‘Living Well with Alzheimer’s’ Posts

Health And Safety Tips For Seniors Living With Dementia

October 24th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Managing DementiaDementia can affect a person in any number of ways, so it’s important to take care of the mind, body, and spirit in equal measure after a diagnosis of the disease. Although it is associated most closely with memory loss, there are physical and emotional tolls as well. It is most commonly caused by changes in the brain brought on by Alzheimer’s disease or more than one stroke and can bring on violent behavior, problems with language skills, and trouble with day-to-day activities.

For individuals who have not been placed in assisted living but need help in their day-to-day, there are many things for loved ones to think about concerning their safety and wellbeing. It’s helpful to go around their living space and assess any possible dangers or hazards; upgrades may need to be made in order to keep them comfortable, happy, and safe. Jim Vogel, offers here few of the best tips on how to do just that.

Encourage cognition: It’s important for sufferers of dementia to keep their minds active, so encourage them to play word games or simply tell stories about their life. Remembrance is a good thing, even when it involves a sad memory, because it keeps the individual in the present and helps them focus.

Keep them social: Loneliness can quickly lead to depression, so it’s important to make sure your loved one stays active and social. Help them find a group activity or club to join, such as a book group that meets once a week. Finding something they love and can stay active in will help immensely with mood and cognition, and it will give them a goal as well as something to look forward to.

Daily exercise is a must: Daily exercise is great for the body, but it’s good for the mind and mood, too. Activity can boost brain function and help stimulate positive feelings, so help your loved one get out and get moving. Daily walks in sturdy shoes are perfect, as is swimming, golfing, gardening, and anything else they might enjoy that won’t put a strain on them physically.

Safety measures: It’s important to know what your loved one’s specific needs are before assessing their living space. If dementia has progressed to a certain point, you might consider implementing safety measures such as door alarms and personal emergency alarms. Look around every room and check for properly installed smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, adequate lighting, and trip hazards such as slippery rugs, clutter, or furniture. Bathrooms will need to be checked for safety hazards as well; non-slip rubber mats should be placed on the floor and in the tub, and handrails or shower seats are always advisable. And if you’re loved one takes any medication, take control of their daily doses. Doing so will help them avoid becoming addicted to medications, such as opioids, and dangerous side effects from incorrect dosage.

If the dementia diagnosis is linked to Alzheimer’s, it’s important to understand the side effects of both, as they may differ from person to person. Alzheimer’s can cause physical issues such as vision loss and balance problems, so it’s imperative to make sure your loved one’s home can accommodate them safely. Stairs may be a problem to navigate; make sure the handrails are in good shape and the stairwell is well lit.

Lastly, keep up good communication with your loved one and make sure they know you’re there for them. Help them keep in touch with other family members and friends and offer to assist them with doctor appointments; every little thing helps.

 

Feeling forgetful? Tips for seniors to preserve their mental abilities

March 10th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Our associate Edward FrancisBrain Changes explains here few important tips for seniors to preserve their mental abilities when feeling forgetful. He says, “….If you’ve recently noticed that you’re going through some thinking issues, it could mean that your mental abilities are decreasing. Are you having issues remembering where you put your house keys? Do you struggle remembering what you did yesterday? These are common changes that the brain may be experiencing as you age…” But we could ask: how can seniors distinguish common thinking issues from severe health conditions linked to mental stability such as Alzheimer’s or dementia?

Understanding the brain and its functions

As you age, your brain’s volume begins to shrink. As soon as this happens, the nerve cells inside your brain may lose connections with your other nerve cells and just shrink. The blood flowing through the brain loses intensity as we age. This is an age-related change that is believed to be the root cause of cognitive decline. It is perfectly normal to experience memory lapses every now and then; however significant memory loss is not part of the aging process. It is important to make an appointment with a physician and know for sure whether or not your memory loss is a sign of cognitive decline or not. Cognitive symptoms that get in the way of your daily activities must not be overlooked as these will interfere with your daily activities.

