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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Obama's Grandmother Passes

Regardless of your political choice for president, you can share in the sadness of Barack Obama's Grandmother passing away just a day before the election.  Madelyn Payne Dunham, 86, died peacefully in her Honolulu home on Sunday night, after battling cancer.  She chose to stay at home with care provided by a caregiver.

Hospice training teaches that emotionally, it is easier to go through the process of grieving when you are able to plan for the death and say goodbye ahead of time.  Barack learned this, he said, when he did not make it to his Mother's side before she passed away.  As he did not want that to happen again, he took time off from his historic campaign to visit his Grandmother a couple of weeks ago.

Still, death of a loved one is never convenient or easy, even with knowing ahead of time.  While visiting France one summer, I went to dinner at a small country restaurant.  The owners were a married couple who made the rounds to all the tables to chat with their guests.  Upon learning that I worked in senior care, they told me to be sure to visit the bathroom before I left.  There was a mural painted on the bathroom wall that included the 17th Century Nun's Prayer.  I later had my Mother write it in calligraphy and framed it for my Senior Care Agency's office wall.  Many caregivers who passed through the doors asked about it and requested a copy and now it is included as a resource on Caregiverlist.

 

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Free Memory Screenings at more than 2,000 locations

My Mother thinks that I am always keeping tabs on her memory. After working in senior care, I have seen first hand that early detection of memory loss can make a positive difference.  I have seen senior's memories improve after starting medications and developing a regular routine with a caregiver to guide them.  I have also witnessed the agony that memory loss can cause for the senior and their loved ones, especially when proper diagnosis of the type of dementia occurs too late.

It greatly helps family relationships when everyone understands what is happening when the memory loss first begins.  Sometimes during a conversation, my Mom will inform my Dad that I am really quizzing him on his memory.  My father has a better memory than I do and so far so good with Mom.  Her father suffered from memory loss, which was never formerly diagnosed as Alzheimer's Disease, although now, looking back, we are all sure that it was.  The early diagnosis and tests were not widely performed 20 years ago.  I remember that my Grandfather would "read" the Wall Street Journal upside down,- which actually might not be a bad idea with the recent market turmoil -a different view might be nice.  But that was just one example of some of the ongoing confusion he experienced.

On November 18th, the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) will offer free memory screenings at more than 2,000 local sites across the country as part of its 6th annual National Memory Screening Day.

This annual initiative is aimed at promoting early detection of memory problems and appropriate intervention.
The AFA encourages adults with memory concerns, a family history of Alzheimer's disease or a desire to establish a baseline score for future comparison to get screened and to pick up educational materials about memory concerns, successful aging and local resources.
Alzheimer's disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
The face-to-face screening takes approximately five minutes and consists of a series of questions and tasks. Sites, spanning all 50 states, include the entire chain of Kmart pharmacies, senior centers, houses of worship, assisted living facilities and doctor's offices.
The results do not represent a diagnosis, and screeners encourage those with abnormal scores as well as those who still have concerns to pursue a full medical exam.
How are they able to pay for this?  The drug companies are sponsors - so another good reason to take advantage of the free memory screening since you are sort of paying for it anyway through your medication purchases.
If you are a caregiver for a senior, find out if there is a location in your area.
For information about National Memory Screening Day, including screening sites, visit http://www.nationalmemoryscreening.org or call 866-AFA-8484. 
 
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Hospice Volunteering Opportunity

Hospice provides many services to terminally ill patients, from end-of-life planning to hands-on care with a Registered Nurse who will manage the overall care.  A Certified Nursing Aide is available for bathing visits and assistance with personal care.  Hospice also provides a Social Worker to assist with managing family and personal issues.  In addition, many hospice services provide volunteers who will visit the hospice pateint to offer companionship services and assist them with any specially requested tasks.

If you have lost a loved one and are looking for new activities to fill your day or have an interest in becoming a caregiver, contact a local hospice company to find out about possible volunteer opportunities.  You will gain as much as you give.

