Quality Home Health Care

A Brief Insight into Dementia

Dementia is an overall term that refers to a set of disorders affecting the brain, and whose symptoms are closely linked. man suffering from dementiaWhile some assume that dementia refers to a specific disease, this isn’t the case. Instead, the term describes different illnesses with closely-linked symptoms (such as impaired judgment, memory loss and erratic mood swings). These symptoms also tend to get worse with age, as more brain cells become affected and eventually die.

Dementia is manifested by several disorders, the most common of which include:

Alzheimer’s disease: This accounts for close to 70 percent of dementia cases. The condition occurs when protein abnormalities destroy links between brain cells, resulting in shrinkage of the total brain size.

Vascular dementia: This occurs when poor blood supply as a result of a stroke (or several small strokes) affects the delivery of oxygen to the brain. Vascular dementia is said to account for about 20 percent of all cases of dementia.

Lewy Body disease: The term ‘Lewy Bodies’ refers to abnormal protein clumps that appear in the brain. Besides hallucinations, their presence is also known to cause changes in one’s thinking, alertness and behavior.

Other types of dementia include Pick’s disease, posterior cortical atrophy, and normal pressure hydrocephalus.

Who Gets Dementia?

As you get older, your risk for dementia increases. About 1 in 14 individuals aged between 65 and 69 are affected. Among individuals older than 80, there’s a one in 4 chance of falling victim. On the other hand, it’s rare for someone under 65 to have dementia.

People with a family history of dementia are usually at a higher risk of developing the disorder. Women are also said to be more vulnerable, with about 67% of all victims being female. Other risk factors include HIV, as well as Parkinson’s and demyelinating disorders.

Memory Lapse or Memory Loss?

Knowing what dementia is and what it isn’t is very important. Almost everyone will forget things from time to time, and this is pretty common among the elderly. Memory lapses, however, don’t necessarily indicate the presence of dementia. More crucially, memory loss from dementia is quite different from forgetfulness.

With the latter, you’ll be able to tell when your brain lets you down. Memory loss resulting from dementia isn’t occasional, and is hardly registered by most victims. It also affects one’s ability to carry out routine tasks, such as how to walk, dress or recognize friends and relatives.

But when should you be worried? If your memory lapses are somewhat unusual, make an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation. Memory loss becomes serious when an individual’s behavior changes drastically with time, when they consistently struggle to retain information, or if they tend to repeat themselves. Even in such cases, memory loss could be caused by factors not linked to dementia.

Diagnosing Dementia

Diagnosing dementia can be quite difficult, especially if one doesn’t exhibit extreme symptoms. That being said, seeing a doctor for an appropriate and thorough evaluation is still crucial. The typical diagnosis will usually include questions about your symptoms, a review of other elements of your well-being, blood tests, as well as mental and physical exams. Because depression is closely linked to dementia, your doctor will likely check if you’re a victim as well.

Treatment

Although dementia doesn’t have a cure, certain treatments are still used to manage some of its symptoms. Drugs such as Aricept and Solanezumab are used to diminish the rate at which Alzheimer’s progresses and the demise of brain cells respectively. Doctors also prescribe other medications for sleep problems, restlessness, apathy and hallucinations.

What Can You Do To Reduce Your Exposure?

Diabetes, strokes, high blood pressure and heart disease are just but some of the common risk factors associated with dementia. Generally, exercising and eating healthy food will reduce one’s exposure to these factors. Moderate alcohol consumption and quitting smoking will also help in minimizing your likelihood of getting dementia.

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Benzodiazepines May Increase the Risk of Dementia

Sleeping Pills May Lead to Dementia

Seniors who experience sleep troubles or chronic anxiety are often prescribed a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines. Aide comforting woman with DementiaThese include Valium, Xanax and Lunesta among many others. Although these products might alleviate the symptoms that they’re intended to treat, they can also increase an aging adult’s risk of dementia by as much as 50 percent. Recent research has shown that this is especially true for people who begin using benzodiazepines after the age of 65. Thus, there’s a strong reason to avoid taking these products whenever feasible alternatives exist.

