Hearing Loss and Dementia

October 14th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

Assistive Listening Devices 2The estimates for people who are hard of hearing and/or deaf across America vary from 22 million to 36 million. The figures are based on statistics from The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which is under the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the U.S. Census Bureau. There is no statistic showing the cause for hearing loss amongst these groups, but based on other western counties, age related hearing loss, as well as noise induced hearing loss are likely to be the two main reasons.

What Is Age Related Hearing Loss

Most adults will experience some degree of deterioration in hearing as they age – hence the term age-related hearing loss. The extent of the loss will differ from one person to the next.

It is a natural process that can start as early as age 40, but the vast majority of those found to have age related hearing loss are over the age of 65. Our ability to hear sound is dependent in part by tiny hair-like structures that are found within the cochlea of the inner ear. These hair-cells carry information from the incoming sound waves to the nerves responsible for hearing. As we age and often over many years, these tiny hairs die or are damaged, and the direct result is hearing loss. Both ears are usually affected in a similar way.

Symptoms Of Age Related Hearing Loss

The severity of hearing loss varies across individuals as it also depends on many other factors such as exposure to loud sound during our lifetime. While hearing loss is not life threatening, it can reduce one’s quality of life. It may lead to social exclusion, depression, anxiety and other associated psychological issues. Interaction with others often becomes difficult, and may be tempting to avoid.

Common telltale signs include:

  • Struggling to hear within background noise
  • Having to have words or sentences repeated
  • Having the TV turned up more than others in the same room
  • Mens’ voices are easier to hear than womens’ voices
  • Feeling exhausted after having conversations
  • Inability to hear, or confusion over high-pitched speech sounds such as “s” and “th”

The Danger Of Unmanaged Hearing Loss

In the past it was usually assumed that not doing anything about a hearing loss unmanaged would have a negative impact on quality of life in terms of some social interactions and listening to music and television but that there wouldn’t be anything else more complicated to consider. We now know however, thanks to research by Johns Hopkins and Harvard, that unmanaged hearing loss can have far reaching effects on an individual’s mental health.

It is the relationship between reduced auditory stimuli and patterns of reclusiveness that is causing concern. The Johns Hopkins University study determined that socially isolated individuals are more likely to develop dementia. Out of 639 participants, researchers found that those with hearing loss at the beginning of the study were significantly more likely to develop dementia by the end. The risk of developing dementia over time was believed to increase by as much as fivefold. Lack of cognitive stimuli alongside social withdrawal due to difficulty hearing, were posited as defining characteristics in this profile. Whilst hearing loss may not be the cause of dementia there are certainly signs that, untreated, it can accelerate the rate of progression.

Treatment Options

Before considering options it is important to get a diagnosis as to the cause of hearing loss and have a hearing test to evaluate the extent of any hearing loss.

First consult with your family doctor or book a hearing test at your local hearing center.

Age related hearing loss is an irreversible condition and no cure currently exists. The effects of hearing loss can however be managed through the use of modern technology – most commonly in the form of hearing aids. These aids aim to amplify external sounds, and deliver more sound where needed to the inner ear. Hearing aids vary in their design, they are either worn behind the ear or inside the ear. Additional aids such as extra loud phones and cell phones, loop systems, TV listeners and other alerting devices are also available to match individual needs. Check with your physician for a referral to a local audiologist, who can check what is the best device for you.

Bio: Information by Joan McKechnie, BSc Hons Audiology & Speech Pathology. Joan works for Hearing Direct a company that offers assistive listening devices.

Nutrition and exercise

October 14th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

apple-17092_150Nutrition and exercise is a good subject – it’s difficult to implement though

Nowadays, due to an incredible number of reports about diseases, elevating obesity rates and conditions linked to being overweight, it’s impossible to overlook the great importance of exercise and nutrition. Health gurus often relate diabetes, cancer and mental issues to people’s unwillingness to work out. Although focusing on a proper workout routine and on a healthy diet helps fight certain diseases, people are not advised to wait until they get sick to change their lifestyles. Studies have shown that about 75% of all American people are obese or overweight; only 25% are engaged in a proper exercise and meal plan.

Obesity – an addiction that can’t be controlled

Many people see obesity as an addiction. These individuals have a 10-50% chance to die prematurely compared to those who eat right. Most premature deaths in obese people happen due to cardiovascular reasons. With this persistent threat of health conditions triggered by obesity, we should be more conscious of our mental wellbeing and fitness. We can only have a fit, healthy lifestyle if we are willing to make changes. They don’t have to be drastic but they should be centered on good food and exercise. It’s really important to make an effort and adhere to gradual changes in order to heal your mind and body.

