Caregivers Can Experience Life with Dementia Using New App

When it comes to understanding dementia and Alzheimer's disease, we can read about the various symptoms and glean together an understanding from people we know who dealt with them. However, it can still be difficult to piece together the thought patterns of someone with dementia as they navigate through their daily life. A new app called "A Walk Through Dementia" aims to bridge the gap between those living with dementia and those on the outside by giving a glimpse into the thoughts of a person with dementia. 

The app focuses on creating a virtual reality experience for the user. Alzheimer's Research UK created the app after interviewing several people with dementia to understand how their symptoms affect their daily lives. The app features three different environments for the user to navigate through: at the supermarket, on the road and at home. 


The app uses Google Cardboard virtual reality to immerse the user in the experience. For this reason, the app is available exclusively for Android, but the app creators put together a set of YouTube videos to help people without Androids experience the app as well. 

Watching the YouTube videos, we see first-person the narrator walking down the street and encountering a decision point of which way to walk home. As the narrator walks, we hear her inner thoughts change from recognizing her surroundings to deciding to take an alleyway as a short cut. Then, we hear her realize it's not the right way home and increasing panic as she does not recognize her surroundings and cannot find her son. 

As the walk continues, we realize further difficulties in perception as the narrator comes across a puddle, but her mind cannot correctly identify it. To her, it looks more like a gaping hole in the middle of the sidewalk, and only her son's confirmation helps her recognize that it's just a bit of water. We hear her attempt to cover put he fact that she thought it was something else, but from first person it lends us the recognition that she truly could not tell the difference. 

This sort of first-person recognition will help caregivers better understand how senior clients with dementia experience the world around them. By having this app or these videos to watch, we can clearly see how to a person with dementia, a shallow puddle of water can look like a hole in the ground because of the brain's distortion of reality. 

If your senior client has dementia or Alzheimer's Disease, talk to them about their experiences with the world. It can be difficult, but letting them know that you will listen and support them through these situations can only help them feel more comfortable about opening up about their dementia.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discovers additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko


Prevent Onset of Dementia Through Brain Games

The onset of dementia can come quickly and be incredibly scary for a senior client and their families. Luckily, frequent exercise of the brain helps keep the mind sharp and prevent onset of dementia, or at least lengthen the time before onset. The Wordbrain app provides caregivers with a game for their senior clients to exercise their minds on a regular basis. 

The premix of the Wordbrain app is for users to find scrambled letters on a game board to create a word below. For example, if a board has the letters S, O, P and T on a board, users need to swipe across the letters in the correct order to spell a word. However, these four letters spell out several words, such as STOP, TOPS, POTS and SPOT.

Users must swipe through the various combinations until they find the specific word the app is looking for. At first this may seem frustrating because the first word you swipe may not register as the answer. But this truly forces senior clients to work through all the possibilities and keeps their brains engaged as they move the letters around to find various combinations instead of simply the first one that pops into their head. 

If users get stuck, there's an option to ask for a hint which will help by displaying the first letter of the word in the box below. Users also have the option to hit the button with two arrows in a circle below, which will shuffle the letters in the boxes above to give a new order and help visualize them in a different way. 

As users play, their "Brain Size" within the app grows and accordingly the puzzles get more difficult. The app offers different levels names after types of insects. Users begin in the Ant level and work their way up to unlock the Spider level. Users also have the ability to use their own creativity and create a puzzle to stump their family and friends.

Senior caregivers and their clients could play on this app together and create puzzles for one another to try and beat. Once a user creates a puzzle, they are given a unique code that corresponds with it. When they share that code, all their senior caregiver needs to do is type it in the designated area on the home screen and they're given the puzzle their senior client created for them to solve. 

The Wordbrain app is available for Apple and Android platforms. 

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Sundowner's Syndrome: Sundowning and Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time — every year I hear more and louder voices insisting we do away with springing ahead, when we are forced to lose that precious hour of sleep. I don’t hear quite so many voices in the fall, when we “gain” an hour, except for many of my friends in the senior caregiving community.

Sundown Syndrome occurs in approximately 25 percent of persons with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. When someone is “sundowning”, they can become hostile and agitated, angry and confused. Experts speculate that Sundowner’s can be triggered by end-of-day exhaustion, when all the stimulus from the day overwhelms the senses. In institutional settings, like nursing homes, Sundown Syndrome can occur during evening shift change, when there is a lot of commotion.  Although the causes of sundowning are largely unknown, it seems to happen to many late in the day, when afternoon turns to dusk. In the evening, shadows can be confusing, and people can become upset when they can’t see in the dark.

