November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan declared this month for awareness at a time when fewer than 2 million Americans were affected by Alzheimer’s. Now the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s has soared to nearly 5.4 million and is projected to rise to 16 million by 2050, unless advances in the disease occur.
Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting 1 out of every 10 Americans over age 65. The disease has a devastating effect on patients, caregivers, and the community. Symptoms of memory loss, confusion, behavior and mood changes worsen over time, often to the point that the disease interferes with daily tasks, relationships, and even safety. An estimated 18.2 billion hours of care are provided by family members. These unpaid caregivers experience stress, burnout, and accompanying physical and mental health problems at a high rate.
During Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, you can do the following things to raise awareness and join in the fight against the disease.
This month and always, let’s do our part to advocate for those with Alzheimer’s Disease and their caregivers, as well as to support research to end this horrible disease.
In recent blogs, we have been exploring the topic of cognitive decline. We explored the characteristics of normal cognitive decline, mild cognitive impairment and dementia, as well as how to reduce the risk of abnormal cognitive decline. In this final blog, we will explore how to support an individual who is experiencing dementia. Support will vary from person to person and throughout the process.
In the early stages of mild cognitive impairment or dementia, it is wise to communicate often and clearly about current and future needs.
As dementia progresses, things will sadly get more difficult for both you and your loved one. You may see your loved one becoming more confused, frustrated, sad or irritated. They may experience drastic changes in behavior, some of which can be dangerous, such as wandering. In addition to maintaining regular contact with a physician to monitor disease progression and for other medical conditions, these steps will help.
The time may come when professional help is needed. For some, this need arises even during early stages of dementia. Others may not require this assistance until it is impossible to be safe when alone for any period of time. AccuCare Home Health of St. Louis is committed to offering the finest home health care in the St. Louis area, delivered with the patience, compassion and peace of mind you expect from a good friend. Whether it is respite care for a family member caring for a loved one, or private in-home health services, we can help. Please call us today for a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
In our last blog, we explored the characteristics of cognitive decline as part of the normal aging process. We also examined mild cognitive impairment and dementia, which are considered abnormal developments. Both require monitoring of a physician and have a better prognosis when detected early.
As loved ones grow older, there are steps to take to help the brain age in a healthier manner and decrease the risk of developing dementia.
By developing and/or continuing good habits and being aware of the signs of cognitive decline, you can help your loved one face the aging process with confidence and prepare them for the next step, should more severe problems arise. In our next blog, we will address helping your loved one face the unknown with dignity and obtaining help when necessary.
According to the CDC, around 16 million people in the United States are living with cognitive impairment. Individuals with cognitive impairment have trouble
remembering, learning new things, concentrating, or making decisions that affect their everyday life. The severity varies widely, and can progress to the point where an aging person is unable to live independently. Understanding cognitive decline can help you make decisions regarding the treatment and safety needs of your loved one. With that in mind, we will be exploring cognitive impairment in a series of blogs.
What is normal cognitive decline?
As individuals age, it is both common and normal to experience loss of processing speed, as well as certain memory, language, visuospatial, and executive function abilities. Attention span is impaired, as well as the ability to multitask and to recall recently presented information. On the other hand, older adults tend to retain language and vocabulary skills and general information learned at a young age; and may even exhibit improved ability to reason about the “big picture” regarding a specific situation. These changes are believed to be caused by normal changes in the brain, including grey and white matter volume and declines in neurotransmitter levels.
An individual with normal cognitive decline due to aging could exhibit the following behavior: occasional bad decisions, missing a monthly payment, forgetting what day it is but later recalling it, being unable to remember what word to use, or losing things.
What are signs of abnormal cognitive impairment?
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition that is not considered part of the normal aging process. It can be a predictor of Alzheimer’s Disease, though this may not always be the case. Some signs of MCI include losing things often, forgetting to go to important events and appointments, and an ever-increasing lack in the ability to find desired words when communicating.
If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of MCI, it is important to be monitored frequently by a physician. In the event that symptoms of Alzheimer’s begin, early treatment is vital.
What are the signs of dementia?
The term dementia describes the loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is caused by physical changes in the brain. The most common form is Alzheimer’s Disease. Signs of dementia include asking the same questions over and over again, losing things frequently, getting lost in familiar places, inability to follow instructions, difficulty in making conversation, and confusion about time, people, and places. Individuals with dementia may also undergo personality changes. Early monitoring and treatment can slow progress and greatly improve quality of life.
In future blogs, we will continue to explore both normal and abnormal cognitive decline, as well as what contributes to both and how to maintain safety and dignity throughout the aging process.
Over the past few days, our thoughts and prayers have been with those displaced and affected by Hurricane Harvey, and now Hurricane Irma. A devastating weather event such as this highlights the great importance of emergency preparedness. Of course, many disasters cannot be prevented, but being prepared can improve your chances of surviving such an emergency.
September has become known as National Emergency Preparedness Month, a time when we are encouraged to create plans for evacuation and sheltering, as well as to have necessary supplies in place. This is important for everyone, but for aging people dependent upon assistance, preparedness is even more crucial.
