5 steps to reverse Dementia as you age

 

 

Most people consider memory loss as a part of the human ageing process. However, science differs from this stereotype. Just like any other disease, certain factors can cause Dementia. Deficiency of vitamins, lack of sleep, Mercury intoxications and reduced body activity are some factors that eventually cause damage to our brain and result in memory loss.

 

Studies in the field of Dementia predict that 10% of 65 year olds, 25% of 75-year-olds and 50 % of 85-year-olds will suffer from the memory loss disease in the coming decades. This problem is quite big for the seniors in our families. You should know how to deal with Dementia so that you can ensure the wellness of your loved ones. I am explaining 5 steps that will reverse Dementia, which most people think cannot be treated.

 

1. Exercising is crucial.

The most common cause of Dementia is the reduction of body movements as people age. Doing some physical exercise is as important for the brain as it is for the whole body. Physical exercises on a regular basis boosts the memory retention capacity of the brain.

 

Medical experts advise that even a 30-minute daily walk is sufficient if the elders cannot do strenuous exercises. During exercise, our brain releases chemicals that removes depression, which is one of the contributing factors in Dementia.

2. Mercury Detoxification

Our environment contains heavy metal toxins and these toxins are also present in our body in variable proportions. They get accumulated in our body tissues and cause Dementia. These are some simple tips that can help in detoxifying mercury from the body:

  • Drink lots of water.

  • Consume organic cilantro.

  • Cilantro is simply great for flushing out mercury from the body.

 

3. Vitamin and Mineral Deficiency

Poor diet not only affects our physical health, but also the health of our brain. Deficiency of Vitamin D and B6 is linked to memory loss because of high levels of amino acids (ex. Homocysteine) which causes our brain to shrink and increases the risk of diseases like Alzheimer and Dementia.

 

Consuming Vitamin D and Vitamin B6 rich food like Tuna fish, Avocados and Banana can help your elders fulfill their nutritional requirement and keep amino acid levels under check.

 

4. Yoga and Meditation

Yoga, an ancient fitness regime that originated in India, can work wonders for our brain and is possibly the easiest form of exercise that can be practiced by the elders at home.

 

Globally, millions of people have experienced the benefits of Yoga and deep meditation. It has helped them gain better control over their minds. Even more, meditation helps our brain to relax and calm our nerves, thereby improving our memory power.

 

5. Blood Sugar Levels

A high blood sugar level leads to cognitive impairments like Dementia. Those who have Type-2 diabetic and are 60 years and above have a higher risk of developing Dementia. In a recently conducted study, people with higher blood sugar levels were found to have a lower volume in the Hippocampus (a brain region that is essential for memory). Hence, the cause of dementia can be directly linked to the elevated blood glucose.

 

Maintaining blood sugar levels can go a long way in battling many other ailments other than dementia. Taking care of your diet and indulging in physical activities can help in dealing with high blood sugar levels.

 

Dementia has become the seventh most common cause of death. You may require assistance from the caregivers to make sure that your elders receive proper treatment. Fighting Dementia is tough, but following the above steps can significantly reduce the chances of getting troubled by the disease and also heal the already done damage to the brain.

 

How Peer Groups Can Do Wonders For The Elderly

With the onset of old age, the social circle of elders begins to shrink comparatively. They visit fewer places and perform fewer tasks, which often leads to depression. Some people feel a sudden change in their life after their spouse's retirement or their own.

The job or the work they were doing along with the schedule they followed for over 30 to 35 years suddenly gets dissolved. Such changes in the life of elders can have adverse effects on their mental and physical health.

Why, I believe, peer groups can work wonders for the elderly is because of four primary reasons:

1. Peer groups keep them occupied.

By involving themselves with a group of like-minded people, elders can fill the void created by a sudden change in their lives. Peers can get along well and do different activities such as play golf, group readings, and even simple gardening or painting. These activities keep the seniors occupied and prevent idle thoughts from entering their minds.

 

2. Peers encourage them to pursue a hobby.

Following a hobby with partners of the same age can help them get their competitive streak back. This also gives them an opportunity to interact with people and share their experiences. Psychologists even suggest that this exchange of ideas and experiences keeps their mental health in good state, which also has good influence over their physical health.

 

3. Peer groups motivate them to maintain themselves.

 

When in a group, each one of us likes to be appreciated by our peers. This affinity for the appreciation motivates the elders to maintain their health and appearances. Often people require good caregivers to help the elderly at home for assistance in grooming.

This is because, older people tend to ignore their appearances as they fail to find a purpose for getting groomed and maintaining appearances. The elderly can be seen making efforts to look presentable in front of their peers.

