Super Bowl 2016 Reminder of Alzheimer's Disease Impact on Denver Broncos

Alzheimer's disease, which causes memory loss involving forgetting person, place and time, has been diagnosed in 44 million people worldwide. This month, as the Denver Broncos compete in the Super Bowl, they will strive for their NFL championship as their owner, Pat Bowlen, continues to battle Alzheimer's disease. The Bowlen family did plan ahead effectively and the football team was securely placed in a family trust years before the announcement of Pat's Alzheimer's disease diagnosis.

It was in 2009 that Bowlen's memory loss was first discussed with a newspaper columnist and in 2010 he no longer played a role in the team's business decisions. His family will attend Super Bowl 50 but he will not (he is the father of 7 children).

The cause of Alzheimer's disease is still unknown, and the Denver Bronco's owner certainly engaged his brain in activity throughout his life, as he was also an attorney and involved in other business interests, in addition to having the challenge of operating a successful NFL franchise. 

Recently Congress approved more funding to research Alzheimer's disease, which the Alzheimer's Association estimates costs the U.S. $226 billion in caregiving in 2015 as 5.3 million Americans live with the disease (1 in 9 Americans over the age of 65).

Regardless of which team you are cheering for in the Super Bowl, take the time to learn how you can become more involved in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. Plan ahead for your senior care needs and if you are interested in becoming a senior caregiver, either part-time or full-time, take an online caregiver training course to begin working as a caregiver as more caregivers are needed to assist with caring for America's growing number of seniors.


Brain Health Index Score Helps Seniors and Caregivers Manage their Minds

Brain health may soon be proved to be the most important component of healthy living and aging, as our brains connect to all the other functions in our bodies. The human operating system is turning out to be greatly impacted by our state of mind. Researchers now say our brains are the most important organ, creating memories, driving emotions and controlling every movement in our bodies. Now you can be proactive about managing your brain health with an online brain check-up tool.

One of our favorite authors, Deepak Chopra, and his pal Dr. Rudi Tanzi, also have a new book coming out called "Super Genes, Unlock the Astonishing Power of Your DNA for Optimum Health and Well-Being", as a follow-up to their book "Super Brain" and you can pre-order it. This book discusses how 95% of disease-related gene mutations are fully deterministic and influenced by diet, behavior and other environmental conditions.

Cleveland Clinic's Six Pillars of Brain Health can help us preserve our memory and lower our risk for brain disease. The recent suicide of actor Robin Williams, who was suffering from Lewy Body dementia, we now know, reminds us how vital it is to be able to properly diagnose our health issues. However, some types of dementia are difficult to diagnose in the early stages. Especially when there is an early onset of Alzheimer's disease, it can be mistaken for schizophrenia, drug abuse and all kinds of ailments that add even more stress to the situation.

Keep Memory Alive is a non-profit organization created to increase awareness and raise funds for the research, management and treatment of brain disorders (they are located in Las Vegas and receive sponsorship money from Caesar's - it's good to know there are gambling dollars going towards something positive). The Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is supported by Keep Memory Alive and treats patients with:

  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Huntington's Disease
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Fronto-temporal Dementia 
  • Multiple Sclerosis
The Healthy Brains free brain check-up will help you manage your brain health and to be "mindful" of how to best care for your brain. When you take the Cleveland Clinic's free online brain check-up, you can also join their healthy brains research registry which also connects you to a community of people who are willing to participate in clinical research as we work to better understand how to treat illnesses impacting the brain.

6 Pillars for Brain Health
  1. Physical Exercise
  2. Mental Fitness
  3. Food & Nutrition
  4. Sleep & Relaxation
  5. Social Interaction
  6. Medical Health
Clinical trials are necessary to study better ways to treat memory loss. Right now, more than 70,000 volunteer participants are needed for more than 150,000 Alzheimer's Disease and dementia clinical trials. Participants are needed who are both healthy as well as those who already have a diagnosis of memory loss. Find clinical trial openings at Cleveland Clinic. Plan ahead for senior care needs or those of a loved one by learning about what Medicare and Medicaid cover and available care options near you.

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Seth Rogen's Hilarity for Charity and Home Instead Donate Alzheimer's Care

Hilarity for Charity and Home Instead Senior Care has partnered to provide more than 6,000 hours of care in-home support for more than 130 eligible U.S. and Canadian Alzheimer's families in need through the Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Relief Grant Program.

Seth Rogen and his wife Lauren Miller Rogen established Hilarity for Charity to raise money and awareness of Alzheimer’s disease among the younger people. Both became involved in the fight against Alzheimer's disease after Lauren Miller Rogen's mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in her 50s.

In a press release, Ms. Miller Rogen said "My family is so fortunate to be able to provide the 24/7 professional care my mother needs. That care allows me to hold on to the precious moments I have with my mother so I can simply be a daughter and not just a caregiver. Our hope is that every family impacted by Alzheimer's disease can have those priceless moments, which is exactly why we created this tremendous program."

