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Sepsis ... caregiving for Alzheimer's disease.

Sepsis is an infection in the bloodstream, which may spread there from any source of infection (including bacterial, viral, or fungal) in the body. It can happen to anyone, but it is most common and most dangerous in the elderly and among those with weakened immune systems, which puts them at a greater risk of infection from all causes.

Symptoms of sepsis include fever, rapid heart rate and/or breathing rate, and a confirmed infection, such as pneumonia or a kidney infection. As sepsis progresses, abdominal pain, difficulty breathing, decreased urine output, and a rapid change in mental status, such as sudden confusion, may occur. To protect yourself, prior to your surgery, make sure you're up-to-date on vaccinations for pneumococcus and influenza, which are common causes of respiratory infections. Request that you not be catheterized unless it is absolutely necessary; this can help minimize the cahnces of a urinary tract infection. And, if you experience any of the above symptoms while in the hospital, report them immediately to a nurse or doctor. Caregivers face a variety of challenges when a loved one develops a serious health issue, but those challenges are compounded when they are caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease (AD) or another form of dementia. Watching a loved one change before your eyes as the disease progresses often triggers feelings of loss and grief, since you are essentially losing a relationship you may have had for many decades.

This means it is particularly important that you pay close attention to your own mental well-being while caring for your sister. Reach out to local support groups where you can talk with others in similar situations. Today's Caregiver ( offers regional resources for caregivers, including caregiver support groups. Also, try to make time in your day to do things that you enjoy. Listen to a favorite piece of music, read affirmations or books that provide a spiritual boost, or take a 10-minute walk--anything that will help keep you in a positive frame of mind.

And, speak to a social worker to obtain help at home for your sister. Medicaid funds programs that are designed to keep people with early memory loss stay physically active and socially and mentally stimulated. This also provides caregivers with respite. Social workers who are well versed in resources for the elderly can be contacted through your local Department of Aging or senior center, and via the Alzheimer's Association (; 1-800-272-3900).

My neighbor passed away after developing sepsis while in the hospital after an operation. I'm going to be in the hospital undergoing surgery--how can I protect myself?

My sister, who is suffering from early-stage Alzheimer's disease, is going to be moving into my home. Do you have any tips that will help me care for her?


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Title Annotation:ASK DR. ETINGIN
Publication:Women's Health Advisor
Date:Sep 1, 2014
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