By Janet Kuebler
When a loved one experiences memory issues, one of the first concerns that comes to mind is: "Is it Alzheimer's Disease?" Knowing the difference between normal age-related memory issues and memory issues that might be unusual is a helpful tool. According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are 10 memory loss warning signs to be aware of that are worthy of further investigation.
1. The first concern deals with memory loss that causes a disruption in daily life: forgetting appointments, important dates or events, asking for the same information over and over and an increase in reliance on notes or family members for things they used to handle on their own. Remembering the appointments or events later is typical for age related memory issues.
2. The second warning sign involves difficulty with solving problems or following a plan. Examples include problems with addition or subtraction, paying monthly bills or following a recipe. A normal memory change may be minor errors while balancing the checkbook.
3. Difficulty with familiar tasks is the third sign. This can be forgetting what plates are used for and where they are stored, or the location of a favorite store or long-time hair dresser. A common age-related change would be needing help with cell phone settings or the microwave settings.
4. A fourth sign may be confusing morning and nighttime as well as seasons, and can be another cause for concern. Typical memory loss may be temporarily forgetting the day of the week but being able to recall it later.
5. A fifth area of concern deals with visual impairment, beyond glasses and cataracts. If your loved one has trouble with distance, color and contrast, driving may become increasingly difficult. This would be apparent by an increase in small accidents or incidents.
6. If your loved one seems to have trouble joining or following conversations, beyond hearing loss, this is considered the sixth warning sign. Repeating themselves on a regular basis is another cause of concern. Occasionally losing the thread of the conversation or having trouble finding the right word is considered normal.
7. An increase in misplaced or lost items can be an issue, especially if your loved one cannot retrace their steps to retrieve the items. If the item can be found later by recalling how or when it is misplaced, then it would be considered normal age-related memory loss.
8. The eighth warning sign involves decreased or poor judgment regarding money or personal hygiene. The occasional bad decision is not a cause for concern.
9. Withdrawal from family, social activities or work is another area of concern. If your loved one is no longer interested in their favorite TV shows or sport teams and is not interested in attending family functions, this can be a cause of concern. Occasional weariness of these activities is considered normal.
10. The final warning sign regarding memory loss given by the Alzheimer's Association deals with changes in mood or personality. Being set in one's routine is okay as long as that is not a cause for anger when the routine is interrupted.
If any of the above warning signs are a cause of concern for you or your loved one, a complete physical is recommended since there may be a physical cause for the memory loss. These physical conditions include depression, medication side effects, alcohol abuse, thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies. Memory problems may improve when the condition is treated or addressed.
By Sandra Wallace
Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a set of symptoms related to cognitive loss. It is not a disease itself. Alzheimer's is the most common type
Dementia is a shift in the way a person experiences the world around her/him. By managing our own behavior, actions, words and reactions, we can change the outcome on an interaction. As caregivers, we need to respond, not react.
Being right/truthful doesn't necessarily translate into successful results for both of you.
We must also change our approach and behavior to get the results we want. The focus needs to be on the relationship (big picture), not the individual encounter.
We use communication to interact with others and to get something done. There are five different forms of sensory connections used to communicate with people with dementia. In order to successfully communicate with someone with memory loss, a personal connection must be made before starting a conversation. Let the person connect with you visually. He or she needs to process that you are OK before you proceed with anything else. They understand you mean them no harm.
The next type is verbal communication. However, with dementia, the temporal lobe of the brain, the language center, is affected with word loss. In the early stages of Alzheimer's, most word losses are nouns, names, and relationship references. Think about what this means. You have trouble understanding what the person is trying to say. The person with dementia has trouble understanding all of the words that you speak. Following instructions is difficult. Confabulation is when the brain makes up stuff to fill in the blanks of what they don't remember.
