Tag Archive 'Alzheimer’s Association'

Dec 15 2009

Tips for Coping With Alzheimer’s During the Holidays

Despite our best efforts to make the holidays a time of pure joy and thankfulness, the fact is for most people I know there is also a fair amount of stress. I can only imagine how that is exacerbated when there is a family member with Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer’s Association – Florida Gulf Coast Chapter- has developed 10 Holiday Survival Tips that will help make family gatherings a happy, memorable occasion for all.
Tip 1 -  Planning can avoid holiday stress. Individuals who experience the most difficulty with the holiday season are those who have given little thought to the challenges they will encounter. Consider ahead of time what may be expected of you, both socially and emotionally.

  • Discuss holiday celebrations with relatives and close friends in advance. 
  • Plan to maintain a regular routine while trying to provide a pleasant, meaningful and calm holiday event.
  • Celebrate early in the day or have a noon meal rather than a late dinner.

Tip 2 – Take care of yourself (caregiver) Remember, the holidays are opportunities to share time with people you love. Try to make these celebrations easy on yourself and with the person with Alzheimer’s disease so that you may concentrate on enjoying your time together.

  • Set limits by telling family and friends that you intend to control stress this holiday season.
  • Maintain a positive mental attitude.
  • Ask for assistance for you and your loved one.
  • Attend an Alzheimer’s Association support group that will allow you discuss ways to overcome holiday stress.
    Prepare to deal with post-holiday letdown. Arrange for in-home care (respite care) so you can enjoy a movie or lunch with a friend and reduce post-holiday stress.

Tip 3 – Prepare the person with Alzheimer’s for the family gathering. Preparing your loved one for the upcoming holiday events can allow both of you to enjoy the warmth of the season.

  • Talk about and show photos of family members and friends who will be visiting.
  • Have a “quiet” room in case things get too hectic.
  • Play familiar music and serve favorite traditional holiday foods.
  • Schedule naps, especially if the person usually takes naps.

Tip 4 – Prepare family members and friends. Preparing families and friends with an honest appraisal of the person’s condition can help avoid uncomfortable or harmful situations.

  • Familiarize family members and friends with behaviors and condition changes.
  • Recommend practical and useful gifts. (See Tip 7)
  • Remind family and friends the best way to communicate with a person with dementia. (See Tip 6)

Tip 5 – Involve everyone when selecting activities. Involve everyone in holiday activities including the person with dementia.

  • Consider taking walks, icing cookies, telling stories, doing chores, making a memory book or family tree, or keeping a journal.
  • To encourage conversation, place magazines, scrapbooks, or photo albums in reach; play music to prompt dancing or other kinds of exercise. 
  • Encourage young family members to participate in simple and familiar activities with the person.

Tip 6 – Communicate with success. Alzheimer’s can diminish a person’s ability to communicate. These tips may help you understand each other.

  • Be calm and supportive if the person has trouble communicating.
  • Speak slowly with a relaxed tone.
  • Avoid criticism. For example, when someone forgets a recent conversation, avoid saying, “Don’t you remember?”
  • Address the person by name.
  • Be patient, flexible, and do not argue with the person with Alzheimer’s

Tip 7 — Smart gift giving.

  • Encourage family and friends to give useful, practical gifts for the person such as identification bracelet (available through Medic Alert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®). Other gifts may include comfortable easy-to-remove clothing, audiotapes of favorite music, videos, and photo albums.
  • Advise others not to give gifts such as dangerous tools or instruments, utensils, challenging board games, complicated electronic equipment, or pets.
  • If possible, involve the person in giving gifts. For example, someone who once enjoyed cooking may enjoy baking cookies, or buy the gift and allow the person to wrap it.

Tip 8 – Safe environment in the home. Persons with dementia may experience changes in judgment. This behavior may lead to confusion, frustration, or wandering. Consider these tips to reduce the risk of injury and situations that could be confusing to someone with dementia.