The Causes Of Dementia

Despite diligent and ongoing research, scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of Alzheimer’s related dementia. What is known about dementia in general, however, is that it can sometimes be the result of medication toxicity. Benzodiazepines include other common medications for anxiety such as Klonopin and Ativan. While these products are specially formulated for short-term use such as for several weeks to just one month, many aging adults become heavily reliant upon them. In fact, most wind up taking them indefinitely.

Protecting Your Senior Family Member

The best way to protect your senior loved one from this elevated risk for dementia is by working with medical professionals who are more concerned with treating the underlying causes of anxiety and insomnia, than merely alleviating their symptoms. As an example, anxiety in old age could be the result of magnesium deficiency, which has recently become an all too common problem among this demographic. Decreases in overall food quality paired with changes in a senior adult’s ability to prepare or otherwise access fresh, home-cooked meals can make it difficult for an elderly person to get adequate supplies of this essential mineral. Working with a naturopath to establish a supplementation program or securing meal preparation services from a home care company, could resolve the anxiety by increasing magnesium intake and without exposing your family member to any undue risks.

Medication Reviews

It is also important to note that many seniors have multiple doctors and thus, it is vital for all practitioners on your elderly relative’s medical team to have a clear understanding of the products that are being used. Xanax, Valium, Lunesta, Klonopin and Ativan should never be prescribed by a senior’s doctor until this professional has a clear understanding of all other medications that the patient is taking. Moreover, these prescriptions must be part of a structured treatment plan so that seniors are only using them in a short-term capacity.

Alternative Strategies For Managing Insomnia And Anxiety

There are also many alternative strategies for managing anxiety and insomnia that should be pursued before turning to prescription drugs. These include stress management techniques such as tai chi, yoga and diaphragmatic breathing. Seniors can increase their physical activity levels, seek increased social engagement, alter their diets or use natural herbs to establish mood balance. Products like St. John’s Wort and Valerian Root are all-natural and capable of providing benefits that are similar to many drugs in the benzodiazepine class. Best of all, seniors can gain these benefits without necessarily increasing their dementia risk.

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Seniors Staying Sharp Through Mental Exercises

For most of human history, people have simply accepted the idea that as humans age, they lose some mental capacity. Also known as senility, dementia is a serious issue in elderly populations. Modern research is changing the perception of this condition, however. Seniors are practicing mental exercise as they age in order to stay sharp.

Elderly Boca Raton Woman Out in NatureDementia is fairly broad term, describing conditions, including memory loss, word finding difficulties, and impaired judgment. These problems are caused by injury to or loss of brain cells. The rates of dementia have decreased substantially in the last 20 years to between 5% and 7% of those over 65. The severity of dementia varies between mild forgetfulness and serious Alzheimer’s disease.

There is no prescription available to stop the progression of dementia or way to completely prevent brain cell loss. Aging people can, however, practice mental exercises to improve their cognition through their senior years. There are many forms of mental exercise, but any kind of challenging brain activity can help.

There are specific programs to aid seniors in mental health. These brain training programs come in book format as well as computer programs and apps. The programs can be used alone or with friends. Playing games on these programs every day can have a noticeable impact on delaying memory loss and dementia. They can also be a lot of fun, especially for those who enjoy puzzles and word searches already.

While mind games can be fun for some, others might find them to be more of a daily chore than an enjoyment. It may be easier to incorporate mental exercise into daily activities. Memorizing a grocery list and doing math in one’s head are a few examples. Playing a musical instrument, learning new hobbies, and reading can also be very beneficial. The key is to perform activities that utilize all of the senses, activating different parts of the brain.

Another great way for seniors to exercise their minds is through travel. A change in environment makes a big difference. This might be in the form of a big vacation or as simple as a walk to the park a couple of times a week. The more involved a person can be in their external experiences, the more benefit he or she will reap. For example, on a walk, a person should exercise his or her mind by noticing birds and attempting to identify them, taking note of neighborhood changes, and really engaging mentally with surroundings. The most detrimental way to age is alone in the same house with little activity or change of scenery.