Keep the following in mind:
The Positive Interaction Approach to Someone with Dementia:
People with dementia always comprehend much more than they can express. Don't say anything in front of them that you wouldn't want them to understand. Respect their dignity. The emotional area of the brain is preserved. Feelings are very real. Our words won't be heard until there is an emotional connection…that we have validated their emotion.
When you are having trouble being understood:
When you are having trouble understanding:
How to deal with the person's distress, anger or frustration:
When the person is listening and responding to you, then redirect his attention and actions to something that is positive. Or distract him with other things or activities you know he likes (music, a stuffed animal, a snack).
If what you are doing is NOT working…STOP! Back off and give the person some time and space. When you re-approach, decide on what you will do differently. Then try again. We are the ones who can change the outcome of our interactions. By insisting that the person with memory loss does what we want when we want it is a formula for failure. It only increases agitation in the person and the caregiver.
Many behaviors of people with memory loss have logical explanations that reflect what is happening around them. These behaviors are the person's attempts to cope and communicate their needs. Behavioral expressions are the symptom, not the problem!
Competency concerns will cause people with dementia to withdraw or refuse to participate. They may say they aren't interested. Don't force them to try.
When a person with Alzheimer's disease and limited verbal skills has a problem, figuring out the cause can be challenging. What is the real reason for problem behaviors? The emotional needs of a person with dementia are influenced by their physical environment. You must play detective and look for environmental clues first.
After all of the environmental sources have been reviewed without a plausible answer, consider medical causes:
The manner in which we approach people with memory loss and provide care has profound effects upon their abilities and overall well-being. The world of the person with dementia changes as the disease progresses. We must also change our approach and response to adapt to their evolving needs.
Things to Remember:
The ability to hear sound remains unless they are overwhelmed. Demented people think they can't hear, but really they can't comprehend.
While you base your conversation in logic and reason, the person with memory loss uses feelings to communicate. Listen for the tone of their conversation.
10% WHAT you actually say
30% HOW you say it
60% BODY LANGUAGE
This means that 90% of what you say is non-verbal.
Caregivers, including all family members, need to manage their own behaviors, actions, words and reactions to change the outcome of an interaction with someone with dementia. Caregivers need to join the person with dementia in their journey. The person with dementia can no longer process your reality. Having Alzheimer's (and other dementia's) is like being lost in a foreign country…all you want to do is go home to what is familiar.
By Suzanne Perkins Newman
In caring for my own mother, there were times that I look back and see how I began to find my own stride as a caregiver. In the beginning stages EVERYTHING was brand new. There were new procedures, new laws to learn about, and new ways in which to view my mother's care plan.
No doubt as a family caregiver, you have been placed with options and questions. Should Mom and Dad stay home, or move into skilled care? When should we as a family have "the talk" with them? How often should I visit? What is my role when it comes to doctor visits? How can I be assured of my decisions that I am faced with? What kinds of resources should I seek out, and how do I determine what is the best choice for my senior parent?
In the early stages of caring for Mom, because of the newness of it all, I found myself being black and white about everything. I towed the line of "whatever the professionals recommend or do, I will follow suit." I wanted to make sure that I made the best choices for her, but often times those choices were not necessarily what she would choose for herself.
Many of us are dealing with senior parents who may have Alzheimer's or Dementia. As their caregivers, we are faced with honoring them as they would want to be. Would my mother choose to eat a low sodium diet, when so many things had already been taken away from her? Would it be her wish to drink water instead of thickened liquids at risk of choking? Would certain medical treatments or additional medications be preferable to ease her comfort over longevity of life? These are profound questions- and ones which can only be answered by the person who knew Mom best- which if you are the caregiver, you are likely the one who holds these types of health directives on behalf of your loved one.
One thing I learned in my path of caregiving- is that no one- not a doctor, a nurse, a care agency, a family friend, or counselor knows your parent like you do. You live each and every day with that parent, and the privilege you have by caring for them gives you unique insights as to what makes them happy, what their key hardships are, and what their ultimate desires are as well.
