Top 5 Dementia Articles for 2014

canstockphoto1476746We thought it fitting to provide you with a new top 5 list to ring in the new year.  Listed below are the top 5 articles on DEMENTIA for this, the first week of 2014.  We hope you find it both interesting and informative.  As always, if you have comments, suggestions, or additional resources to add we invite you to participate in our comments section below!

Top 5 Articles on Dementia

1.  Bringing Dementia Patients Back To Life (The Atlantic; Jan. 5, 2014):  This article focuses on the many misconceptions of a dementia diagnosis, and it focuses what dementia patients CAN DO, not what they can’t.  Money Quote: “In some cases, unresponsiveness may say less about a patient’s disability than a failure on our part to offer something worth responding to.”

2. Heart Disease Could Be Tied To Dementia For Older Women (Reuters; Jan. 2, 2014)  Reuters reacts to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association entitled Cardiovascular Disease and Cognitive Decline in Postmenopausal Women: Results From the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study.  This study looked at the relationship between heart disease and cognitive decline in elderly women.  Researchers confirmed the association noting that “Women who’d had a heart attack, in particular, were twice as likely to see declines in their thinking and memory skills”.  Money Quote:  “Understanding the connection between heart disease and dementia is important because heart disease is reversible but Alzheimer’s disease is not, O’Brien said.”

3. What Is The Global Impact Of Dementia (CBS News.com; Jan. 4, 2014)  CBS News VIDEO discusses the global impact (including economic implications, human implications and potential therapies). Money Quote: “Where we’re really lacking – is drugs that can hit that inflammation response where the brain’s immune cells are turning against it.  We really have nothing that can help you.  Ibuprofen and current anti inflammatories won’t do it.”


4. A Daily Dose Of Vitamin E Slows Ravages Of Dementia (Daily Express – UK; Jan. 1, 2014)  For the first time, US researchers have found a benefit of adding Vitamin E to the diets of mild to moderate dementia sufferers.  Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital and the Veterans’ Administration Medical Centers in Minneapolis are reporting that “the annual rate of functional decline among dementia sufferers was reduced by 19 per cent thanks to a daily vitamin E supplement”.  This particularly study noted that those taking Vitamin E were able to carry out everyday tasks for longer periods of time.  Money Quote:  “Now that we have a strong clinical trial showing that vitamin E slows functional decline and reduces the burdens on care-givers, vitamin E should be offered to patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms.”

5. The Younger Face Of Dementia: Ottawa Man Shares Wife’s Battle With The Disease (CTV news.ca- Jan. 6, 2014)  When people think of dementia they think of it as an older person’s disease, but as Matthew Dineen explains – his wife was just 41 when she began exhibiting signs of the disease.  Today, Lisa Dineen lives in the secure wing of a Ottawa nursing home, a stand-out among the elderly residents there.  A year ago she was diagnosed with FTD (Frontotemporal Dementia) a devastating brain disorder for which we know no cure.  Money Quote:  “We have people who get a divorce … their families leave them because some of them start acting very inappropriately. They don’t understand that it is a brain disease, they don’t understand that they are not doing it on purpose.”

Five More Senior Care Experts You Should Follow On Twitter

In June we wrote a piece called “5 Aging Experts You Should Be Following On Twitter“.  It was a popular post and features some of our favorite eldercare advocates that you should be following on Twitter (if you’re into tweeting).   Today we thought we’d give you 5 more senior care experts that you should add to your list.  Drum-roll please…

#1) Dr. Kathy Johnson is the Founder and CEO of Home Care Assistance. She is a certified care manager, psychologist and caregiver, and tweets about a multitude of aging issues (and solutions).

#2) Lynn Wilson founded The Care Giver Partnership, which provides advice, services, resources and products to Caregivers and their loved ones.

#3)  Nanette Davis, Ph.D.  is a writer, speaker, advocate and life coach for caregivers.  She’s also a community educator who’s written several books including; “The ABCs of Caregiving: Words to Inspire You” and “Caregiving Our Loved Ones: Stories and Strategies That Will Change Your Life”.

