Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregivers Blog

“Time for the Talk”

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Many adult children begin to worry when they see their parent’s physical and mental abilities decreasing.  They also become more worried when they see changes around their home and they fear a pending crisis.  This is the time to have “the talk” with your parents to try to prevent a crisis.  When you love someone enough to discuss the difficult topics in life this is the truest form of love. 

It is important to speak clearly and show compassion, it is also important to not become emotional but show true concern.  Ask your parents to tell you how they want to be cared for when the time comes before it is too late.  Not all parents are willing to share their financial status, but at least you can begin the discussion about trying to follow their wishes when they are unable to make those decisions for themselves  Many decisions revolve around care, and the cost of care, which creates so much fear about what mom or dad can afford. 

When a crisis does happen it often forces the adult children to make changes in their parents living arrangements or start in home care.  The older and more frail the senior becomes, the more supervision they will need to keep them safe.  It is very difficult to manage someone’s care from a distance.  

Being realistic about a situation is sometimes very hard especially when it involves your parents. Some families are unable to accept bad news from a doctor or health care professional.

Some families even refuse to believe that anything is wrong and they burry their heads in the sand or they continue to search for a solution other than forcing mom or dad to make a change.  

Ignoring warning signs like letting an older adult drive when you know that they should stop.  Driving while impaired can cause a real danger to themselves and others.  

The long term consequences from injuries from a fall or lying on a floor unconscious or bleeding can cause paralysis or even death.

Try to work on finding the balance that is needed to help you get through the tough times. Please remember that you are never alone. I strongly recommend contacting a Geriatric Nurse Care Manager who can help a family sort through all of the resources that are available in the community. 



Health Benefits of Sleep

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Sleep makes you feel better, but its importance goes way beyond just boosting your mood.  Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more. 

David Rapoport, MD, Director of the NYU Sleep Disorders Program states that “sleep used to be kind of ignored, like parking our car in a garage and picking it up in the morning," Even more research has discovered the real health benefits from a good night’s sleep. 

Improve your memory

Your mind is surprisingly busy while you sleep. During sleep you can strengthen memories and practice skills that you learned while you were awake. Dr. Rapoport, state “something happens while you sleep that makes you learn better." If you’re trying to learn something new like speaking another language or a new sport it will be easier and you will perform better after sleeping. In addition to consolidating memories, or making them stronger, your brain appears to reorganize and restructure them, which can result in more creativity.

Live longer

In a 2010 study of women ages 50 to 79, reported more deaths occurred in women who got less than five hours of sleep per night. Too much or too little sleep is associated with a shorter lifespan. “Sleep also affects our quality of life,” states Raymonde Jean, MD, Director of Sleep Medicine and Associate Director of Critical Care at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City. "If you sleep better, you can certainly live better. It is pretty clear."   We now know that lack of sleep doesn’t just leave us foggy the next day it leads to many serious health issues. Chronic, long-term insufficient sleep increases your risk of having diabetes, depression, cardiovascular disease, even weight gain. 

Reduce inflammation

Inflammation is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. A 2010 study found that people who get less sleep, six or fewer hours a night, have higher C-reactive protein levels, which is associated with your risk of having a heart attack.  Dr. Rapoport says that people who have sleep apnea or insomnia can have an improvement in blood pressure and inflammation with treatment of the sleep disorders.  

Improve your attention span

Frequent lack of sleep can result in ADHD-like symptoms in kids, Dr. Rapoport says. "Kids don’t react the same way to sleep deprivation as adults do," he adds. "Whereas adults get sleepy, kids tend to get hyperactive." Researchers at Harvard University and Boston College found that people seem to strengthen their emotional components of a memory during sleep, which may help spur their creative process. A 2009 study in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children ages seven and eight who got less than about eight hours of sleep a night were more likely to be hyperactive, inattentive, and impulsive. "We diagnose and measure sleep by measuring electrical changes in the brain," Dr. Rapoport says. "So not surprisingly how we sleep affects the brain." A good night’s sleep can help your brain to be more creative when you get out the easel and paintbrushes, or pen and paper. 

Maintain a healthy weight

If you are thinking about going on a diet, you might want to plan an earlier bedtime too.  Researchers at the University of Chicago found that dieters who were well rested lost more fat, 56% of their weight loss, than those who were sleep deprived, who lost more muscle mass. They lost similar amounts of total weight regardless of sleep. Dieters in the study also felt hungrier when they got less sleep.  "Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain," Dr. Rapoport says. "When you are sleepy, certain hormones go up in your blood, and those same hormones drive appetite." 

