When Kids With Mental Illness Can’t Live At Home

Taken from  the Chicago Tribune  which is found   HERE.

Many of Christine Walker’s friends are just starting to help their teenage children plan to leave home, whether for a job, college or a gap year. But Walker’s 16-year-old son Schuyler has already lived away from his family for seven years, spending nearly half his life in residential treatment programs and schools for children with severe mental illness.

“When Schuyler was 7, that was when I had tried absolutely everything — every pill, every doctor, every diet, every therapy, everything — and we were still at a point when home was unsafe,” says Walker, who lives in Winnetka. “I realized then that everything we had been trying to do wasn’t enough.”

Walker and her husband knew that the only way to meet Schuyler’s needs and protect their two younger kids was to have their oldest child live elsewhere. However, it took two years to finally act on that decision.

“It’s a last resort, but we had to check into that resort, because we’d done everything else,” Walker recalls.

Although it is rarely talked about, the Walkers’ experience is not uncommon. In 2015, 271,000 children ages 12 to 17 received care for mental illness at a residential treatment facility. Half of all chronic mental illness begins by age 14, and 13 percent of American children ages 8 to 15 will experience a severe mental disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. More children in this country have a psychiatric disorder than have cancer, diabetes and AIDS combined, and for the most severely affected, residential treatment is the best way to ensure their safety and help them stay out of the juvenile justice system.

However, families that send their child to residential treatment programs often face judgment and misunderstanding. Mental illness, which is often treated as a taboo topic, is even more stigmatized in its youngest victims.

“If Schuyler had cancer, I would never think of myself as a failure if I didn’t do chemo in my living room,” says Walker, whose son is on the autism spectrum and has a mood disorder. “I would never think of myself as giving up. This is a brain disorder.”

Doctors are sometimes hesitant to diagnose psychiatric disorders in children, and school systems and law enforcement are ill-equipped to handle the needs of children who can be violent and unpredictable. Too often, these systems look to the parents to explain children’s behaviors.

“There is a theme that we hear often, that parents are to blame: They need parenting classes or need to learn how to handle their kids,” says Jennifer Zielinski, program coordinator for Idaho Parents Unlimited, an organization that assists parents of children with disabilities and mental illness. Zielinski has four children, and her third, who is 11, has been in residential treatment for two years. The move allowed Zielinski to shed the roles of nurse, medication manager and parole officer and focus on being her daughter’s mom.

Most importantly, residential treatment provides the structure and resources that children with mental illness need to thrive.

“Part of it is sad, but the gift that we gave Schuyler is being surrounded by adults who get him and think he’s an amazing kid and know (how to) offer empathy and de-escalate,” says Walker, executive director of The Chasing Hope Foundation (www.thechasinghopefoundation.com), whose mission is to establish therapeutic residences within school districts as an alternative to students relocating out of state. Her son attends Wediko School in Windsor, N.H.

Even when parents realize they are doing what is best for their child, the process is painful. Christianna Hale, of Texas, says that she felt guilty sending her then-12-year-old son to live outside the home, despite years of experience working in the mental health field.

“Even within the profession, there is a judgment that if your child is in residential treatment you must have failed, that you can’t be a good parent if he’s in residential treatment,” she says.

To maintain her connection to her son, Hale makes a six-hour round trip drive each Friday and Sunday so he can spend weekends at home. Research has shown that family involvement like this is essential to the child’s long-term success.

“You can see that groups that have a higher level of (family) involvement have better outcomes,” says Gary M. Blau, of the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Blau is also the director of Building Bridges, a national initiative aiming to increase family and community support in the treatment of children with mental illness. He says that while residential treatment is sometimes necessary, facilities must move past unproven practices that limit communication between children and parents, and toward community-based services that allow the child to remain at home or at least have regular, meaningful contact with their family.

“We need to show these family members that they are not alone, and that help and hope are out there for each and every one of them,” Blau says.

Hale’s son is currently transitioning to living at home, and she is hopeful that he will be able to stay under her roof. However, she avoids putting too much emphasis on returning home as the ultimate goal. For some children with mental illness, this is simply not possible, and Hale believes that those children need to feel that they are succeeding, as well. She says that she would accept her son returning to the residential school in the future if that were best for him.

“It’s about finding the place where he can be successful,” she says. “Him being successful and feeling successful is the most important thing.”

Excellent Overview Of Depression

Taken from  The National Institute Of Mental Health  Which is found   HERE.

Introduction

Do you feel sad, empty, and hopeless most of the day, nearly every day? Have you lost interest or pleasure in your hobbies or being with friends and family? Are you having trouble sleeping, eating, and functioning? If you have felt this way for at least 2 weeks, you may have depression, a serious but treatable mood disorder.

What is depression?

Everyone feels sad or low sometimes, but these feelings usually pass with a little time. Depression—also called “clinical depression” or a “depressive disorder”—is a mood disorder that causes distressing symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, symptoms must be present most of the day, nearly every day for at least 2 weeks.

What are the different types of depression?

Two of the most common forms of depression are:

  • Major depression—having symptoms of depression most of the day, nearly every day for at least 2 weeks that interfere with your ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy life. An episode can occur only once in a person’s lifetime, but more often, a person has several episodes.
  • Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia)having symptoms of depression that last for at least 2 years. A person diagnosed with this form of depression may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms.

Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances, such as:

  • Perinatal Depression: Women with perinatal depression experience full-blown major depression during pregnancy or after delivery (postpartum depression).
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): SAD is a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter and going away during the spring and summer.
  • Psychotic Depression: This type of depression occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false fixed beliefs (delusions) or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations).

Other examples of depressive disorders include disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (diagnosed in children and adolescents) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Depression can also be one phase of bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depression). But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extreme high—euphoric or irritable —moods called “mania” or a less severe form called “hypomania.”

You can learn more about these disorders on the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)’s website (www.nimh.nih.gov).

What causes depression?

Scientists at NIMH and across the country are studying the causes of depression. Research suggests that a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors play a role in depression.

Depression can occur along with other serious illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson’s disease. Depression can make these conditions worse and vice versa. Sometimes medications taken for these illnesses may cause side effects that contribute to depression symptoms. For more information on ongoing research on depression, visit www.nimh.nih.gov.

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

Sadness is only one small part of depression and some people with depression may not feel sadness at all. Different people have different symptoms. Some symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies or activities
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, or being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide or suicide attempts
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Does depression look the same in everyone?

No. Depression affects different people in different ways. For example:

Women have depression more often than men. Biological, lifecycle, and hormonal factors that are unique to women may be linked to their higher depression rate. Women with depression typically have symptoms of sadness, worthlessness, and guilt.

Men with depression are more likely to be very tired, irritable, and sometimes angry. They may lose interest in work or activities they once enjoyed, have sleep problems, and behave recklessly, including the misuse of drugs or alcohol. Many men do not recognize their depression and fail to seek help.

Older adults with depression may have less obvious symptoms, or they may be less likely to admit to feelings of sadness or grief. They are also more likely to have medical conditions, such as heart disease, which may cause or contribute to depression.

Younger children with depression may pretend to be sick, refuse to go to school, cling to a parent, or worry that a parent may die.

Older children and teens with depression may get into trouble at school, sulk, and be irritable. Teens with depression may have symptoms of other disorders, such as anxiety, eating disorders, or substance abuse.

How is depression treated?

The first step in getting the right treatment is to visit a health care provider or mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. Your health care provider can do an exam, interview, and lab tests to rule out other health conditions that may have the same symptoms as depression. Once diagnosed, depression can be treated with medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. If these treatments do not reduce symptoms, brain stimulation therapy may be another treatment option to explore.

Medications

Medications called antidepressants can work well to treat depression. They can take 2 to 4 weeks to work. Antidepressants can have side effects, but many side effects may lessen over time. Talk to your health care provider about any side effects that you have. Do not stop taking your antidepressant without first talking to your health care provider.

Please Note: Although antidepressants can be effective for many people, they may present serious risks to some, especially children, teens, and young adults. Antidepressants may cause some people, especially those who become agitated when they first start taking the medication and before it begins to work, to have suicidal thoughts or make suicide attempts. Anyone taking antidepressants should be monitored closely, especially when they first start taking them. For most people, though, the risks of untreated depression far outweigh those of antidepressant medications when they are used under a doctor’s careful supervision.

Information about medications changes frequently. Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  website for the latest warnings, patient medication guides, or newly approved medications.

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy helps by teaching new ways of thinking and behaving, and changing habits that may be contributing to depression. Therapy can help you understand and work through difficult relationships or situations that may be causing your depression or making it worse.

Brain Stimulation Therapies

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and other brain stimulation therapies may be an option for people with severe depression who do not respond to antidepressant medications. ECT is the best studied brain stimulation therapy and has the longest history of use. Other stimulation therapies discussed here are newer, and in some cases still experimental methods. For more information on these treatment options, visit www.nimh.nih.gov/health. To find clinical trials, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov .

How can I help myself if I am depressed?

As you continue treatment, you may start to feel better gradually. Remember that if you are taking an antidepressant, it may take 2 to 4 weeks to start working. Try to do things that you used to enjoy. Go easy on yourself. Other things that may help include:

  • Trying to be active and exercise
  • Breaking up large tasks into small ones, set priorities, and do what you can as you can
  • Spending time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative
  • Postponing important life decisions until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well
  • Avoiding self-medication with alcohol or with drugs not prescribed for you

How can I help myself if I am depressed?

As you continue treatment, gradually you will start to feel better. Remember that if you are taking an antidepressant, it may take several weeks for it to start working. Try to do things that you used to enjoy before you had depression. Go easy on yourself. Other things that may help include:

  • Breaking up large tasks into small ones, and doing what you can as you can. Try not to do too many things at once.
  • Spending time with other people and talking to a friend or relative about your feelings.
  • Once you have a treatment plan, try to stick to it. It will take time for treatment to work.
  • Do not make important life decisions until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well.

How can I help a loved one who is depressed?

If you know someone who has depression, first help him or her see a health care provider or mental health professional. You can also:

  • Offer support, understanding, patience, and encouragement
  • Never ignore comments about suicide, and report them to your loved one’s health care provider or therapist
  • Invite him or her out for walks, outings, and other activities
  • Help him or her adhere to the treatment plan, such as setting reminders to take prescribed medications
  • Help him or her by ensuring that he or she has transportation to therapy appointments
  • Remind him or her that, with time and treatment, the depression will lift

Where can I go for help?

If you are unsure where to go for help, ask your health provider or check out the NIMH Help for Mental Illnesses webpage at www.nimh.nih.gov/findhelp. Another Federal health agency, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), maintains an online Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator at https://findtreatment.samhsa.gov/ . You can also check online for mental health professionals; contact your community health center, local mental health association, or insurance plan to find a mental health professional. Hospital doctors can help in an emergency.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, get help quickly.

