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What Assisted Living Residents Need To Know If They Want To Live Past 60

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Every 70 seconds a senior is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. If you intend to live past the age of 60 you need to learn more about Alzheimer’s disease, especially since there is no cure. Today it is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. Our brains change as we age just as the rest of our organs do. Most of us notice some slowed thinking and occasional problems with remembering certain things. However, serious memory loss, confusion and other major changes in the way our minds work are not a normal part of aging. These may be signs that your brain cells are failing. September 21st was World Alzheimer’s Day, when the Alzheimer’s Association joined with organizations and people around the globe to raise awareness about the disease and its impact on families. Today, 35 million people worldwide are affected by Alzheimer’s as well as related forms of dementia and assisted living facilities have realized that this number is rapidly growing. Assisted living facilities are educating seniors about the deadly disease so they are aware of the signs, symptoms and possible precautionary methods.

World Alzheimer’s Day is an opportunity to raise donations and awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. There is a need for more education, support and research on this disease. As a citizen of society you can participate by joining one of the many World Alzheimer’s Day events within your community. Assisted Living Facilities celebrate this day by organizing fundraisers and events to help raise awareness. Memory Walk 2010 is a perfect example. Participants come together and walk in order to change the course of Alzheimer’s Disease. Memory Walk is the nation’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer care, support and research. Since 1989, Memory Walk has raised more than $300 million for the cause.

What Exactly Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
The human brain is your most unique and powerful organ, yet a healthy brain weighs only about three pounds. It has three main parts:
The Cerebrum fills up most of your skull. It is involved in remembering, problem solving, thinking, and feeling. It also controls movement.
The Cerebellum sits at the back of your head, under the cerebrum. It controls coordination and balance.
The Brain Stem sits beneath your cerebrum in front of your cerebellum. It connects the brain to the spinal cord and controls automatic functions such as breathing, digestion, heart rate and blood pressure.

The real work of your brain goes on in individual cells. An adult brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons, with branches that connect at more than 100 trillion points. Scientists call this dense, branching network a “neuron forest.” Signals traveling through the neuron forest form the basis of memories, thoughts and feelings. Neurons are the chief type of cell destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease. Signals that form memories and thoughts move through an individual nerve cell as a tiny electrical charge. Nerve cells connect to one another at synapses. When a charge reaches a synapse, it may trigger release of tiny bursts of chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters travel across the synapse, carrying signals to other cells. Scientists have identified dozens of neurotransmitters.

Alzheimer’s disease disrupts both the way electrical charges travel within cells and the activity of neurotransmitters. 100 billion nerve cells! 100 trillion synapses! Dozens of neurotransmitters! This “strength in numbers” provides your brain’s raw material. Over time, our experiences create patterns in signal type and strength. These patterns of activity explain how, at the cellular level, our brains code our thoughts, memories, skills and sense of who we are. Alzheimer’s disease leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. Over time, the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all of its functions.  Alzheimer’s gets worse over time, and is fatal. Visit alz.org to find a Memory Walk event in your area or locate another volunteer opportunity to help end the disease.

800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care Houston, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living Facilities and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

Study Links Hearing Loss And Dementia

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

According to a new study from John Hopkins University and the National Institute on Aging, adults with significant hearing loss are at a much greater risk of developing dementia. The study followed 639 dementia-free adults ages 36 to 90. The participants in the study were tested for hearing loss and dementia every two years for nearly two decades. The researchers found that those with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were much more likely to develop dementia by the end, even after taking into account age and other risk factors. The risk of dementia only began to rise once hearing loss began to interfere with the ability to communicate, for example, in a noisy restaurant. The study also found that hearing loss increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but the two were not as strongly linked as hearing loss and other forms of dementia. Frank Lin, M.D., assistant professor of Otology at John Hopkins University and an author of the study says the research is the first major study that connects hearing loss to the development of dementia and could lead to additional research on the subject.

