Alzheimer's and Dementia Responsible for 1 in 3 Senior Deaths, Report Shows

A new Alzheimer’s Association report, 2013 Alzheimer's Disease Facts & Figures, released yesterday, indicates that the disease is now the sixth leading cause of death, taking the lives of 1 in 3 seniors.

And while death from other diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke decline, Alzheimer's deaths continue to rise, increasing 68% from 2000-2010. The reason? According to the report, it is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America without a way to prevent it, cure it or even slow its progression.

The mortality rate for Alzheimer’s and dementia, while certainly increasing as the population ages, isn’t a new phenomenon. However, the reporting of death from dementia and Alzheimer’s may have been previously under-reported, according to  Susan Mitchell, a professor of medicine at Harvard and a scientist at Hebrew Senior Life Institute for Aging Research.

Alzheimer's patients tend to have other health problems as well, she says. Alzheimer’s and dementia lead to the death of nerve cells. In the beginning stages of the disease, the cells damaged mostly affect memory and behavior. As the disease progresses, the brain cells damaged control body functions. For example, a person suffering from dementia may lose their ability to swallow correctly. Food goes down the wrong way, resulting in lung damage and finally pneumonia. And it is that pneumonia which has been listed as the cause of death, and not the underlying dementia from which it stemmed.

From a caregiving standpoint, almost 15% of those caregiving for loved ones are doing it long-distance — living an hour or more away and they pay nearly twice as much out-of-pocket for care as their onsite counterparts. However, the emotional toll is understandably greater for those who must deal with caregiving on their own. “More than 60 percent of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; more than one-third report symptoms of depression.” These are the family caregivers who desperately need help in the form of respite caregivers.

Caregiving for Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia requires a special skill set and the need for skilled caregivers is only going to increase. State training requirements vary, but Caregiverlist, along with Terra Nova Films, presents training videos to assist you with understanding how to care for special needs of older adults suffering with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

If you are a certified nursing aide, home health aide, companion caregiver or family caregiver, these videos will help you improve upon your current skills and learn about the latest approaches for successful caregiving.

And read Norm McNamara’s Caregiverlist Diary to gain a better understanding of the daily challenges faced by those living with Alzheimer’s.

Assisted Living Jobs: Senior Caregivers & Resident Care Assistants

Assisted Living has become the "new normal" for seniors looking for retirement options.  And the newer Assisted Living communities are places we all would want to live at any age.  Americans are living longer and also enjoying what is now being called the Third Age.  However, with longer lives, comes more years of help with care - which is why senior caregiver jobs continue to be available (senior care companies are constantly hiring part-time and full-time caregivers).  And some of these caregiver positions are available in the attractive and even posh Assisted Living communities.

The Villages, in Florida, is where one of my friend's parents have found a home for their retirement years.  They love it and their children and grandchildren also love this community.  My friend Lisa's father plays on 3 softball teams and her Mother enjoys a golf league, a knitting group and a book group.  In addition, one of their spare time activities has become a booming business.  They enjoy going to estate sales and auctions and now have a booth at an antique mall and even resell items on ebay.  Their knack for finding great items has been going so well that they have had to expand into 3 booths at the antique mall.

Back at The Villages, they can enjoy actiivites such as yoga at one of the recreation centers, go for a swim or enjoy live music at a Mexican restaurant.  If the time should come that the would need more assistance with senior care or even assisted living, these options are also available.

Assisted Living communities now often have spas and one in the Chicago area even has a rainforest.  The good news is that these Assised Living communities do need senior caregivers or resident assistants.

Caregiver duties at Assisted Living centers may involve assisting the residents during  meals and with mobility from one activity to the next.  Activities many times involve learning a new skill through creating a new craft project or discussing a movie or book.  Many times a Resident Assistant Caregiver will assist the residents in these activities.

Senior caregivers are available for residents of Assisted Living communities and usually when more assistance is needed with personal care a Certified Nursing Assistant is assigned to the resident.