There is significant research to support the theory of mental exercise to prevent or prolong the onset of dementia and mild memory loss. One study of 2,800 seniors (over 65) showed that after 6 weeks of brain training sessions, participants showed improvement in memory, reasoning, and information processing. Even more encouraging is that 5 years later, the benefits were still present. Participants also improved their abilities in everyday tasks, such as housework and money management. While studies show that dementia and Alzheimer’s cannot necessarily be prevented, mental exercise can delay their onset. This gives seniors more years of healthy brain function to enjoy.

Growing old does not have to equate losing mental sharpness. Dementia is not a condition that seniors should accept without a fight. More years of mental health means more years to celebrate life, enjoying family, friends, and activity. By taking a proactive approach, seniors can improve the quality of life for themselves and their families well into their aging years. Mental exercises can, not just help, but be a fun way to stay active and happy.

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Alzheimer’s Disease & Home Care

When a loved one develops Alzheimer’s disease, it can be a very difficult time. Suddenly, the parent or grandparent who once took care of you needs constant care themselves. Elderly Alzheimer's Patient and Home Care AideWhen your loved one needs this type of care, you may choose to become a family caregiver. While this may keep your loved one happy during their lucid moments, it can be a lot of work. If you want to avoid having to place your loved one into a nursing facility, you should hire a home care aide to care for your loved one when you cannot be around. There are several benefits of doing so.

Remain in the Home

Alzheimer’s disease can be very scary for your loved one. The more normal you can keep things, the better off they will be. When you hire a home health worker to care for your loved one, they can remain in their home, where things are familiar. A sense of familiarity is very important to people who suffer from this debilitating disease. Your loved one will have more lucid moments when they are able to remain in familiar surroundings.

Help With Daily Activities

It can be difficult for Alzheimer’s patients to take care of everyday tasks. Often times, they will forget what they need to do. When you hire a home health worker to care for your loved one, you will have someone to help out with everyday tasks. If your loved one is old and has trouble handling light housekeeping duties on their own, their home health worker can help. Should your loved one forget that the cleaning needs to be done, a home health worker can remind them. Your loved one’s aide can also help take care of other tasks, such as meal preparation, which can be dangerous for people who suffer from this disease. They can also assist in bathing, dressing, and any other assistance that they may need on a regular basis.

Peace of Mind

If your loved one’s disease has not escalated enough to require constant care, you are likely going to be worried when you are not there. They could have moments where they are not lucid enough to remember how to get home from the store. They may forget to do certain necessary tasks, such as turning off the oven when they were cooking. These things can cause you to worry all day while you are away. Most people lead very busy lives. Between work and children, you may not have as much time as you would like to spend with your loved one. When you hire someone to care for them when you cannot be around, you will have peace of mind that they are safe in their home and out. You will also be more at ease when your loved one has someone to keep them company.

Skilled Care

As people age, they start to need more regular medical care than they did when they were young. If your loved one needs regular medical care, such as wound care, injections, physical therapy, or other medical needs, they may not be able to do these things themselves as their disease progresses. When you hire someone to come in and help out regularly, your loved one will have someone there to take care of their medical needs when they cannot.

Companionship

If your loved one is still living in their own home, or if they live with you and you are at work all day, they can get lonely. When you hire a home health worker, you will have someone there to spend time with your loved one. They will have someone around to talk to so that they don’t get lonely. You will also have someone to supervise them on outings and recreational activities so that you can be sure that your loved one is safe when they are away from the home. Just having someone around to talk to for a few hours a day can make your loved one happy.

Dementia-causing diseases can be just as hard on the family as they can be on the patient. If your loved one’s condition is not serious enough to move them to a nursing home, but they still need daily care, you should consider hiring a home health worker. Your loved one can remain where they are, and they will still be able to get the care that they need.

