Posts Tagged "dementia"

Alzheimer Disease: Early Diagnosis

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Health Signals |

Alzheimer Disease is the most common form of dementia, or cognitive impairment. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, 290,000 Canadians over 65 have the disease. More than half of Canadians know someone with the disease and almost one in four have someone with the disease in their family. International researchers have made progress in developing diagnostic tools; however, prevention and treatment remain elusive.  A few years ago excitement grew when it appeared that newly developed drugs might slow the progress of Alzheimer Disease. Many were encouraged when their family member returned to more independent functioning, and became more social again. However, these improvements turned out to be temporary. Eventually, the disease continued to progress. Still, early diagnosis is helpful to both individuals and families. Individuals have the opportunity to express future wishes about care, and treatment options. They can write important documents such as power of attorney and personal health care directives. The family can learn more about the disease, and prepare for the physical, emotional, and social changes that will occur as the disease progresses.  In terms of treatment, individuals can enroll in programs to help retain mental functioning for as long as possible. For more information on dementia and Alzheimer Disease, visit  www.alzheimer.ca   Vol.3, No.1  © ElderWise Inc. 2007. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO articles, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise Inc., Canada’s fo-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at http://elderwise.memwebs.com and subscribe to our...

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Warning Signs Your Aging Parents Need Help

Posted by on Sep 8, 2010 in Health Signals |

When you first suspect that your aging parents may be experiencing health or mobility issues, it can come as a shock both to you and to them.  Knowing some warning signs and steps to take can help you all prepare to handle the changes that are coming.  Many seniors can still manage the activities of daily living with little or no assistance.  But advancing age can mean that some will need help with housekeeping, home maintenance, and transportation. Others may need more attention because of acute or chronic health problems. The PARENT acronym may help draw your attention to how your parents are functioning in their everyday lives. P  hysical. Do Mom or Dad still have enough energy for daily activities? Have you noticed any changes in their gait or balance? Weight loss? A  ppearance. In particular, notice hygiene. If Dad was always a sharp dresser, but his tie is now stained with soup, his vision could be affected – or he might be having more serious problems that need medical attention. R ambling.  People at any age can ramble in conversation. But if you notice that your mother is not making sense, or your dad loses track easily during a chat, it could be an early warning sign of depression, reaction to medications, or other serious disorders, such as dementia. E nvironment. When you visit, note whether the house is as clean or tidy as usual. Is there food in the fridge and cupboard?  This can mean they have poor nutrition or are ill, or are having trouble coping with housekeeping and cooking. N = eNgaged.  Are your parents still pursuing their favorite activities and attending church or social functions?  Or do you notice them withdrawing socially? If so, use this observation to open a conversation about their daily lives and what you both may be noticing.  T  ransportation. Are your parents able to get around easily? Are you seeing poor driving skills? If they are not driving, are public transport or other options available to get them where they want or need to go? Taking a drive with them gives you a chance to notice their reflexes, and how they handle parking and traffic in general. This is a sensitive topic, so you may want to seek advice on how to approach the subject. Adapted  from “Boomers and their aging parents” by Maureen Osis in Expert Women who Speak – Speak Out. (Vol.  3), 2003   Vol. 4, No. 8 © ElderWise Publishing 2008. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at www.elderwise.ca and subscribe to our FREE...