Lin says it may be that whatever causes dementia also causes hearing loss, but there is no clear evidence. He thinks it is more likely that the neurological stress of dealing with hearing loss contributes to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. “If you are out to dinner with friends at a busy restaurant and it’s very, very loud, by the time you get home you’re exhausted, because you spend so much time trying to think about the words people are saying, to decipher everything,” he says. Dementia, the insidious loss of memory, logic and language that interferes with daily living is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide and carries a heavy societal burden. After age 85, nearly half of all seniors will have some level of cognitive impairment or dementia. Without proper care, people with dementia may eat poorly and irregularly and ignore exercise and social activity, all activities that could likely improve their health.  Family caregivers are usually the first to recognize that dementia may be developing and should seek medical evaluation as soon as the symptoms are noticed.Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, afflicting about 5 percent of seniors between sixty-five and seventy-four. However, nearly half of those over the age of eighty-five are affected.  Vascular dementia is considered the second most common form of dementia.

This type of dementia is caused by reduced blood flow to parts of the brain. One type of vascular dementia can occur after a single stroke blocks the flow of blood to a large part of the brain.  In another type of vascular dementia, a series of very small strokes block small arteries. Singularly, these strokes are small enough not to cause major symptoms, but over time, their combined effect becomes noticeable. Symptoms of vascular dementia can be similar to Alzheimer’s disease. They include problems with memory, confusion and difficulty following instructions. In some cases, the impairment associated with vascular dementia can be more rapid and marked. Alzheimer’s advances slowly, gradually causing crippling brain damage with symptoms that can include paranoia.
Although the reason for the link between hearing loss and dementia is unknown, the researchers in the study suggest that a common pathology may underlie both or that the strain of decoding sounds over the years may overwhelm the brains of people with hearing loss, leaving them more vulnerable to dementia. They also speculate that hearing loss could lead to dementia by making individuals more socially isolated, a known risk factor for dementia and other cognitive disorders. Whatever the cause, the scientists report their findings may offer a starting point for interventions even as simple as hearing aids that could delay or prevent dementia by improving patients’ hearing.

800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care San Antonio, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living Facilities and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

New Alzheimer’s Scan For Early Diagnoses

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a brain disorder that primarily affects the elderly. It is named after a German doctor, Alois Alzheimer, who in 1996 noticed anomalies in the brain tissue of a woman who had died of a strange mental illness. There were abnormal clumps called amyloid plaques and tangled bundles of fibers, both of which are the most common signs of Alzheimer’s. Other brain changes can occur as well. Nerve cells die in areas of the brain vital to memory and other mental abilities, and the connections between nerve cells are disrupted, impairing thinking and memory. The disease is slow moving and in its earliest stages, may merely appear to be mild forgetfulness and be confused with age-related memory change. There may be problems remembering recent events or activities, or the names of familiar people or objects. As the disease progresses, the forgetfulness becomes more severe, interfering with daily activities, such as brushing one’s teeth. There are problems speaking, understanding, reading or writing, and eventually the brain damage becomes so severe as to require total care.

In January, the FDA’s Drug Advisory Committee voted unanimously to recommend approval of a new imaging agent to detect early Alzheimer’s disease. The agent, florbetapir, is produced by Eli Lilly and Company under the name Amyvid. Amyvid would be injected into the patient and used in conjunction with PET (positron emission tomography) scans to illuminate and detect the beta amyloid plaques in the brain that cause Alzheimer’s disease. PET scans performed with Amyvid would allow physicians to provide prognostic information to patients and their families even at a time of limited therapeutic approaches to treat Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, the availability of imaging agents that can reliably detect amyloid plaques will be an absolute prerequisite to select patients that may benefit from future specific anti-amyloid based Alzheimer therapies. Experts agree the test could become a critical part of detecting Alzheimer’s before symptoms take hold, but a clinical reality is far from imminent.  Although years away, researchers envision the amyloid PET scan could join the ranks of other routine mid-life surveillance tests such as colonoscopy and mammography for early detection. Before FDA approval, manufacturer Eli Lilly and Company must demonstrate that standards for interpreting brain scans can be made consistent enough to routinely guarantee an accurate diagnosis.