  • Assign a “buddy” to watch out for the person to ensure their comfort.
  • Arrange ample space for walking side-by-side, for wheelchairs, and walkers. Keep walking areas clear.
  • Consider seating options so the person with Alzheimer’s can best focus on conversation and be least distracted.
  • Don’t serve alcohol, which may lead to inappropriate behavior or interactions with medications.
  • Accommodate changes in vision. Place contrasting-color rugs in front of doors or steps.  Avoid dark-colored rugs that may appear to be “holes.”
  • Limit access to places where injuries occur, such as a kitchen or stairwell. Check temperature of water and food.  Prevent falls by installing metal grab bars; and secure textured stickers to slippery surfaces.
  • Create even level of lighting; avoid blinking lights.
  • Keep decorations simple; avoid using candies, artificial fruits/vegetables, or other edibles as decorations.
  • Supervise in taking medicine.
  • Keep emergency phone numbers and a list of medications handy.

Tip 9 — Travel wisely. The following suggestions may ensure a positive traveling experience:

  • Never leave the person alone.
  • Use familiar modes of transportation and avoid peak travel times.
  • Keep plans simple and maintain daily routines as much as possible.
  • Allow extra time to avoid the stress of rushing.
  • Advise service and hospitality staff that you are traveling with someone with dementia and about the person’s behaviors and special needs.
  • Arrange for services, such as wheelchairs, ahead of time.
  • Provide identification items such as a Medic Alert® + Alzheimer’s Association Safe Return®) bracelet and clothing labels.

Tip 10 – Reliable sources of support
Families can call the Alzheimer’s Association (Gulf Coast Chapter) at 727-578-2558 or the 24-hour Helpline at  1-800-772-8672 to answer questions about warning signs and to assist persons with dementia  and caregivers.  The national Helpline is 1-800-272-3900. The Helpline will be open all Christmas day and New Year’s Day, as well as year round.

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Sep 21 2009

World Alzheimer’s Day

Today, on World Alzheimer’s Day, new data released estimates 35 million people worldwide – a 10% increase over 2005 – are living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, highlighting the urgent need for action and response. With 77 million American baby boomers reaching the age of greatest risk, it is clear that the crisis of dementia and Alzheimer’s cannot be ignored. Left unchecked, dementia and Alzheimer’s will impose enormous burdens on individuals, families, health care infrastructures and the worldwide economy. The impact is already being felt here in Florida, where 25% of our population is 65 or older. Individual families and senior living facilities are struggling to provide care to the growing number of people dealing with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

According to the 2009 World Alzheimer Report, newly released today from Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), a London-based nonprofit, international federation, the number of people with Alzheimer’s or another dementia is expected to nearly double every 20 years, to 65.7 million in 2030 and 115.4 million in 2050.  It is estimated that there is a new case diagnosed every 70 seconds.

Much of the growth will be fueled by longer life spans and population growth, especially in developing nations.

“The number of people affected by Alzheimer’s is growing at a rapid rate, and the increasing personal costs will have significant impact on the world’s economies and health care systems. We must make the fight against Alzheimer’s a priority here in the United States and worldwide,” said Harry Johns, President and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association.

According to Johns, some other countries, like the U.K., have a national Alzheimer’s plan in place. But in the United States, federal spending on research for Alzheimer’s is far lower than some other diseases, like cancer and AIDS. And, there’s no national plan in place that deals with long-term care for people with dementia, as well as “care coordination” of the many different health-care professionals who are often needed to care for patients with Alzheimer’s.

Although there is no cure, experts say that patients who receive active, early medical care may be able to delay progression and experience a higher quality of life. Also, caregivers who receive supportive services early on are better able to manage their loved ones’ illness at home and reduce institutionalization.

The Alzheimer’s Association website provides this very interesting interactive tour that shows how Alzheimer’s affects the brain. Inside the Brain: An Interactive Tour.

If you are trying to find care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, many of the nursing homes and assisted living facilities in the Florida Senior Living Advisor database offer memory care services. Visit the individual websites or call for more information. Another option is in-home care, which I wrote about on this blog last week.