  • Call your or your loved one’s health professional.
  • Call 911 for emergency services.
  • Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
  • Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TYY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).

Alzheimer’s Fact Sheet

Taken from the National Institute On Aging  which is found   HERE.

More and more I have met people who have been impacted by Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease. My mother lives with Dementia. This is a long and comprehensive article that closes with several links to learn more. You can reach a 24/7 365 days a year hotline toll free at this number if you wish to speak with an expert. I have done so. The number is 800-272-3900. God bless you and yours as you journey through this illness.  Allan

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills, and eventually the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear in their mid-60s. Estimates vary, but experts suggest that more than 5 million Americans may have Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is currently ranked as the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, butrecent estimates indicate that the disorder may rank third, just behind heart disease and cancer, as a cause of death for older people.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults. Dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning—thinking, remembering, and reasoning—and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities. Dementia ranges in severity from the mildest stage, when it is just beginning to affect a person’s functioning, to the most severe stage, when the person must depend completely on others for basic activities of daily living.

The causes of dementia can vary, depending on the types of brain changes that may be taking place.Other dementias include Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal disorders, and vascular dementia. It is common for people to have mixed dementia—a combination of two or more disorders, at least one of which is dementia. For example, some people have both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is named after Dr. Alois Alzheimer. In 1906, Dr. Alzheimer noticed changes in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of an unusual mental illness. Her symptoms included memory loss, language problems, and unpredictable behavior. After she died, he examined her brain and found many abnormal clumps (now called amyloid plaques) and tangled bundles of fibers (now called neurofibrillary, or tau, tangles).

These plaques and tangles in the brain are still considered some of the main features of Alzheimer’s disease. Another feature is the loss of connections between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. Neurons transmit messages between different parts of the brain, and from the brain to muscles and organs in the body.

Changes in the Brain

Cross sections of the brain show atrophy, or shrinking, of brain tissue caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists continue to unravel the complex brain changes involved in the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. It seems likely that damage to the brain starts a decade or more before memory and other cognitive problems appear. During this preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, people seem to be symptom-free, but toxic changes are taking place in the brain. Abnormal deposits of proteins form amyloid plaques and tau tangles throughout the brain, and once-healthy neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and die.

The damage initially appears to take place in the hippocampus, the part of the brain essential in forming memories. As more neurons die, additional parts of the brain are affected, and they begin to shrink. By the final stage of Alzheimer’s, damage is widespread, and brain tissue has shrunk significantly.

Signs and Symptoms

Memory problems are typically one of the first signs of cognitive impairment related to Alzheimer’s disease. Some people with memory problems have a condition called mild cognitive impairment(MCI). In MCI, people have more memory problems than normal for their age, but their symptoms do not interfere with their everyday lives. Movement difficulties and problems with the sense of smell have also been linked to MCI. Older people with MCI are at greater risk for developing Alzheimer’s, but not all of them do. Some may even go back to normal cognition.

The first symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary from person to person. For many, decline in non-memory aspects of cognition, such as word-finding, vision/spatial issues, and impaired reasoning or judgment, may signal the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers are studying biomarkers(biological signs of disease found in brain images, cerebrospinal fluid, and blood) to see if they can detect early changes in the brains of people with MCI and in cognitively normal people who may be at greater risk for Alzheimer’s. Studies indicate that such early detection may be possible, but more research is needed before these techniques can be relied upon to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in everyday medical practice.

Mild Alzheimer’s Disease

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, people experience greater memory loss and other cognitive difficulties. Problems can include wandering and getting lost, trouble handling money and paying bills(PDF, 159K), repeating questions, taking longer to complete normal daily tasks, and personality and behavior changes. People are often diagnosed in this stage.

Moderate Alzheimer’s Disease

In this stage, damage occurs in areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, sensory processing, and conscious thought. Memory loss and confusion grow worse, and people begin to have problems recognizing family and friends. They may be unable to learn new things, carry out multistep tasks such as getting dressed, or cope with new situations. In addition, people at this stage may havehallucinations, delusions, and paranoia and may behave impulsively.

Severe Alzheimer’s Disease

Ultimately, plaques and tangles spread throughout the brain, and brain tissue shrinks significantly. People with severe Alzheimer’s cannot communicate and are completely dependent on others for their care. Near the end, the person may be in bed most or all of the time as the body shuts down.

What Causes Alzheimer’s

Scientists don’t yet fully understand what causes Alzheimer’s disease in most people. In people with early-onset Alzheimer’s, a genetic mutation is usually the cause. Late-onset Alzheimer’s arises from a complex series of brain changes that occur over decades. The causes probably include a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. The importance of any one of these factors in increasing or decreasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s may differ from person to person.

The Basics of Alzheimer’s

Scientists are conducting studies to learn more about plaques, tangles, and other biological features of Alzheimer’s disease. Advances in brain imaging techniques allow researchers to see the development and spread of abnormal amyloid and tau proteins in the living brain, as well as changes in brain structure and function. Scientists are also exploring the very earliest steps in the disease process by studying changes in the brain and body fluids that can be detected years before Alzheimer’s symptoms appear. Findings from these studies will help in understanding the causes of Alzheimer’s and make diagnosis easier.