Home Instead Senior Care franchise owners pledged more than 37,000 hours of in-home care services, valued at $740,000. Grant recipients will be connected with a Home Instead franchise in their community, which will provide highly-skilled Alzheimer’s CAREGivers. Grants range from short-term in-home care 25 hours to long-term care, based on the needs of the family.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, friends and family of people with Alzheimer's and other dementias provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care in 2014, and nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high.

Until there’s a cure, there is care. Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s other memory diseases can be exhausting and overwhelming. Respite care from a trained in-home caregiver can allow you to take a break and come back to your duties rested and refreshed. But in-home care is not inexpensive and programs like the Alzheimer's and Dementia Care Relief Grant can be a godsend to families who are struggling.

Sylvia Besson and her family received some much-needed respite care for her father. Home Instead CAREgiver Melissa Barnstable is one of the many in-home caregivers specially trained to work with Alzheimer’s patients. “I enjoy bringing clarity, enthusiasm, and kindness into their day.

For more information about the Alzheimer's Care Grant Program, including how you can donate or apply for future respite care grants, visit www.HelpForAlzheimersFamilies.com.

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.

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.

Glen Campbell Says Farewell in Documentary

When Glen Campbell, 78, received the news about his Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, he was told to “hang up his guitar and prepare for the inevitable.” The singer/songwriter instead decided to embark on a “Goodbye Tour” that was to last 5 weeks. Instead, the tour lasted a year and a half, and Glen Campbell played to sold-out audiences in 151 performances around the country.

That tour, along with the chronicle of Mr. Campbell’s advancing disease, has been captured by the documentary, Glen Campbell . . . I’ll Be Me, which opened this past week across the U.S. Documentarian James Keach captures not only the amazing performances, but also the struggles with his advancing Alzheimer’s disease. However, not only do we see the anger, frustration, and moments of lucidity that are the hallmarks of memory loss disease, we also get to see the triumph of Mr. Campbell’s spirit on stage. Of his film’s subject, Keach has said, “It became not so much the story of Glen Campbell, but the story of the gift that is being taken away from him. And us."

Even if he sometimes forgot the words, the music is so ingrained in this man’s mind, body, and soul, that he could still do this:

For those too young to remember, Glen Campbell is a 6-time Grammy winner, including an Album of the Year in 1967 and is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award (2012). He was a session guitarist with the Beach Boys and Elvis Presley and in 1975, his hit “Rhinestone Cowboy” was No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 list. He is back on the list at No. 90 with the film’s "I'm Not Gonna Miss You." It’s his first chart appearance since Sept. 5, 1981—marking a 33-year hiatus.

Since the tour ended, Mr. Campbell’s family, including his wife, Kim Woolen and the couple’s daughter Ashley, 27, were caring for the singer at home until this past April. It was then that the 24-hour care Campbell needed became too much for the family to provide themselves. They decided to place Mr. Campbell in a memory care facility near their home in Nashville, TN. Ms. Woolen told People magazine about the decision. "No one was getting any sleep and we were just struggling every second to keep him safe – we felt like it wasn't safe anymore."

An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease in 2014. Most of us know someone or love someone with some form of dementia. We know how difficult it is to watch that person slowly slip away. It used to be that we wouldn’t acknowledge memory loss disease. What was referred to as “old-timer’s disease” was rarely spoken of and it’s sufferers stigmatized. It takes a lot of courage for someone like Glen Campbell, along with his family, to open their lives and share publicly what so many families are experiencing privately.

Julianne Moore is Still Alice

It happens to everyone, I think. The missing keys, the lost word, that moment when you walk into a room and forget what you came in for. When it happens to me, I get a brief moment of fear that it might be something a little worse and a little more frightening than simple forgetfulness. At my age, I worry that it might be just a harbinger for more serious things to come.

Still Alice is a story that takes us into the world of a woman — a scholar, wife, and mother — for whom that fear becomes a reality when she’s diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Based on Lisa Genova's 2007 bestselling novel of the same name, it’s the story of a linguistics professor who struggles to hang on to her memories, and herself during her swift deterioration. And by all accounts, Julianne Moore's performance is incredible.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is a fairly rare form of dementia that strikes people younger than 65. As in the movie, it’s common for those with the disease to exhibit symptoms beginning in their 50s. Most early-onset Alzheimer’s is genetic, and although not backed by hard data, the perception is that early-onset Alzheimer’s progresses more quickly than Alzheimer’s disease experienced later in life.

The movie co-stars Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish as Alice’s three grown children who watch their brilliant mother fade away while learning they may inherit her disease. Alec Baldwin co-stars as her husband, and after the great chemistry they showed on 30 Rock, I can’t wait to see them together here in a more dramatic pairing.

Here’s a clip from the movie in which Julianne Moore’s Alice discusses the short but beautiful lifespan of butterflies with her family caregiver, daughter Lydia:

The movie, and especially Ms. Moore’s performance (The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg calls it “nuanced and heartbreaking,”) were such a hit at the Toronto International Film Festival that there’s been a lot of talk about this role finally garnering her an Oscar. She’s had four nominations but no wins to date.