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Aug 19 2009

Challenges Facing Aging Boomers

I came across an interesting article that I want to share with you. It comes from ww.medicalnewstoday.com, and I am using parts of it with the site’s permission. The article is titled  “Baby Boomers Face Down Aging: 10 Most Common Medical Challenges.” It offers a snapshot of the ten challenges that baby boomers will face in the coming years as more and more of them hit 65. And since the US Census Bureau estimates that nearly a quarter of the US population will be 65 or older by 2030 (today that group is around 13% of total), this means these are issues that will balloon in scope and impact in coming years.

Of course, these are also issues that today’s elderly population is dealing with. So whether you are caring for an elderly loved one right now, or looking toward your future as a senior citizen, I think this list provides some valuable information to keep in mind. It comes to use from researchers and clinicians in the Division of Geriatric and Palliative Medicine at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.

10 Most Common Medical Challenges Facing Baby Boomers

1. Functional decline: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the body loses one percent of muscle mass a year beginning at age 45, which can result in sarcopenia as skeletal muscle is eventually replaced with fat and the body becomes weaker. Some research has linked protein deficiency with sarcopenia. For every week spent in the hospital, it takes an aging body a month to recover muscle strength with daily rehabilitation, says geriatrician Liliana Andrade, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at the UT Medical School at Houston. Exercise, including resistance and strength training, is absolutely essential for retaining muscle mass and strength. “For balance, tai chi is good,” she says. “We also encourage patients to rent ’sit and be fit’ videos that use hand and leg weights.”

2. Depression: Considered as prevalent as the common cold in the elderly, depression can be the result of major life changes, including retirement, losing loved ones and loss of mobility and independence. It can show up differently in older people, says geriatrician Nasiya Ahmed, M.D., assistant professor of internal medicine at the UT Medical School at Houston. “There’s not as much of a tendency toward tearfulness or feelings of hopelessness,” she says. “Instead they have vague somatic complaints, increased pain, not sleeping or eating well or general apathy.”

3. Disease: Chronic diseases associated with the aging process, including high blood pressure, stroke, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypothyroidism, constipation, incontinence and arthritis, can take their toll. Preventive measures taken now such as quitting smoking, eating healthy food and exercising are all important steps toward a better quality of life. “Even quitting smoking at age 60 is better than not quitting at all,” Andrade says.

4. Polypharmacy: A term geriatricians are using for the number of prescription and over-the-counter medications that elderly people are taking in alarming numbers is polypharmacy. “People go to five different doctors and none of the others know what is going on,” Ahmed says. In some cases, seniors who wind up in the hospital may be prescribed a different medication for an existing condition such as high blood pressure because the hospital doesn’t stock the particular one they’ve been taking in the past. The patient returns home with a new prescription from the hospital physician and continues taking the other medication as well, which can be deadly. “I’ve had patients come in who are taking 20 different medications,” Andrade says. “A lot of them also take vitamins and herbal supplements that they don’t need and that can interfere with medications.” The solution, they say, is to have a written record of all prescriptions, supplements and vitamins that they can bring to their appointments and have a family practitioner or geriatrician who can be the lead physician in managing their care.

5. Falls: Low blood pressure, which can be a result of poorly managed hypertension or dehydration, can lead to dizziness. That dizziness, combined with a decreased ability of the vascular system to compensate for changes in position such as standing up, is the largest cause of falls, they say. “So many patients have told me that they take blood pressure medication when they feel like it’s high instead of taking it as it is prescribed,” Ahmed says. “I ask them how they know it’s high and they give vague signs such as their nose tingles or their tremor worsening.” Taking medications for sleep can also be dangerous. “Some take Benadryl to help them sleep and as people get older, that’s not such a good thing because it causes confusion and they can fall because they’re sleepy,” Andrade says.

6. Abuse and neglect: These two problems, including self-neglect, will continue to afflict the elderly, says Carmel B. Dyer, M.D., professor and director of the geriatric and palliative medicine division at the UT Medical School at Houston and co-author of the book, “Elder Abuse Detection and Intervention.”

