Category Archives: Awareness & Activism

Study: Women may be underdiagnosed, men overdiagnosed for MCI

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joealfaraby/Pixabay

Families who have dealt with Alzheimer’s are likely familiar with the battery of tests that loved ones go through. One of the most well-known is the clock test, where one is asked to draw a clock with a specific time. While my father never was subjected to such tests that I know of, I witnessed my mother do the clock test when she became ill. She didn’t have Alzheimer’s. The tumor in her colon had made her unable to eat, and her sodium levels were out of whack, which can induce temporary delirium. The symptoms closely mimic dementia, and it was frightening to witness in my mother, just months after my father died from Alzheimer’s complications.

My mother struggled mightily to complete the test, as I wrote about previously. If you look at examples online, some people have trouble getting the hour numbers positioned correctly, while others struggle with drawing the lines to the hour and minute. It is a surprisingly simple, but informative exercise. (I’m not sure what they will do for younger generations who only know how to tell time in digital format.)

In addition to visual tasks like the clock test, testing for dementia also involves asking a person to remember a set of simple words. The person is then asked to recall those words at various time intervals.

A new study suggests that because women generally have better verbal skills compared to men, they may be underdiagnosed when it comes to mild cognitive impairment (MCI) while men may be overdiagnosed. A misdiagnosis can have a detrimental impact, either delaying potential treatments or subjecting someone to treatments with side effects. MCI can raise the risk of developing dementia.

Additional studies are needed to confirm the findings, but for those families going through diagnostic testing for dementia, gender differences are something to keep in mind. A person’s education also can help them perform better on tests, even though their brains may show significant changes associated with dementia.

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Caregiving 101: Maintain Your Life While Maintaining Theirs — The Diary of An Alzheimer’s Caregiver

This is an excellent, detailed post for first-time caregivers. Please share with those who are embarking on a family caregiving experience.

Giving your time and resources to loved ones brings feelings of delight and satisfaction while also attracting emotions of a heavy burden. Becoming a caregiver can be an extraordinarily taxing responsibility for many individuals, and therefore should not be taken lightly …

Read full post via Caregiving 101: Maintain Your Life While Maintaining Theirs — The Diary of An Alzheimer’s Caregiver

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October 10, 2019 · 12:17 pm

Investigative series on Georgia’s senior care industry a worthwhile read

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My local newspaper (and former employer, I must disclose) has unveiled an investigative reporting project that is putting a much-needed spotlight on the rampant deficiencies in Georgia’s senior care communities. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Unprotected series recounts heartbreaking stories of abuse and neglect, how potential crimes were never reported to law enforcement and how residents are at risk no matter how upscale a community markets itself to be.

If you’ve ever had a loved one in a senior care facility, you likely will be able to relate to the reports included in this series. Families know all too well that such facilities are chronically understaffed and offer such poor pay that those with questionable backgrounds who lack professional experience are often hired. While family members struggle to pay the several thousand dollars a month that these facilities charge, their loved ones may be suffering and unable to defend themselves.

My parents spent time in care facilities in New Mexico, and I saw first-hand the deficiencies. My father suffered multiple falls and an altercation with a fellow resident at his memory care center. The center used an off-label medication to help keep the patients with severe dementia “more manageable.” It’s a common tactic used at such facilities, though of course none would admit it on record.

My mother’s facility was woefully understaffed, leading to my mother not being cleaned after soiling herself, and almost getting the wrong medication or treatment multiple times. It was only because I could be there daily as her patient advocate that further harm to her was avoided. When the laundry facilities broke down for a week, my mother had to used soiled towels and linens, putting her compromised immune system at risk of infection.

I hope you get a chance to read the Unprotected series and share with others. Encourage your local newspaper to conduct similar investigations if they haven’t already. The more that these criminal acts can be exposed, the greater chance we have in forcing changes in a corrupt system that is putting our elder loved ones at risk.

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Planning for the Future With Elders Facing Alzheimer’s or Dementia

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Alzheimer’s and other dementias can creep into a family’s life until loved ones find themselves overwhelmed and unprepared for the severity of the disease. That’s why having a care plan is so crucial. The guest post from Mile High Estate Planning offers key areas that need to be addressed.

It can be difficult to face conversations with your loved ones after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia. However, interaction with others is important for helping them retain important social and cognitive skills. And, there are some conversations that will help you care for elders facing a dementia diagnosis.

To get you started, we have put together a few questions that can help get important conversations started. We have also included some tips for effectively communicating with people living with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Planning for the Future

No matter how bleak that future may look, you still must plan for it. Consulting an attorney who specializes in Elder Law can help you decide what questions are most relevant to your family’s situation. Here are some general guidelines.

Have they completed all of the important and necessary legal documents? Talk to your loved ones about updating and finalizing wills, estates, and trusts.