If you live in New York or Los Angeles, you’ll be able to see the movie on December 5, 2014 (in time to be considered by the Academy). For the rest of the country, the film is set for U.S. wide-release on January 16, 2015.

I remember reading the Caregiverlist Alzheimer's Diary by Norm McNamara back when we published it in 2011. Mr. McNamara gave us a peek into what living with Alzheimer’s is like in that one-day entry. I imagine the heartrending research Julianne Moore must have gone through to prepare for her role. These point-of-view looks into the life of those afflicted with memory loss disease is as close as I want to get, but I think it’s so valuable for us to see and try to empathize with the millions of Alzheimer’s sufferers around the world.

Leeza Gibbons Invests in Senior Helpers

Leeza Gibbons is an Emmy Award winner and a longtime champion for Alzheimer's care. After losing both her mother and grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease, she began her campaign to spotlight memory disease and help families and caregivers find the tools and information they need to best support those in their care.

Now Ms. Gibbons and her husband have decided to invest in and become franchise owners of one of the nation's largest in-home senior care companies, Senior Helpers.

Choosing a senior caregiver is, as she puts it, “a delicate decision” because they become like family. There is a great deal of trust that is placed in the hands of those caring for the elderly, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“Senior Helpers provides trusted and dependable care and encouragement to seniors and families facing devastating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Leeza Gibbons on the Senior Helpers website. “This is the precise type of care I wish my family and I had when my mother and grandmother were suffering from Alzheimer’s. That is why I am proud to invest in Senior Helpers franchised business, to ensure that the best in-home care is available to support, empower and uplift seniors and their families.”

Many senior care agency owners began their careers caring for senior loved ones. Seth Zamek Owner, Senior Helpers, Fort Mill, SC and one of our Senior Home Care Agency Experts decided to start his business in senior home care after both he and his wife and were caregivers for his mother-in-law during her battle with cancer, Caregiverlist’s own founder and CEO, Julie Northcutt, owned a senior care agency prior to establishing Caregiverlist.com

“This is just an opportunity that’s getting bigger and bigger,” says Ms. Gibbons. “It’s here and we all have to get on board and figure out how to deal with it.

Ms. Gibbons is also seeking to  convert a landmark home in Lexington County, South Carolina into a caregiver assistance facility. With area philanthropist Michael Mungo, Ms. Gibbons is planning to provide a center aiding people caring for others with major diseases and wants the center to offer free services for those coping with the stress of caring for someone with chronic or terminal illness.

More information about Ms. Gibbons and her decision is in this Entrepreneur article.

Alive Inside: Music Triggers Memories

Every year, I look forward to fall movie season—comedies, crazy horror movies (looking at you, Tusk,) big blockbusters, and sweet, small romantic dramas—I don’t have a favorite genre. As long as its well written and well acted, I’m in.

I’m also a nut for music, and the two are combined with great effect in the documentary, Alive Inside. Great documentaries not only entertain, but by their very nature, teach us something we didn’t know before or gives us a deeper understanding of a subject. Documentary filmmakers are rarely in it for the money, so you know that telling their story is a labor of love.

Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the organization Music & Memory, a nonprofit that uses music to trigger memory and emotion to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. Winner of the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, the film showed music’s capability of reawakening the mind and soul of the listener, restoring an individual’s sense of self, especially when that person is battling memory loss.

It’s been chronicled that those with Alzheimer’s and dementia feel emotion long after memory has faded. Alive Inside shows nursing home patients respond to the music they enjoyed in their youth.

Just as “Radar Love” takes me back to cruising the streets of Chicago in my first car (a 1970 Nova), Henry reacts to the big band music played through an iPod and headphones. The 94-year-old man suffers from dementia and initially seems cut off from the outside world. We watch as he listens. The transformation is immediate and profound. Henry sits up, sways to the music, and starts raving about how much he loves Cab Calloway. He responds to questions and suddenly he is full of energy and life.

The movie is full of those kind of examples. Mr. Rossato-Bennett spent three years watching and recording the effects of music therapy. At its best, the movie let’s us see the transformation of memory loss patients from isolated to reconnected—all through the power of music.

The documentary also contains interviews with experts including renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, who discusses links between music and emotion and the strength of musical memories. Musician Bobby McFerrin (Don’t Worry, Be Happy) also weighs in on the power of music as a trigger of emotional memory.


Caregiverlist supports the family and professional caregiver and understands the challenges of caring for seniors with memory loss. We think music therapy is a great technique for connecting with those with Alzheimer's disease.

And if you are looking for a a little escapist fun in theaters this fall, Irma la Douce and Captain von Trapp (Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer) are living it up in Elsa & Fred, an American remake of a 2005 Spanish-Argentine film of the same name.

Do you have an issue you'd like to see tackled on this blog? Connect with Renata on Google+

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