One of the great mysteries of Alzheimer’s disease is why it largely strikes older adults. Research on normal brain aging is shedding light on this question. For example, scientists are learning how age-related changes in the brain may harm neurons and contribute to Alzheimer’s damage. These age-related changes include atrophy (shrinking) of certain parts of the brain, inflammation, production of unstable molecules called free radicals, and mitochondrial dysfunction (a breakdown of energy production within a cell).

Genetics

Most people with Alzheimer’s have the late-onset form of the disease, in which symptoms become apparent in their mid-60s. The apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene is involved in late-onset Alzheimer’s. This gene has several forms. One of them, APOE ε4, increases a person’s risk of developing the disease and is also associated with an earlier age of disease onset. However, carrying the APOE ε4 form of the gene does not mean that a person will definitely develop Alzheimer’s disease, and some people with no APOE ε4 may also develop the disease.

Also, scientists have identified a number of regions of interest in the genome (an organism’s complete set of DNA) that may increase a person’s risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s to varying degrees.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s occurs in people age 30 to 60 and represents less than 5 percent of all people with Alzheimer’s. Most cases are caused by an inherited change in one of three genes, resulting in a type known as early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease, or FAD. For others, the disease appears to develop without any specific, known cause, much as it does for people with late-onset disease.

Most people with Down syndrome develop Alzheimer’s. This may be because people with Down syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21, which contains the gene that generates harmful amyloid.

For more about this area of research, see NIA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Genetics Fact Sheet.

Health, Environmental, and Lifestyle Factors

Research suggests that a host of factors beyond genetics may play a role in the development and course of Alzheimer’s disease. There is a great deal of interest, for example, in the relationship between cognitive decline and vascular conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure, as well as metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Ongoing research will help us understand whether and how reducing risk factors for these conditions may also reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

A nutritious diet, physical activity, social engagement, and mentally stimulating pursuits have all been associated with helping people stay healthy as they age. These factors might also help reduce the riskof cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Clinical trials are testing some of these possibilities.

Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease

Doctors use several methods and tools to help determine whether a person who is having memory problems has “possible Alzheimer’s dementia” (dementia may be due to another cause) or “probable Alzheimer’s dementia” (no other cause for dementia can be found).

To diagnose Alzheimer’s, doctors may:

  • Ask the person and a family member or friend questions about overall health, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality
  • Conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language
  • Carry out standard medical tests, such as blood and urine tests, to identify other possible causes of the problem
  • Perform brain scans, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET), to rule out other possible causes for symptoms.

These tests may be repeated to give doctors information about how the person’s memory and other cognitive functions are changing over time.

Alzheimer’s disease can be definitely diagnosed only after death, by linking clinical measures with an examination of brain tissue in an autopsy.

People with memory and thinking concerns should talk to their doctor to find out whether their symptoms are due to Alzheimer’s or another cause, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinson’s disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or a non-Alzheimer’s dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible.

If the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s, beginning treatment early in the disease process may help preserve daily functioning for some time, even though the underlying disease process cannot be stopped or reversed. An early diagnosis also helps families plan for the future. They can take care of financial and legal matters, address potential safety issues, learn about living arrangements, and develop support networks.

In addition, an early diagnosis gives people greater opportunities to participate in clinical trials that are testing possible new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease or other research studies.

Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is complex, and it is unlikely that any one drug or other intervention can successfully treat it. Current approaches focus on helping people maintain mental function, manage behavioral symptoms, and slow or delay the symptoms of disease. Researchers hope to develop therapies targeting specific genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms so that the actual underlying cause of the disease can be stopped or prevented.

Maintaining Mental Function

Several medications are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Donepezil (Aricept®), rivastigmine (Exelon®), and galantamine (Razadyne®) are used to treat mild to moderate Alzheimer’s (donepezil can be used for severe Alzheimer’s as well). Memantine (Namenda®) is used to treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s. These drugs work by regulating neurotransmitters, the chemicals that transmit messages between neurons. They may help maintain thinking, memory, and communication skills, and help with certain behavioral problems. However, these drugs don’t change the underlying disease process. They are effective for some but not all people, and may help only for a limited time.

Managing Behavior

Common behavioral symptoms of Alzheimer’s include sleeplessness, wandering, agitation, anxiety, and aggression. Scientists are learning why these symptoms occur and are studying new treatments—drug and non-drug—to manage them. Research has shown that treating behavioral symptoms can make people with Alzheimer’s more comfortable and makes things easier for caregivers.

Looking for New Treatments

Alzheimer’s disease research has developed to a point where scientists can look beyond treating symptoms to think about addressing underlying disease processes. In ongoing clinical trials, scientists are developing and testing several possible interventions, including immunization therapy, drug therapies, cognitive training, physical activity, and treatments used for cardiovascular and diabetes.

Support for Families and Caregivers

Caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease can have high physical, emotional, and financial costs. The demands of day-to-day care, changes in family roles, and decisions about placement in a care facility can be difficult. There are several evidence-based approaches and programs that can help, and researchers are continuing to look for new and better ways to support caregivers.

Becoming well-informed about the disease is one important long-term strategy. Programs that teach families about the various stages of Alzheimer’s and about ways to deal with difficult behaviors and other caregiving challenges can help.

Good coping skills, a strong support network, and respite care are other ways that help caregivers handle the stress of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. For example, staying physically active provides physical and emotional benefits.

Some caregivers have found that joining a support group is a critical lifeline. These support groups allow caregivers to find respite, express concerns, share experiences, get tips, and receive emotional comfort. Many organizations sponsor in-person and online support groups, including groups for people with early-stage Alzheimer’s and their families.

