Tag Archives: plan ahead



Insufficient  consideration is given to people with handicaps. Car manufacturers advertise cars with large baggage compartments for wheelchairs, yet, very often folded wheelchairs do not fit in.

Airplane toilets are  notoriously tiny and uncomfortable; not only for a handicapped person, as they are very cramped. Every toilet should have a bar for the occupants to hold onto and the toilet paper rolls should be hung in a user-friendly spot.

Hotel showers need to be equipped with plastic chairs or wheelchairs that have been treated to withstand water, so that a handicapped person can sit while taking a shower.

Beaches also need to invest in specially designed wheelchairs that can run on rails into the ocean, enabling handicapped persons to get into the water for the first time in their lives. I witnessed the expression on a man’s face while he used one of them in Eilat, Israel. His expression was one of pure ecstasy.

There are supermarkets  that provide devices that magnify price tags for visually impaired people. Some doctor’s waiting rooms have chairs without backs or armrests that are not possible for a handicapped person to feel safe on and offices put official forms onto tables that are too high to allow easy access to the handicapped person.

I am friendly with a couple  who used the  concept or universal design when building their home with the needs of one of the occupant’s in mind at all times. Their kitchen was cleverly designed to cater to her needs, The doors aresufficiently wide to allow wheelchair access or ambulance stretcher access. Their shower is large and the toilet higher than the standard ones. Toilet paper rolls were hung in a sensible place. Even the flower beds in the garden have been raised and the outdoor space resembles ‘The Secret Garden’ by France’s Hodgson Burnett.

All the floors are covered with non-slip tiles. Light switches are at a comfortable height too. A great deal of thought was put into the construction of this house and they did a wonderful job. She was responsible for the charming decor.

Holidays are here again … and again and again



Hanukah                                                                Christmas

hanukkah 2                                         ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Most families with chronically ill relatives dread holiday time when other families are all happy and looking forward to yet another happy get-together, while they dread holiday time. Then, at these occasions, a (mentally ill person) a consumer, is expected to eat, drink and even enjoy the family’s company plus celebrate the fact that it is a time of joy and good will.

For me, times like these bring back memories and feelings of disappointment, resentment, sadness and a host of other emotions. For my family, holidays were not good times. Sometimes my son was in a psychiatric hospital, at others he was home but barely in a stable condition. There were occasions when he had to be taken to a psychiatrist during the ‘festive season.’ Once or twice the police came for him after ‘the voices’ had urged him to break the law in one way or another, so it’s no wonder I felt that way.

What did holiday time mean to my son? When a lot was expected of him, he was able to handle himself well for a few hours only, but then he would crash as the voices only he heard got louder and more insistent. He then retreated into his inner self, got agitated and even though each sibling present took him aside for a one on one chat, it only worked for a short while. He might have felt that we all cared about him but when dinner was served, he disappeared, quite sure that we had poisoned his food. He was also unable to process the noise of loud laughter and/or snatches of conversation. It was all too much for him. There were numerous times when he refused to join us even for a short while, but stayed home alone, which ruined any enjoyment we might have had.

Some relatives treated him like a child. While it’s impossible to tell  our guests what to do, or how to behave, we managed to take measures to keep a modicum of control and reduce our patient’s anxiety at those family functions. How? I found an ally; anyone in the family who was a supporter rather than a critic. If you have a friend who is able to accompany you to a family gathering, go for it but be sure to find someone positive and focus your attention and energy on that person. Together you can decide on the limits you want to set for the patient. Because we  can’t control the way others treat our ill relative, that doesn’t mean we had to let everything that was dished out pass without comment. I knew it was okay to speak out for my son. I made sure that he was kept away from the offending person and hoped that my ally would use distraction techniques.

It helped to bring something like a game of chess to help him escape. I suggested that he go to into another room where it was quieter and If that didn’t work, someone went with him for a walk, weather permitting. All we could do was to help him to focus on what was good. Of course I worried that there might be anxiety-provoking triggers at our family celebration, we found one or two positives. In today’s world, one would make sure that he had a smartphone or an iPad handy.

As anxiety can spike at any time particularly during holiday time, an understanding of what’s happening can increase our sense of control over the situation and so decrease anxiety levels.

I tried to be positive and to smile a lot. Did it work? Sometimes but not always.


Acknowlege the man, not the diagnosis

Alzheimer’s disease

My husband asked his doctor; “How can I be sure that my symptoms aren’t the result of a stroke or another treatable condition?”

“There is no definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease and it can be misdiagnosed in patients suffering depression, memory deficits, as the result of normal aging, arterial blockages or even certain vitamin deficiencies. If we rule out other possibilities and then apply criteria developed by various medical organizations, we might be able to arrive at a diagnosis.”

“Doctor, what stage of Alzheimer’s would you guess my husband has reached and what comes next?”

The progressive deterioration of brain function in Alzheimer’s disease is divided into seven stages. By the last stage, patients require round-the-clock care. In the first, second and third stages of this slow-moving illness, symptoms are minimal and many patients work and live independently.

I asked; “What can my husband do to preserve his health and mental abilities for as long as possible?”

There are no treatments to halt or cure Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have shown that exercise, a healthy diet and some mental stimulation may delay the onset of disabling symptoms.

(Fortunately, my husband still played bridge and chess, which I think helped tremendously.)

“Doctor, what physical symptoms should we anticipate?” I asked.

Your husband might complain of problems with his memory and organizational abilities, but Alzheimer’s attacks the brain’s motor centers, resulting in problems with balance and co-ordination as well as certain reflexes, including the ability to swallow.

“What about brain neuroimaging?”

Imaging is rarely useful for determining the severity of this disease.

“What about the chances of our children inheriting Alzheimer’s disease? Should they undergo genetic testing?”

Scientists have identified several gene mutations associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease but the predictive value of each mutation is low. As a result, genetic testing is useful only for individuals who have several close relatives suffering from early-onset forms of the disease.

“What drugs are available and how well do they work?”

There are two types of drugs on the market and both have been shown to delay brain deterioration for a brief period in about half the people treated.

“Do you think that my husband should still be driving?”

Driving is often a focal point of familial controversy. Th diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease does not always require that a patient immediately stop driving. An objective medical evaluation can be helpful in clarifying the extent of a new patient’s disability.

(I handled it by offering to drive whenever possible repeating how much I loved driving. In time, I think that he forgot the mechanics of driving and when his geriatric neurologist told him to stop, he took notice. However, he blamed me for having asked that question in the first place.)

“Doctor, what can I do to make things easier on my family?” my husband asked in his caring, supportive and loving manner.”

Because Alzheimer’s erodes cognitive ability, it is important for you to plan for the day when you can no longer take care of your affairs. Organize medical and durable powers of attorney that authorize your wife to deal with banks, insurance companies and doctors on your behalf.