Mini-Mental Exam Can Detect Memory Loss

In only ten minutes time, a mini-mental exam screens seniors for signs of dementia.  Referred to in the medical community simply as a "mini-mental", the official name is the Mini-mental State Exam and it is copyrighted by Psychological Assessment Resources (PAR).  Geriatric care doctors will give this exam to their senior clients to keep ahead of any signs of memory loss.

The mini-mental test asks questions about the time and place of the test, and incorporates math and language skills to test cognitive and memory abilities.  It asks questions like how many nickels are in $1.25 and if you can spell a certain word backwards.

Many times memory loss in seniors can be connected with an illness or with medications.  If properly addressed, senior memory loss can be slowed or reversed. Because of age-related diseases, seniors are more at risk for memory loss and should be sure their medical doctor is conducting a mini-mental at their annual check-ups.

If you are a caregiver for a senior, you can also find a variety of memory exercises at the Alzheimer's Store.

One of my Aunts suffered a stroke a few years ago and after being air-lifted to a metropolitan hospital,  she received excellent care and made nearly a full recovery.  Now she enjoys telling how in the days following the stroke, the doctor would check on her each day and ask her if she knew who the president of the United States was.  Each day, she would answer "George Bush".  Finally, she told him he needed to ask her something new.  He then asked her if she knew what the Gettysburg Address was, and............she began reciting it.  She had memorized it in grade school.  He told her she indeed knew it better than he did!

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Finding Quality Senior Care Products

When searching for information on senior care, it is also important, as Grandma would say, to consider the source.

The internet offers a senior care website that is written by folks who launched a baby website and another one by folks who recruited attorneys for a living previously  - they are both good enough websites but often miss the boat about the specifics of senior care issues because they just have never really had to swim in these waters for a living.  It makes a big difference.  This is a reminder of how important it is to make sure you understand the source of information you are reviewing.

Caregiverlist.com was created by professionals with years of experience in the caregiving industry and we provide information on quality senior care options and provide answers to the questions we are constantly asked while working in the senior care industry.

Another great resource, paid for by your tax dollars, which will help you find quality information, is the FTC's website called "Who Cares".   The FTC has created this website to help you find reliable sources of information on health topics important to you, whether you’re an older consumer or a family member, caregiver, or friend.

You will learn about quality senior care products and be able to avoid products reported as scams and frauds.

 

Caregiving Tools for Alzheimer's Disease

If you are caring for a senior with Alzheimer's Disease, check out this website which provides some really clever products to assist you with caregiving for those with memory loss at all stages.

My family has always turned to humor to assist with dealing with the difficult issues, especially when my Grandfather suffered from memory loss.  He more than once offered his own coat to someone who was leaving, thinking it was their coat.  And we would all just laugh.  Definitely in the beginning stages, one must find a way to laugh at the actions, because they really are funny sometimes.

So, if you were wondering where you could find a fake bookcase poster to tape to the sliding glass door or windows, or a confounding door lock or some memory stimulators, this is the place.  They really do have everything you could want for Alzheimer's care:   www.alzstore.com

 

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Planning for care after an Alzheimer's Disease Diagnosis

Alzheimer's Disease is not an easy one for the senior with the diagnosis or their family.

The very best strategy, though, is to talk about the disease and to develop a plan of action for managing the memory loss and the care needs.  This will allow the senior to feel they are still involved in the decision-making and enable the family to implement safety measures from the beginning (i.d. bracelet, medication management, regular caregiving schedule).

And, even more importantly, this will allow the senior's family to talk to prevent misunderstandings which could cause gaps in care because perhaps not everyone has the same strategy.   Usually there is "water under the bridge" with various family members after years of living.  These realities must be addressed.

One Salon columnist very openly shares his desire not to be the caregiver for his Mother-in-law, who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.  It is nice to find someone express their honesty - he is definitely not alone.

Often when families hire a Senior Home Care Agency to provide care services, they are able to lessen the stress for family members because a third-party caregiver simply doesn't come with the baggage a family caregiver brings.  Each family must find the right solution for them but the first step is to start the conversation.
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10 Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

Everyone has their own story of how they discovered a loved one was experiencing memory loss.  One of my girlfriends tells the story of a family friend who picked her daughter up from school and said she thought the weather was cooling and it would be a perfect night to make chili for dinner.  So they went to the grocery store to buy the ingredients and went home to enjoy a dinner of chili.  The next night the Mom picked up her daughter from school and again said the weather was cooling and she thought it would be a good night to make chili for dinner.  She forgot they had chili the previous night.  When this happened a third time, the family began to compare notes and realized something was not right. 

The Alzheimer's Association offers many wonderful educational programs to help seniors and family members understand how to best deal with this disease - knowledge is power, especially when you have the luxury of early diagnosis. 

The 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's Disease, courtesy of the Alzheimer's Association:

1) Memory loss

2) Difficulty performing familiar tasks

3) Problems with language

4) Disorientation to time and place

5) Poor or decreased judgment

6) Problems with abstract thinking

7) Misplacing things

8) Changes in mood or behavior

9) Changes in personality

10) Loss of initiative

 

 

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Elder Care Abuse

The number one type of elder care abuse is actually financial abuse.  As a former owner of a senior home care agency, I witnessed many situations where the family members went beyond the call of duty to assist a senior loved one with their care needs.  I also saw situations where sometimes just one family member was inappropriately trying to take advantage of the senior's kindness and financial generosity.