As time went on, I began to realize that I do have a voice. I also could "hear" my mother's own voice within me. I started to see my role being transformed of being "by the book", to becoming an "advocate" for my parent. I learned that it's ok to question and challenge methods of treatment. It's ok to let go of preconceived notions on how care "should be", and I learned to trust in my own heart and judgment when it came to my mother's quality of life. It is important to stay in the loop on their care, and it's important to ask questions about the ultimate goals and overall prognosis is of the rest of our parent's life actually is.
There was only one voice that could answer the right questions. The one which was in my heart. I knew that as I searched inside myself, I found my mother's voice, which ultimately became my own.
As I began to relax and ease up, I began to see joy returning to my mother's face. I signed releases to allow her water instead of thickened liquids despite the risks. I learned about the principles and goals of Palliative Care, which at the time was completely unknown to me. I learned to understand that the goal of being her caregiver wasn't so much about seeking her longevity of life, but instead, to seek her comfort.
Bottom line, I learned about quality of life through advocacy. Advocacy isn't about towing the line, but instead, honoring the true wishes of your senior loved one. It's about recognizing their values, their desires, and preserving their dignity.
By Shawn DeVol
As summer draws to a close, most of us are thinking of the cooler days ahead, bonfires, and football season! However, it is important to not let the less frequent opportunities for outdoor activity stop you from getting your daily dose of exercise!
Myth 1: There's no point to exercising. I'm going to get old anyway.
Fact: Exercise and strength training helps you look and feel younger and stay active longer. Regular physical activity lowers your risk for a variety of conditions, including Alzheimer's and dementia, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity.
Myth 2: Older people shouldn't exercise. They should save their strength and rest.
Fact: Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy for adults over 50. Inactivity often causes older adults to lose the ability to do things on their own and can lead to more hospitalizations, doctor visits, and use of medicines for illnesses.
Myth 3: Exercise puts me at risk of falling down.
Fact: Regular exercise, by building strength and stamina, prevents loss of bone mass and improves balance, actually reducing your risk of falling.
Myth 4: It's too late. I'm already too old to start exercising
Fact: You're never too old to exercise! If you've never exercised before, or it's been a while, start with light walking and other gentle activities.
Myth 5: I'm disabled. I can't exercise sitting down.
Fact: Chair–bound people face special challenges but can lift light weights, stretch, and do chair aerobics to increase range of motion, improve muscle tone, and promote cardiovascular health.
The most rewarding part of beginning a fitness routine is noticing the difference it makes in the rest of your life. Even if you begin exercising with a few simple stretches while seated or a short walk around the block, you'll notice an improvement in how you feel as you go about your day.
One of my most often recommended types of exercise is walking! You can do it alone, with friends or family members, especially if you are using an assistive device. Walking doesn't just have to be performed outside! It can be done in a variety of settings, such as grocery stores, malls, or even inside your home. Research has been phenomenal in recent years on the benefits of daily walking in the prevention of disease and improving overall health. Studies from The New England Journal of Medicine, Harvard University, and the Nurses' Health Study have given staggering statistics that will make you want to start a walking program today!
If you are not currently a regular walker, then it is always advised that you see your physician to get clearance to start a basic walking program. ** If you feel that you have trouble walking or are afraid of falling, then a visit to a local physical therapist may provide valuable assistance in helping you to improve your safety and gait pattern!
***TIPS FOR KEEPING IT STEADY:
During daily walking you should be able to maintain a conversation. If you are breathing too heavy, please slow down to a comfortable pace. If you are new to a walking program, start with 10 to 15 min of daily walking and add minutes each week!
** There are many great online resources on health and fitness for all age levels, even for those who may have preexisting conditions such as Arthritis, Parkinson's Disease, MS, COPD, and even post-stroke! Please "like" Select Home Care's Facebook page where I frequently post educational articles related to senior health and fitness! Please also visit our redesigned website at www.selecthomecare.net for valuable links to many national health organizations!
Courtesy of FirstLight Home Care
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