Changes in the brain that might trigger dementia

Dementia is a form of cognitive decline in mental abilities, including language skills, reasoning, memory, perception and judgment. The causes are different from patient to patient. Alzheimer’s in particular, is one of the most common forms of dementia. It materializes when the brain’s nerve cells deteriorate and die. Vascular dementia on the other hand, happens when the brain’s nerve fibers are damaged by cardiovascular or cerebrovascular problems, most commonly strokes.

Tips for seniors to prevent cognitive decline

Promising medical research shows that taking into consideration the following steps might help preserve your mental abilities as you get older.

  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control – adhere to a healthier lifestyle. Exclude unhealthy carbohydrates, sugar and salt from your diet, and focus your attention on eating more vegetables and fruits. Drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly. Daily walking for 30 minutes or swimming should keep your blood pumping and your cholesterol levels under control.
  • Quit smoking & alcohol consumption – both smoking and alcohol consumption may increase your chances of developing dementia as you age. It’s ok to have a glass of wine in the evening, but make sure to drink in moderation.
  • Work out – regular physical activity is believed to help preserve adequate blood flow into the brain; daily activities that keep the blood pumping may reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, an ailment directly linked to developing dementia.
  • Keep your brain stimulated – mental stimulation is vital for your brain health. Stay active by boosting your degree of social interaction. Play challenging games (chess, solve puzzles) and engage in daily activities to keep your brain engaged.

Poor concentration can be a major cause for memory loss. Seniors can start forgetting things when their brains are not properly stimulated. Boredom and lack of stimulation may be a trigger for developing severe anxiety and depression. That’s why it is fundamental for seniors to find activities that can sustain mental stability. Reading books, solving puzzles, and playing chess should definitely be checked out.

Home care and professional healthcare

Many seniors don’t want to admit that they can’t manage on their own anymore, and they would do anything to preserve their independence for as long as possible. That’s not always the smartest thing you can do. If you’re becoming forgetful it’s best to ask for help. Turn to your family and friends, and consider home care. Hiring a caregiver to help you with your grocery shopping, daily home maintenance and cleaning might also be a great idea.

Bottom line is, we can’t put an end to the aging process; and whether we like it or not at some point in life our brains will deteriorate. Most people are terrified of nursing homes; they don’t want to be left alone in a place filled with stranger. And yet, the idea of care homes is not as scary as it seems. There are comfortable facilities where you can enjoy an active lifestyle, interact with people your age, and live a happy and fulfilling life. All you have to do is take a leap of faith!

4 Ways to Help a Loved One Adjust After a Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

September 29th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Prepared for Living Well Assisted Living at Home by Patricia Sarmiento (*)

Alzheimer’s disease is a diagnosis that has heartbreaking impact on sufferers and their loved ones. Symptoms increase in severity as the disease progresses, from mild memory loss in the early stages of the illness to extreme confusion and even loss of identity as time goes on. Although Alzheimer’s changes the way those ailing from it live day to day, there are many ways caregivers, family members, and friends can make the transition a little easier. Here are a few ways to help a loved one adjust after receiving this diagnosis:

 

Make necessary home modifications.

Identifying issues that your loved one may have immediately or sometime down the road can prevent stress for everyone by helping to reduce the risk of injury or confusion. The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation has a list on tweaks you can make around the home to help with safety issues and daily tasks. For example, installing hand rails and eliminating clutter will help prevent falls, while labeling the contents of drawers and cabinets can make daily tasks more manageable.

 

Plan ahead.

There may come a point when Alzheimer’s sufferers can no longer care for themselves, or even make decisions regarding finances or healthcare. Taking care of these details before an individual becomes severely impaired will prevent their loved ones from burden. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests updating legal documents like living wills, trusts and power of attorney documents, as well as having a plan for future living assistance needs.

 

Consider a fuzzy companion.