Because there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, Dr. Sam Gandy, the Mount Sinai Chair in Alzheimer’s Disease Research in NYC acknowledges the test may not be considered worth the cost even if the FDA approves the recommendation. He added that, “”Medicare may decide that the added value does not merit reimbursement without a meaningful intervention.” Since 2007, molecular imaging has been utilized in improving diagnoses of Alzheimer’s and other dementias with PET scans using other imaging agents such as FDG. FDG stands for fluorodeoxyglucose, a short-lived radioactive form of sugar injected into people during PET scans to show activity levels in different parts of the brain. In Alzheimer’s, low activity is mostly in the back part of the brain; while frontal lobe dementia occurs in the front. In 2008, researchers in France developed an automated system for measuring brain tissue loss using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to help doctors diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment. In Alzheimer’s disease, the buildup of certain proteins in the brain leads to brain cell and brain tissue death; the hardest-hit part of the brain is the hippocampus, which affects memory.The automated MRI system helps in diagnosing Alzheimer’s by speeding up the process of visually measuring shrinkage in the hippocampus consistent with the disease.

800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care Philadelphia, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living Facilities and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

National Alzheimer’s Project Act Signed Into Legislation

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

The fact that the United States Congress voted unanimously on any legislation set before them, sent an extremely powerful signal. The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA), signed by the President on January 4, 2011 turns a concept of need into a law of the land, a coordinated national plan to overcome the Alzheimer’s crisis. Passage of NAPA will ensure the coordination and evaluation of all national efforts in Alzheimer’s research, clinical care, institutional, home and community based programs and their outcomes. The new National Alzheimer’s Project office will be located within the Department of Health and Human Services and will oversee federal research on Alzheimer’s disease to develop a plan to combat the disease and eventually develop a cure. The office will be funded within the existing budget and does not require an appropriation.This is a major victory for the 5.3 million people who live with Alzheimer’s in this country and their nearly 11 million caregivers who take care of them. NAPA will confront one of the most feared and costly diseases that stands to plaque the baby boomer generation as they move into their senior years.

Given the scale of the Alzheimer epidemic and the growing number of Americans directly affected every single day, NAPA will provide an essential framework within the government that recognizes the Alzheimer crisis is no longer emerging, but is already here.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities that are serious enough to interfere with daily life, worsens over time, and is fatal. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 50 to 70 percent of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging; although the greatest known risk factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer’s are 65 and older. Alzheimer’s is not just a disease of old age however. Roughly, 10 percent of people with the disease have early onset Alzheimer’s that can appear when someone is in their 40s or 50s. For a nearly a decade, advocates of the disease have been petitioning for federal involvement to address the crisis.  In 2003, longtime advocate for those with disease, the Alzheimer’s Association was at the forefront of the effort to add early onset of the disease to the Compassionate Allowances List making it possible for victims to receive Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income. Inclusion on the SSA’s list was not accomplished until 2010. In 2007, then Speaker Newt Gingrich and AA’s Robert Egge made the case for creation of a federal Alzheimer strategy with an article, Developing a National Alzheimer’s Strategy Equal to the Epidemic.

Written by Egge, it garnered national attention when it was published in The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. Also in 2007, the association launched the Alzheimer’s Study Group at a Capitol Hill Conference. In 2009, they released their final report calling for federal legislation to attack the challenges of the disease, currently the sixth leading cause of death in the nation. Based on the Alzheimer’s Study Group recommendations and following consultations with the Alzheimer’s Association, controversial former Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) and Evan Bayh (D-IN) introduced a measure to create a collaborated system for researching, treating and eliminating Alzheimer’s disease. The measure was introduced to Congress as the first National Alzheimer’s Project Act in July 2009. After various draftings in 2010, the bill progressed through the legislative branch until final congressional approval in December 2010 and the presidential signing in January 2011. The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support, advocacy, and research. Their mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Their vision, now supported by the federal government, is a world without Alzheimer’s.

800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care Phoenix, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living Facilities and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

Creativity & Alzheimer’s Disease

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Alzheimer’s disease leads to nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain. Over time, the brain shrinks dramatically, affecting nearly all of its functions. Alzheimer’s ultimately affects all parts of the brain but each person is affected differently as the disease progresses. In part, this is due to the nature and extent of damage being caused to different areas of the brain. Each section of the brain is known as a lobe; a lobe simply means a part of an organ. Because the portion of the brain that deals with creativity is often one of the last portions of the brain that is affected by Alzheimer’s disease, providing creative outlets for those affected in an important activity. In the earliest stages, before symptoms can be detected with testing, plaques and tangles, which are the hallmarks of the disease, begin to form in brain areas involved in:

Learning and memory
Thinking and planning

In the mild to moderate stages, brain regions develop more plaques and tangles than were present in early stages. As a result, individuals develop problems with memory or thinking serious enough to interfere with work or daily life. They may also get confused and have trouble handling money, expressing themselves and organizing their thoughts. Many people with Alzheimer’s disease are first diagnosed in this stage.