For more information, see Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease: Your Easy-to-Use Guide from the National Institute on Aging.

For More Information

To get information about Alzheimer’s and learn about support groups and services for people with the disease and their caregivers, contact the following organizations:

Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
1-800-438-4380 (toll-free)
adear@nia.nih.gov
www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers

The National Institute on Aging’s ADEAR Center offers information and publications for families, caregivers, and professionals on diagnosis, treatment, patient care, caregiver needs, long-term care, education and training, and research related to Alzheimer’s disease. Staff members answer telephone, email, and written requests and make referrals to local and national resources. Visit the ADEAR website to learn more about Alzheimer’s and other dementias, find clinical trials, and sign up for email updates.

Alzheimer’s Association
1-800-272-3900 (toll-free)
1-866-403-3073 (TTY/toll-free)
info@alz.org
www.alz.org

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
1-866-232-8484 (toll-free)
info@alzfdn.org
www.alzfdn.org

Eldercare Locator
1-800-677-1116 (toll-free)
eldercarelocator@n4a.org
www.eldercare.gov

Family Caregiver Alliance
1-800-445-8106 (toll-free)
info@caregiver.org
www.caregiver.org

MedlinePlus
www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/alzheimersdisease.html

Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
A service of the National Institute on Aging

National Institutes of Health
NIH…Turning Discovery Into Health®
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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When Your Spouse Has A Mental Illness (OCD): Part 2

Here are a few important things I have learned from my experience. I don’t pretend to have mastered all of these points, but if you have a mate with a mental illness, perhaps you can benefit from my struggle.

  • KNOW YOUR ENEMY! The more I learned about William’s illnesses, the more I was able to understand his behavior. This enabled me to better empathize and become a more positive force in his treatment. Obsessive-compulsive disorder is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts followed by rituals aimed at warding off the anxiety-provoking obsessions. This explained the bizarre sexual thoughts and William’s subsequent, drastic actions. His was a less common form of the disease, which was why his therapist had failed to identify it. William’s hospital psychologist also felt he may have bipolar disorder, more commonly known as manic-depression, which explained the mood swings, as well as social phobia, which explained his extreme fear of criticism or evaluation. Our family therapist also identified some dissociative symptoms — the reason William would seem to “check out” during marital conflicts. Although much of the time it felt like my husband was the enemy, the illness is the true enemy. If your spouse has a mental illness, arm yourself with as much information as possible. A full psychological evaluation is critical. Read books, talk to the doctors, and even take a class if you have time. The more you know, the easier it will be to sort out the illness from the one you love.
  • GET THE RIGHT KIND OF TREATMENT. I’ve heard that it takes seven years from the time someone is begins to look for help for their OCD until they find it. Although William had been seeing a therapist for six months prior to his hospitalization, the treatment he was getting was completely useless for his type of disorder. Psychodynamic therapy, rooted in Freud’s theories of conflicting inner impulses and childhood issues, is not an effective treatment for OCD. Cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) on the other hand, which focuses on thought processes and changing specific behaviors, has a proven track-record for many anxiety disorders. CBT is expensive and sometimes hard to find but well worth it. Also the judicious use of proper medication is essential. William was put on 150 mg of the antidepressant Zoloft, which is also effective for OCD. It may be necessary to make sure your spouse has been stabilized with medication before starting off with CBT. Sometimes it is important to make sure the medications are working before any ‘cold turkey’ can be served!
  • DO NOT PARTICIPATE IN YOUR SPOUSE’S ILLNESS! I thought I was being supportive by offering continued reassurances and listening to William’s confessions. However, I later learned that this type of participation only worsened his OCD. I have since heard of many cases where spouses have helped the ill member with his or her irrational rituals. Although it is important to not enable or participate in a ritual it is also important to let them finish their ritual or compulsion with out yelling, “Stop it!” Never say, “Can’t you just quit doing that?” Talk to your mate’s clinician about what your role in the treatment should be. Your behavior can effect your spouse’s recovery for better or for worse. However, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can cure your mate. The illness is his responsibility.
  • REMEMBER, YOU ARE THE HEALTHY ONE! Even months later, William would still question his diagnosis, then at other times he would insist that I had OCD too. When your mate is not thinking clearly, he or she may try to convince you that you are the one with the problem. You may question your own judgment at times. Follow your intuition and stick to your guns. Do not allow your partner’s disordered thinking to effect your self-esteem.
  • GET FAMILY COUNSELING. Keeping a family together is hard enough even when neither member has a mental illness. Family counseling has helped our marriage tremendously. Make sure you find someone who also has a good understanding of your partner’s disorder. Having a couples therapist who knows how to do CBT when necessary has really come in handy.
  • GET SUPPORT! You can’t do it alone, and you can’t expect your impaired mate to meet all of your emotional needs. Maintain as many friendships as possible. Find a support group for yourself — attend a monthly meeting for family members of people with OCD. This is a great source of education and coping strategies.
  • FIND OUTSIDE ACTIVITIES. Because so much of my daily life revolved around my husband’s dysfunction, other activities were critical. Find something that you like to do without your spouse. This will give a needed break and provide you with more energy for the next bout.
  • HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS. Once William was out of the hospital and successfully participating in the UCLA NPI day treatment program, I was so impressed by his improvement that I often forgot that he was still mentally ill. About three weeks after has initial diagnosis I began to miscarry my pregnancy. When I asked him to take me to the doctor I was shocked and hurt when he suggested I go alone because he had so much work to do, even though he had taken a leave of absence for the quarter. In retrospect, I can see how his anxiety impaired his ability to respond appropriately. (At the time, however, I was not so understanding!)
  • HELP OTHERS. After several months of attending my family support group I found that I actually had something to offer others who were just beginning on the road to recovery. I was surprised at how good it felt to be useful. I later became involved with the OC and Spectrum Disorders Association (formerly the OC Foundation of California). I frequently correspond with others who are in need of advice and support. Helping others has given some meaning to what is unquestionably the worst experience I have ever endured.
  • EXPECT SETBACKS. Although there are many excellent treatments, a relapse can happen at any time. After a year of treatment, William’s psychiatrist weaned him off of medication. Many of his symptoms returned, and he was too embarrassed to tell anyone for almost twelve months. When I found out about it, the shock was almost unbearable. Like many mental disorders, there is no cure for OCD. Accepting that there will be setbacks makes them easier to handle when they occur.
  • RECOGNIZE PROGRESS. Especially during times of difficulty, I forget how far we’ve both come. Since William’s initial hospitalization he completed a successful course of difficult CBT and earned a master’s degree in physics. I have a better understanding of his illness, our relationship has improved considerably, and yet I feel more independent than ever before.