 

4. Peer groups promote a healthy lifestyle.

Most of these groups follow an exercise ritual to maintain their physical health. With the increasing age, people tend to withdraw from doing physical activities, partially due to lack of energy but mostly due to lack of motivation.

 

 

 

While in groups, elders feel the peer pressure and would willingly follow others and perform exercises. It is not the influence of one member of the group over other members, but the influence that the whole group has on each member. Good physical health is highly important for the older adults as the body becomes weak with ageing and needs to be kept well.  

Peer group is a great motivation factor for the elderly in maintaining the health of both mind and body. For the older adults, who have fulfilled their social and family responsibilities, these peer groups can give them a new sense of purpose in life.

 

Top 4 Myths surrounding Home Care

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We live in a world where care, is the most precious gift that we can give. It is in the very nature of human beings, to care. Our parents imbue us with compassion as we grow up and as they age, we grow up and need to take the mantle of work, profession and other aspects of life that often leaves us with little time to take care of them.

That is where Home Care services step in and reassure us that our elders are well taken care of while we are away.

Caregivers and home care facilitators have often been surrounded by image tarnishing myths that make us uncomfortable even at the thought of it. So, today, let us analyze the top 4 myths surrounding them, and debunk them altogether, so that more people can look towards them in times of need.

Myth 1. Home Care is only for Sick and Elderly

It is true, that elderly and sick are two primary reasons for which people hire home care services. However, this does not implicate that the home care services are only meant for them. Caregiving services are for anyone who needs care, companionship and assistance in their daily tasks.

Good Caregivers, provide customized care plans for each client as per their requirements, which can include house sittings, grocery shopping, gardening, travel and appointment companion, pet care, as well as house cleaning.

Therefore, we can safely say that, one need not terminally ill or be way above 60, in order to avail home care services.

Myth 2. Home Care Services are Expensive

People often look the other way when it comes to home care services, because they have a misconception that the services are highly expensive. The fact is, home care services are more affordable than staying in an assisted living facility or a nursing home. In fact, the cost for home care services on an average, depend upon the number of hours for which you hire the services.

You can also avail customized packages depending on your need after receiving an expert assessment from the Caregiver agency

Myth 3. Choosing the right Caregiver is Difficult

If you’re new to the concept of home care services, it is understandable how it can get tedious to find a company you can trust and who can appropriately take care of your elders while you’re away. Usually, reputed Home Care agencies, perform a preliminary screening test for all personal assistants and caregivers before they hire them under their banner. These candidates who enroll to become caregivers, need to pass a strict background and national identity check to ensure they are up to the task.

Another way to verify the credibility of a home care service agency is to check out their testimonial page where reviews of previous client(s) are published. More number of positive reviews foretell the quality of that agency’s services.

Myth 4. Home Care Services provide Poor Quality service

This myth exists because of lack of people’s experience and how the industry dynamics have changed with time. Initially, when home care services were not as prevalent, many dubious agencies mushroomed in and around town that did not have the necessary skillset and wanted to make a quick buck out of ‘babysitting’ for the elderly.

Babysitting is not what caregiving is. Caregiving involves a lot more time, skill, patience and compassion which segregates this industry altogether from any other. Professional Caregivers are honorbound by work ethics and health care guidelines to provide quality services or else their licences can be impounded.

Today, dedicated Home Care service providers need to do their homework before sending an attendant to the client. The Caregivers serving under the agency are entitled to provide the best quality service to their clients or face an early termination which reflects poorly on their resume.

So the next time you’re thinking of Home Care services, make sure you do a good research and don’t take anyone’s word for it. You could be missing out on quality assistance that can help you and your elders in your daily lives.

 

Debunking the Myths of Hospice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hospice care is given to the terminally ill patients, only after a doctor and the Director of Hospice give their affirmation on the condition of the patient. Hospice can be defined as a comprehensive set of care and services, that is recommended during the final phase of a patient.

 

Hospice is not a simple concept and is often misunderstood by the public. Therefore, I decided to focus on a few popular myths that surround Hospice and in the process try to clear them out so that you can have a better understanding as to what it actually is all about.

 

Myth 1- People have to visit Hospice centres to receive Hospice Care

People need to understand that hospice, is not a place, but a practice of giving care to the people who are approaching their final stage. According to the available data, 80% patients receive hospice care at home. Therefore, there is no compulsion for the patients to visit hospice centres to spend their remaining days in an environment which is alien to them. They can receive hospice care at home, in a healthcare facility, or at any other place where they wish to.

Myth 2- Hospice depends on Sedation to manage Patient's pain

Most people have a misconception that hospice workers use sedatives for pain management. Truth is that, although sedatives are given to patients who are suffering from intesnepain, the dosage is always monitored.