Plaques and tangles also spread to areas involved in:
Speaking and understanding speech
Sense of where your body is in relation to objects

In the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s disease, most of the cortex is seriously damaged. The cerebral cortex is a sheet of neural tissue that is the outermost part of the brain. It plays a key role in memory, attention, perception, thought, language and consciousness. During this stage of the disease, the brain shrinks dramatically due to widespread cell death. Individuals lose their ability to communicate, to recognize family and loved ones and to care for themselves. The right hemisphere of the brain is associated with the creative process. It conveys feeling, imagination, symbols and images in the present and future. It processes philosophical & religious beliefs, special perception, form and abstract thoughts. Alzheimer’s disease has a profound impact on creativity. Alzheimer’s disease attacks the right posterior part of the brain, which enables people to retrieve internal imagery and copy images. Alzheimer’s disease patients may lose the ability to copy images entirely. However, people with Alzheimer’s disease can continue to produce art by using their remaining strengths, such as color or composition instead of shapes or realism.

Dr. Luis Fornazzari, a researcher from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and the University of Toronto and clinical director of the Multilingual/Multicultural Memory Clinic believes the association between creativity and mental illness is an area worth exploring.
As part of his research, Dr. Fornazzari began studying the life of an artist who is suffering from  Alzheimer’s disease. Danae Chambers was commissioned to paint portraits of dignitaries around Canada and abroad. Her artwork has been shown in galleries around the world. Because of her disease, Ms. Chambers had a dramatic deterioration of communication, memory and life skills, but she could still paint beautifully. Traditionally, the approach in treating Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias focused on what is not functioning in the patient, such as memory loss and difficulties with daily life and communication. By focusing on abilities instead of cognitive deficits, Dr. Fornazzari is pioneering a new approach in the treatment of Alzheimer disease and related dementia.  “The distinctiveness of Danae Chambers’ story is that while examining her, we concentrated on the positive aspects of what was still functioning in her brain, such as her creative ability,” says Dr. Fornazzari. Many times patients in the advanced stages of the disease are isolated and have no means of any form of communication. The study suggests that quality of life is improved when patients are given the opportunity to express themselves in any form and it provides scientists an avenue to explore brain function.

The artists’ cognitive abilities were evaluated at four years, two years before and two years after the time she was admitted to a long term care facility in Toronto. Dr. Fornazzari monitored how her creativity emerged during the progressive course of the disease, while her other cognitive functions such as attention, working memory, and language ability increasingly deteriorated.  “Ms. Chambers’ case clearly demonstrates that the brain uses separate neural pathways for creative expression compared to neural networks used for speech, memory and attention,” says Dr. Fornazzari. “This is of profound importance to further understand and explore why Alzheimer’s disease preferentially attacks one neural pathway over the other.”  Dr. Fornazzari strongly advocates that creativity in any of its forms, either visual, musical, literary or performing arts should be actively explored in relation to patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, especially when their other cognitive functions do not allow caregivers and specialists to communicate with sufferers of the disease. This effort to focus on the preserved creative functions, instead of deficits of the patient, will improve their quality of life and is a rewarding way for caregivers to communicate with them. The findings of this scientific case study are published in the June issue of European Journal of Neurology.

800Seniors.com is a leading referral system in the Elderly Healthcare industry. We are located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors.com provides the perfect match between seniors searching for health care provisions such as Home Care Dallas, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Assisted Living Facilities and Care Homes nationwide. Take the confusion and hassle out of the search. For more information call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

Clinical Progress For Alzheimer’s Detection

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Doctors can usually determine if a patient has dementia, and around 90 percent of the time they can accurately identify whether the dementia is due to Alzheimer’s disease. This diagnoses however, usually takes place after the disease has profoundly affected the brain and is causing severe symptoms. At this point in time, Alzheimer’s can only be diagnosed with complete accuracy after death, when microscopic examination of the brain reveals the characteristic plaques and tangles of the disease. In early April, The National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association issued a new set of guidelines that categorize Alzheimer’s disease into three stages:
A phase when dementia has already developed and mental dysfunction is apparent.
A middle phase in which mild problems emerge but daily functions can still be performed.
The most recently discovered phase, in which no symptoms are evident but changes are taking place in the brain and are manifested by alterations of certain biomarkers (measurable substances in the blood or spinal fluid correlated with the disease) or in imaging studies such as MRI or PET scans.

