Alzheimer's and Dementia Caregivers Blog

The Costs Related to Dementia Rising

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Dementia is one of the country’s most expensive medical conditions, costing the U.S. between $157 billion and $215 billion a year in medical care and other costs, such as lost wages according to the Wall Street Journal. 

The analysis, conducted by a nonprofit think tank, the RAND Corporation is thought to be the best estimate to date of the financial costs of treating memory problems, including Alzheimer’s disease which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

These costly numbers reinforce the need for the United States to figure out better ways to treat and care for those with dementia, stated Dr. Hurd an economist. 

Alzheimer’s disease afflicts the largest portion of the patients with dementia.  The Alzheimer’s Association reports that more than 5.4 million Americans suffer from this progressive brain condition.  The numbers of dementia patients can only be greater. 

One in two people will have Alzheimer’s disease at age 85 and older, and one in ten people will be diagnosed with the disease when they are 65 and older. 

These numbers are staggering because this progressive disease may be an eight to ten year decline for most patients.  It is hard to add all of the costs related to the care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, because the family often makes sacrifices related to their education and their jobs to help with care.  

My advice to everyone is to buy long term care insurance while you are healthy enough. 

The cost of the premiums will never be as much as the cost of care when you need to pay for home care, assisted living, or a nursing home.


The Elderly and Alcohol Addiction


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Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are common among older adults. It has been described as a “hidden national epidemic.”  As we age, our bodies are more sensitive to alcohol and our tolerance is decreased. One third of older adults develop a problem with alcohol in later life. The other two thirds grow older having medical and psychosocial issues that contribute to self-medicating with prescription drugs or alcohol. 

 Family physicians have very few opportunities to identify older patients who have problems related to alcohol, because the older adult will not be truthful. The effects of alcohol increase in elderly patients because of changes associated with aging and interactions between alcohol, prescription drugs, and over-the-counter medications. 

Physiological changes related to aging can alter the presentation of medical complications of alcoholism and may cause serious side effects in elderly people. Alcohol treatment programs and alcohol withdrawal in elderly persons should be closely supervised in a senior mental health facility which will improve the outcome after discharge. 

The International Classification of Diseases-10 of the World Health Organizations has added and additional category called “hazardous drinking.”

There are generally two types of elderly patients with drinking problems; the early-onset group and the late-onset drinkers.  The early-onset drinkers usually start drinking in their 20’s or 30’s, and continue excessive drinking as they age.  This group comprises of about two thirds of the seniors with a drinking problem. The late onset drinkers usually start drinking during some major life change, like retirement, death of a loved one, or health concerns. 

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse recommends for those 65 years of age and older to have no more than one drink a day.  A drink is classified as 1.5 oz of hard liquor, 12 oz of beer, and 5 oz of wine. Red wine has the most health benefits. 

The elderly are at much greater risk of serious medical disorders when they abuse alcohol than a someone who does not abuse alcohol. I find that these older adults are often depressed and lonely, and they drink so they can forget about all of their losses.  

I strongly recommend assisted living to help with more opportunities for socialization and structure in their day. 



A Belly Laugh Can Be Healthy

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The health benefits of humor are well-known. Laughing lowers blood pressure levels, reduces stress and overcomes burnout. Scientists believe that laughing releases natural chemicals called endorphins, also called "runner's high." Laughing can also ease pain and improve the immune system. 

We should always be ready to laugh and to share a joke. Humor can improve our vision, but also things always look better after a good laugh."  The physical exertion of having a good belly laugh can produce protective endorphins that raise our pain threshold and make us feel good, according to a new international study led by Oxford University in the UK.  Researchers reported all of these benefits from laughter. 

Wards off Depression - Research shows that people suffering from depression are more prone to many illnesses like high blood pressure, heart attacks and cancer. Depression also affects the immune system adversely.

Respiration - Laughter empties your lungs of more air than you take in resulting in a cleansing effect - similar to deep breathing. This is especially helpful for people who are suffering from respiratory problems.

Muscle Relaxation - Laughing results in muscle relaxation. While you laugh, the muscles that do not participate in the belly laugh begin to relax. After you finish laughing those muscles involved in the laughter start to relax as well. 

Immune System Enhancement - Studies have shown that humor strengthens the immune system.

Pain Reduction - Humor allows a person to forget about the pain associated with aging, like arthritis, etc. 

Cardiac Protection - Laughter protects the heart. Laughter, along with an active sense of humor, may help protect you against a heart attack.  Laughter can provide good cardiac conditioning especially for those who are unable to perform physical exercises.

Blood Pressure - Laughter lowers blood pressure. People who laugh heartily on a regular basis can lower their blood pressure. When people have a good laugh, initially the blood pressure increases, but then it decreases to levels below normal. Breathing then becomes deeper which sends oxygen enriched blood and nutrients throughout the body.

Reduction of Stress Hormones - Laughing is a powerful tool that can lower stress and dissolve anger. Mood is elevated by striving to find humor in difficult and frustrating situations.

The endorphin "rush" appears to occur only when we have a good belly laugh not just polite laughter.  So I challenge you to start laughter therapy.  Find something to laugh about every day and start making other people laugh with you. 

Dancing Can Prevent Dementia

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It is fascinating that researchers have found that the activity of dancing makes you healthier, and can also make you smarter.

Dancers are more resistant to the effects of dementia as a result of having greater mental capacity. As they increase the difficulty of their dance steps they create new neural pathways in their brain.  The involuntary physical response to music is deeply rooted from our evolution as human beings. 

Two recent studies conducted by the University of Missouri found that participation in dance therapy can improve balance and gait in older adults. Improved mobility among seniors can also decrease their risk of falling and reduce serious injuries.

This study focused on physical activities like playing tennis or golf, swimming, bicycling, dancing, walking, and doing housework.  The researchers studied each activity such as reading books, writing for pleasure, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards and playing a musical instrument. Almost none of the physical activities appeared to offer any protection against dementia, but the one important finding from the study was the only physical activity which appears to offer protection against dementia was frequent dancing.

• Bicycling and swimming – 0% reduced risk
• Playing golf – 0%
• Reading – 35%
• Doing crossword puzzles at least four days per week – 47%
• Dancing frequently – 76% - the greatest risk reduction of any activity  

The results were surprising that bicycling, golf and swimming offered no protection, and the mental activities offered minimum protection, and dancing offered the greatest protection of all.

Increasing the number of neural pathways can provide the brain with multiple ways to access information, instead of just one way.  As we teach ourselves to do anything differently, or learning anything new like dancing we can help build new neural pathways, which will keep our minds healthier.  

Love like you've never been hurt.
Dance like no-one's watching.
Sing like no-one's listening.
Live like there's no tomorrow.

 

 

Our DVDs combine images
with high quality music that will engage those with cognitive decline. They are currently utilized by caregivers at multiple dementia units, nursing homes and home care environments.

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