Spring Daylight Saving Time means there’s an extra hour of light at the end of our day. I wonder if this is helpful to caregivers working with those who experience Sundowner's. Even though I couldn’t find any data to suggest that Sundowners experience fewer symptoms when we “spring ahead,” I found plenty of anecdotal evidence that those with Sundown Syndrome experience it more acutely during the fall time change, when it gets dark much earlier. 

In any case, Daylight Saving Time messes with the natural rhythm of sleep, which can also trigger or exacerbate Sundowner’s symptoms and the stress they cause in elderly and caregivers alike.

The idea of Daylight Saving Time has roots in ancient civilizations, where the sun’s schedule set daily routines. Benjamin Franklin in 1784, proposed the notion jokingly to the editor of The Journal of Paris in “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light,” pointing out that Parisians could save money on candles by extending the hours of natural daylight. The U.S. implemented DST on and off since 1918, when President Woodrow Wilson signed it into law. But it wasn’t until Congress established the Uniform Time Act of 1966 that America reached a DST standard. Today, over 70 countries have adopted DST, including the United States (except for Hawaii and most of Arizona.)

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are some coping strategies you can employ if you care for someone with Sundowner’s:

  • Keep the home well lit in the evening.
  • Keep the sleep environment comfortable and safe. The temperature should be comfortable and nightlights provided for safety when a person gets up in the middle of the night.
  • Maintain a consistent schedule of waking, bedtime and meals.
  • Avoid big dinners, nicotine, alcohol, and restrict sweets and caffeine so as not to interfere with restful sleep.   
  • Plan more active days and discourage afternoon naps..
  • As a caregiver, if you are feeling stressed late in the day, the person may pick up on it. Make sure you get respite help.
  • Share your experience with others.

For those of you who care for Sundown seniors, do you find that extra hour of sunlight helpful? Have you found  any sundowning therapies particularly useful? Share your caregiving strategies for coping with Sundown Syndrome in Caregiverlist’s Caregiver Stories or in the Comments section below.

Dementia Prevention Through Brain Exercise in Memorando App

Preventing dementia or Alzheimer's disease sometimes seems like an abstract idea. It's difficult to know if your efforts are making a difference or to know if you're doing enough to prevent onset. The Memorado app provides brain exercises to help caregivers and their senior clients identify areas of brain activity that they would like to improve and score their results over time.

The app begins by asking users to rank the importance of several different brain functions, such as remembering new names with ease, staying calm in hectic situations, or making fewer errors under pressure. The ranking system uses stars- one star for not very important to three stars for quite important. Once all of the topics have been ranked, the app provides a personalized workout program giving emphasis to areas users most want to improve upon. 

The first concentration game the app presented me called "Paint the Sky" presented me with a set of shapes in different patterns. The goal is to click on the one shape on the screen with a unique color or pattern. The next concentration game called "Stepping Stones"displayed circles across the screen with sequential numbers inside. The app asks users to memorize the numbers in the scattered circles, and then once the numbers disappear users need to click on the circles in sequential order of the numbers that were inside the circles. "Painted Path" to improve logic asks users to color a box with a certain number of moves.  

Other games focus on memory and reaction. The first round of games took less than ten minutes to complete, but taking a little time out over several weeks to play the games provides a solid foundation for improvement in exercising the brain. Users who wish to unlock further games within the app can earn brain points through completing the basic games or upgrade to the paid version of the app.

The Memorado app is available for Apple platforms.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Pictures in App Help Seniors With Dementia Communicate

Caregivers working with senior clients who have dementia may find themselves in situations where talking leads to frustration. Something like mentioning a loved one that a client may have trouble remembering or a task like visiting the doctor can spike confusion for the client and become difficult for both of you to understand one another. The app appropriately called Communication Tool offers senior caregivers and their clients the ability to communicate using pictures about family members, foods & drink, personal care, etc. 

Images can be powerful as they serve as a sort of universal language. Seniors with dementia don't need to remember the exact words for what they need using the Communication Tool app. Instead they can simply pull up a photo of what they need. For example, under the personal care section of the app, there are icons of a toilet, a person sleeping in a bed, a pill, etc. If the senior client needs something specific, he/she can easily pull up the image on the app and share it with their caregiver without having to describe their needs verbally. 

 

Another use for the photos could be for enhanced story telling. If a loved one comes to visit, such as a grandchild, and wants to tell their grandparent about the new sport he/she's started playing, the Activities area of the app offers action shot icons of different sports. While a senior client may not immediately understand the description of soccer, a photo of a person kicking a ball might jog their memory or at least help them keep up with the story a little better.