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Holiday Tips for Alzheimer’s Caregivers

Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disease that currently affects more than five million Americans, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). HanukkahSince Alzheimer’s greatest risk factor is age, majority of Alzheimer’s patients are typically aged 65 years or older. Overall, taking care of an Alzheimer’s patient can be difficult because the patient is likely to suffer memory loss and be unable to hold a coherent conversation as the disease progresses. Fortunately, traditional holidays such as Hanukkah, Christmas and New Years can trigger memories and emotions in Alzheimer’s patients. With that in mind, here are some holiday tips for the Alzheimer’s caregiver:

Understanding the Severity of Alzheimer’s

In order to provide the best care possible, a caregiver must have a good understanding of Alzheimer’s disease phases. According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s has three distinct phases, mild, moderate, and severe.

Mild Alzheimer’s is the least severe and presents with symptoms such as trouble handling money and paying bills, difficulty remembering directions, repeating questions, behavior and personality changes, and difficulty completing simple tasks like preparing a cup of coffee/tea. Most people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s undergo medical evaluation after experiencing such symptoms.

During the moderate Alzheimer’s phase, significant damage will have occurred to brain areas associated with conscious thought, language, sensory processing, logic, and reasoning. As a result, common symptoms include increasingly worsening confusion, problems recognizing friends and close family members, as well as moderate to severe memory loss.

Severe Alzheimer’s is the last stage in this neurodegenerative disease’s progression. Patients exhibit symptoms including inability to communicate, incapacitation and complete dependence on others.

Behavior Management

Another key caregiver duty is proper management of the behavior an individual with Alzheimer’s exhibits. This includes aggression, sleeplessness, agitation, and wandering.The NIA recommends several strategies caregivers can use to manage behavioral issues. Firstly, it is advisable to keep daily tasks simple to avoid frustrating an Alzheimer’s patient. More importantly, caregivers should make patients feel safe and comfortable. For instance, if a patient becomes argumentative, do not try to respond, show your frustration or try to reason with the patient. Instead, you can use humor to defuse tension before it impedes your ability to function.

Celebratory Activities

With the holiday season well underway, caregivers can incorporate celebratory activities into their daily routines. In fact, the NIA recommends activities that can cheer up an Alzheimer’s patient such as singing or listening to music. A good example is gazing at the Chanukah flames, a common practice during the Jewish holiday of Hanukah.

Families caring for an Alzheimer’s patient should schedule celebrations to occur when the patient is likely to be feeling better. This is according to Dr. Allen Power, a geriatrician and authority in the field of dementia. Dr. Allen further states that such celebrations should be held in surroundings familiar to the patient.

Use Food to Evoke/Trigger Memories

Hanukah and New Year’s holidays typically feature lots of food and drink. According to Dr. Power, taste and smell can evoke powerful memories in Alzheimer’s patients. Moreover, a report published by the UK’s Cochrane Library states that mental stimulation plays a role in keeping neurological pathways, usually blocked in Alzheimer’s patients, open. With this in mind, caregivers could use traditional Hanukah foods such as roast chicken, crispy potato latkes, sufganiyot (doughnuts), noodle kugel, roasted winter vegetables with polenta, and caramelized pear bread pudding to evoke memories. This is a particularly effective way to trigger memories since it is customary for Jews to eat foods fried in oil or made with cheese during Chanukah.

Involve Loved Ones

During Christmas, many Americans focus on spending quality time with their loved ones. As such, this is one of the best times for caregivers to educate people about Alzheimer’s disease and its progression. Such education may include letting people know about patients’ communication issues, coaching young children on acceptable etiquette when interacting with Alzheimer’s patients and discussing the benefits of inclusion, not isolation, of an individual with Alzheimer’s disease.

Conclusion

Alzheimer’s caregivers should try to incorporate the holiday spirit into their daily routines at this time of the year. To do so effectively, caregivers should have a good grasp of Alzheimer’s severity levels, behavior management strategies, and involve loved ones. In addition, they should use holiday activities such as Chanukah flame gazing and food flavors/smells to help trigger memories in Alzheimer’s patients.

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