#4) Beverly Parsons is a licensed clinical social worker who has 12 years of geriatric care management experience working with aging families.  Beverly is also a family mediator who helps families navigate troubled waters.

#5)  Dementia Journeys – John Belchamber founded Dementia Journeys with great inspiration from his mother Anne.  He found comfort sharing his feelings through writing AND sharing with others.  A very nice dementia resource.

 

We hope you enjoy the above senior care experts on Twitter.  Click here to find The Senior List on Twitter, we look forward to interacting with you on Twitter soon!

Also, make sure you follow us on Facebook today or just click the big “f” and then click LIKE.

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Patented Tools Provide A Glimpse Into The World Of Alzheimers Disease

Family members and caregivers experience many things when caring for an Alzheimer’s patient.  One of the more common feelings (aside from caregiver burnout) is a high degree of frustration.  Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease can be exhausting, especially if the caregiver has little experience with Alzheimer’s issues.

A new patented training experience is helping people experience Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms, and it’s proving to be a wonderful training tool for caregivers (and family members alike).  Geriatric Specialist P.K. Bevelle (founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Second Wind Dreams) developed a sensory alteration tool which simulates the effects of “age-related cognitive or physical decline”.  In other words, it simulates what it’s like to live with a disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Volunteers are fitted with gloves, and some fingers are taped (to simulate arthritic joints, etc.).  They also get fitted with shoe implants which make it more difficult to walk.  Then the most interesting part of the simulation… Volunteers wear eye goggles (which simulate macular degeneration and/or cataracts) as well as headphones that mimic the confusing sounds that many Alzheimer’s sufferers complain of.  The results are astounding.  Simple tasks become difficult or near impossible.  Something as simple as “finding a white sweater” is an exercise in futility.

We found a dramatic video posted on YouTube, that puts P.K. Bevelle’s training tool to the test.  It’s utilized by a real caregiver (a family member to someone with Alzheimer’s disease), as well as a news reporter covering a story on caregivers.  After just 12 minutes in the virtual Alzheimer’s environment, their lives were changed forever.  Being able to relate to what Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers go through gives people a perspective they never could have imagined.  After watching this video, we hope you gain some new perspectives on caregiving,  just as we did.

Where To Turn If You Suspect Elder Abuse

Elder Abuse Resources

We’ve all heard the horror stories… Caregiver neglects 82 year old in her care.  Son spends elderly parent’s savings on liquor and motorcycles.  The list goes on and on.  Would you know where to direct someone if they suspected elder abuse?

Well we’re here to tell you!  The Administration on Aging’s National Center on Elder Abuse has a great resource that provides a state-by-state resource guide that provides hotline numbers, statewide data, and statistics pertaining to elder abuse.  Click the interactive map to link up with this valuable resource.

As always, if you have some strong suspicions, please call your local authorities!  This is an issue that is incredibly under reported.

Saying Goodbye To A Parent Or Loved One

caregiver holding handsHuffington Post is running a great article entitled “Saying Goodbye To A Parent” by Betty Londergan.  Many of us won’t have the privilege of saying goodbye because many times death can be acute, immediate and sadly… surprising.  For the lucky ones, being able to say-your-peace, and receive the same back can be incredibly fulfilling.

My husband was able to experience this with his grandfather many years ago.  His “Grandpa Joe”, a WWII veteran was dying of cancer that had spread extensively throughout his body.  He had been in and out of the VA in Spokane Washington… On and off chemotherapy…  And finally in his late 80′s he had had enough.  Weeks before he went into the VA (his final visit) my husband and his brother drove up to Spokane to spend some time with Grandpa Joe.  It was unlike any other visit they’d ever had.  The normally rough-and-tough Joe was extremely frail but still relatively lucid.  On this visit, Joe would open up about the war (he rarely if ever spoke of his year of grueling service as a medic in the war overseas), and Joe even initiated a discussion about what each grandchild had meant to him during his adult life.  Joe knew this was indeed the last visit he’s have with his grandsons.  Though I’m told the tears were at full flood stage, each of the boys (then in their 30′s) were able to share their favorite memories and thank Joe for being such a wonderful grandfather and friend over the years.  They also both (literally) said goodbye to Grandpa Joe one last time…