The aim of Hospice caregivers is to help reduce the emotional and psychological pain of the patient and to provide as much comfort during their final moments.

 

Myth 3. Once you Enroll in a Hospice Program, there's No Turning Back

Hospice is entirely a matter of choice of the patient and their families. They can discontinue hospice program whenever they wish to. They are also free to switch to any other treatment procedures that they consider to be at their best interest.

The patients are at a liberty to opt out of hospice care without having to state any particular reason whatsoever. In fact, there are cases where the hospice professionals themselves, have recommended and approved discharge, when they felt that there is a significant improvement in the patient's health.

Myth 4. Hospice is not covered by Managed Care

It is true that Medical Care Organizations (MCOs) are not bound to incorporate hospice coverage. However, the Medicare beneficiaries have the advantage to avail hospice benefits. The beneficiaries are free to choose the place and time for the hospice care, as they are not locked into the end-life-services, which is an integral part of Medical Care Organizations. In case the patient's age is less than sixty-five years, an inquiry is required to avail hospice care services.

 

Hospice care demonstrates that a terminally ill patient can also be cared for right up until their last moments. Patients often tend to opt for Hospice services themselves, to ease the emotional turmoil of their families. Although death can never be fully compensated for, but the last moments can be made comfortable for the person. Hospice care serves to do just that.

 

More Caregivers Are No Spring Chickens Themselves

Gail Schwartz and her husband David Gail Schwartz, 78, helped her husband David, 85, out of his wheelchair at their home in Chevy Chase, Md., where she thinks he does better than he would at a nursing home. 

 

Gail Schwartz wants to keep her 85-year-old husband out of a nursing home as long as she can, but it isn’t easy.

Because David Schwartz, a retired lawyer, has vascular dementia and can no longer stay alone in their home in Chevy Chase, Md., she tends to his needs from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. every Monday through Saturday and all of Sunday.

When she dashes out for errands, exercise and volunteer work in the morning, she checks in by phone with the aides she has hired. “I’m always on alert,” she said. “At the grocery store, I’m thinking, ‘Is David O.K.?’ ”

An aide now stays overnight, too, because Mr. Schwartz awakened so frequently, disoriented and upset, that his wife began to suffer the ill effects of constantly disrupted sleep. She has moved into the bedroom across the hall.

“I need my rest,” she said. “I’m no spring chicken myself.”

Indeed, Gail Schwartz is 78. While she thinks her husband does better at home — “he’s getting 24-hour attention, and you don’t get that in a nursing home,” she said — friends point out that the arrangement is much harder on her. She worries, too, about costs climbing as Mr. Schwartz’s health declines and his needs increase.

For now, though, she manages, part of an apparently growing phenomenon: the old taking care of the old.

Every few years, the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute survey the state of American caregiving; their latest report, published last month, focused in part on caregivers over 75. They constitute 7 percent of those who provide unpaid care to a relative or friend, the survey found — more than three million seniors helping with the so-called activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, using a toilet), instrumental activities of daily living (shopping, transportation, dealing with the health care system) and a rising tide of medical and nursing tasks.

Almost half of them report caring for a spouse; the others assist siblings and other relatives, friends or neighbors, most also 75 or older. About 8 percent of these oldest caregivers still care for parents.

The aging of the population has thrust more seniors into this role, said Gail Hunt, president and chief executive of the National Alliance for Caregiving. “There didn’t use to be so many 95-year-olds,” she said, “and someone’s caring for those 95-year-olds.”

That’s challenging for anyone, though the extent of what’s called “caregiver burden” remains a subject of debate. For years, researchers have presented caregiving stress as a potential source of depression, compromised health, even premature death.

Some of those findings are being reassessed; a recent study in The Gerontologist, for instance, argues that the picture is “overly dire” and that several studies find benefits for caregivers — the “healthy caregiver” hypothesis.

(My own hypothesis: Both responses can be true, with caregiving providing purpose and activity in some situations but proving exhausting in others.)

People over 75, however, can find caregiving particularly taxing. They spend an average of 34 hours a week on caregiving tasks, the National Alliance for Caregiving report found, 10 hours more than caregivers over all, and they are less apt to have other unpaid help.

Because 46 percent take care of spouses, they are also more likely to be live-in caregivers, a known source of strain. “You’re responsible for their safety,” Ms. Hunt said. “You have to interact with the person all day long and maybe all night long, so your sleep is disturbed. It’s more stress than if you’re coming over periodically to help.”

The typical older caregiver in the study had been providing care for over five years.

“Just the physical part of it, the lifting and bathing and all of that, can hurt you,” said Donna Wagner, dean of the College of Health and Social Services at New Mexico State University and a longtime researcher on family caregiving. Older caregivers, typically women, have their own health issues.

