Signs In-Home Senior Care Is Needed: Free Webinar

How do you know if a loved one needs in-home senior care?  When you are only with them for a couple hours at a time, once a week or so, it is often hard to really notice declines in their health, including memory loss challenges.
As the owner of a senior home care agency for 7 years, I can share many stories of how one spouse covered for the other and then died suddenly and the family realized Mom or Dad had memory loss or other health challenges that kept them from living at home alone.  There is also the story of a senior who just kept not showing up for events and meetings that they usually attended and then would show up on the wrong day. 
Especially with memory loss, it is natural to not want to share the challenges with others at first.  You are embarrased or think that you actually aren't forgetting - how do you know?  Maybe you are just too busy to keep up with everything.  But perhaps bills are not being paid on time or medications are missed which then cause more severe problems.
Norm McNamara, in his "Caregiverlist Alzheimer's Diary", shares how he first knew he was forgetting yet did not want to tell others.  It is important for all of us to have mental memory tests every year, as soon as age 50, as early onset Alzheimer's disease does start as early as 50.
A senior care industry professional association will offer a free Webinar to help you learn about how to look for signs in-home care is needed and how to approach the subject with your loved one.
Webinar:  Signs that In-Home Care is Needed
Date:  October 11, 2011
Time:  7 p.m. Eastern Time
You may register for the webinar and learn the signs that indicate in-home care is needed, especially if you do not live near your senior family members.  You may also find checklists for home care and learn about quality standards necessary for senior home care.
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Updated Safe Driving Guidelines for Senior's with Memory Loss

Some things never change, as they say.  And being ready to give up the car keys and stop driving is one of them. Although many of us would be happy to give up driving if we knew we would have a car and driver at our disposal, this is rarely the case when medical conditions enter the picture.  Giving up the car keys can mean giving up your independence.  It brings to reality the changes that are happening in someone's life.

In addition, the situation of giving up the car keys is complicated when a senior is not able to understand the reasoning behind the decision.  The American Academy of Neurology has issued new guidelines for evaluating when it is time to stop driving when you have been diagnosed with dementia.

The driving exam laws vary in each state - some states require in-person driving tests at a certain age and other states do not.  However, that doesn't necessarily fix the problem - my own Great-Grandmother threatened the driving test administrator at age 95 and walked out with her driver's license.  At this point, she was having hit and runs and even drove off and left a state highway patrolman on the side of the highway when she was pulled over for not having a turn signal on.  She informed him that everyone knew where she lived and thus knew she would be turning off the highway at this particular intersection.  Our family only heard about this at the highway patrolman's retirement party.  He was so stunned by the age on her driver's license that it was one of his top stories.  He let her drive away.  But we were lucky that nothing worse happened, in a situation we were not able to control and in a situation which even the state laws did not help control.

As new technology is making our lives easier in so many areas, why not develop something new and innovative for driving tests - - perhaps a computer-simulated driving exam, just like the video games. If you don't wreck the car and make all the right turns you pass and if you run off the road or take too long to react to traffic signals, you fail.  If we can create driving games for amusement, it seems we could create such a computer exam for use at the Department of Motor Vehicles nationwide.

Having a required test would take this problem out of the hands of family members and medical doctors.  Age discrimination laws get in the way of requiring the driving exams at a certain age and certainly if a senior can still drive well at age 99, they should be allowed to do so.  But we need a better system for helping to discern when it is time to stop driving and to enforce it without causing additional conflict with medical doctors and family members.
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Alzheimer's Clinical Trial Studies Benefit both Caregivers and Seniors

By participating in a clinical drug trial, you will receive valuable medical information at no charge, along with access to medical care which may improve your medical condition.  Remember that all medications we currently take first had to be tested in a clinical trial study - and many of these medications work very well.  The U.S. government's Food and Drug Administration requires medications to show positive performance in clinical trials before being approved.

How can you learn about clinical trials in your area?
  • Ask your doctor
  • Ask your pharmacist
  • Check with the local association for your disease (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, etc.) 
You may receive a monetary stipend for your participation along with travel and telephone expense reimbursement.  Be sure to first learn about the requirements for participants, as these are usually very specific.  Sometimes caregivers are also provided with reimbursement as their feedback is considered valuable.

This Alzheimer's Disease research study requires participation in 14 meetings and 3 telephone calls and will span 14 months.  The medical evaluations alone can be worth participating in a study, as you will be working with a leading team of doctors and researchers.

You may also contact the department of aging in your area to find out about age-related programs which may be helpful, and sometimes they also know about clinical trials. , ,

Early Warning Signs for Alzheimer's Disease

Senior caregivers know the difficulties of caring for someone with memory loss.  But sometimes when you see someone daily, you do not as easily notice some of the early warning signs for memory loss in the form of Alzheimer's Disease.  The Alzheimer's Association has been promoting their new "Know the 10 Signs" for early detection and early diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease.