Most people have heard of service dogs for the blind and deaf, but man’s best friend is now taking on a new role by providing support to those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. These four-legged assistants are trained to prevent patients from wandering off and having panic episodes that result from disorientation and confusion, and even to bring medication in bite-proof packaging at the same time each day.This guide provides information on the many benefits of Alzheimer’s service dogs, as well as resources for bringing one home.

 

Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes.

Alzheimer’s is a complex degenerative cognitive disease, and it’s nearly impossible for those not suffering from it to completely understand what these individuals go through every day. As caregivers, trying our best to empathize with the struggles of Alzheimer’s patients can help us remain calm in frustrating situations. This video from ABC News sheds light on just how much this illness can affect an individual by creating an Alzheimer’s experience for two people without the disease.

 

Alzheimer’s is indeed a disease that impacts not only those with the diagnosis, but also those closest to them. That’s why it’s so important that we do all we can to show our support to our ailing loved ones by helping to simplify daily life as much as possible for them. Making the adjustment to life post-diagnosis benefits everyone, and allows us to focus our time making the most of each day.

 

(*) Patricia Sarmiento loves swimming and running. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their shih tzu in Maryland.

A Cure for Alzheimer’s? The Noise Around Coconut Oil

July 29th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

12353888_mIt is common to hear of new ‘miracle cures’ being discovered, this is particularly true now that the internet is capable of spreading any story around the world in mere moments. Of course, many of these miraculous cures turn out to be impossible to confirm using current medical science.

One such claim was made by Dr. Mary Newport who seemed to have reversed the symptoms of Alzheimer’s in her husband by simply adding coconut oil to his diet for two weeks. The difference with this claim is that subsequent research appears to confirm this finding. (see an interview with Dr. Newport). It is true that MCT fats and their power to boost brain function

The majority of fats you consume are processed through the lymphatic system; however MCT fats are not, they go directly to the liver and are converted into energy which is instantly usable by the body. These MCT fats have been found to improve brain function after just one dose.

Neurodegenerative conditions

Alzheimer’s is one of several diseases which slowly destroy the neurological functions of the body, and in particular, the brain. The research conducted by the Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada focused on the effects of coconut oil and the survival of neurons in the body. Coconut oil was found to be incredibly good at protecting these neurons from destruction and that the neurons were healthier with better mitochondria function than before the treatment. This was an essential finding as mitochondria function has been shown to be compromised in the brains of those suffering from Alzheimer’s.

It is understood that this is possible as the MCT fats provide an alternative energy source to for these neurons. This allows them to function when they would otherwise die as they are unable to access the normal, glucose based energy available in the body. More research is planned to investigate and substantiate these findings further.

Rescuing the Brain

Coconut oil works by addressing the metabolic derangement in the brain, it provides an alternative energy source which allows the cells to heal and function normally again. The derangement of the brain is also known as Type 3 Diabetes. This is the naturally occurring resistance to insulin which makes the brain incapable of absorbing glucose properly. As the brain require a huge amount of energy on a daily basis an inability to obtain enough of this will have a detrimental effect on the brain cells; starting with the less vital ones.

Coconut oil appears to not only provide instantly usable energy to the brain but it can also provide the basis of new brain cells allowing the brain not only to repair itself but to grow and accept new information. Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s and have taken coconut oil have shown significant improvement in cognitive function and memory.

Poetic license

Alongside the research and gradual increase in positive results from this natural substance it may be of interest to note that the coconut is actually composed in a similar way to the human head. A coconut has an extremely hard outer shell, much like the human skull. Inside is a fatty acid-rich ‘meat’, this is the food source for the organ (brain) that they resemble. Walnuts have a similar look and have also been attributed with a variety of health benefits. It suggests that Mother Nature is prompting the use of coconuts and other natural foods by associating them with the part of the body they help.

Of course, this is subjective and it will probably take many years and many millions or billions of dollars before this is proved by scientists. In the meantime you will need to draw your own conclusions as to whether to incorporate this ‘food as medicine’ approach to health. Many would say that coconut oil for Alzheimer’s is a holistic type of treatment. Even though actual physicians managed to connect the oil to the diseases, numerous other related studies are still trying to prove that the connection is real, and that coconut could stop the formation of plaques in Alzheimer’s.