Lower stress levels

When it comes to our health stress and sleep are nearly one and the same, and both can affect cardiovascular health.  "Sleep can definitely reduce levels of stress, and with that people can have better control of their blood pressure," Dr. Jean says. "It’s also believed that sleep affects cholesterol levels, which plays a significant role in heart disease."

Avoid accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported in 2009 that being tired accounted for the highest number of fatal single-car run-off-the-road crashes due to the driver’s performance, even more than alcohol! "Sleepiness is grossly underrated as a problem by most people, but the cost to society is enormous," Dr. Rapoport says. "Sleeplessness affects reaction time and decision making." Insufficient sleep for just one night can be as detrimental to your driving ability as having an alcoholic drink. 

Watch for signs depression

Getting the right amount of sleep has more to do with your overall well-being, than just controlling irritability. "Lack of sleep can contribute to depression," Dr. Jean says. "A good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety. You get more emotional stability with good sleep. "If you think of all of the long hours at work most people put in during a week, can be the cause of anxiety or impatience.” Dr. Rapoport warns that sleep cannot necessarily be made up during the weekend.  "If you sleep more on the weekends, you simply aren’t sleeping enough in the week," he says. "It’s all about finding a balance.


Dementia & High Blood Sugar

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What give up my sweets!

The Associated Press recently reported Alzheimer’s risk rises as blood sugar and glucose levels increase.  As we grow older our taste buds begin to lose their sensitivity, but our “sweet tooth” can become even more sensitive which can cause big problems for older adults.  

High blood sugar levels seem to raise the risk of developing dementia, which was recently reported in a major new study.  Researchers suggest that we may try to avoid Alzheimer’s may be watching your glucose levels more closely. 

It has been known for years that diabetes can in fact increase our chances of having Alzheimer’s disease states Dr. Paul Crane of the University of Washington in Seattle. This new study challenges the current thinking by revealing that doctors should not be just concerned with just high glucose levels. 

Dallas Anderson, a scientist at the national Institute on Aging, a federal agency paid for the study, states that; “It’s a nice clean pattern that the risk rises as the blood sugar does.” 

About 35 million people worldwide have dementia and in the United States about 5 million have Alzheimer’s disease.  This study is only part of larger picture and adds evidence that exercising and controlling blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels are a viable ways to delay or prevent dementia, according to Anderson. 

We have been waiting a long time for some kind of cocktail or pill, but we may be waiting even longer according to Anderson. People who have diabetes don’t make enough insulin or their bodies don’t use insulin well enough to turn it into energy.  This problem causes the sugar in the blood stream to rise which can cause damage to the kidney’s and other organs, and now possibly even the brain. 

Doctors continue to preach to their patients that eating well, exercising and controlling weight we all help to keep the blood sugar in line. Our best hope is to avoid developing diabetes altogether. 

A Low Concentrated Sweets Diet means avoiding foods with a lot of sugar or high calorie sweeteners. Sweeteners become blood sugar (glucose) in your body. If you eat too many of these foods your blood sugar can be too high.


The Cost of Growing Old

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Who will pay for your care when you are old?  The USA is behind in being prepared for the 76.4 million Baby Boomers.  Medicare and Social Security are already experiencing serious deficits as more seniors are added to the system. Henry Cisneros, a former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development says that “we have not faced up to the significance of aging of the population as a society, and it has huge implications both socially and financially.”

The number of Americans 65 and older is likely to more than double in the next 50 years, and experts suggest that we need to start taking a closer look at the challenges that face our country and future generations before it is too late. 

1. Health Care – We already have a shortage of doctor’s who are willing to care for Medicare patients and who are also trained in the field of Geriatrics.

2. Affordable Housing – A shortage of affordable options in housing for older adults has already become a problem for people who need care and can no longer safely live alone. 

3. Transportation – As older adults are forced to stop driving throughout the country they are relying on their communities to help them with affordable transportation options. 

4. Socialization – Staying engaged and having a sense of purpose everyday provides quality of life as we age.  Many older adults have difficulty finding jobs or places to volunteer which helps them feel productive. 

5. Caregiving - The cost of caregiving has become a burden for many older adults who never expected to live to advanced ages. Longer lifespans mean that many families will be caring for parents in their 80’s, 90’s, and beyond. 

6. Cost of Care – Medicare and secondary insurance will only pay for short term hospitalization and rehabilitation.  Long term care insurance can be the most important insurance policy you will ever own.  One in two older adults will need assisted living before they die and the chance of using our auto insurance is one in fifty.  The chance of using your homeowners insurance is one in one hundred and twenty.  Don’t wait to buy long term care insurance until you are age 60 because you may become uninsurable. 

7. The happiest and most content older adults are those who have planned well for their advanced aging. When people can afford to pay their own way they will be in charge of how they are cared for as long as they live.     


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