This clarification is especially important since there are currently no drugs available that can effectively halt or significantly delay the onset of symptoms, although a few of the approved drugs can slow progression of the disease for a few months in a minority of patients. Currently, cerebral spinal fluid analyses and brain scans test for abnormal levels of the proteins beta-amyloid and tau, or shrinkage of certain brain areas, respectively. These tests, however, are still under investigation and are not yet reliably predictive for definite diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, except in advanced cases. The use of biomarkers in Alzheimer’s dementia and mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s was also proposed as a research agenda only, and is not intended for application in clinical settings at this time.

William Thies, Ph.D., Alzheimer’s Association Chief Medical and Scientific Officer said, “It is our hope that incorporating scientific knowledge gained and technological advances made over the past quarter century will improve current diagnosis, bring the field closer to earlier detection and treatment and, ultimately, lead to effective disease-modifying therapies.” He added that the “Development and publication of these articles is a major landmark in the field. That said, publication of these articles is not yet the end of the process of developing new diagnostic criteria for Alzheimer’s, but is another major step in the process.” The ultimate goal is to identify reliable biomarkers that will accurately predict the eventual development of Alzheimer’s. “The sooner we can get such indicators, the more likely we’ll be able to interfere with the disease’s progress, especially when we develop effective new pharmaceutical treatments,” says ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “Building such a database of research will hopefully break the chain of events that, at this point, irrevocably lead to Alzheimer’s. Hopefully, we’ll be able to break this chain within ten years or less, when the pathogenesis is more clearly delineated and focused drug interventions will be accelerated.”

800Seniors is a distinguished nationwide Senior Healthcare referral service. They are based in Southern California, located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors offers seniors citizens a range of different health care options. Based upon their needs they can opt for Home Care, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Care Homes Phoenix and Assisted Living nationwide. 800Seniors makes life easier by taking away the confusion and hassle. For more information about 800Seniors call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

Caring Gracefully for Family Members With Dementia

August 17, 2011 Leave a comment

A few nights ago, while tossing and turning in bed, too restless to quiet my mind and fall asleep, my husband stirred beside me. I told him I couldn’t sleep. His answer? “Why don’t you get up and go in the other room?” When I lamented that I was hoping he would comfort me, he rephrased his advice as such, “Why don’t you get up and go in the other room, sweetie?” Grrr, what a jerk I thought, but said nothing and turned over. Then I think of my elderly mother, the way she mixes everything up, and doesn’t believe me when I tell her something. I consider myself a patient person, especially with children (because they haven’t yet learned better) and the elderly, but when it comes to family members, I’m not so sure. Often times, many of us seem to reserve a large part our saintly patience and courteous behavior for total strangers.

How would you rate yourself?
On a scale of 1-10 (10 being saintly), how patient are you?
Do you extend the same grace, mercy, and forgiveness to your own family as you do to strangers and co-workers?
Are you more patient with children or the elderly?

If your honest answers to these questions touch a nerve, it may indicate that you are not a good candidate for becoming the sole caregiver of your elderly parents, particularly when the signs of dementia begin to appear. Of course, most of us feel justifiably responsible for helping our elderly parents and treating all of our loved ones with the same patience and respect we afford strangers, and when we struggle with doing so, most of us make an effort to improve. In trying to understand the phenomena, maybe we grow too accustomed to the unconditional love family members provide. We come to depend on their support, understanding, insight and guidance on everything from inconsequential day-to-day events, to important topics such as safety or a family crisis. When our family members don’t come through in a way we expect, albeit from the sleepy stupor such as was with my husband, or the devastating, gradual loss of cognitive skills in the case of my mother, we feel hurt and disappointed. We are insulated from hurt inflected by strangers because we lack a heightened level of intimacy with them.