As Edward Francis from Supplemented.co.uk  says “…there’s no cure for dementia. Nevertheless, scientists are not losing hope…Dr. Newport was determined to help her husband, and apparently she managed to reserve the severe symptoms with coconut oil…” It is important though to ask the advice of a professional in the domain before starting a treatment. We will continue trying anything that can be of help to alleviate if not to stop such a cruel disease.

Lower the Risk of Dementia with these 6 foods

May 12th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Diet and Alzheimer's diseaseDementia can be a scary prospect, especially if it runs in your family. Whilst there’s no fix for it yet, there are lots of methods to reduce your risk via lifestyle changes – such as adding exercise, or changing your diet. Although there are many theories defending the properties of some food as anti-aging or anti-dementia ones, our collaborator, Edward Francis compiled an easy list for us, suggesting top 6 foods are well known to help prevent dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are the top 6 foods for lowering the risk of developing dementia.

Berries

Berries have a lot of benefits when it comes to lowering your risk of dementia, and they’re easier to add into your diet – whether as dessert or daily snacks. Firstly, they contain vitamin C and E, both of which are shown in studies to reduce the risk of developing dementia. It’s theorized that part of what causes issues like dementia is damage to the brain, caused by something known as ‘free radicals’. Vitamins C and E can reduce the effect of these free radicals, as well as actively protecting against some in particular (for instance, vitamin E can help defend against amyloid proteins in patients with Alzheimer’s). These benefits by themselves would be great, but they also contain anthocyanin – another chemical which specifically targets free radicals. These are found most in blue and purple fruits, so blackberries and blueberries are the ones to watch.

Almonds

Another great one to add as a snack alongside berries is almonds. Also high in vitamin E, they have the added benefit of being low in saturated fats, meaning you don’t need to be too careful about how many you eat. They’re also high in biotin, a complex b-vitamin. Whilst research into B-vitamins and dementia is still in early stages, its being thought that they may have an effect (and, even if they don’t, they keep your skin healthy!). Almonds are great for lowering your risk of dementia, as well as reducing the risk of developing gallstones and heart disease. You may as well try them, right?

Fish (or a vegetarian alternative)

Fish is packed with omega-3, one of the key things to ensure you’ve got in your diet if you want to reduce your risk of dementia. People with low omega-3 have higher amounts of brain shrinkage, and do worse in memory tests so this is one backed by quite a lot of evidence! If you eat fish, then you want cold-water fish mostly – salmon, tuna, and so on. You could also take fish oil supplements instead. But don’t worry – if you’re a vegetarian (or simply not a fan of fish) you can get vegetarian omega 3. It’s possible to get vegetarian supplements, but our favorite sources are walnuts, flax seeds and cabbage.

Turmeric

Finally, turmeric. Turmeric is a spice that we in the west don’t eat so much of – but if you’re a fan of Indian food you may well do. It contains something called curcumin, and antioxidant that can break down amyloid-beta plaques. These plaques are one of the key signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Whilst the research on turmeric is variable, one thing that is clear is that curcumin definitely has a great effect. We recommend eating adding turmeric to your meals or adding a supplement since the research is still underway, but it’s looking hopeful.

Kale

Regularly called a superfood, in this case it’s true. Kale contains a lot of things essential for reducing your risk of dementia. As mentioned earlier, B-vitamins are a potential source of reduction, and kale contains b9 – known to reduce depression and increase cognition. The main thing we’re interested in here though is folate (or folic acid). A study from 2008 shows that dementia is three times as common in people whose blood has low levels of folates. This is a huge amount, and kale is a great source of it. Whilst the reasons behind this link aren’t yet known, it’s clear that it exists. Another bonus to Kale is that it has cartenoids which lower homocysteine. If this doesn’t mean much, let’s phrase it another way: homocysteine is an amino acid which is linked to cognitive impairment (the thing we want to avoid!) and kale contains things that reduce that. Well worth adding in to your diet.