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Long Distance Caregiving

Posted by on Sep 7, 2010 in Caregiving |

Many families are faced with the unique issues of long distance caregiving. The ordinary challenges of helping and caring for aging parents can multiply when you live thousands of miles away or even overseas. Val moved to Canada from England 16 years ago. She became a daughter whose parents lived “across the pond.”  Having made many trips to Britain, Val shared with us some tips that she has learned over the years. Here are the biggest challenges she experienced: Understanding what is going on – and encouraging family at home to be open and honest about the current situation. Getting family to realize that keeping secrets may not be a kindness. It is so important to let those who are away know what is going on. You have to live with consequences of your actions and inaction: e.g., do I get on a plane immediately or wait and see what happens? Communicating well is essential. The value of a local contact – either family or neighbours or good friends. You need to be specific about how they can be helpful to you.  Here are more suggestions from Val: Long-distance caregivers often feel guilty. Guilt wastes time and energy, and doesn’t help anyone. Try these ideas for taking action instead: 1. Help each other. Your friend or family member may not tell you about health issues or challenges because they don’t want to worry you. Explain that you’ll worry more if they’re not honest with you. Reassure them that your aim is not to interfere, but to support them the best way you can. Ask for their ideas on how you can help. 2. Get the facts. You may ask someone living nearby to contact you when they feel the senior has a health or safety issue. Ask questions to determine exactly what is happening.  “Your mom’s memory’s gone”, is an alarming message. If it turns out that Mom wrote a reminder to feed the cat, you can then explore the reasons behind the change in behaviour. Contact ElderWise, health care organizations or seniors’ associations for advice. 3. Trust your local contact. Their concerns are usually genuine. If Dad seemed his usual self while you were visiting over the holidays, you may feel the person who lives nearby is exaggerating in their updates. This may not be the case – in particular, those with dementia will often appear more capable when visitors are around. 4. Don’t jump to conclusions. If your loved one complains about neglect, remember that people with Alzheimer’s disease have little short-term memory. They may forget they ate lunch, had a visitor, or went on an outing. If the senior has in-home care, or lives in a long term care home, try to build rapport with one or two staff members and ask when it’s best to get in touch for an update. Check the facts with caregivers before complaining! 5. Understand the reasons behind a decision. You may have concerns regarding a decision that affects the elderly person. Before you react, check why this decision was made. Those involved in day-to-day caregiving know the current situation, and usually have the senior’s best interests at heart. They will appreciate it if you reinforce any messages they’ve been giving. When Uncle Joe complains that he’s not allowed to drive his car, there’s probably a very good reason! Don’t talk him into finding the keys and going out anyway. Building trust and good relations with staff at the care home, or whoever is in a caregiving role, is key to ensuring your peace of mind as well as good care for your aging parent. Vol. 5, No. 2 © Val Carter and ElderWise Publishing...

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Aging and Memory Loss.

Posted by on Sep 7, 2010 in Health Signals |

A group of senior women share comments on the changes they experience as they grow older.  One says:  “I’m tired of others saying that I’m ‘losing it’ “. Another wonders whether she should be alarmed about her “senior moments.” A third reads from a newspaper article: “Memory changes can cause unfounded fears.” Research shows that the human brain functions well even into advanced age.  Normal changes of aging might affect some aspects of memory and processing information, but people can make simple changes in behaviour to adapt and to stay sharp. Some changes do occur in the structure and function of the brain. Actual brain size may shrink and blood flow may be reduced. By age 40, many people report difficulty doing more than one thing at a time or having to search for a word. They might have to work a bit harder to remember “to-do’s” – or to recall people’s names. But these common changes DO NOT signal impending dementia (or Alzheimer Disease). Using new technology, such as neuron-imaging, as well as new and increasingly sensitive psychological tests, researchers have refuted the notion that aging people go into a general mental decline. Instead, they are finding that diverse brain functions decline at very different rates and that these losses vary widely among individuals. Psychologists are finding that older people are not suffering from “memory overload”.  Rather, the changes seemed to be linked to difficulty in encoding and retrieving information.  Distractions and slower processing may interfere with recalling names or dates.  However, even with these changes, most  older adults are still quite efficient at acquiring new information and storing it in long-term memory.  These findings suggest that, as we age, subtle changes in memory are not a sign of impending mental collapse. Reducing our anxiety around “senior moments” in and of itself can help the brain work more efficiently.  It’s also a good idea not to put added pressure on yourself by saying, “but I used to do three things at once and remember everything!” Here are a few things you can do for yourself: Relax: anxiety makes your memory worse Organize: always put glasses, gloves, and keys in the same place Adapt: it’s OK to write to-do list.  Limit distraction, especially when you are trying to recall or to memorize  Challenge yourself: embark on activities that stimulate the brain (e.g., crossword puzzles) Get creative: use memory helpers such as mnemonics or visualization Stay physically active. Exercise improves blood flow to the brain. Learn something new: take a course, volunteer, play a musical instrument Learn more about memory changes at these online sources: Is it Alzheimer Disease?  www.alzheimer.ca Brain Gain: Mental Exercise makes elderly minds more fit http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=9CB7CDCF-E7F2-99DF-3EE815B432D41E98   Vol. 3, No. 22 © ElderWise Inc. 2007. You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at http://elderwise.memwebs.com/ and subscribe to our FREE...

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