 

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Assisted Living Survey Released Today

When navigating the various options for senior care, it is important to understand not only the care requirements and costs but also the short-term and long-term care needs.   This can be especially challenging when Assisted Living becomes the senior's desired choice.  Most Assisted Living communities charge separately for caregiving services and may have limited resources for providing nursing care and assistance for those with memory loss. This is why it is important for a senior and their family to evaluate the senior's long-term care needs before making the move to an assisted living community.

Inside Assisted Living, a website for families evaluating assisted living, today released their new research study, "Assisted Living Family Attitudes and Preparedness Report."   The survey of 195 families provides an overview of important topics for seniors to understand when evaluating Assisted Living communities.  These include costs, caregiving services, and facility criteria for the senior community.

The survey found that 75% of the respondents anticipate needing assisted living for a family member in the next 10 years.

You may view the survey results and learn about Assisted Living for seniors on their website:  www.insideassistedliving.com

The website founder, Ryan Malone, learned about the challenges of finding appropriate senior care when his Mother suffered a stroke and shares his experience to make the process easier for other seniors and their families.

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Hospice Care: When Should It Begin?

Hospice care was developed as a care solution for terminally ill patients.  Usually family members are involved in care services when a senior or someone younger is terminally ill.  Medicare does provide for hospice care services for seniors and provides certified nursing aide caregivers, social workers and registered nurses to visit the home to assist with the senior's care needs.  Family caregivers often do not realize Medicare will pay for hospice care services for seniors to help support them.  Yet the support of hospice can make a difficult situation a little easier to manage.

Hospice will also assist with the emotional aspects of terminal illness for both the senior and their family and for professional caregivers, along with bereavement care. In addition, hospice will provide a Certified Nursing Aide to assist with tasks such as bathing.  My grandmother moved in with my Aunt when she became terminal with cancer.  While my Aunt wanted to provide for her care, it was exhausting.  She appreciated the regular check -in visits by the hospice staff.  The hospice Certified Nursing Aide assisted her with bathing assistance visits and the Registered Nurse gave her feedback on the progression of the cancer.

Hospice care may begin as soon as someone is diagnosed as terminally ill.  There are many companies which provide hospice care and your medical doctor can usually provide a referral.

Learn more about hospice care services directly from the hospice foundation.  http://www.hospicefoundation.org/

 

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Chicago Marathon: Older Runners and Wheelchairs

We know that exercise is good for our health, at all ages.  But if you are ever finding yourself thinking of excuses for why you shouldn't exercise, let these Chicago Marathon finishers provide you with some inspiration.

Aussie Kurt Fearnley won the men's wheelchair division and set a course record, too.  This was his second year to win the wheelchair division of the Chicago Marathon.  He was born with lumbar sacral agenesis, a condition that paralyzed his legs.

Another finisher was octogenarian Arturo Guzman, 84, who says he has been a runner all of his life.  He gets up at 5 a.m. every morning to go for an hour long run.

Yes, it must be true that you can build muscle mass at all ages.  The secret is to keep it moving!

And to find out about how to enter next year's marathon, visit:   www.chicagomarathon.com


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Estate Planning: Caring for Pets

Leona Helmsley, nicknamed "the Queen of Mean", left $12 million in her trust to care for her Maltese dog, Trouble.  Rumor has it that she had few friends, so it was appropriate for her to leave more money to her dog than to people.  She left around $10 million to two grandsons and the rest of her estate, estimated as worth between $3 billion and $8 billion, went to the Helmsley Charitable trust.  She stated that the mission of the trust should be to provide for the care of dogs.  Even though she only owned a dog later in life and gave away another dog which she was given as a gift (named "Double Trouble), because she didn't really like him.  She still decided to change her trust two years prior to death to only provide for dogs and deleted the previous mission which also included caring for "poor children". 

The interesting part of this trust, is that even though it would seem Leona, as a bilionaire, would have had very experienced attorneys, they did make some legal mistakes in writing her will.