It’s been two years since William’s initial diagnosis. The first year was difficult and William’s progress seemed painfully slow at times. Medical bills totaled over seven-thousand dollars after insurance, but the results were well worth it. Despite many ups and downs, William’s functioning has greatly improved. He just passed his first oral exam, and is less than a year away from a Ph.D. He dreams of being a professor.

Though I’m grateful that we’ve made progress and found some good treatments, I reflect soberly on the losses and many unknowns. I lost my husband for over a year and still don’t know who he is much of the time. I’ve lost many of my ‘friends,’ our church, my sanity at times, and even our unborn child. I realize that life has no guarantees, that my husband or children might wrestle with the same demon on another day. I hate the struggle, but I know I’ve come out stronger. Though I don’t have any satisfying answers yet, I turn to God for strength. I try to deal with the problems as they arise, one day at time.

When Your Spouse Has A Mental Illness (OCD): Part 1

Taken from  Brain Physics  which is found    HERE.

This article first appeared in print back in 1998. It offers a glimpse into the way things were 19 years ago. As I read the article it “appears” William showed the classic signs of Bipolar Disorder as well as OCD. Allan

We had what I considered a good marriage. Our family and faith were the focal point of our lives. Our six years together had not always been easy, but I was confident we could meet any challenge. Although I had once suffered from clinical depression, I knew almost nothing about mental illness and never considered it would nearly destroy our family in the year that followed.

Certainly there had been signs a problem for some time — my husband, William, had male bulimia as a teen and later behavior that baffled even himself. There was an incident when, while I was visiting my family, he visited a singles bar, condom in pocket. Another time he flew into a rage during an argument and crushed the children’s training toilet. Another incident, again at a bar, where he became drunk and acted indecently with female patrons. And then twice when he charged thousands of dollars on our credit cards without my knowledge. Of course these incidents generated the expected amount of marital friction, but, occurring at the rate of about one per year, they were infrequent enough to attribute to stress or other external factors. William was generally cheerful and even-tempered; there was no place for this behavior in my assessment of him.

Looking back, I recognize several major factors that probably triggered William’s breakdown. He was a graduate student, and his summer internship required a twice weekly commute from Los Angeles to San Diego. Because of the distance, this usually involved a total of four hours of driving and an overnight stay. I was an at-home mom with a new baby girl and two small boys. Living off William’s graduate stipend alone, we were always short on funds and relied heavily on help from our parents. At the advice of my father, a broker and real estate investor, we transferred our life savings into a high-yield foreign investment. In a scandal that made the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle, the man who orchestrated the investment, a family friend and relative, disappeared with everyone’s funds. Though our loss of five-thousand dollars was small compared to others, we were left shocked and broke.

The breakdown began as what seemed like a testosterone overdose. Several times a day William became obsessed over women and sex. Try as he might to rid himself of the thoughts, which he found repulsive and frightening, the stronger the thoughts became, and they were soon consuming several hours a day. In the middle of the night he would sneak into the living room and watch snippets of pornography on the scrambled cable channels. During the celebration of our sixth anniversary, while I shopped for champagne, William was slipping pornography from street corner vending machines.

Of course he kept this problem a secret for six months, leaving me only to wonder why our sex life seemed to vaporize into successive nights of rejection. When he finally confessed his problem to me, I was horrified. I do not know if the subject matter or the months of deception were more painful. He promised to stop–to do whatever it took to get our relationship back on track. Through our Bible study leader we arranged a meeting with the pastor and his wife. The meeting proved uneventful as William’s sorrow at his actions and promises of change left the pastor convinced that no further intervention was necessary.

“But what if it happens again?” I asked.

“Why think that way?” the pastor’s wife replied. “Why not think, ‘What if it doesn’t happen?’ God’s the one who’s in control. Things are going to get better for you both. I know it.”

I wanted to believe this too, but still felt that something was terribly wrong.