Understanding the intrinsic layers of decline that accompanies dementia and its effect on a human being may provide us with the knowledge to help us deal with it  our elderly family members more gracefully. The Alzheimer’s Association regularly distributes articles that provide insight for helping family members and outside caregivers deal with those affected by the disease. A recent one, published in the Huffington Post, says, “It is so easy to think that there is no one there anymore when the person in front of you does not talk, or when they make unintelligible sounds, or say things that don’t seem to make sense, or don’t remember what happens from one minute to the next.” Although it may be a normal reaction, talking as if the person is not there or addressing them as you would a child and assuming that your interactions with them do not matter, can create an even more frustrating situation.
The article offered eight truths to help change the way we relate to persons with Alzheimer’s or other dementias.
The fact that the person doesn’t speak does not mean that they do not hear or understand.

No matter how withdrawn or unresponsive aperson may appear, one should act and speak as if they were completely cognizant. This precludes talking about the person in front of them, or ignoring their presence, or using language that is disrespectful. The person should be treated as we want to be treated, only using simpler language and talking more slowly so as to maximize the chances of being understood. Not recalling facts does not mean that the heart does not know or does not remember. To the contrary, persons with forgetfulness are extremely attuned to the quality of their relationships, and carry with them the emotional imprint of prior interactions, whether positive or negative. A parent may not remember that you called them earlier, but the positive effect of the phone conversation could linger for hours afterwards. The loss of abilities, no matter how severe, does not mean that all abilities are lost. Research shows that the following abilities remain, even into advanced stages of dementia: experiencing pride, maintaining dignity, experiencing shame and embarrassment, feeling concern for others, communicating feelings with assistance, maintaining self-esteem and manifesting spiritual awareness. What appears as nonsensical behavior actually makes a lot of sense from the person’s perspective.

Making sounds can be a desperate way of soothing oneself in the face of extreme alienation. Pacing is a way to channel one’s anxiety or boredom. Wandering can be viewed as a search for something missing, like one’s old home, or a lost sense of connection. Crying out is a plea for help. Aggressive gestures are expression of anger from one’s needs not being met adequately, or from one’s frustrations with the many losses attached with the Alzheimer’s or dementia experience. These behaviors are attempts to cope with very real distress. The person is not a child or a baby, although some of their behaviors may cause us to treat them that way.
The person may need assistance with basic activities such as eating, getting dressed, taking a shower and grooming, or they may engage in pre-verbal modes of communication –  behaviors that we normally associate with very young children. But they are not children. They are adults, with years of experience and accumulated wisdom, much of it stored in their heart and spirit. No matter how well intentioned, infantilizing the person will only cause them to feel worse.

It is not all downhill from here, at least not always. The journey through dementia is nonlinear with some remarkable breakthroughs here and there, often precipitated by the right context. Stories abound of persons who start speaking or smiling again after they are moved to a different environment, one where they feel safe, engaged and loved. The fact that a person struggles with initiating tasks does not mean that they are incapable of making any decisions. When in doubt, err on the side of exploring the person’s range of abilities. Preserving the ability to make choices, no matter how small, is especially crucial. Many times  partners or caregivers take over all aspects of a person’s life, unwillingly depriving that person from the opportunity to make even such a simple decision such as which clothes to wear. Which dress, the blue or the red one? All of us want to feel that we are still in control somehow. Asking “what to do” with the person can be the wrong question. We are part of a “doing” culture. Sometimes, all that is required of us is simply to “be” with a person, as in sharing moments sitting, walking, listening to music, watching a sunset or gently touching the person’s hand after we have asked for their permission. The more we understand, the easier it will be on the caregiver and the person in our care, whether we are caregivers of a family member or a stranger.

800Seniors is a distinguished nationwide Senior Healthcare referral service. They are based in Southern California, located on 5400 Atlantis Court, Moorpark, California 93021. 800Seniors offers seniors citizens a range of different health care options. Based upon their needs they can opt for Home Care, Home Health, Skilled Nursing, Hospice Care, Medical Supplies, as well as a variety of Care Homes San Jose and Assisted Living nationwide. 800Seniors makes life easier by taking away the confusion and hassle. For more information about 800Seniors call 1-800-768-8221, visit http://800seniors.com or fax us your details at (805)517-1623.

About The Author: Gloria Ha’o Schneider is an expert in senior citizen and baby boomer issues. Her topics revolve around Senior Living and Healthcare to provide the latest information to this demographic as well as their families and loved ones.

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