Category Archives: Dementia

Are You Being Helpful or Ageist for People with Dementia?

Offers of support may be perceived as bias. [Photo credit: Adobe Stock]

By Denise Logeland for Next Avenue

A few years ago, Angela Lunde, a leader in patient and caregiver education for the Mayo Clinic Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center in Rochester, Minn., sat at a table between two people who live on opposite sides of a dilemma.

On one side of Lunde was a man with early- to mid-stage Alzheimer’s disease. “He said, ‘What I really want from my community is I want somebody to feel comfortable coming up to me when I’m out and about and asking me if I need help’ if he looked confused,” Lunde recalled. read more

Would You Want to Know Your Risk of Alzheimer’s?

There’s little chance now of finding out, but that may change. [Photo credit: Adobe Stock]

By Joan Mooney for Next Avenue

If one of your parents died of Alzheimer’s or has it, what does that mean for your own prognosis? How much would you want to know about your risk of Alzheimer’s when there is currently no medical treatment?

This is not a simple question. Anyone who lives past 85 has a nearly one in three chance of developing Alzheimer’s. But what if you are in your 50s and your father had Alzheimer’s, but you have no symptoms?

Many scientists and companies are working on a blood test. read more

Treating Behavioral Symptoms of Dementia Without Drugs

Happy senior woman gazes into the eyes of a sweet beagle in a comfortable setting

There is evidence for potential solutions like aromatherapy and pet therapy.

By Emily Gurnon for Next Avenue

Most people think of dementia as affecting memory and cognition, and it certainly does. But some of the most distressing symptoms of Alzheimer’s or other dementias are behavioral and psychological.

“What takes a lot of families by surprise are the things like agitation, problems sleeping, getting up and wandering; sometimes people even become violent,” said Dr. Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Some people exhibiting these kinds of behaviors have been treated with anti-psychotic drugs, which has sparked widespread criticism. And the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has mandated a black box warning on such drugs with older adults with dementia; they are associated with an increased risk of death. read more

Tom Petty and Your End-of-Life Wishes

Tom Petty performs on stage, playing a guitar and singing

What you and your family can learn from the rock legend’s death [Photo credit: TomPetty.com]

By Elizabeth Newcomb for Next Avenue

After rock legend Tom Petty was found unconscious and in cardiac arrest Oct. 2, he could not be revived, his manager said on Petty’s official website. Petty died peacefully later that day at UCLA Medical Center. Whether his family decided to take him off life support due to a do-not-resuscitate order, as reported by another source, has not been confirmed. But the loss of the 66-year-old musician serves as a reminder that tragic events can happen no matter one’s age or seeming good health. read more

9 ways family caregivers can get a break

Here’s how to get respite care, and sometimes get help paying for it

By Sherri Snelling for Next Avenue

Finding respite care is an important part of caring for the caregiver.

Credit: Adobe Stock – Many Presbyterian Manors campuses offer caregiver support groups or respite care services.

“Respite care” can be a little difficult to understand. The words don’t make it clear who is being helped. The “care” goes to the person who needs it due to illness or disability. The “respite” — a chance to rest and recharge — goes to the family member or other volunteer who would normally be on the spot, doing the caring. As for who gets helped by this? Everybody does.

“If family caregivers don’t take the time needed to care for themselves, we will face an additional health care crisis,” says Lily Sarafan, CEO of California-based Home Care Assistance, which provides support services including respite care. “Caregiver burnout can be associated with serious health issues including depression, and yet burnout is still not recognized as a real health issue in the eyes of many caregivers. Families and communities need to develop sustainable care plans that do not just rely on a single individual.” read more

5 commonly overlooked or misdiagnosed conditions in older adults

Certain diseases are often mistaken for others. Know the differences.

By Frieda Wiley, PharmD for Next Avenue

Sometimes it's not just your age that's ailing you.

Credit: ThinkStock Learn the signs and symptoms of five commonly misdiagnosed or overlooked conditions in people age 50 and older.

It’s no mystery that time and medical conditions may accelerate changes in our bodies as we age. Eventually, some of those changes might make it more difficult to distinguish between certain conditions and the actual process of getting older.

Not only do some illnesses present differently with time, but the signs and symptoms of many of them actually start to mimic each other, making a correct diagnosis more difficult.

Here are five commonly misdiagnosed or overlooked conditions in people 50 and older along with their signs and symptoms to help guide your discussion with your doctor: read more

Too old to learn a language? Don’t believe it

As an older adult, you have skills that can help — and your brain will thank you

By Bill Ward for Next Avenue

Studies indicate that attaining a working ability to communicate in a new language may actually be easier and more rapid for the adult than for the child.

Photo Credit: Adobe Stock – Immersing ourselves in another language at whatever age expands not only our minds, but our lives.

Conventional wisdom holds that the older we get, the harder it is to learn a new language. Which is true — except when it’s not.

Turns out that while our brains might not be as quick or deft as in those halcyon days of youth, all that hard-earned experience, knowledge and discipline can come to the rescue.

Using our adult knowledge to learn a language

“[Older adults] know more about culture, about how the world works, about how our native language works,” said Lisa Frumkes, senior director of content for Rosetta Stone, an education technology software company that develops language, literacy and brain-fitness software. “So we can build on these things. We also have to have discipline when learning a language, and that is something older people have more of. Knowing how to regulate your schedule, that’s 90 percent of the exercise.” read more

Making communities friendlier for those with dementia

Making Communities Friendlier for Those With Dementia

That’s the goal for the ambitious Dementia Friendly America initiative

By Beth Baker for Next Avenue

Make-Communities-Dementia-Friendly-web

Credit: Courtesy of Paynesville (MN) ACT on Alzheimer’s Caption: Volunteers pass out laminated bookmarks with the 10 signs of Alzheimer’s at the local supermarket

Can a strong community network help ease the challenges faced by people with dementia and their families? That’s the hope of a national volunteer-driven initiative known as Dementia Friendly America (DFA), announced at the White House Conference on Aging in July.

“Our goals are to foster dementia-friendly communities that will enable people who are living with dementia and their care partners to thrive and to be independent as long as possible,” says Olivia Mastry, who’s guiding the effort. “The side benefit is that it’s beginning to normalize [Alzheimer’s], to reduce the stigma. It’s created an environment that’s allowed people to talk about this disease.” read more

The importance of listening to the person with dementia

We need to hear well before the voice is silenced by the disease

By Mike Good for Next Avenue

listeningdementia-web

Credit: Thinkstock

(Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series examining and interpreting a commonly used “bill of rights” for dementia patients.) 

People with Alzheimer’s or other dementia are an invaluable part of our society. Millions of them are brilliant, wise and actively advocating for their rights and needs.

As my friend with Alzheimer’s, David Kramer said, “It’s not something that necessarily makes us idiots.” No it doesn’t, but unfortunately the vast majority of people don’t understand the disease, and therefore, don’t know how to listen to the person with dementia. read more

4 myths about brain health and how to stay sharp

What your doctor may not know, but you should

By Leslie Kernisan, MD for Next Avenue

BrainHealth - web

Credit: Thinkstock

Want to stay mentally sharp for as long as possible?

I certainly do, and I’m guessing you do, too: an AARP survey found that 87 percent of respondents reported being very concerned about this issue.

And in April, a highly influential nonprofit released a new report whose recommendations represent the best available medical knowledge on how our brains change as we age and what we can do about this.