Being able to say goodbye, can be an incredible rewarding and fulfilling experience.  In her article, Betty Londergan calls being with a parent while they’re leaving this world “the great privilege”, and I must say I totally agree.  As a social worker, I’m around families dealing with these issues on a regular basis.  Some are good at it, and some not so much.  Most people know that in life there are no guarantees, so it’s important to take the opportunity to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you.  Tell them you love them while you have the opportunity to do so in this life.  It will eliminate (or at least minimize) the “I wish I would have” notions, or the “I should have told them what they meant to me” regrets.

Have you had the “privilege” to say goodbye a loved one before they passed on? How did it go?  What would you do differently?  -Share your thoughts in the comments below

Dementia Care- From War to Grace

Aging with Grace photo“She’s ALWAYS been stubborn and it’s only gotten worse with age!”  When families care for their aging loved one a tug of war can quickly start over installing grab bars in the shower, keeping feet elevated or accepting the help of caregivers. Assumptions flare up without shedding useful light on the distinction between “will not” and “can not”. The lightning flash of judgment can blind clinicians and other care providers as well.

The elder in question may or may not have a diagnosis of dementia. Even mildly diminished mental function can derail every day tasks and stall cooperation.

Some folks have spent a lifetime resisting change and fending off help. Frustrated family members involved with such a person quickly take up their historic positions and either wage war or throw up their hands in disgust. As understandable as that may be, aging itself erodes the elder’s very foundation. It’s a new game now.  Wise and effective  families consider normal mental aging, physical/medical health and learn about dementia in an effort to find a fresh approach.

Normal mental aging introduces a new set of obstacles for the aging adult. Complex tasks take longer to understand and produce a response, the elder is more easily distracted, and hearing and vision may scramble input. Given all of these changes, errors are common; those errors are alarming to everyone.

Underlying medical disorders and pain can introduce additional corrosive factors that undermine cooperation. Shortness of breath, episodes of dizziness or fatigue as well as the ongoing fear of losing control of their bladder or bowels can be unrecognized distractions that further stall the elder’s ability to accept new equipment, learn a new task or make changes to their routine.

With the onset of dementia the very bedrock of mental function gives way. In some cases there is a slow decline; in others, as with a stroke for example, the damage can be sudden. That battle over grab bars or accepting a caregiver is fueled by much more than simple stubbornness. It requires a fresh approach.

It can be helpful to take an inventory of the physical, medical and emotional challenges the elder has to face each day. What kind of “vehicle” is the elder trying to “drive”?

A person who battles infection, medication side effects, sleep loss and pain has very specific and variable needs. A person who can’t hear, can’t see and can’t feel things accurately will, at the very least, be distracted and will certainly have problems with daily tasks. Poor vision and hearing result in poor memory – regardless of any underlying dementing process – junk in is junk out.

Consider emotional health next. Hopefully elders who have lived with schizophrenia, bi-polar disorders and the like will receive appropriate services. Depression has a serious impact on cognition and may respond well to medication and non-pharmaceutical treatment. Elders who have experienced the loss of their home, a life partner or pet may be aching and distracted with grief.

So the “car” the elder is “driving” may be quite a clunker! The emotional state of the “driver” may at times feel like they are locked in a cell with a blaring radio and screaming kids or at other times imprisoned inside chilling darkness.

What about the mental resources of this imagined “driver”? How well is their cognitive equipment working? Most people associate dementia with memory loss, but impaired cognition involves so much more: perception, attention, judgment, problem solving, use of numbers, language and learning. Dementia damages all of these mental tools.

Even before dementia is diagnosed many elements of cognition may not be working well. The elder may always have had trouble with judgment, impulse control, problem solving and learning. Age, along with years of alcohol/drug abuse and injury, will strain already weak systems.