Caregiver job descriptions for senior caregivers are similar for caregivers in assisted living communities to those working with a senior in their home.   If the caregivers is hired as a Resident Care Assistant they will provide some hands-on care but their primary is role is helping all the residents on one wing with Activities of Daily Living (ADL"s).  Smaller Assisted Living communities may also have the Resident Care Assistant help with meal prepration and activities.  If a senior has memory loss and is in the memory care unit of Assisted Living, the Resident Care Assistant may need to be a Certified Nursing Assistant (C.N.A.).

Apply for a senior caregiver job near you and review requirements for working in an Assisted Living community on Caregiverlist'sCareer Center.





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National Memory Screening Day

Memory loss occurs for all of us at certain moments: where, oh where are my keys? Right? And everyone will begin experiencing some memory loss after the age of 85. 

Alzheimer's disease presents a certain form of memory loss where there is confusion of person, time and place. Because of this, many refer to Alzheimer's disease as the "long goodbye".  Senior caregivers know the challenges that come when caring for someone with memory loss but the good news is that medications can slow the progression.  In addition, by implementing a steady daily schedule and mental exercises and meditation, seniors can lesson the impact of memory loss on their lives.

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) is inviting healthcare professionals to participate as screening sites for the 10th annual national memory Screening Day on Tuesday, November 13th, 2012.  Community sites nationwide will offer free, confidential memory screenings and educational materials to the public. 

Learn more about the memory loss screenings where the AFA will provide a comprehensive toolkit, including screening tools and marketing and educational materials all at no cost.  The memory loss screening sites are searchable by zip-code and state. 

Sign-up as a Memory Loss Screening Site.

For more information you may contact melissa Austen, AFA"s National Program's Manager:






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Alzheimer's Alone

Seniors prefer to age at home in familiar surroundings; it's a fact. The comfort derived from familiar routines and environs can be encouraging and reassuring. Many diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia feel the same and choose to remain independent for as long as possible.

In March, the Alzheimer’s Association released 2012 Facts and Figures: Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, and includes a Special Report on People with Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias Who Live Alone. According to the report 800,000 or 1 in 7 of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease lives alone.

Distance caring is the result of a mobile society — family members may live too far away to give sufficient supervision. Spouses pass away and the once tight-knit family disperses. Someone with early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s may find themselves alone.

While the desire for independence remains strong, the body may have other plans. An overwhelming aspiration to stay in one’s home and remain vital in one’s community can can turn even the most stalwart person into an ostrich, hiding their head in the sand from the disease.

The population is aging and we all need to consider that this could be our fate, or the fate of someone we love. An estimated 5.4 million people in the United States have Alzheimer's or dementia. That number is expected to reach up to 16 million by 2050. But if independence and home aging is a priority, there are things we can do to help manage.

Those who live alone, either by choice or necessity find they need to adjust their expectations.

Driving Miss Daisy. Until the self-driving car is readily available, a good choice would be to drive less. and when driving, perhaps keep drives short and to well- known routes.

Note to self: leave more notes to self. This is especially important when safety is a concern. A note by the stove with a reminder to shut off burners and oven, a note by the door with a reminder to lock, a note near the medicine cabinet with gentle reminders of which meds to take and when, could help prevent disaster.

Everything in its place. Designate a spot to place keys or sunglasses. If you ever see items that have strayed, return them immediately to their home.

Also, consider an id bracelet with address and a phone number of someone who will come to your aid. No one expects to wander off, but it happens.

The Alzheimer’s Society UK also provides a helpful factsheet with more information and suggestions on living alone with dementia.

It is important to begin to plan for the escalation of care. A quality Home Care Agency will work with finding assistance for your level of need — from simple companionship and housekeeping, to medication management to possible live-in care. A Geriatric Care Manager can consult with you to help determine the health markers that might indicate you should step up the level of care.

Early detection is so important, so discuss it with your doctor. Give yourself time to plan accordingly, especially if you intend to live alone with Alzheimer's or dementia, as so many others already do.