Coffee

For once, something telling you coffee is good, not bad! A study in Florida showed that those with caffeine in their blood had a much lower risk of dementia. This is just one study, but it’s a good start. There are others that seem to back the results, and some that disagree. However, when looking into the specifics with mice, scientists found that caffeine reduces the brains ability to recognize adenosine.  Adenosine causes the brain to become inflamed (a huge part of what we see in issues like dementia). It seems that caffeine may well have beneficial effects, so why not have at least one cup a day? You’ll feel more awake and can justify it by saying you’re reducing your future risks. That is just perfect.

 

 

Living at Home and Understanding Dementia Symptoms

April 23rd, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Understanding DementiaHaving a loved one diagnosed with dementia, including Alzheimer’s,  is a very hard circumstance and can be very challenging. Most of the times you want to keep them living at home, and provide the home care for the dementia or Alzheimer’s care they need. However, people get distanced from the one suffering from Dementia since they can barely recognize you; thus it is important to understand the symptoms of dementia and become a step closer to your elderly parents.

Nobody wants to see their aging parent struggle with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Sadly, there are things in life we can’t control, like incurable diseases that could materialize after a certain age. When someone gets dementia, their relationships, priorities, and perceptions on life take an unexpected turn. Nevertheless, certain forms of dementia can be kept under control, reversed and even treated if caught on time. If you have an aging parent, it’s only natural to become concerned with their wellbeing. Are they eating right? Are they becoming more forgetful? Are they in pain? These are questions most concerned children ask themselves on a daily basis.

A 70-year old parent may forget things from time to time, but if you notice that their memory loss becomes intense, then it might be a cause of cognitive decline. Dementia can be identified in many ways. First, you must understand the disease. The more you know the higher chances you have to save your parent and stop the health condition from advancing.

Understanding symptoms of dementia

Dementia is not a sole health condition but a collection of numerous symptoms, and some of the most common are changes in personality, memory loss, and impaired intellectual functions that could result from trauma or disease to the brain. These changes are not normal aging signs, and their side effects are severe enough to impact someone’s daily living, relationships and independence forever. Even though Alzheimer’s is one of the most widespread forms of dementia, there are many others, including mixed and vascular dementia.

If you suspect that your parent may suffer from this dreadful illness, then some of the changes will be noticeable. Remembering, communication, learning and problem solving will become difficult endeavors to accomplish. These are changes that can happen fast, or develop slowly in time. The outcome and progression of dementia differ, but are mainly determined by the form of dementia suffered and side of the brain affected. A specialist in the medical field will provide a complete diagnosis after the patient has undergone a series of tests, clinical exams, and brain scans.

What triggers dementia?

A healthy brain’s mass begins to decline in adulthood. However, this fascinating organ-machine of ours keeps forming vital connections even if we age, thus keeping us sane. When these connections are misplaced because of injury, inflammation, or disease, brain neurons begin to die. The result – dementia; it’s certainly traumatic to see a loved one go through such a horrifying disease. This is why it is important for adults to interfere as soon as the first signs materialize in their aging parent. The faster a doctor understands the cause, the better chances he has to recommend a treatment.

Caring for a parent with dementia

In the United States, there are roughly 10 million people who take care of a parent with dementia. Most of these at-home caregivers are women. It’s tough to do this job and at the same time have a family on your own. But since we’re talking about a parent, you wouldn’t want anyone else to take care of them.

Becoming a caregiver to a sick parent is tough. If you’re an adult and you have kids, you must accept that your aging parent may also have the behavior of a 5-year old. Given that dementia affects the brain, memory loss is not the only disturbing symptom. Many adults don’t want to move their loved one to a nursing home. In general, it’s not because they can’t afford the costs but because they’ve over protective.

