? Does Dad run out of breath just walking down the street? People dealing with COPD often believe that exercise will make things worse. Actually, in moderation, quite the opposite is true. Very real benefits. Even people with severe COPD can become more physical. Something as simple…

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Opioid addiction and serious illness

Morphine, hydrocodone, fentanyl . . . with the opioid crisis in our country, it can be scary to hear that a frail or seriously ill relative needs this type of medicine. What are the risks of addiction? Fortunately, addiction is rarely an issue for individuals dealing with cancer or a painful terminal condition. Understanding addiction….

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Arthritis and Senior Fitness

May 30 is Senior Health and Fitness Day, and May is National Arthritis Awareness Month. Sounds like a great time to talk about the ways physical activity can help reduce joint stiffness and pain! Did you know osteoarthritis afflicts more than one-third of American adults over age 65? This arthritis comes on slowly with age…

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Red flags for COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung condition that gets steadily worse over time. It frequently involves “flares,” or “exacerbations,” periods when breathing suddenly becomes more difficult. It can be very frightening and often results in a dash to the Emergency Room. It’s important to know the early signs of a flare and to…

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