William was convinced it was a spiritual problem and rose every morning at 6 am to read the Bible for an hour followed by prayer. Even so, he continued an irregular pattern of compulsion and deception. Sometimes the compulsions involved buying a pack of cigarettes and smoking them all, even though he didn’t smoke. Often he surfed the internet for pornography, and once he called a 1-900 sex line while drunk “to tell someone how it felt like no one loved me,” he had explained. At my insistence, he started seeing a Christian psychologist. Despite weekly therapy, a six-week church program, a 12-step group for ‘sexaholics’, and even an ‘accountability partner’ the obsessions worsened. At times William feared he was possessed. Neither of us could escape the sobering realization that his sexual thoughts and acting out were becoming more and more serious.

“I see little girls out on the playground, and I get these really awful thoughts that scare me. Like, what if I’m a child molester?” William said one day.

“Are you telling me you have sexual feelings toward-little girls?” I asked, stunned at the thought.

William replied, “I don’t think so-I don’t want to be. But what if….?”


Our lives were soon revolving around William’s obsessions and compulsions. I had to take all of his cash, credit cards, and checks so that he would not spend our limited income on pornography. He could not watch television or a bikini-clad woman in a commercial might trigger the obsessions. Once triggered, he might switch into a zombie-like state, preoccupied with the unwanted thoughts. Even the morning trip to work was complicated by the circuitous route he drove to avoid billboards of sexy women. I tolerated as much of his behavior as I possibly could, but swore that if he even touched another woman, much less a child, he would have to move out.

But the problems went far beyond sexual issues in a manner that was difficult to articulate. William was late for everything; he couldn’t keep track of important papers; he forgot to pay bills, balance his checkbook, study for exams, and was even unable to attend to household chores. He started keeping a 200+ item computerized check-list to remind him to shave or put gas in the car. He had severe mood swings that ranged from a few days of optimistic, almost mania-like energy, to severe depressive lows when an attempted “cure” for his obsessions failed. When William was more himself he would confess to me all his horrible thoughts and beg forgiveness. Often these thoughts involved plans he had to seduce fellow students or women in our Bible study; other times feared he was homosexual, or that he might punch his supervisor, or that he might fail graduate school and lose everything. Occasionally he would question his faith, his sanity, and even his decision to be married. Trying as hard as I possibly could, I offered him continued reassurance and as much forgiveness as possible.

Communication, however was not a two-way street. If I tried to express my feelings about my own pain or offered anything that could possibly be perceived as a criticism, I was confronted by a sudden and unpredictable personality change. Gone was the sincere, caring husband I had married (and frankly, this fellow was becoming more and more scarce) replaced with a cold, robot-like person who cared nothing of my plight. Tears were met only with a strange, wordless callousness. Other times William was frighteningly secretive. If I intruded at all he became fiercely defensive and even paranoid.

There was no way I could get through to him when he was like this. Anything I said would be ignored or forgotten. I tried hard to be the “perfect wife,” hoping either my love would cure him or that at least he would realize that I wasn’t causing his problems. Other times my efforts failed, and communication would break down into an all-night argument. Often he would withdraw completely, not speaking to me for hours or even days.

Oddly enough, William appeared cool and competent to everyone else. If one more person told me what a great husband I had I thought for sure I’d scream. Could it be, I wondered, that I am the one with the problem? What if I’m crazy and William is normal..?

During that time I found a modest part-time job and started our children in child care. This provided a much needed break from family concerns. Even so, most days I closed the door to my office, put on some music, and cried for half-an-hour. I begged God to help William and save our marriage. I was often depressed, and sometimes felt so discouraged that I wanted to die.


It had been a year since our problems began when I gave up all hope of finding answers in the church, psychology, or 12-step groups. Our friends had run out of ideas and were beginning to withdraw. Our oldest son was having serious behavior problems at pre-school. The pastoral staff at our church was tired of trying to help us. When sessions were abruptly cut off by a female pastor I had been seeing for counseling, I felt more alone than ever. The constant struggle with William’s demon and the impending doom of our marriage left me emotionally and spiritually drained. And Christmas was only a few weeks away. William, in utter desperation, was handcuffing himself to the bed at night to keep himself from feared sexual indiscretions during the wee hours.

As a last resort William began to devote a single day per week to prayer and fasting — a final appeal to God for the nightmarish cycle to end. Meanwhile, I braced myself for the confession of infidelity which I expected at any moment. At the very least, I thought, our separation would put an end to the unbearable effort it took to hold our family together. I was so very tired. My doctor had prescribed increasing doses of tranquilizers for stress. To make matters worse, I was pregnant and didn’t know it.

We had kept William’s struggles a secret from our families, but I had lost the energy to continue the charade one Sunday when speaking to my mother-in-law on the phone. I confided that our marriage was in bad shape, and I didn’t have much hope. She suggested I speak to William’s sister, a psychologist in Pittsburgh.

“Pornography? Handcuffing himself to the bed? This is not like William at all,” said my sister-in-law.

“He lies awake at night,” I said, “sometimes for hours, obsessed with doing all kinds of awful things, like going to a topless place, seducing his classmates, and stuff like that.”

She told me, “Listen carefully, William has an illness called Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. It’s very genetic. They can treat it. Take him to the emergency room — now.”

Could this finally be the answer we were looking for? Well, he has obsessions, I reasoned, and he has compulsions. Maybe, just maybe, this is it.

After waiting four hours in the emergency room, William was diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) by the resident psychiatrist at UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute.

The doctor said, “We can do this hard way or the easy way, but I think you should check yourself in to the hospital.” She offered him some admission papers.

William agreed. “Okay,” he said, “where do I sign?”