7. Financial exploitation: Vulnerable elderly people can easily become victims of family members or caregivers. “We see cases where grown children have moved back in with them and are depending on them financially. They use their resources, borrow the car, rely on them to baby sit, and it upsets the senior’s ability to function,” Ahmed says. “I had one patient in her early 80s whose leg had just been amputated and she was still babysitting her 11- and 12-year-old grandchildren, who were taunting her.”

8. Dementia: Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, a gradual decline in a person’s mental functioning, and is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans over age 65, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that Alzheimer’s disease and dementia triple healthcare costs for people over 65. But education about dementia and possible treatments including medications is lacking, Ahmed and Andrade say. “There are now more medications that are helpful. They can’t cure it, but they can help,” Andrade says. “Unfortunately, a lot of people are in denial. I had a 78-year-old patient who I knew was suffering from dementia because of the way he was managing his medications and health. But his son got upset when I started talking about it and they left the room.”

9. Caregiver burnout: As baby boomers age, many will also be taking care of their own aging parents. That brings caregiver burden, which can lead to a higher risk for depression and other stress-related illnesses. Ahmed says caregivers should solicit health resources, such as daycares for seniors, to help them shoulder the stress. They should take advantage of support groups and ask social workers regularly about available community resources. Special units for acute care for the elderly (ACE units), can help make hospitalizations less stressful for the patient and family.

10. Death and dying: Baby boomers will have to decide how they want to live out the end of their lives and how they want to die. Cultural and religious beliefs will impact these decisions and physicians will need to be sensitive to that, Ahmed says. As patients age, the physician begins to play a larger role in a patient’s life and strong physician-patient relationships will be important in determining a patient’s wishes. People should make those wishes known to family members and caregivers and put them in writing.

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

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Aug 11 2009

GPS-Fitted Shoe Offers Help for Alzheimer’s Patients

GPS-fitted shoe by Aetrex

GPS-fitted shoe by Aetrex & GTX

We hear about it far too often- an elderly person with Alzheimer’s or dementia who is missing. In the past few days, I’ve come across these news stories online:

  • Virginia State Police are searching for a woman with early stage Alzheimer’s who wandered away from her Eastern Shore home overnight…
  • Police are looking for a Georgia woman with Alzheimer’s disease who went missing Saturday afternoon in New Orleans…
  • Authorities asked for the public’s help in locating an elderly Millard County man with Alzheimer’s Disease…
  • Search is on for woman, 87, with mild dementia…

It’s a frightening situation for caregivers, and an unsafe and sometimes tragic one for the patient. But recently I heard about a new device that could truly be a lifesaver: a shoe outfitted with a GPS tracking system that can locate the wearer instantly.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, as many as 5.3 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s. Patients of Alzheimer’s, the leading cause of dementia, can easily become confused or disoriented, and it’s common for them to wander from their home or senior living facility and not be able to find their way back. The tracking device in this shoe is intended to be totally unobtrusive. In addition to providing real-time information on the elderly person’s location, caregivers will also have the option to subscribe to a GTX service that automatically alerts them when the wearer of the shoe leaves a designated boundary.

Of course one of the stumbling blocks here is whether your loved one is willing to wear such shoes. There are all sorts of issues of privacy and consent. No one is more stubborn than my elderly father. He still lives independently in a continuing care retirement community, but in recent years  I have noticed that he is more accepting of his limitations and maybe even a little scared at times. As I’ve written before, he suffered a terrible fall in his apartment last September and nearly 32 hours passed before he was found. He is now fully recovered, but that tragedy scared him into agreeing to wear an “alert” necklace that he can use to signal if he is ever incapacitated in the future. I’d like to think that if he started to develop dementia, he might be willing to wear a shoe such as this, if not out of concern for his own safety than maybe out of concern for my peace of mind.

Of course, my husband reads this and his first thought is, “Can’t we get those shoes for our daughters?” That’s a topic for a different blog!

The shoe is a collaboration between GTX Corp., a firm that specializes in miniaturized GPS tracking devices, and footwear company Aetrex. Details are still being worked out, but GTX expects the shoe to retail for around $200 to $300 and be available some time next year.

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