“My mother is a perfect example,” Dr. Wagner said, describing her as a 4-foot-10 woman who cared for her husband, an obese man with heart disease and diabetes, for seven or eight years. “I don’t even know how she managed,” Dr. Wagner said. After he died at 85, “it didn’t take her long to slide right into dementia. It’s as if she put it off while she had responsibility for him. There are a lot of mysteries.”

There is no great mystery about the kinds of policies and programs that could better sustain caregivers. Ms. Hunt rattled off several, including regular respite care, home aides covered by Medicare, tax credits for family caregivers and more subsidized adult day programs. When asked if she foresaw more government support for such efforts, she laughed. Other Western countries do a better job, she said.

Yet people like Alvin Vissers, 75, still shoulder the role. He retired from his job as a construction project manager near Brevard, N.C., two years ago to help his wife, Ronda, who is also 75 and in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Mrs. Vissers, a nurse, can no longer speak much and needs help with nearly everything — bathing, dressing, eating. Without constant monitoring, she may wander outside. She sometimes calls her husband of 54 years “honey,” but “I don’t think she realizes our relationship anymore,” Mr. Vissers says.

Spouses can be reluctant to seek help, even if they can afford it. Who else could possibly be as sensitive and steadfast as the partner who’s lived with this person for decades?

But Mr. Vissers, in generally good health despite elevated blood pressure, began having chest pains at night (from reflux disease, it turned out). Another caregiving husband he knew from church had been hospitalized with heart failure, sending his dependent wife to a nursing facility.

“I won’t be any good to Ronda if I give her all this care and she outlives me,” Mr. Vissers said he realized. “The stress of caring for her 100 percent was too much.”

Last year, therefore, Mr. Vissers began driving his wife to an adult day program three days a week. “It worked out so well we went to five days,” he said. The couple’s youngest daughter, who had moved into an apartment in their home with her own daughter, makes dinner most nights. Mr. Vissers can find time to exercise, volunteer and attend caregiver support group meetings.

One day, he knows, his wife may become too immobile for a day program. He may need to hire home care or, eventually, find a nursing home.

But not yet. “I told her when this started, ‘Sweetheart, you’ve cared for me for 50 years; I guess it’s my turn,’ ” he recalled. “Now, I’m finding out what those words mean.”

A version of this article appears in print on July 7, 2015

Hearing Loss May Be Associated with Dementia, Alzheimer’s

“New studies show that individuals who experience the greatest loss of hearing are at a higher risk of having Alzheimer’s

disease or other forms of dementia when compared to individuals with mild or no hearing loss.”

For several years I’ve felt certain that my Mom’s cognitive decline began with her hearing loss. She had worn a hearing aid for many years and I falsely assumed that the hearing aid was providing Mom with the equivalent of “normal” hearing.

When Mom first began to show symptoms of repeating herself, asking the same question over and over, and being unable to carry-on a simple conversation, I blamed it on her hearing loss. She’d worn the same hearing aid for years and replacing the batteries did not improve the situation.

Finally, I convinced Mom to go for hearing tests and possibly a new hearing aid. As soon as the technician checked Mom’s old hearing aid, she let us know that it hadn’t worked for, probably, years. Through demonstrations with me speaking to Mom from behind her back–then face to face, I was surprised to learn that Mom was reading my lips and never heard a single word. I had no idea. She had pretended to hear for so long, she was very good at it.

After Mom was fitted with a brand new hearing aid, the technician read a list of 100 words and asked Mom to repeat each one back to her. Although Mom could hear the technician without issue, she did not repeat a single word correctly.  ‘Red’ was repeated back as ‘bed’, ‘tin’ was ‘pin’, ‘pill’ was ‘till’, and on and on it went.

“No wonder she couldn’t handle conversations,” I realized. Instead of hearingrational sentences, Mom was hearing gobbeldy gook. The technician explained to me, that Mom had not heard for so long that she could no longer differentiate betweenconsonants. So when Mom repeated the words back to the technician, none of theconsonants that Mom used were correct.

The condition could be corrected, the Technician told us. By adhering to a rigorous schedule of wearing the new WORKING hearing aid, Mom’s cognition for consonants would return over time.

The technician did warn, though, that Mom might show symptoms of cognitive impairment if she didn’t  wear the new hearing aid for the specified times recommended.

Without it, Mom understood very little of anything that was said to her. With it, she was slightly confused since she wasn’t hearing language correctly. But–overtime, the technician assured us, the consonants would come back to her if Mom wore the hearing-aid for the scheduled times .