There are several essential components linked to mental and physical health, wellbeing and fitness. Each of these components contributes to a nutritious, vigorous body. Here they are:

  • Cardio – jogging, running, aerobic, even walking can be an excellent way of burning some calories and strengthening the heart
  • Muscular development and strength training – excellent metabolism booster; weight training increases muscle resistance and helps the body stay strong
  • Stretching – tendons, muscles and ligaments
  • Core stability – excellent routine if you want a six pack; demands a lot of exercises that strengthen the core
  • Nutrition/ supplementation
  • Relaxation and rest – yoga, Pilates, yogalates
  • Sleep – at least 8 hours a day in order to have a body that feels good on the inside and on the outside

Great importance of nutrition

Some people find it extremely difficult to adhere to a healthy lifestyle. That’s understandable; when the body is used to consuming sugars and unhealthy fats, you can’t force it to like something else. The solution here is to replace bad sugars with good sugars. For example, rather than have ice cream and candy, have a banana and some berries mixed with natural yoghurt. It’s equally delicious and a lot healthier for your digestive system.

Some would say it takes a lot of time to cook healthy and stick to a correct eating plan 24/7. To some extent, that’s true. We live in a modern world where people are workaholics. This means the only type of food they eat is junk food. Good nutrition is vital for your body, so rather than have a Big Mac for lunch, why not have a fruit salad? Make it in the evening, put it in a bowl and have it with you at the office. It’s a much better idea than a heavy sandwich packed with chemicals that will make your stomach feel bloated for the next 5 hours.

Fill in the gaps with supplements

First of all, supplements shouldn’t replace food. You can’t just take a vitamin and hope to feel amazing for the next 10 hours. However, in some circumstances supplements are needed to fill in the gaps, and strengthen the body. Experts believe that every illness is linked to some sort of vitamin deficiency. When the body is left without one of more nutrients for an extended period of time, it breaks down. Therefore, you become susceptible to developing various conditions such as indigestion, fatigue, anemia, muscle soreness, hair loss, etc.

Deficiencies can be eliminated through appropriate lifestyle changes. However, no matter how good and healthy the food is, supplements may be required, too. Pregnant women for example, need more folic acid. It’s not enough to take this B vitamin from food, and thus supplements may be advised by your doctor. 400 mcg of folic acid per day during pregnancy prevents birth defects. The same thing applies to people who are lactose intolerant and can’t eat dairy products (which are vital for strong bones and teeth).

By Edward Francis and Supplemented.co.uk!

Making Life Better for Someone Living With Dementia

October 7th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

“Person-Centered Matters” is a beautiful and compelling 16-minute video produced by the Dementia Action Alliance and filmed by a former National Geographic filmmaker. It portrays five people living with dementia and how person-centered care helps them live more fully.

Person-centered care is the gold standard and can help make life better for people living with dementia and for those who care about them. You will not want to miss this wonderful video!

Areas of the Home Where Automation Can Help

September 22nd, 2014 by Doris Bersing

Room Thermostat VaillantFor many of us, staying at home while living as safely independent as possible is the greatest challenge and simultaneously the greatest reward of aging well. Recently, we published an article about ways to make daily tasks easier around the home for seniors and in this post, we’d like to take it a step further and touch on the advancements of home technology.

Advancements in technology that may at first seem complicated can, with just a little understanding, become options that enrich and make living easier. Consider implementing these home automation features to the home that can help seniors not only save them time and convenience, but energy costs as well.

Programmable Thermostats

Programmable thermostats, when given the chance, can help you control the temperature of a home, reduce your energy usage, and help you save significantly on annual energy costs. Not all programmable thermostats have the same features, so here are some key aspects to keep in mind when deciding which programmable thermostat is best for your needs:

  • Intelligent Learning. Your energy use at home may differ throughout various times of the day. Programmable thermostats allow you to use less energy heating or cooling an empty home or during dormant times such as while you’re asleep, then automatically alter settings based on your activity and routine. You will rarely have to adjust settings throughout the day because the thermostat will do the adjusting for you.
  • Device Operation. Surveys done in most recent years show that while majority of the population owns a smartphone, of those, seniors are the fastest growing group. So for those that have adapted to the convenience smart devices offer seniors, a programmable thermostat may be right up their alley. Most of today’s programmable thermostats also come with app-operated features, allowing you to receive alerts and adjust setting from the convenience of your own phone or device at just about any location.
  • Multi-Day Models Not all seniors spend their days at home; many may find themselves away for a few hours most days or for several days when travelling. We know that not everyone’s daily habits are the same, so air conditioning experts suggest multi-day models for those seeking to implement programmable thermostats. These allow operators to set a suggested schedule during the weekdays that differ from weekend. Whatever your natural routine is, there’s a model for practically every type of lifestyle.