Users also can take their own pictures and store them in the app for a customized experience. For example, under the people category, users can select Family and take photos of you, spouse, son, daughter, grandchild, etc. to have on hand. Additionally, there's an area for professionals such as doctors, dentists, eye doctors, etc. If a senior with dementia doesn't remember who someone is right away then a caregiver can store that person's photo in the app so next time they have a photo and label in advance.

The Communication Tool app is available for Apple platforms.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Foods that Could Lower (or Raise) Your Risk of Dementia

I’m at that age where misplaced keys or a forgotten word gives me pause. I write so much about Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other memory loss diseases, I know the havoc they wreak, not only on the patient, but on their entire family. That’s why I take a proactive approach in decreasing my odds of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Keeping activeboth mentally and physicallycan go a long way in keeping those diseases at bay. Research now shows there are certain foods that can also help or hurt brain health.

The Good
AARP suggests the following foods may lower your risk of dementia. Remember, whole foods are better than supplements for nutritive value, but supplements are better than nothing, so I’ve listed the foods and their corresponding vitamins/minerals. Time to stock up your fridge and pantry with these goodies:

  • Beans and green peas (vitamin B-1 and folic acid)
  • Citrus fruits and berries (vitamin C)
  • Almonds (vitamin E)
  • Fatty cold-water fish like salmon, cod, mackerel, and herring (omega-3 oil)
  • Spinach (flavonoids, vitamins A and K, folic acid and iron)
  • Coffee and chocolate (caffeine)


The Bad
From the Alzheimer’s Association, here are some foods that contain toxins. The resulting inflammation can lead to a build-up of plaques in the brain resulting in impaired cognitive function. They should be avoided as we age.

  • Processed cheeses such as American cheese, mozzarella sticks, Cheez Whiz and spray cheese (causes protein and plaque build-up)
  • Processed meats like bacon, smoked meats, hot dogs (nitrosamines)
  • White foods like white bread, white rice, pasta, white sugar (causes insulin spikes)
  • Microwave popcorn (diacetyl)
  • Beer (nitrates)


If you are a caregiver to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, have you seen a change in the disease severity when you’ve altered their diet? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments section.

Also, be sure to watch the Golden Globe Awards, for which Julianne Moore is nominated as Best Actress in a Drama for her star turn in “Still Alice”, the story of a woman, a brilliant professor, wife, and mother, who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Thanksgiving with Seniors: Checking for Signs of Dementia

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and with it, the holiday season officially begins. If you are like the host of other Americans that celebrate by gathering with family and sharing a delicious meal, it’s a great time to assess the health, both physical and mental, of the aging member(s) of your group.

Holidays are a prime time for families to detect dementia in a family member, according to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve seen your older family members. While it’s certainly an exciting time, it’s also an extremely stressful time — regular routines are disrupted, and large groups of people means noise and excitement — it’s sort of a perfect storm of a time to determine if your aging loved one is exhibiting signs of memory loss.

If you spend Thanksgiving at your senior’s home, a quick bit of detective work will give you some insight into their mental health. Remember to do this stealthily! This is not the time for confrontation, but an opportunity to gauge if your loved ones are living their best lives.

Take a good look (and smell)
Has there been obvious weight loss? People with memory loss often forget to eat. If they are depressed, which often happens when someone begins to experience mental acuity changes, they may decide that cooking is too much bother.

How is their personal hygiene? Are clothes clean? Make note of their grooming to determine any odd or peculiar changes in their regular appearance.

In the house
Check the refrigerator for expired food. Or multiples of the same food. Take a look in the living areas; are they clean and free of clutter? Peek at more personal spaces. While common areas might have been picked up in anticipation of guests, out-of-the-way areas like bathtubs and closets might give a truer picture of a senior’s ability to keep up with general tasks. If they have plants or animals, are they thriving?

Is there any unopened mail hanging about? Paying bills, especially, may seem overwhelming. According to Forbes, financial decision-making capacity erodes early on in those suffering with memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s disease.

Talk to neighbors
If you aren’t around much, talk to those who are. If you happen to see neighbors, ask if they have noticed any changes in your senior loved one. A certain red flag is isolation. If they don’t see your senior as often as they used to, it can be cause for concern. Now is the perfect time to exchange phone numbers and ask them to contact you if they see anything remiss.