Mom was 79 years old at that time; set in her ways and hard-headed. She had grown accustom to her silent world and she liked it. Small sounds of  every-day living annoyed her; a fan blowing, the hum of the refrigerator, the click of a light switch. She refused to wear the new hearing aid at all.

Two years later Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. And I’ve always blamed the hearing loss, despite many who thought it was foolish conjecture.

Now, this study finds a correlation. The study lasted nearly 20 years, initiated by the National Institute on Aging and Johns Hopkins. “Researchers found that people with some level of hearing loss to start the study were also more likely to eventually suffer from dementia. Individuals with severe hearing loss were five times as likely to eventually develop dementia when compared to individuals without any hearing loss.”

“Experts explain the link between dementia and hearing loss is currently unknown, but this study provides some insight as to a potential relationship between the two, and the potential risks of individuals failing to treat hearing loss as it begins.”

I have not inherited my Mom’s hearing issues, but my younger brother has and I nag him no-end to get a hearing aid before he suffers any cognitive losses! If you have any hearing issues, I urge you to have your hearing tested and wear a hearing aid if it’s recommended!

 

*Published:  http://www.free-alzheimers-support.com/wordpress/hearing-loss-may-be-associated-with-dementia-alzheimers/

What is the difference between Alzheimer’s, dementia, old age memory loss?

For many years it was thought that memory loss was nothing more than hardening of the arteries suffered by most people during the natural aging process. Often called “senility,” it was common to equate the behaviors of someone with Alzheimer’s as “old age senility.” At 93, my grandmother was considered “senile” and her children forced to place her in a nursing home due to erratic, odd behavior.

The question for many is: What is the difference between Alzheimer’s or dementia or “old age memory loss?”

During the last few years of her life, my grandmother spent her days wandering the halls of a nursing home searching for “her” new-born baby whose cries haunted her day and night. The baby needed to be “nursed,” my grandmother surmised, and spent many hours crying about that neglected child. That was fifty years ago. Today, we know better.

There is a difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia. In fact many things can cause dementia, but Alzheimer’s is the Number #1 cause of dementia.

Today, my grandmother might  be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and given a baby doll to end her constant search for that crying baby. Just as her daughter (my mother) was given a light-weight pocket-book to carry because she was paranoid about someone stealing her money.

Mom would loop the strap of her pocket-book over her arm and grip that purse firmly with her other hand to prevent anyone from stealing her money. The coin purse inside that pocket-book guarded 2 dollars and 25 cents but it might as well have been a million dollars because that’s the value my Mom put on that pocket-book.

Mom remembered that money long after she’d forgotten me, and she checked that purse hundreds of times a day to be certain it was still there.

And yet, my Ninety-something Uncle (Mom’s brother) is healthy and fit, both physically and mentally, and will argue against my modern day assertion that his mother (Mom’s mother and my  grandmother) could ever have suffered something as horrible asAlzheimer’s.

“She was old,” he will argue instead, “and old age made her senile and made her imagine that crying baby, nothing more.She didn’t have Alzheimer’s like Jane (my mother/his sister).” He will argue the natural aging process causes all the symptoms of Alzheimer’s too, despite the fact that he is nearing 90 without a single sign of cognitive decline. For him, set in his way, there is no Alzheimer’s, old age senility took the mind of his mother.

Thankfully, most know better, and the awareness of Alzheimer’s along with the Stages and Symptoms are readily available for anyone to find. Hopefully, the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia will be common knowledge one day soon.

With more awareness, more people will understand the basics of coping with the behaviors of the Alzheimer’s patient. “You can’t force someone with Alzheimer’s to remember something just because you want them to. You must change yourself, accept the loss of their memories and build on what they do know.”

With awareness new research studies will find better ways to diagnose and new medicines will be prescribed earlier, to delay symptoms for those who suffer.

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Is it Old age or Dementia or Alzheimer’s?

That question can actually be answered simply–

  • As the brain ages it is not unusual to forget the name of someone, particularly if you haven’t seen them in awhile.
  • Aging can make it difficult to find the right word when speaking or writing, or hard to remember the name of an object that isn’t used often.
  • With older age, it takes longer to learn new skills or accept new ideas. It may take longer to react to things since reflexes slow down with the aging process.
  • A characteristic of the normal aging process is that general intelligence (which medical scientists call “psycho-motor functions” or “cognitive functioning”) remains normal, and reasoning abilities and judgment are not altered with aging.

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Symptoms of Alzheimer’s are much more Problematic than simple lapses of memory

  • Difficulties with ordinary tasks and daily activities
  • Making Unusual decisions or acting inappropriately
  • Difficulty learning new things
  • Dependency- fear of leaving familiar surroundings suspicious of the activities of others; overly dependent

*Published 5/29 at http://www.free-alzheimers-support.com/

10 Steps to Help Older Adults Prevent Slips, Trips and Falls

Posted: Friday, September 5, 2014 9:39 am |Updated: 12:31 am, Sat Sep 6, 2014.

