Book of the Week: Cruising Through Caregiving

Cruising Through Caregiving was written by Jennifer L. FitzPatrick. FitzPatrick has experienced all types of caregiving situations both professionally and personally, and with this book she shares her wisdom and knowledge. She focuses on the balance of being a good caregiver and not loosing yourself into it. Jennifer offers wisdom and personal stories of how she navigates through caregiving waters without sacrificing her own life, health, career and relationships. 


The Spectrum of Hope by Gayatri Devi

The Spectrum of Hope: An Optimistic and New Approach to Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias was written by neurologist Dr. Gayatri Devi. She has been specializing in dementia and memory loss for over 20 years. With this book she changes the way we look at Alzheimer's disease by defining it as a spectrum disorder. She offers practical advice and wisdom for caregivers and anyone affected by Alzheimer's disease. 



Read more about Dr. Gayatri Devi and her book here. 

AARP Invests $60 Million to Fund Dementia and Alzheimer's Research

More than 6 million people in the United States live with various types of dementia, and these numbers are constantly growing. To commemorate it's 60th anniversary AARP is investing $60 million on the Dementia Discovery Fund, a fund the invests in research development for dementia treatments. The number of people living or caring for someone with this disease are increasing. It is estimated that in 2016,  more than 18 billion hours of unpaid caregiving were provided to these people. 

To learn more about this investment, visit AARP. To get certified as a caregiver in your state visit caregiverlist.com 


App of the Week: Sea Hero Quest

This week's featured app of the week is Sea Hero Quest. This innovative app is a fun mobile game that also contributes to research on dementia. The app was designed by a British game company, Glitchers along with Alzheimer's Research UK and University College London. By playing the game you contribute to research on dementia and in only a few minutes you provide scientists data that would typically take hours to collect. Read more about the research here.

Caregivers who want training on Dementia and Alzheimer's can purchase our course for Alzheimer's Disease here. 

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.

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