 These 10 signs include:


1) Memory changes that disrupt daily life


2) Challenges in planning or solving problems


3) Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure


4) Confusion with time or place


5) Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships


6) New problems with words in speaking or writing


7) Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps


8) Decreased or poor judgment


9) Withdrawal from work or social activities


10) Changes in mood and personality

As soon as you notice signs of memory loss, it is a good time to make sure the senior has an estate plan in place and to understand the ways to pay for senior care as many years of caregiving are often necessary for those living with memory loss.


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HBO's The Alzheimer's Project:: May 10 - 12

Caregivers and family members of those with Alzheimer's Disease will find this upcoming documentary informative and supportive of the challenges of caring for seniors with memory loss.  HBO reports Alzheimer's Disease is the second most feared disease after cancer and more than 5 million Americans are affected by it.  As there is currently no cure for the disease, it is also predicted that this number will more than double in the next 30 years.

This 4-part documentary, The Alzheimer's Project, will air on May 10 - 12 on HBO and includes 15 short films highlighting the latest research for a cure, profiles community programs and looks at 7 individuals who are living with Alzheimer's Disease, including a focus on their caregivers who must cope with the progression of the disease. 

HBO has also launched a website to provide educational information on The Alzheimer's Project. Check it out and spread the word.

Caregivers and seniors can also learn more about caring for those with memory loss by reading the stories caregivers share on Caregiverlist (and you may also share your own story).

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How Alzheimer's Disease Changes Behavior

Everyone forgets something now and then.  How many of us have left the house to go someplace and then remember we forgot to bring something along or wondered if we unplugged the iron or what time a meeting we scheduled weeks ago is suppose to start?  Sometimes we simply have too much information going in and out of our head to properly process it or we don't take the time to really listen and file it away while multi-tasking - regardless of whether we are a senior or not which is why we all have the so called "senior moment".

I am often asked how memory loss for those with Alzheimer's Disease is different than other types of memory loss.  One of the most common answers to this is that Alzheimer's Disease impacts a senior's decision-making ability ongoing and includes confusion of "person, place or thing".  Instead of just forgetting what time a meeting is scheduled for, they might also forget where the meeting is to be held and who is attending or they might confuse their sister for their mother.  Confusion comes into the picture along with the memory loss.

PBS has provided informative programming on Alzheimer's Disease and their website provides a chart showing what part of the brain impacts the various behaviors experienced by those with Alzheimer's disease and makes it a little easier to understand how this disease differs from other types of memory loss.  

Many times a senior may not have their memory loss properly diagnosed.  Because there are a few drugs which can slow the progression of memory loss and services available to help both a senior and their family members with the emotional aspect of dealing with memory loss, definitely make sure you visit a geriatric doctor who can provide a proper diagnosis.  Caregivers can provide better care if they are informed on the type of memory loss the senior has been diagnosed with as there are many tools available for exercising the mind and slowing the progression of memory loss.  It has also been shown that meditation - simply emptying the mind - can be very beneficial for those with memory loss, as well as relaxing.




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Mini-Mental Exam Can Detect Memory Loss

In only ten minutes time, a mini-mental exam screens seniors for signs of dementia.  Referred to in the medical community simply as a "mini-mental", the official name is the Mini-mental State Exam and it is copyrighted by Psychological Assessment Resources (PAR).  Geriatric care doctors will give this exam to their senior clients to keep ahead of any signs of memory loss.

The mini-mental test asks questions about the time and place of the test, and incorporates math and language skills to test cognitive and memory abilities.  It asks questions like how many nickels are in $1.25 and if you can spell a certain word backwards.

Many times memory loss in seniors can be connected with an illness or with medications.  If properly addressed, senior memory loss can be slowed or reversed. Because of age-related diseases, seniors are more at risk for memory loss and should be sure their medical doctor is conducting a mini-mental at their annual check-ups.

If you are a caregiver for a senior, you can also find a variety of memory exercises at the Alzheimer's Store.

One of my Aunts suffered a stroke a few years ago and after being air-lifted to a metropolitan hospital,  she received excellent care and made nearly a full recovery.  Now she enjoys telling how in the days following the stroke, the doctor would check on her each day and ask her if she knew who the president of the United States was.  Each day, she would answer "George Bush".  Finally, she told him he needed to ask her something new.  He then asked her if she knew what the Gettysburg Address was, and............she began reciting it.  She had memorized it in grade school.  He told her she indeed knew it better than he did!

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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:


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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 or call 866-AFA-8484. 
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