(NewsUSA) – Some of the most serious injuries among older adults, age 65 and older, are caused by falling. More than 1.6 million older Americans end up in the emergency room or hospital because of a fall, according to the National Institutes of Health. Seniors who have broken a hip by falling can have trouble recovering and regaining mobility.

The good news is many falls are preventable. One of the first things you can do if you take prescription medication is have your health care team review your medication.

"Some prescription medicines and over-the-counter drugs, or a combination of them, can make you dizzy or sleepy. Either can lead to a fall," said Jaza Marina, M.D., a geriatrician at Kaiser Permanente in Atlanta. "If you fall, be sure to let your doctor know, even if you aren't hurt. Sometimes falls are a sign of a new medical problem that needs attention."

Many underlying causes of falls can be treated or corrected. Dr. Marina recommends these 10 proactive steps to reduce the risk of falling.

Make your home safe.

1. Remove clutter, throw rugs and electrical cords that might cause you to trip.

2. Store items on bottom shelves.

3. Add grab bars where necessary — in hallways, stairways and bathtubs.

4. Add a rubber bath mat in the shower or tub.

5. Make sure your home is well lit. Use night lights in hallways and bathrooms.

6. Keep a phone and flashlight by your bed.

Take care of yourself.

7. Stay as physically active as you can.

8. Wear comfortable shoes with good support.

9. Have your vision and hearing checked.

10. Use a cane or walker if you feel unsteady.

For more information on how to prevent falls, visit share.kp.org/preventing-falls. Also check outeverybodywalk.org for tips on walking as an exercise. For questions or advice about a specific condition, talk to your physician.

 

How To Manage The Sandwich Generation Juggling Act — 8 Childish Things Caregivers Should Do

 

recent Pew Research report showed the Sandwich Generation — those 24 million Americans squeezed between caring for children and aging parents simultaneously — may be getting younger. Previous studies and research have identified a typical Sandwich Generation member as a baby boomer — however Pew found while 33 percent of this segment of caregivers are boomers, a growing 42 percent are Gen X. Across the nation, 47 percent of Americans who are age 40-59 are now Sandwich Generation members.


The challenges of what I call "The Sandwich Generation Juggling Act" — balancing children, career and caregiving — often means dropping the ball that says "me." Adding caregiving to the list of life's responsibilities can take a toll on a caregiver's health and wellness to the point of accelerating aging. In the book, So Stressed, the authors cited a research study conducted by the University of California at San Francisco where caregiving moms of special needs children who experienced high levels of stress actually harmed their DNA. This chronic stress gave these caregivers the health and outward appearance of someone 9-17 years older than their biological age. While Sandwich Generation caregivers may be getting younger, their health neglect may mean they are closer in "caregiving age" to their older parent.

Real Age Calculator

To find out if caregiving is causing you to age more rapidly, there is an online calculator developed by America's favorite doctors, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen, authors ofYou – The Owner's Manual books. It is called the Real Age Test and it takes about 15 minutes to complete the online questionnaire. After calculating answers to cholesterol levels, blood pressure readings, eating habits, fitness routine, sleep patterns and more, the result is your new estimated "real age." The report also offers tips on how to improve your age score (meaning scoring younger than your biological age) in the various areas.

8 Childish Things Caregivers Can Do To Improve Health and Wellness

When it comes to taking better care of our bodies, our minds and our souls, sometimes we have to revert back to our childhoods. Playing outside, being silly and laughing with friends and acting carefree may actually benefit caregiver health. Following are my 8 tips for caregivers on how to tap into their inner child:

1. Naptime: Health experts recommend getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Research shows sleep deprivation or experiencing numerous awakenings during the night can increase risk for diabetes and obesity because lack of sleep impacts insulin levels and slows metabolism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says 20 percent of Americans get fewer than 6 hours of sleep a night and 38 percent of caregivers reported insomnia as a side effect of caregiving. Columbia University in New York analyzed research data on sleep deprivation and obesity and found getting five hours or less sleep per night results in obesity levels 50 percent higher than those getting nine hours a night. Try to plan naps and bedtime as if you were nine-years-old again.

2. Bath time: Remember enjoying nightly baths as a child? Baths are a luxurious dream for which most caregivers typically don't have time. Yet baths are not a luxury — they may be a necessary way to boost your health score. Use Epsom salts or fragrant oil such as lavender in a bath to help reduce stress, improve circulation and aid relaxation. A study done in Japan showed stress relief from baths can fight colds through vascular and lymph system stimulation which encourages bacteria-destroying properties in the immune system. Take 10 minutes for a bath at least three times a week and don't forget the rubber ducky.