First, Leona requests her dog to be buried beside her when it passes away.  However, she is buried in a human cemetery and New York state law does not allow animals to be buried in human cemeteries.  People can be buried in pet cemeteries but not the other way around in New York.  This was an error by her attorney in not checking New York state law regarding pet burial. 

Second, her dog is 9 years old and has a variety of medical issues, which combined with the life-expectancy of a Maltese means Trouble will probably live only another 5 years.  It seems that the attorneys managing her trust could not come up with a way to spend $12 million on a dog (even with the best dog food and spa treatments) in 5 years.  And, Leona didn't specify how the dog should be cared for and what the money should be spent on.  Lawyers managing her trust have decided $2 million will be more than ample for the dog's care (and because the relatives Leona left the dog to actually didn't want the burden of caring for the dog, one of her hotel employees is being paid $5,000 a month to care for Trouble).  The lawyers then arranged for the other $10 million that was left to Trouble to go back to Leona's charitable trust.

According to a recent New Yorker magazine article, only 38 states allow for "pet trusts" in order for people to provide for the care of their pets after they die.  However, the law is still catching up with the nuances these trusts present.  It is probably important to be a little more specific in how the money is to be used when leaving it in a trust to a pet, since the pet cannot effectively communicate their wishes for spending the money.  Especially in Leona's case, since it turns out the people she wanted to care for Trouble did not really want the dog, and the day-to-day care and love from a human owner is probably what a pet most wants when their owner passes away.

A website that assists with pet trusts:  www.mypetprotection.com

 

 

 

 

 

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People of All Ages & Physical Conditions Benefit from Exercise

Use it or lose it.  Older adults can build muscle mass just as quickly as younger adults.

While it is true that there are many age-related illnesses, such as Osteoporosis, Alzheimer's Disease and Parkinson's Disease which can have a negative impact on physical capabilities, it is also true that an inactive lifestyle leads to deterioration of strength, balance and flexibility.

In some countries without the modern conveniences we have here in the U.S., seniors maintain their abilities to function unassisted much longer.  In many parts of China and Africa, for instance, there are no toilets.  There is just a hole in the ground.  The one advantage this provides is that people must truly squat from their knees and then standup each time they visit the toilet.  This is sort of a forced way to continue to maintain strength and flexibility in the legs.  Their aging populations maintain an active lifestyle much longer than we do in the U.S.

The National Institute of Health provides exercise guidelines for older adults and also provides information on scientific studies which show that staying physically active and exercising regularly can help prevent or delay many diseases and disabilities. Even moderate exercise and physical activity can improve the health of older adults who are frail or have diseases that accompany aging.

The four areas exercise can help are:  strength, balance, flexibility and endurance.  Check out NIH's website for more information and videos.

I know it isn't always easy to convince Mom and Dad to exercise.  My girlfriend purchased a health club membership for her parents and they told her they were going.  Everytime she called she would ask them how their workouts went and they would tell her all was going well.  Then after about 6 months her brother finally confided in her that he wasn't sure they were really going.  She called the health club and found out they had only been twice.  As she says, at least she tried.  If you can convince someone to stay with an exercise program for just a couple weeks, they will start to experience the positive benefits which will encourage them to stay with their program.

 

 

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Flu Shots: Good Idea for Seniors and Caregivers

It seems it is finally time to accept that summer is over, and all that comes with that, including flu shots.  Such an unpleasant thought.  But getting the flu really is worse than getting the shot and there are plenty of vaccinations on hand (The U.S. has a supply of 140 million vaccinations and only used 113 last year).  The Center for Disease Control recommends flu vaccinations for pregnant women, people 50 and older, younger adults with chronic illnesses such as diabetes or asthma, health-care workers, people who come into contact with infants younger than 6 months, and people in contact with others at high risk of flu complications.

Caregivers can go along with their senior client to get a flu shot.  Many senior centers, churches and area departments on aging provide flu shots.  Some doctors offer flu vaccinations on certain days and many pharmacies host flu shot days.  Walgreens pharmacy will provide flu and pneumonia vaccinations at many of their pharmacies in October and you may find out when and where on their website.

Get the shot, not the flu.

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