Unfortunately, seniors are an easy target for those looking to take advantage, especially when they are lonely and hungry for friendship and attention from anyone who will offer it.  At the same time, there may be adult children who have drug or alcohol addictions which lead them to take advantage of a senior parent with memory loss or who has no one else to turn to for assistance.  I had one client who was retired and living on a healthy pension as a retired government employee but his daughter with a cocaine addiction continually stole his checks and nearly every piece of furniture in his house before the state appointed a court-ordered guardian. 

If you are caring for a senior or have a senior neighbor of friend who you feel is being abused, either from physical neglect or financially, the first step is to call your local elder abuse hotline.  They will professionally step in to assess and manage the situation for the senior's benefit.  Confidentiality is provided.

You can find the contact in your state on Caregiverlist's "by state" list.

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A Banana a Day.......

A new study presented on Saturday at the American Society of Nephrology's annual meeting, found consuming too little potassium may be as big a risk factor for high blood pressure as eating too much sodium.

This study supports previous studies that also made this conclusion about potassium and blood pressure.

 "The lower the potassium in the urine, hence the lower the potassium in the diet, the higher the blood pressure," lead study author Dr. Susan Hedayati, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, said in a news release issued by the conference organizers. "This effect was even stronger than the effect of sodium on blood pressure."

 

 The link between high blood pressure and low potassium was strong even when age, race, and other cardiovascular risk factors, such as high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking, were factored in. About half the study participants were black, and they tended to consume the least amount of potassium in their diet, Hedayati said.

 Laboratory research for the study suggests that the WNK1 gene may be responsible for potassium's effects on blood pressure. More research is being done to test how fixed levels of potassium in a diet affect blood pressure and the gene's activity.

 Meanwhile, the researchers urged people to consume more potassium and less sodium. "High-potassium foods include fruits such as bananas, and citrus fruits and vegetables," Hedayati said. "Consuming a larger amount of these foods in the diet may lower blood pressure."

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Paying for Long-term Care

As a senior or a senior caregiver, you have learned that Medicare does not pay for long-term care needs in a nursing facility nor in the home. 

The costs of care can easily be $80,000 per year in a nursing home and full-time senior care services in the home can be from $35,000 to $73,000 per year, depending on if you have hourly care or 24-hour live-in care.

One of the best ways to manage these costs is to purchase a long-term care insurance policy.  Long-term care insurance can be purchased piece-meal, to meet your budget needs.  Over time, it is more economical to pay a few thousand dollars a year for a long-term care insurance policy rather than to have your assets drained by paying for the expenses out-of-pocket.

If you work for a corporation, find out if purchasing a long-term care insurance policy is an additional employee benefit which is offered.  Many state government employees and university employees are offered this benefit.

You can also read answers to popular long-term care insurance questions by Caregiverslist's long-term care insurance expert, Chris Lynch.

 

Obama's Grandmother Passes

Regardless of your political choice for president, you can share in the sadness of Barack Obama's Grandmother passing away just a day before the election.  Madelyn Payne Dunham, 86, died peacefully in her Honolulu home on Sunday night, after battling cancer.  She chose to stay at home with care provided by a caregiver.

Hospice training teaches that emotionally, it is easier to go through the process of grieving when you are able to plan for the death and say goodbye ahead of time.  Barack learned this, he said, when he did not make it to his Mother's side before she passed away.  As he did not want that to happen again, he took time off from his historic campaign to visit his Grandmother a couple of weeks ago.

Still, death of a loved one is never convenient or easy, even with knowing ahead of time.  While visiting France one summer, I went to dinner at a small country restaurant.  The owners were a married couple who made the rounds to all the tables to chat with their guests.  Upon learning that I worked in senior care, they told me to be sure to visit the bathroom before I left.  There was a mural painted on the bathroom wall that included the 17th Century Nun's Prayer.  I later had my Mother write it in calligraphy and framed it for my Senior Care Agency's office wall.  Many caregivers who passed through the doors asked about it and requested a copy and now it is included as a resource on Caregiverlist.

 

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Balancing Act

Quick reminder: be sure to vote tomorrow and be sure to check in with any seniors you know to offer assistance in getting to and from the polls.

Falls become more common for all of us as we grow older.  The increase in falls for seniors is not all related to loss of muscle strength, but to the steady decline of some of the contributors to good balance:   vision, proprioceptors on the bottoms of the feet that communicate position information to the brain, and tiny hairs in the semicircular canals of the inner ear that relay gravity and motion information to the brain  (who knew ear hair was good, right?).

There is a simple exercise you can do to test your capability for balancing (and it is more difficult than you might think it should be regardless of your age):  Stand with your eyes closed and lift one foot up, bent at the knee in front of you (as if taking an exaggerated step up) and hold it for 15 seconds.  Then try it for 30 seconds.  If you can do this, you are in great shape and all is in balance! 

The Anti-Aging Plan book discusses this and more, based on many lessons the physcian for the Biosphere team and his daughter learned in Biosphere 2.

 

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