If you do suspect that there are changes in your senior loved one’s mental acuity, don’t hide your head in the sand. Take the opportunity to talk to other family members and make a plan of action. The first step? Consult your elder’s primary care physician and in the meantime, perhaps enlist some help.

From all of us at Caregiverlist, we wish you a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.

Dementia Prevention Through Brain Fitness

Keeping the brain fit as seniors age plays a large part in prevention of the onset of dementia. As senior caregivers work with their clients, finding little ways to keep their minds active can help avoid memory loss. The Fit Brains app gives seniors a series of games intended to improve memory, speed and overall functionality of the brain.

New users to the app are first asked to identify functions of the brain they would like to work on improving the most, such as problem solving or thinking speed. Seniors can choose from any of the listed categories as all of the games within the app will accomplish the goal of exercising the brain on a regular basis.

Once the user has completed their profile set up, the app takes them to the first games to work on the targeted areas identified by the initial questions. The games feature simple concepts, such as matching two of the same symbols from a group of different shapes and colors or sorting fruits as quickly as possible into their matching categories (I.e. bananas on the left, cherries on the right).

Once time runs out on a game, the app brings up a score summary. As users play the same game over time, they can see all of their scores and compare to see how their brain activity in a certain area like speed has improved as they've completed the exercise more times. The app also features some information on brain fitness and how specifically the games in the app challenge the brain in the right way to keep all areas of the brain engaged.

The Fit Brains app is available for free for Apple and Android platforms. 

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

 

Alzheimer's Caregiver Advice on Alzheimer's & Daily Companion App

For senior caregivers, working with clients who have dementia or Alzheimer's disease can be taxing and stressful. Seniors experiencing memory loss can become agitated, anxious or upset from situations that previously would have been part of their daily routine. When senior caregivers are experiencing issues working with their clients with dementia, they can turn to the Alzheimer's & Other Dementias Daily Companion app for advice and tips on dealing with specific situations. 

The main function of the app focuses on advice divided into 25 different categories, with many more subcategories. Caregivers can easily navigate through the topics ranging from Social Withdrawal to False Accusations and Paranoia to find advice relating to their specific situation. The descriptions under a topic include possible reasons for a senior client feeling that way and advice on how to remedy the situation or address the specific behavior and prevent it in the future. 

Another section of the app allows caregiver to seek emotional support from other caregivers by suggestions of support groups and ways to care for themselves. It suggests resources such as "10 Organizations Every Caregiver Should Know," and "8 Ways to Arrange Breaks form Caregiving." Managing caregiver stress plays an important part in overall caregiver health and well being. 

If caregivers don't see a category for the situation they'd like advice on, the app features an area where caregiver questions can be submitted to the app creator. Caregivers can also call a number for a 24-hour caregiver support line if they'd like to speak to someone immediately. If a caregiver worked through a particular issue himself/herself and would like to share advice, the app also features a spot for caregivers to share a story that will lend emotional support for other caregivers. 

The Alzheimer's & Other Dementias Daily Companion app is available for Apple and Android products.

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

Seniors Can Listen to Old Radio Programs on Yesterday USA App: Caregiverlist Senior Care App Review

Before iPhones, hundreds of TV channels and the internet were at our fingertips at any given moment, entertainment came in the form of old radio programs. From drama programs to old news reels, the Yesterday USA radio network app gives senior caregivers and their senior clients the chance to step back in time and listen to programs from when they were younger. 

 

The app accompanies the YesterdayUSA Radio Network website, which was created by the National Museum of Communications, Inc, where users can also listen online. The app features two different streaming stations- the Red Station and the Blue Station. Within the app, users can browse the upcoming schedule of programs ranging from old dramatic theater shows to old music programs and old trivia. The programming runs on a two week loop, so if you can't catch a program the first time around you can view the next time it's scheduled to air. 

For seniors who may be experiencing an onset of dementia, listening to programs from their past could help spark memories. Familiarity of things from our youth can spark nostalgia in all of us, but for seniors with dementia it can help them remember parts of their lives they may have forgotten otherwise. Seniors and their caregivers might enjoy sitting down together a few times a week to listen to these old programs and talk about how life was back when they aired. Caregivers may learn new things about their senior clients and their lives by hearing stories from when they were young. 

The YesterdayUSA App is available for Apple platforms. 

Senior caregivers, let us know your feedback on this app and keep us posted if you discover additional apps that assist with caregiving duties and help relieve caregiver stress. You may also refer-a-friend to a senior caregiving job and win prizes weekly and monthly on Caregiverlist. 

-Paige Krzysko

 

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