Perceptual damage often lurks unrecognized. Perception, the meaning the brain makes of sensory input, is an essential foundation to attention and memory. This delicate network of brain function requires specific testing; simple observation does not reliably detect impairments.

When perception is healthy, we can tell the difference between wet and icy and the difference between a motor and a bell. We can reach into our pocket and find our keys, leaving the coins behind. When perception is damaged, the very foundation of every experience falls apart in unpredictable ways.

Is the demented elder faced with “driving” an unpredictable and temperamental “wreck” of a body? Is that task complicated by episodes of fear, grief, voices, energy highs and lows? Do they know what is going on around them? Can they follow verbal instructions? Do they recognize hazards? Can they solve problems or get help? No doubt the answers to these questions will change with dementia’s inevitable decline.

The elder’s previous history and current challenges may dishearten even the most intrepid helper. Don’t be discouraged. Here is an important key: don’t introduce anything new by talking about it. Just bring the new bathroom grab bar or new foot rest or new caregiver and put it in place with the invitation to “try it for a week and then we can take it out if you don’t like it”. Plant the seed and nurture its growth.

A special grace comes with using something or someone that meets a need – you just have to get it planted so it can take root and flourish.

The 10 Early Signs Of Alzheimer’s Disease

A special report published recently by the Alzheimer’s Association, noted; “An Alzheimer's disease facts and figuresestimated 5.4 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2012.  This figure includes 5.2 million people age 65 and older and 200,000 individuals age 65 who have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.”  According to CNN this number is expected to rise to 16 million by 2050!

The Alzheimer’s Association (alz.org) has published a list of warning signs and symptoms of someone suspected of Alzheimer’s Disease.  This is an important list, and we’d encourage you to pass it along to others that may need this valuable resource.  Knowing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, can help keep you (or your loved one) out of trouble should these signs start to occur more regularly.

“The 10 Early Signs Of Alzheimer’s Disease”

  1. Memory Loss That Disrupts Daily Life (like forgetting names and appointments and remembering them later)
  2. Challenges In Planning Or Solving Problems (like making errors when paying bills or balancing a checkbook)
  3. Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks At Home, At Work Or At Leisure (like occasionally needing help with the settings on an oven or DVD player)
  4. Confusion With Time Or Place (like getting confused about the day of the week, and remembering later)
  5. Trouble Understanding Visual Images & Spatial Relationships (like difficulty reading or differentiating colors)
  6. New Problems With Words In Speaking Or Writing (like having trouble finding the right word to use in conversation)
  7. Misplacing Things & Losing The Ability To Retrace Steps (like misplacing something and retracing steps to find it)
  8. Decreased Or Poor Judgment (like giving money to telemarketers)
  9. Withdrawal From Work Or Social Activities (like not attending events with friends)
  10. Changes In Mood & Personality (like becoming easily irritable)

“Studies presented at the (2011 International Conference on Alzheimer’s Disease) conference reinforced the notion that signs of Alzheimer’s may develop in the brain 10 to 20 years before any symptoms begin.” -CNN Health

The Senior List Check MarkIf you or anyone you know is experiencing any number of these signs you should consult with medical personnel immediately.  For further information and a thorough explanation of each of the symptoms above, visit alz.org.

Also Read:

A Letter From a Mother To Her Daughter (very touching)

Find a Caregiver Support Group

Your Mom Has Dementia… How Do You Keep Her Safe?

A Letter From A Mother To Her Daughter

Sometimes you see something on social media that really moves you.  This is one of those pieces… You can find it here and there (on the internet) and on facebook, but if you haven’t read it yet- it’s more than worth it.  These moving words are reportedly penned by Guillermo Peña, and translated to English by Sergio Cadena.  The photo is also reportedly taken by Mr. Peña.  Enjoy!
Mother & Daughter by Guillermo Peña

A Letter From A Mother To Her Daughter (by Guillermo Peña)

“My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through. If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”… Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me.
Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way… remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day… the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you.