Professional care can be good for an elderly suffering from dementia

The option of Home care or aging in pace and caring at home for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s is still an option for some. However, one size does not fit all. Living Well Assisted Living at Home in San Francisco and Marin County recognizes that home care for senior with dementia is an alternative but also, believe it or not, today’s healthcare facilities and nursing homes are no longer what they used to be. Some of these hospices provide exceptional comfort. They also feature all kinds of activities for patients, and they have professional personal taking care of your loved one 24/7. Making the decision and moving your parent to a facility is not something you want to do. But it is necessary.

Only an equipped facility can offer the best care for your loved one. At-home caregiving is great, but it’s still not enough to make the patient feel appreciated. A specialized facility comes with lots of programs, socializing sessions, and other therapies meant to stimulate your parent’s brain and ensure he remains in good physical health for as long as possible.

In collaboration with  Edward Francis and Foresthc.com!

Identity and Dementia: Where Do I Go?

March 23rd, 2015 by Doris Bersing
Frankly I do not give a damn...

Frankly I do not give a damn…

Most of us spend a big part of our life searching for meaning, trying to find our identity, and although Thomas Szasz said in The Second Sin (1973) said “…the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates…” we set ourselves for the pursuit of that elusive identity and our meaning as human beings. What is life all about and overall what is our role in life? What do we really live for? Who are we?

We pass many of our prime years looking for our identity, fighting for one, trying to assert one if we are ever given a glimpse of it, wrestling to have our needs met and to have our dreams come true. That search for identity comes sometimes in a puzzle of circumstances, challenges and exploits, and like the overprotected Nemo, we need to swim the oceans of uncertainty and grow until finding ourselves

Through the journey in search of our identity, we attempt to unfold our potential, our desires, and to adjust at the best of our abilities to the challenges of daily life. We build our life upon joys, shadows, and sorrows and fill that life with the mementos and the facts we carve in our memory, those we gathered throughout our journey but one-day, zas! You are diagnosed with dementia. There you are, all of the sudden lost, confused and soon to be stripped, if not of your identity, at least, officially, of your mind.

I know, hopefully, we all have been lost in our minds out of excitement, passion, or love and yet, after the diagnoses you will not be lost in your mind, anymore, since now, your are losing yours. Of course, we could discuss what really mind is, there is so much more to the mind than the cognitive aspect of it and yet for any purpose is THAT mind the one holding your memories, mementos, treasures, pains, and joys that is ready to go with the wind. Well in reality, with the plaques and tangles created in your brain, in a certain time you will not even remember the time of diagnosis. Just as Clark Gable stated while playing Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, stated, you may well say: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn….” But he clock is ticking.

Professionals will offer all what they have. They talk and teach how to calm you down, how to deal with your mood swings and your challenging behaviors but do they really know what we are going through, what you are going through? Do they know that you are going through the tunnel, in and out of the darkness, the uncertainty with the challenge of living an existential tale of the here and now, for which, you did not sign up and for which, effectively you have never practiced. Then come the drugs, the optimism, the clinical trials, the walking to fund more research, hopefully before it is too late for you. Looking now for a different meaning. There is so much that is done, said, so much still to do and yet nobody really knows what you are going through.

We try and theorize about the phenomenon, the neurological, psychological, emotional, and practical side of it, even the spiritual side of it. Needless to say, we appreciate all the nice legitimate attempts people make writing new books about breakthrough treatments and findings; they present lectures, write articles about you but what if you could really explain how it is to know that your life is slipping away, fading away? What if you had a voice? What if they found a cure?

I wish I could be more helpful, but I really do not know how it is, all is in my best efforts to explain a phenomenon, I can only observe and witness with powerlessness, compassion and horror. I do not have dementia and I wonder if I had it how I would feel? What would it be like? Again, I do not know but if I could, if I were you, I would not like to go there. That said, I hope I would react calmly and with patience for myself, although I doubt it but let the journey continue and keep on swimming.

For now, I find some solace and motivation to keep ‘on swimming in Thoreau’s wisdom:

“…I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~Henry David Thoreau, 1854