Nursing Home Wrestling Incident: the Challenges of Memory Loss

Families who have needed to find care services for a senior suffering from Alzheimer's Disease or another form of dementia know the challenges of finding the right nursing community.  Many nursing facilities do not accept patients who have Alzheimer's Disease or dementia because they do not have proper facilities or staff to provide for adequate care.

The Minnesota incident of a former wrestler who mistakenly wrestled another resident, with injuries resulting in the eventual death of the resident, have brought to the table a new discussion about how best to provide for care for those seniors with memory loss.  There are no easy answers.  Fortunately, the wife of the resident who died also does not feel Minnesota wrestling legend Verne Gagne understood what he was doing.

Ask Caregivers who assist seniors with memory loss about the behaviors a senior with memory loss will act out and you will understand that it is not at all uncommon for someone to go back to performing a task they did many years ago.  And often it will especially be something that they performed over and over again in their earlier years.  And when these tasks are done in the wrong environment or with others, many accidents can happen.

When I owned a Senior Home Care Agency, one client with memory loss had the habit of going to his basement to work on his water heater because he had previously been an electrician.  Another client who was a bank teller was drawn to sorting papers constantly throughout the day and another client got up and dressed for work to go to the office every day - even though they never went anywhere. 

The Minnesota situation is very sad. Although at the same time, it is understandable that Mr. Gagne would go back to his wrestling days - he was very active in the industry and even helped launch the careers of pro wrestling legends Hulk Hogan and Jesse Ventura.  What do you think the best care options are for those with memory loss?

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How Alzheimer's Disease Changes Behavior

Everyone forgets something now and then.  How many of us have left the house to go someplace and then remember we forgot to bring something along or wondered if we unplugged the iron or what time a meeting we scheduled weeks ago is suppose to start?  Sometimes we simply have too much information going in and out of our head to properly process it or we don't take the time to really listen and file it away while multi-tasking - regardless of whether we are a senior or not which is why we all have the so called "senior moment".

I am often asked how memory loss for those with Alzheimer's Disease is different than other types of memory loss.  One of the most common answers to this is that Alzheimer's Disease impacts a senior's decision-making ability ongoing and includes confusion of "person, place or thing".  Instead of just forgetting what time a meeting is scheduled for, they might also forget where the meeting is to be held and who is attending or they might confuse their sister for their mother.  Confusion comes into the picture along with the memory loss.

PBS has provided informative programming on Alzheimer's Disease and their website provides a chart showing what part of the brain impacts the various behaviors experienced by those with Alzheimer's disease and makes it a little easier to understand how this disease differs from other types of memory loss.  

Many times a senior may not have their memory loss properly diagnosed.  Because there are a few drugs which can slow the progression of memory loss and services available to help both a senior and their family members with the emotional aspect of dealing with memory loss, definitely make sure you visit a geriatric doctor who can provide a proper diagnosis.  Caregivers can provide better care if they are informed on the type of memory loss the senior has been diagnosed with as there are many tools available for exercising the mind and slowing the progression of memory loss.  It has also been shown that meditation - simply emptying the mind - can be very beneficial for those with memory loss, as well as relaxing.

 

 

 

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Peter Falk's Daughter Says He Has Alzheimer's Disease

Those of us who are old enough to remember the television detective series "Columbo", know the beloved actor Peter Falk, 81-years-old, who played Columbo.  Others may remember him as the Grandfather who narrates the story of "The Princess Bride" movie to his grandson. 

Catherine Falk is seeking a court's approval for a conservatorship of her father, who she claims no longer recognizes people. A hearing has been scheduled for late January.

Falk won four Emmys in his role as Columbo.  He was also nominated twice for Academy Awards for movie roles in 1959 and 1960.

The petition filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court states Falk lives in Beverly Hills with his wife and recently had hip surgery and requires constant care.  Earlier this year, there were incidents where Falk spoke or acted out of the ordinary and now this diagnosis explains it.  It is also reported that he requires full-time caregiving services at this time.  It is always more difficult for the family when care issues are not already decided prior to the development of memory loss.  Perhaps his daughter will be able to quickly reach court approval for his proper care needs.  However, the actor is married so there may be other issues to resolve.  This is a reminder to all of us to set-up a trust which will dictate our caregiving and financial arrangements should we be unable to manage them on our own.
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Cold Sore Virus Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

Last week, Science Daily reported that University of Manchester researchers have discovered the cold sore virus is a major cause of the insoluble protein plaques found in the brains of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

This discovery could lead to new medications and vaccinations for treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.  This is welcome news for seniors suffering from memory loss.

The researchers believe the herpes simplex virus is a significant factor in developing Alzheimer’s Disease and could be treated by antiviral agents such as acyclovir, which is already used to treat cold sores and other diseases caused by the herpes virus.

Alzheimer's disease causes progressive memory loss and severe cognitive impairment. It affects over 20 million seniors (average age of on-set is in the 50’s) world-wide, and these numbers rise with increasing longevity. 

The underlying causes of Alzheimer’s Disease are still unknown and current treatments only assist in slowing the progression of the disease.

The research found most people with Alzheimer’s Disease are infected with the herpes simplex virus type 1 when they are younger and this virus remains in their peripheral nervous system.  The virus causes cold sores in 20 to 40% of those infected with it.  Evidence of a viral role in Alzheimer’s Disease would point to the use of antiviral agents to stop progression of the disease.

The team had discovered much earlier that the virus is present in brains of many elderly people and that in those people with a specific genetic factor, there is a high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The findings of this research are published in the Journal of Pathology.  Professional and family caregivers assisting a senior with Alzheimer's Disease should discuss the findings of this new research with their medical doctor.

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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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