William spent the next five days locked up in the hospital while doctors performed extensive tests and began treatment with medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy. His doctor was confident that the OCD was treatable. For the first time in months I felt hope.

Why One College Basketball Coach Keeps Fighting To Spread Autism Awareness

Taken from CBS Sports  which is found   HERE.

It happened recently at big brother Ryan’s basketball practice. Little brother Owen was in attendance, and he happened to go up to another boy who was dribbling a ball by himself. Owen did what many kids would do.

He walked over and said, “Hi.”

Then his mom nearly burst into tears.

Kristen Skerry and her husband, Towson coach Pat Skerry, are parents to two boys. The younger of the two, Owen, is autistic. To see him make huge progress, merely by proactively being social and communicating verbally with a kid his age — without encouragement — was a huge achievement.

Owen was diagnosed as autistic before he turned 2. Kristen, a doting mother who was so intent to capture every step, movement and milestone, suspected by the time he was 18 months that her son could be autistic. Owen’s first words weren’t coming. He simply wasn’t talking. Speech pathologists and doctors told the Skerrys they could wait longer to be certain. But Kristen couldn’t help but Google other warning signs. Owen would needlessly bump into walls, and he’d look strangely out of the corner of his eyes.

“When he was 2 and got the diagnosis, I was ready to run with it,” she said. “I had the energy, accepted it, and got services ready. And you know, the psychologist that met with Owen, after we got it [the diagnosis] she said, ‘I can give you a diagnosis now or we can wait.’ And I thought, Wait? That’s when she said, ‘Some people aren’t ready to hear it.'”

***Pat Skerry was hired as Towson’s coach in 2011. He’s essentially been at the job from the time Owen was diagnosed, which hasn’t been easy on either of them. Skerry’s done well, averaging 19 wins the past four seasons, and he’ll likely hit that mark again this season (Towson is 14-10, has won six of its past seven). But the job takes him away from home often, and so he’s missed out on a lot of Owen’s development.

A few years back, when Towson was scheduled to play on national television in the middle of conference play (CAA schools don’t get many of those opportunities) he came up with the idea to have an Autism Awareness Game. He wanted to help his son, and the cause around curing autism, in whatever way could help from the position of being a basketball coach.

No push for donations, just merely a day to honor his son and try to help other families battling the affliction. Before long, the simple gesture turned into a national endeavor: “Coaches Powering Forward for Autism.”

Skerry’s good friend in the coaching profession, TCU assistant Tom Herrion, also has a child, Robert, with autism. He’s helped push the cause, and it’s made reverberations beyond basketball. The project started with the Skerrys mailing puzzle-piece pins to coaches around the country. And suddenly, Hall of Famers were wearing these pins and many people saying, “What’s that for?”

Now it’s become an understated but powerful gesture. Skerry was stunned, a couple years back, to turn on Duke-North Carolina and see Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams supporting the cause.

“That’s where the awareness comes from,” Pat Skerry said. “When the extremely popular guys, when John Calipari or Bill Self has a pin on, that’s where someone goes, ‘What is that?'”

When you watch college basketball this weekend, pretty much every college coach will have a blue puzzle-piece pin attached to his lapel. That’s for Autism Speaks. That’s for Owen Skerry and Robert Herrion.

Owen turns 8 in two weeks. He’s in a private school now, but Kristen still isn’t comfortable with him taking the bus, so she drops him off and picks him up every day. And three days a week, a therapist comes to the family’s home to help him do simple things, like play hide-and-seek or try new social activities. Sometimes this backfires. Sometimes Owen likes his routine and hates trying new things, things that make his world feel violated.

“He can be very rigid, and once we start certain things, he expects those every day, and that can cause problems for him, and he can get very upset,” Kristen Skerry said. “There’s the social piece of being around other people and wanting to engage with them, and not wanting to be on his own.”

Owen’s behavior can be unpredictable. When he was 5, he loved going to his dad’s games and sitting in the student section. The next year, he wanted to be high up in the stands, away from everything. This season, he’s as involved at games as he’s ever been. He’s growing up, but at his own pace. This Saturday, for Towson’s home game against William & Mary, the team is even bringing in an adult with autism to be the public address announcer. The school is pledging support for so many who live with the condition. The greater Baltimore area has specific programs to help adults living with autism.

It should be a pretty special day inside the new SECU Arena.

This might be the last time Coaches Powering Forward for Autism is held so late in the season, though. College basketball coaches help raise millions every year through Coaches vs. Cancer. Skerry’s collaboration with Autism Speaks always comes the weekend after the coaches where their sneakers on the sidelines and help raise money. Skerry wants to raise money too, but mostly he wants people to become more aware of how prevalent autism is. The latest statistics show 1 in 68 children are diagnosed on the spectrum.

He doesn’t want to be pushy. The earnestness of the deed reflects on the nature of the condition.

So the next step is to get some sort of early season doubleheader, something explicitly tied to Autism Speaks and putting on a day of basketball with big programs. But for now, the grassroots effort has been one of the more inspiring, humble and effective campaigns in college sports.

Towson’s home tip is at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. When Skerry gets home that night, it will be the one night all season that he doesn’t first pop in game tape. Instead, he’ll flick around the dial and check out all the games on TV, he’ll see coaches wearing pins and take a moment with his son to appreciate what’s being done, the love being shown, to help people discover more about what autism is and how the world is, hopefully, becoming a more considerate environment for those who live with a silent battle every day.

To donate toward autism research, you can do so here.