Make sure that their finances are in order. This might be a good time to find out who should make financial decisions once the elder is no longer able to do it themselves. Talk to a financial planner about the best way to ensure your loved one’s wishes for their accounts are honored.

Ask what type and level of care the person wants to have as their disease progresses. Do they want to go into a nursing facility or stay at home? Is there anything that would signal whether treatments should continue or end?

Is there someone they would like to make decisions on their behalf if or when they are unable to? Be open to the idea that this person may not be you, and don’t belittle or second guess their decision.

Remembering A Life Well Lived

Now is the time to start a conversation about your loved one’s life. Ask questions to stimulate memories of special events, accomplishments, favorite places, anything they remember as important or special.

Fortunately, your conversations don’t have to focus only on the end of their life. The beginning and middle are important parts too, and should be remembered, discussed, and cherished as long as possible.

If your loved one keeps bringing up a particular hobby or interest from their past, make sure that is part of their future too. Keeping plants in the room can satisfy a love of gardening and a birdfeeder outside their window can attract wildlife for an animal or nature lover.

Keeping Lines of Communication Open

Unfortunately, dementia can make even basic communication difficult as it progresses. Your loved one may find it hard to come up with the right words or names for objects and people. Their logic may seem off, and conversations can start to flow in an unpredictable manner. Some people may revert to a native language from their younger days.

These are all normal effects of dementia and are nothing to be ashamed of. Since it is so important to keep people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease engaged, do not let these challenges dissuade you. Isolation can quickly lead to depression. Instead, follow these tips for successful communication.

Don’t assume you know what the person is capable of. Everyone will be affected by dementia in a different way. Instead, ask them what style or methods of communication are most comfortable for them. Maybe they prefer talking in person to phone calls.

Dementia slows response time, so don’t rush or force a conversation. Give the other person plenty of time to think about what you said and come up with a response on their own. This gives them the opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas without interference.

As dementia progresses, your loved one will have more trouble coming up with words. Try asking simple questions that can be answered with a yes or no response. Visual cues or written notes can be very helpful in getting ideas across.

Since they will likely have trouble concentrating, try to eliminate background noise. Also, don’t overwhelm them; ask one question at a time so they can focus on what you are saying.

Unfortunately, as the disease progresses communication will become more and more difficult. By the later stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it may be reduced to sounds or movements. Consider the feelings behind those gestures.

Focusing on What’s Important

Communication is a tool. Use it to understand what is important to your loved one as they face their diagnosis and adjust to living with the disease. Remember that there is no shame in having dementia and to always treat your loved ones with the dignity and respect they deserve.

 

Author Info

blake harris

Blake Harris is the Managing Attorney at Mile High Estate Planning where he assists clients with Wills and Trusts, Asset Protection, and Probate. Blake has extensive knowledge and experience helping families plan for and manage the transfer of their assets.

 

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4 Realistic Self-Care Strategies for Alzheimer’s Caregivers — The Diary of An Alzheimer’s Caregiver

It’s something we don’t talk enough about, but it is so important: self-care. I know that phrase has become a bit touchy in certain circles, because it can seem like you are dumping one more responsibility on an already overworked caregiver. The sad truth is that in most cases, no one is going to offer you a respite out of the blue. You have to know your limits as a caregiver, ask for help when needed and yes, take care and be kind to yourself.

Read these helpful self-care tips via the blog post below from The Diary of An Alzheimer’s Caregiver.

Sign up to get these posts and a whole lot more delivered right to your inbox! The Diary of An Alzheimer’s Caregiver – Appreciate the good, laugh at the crazy, and deal with the rest! Caregiving is hard no matter what. Alzheimer’s caregivers, however, have an especially difficult job. Not only do people with Alzheimer’s…

via 4 Realistic Self-Care Strategies for Alzheimer’s Caregivers — The Diary of An Alzheimer’s Caregiver

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August 23, 2019 · 5:27 pm

A house built for dementia

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Courtesy: BRE Group

I found this dementia housing project designed by Loughborough University and BRE to be fascinating and helpful to caregivers trying to retrofit a home for a loved one with dementia.

The BBC recently took a video tour of the completed project.

The attention to detail of where items were placed, the color scheme and the importance of natural light to combat sundowning are all excellent ways to address common issues associated with dementia. Feeling safe and comfortable can also help reduce the risk of anxiety in those with dementia. Best of all, the model still felt like a home, with the safety featured nicely integrated.

Hopefully prototypes like these can be incorporated in the real world to help families care for a loved one with dementia at home instead of having to place them in a high-priced facility.

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Falls are Game Changers for Older Adults

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This is such important information for family caregivers. To put it bluntly, a fall for a frail loved one can signal the beginning of the end. Both my mother and father experienced falls as their health situations declined. Learn more and tips on preventing falls from Kay Bransford.

via Falls are Game Changers for Older Adults

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August 9, 2019 · 8:50 pm