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Daily Activities Can Help Stave Off Alzheimer's and Dementia

Exercise for seniors is a good idea. It promotes healthy aging, improves health and increases longevity. Now a recent study published in the journal Neurology, shows that exercise can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, even in those over 80 years old.

We’re not talking about lifting weights or running for miles. Simple daily chores such as cooking, cleaning, washing dishes — even moving around more, showed that active seniors are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than their less active counterparts.

According to Dr. Aron S. Buchman, lead author of the study and associate professor of neurological sciences at Rush, “These results provide support for efforts to encourage all types of physical activity even in very old adults who might not be able to participate in formal exercise, but can still benefit from a more active lifestyle.”

Doctors at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center monitored the daily activity of 716 people without dementia by use of a device called an actigraph, on their nondominant wrist for 10 days. All activity was recorded and subjects were given annual cognitive tests for the next 3.5 years.

Results showed that those test subjects in the bottom 10 percent of daily physical activity were more than twice as likely (2.3 times) to develop Alzheimer’s disease as people in the top 10 percent of daily activity.

So much of the fear associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia comes from the feeling that one has no control over the disease. This study gives the hope that there is something we can do to prevent the onset of those devastating conditions. My 82-year-old mother still washes her kitchen floor every other day, sometimes on her hands and knees. She refuses my help, insisting that it’s her activity that has kept “Old Timer’s disease” at bay. It looks like once again, mom may be right.

The Study on Frailty in Aging (SOFIA) is a sub-study of the ongoing Rush Memory and Aging Project. Rush is still actively recruiting participants for the SOFIA study. Those interested in becoming part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project and SOFIA can contact study coordinator Tracey Nowakowski at (312) 942-2214. Participants must be 65 years of age or older with no previous diagnosis of dementia.

If you are already caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, Caregiverlist has partnered with the leading producer of training videos for the caregiving industry, Terra Nova Films, to assist our caregiving community with understanding how to care for the physical, emotional and psychosocial needs of older adults.

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Instagram: Tool for Connecting Seniors with Families

Senior caregivers often have the challenge of updating family members on the senior's activities or, they may be working with seniors who have very busy adult children and may need efficient ways to keep updated on care services.  Technology provides new ways to connect caregivers and seniors with family members.

Instagram brings an easy-to-use photo album to everyone's finger tips and can assist caregivers in communicating.

A picture is worth a thousand words and caregivers can share those pictures with just a few clicks on their smartphones using the application Instagram.  People use their smartphones to take pictures and want to share them in real time - without having to wait to connect their device to a computer and upload it.  Instagram allows this to happen and creates a feed of photos that have been uploaded for every user.  For caregivers, Instagram provides the opportunity to document their time with their senior clients.  

Four Uses of Instagram for Senior Caregivers:

  1. Document Shared Hobbies or Activities with a Senior Client. Taking on a project such as learning how to knit can create a bond with your senior client and you can use Instagram when you finish your projects to showcase your work.  Also, if you go for a walk, visit a museum or just enjoy making a flower arrangement together, you can take a photo and share this with the senior's family members.  After a few months, you'll have a collection of photos to look through and see your own progress.  When family members come to visit, they can also view the senior's activities.
  2. Share Photos with a Senior Client's Adult Children. Your senior client may not be plugged into the technological world but if their adult children have smartphones, you can use Instagram to post photos for them to see.  In return, you can also share photos the children post to their own profiles with your senior client so that the parent can feel connected to their adult childrens' daily lives. Caregivers can even help senior clients exchange comments back and forth on their children's photos.                                                                                                                                                                   
  3. Edit Photo's without Photo Editing Software.  Add an extra touch to photos without needing to learn photo editing software.  Instagram offers various “filters” for photos.  All you have to do is take the picture then pick from different 
    colorations and frame options. It adds an extra flair to preserve a moment exactly as you want it to look.
  4. Document a Day in the Senior's Life.  Many people use instagram almost like a photo journal of their day. Caregivers are often under-appreciated because their work is not visible to many people, but Instagram provides an opportunity to document your day. Try taking a picture at the start of every hour for one day if you want to share more about what you do with someone in your life.