3. Outdoor Fun and Sun: 10 minutes of sunshine a day is enough to boost natural levels of Vitamin D (promoting calcium absorption needed for strong bones) which has been proven to aid prevention of health risks such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, allergies and osteoporosis. In addition, sunshine boosts mental health — brain functionality and optimism all improve with increased levels of Vitamin D. One study in the Journal of Finance found that stocks traded on sunny days were more profitable than those traded on cloudy days!

4. Hop, Skip, Jump: Dr. Andrew Weil wrote in Spontaneous Happiness that we are a society suffering from nature deficit disorder. The feel-good oxytocin effect of reveling in a beautiful sunset, watching the ripples in a lake, staring at beautiful vistas rather than at a harsh computer screen or listening to birds tweet instead of the noise pollution of your Twitter feed is what we need. According to the National Alliance for Caregiving, 91 percent of caregivers in health decline report depression and a Caring.com survey found 1 in 4 caregivers suffer from depression — twice the national average reported by the CDC. Dr. Weil reports key factors leading to depression are: lack of physical exercise, reduced human contact, overconsumption of processed food and an endless desire for technology distractions. Take a cue from childhood: play hopscotch on the sidewalk, take the dog or a friend for a walk, skip to the mailbox, jump rope in the backyard — all these activities cost nothing and help you relive the wonder of being outdoors.

5. Daydream: Remember lying on your back and looking up into the clouds deciding which shapes you could find? A lion, a car, or even hearts? Find a patch of ground – whether it is the backyard or the neighborhood park, take a few minutes each week to just lie on your back and watch the clouds scroll by (or create a "virtual cloud gazing" by lying on a bed or couch – no TV, no music, no external disturbances allowed – and watch the iClouds app on your smartphone or tablet). It is a variation of meditation that ensures caregivers have the mental stamina to keep going.

6. Laugh: Charlie Chaplin, who lived to the ripe old age of 88, said, "A day without laughter is a day wasted." Being a caregiver is nothing to laugh about — it can take physical, emotional and financial tolls. But finding the funny bone in caregiving can get you through the day. Children laugh on average 400 times a day and adults only get 15 giggles daily. Dr. Lee Berk, acclaimed psychoimmunologist at Loma Linda University Medical Centre, calls laughter therapy, once seen as a fringe movement, now part of complementary medicine or lifestyle medicine. One study showed laughing is a mini workout — it burns calories, reduces stress, increases heart rates and sends more oxygen to the tissues. Another research study found 20 seconds of laughter is equivalent to three minutes on a rowing machine in terms of improving lung function.

7. Hold hands: Remember the first time you held hands with someone you liked? Hearts beat faster, oxytocin levels ("cuddling hormone") surge and the body is engulfed in a warm feeling of happiness. Hand-holding may be the prescription caregivers need. A University of Virginia study showed the wives who held the hands of their spouse or a friend reduced their stress levels. Reach out physically to a friend or family member to hold their hand or give them a hug or do it virtually through the help of the online community site that can create a volunteer community to get caregivers the break they deserve.

8. Take a Time Out: Remember getting a "time out" from mom or dad? In childhood, this typically meant punishment for misbehaving but for caregivers taking a time out is not punishment but nourishment for the soul. Finding five minutes or five hours a week to focus on yourself is what I call Me Time Monday, a program that uses the science of Monday to find "Me Time." What is "Me Time?" It is an activity that is all about you — whatever brings a smile to your face, gives you guilty pleasure or makes you feel joy.

Caregiving is a huge responsibility but taking the time to embrace your inner child helps create a balance between caring for a loved one and caring for you.

This post is an excerpt from Sherri Snelling's book, A Cast of Caregivers – Celebrity Stories to Help You Prepare to Care.

Caring for the Alzheimer’s Caregiver

By: Jane E. Brody

Paul Divinigracia does not consider himself a saint. But to observe how he cares for his wife, Virgie, now 11 years into Alzheimer’s disease, you might think otherwise.

The Divinigracias celebrated their 50th anniversary in August. At 75, Mr. Divinigracia still calls his 87-year-old wife “dear,” and he clearly means it, even after he has answered the same question a dozen times within a few moments. Patience, he said in an interview, is the watchword of his existence.

“We laugh a lot — laughter definitely helps,” he said. “I make jokes out of many of the problems. Maintaining a sense of humor enables me to stay in balance.”

Lest he run out of things to laugh about, he and his wife watch amusing programs on Filipino television (both are natives of the Philippines). “It reduces the tension,” he said.