Automated Lighting

For many seniors, it’s migrating from one side of the home to another that can be more of a task than it is for any younger adult. So the convenience automated lighting offers can help make the “flick of a switch” as easy as it sounds once again while simultaneously saving on annual energy costs. A relatively simple system can:

  • Switch interior and exterior lights both on and off without having to be in the same room. Most automated systems, similarly to programmable thermostats, are app or device-operated, allowing you to control the light settings in one area of the home while occupying another.
  • Prepare your home with scheduled light settings while away for extended leave. For those that travel, automated lighting can be the perfect solution to illuminate the home during your leave to deter any unwanted guests. And just as with daily light operation controls via app or device, this is also another feature that can be managed using a handheld device.

No matter how readily we embrace technological advances, there comes a time when problems can best be addressed with the help of skilled professionals. Most of modern day technology and innovation is created with the intention to make living easier and more efficient. By automating certain features in a home, seniors may find technology on their side to assist them in their daily living without the sacrifice of dignity or independence and add long-term savings in energy bills.

Caregiver Stress: Remembering To Take Care Of Yourself

September 22nd, 2014 by Doris Bersing

stress-111424_640Caregiving can be a very rewarding job, but unfortunately stress among caregivers is extremely common. Ignoring the symptoms of stress can eventually affect physical and mental health, but following some simple stress management tips can make a big difference.

Ways to make tasks easier around the home for seniors

September 12th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

cleaning-268068_640Many elderly people experience problems in their daily living due to age-related disabilities such as arthritis. These can severely restrict their ability to take care of themselves and perform tasks that younger people take in their stride. Grooming, bathing, dressing, cleaning and other self-care activities may be affected. Failing hearing and eyesight make getting around trickier, and arthritis affects the ability to perform the precise hand movements needed for many simple tasks.

Although these problems are in many cases a matter of degree, much self-care can be greatly eased by making domestic tasks easier to perform. This could include things like wearing different clothes if there is a problem handling zip fasteners, or using an electric can opener for arthritis sufferers. Here are a few other ideas for making tasks around the home a bit easier.

Household trolleys

Trolleys can be used around the house for transporting things, rather than as aids to mobility. Elderly people with failing eyesight, for example, will reduce the risk of dropping items if they first place them on a trolley for wheeling into other parts of the home.

Cleaning and laundry

There are specially designed, convenient alternatives to many common products for home cleaning. Long-handled brushes and dustpans, for instance, take the pain out of activities that usually necessitate bending or kneeling, and a laundry steam press makes ironing clothes effortless.

Drinks preparation

Preparing drinks like tea and coffee can present particular problems for elderly people with declining hand-eye coordination. The task can be greatly helped by using lightweight kettles, different methods to heat up water and a tipper to support a kettle when pouring. An audio liquid level indicator to show that a mug or cup is full is useful when the pourer is visually impaired or suffers from poor coordination.

Step stools

Step stools are very handy pieces of equipment that are lightweight and can be stored in a corner when not in use. Stretching to reach high objects is a major cause of broken hips in older people, and simply increasing effective height by using a step stool is the ideal solution.

Preparing and cooking food

There are many different products available to help people with reduced movement or strength in their hands and wrists to prepare and cook food. These can also help people with impaired vision and even those with only one hand. There are serving utensils available with weight-distributing and right-angled handles. Simply using tongs instead of a fork to serve food can offer more stability and control. Rather than using strenuous peeling equipment, potatoes can be cooked in their skins, and vegetables put straight into the oven without the need for any peeling, mashing or grating.

People with age-related impairments that make it difficult to perform tasks around the home need first of all to see what common-sense changes they can make, such as fitting a kitchen with easy-clean shutters. More complex problems can then be tackled by seeing what specialist or alternative equipment is available.

Pilot exercise program may help dementia patients

August 25th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

silhouettes-278791_640Researchers at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have developed and tested a pilot exercise program for dementia patients. The program, called PLIÉ (Preventing Loss of Independence Through Exercise), combines elements of exercise methods such as tai-chi, yoga, Feldenkrais, and dance movement therapy and focuses on basic functional movements, developing  mindful body awareness and promoting social connection. A clinical trial of eleven adult participants over an 18-week period yielded  positive qualitative results indicating that the exercise program provides functional, emotional and social benefits for patients with mild to moderate dementia.

Read more about the study

Preventing Loss of Independence through Exercise (PLIÉ): qualitative analysis of a clinical trial in older adults with dementia, published in Aging & Mental Health, 2014