These steps will help you and your aging loved one prepare for an emergency:
For more information on becoming prepared, the Red Cross, Ready.gov, the CDC and FEMA are helpful resources. We wish you a safe and prepared September.
In our last blog, we discussed the importance of maintaining a healthy blood pressure. In order to do this, it is important to monitor your numbers, follow you’re doctor’s instructions, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining an active lifestyle. Also vital to treating hypertension is keeping a healthy outlook on life and minimizing stress. This is, of course, easier said than done. With that in mind, we have a few tips for keeping stress at bay.
Reducing stress is important for those addressing hypertension. The benefits also extend to managing blood sugar, dealing with chronic pain, and even coping with memory loss. Aging individuals, as well as their caregivers and other loved ones can reap the positive effects of dealing with stress well.
According to the CDC, one in every three adults has high blood pressure. As people age, the likelihood of developing high blood pressure increases. In fact, 64% of men and nearly 70% of women aged 65-74 have high blood pressure. For those 75 and over, the risk increases to 66.7 and 78.5 percent, respectively.
Blood pressure is the force of blood against artery walls as it circulates through the body. A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg. Many people are unaware that they have high blood pressure, as there are no visible symptoms. High blood pressure increases the risk for several dangerous health conditions, including heart attack, stroke, chronic heart failure and kidney disease.
If you or your loved one is at risk for high blood pressure, take these steps:
Don’t take hypertension lightly, in yourself or your aging loved one. Keep an open dialogue with health care providers, and live a healthier, longer life with those you love.
Something very exciting is coming soon to the area! In just a little less than a month, we will experience a spectacular event. A total eclipse of the sun is coming on August 21, 2017. The moon will completely cover the sun. According to NASA, those in the path of totality will be able to see the sun’s tenuous atmosphere, the corona. In the AccuCare Home Health Care area, we are very fortunate.
Missouri residents have a wide range of options for viewing the eclipse. St. Louis is along the northern edge of the eclipse. The further south in the metropolitan area, the better the view. Many areas south of the city will begin seeing the visible partial eclipse before noon and will experience around two and a half minutes of total eclipse, beginning after 1:00 pm. If you and your loved ones plan on viewing this phenomenon, now is the time to discover the details of the eclipse in your town and get your protective glasses.
This is the first total solar eclipse visible to us in our country in many years! Your aging loved one may remember other total eclipses, so this is a great opportunity to take a trip down memory lane. If conversations about the past are enjoyable for an elderly person in your life, take the time to ask questions and explore the history of these events in the United States.
This is truly a once in a lifetime event! Officials are expecting more than a million people to visit Missouri. We advise you to be prepared, especially south of St. Louis. Traffic is expected to be quite heavy, and you can also expect to wait longer than usual at your favorite restaurant or even in grocery store lines. MODot has advised that people leave very early to arrive at their chosen viewing area and to be patient on the roadways. Be certain the gas tank is full before getting on the highway. Motorists are cautioned not to pull to the side of the road during the eclipse and not to drive while wearing eclipse glasses.
If your aging loved one is able, this will be a great experience to share. Be sure to take the time to plan for the event well. Happy Eclipse viewing!
The average American worker only uses about 54% of their paid vacation time. Though 96% of people say that using their vacation time is important to them, workers in the U.S. rack up about 662 million unused days, according to Project Time Off. Financially, this results in $66 billion lost in benefits and a $236 billion loss in the economy, money that would have been spent during vacation time. The costs are higher than that for the people who forfeit vacation, as being overworked can lead to burnout, poor satisfaction, strained relationships, health problems, emotional problems, poor sleep and even increased addictions.
There are already overworked employees that come home to another full-time job, that of being a caregiver for an aging loved one. While others have left or limited their paid employment in order to care for an aging loved one, which involves many more hours than the typical 40-hour workweek. This adds up to an estimated 44 million unpaid caregivers, 40-70% of whom will experience depression. Nearly all of these caregivers report a higher level of stress. Some unfortunately also develop health problems and addiction issues; and many fail to engage in preventative care, which leads to disastrous outcomes.
Let’s make this personal. Do you need a vacation from work, caregiving, or both? Ask yourself these questions to determine the answer.
If you find yourself answering yes, it is time for a vacation. AccuCare Home Health Care of St. Louis offers a valuable service called Respite Care. Respite Care is available to provide for your aging loved one’s needs while you take that much-needed vacation or even just a short break.
Get away. Breathe. Enjoy. Then return to your paid and/or unpaid tasks with renewed focus, clarity, concentration, increased patience and decreased stress. It is so important to also take care of yourself, it’s a necessary part of being able to truly care for others.
If you and your loved one would benefit from our respite care services, contact us today to explore our program. YOU deserve it!
Summer is a time for celebration, vacation, and fun in the sun. Next week, we’ll celebrate Independence Day with parties, barbecues, swimming and fireworks. Often, aging persons find themselves staying at home or limiting activities due to health problems or other issues related to aging.
Social activity is beneficial, however, and should not be neglected. With July 4th festivities in mind, we have a few tips to make the most of the holiday for your aging loved one.
With a bit of thought and preparation, Independence Day can still be a fun and exciting holiday for aging individuals. We wish you and yours a very happy Fourth of July!