And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked. When those days come, don’t feel sad… just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love. I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you… my darling daughter. “

Original Text in Spanish and Photo by Guillermo Peña. Translation to English by Sergio Cadena

Finding a Caregiver Support Group

Community Support photoCaregiver Support Groups

It’s November, and IF you didn’t know, it’s National Family Caregiver’s Month.  It’s a time when we’re supposed to be celebrating and honoring caregivers.  Sometimes that means that caregivers need to celebrate and honor themselves.  One way that you (caregivers) can do that is to find a support group and attend it regularly.  It’s one of the ways you can actively deal with the sense of isolation and frustration, by finding a safe place where you can share your feelings.  At the same time, you have the opportunity to give and receive advice and support from other caregivers.

Patient support groups have been around for more than twenty years because of initial research that indicated patient outcomes were more positive among cancer patients who were part of a support group.  Those early  results have been discounted by recent research, however, newer studies indicate that patients of all types who attend support groups experience lower levels of distress.  Bottom line: they feel less stressed… and that more relaxed state enables them to simply feel better.  Feeling good can also translate into faster recovery from treatment.

Who Needs Caregiver Support?

So why do caregivers need support groups?  At it’s most basic… it’s important for stress reduction.  Stress reduction is directly related to caregiver well-being.  A high level of well-being enables caregivers to remain strong to care for their loved ones.

Finding a caregiver support group isn’t always easy (though patient support groups are plentiful).  There are support groups for families, which are helpful to caregivers, but these will also include non-caregivers.  The focus in these groups tends to be on the patient and how the patients’ response to their illness and treatment affects the family members.  Good stuff, for sure, but not necessarily focused on the caregiver.

If you’re in an urban or suburban location, the local hospital or the organization which supports your loved one’s disease (American Heart Association, the Cancer Society, Alzheimer’s Association, etc.), is a good place to find a support group.

Blessings, Joanne

Caregiving During The Holidays

Holiday Surprise PhotoThe year-end holidays are coming, and I want you to think for a moment about your plans to celebrate.  Rather than do your traditional celebrations, please consider alternative plans and reducing the burden to both honor and support your loved one.  People who are dealing with chronic ailments or who are in pain shouldn’t be expected to go through the holidays as they once did.  No matter how much you (or they) may want “the usual traditions”, you need to take into account reduced stamina and increase frailty.

Tips For Caregiving During The Holidays

Be sure you include your loved one in the planning process, this is very important.  They may want to do everything as it’s always been done… So you’ll need to help your loved one understand that there needs to be new traditions started (in order to account for the place you all find yourselves in now).  That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t celebrate!  It’s just a way of remembering that whatever you do, you need to take your loved one’s state-of-health into account.

Here are a few examples of how to reduce stress on your loved one:

  • Instead of a day-long cookie-baking extravaganza that will only exhaust mom, why not pre-bake the cookies?  That way mom can join in the shortened party to decorate them.  She’s still participating, but at a level she can handle.
  • Instead of the big traditional holiday dinner, why not down-size to a series of short events with much lighter menus.  A tea-and-cookies event, wine and appetizers, or even a bring your favorite soup party?
  • Folks who are frail and those suffering from dementia can be overwhelmed by even a handful of familiar faces.  It quickly becomes too much information to recall, too much energy to absorb, and your loved one may respond not with enjoyment, but with highly anxious behaviors.  It’s a good reason to keep your gatherings very small, maybe only two or three people at a time.
  • For the elderly, the process of selecting, buying and wrapping gifts may be too taxing.  Instead of doing a gift exchange, what not use the time to pull out the family photo albums, videos or 8 mm movies?  Other alternatives to spending time exchanging gifts would be to play board or card games that your loved one enjoys, or watch holiday-themed videos.  Our family holds a comic movie film fest.  Laughing together really makes for a great holiday mood.

You get the idea—think small and intimate.  You can still do all the holiday decorating, just have mom supervise from her favorite chair.  You can share and enjoy the music and food of the season.  Just keep your loved one’s state of health in mind and then make appropriate plans.

Blessings, Joanne

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net