But there is no question that being the full-time caregiver of a family member with Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementiarequires constant adjustments. New challenges frequently arise. Mr. Divinigracia’s latest is trying to persuade his wife to bathe.

“Sometimes I offer a reward, like telling her, ‘We’re going out for lunch or dinner, and the restaurant won’t let us in unless we smell good,’ ” he said.

Mr. Divinigracia could easily have been the subject of one of the 54 stories in a new book, “Support for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers: The Unsung Heroes,” by Judith L. London. Dr. London is a psychologist in San Jose, Calif., whose first book, “Connecting the Dots: Breakthroughs in Communication as Alzheimer’s Advances,” broadened her contacts with family and professional caregivers facing, and often solving, everyday problems related to dementia.

She based each of the stories on situations confronting caregivers she has encountered, offering suggestions that could help others in similar circumstances.

The challenges include convincing patients or other relatives that something is really amiss, that lapses are not only a result of the gradual decline in memory that can accompany aging, as well as keeping people with dementia from slipping unnoticed out of the house and getting lost. (Double deadbolts on all the doors are a common and effective deterrent.)

“I have to be very observant of what’s going on at all times,” Mr. Divinigracia said. “She’s become very obsessive about safety, constantly checking to be sure all the doors and windows are locked and plugs are unplugged, and wanting to take out the garbage.” One day, after putting garbage in a pail outside, Mrs. Divinigracia forgot where the house was and had to be brought home by a neighbor.

The Divinigracias often visit family. Their daughter has taken to putting notes everywhere in her home, reminding her mother what to do and what not to do. “She does read the notes and follow the instructions,” Mr. Divinigracia said.

“Caregiving is an act of love, even for paid caregivers,” Dr. London said in an interview. “You put so much of yourself out there all the time, especially with Alzheimer’s patients. The average span of the disease is seven years and it can go on as long as 20 years, and the challenges only increase with time.”

Dr. London worries a lot about the stress on these caregivers, and rightly so. According to the data from Stanford University and the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 15 million people provide unpaid care for family members or friends with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. The strain of the task has been shown in many studies to increase the risk of a variety of illnesses, and even death.

Mr. Divinigracia loves to travel, and he’s discovered that taking trips stimulates his wife in a positive way. “Her attention spanincreases, and information is better retained from the new places we visit,” he said. On a recent drive from Fremont, Calif., where they live, to Seattle for a family event, they passed through beautiful mountains north of San Francisco.

“She just loved that and can recall it, even though she can’t remember what I told her two minutes ago,” he said. To maximize quality time together in whatever time they have left, he’s planned trips to Hawaii in April and Europe in September.

Sometimes, though, returning to an old activity can be stimulating and fun. In one of Dr. London’s stories, a caregiving wife gets her husband, who has serious dementia, to again enjoy golf, his former passion, by saying she wants to play. Once at the driving range with club in hand, he suddenly remembered what to do and sent the ball flying.

The message: “Once you get him started, he may still know how to do something he could do years before. What a thrill!” Dr. London wrote.

Likewise, there may be ways to awaken pleasant memories through new experiences. Dr. London tells the story of a woman who picked a sprig of rosemary during a walk around a lake. The smell reminded her husband of how much he liked her rosemary chicken, and he said so in the first complete sentence he’d spoken in months.

One of the most common, distressing challenges faced by caregivers occurs when dementia patients become agitated or physically or verbally abusive, situations that are emotionally exhausting and sometimes dangerous for patients and caregivers alike.

Laura N. Gitlin, a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, works with a team of occupational therapists to find ways to cope with such situations without drugs. They prescribe activities that patients and caregivers can do together tailored to the patients’ abilities, needs and interests. The result is patients who are calmer, safer and more engaged, and caregivers who are less stressed. Still, there are times when even the most astute and clever caregiver fails to overcome a challenge, particularly when an Alzheimer’s patient becomes violent. When one woman’s husband seemed possessed by demons, screaming curses and menacing her with a knife, Dr. London wrote, she finally realized that she could no longer care for him safely at home. Reluctantly, she had to place him in a home so that both of them could be safe.

From conversations with others and participation in a semimonthly Alzheimer’s Association support group, Mr. Divinigracia knows that the worst is yet to come. He continues to learn effective ways to cope with the challenges that arise, and how to take them in stride.

Still, Dr. London said, “caregivers are often the casualties, the hidden victims, of Alzheimer’s disease.

“No one sees the sacrifices they make,” she said.

It is vital for caregivers to take good care of themselves, she added, by exercising, eating and sleeping properly, and getting respite care when needed.

Originaly Published: New York Times February 17, 2014