Instagram is available for iPhones and iPod Touch. The application also was recently introduced to Android model phones as well, so most smartphone users can take advantage of the quick photo sharing provided for free.

Senior caregivers can now have an instant photo album in their phone, all for free.

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National Alzheimer's Project Act Funding on the Horizon

National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA) is the country’s first national Alzheimer’s plan.

The Obama administration is seeking to spend more than half a billion dollars on research funding next year, boosting current research spending by $50 million. Early Alzheimer’s detection and diagnosis and discovery of new therapies are two major areas of research.

In a press release, the White House announced that next week, President Barack Obama will ask Congress for $80 million in new money to spend for Alzheimer's research in 2013.

Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) are said to affect roughly 5.6 million people and nearly 40% of the U.S. population aged 85 and older. It is the 6th leading cause of death and approximately 13.2 million older Americans are projected to have ADRD by 2050.

The administration said it will propose spending $26 million for other goals of the still-to-be-finalized plan, including much-needed caregiver support.

Taxing and relentless is how Anne Hodges describes caregiving for her mother who suffers with ADRD. “The hardest part for me is difficulty in communicating with her. I used to be able to see glimmers of my mother once in a while and that's when we would talk. Those times are now fewer and farther between.” It is estimated that 15 million family members and friends are affected by the disease.

President Obama signed NAPA into law last January, the goal of which is to “prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer's by 2025.”

The draft framework is structured around five ambitious goals:
  • Prevent and Effectively Treat Alzheimer's Disease by 2025.
  • Optimize Care Quality and Efficiency.
  • Expand Patient and Family Support.
  • Enhance Public Awareness and Engagement.
  • Track Progress and Drive Improvement.

The current Draft Framework for the National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease is available in full HTML Version  and full PDF Version  (12 PDF pages)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be collecting input for consideration in its final draft through February 8, 2012. Please send your comments to All comments will be shared with the Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care, and Services. The final draft of the plan’s framework is due on the desk of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius later this month.

The Alzheimer’s Association is also urging everyone to sign a petition calling on President Obama to issue a strong National Alzheimer’s Plan and support his proposed funding in his upcoming Budget Request to Congress.

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Seniors Binge Drink Most Often, Study Finds

Alcoholism in Seniors

In a recent Vital Signs report, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the group of people who binge drink most often are those 65 years and older, drinking an average of five to six times per month. Binge drinking is defined as men drinking 5 or more alcoholic drinks within a short period of time or women drinking 4 or more drinks within a short period of time.

“Alcohol abuse among the elderly is not a new phenomenon,” according to Dr. David Tews, adjunct faculty member in the Counselor Education Program at Loyola University in Chicago, Northern Illinois University, and addiction consultant at SoftLandingRecovery. “We’re seeing an increased number of elderly drinkers simply because the population as a whole is aging.” Indeed, the over 65 population in the United States was 12% in 2000 and is expected to reach 20% in 2050.

“There also tends to be an attitude of “I deserve this” among older drinkers. Particularly after retirement, many feel they’ve earned the right to drink as much as they like—they’ve put in their years of productivity and there’s no chance that their actions will have career-altering repercussions.” 

Senior binge drinking is not necessarily an indicator of alcoholism, although the near epidemic number of senior binge drinkers illustrates that the trend is largely ignored or unreported. Many factors contribute its concealment.

Oftentimes, the effects of alcohol are mistaken for other conditions associated with aging, such as a lack of mental acuity, memory loss or depression. Medication can be blamed for erratic behavior (although drug and alcohol interactions can be especially serious to health, and can even result in fatality.) Outreach and treatment programs tend to target the more visible young alcohol abusers.

“Current treatment focuses on future planning,” Dr. Tews added. “Many senior alcohol abusers believe long-term treatment plans for them would be futile.”

