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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Evaluating Nursing Homes

Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes are required to complete government inspections at least once every 15 months.  The government provides information on the results of these inspections on Medicare.gov.

The nursing home inspection information provides a nice starting point for evaluating a nursing home but they do not include information on many violations and incidents of abuse which may be reported.  You must visit a nursing home and question staff and family members of other residents to find out more information.

This week, the news media reported a group of teens working at a nursing home in Minnesota sexually abused and humiliated elderly residents with dementia.  This information will not be found on Medicare's website of inspection results for this nursing home, for example, yet it is valuable information to know if you are considering placement at this nursing facility.  Many caregivers who work for Senior Home Care Agencies have worked in nursing homes at some point in their career.  If you know a professional caregiver, ask them about the nursing homes in your area.  Caregivers also know other caregivers, expecially if they completed a nursing aide certificate, and can be a valuable resource for letting you know the inside scoop on the care at local nursing homes.

You may search the recent nursing home inspection reports on Caregiverlist's Nursing Home List.

 

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President-Elect Obama's Positions on Health Care Reform

As seniors analyze their Medicare options before the end of the year, it may also be a good time to learn more about
President-Elect Obama's positions on health care reform.  During the 2008 Presidential campaign, President-Elect Barack Obama announced a comprehensive health care reform proposal and laid out his positions on a number of other key health care issues.
Budget cuts will be necessary with the government's need to budget for the necessary economic booster programs and financial bailouts.  At the same time, President-Elect Obama's team has said they will be eliminating some of the government fat and favors implemented for special interest groups.  Many critics of the Medicare drug program have indicated that the prescription plans were somewhat out of whack because of the drug company's involvement through lobbying efforts (and when you try to understand why anyone would create a program with a "donut hole" as a term needed to explain coverage when a senior is left out of the prescription plan for a window of time, a red flag seems to go up that perhaps seniors best interests were not the only driver of this Medicare program).
Right now, Medicaid pays for long-term care in a nursing home, but not in the home (except in a few small population states which have recently developed home care programs).  Medicare only pays for caregiving in a nursing home and not in the home, yet statistics show most seniors prefer to stay in their homes for long-term care.  And, with the cost of nursing home care being from $150 - $350 per day, and home care costing from $18 - $25 an hour and providing one-on-one care from a caregiver, it may be time to look at how the government is allocating the funds for senior care.

The Kaiser Family Foundation prepared two reports to summarize President-Elect Obama's campaign health care policies and positions. They are based on information compiled from Obama's campaign Web site, speeches, campaign debates and news reports.  Check it out and let your voice be heard.

 

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Considering Caregiving Needs at Holidays

As you gather with your family for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow, remember to take time to really talk with the seniors in your family and notice if there are any changes they are experiencing as they age, and think about what you can assist them with to age well.  Remember, some age-related illnesses, if caught and treated early, can be given the proper medical attention in order to slow progression.  Take the time to think about any care needs your senior relative may need as their health conditions change.

It is sometimes easier for those who do not see their parents and grandparents often to notice changes than for those who have daily interactions with them.  Take the time to notice hearing, vision and overall appearance.  Are your elder relatives keeping up with their home maintenance as well as their own appearance?  Are they taking their medications at a regular time each day?  Are they incorporating physical exercise into their daily routine?  Are they maintaining social activities?

Healthy aging requires maintaining physcial and mental exercise and socialization, along with eating a nutritious diet.  Many seniors will find it necessary to change their lifestyle some to make sure they are keeping up with both health needs and social needs as they age.  And, sometimes, it is necessary to involve a family member or caregiving service to assist with care needs, at least part-time, as abilities change.

If you live far away from senior family members, take the time to investigate senior care options in their town when you are visiting.  Find out what quality Senior Home Care Agencies are in their area and learn about senior service programs.  Obtain names and numbers so you will be able to contact someone to assist if the need should arise.

 

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Planning for a 30-Year + Retirement

As the financial markets fall, many retirees are very concerned as they watch the value of their investments fall by 25% or more.  In addtion to investments in the stock market, many maintain the bulk of their assets in home ownership and have watched real estate values decline as well.  While Social Security benefits provide some support, they do not allow a senior to enjoy the same income they did prior to retirement.

According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, life expectancy in the United States is at a record high of 77.8 years and will continue to increase.  As a country of wealth and knowledge, we know how to stay alive longer, although we may not always remain in optimal health for all of these years.

Remember as you plan for retirement to keep in mind you most likely will need resources for at least another 30 years after you retire.  Outline your investments, and your plan for healthy living accordingly.  And remember, if you were to run out of money completely and need support for long-term care, the U.S. does offer Medicaid as a benefit for very low-income seniors.  Medicaid does provide for long-term care in a nursing home and in the home, too, in a handful of states.

 

 

 

 

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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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