Be aware that binge drinking in the elderly can result in other negative consequences, besides the obvious health detriments. According to Seniors in Sobriety:

  • Seniors appear to be more vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of alcohol that cause brain damage, resulting in Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.
  • Use of alcohol in older adults can result in trauma. Falls constitute the largest single cause of injury mortality in elderly individuals. 40% of all nursing home admissions are the result of falls.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption is a known risk factor for depression, dementia and suicide.
  • Alcohol abuse has been shown to increase the risk of certain cancers already age related, such as liver, colon and prostate cancer.
  • Late onset drinking can begin when stressful life events occur such as bereavement, disability or retirement.
If you think you or a senior you love may have a problem with binge drinking or alcoholism, your state’s Department on Aging may be able to provide you with information regarding alcohol and drug abuse treatment and prevention programs in your area.


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Early Alzheimer's Diagnosis Beneficial for Patients, Caregivers

Early Alzheimer's disease detection and diagnosis is the theme of this years’ “Let’s Face It” campaign waged by the Alzheimer Society of Canada. January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in Canada and internationally, Alzheimer’s organizations are urging people to diagnose early.

Although diagnosis in an early or asymptomatic stage is a challenge, researchers are looking at biomarkers to diagnose early, before the disease has a chance to affect the brain. And while there is still no known cure for Alzheimer's disease, experts assert that early detection is helpful in many ways.
  • Helps reduce anxiety on the part of the affected person and his or her family about the cause of symptoms
  • Allows for the person with the disease to partake in planning for the future
  • Allows physicians and caregivers to be aware of patients who may have difficulty managing their own health care, such as when and how to take other prescription medications
  • Allows potential management of symptoms with medication or other interventions that maintain the best possible level of health and functioning for the person with the disease
  • Allows for coordination of primary and specialty care which may help prevent prescription of medications for coexisting conditions that worsen cognitive function
  • Aids the management of possible behavioral symptoms for the benefit of both the person with the disease and their caregiver
  • Allows caregivers and family members to access training, education and support services to help them with caregiver tasks and reduce negative effects of caregiving, such as stress and depression
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the following are 10 signs & symptoms of early Alzheimer’s and may signal the need to seek medical attention:
  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 relationship
  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.
Of course, skeptics question the value of early detection and wonder if it is just an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to target a new group of customers. Also, they raise concern about the stigma associated with the disease. However, because of other chronic medical conditions associated with the disease such as diabetes and vascular disorders (hypertension), many physicians urge screening and tout the many benefits of early detection.

Early detection also affords the ability to put one’s financial house in order. It would be prudent to understand the ways to pay for senior care if you are facing many years of care as a result of living with memory loss.

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Caregiver Stress: American Psychological Association Confirms

Senior caregivers well know that their work can be stressful.  Now the American Psychological Association is highlighting the link between stress and health.  Many times the caregiver of a senior can find they have additional health problems because of the stress of caregiving.  The data from the latest Stress in America survey suggests that the connection between stress and health is especially critical among adults age 50 and older who serve as caregivers for a family member.

This is why hiring a professional caregiver delivers more than just care for the senior - it also assists the senior's loved ones to maintain balance in their own life.  And it allows the senior's spouse and children and friends to enjoy quality time with them.

Managing stress in a health way is important for senior caregivers.  One quick stress reliever, which also delivers a health benefit by instantly lowering blood pressure and producing a relaxation response is the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise.

Relaxation Breath Exercise:  The 4-7-8 Breath

This exercise is simple and does not require special equipment - we give credit to Dr. Andrew Weil.

  1. Exhale completely through your moth, making a whoosh sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of 7.
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of 8.
  5. This is 1 breath.  Now inhale again and repeat the cycle 3 more times for a total of 4 breaths.

Now do you feel relaxed?  It works every time.  Always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth.  The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time.  Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation.  The time you spend on each phase is not important: the ratio of 4:7:8 is important.

As everyone is learning the value of having a professional caregiver, those who are interested in working as caregivers may apply for a caregiving job position in their area - just remember to take time to take care of the caregiver!


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