Browse Category: DailyCaring

The SAGE Test: 15 Minute At-Home Test for Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's test

Simple home test detects signs of early Alzheimer’s
If you suspect that your older adult is having problems with memory, thinking, or judgement, you may want them to take the SAGE test for dementia. This at-home pen-and-paper test is free, takes just 15 minutes, and accurately identifies early symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

And if the stress and exhaustion of caregiving are making you feel like your brain isn’t working anymore, this quick test can reassure you that there’s no problem with your cognitive function.

Why get an early Alzheimer’s diagnosis?
Alzheimer’s and dementia are incurable conditions so it might seem useless to get diagnosed. Many people would just rather not know. But an early Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis has significant benefits. The most important is that a treatable condition could be the cause of cognitive impairment. Finding out sooner means getting treatment ASAP to eliminate the cognitive symptoms.

If the cognitive impairment is caused by Alzheimer’s or dementia, a major benefit is that starting treatments early is far more effective in managing symptoms and delaying progression of the disease.

How the SAGE test for dementia works
SAGE stands for Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination and was developed by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. The SAGE test has 12 questions that cover all aspects of cognition, including memory, problem solving, and language. Continue Reading

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Bathroom Safety Tips for Seniors

bathroom caution sign

Bathroom safety is a top issue for seniors
Did you know that people use the toilet 7 times a day on average? That’s why bathroom safety for seniors is so important — they’re in there all the time!

Balance issues, weakness, frailty, and cognitive issues like Alzheimer’s can make that simple activity difficult and even dangerous. As challenging as using the toilet might be, it’s also important to help them preserve as much dignity and independence as possible. Simple tips and modifications can make going to the bathroom safer, easier, and less tiring.

Why bathrooms are dangerous
Bathrooms are dangerous because they are small spaces with lots of hard surfaces and corners. On top of that, sitting down and standing up can cause dizziness or unsteady balance for seniors because of blood pressure changes. That could easily lead to a devastating fall.

4 simple bathroom safety tips for seniors

  1. Clear the path to the bathroom and make sure it’s well-lit day
    and night
  • Remove clutter or objects along the path.
  • Add automatic nightlights or stick-on lights.
  • Remove any rugs or floor mats. It’s easy to trip or slip on them.
  • If the bathroom door has a raised threshold (on the floor), get your older adult in the habit of sidestepping over it — that reduces the chance of tripping.

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Solve Senior Sleep Problems: Leg Cramps

Man with leg cramps

A common cause of senior nighttime waking
Waking up because your senior needs help at night is exhausting and frustrating. We’ve discussed possible reasons for senior sleep issues before. Here, we’ll focus on one common cause of nighttime waking, leg cramps.

What are nighttime leg cramps?
Nighttime leg cramps are when muscles suddenly tighten up. This is common in calf, thigh, or foot muscles. It’s very painful and can jolt somebody out of a sound sleep. Another term for leg cramps is “charley horse.”

How do I know if it’s happening?
When your senior wakes, calmly ask what woke them up. You may need to wait patiently for them to think before answering. Don’t distract them by being annoyed or angry — they might forget the real reason.

If your older adult can’t communicate what’s wrong, an obvious sign is if they look like they’re in pain and they grab, point, or massage a certain part of their leg. Another sign is if they can’t successfully stand until their leg muscles are able to relax. You may even be able to see or feel a super-tight muscle.

What can I do during the night?
Here’s how to soothe a leg cramp so your senior can relax and go back to sleep. Continue Reading

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When Should Seniors Stop Driving?

Image of elder driver and her frightened passenger

Driving is a sensitive subject for seniors
In a recent article, USA Today tackled the difficult subject of asking your parents to give up driving. Many caregivers say this is one of the hardest conversations to have.

Why seniors won’t give up driving
Many older adults absolutely refuse to give up their car keys, even if they’ve had a string of accidents or close calls. They resist because not driving means losing their independence. It also means admitting that they’re getting old and becoming less capable.

Imagine how it would feel to have to ask for a ride to go anywhere and being at the mercy of other people’s schedules. After a lifetime of independence, that’s pretty hard to swallow. 

Get a fair evaluation before jumping to conclusions
Your senior could be a safer driver than you think. Your senior might have already cut back on travel distance from home or driving at night. It could be a good idea to get a fair evaluation of their driving abilities before asking for the keys. AAA has a website with tools and resources for evaluating an older person’s driving ability.

Caregivers need to offer alternatives to driving
Keep in mind, if you ask seniors to give up their keys, they’ll still need to get around. Continuing to participate in the community is an important part of preventing the negative health effects of social isolation.

You’ll need to find convenient (and safe) transportation services, arrange for regular rides, or become a part-time chauffeur. Together, make a list of regular and special occassion rides. These might include shopping, hair salon or barber, church, friends, relatives, favorite restaurants — keep going — cemetery, flower store, and more. 

Tips for successful conversations about giving up driving
Before you have a conversation about giving up driving, think of a few different ways you could approach the subject. It’s going to backfire if you try to give an order or ultimatum. Because it’s such an emotional subject, straightforward logic won’t always work either. Continue Reading

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Free Coloring Pages for Seniors: Our Top 5 Picks

Image of colorful coloring book

Coloring relieves stress
Coloring may sound like a simple activity, but more and more people are discovering that it’s an effective stress reliever and mood booster. Some psychologists have even said that coloring is a form of meditation.

Creative activities benefit seniors
For older adults, a research study shows that engaging in creative activities like coloring can improve their health, lead to fewer doctor visits, reduce medication, and decrease the number of health problems.

You can benefit from coloring too! It’s a quick and inexpensive way to help you relax and engage in a fun and creative activity for as much or as little time as you have.

Free coloring pages for seniors
Thanks to its recent popularity, there are hundreds of free coloring pages available online. Here are 5 sites with great options for older adults. The coloring pages are easy to print and use anytime!

  1. Coloring Pages for Adults
    This site has hundreds of coloring pages in a variety of themes and topics.  Browse the website hereWe especially like these flowersfamous artwork, and peaceful landscapes
  1. Everything Etsy
    Choose from 12 different designs — along with regular designs, there are bookmarks and inspirational quotes. Browse the website here
  1. Coloring. WS Spring Theme
    Some older adults will appreciate these simpler spring-themed designs. Browse the website here
  1. Free Coloring Pages
    This site has a range of designs, from simple to more complex. Browse the website hereWe like these flowers, birds, and animals.
  1. Crayola
    Crayola also has a selection of free coloring pages in a wide range of themes and complexity. Use the menu on the left to browse the categories. Browse the website hereThere are Disney characters for lifelong Disney enthusiasts — here’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Easter eggs are a more complex design. The bee and flowers or Nascar stockcar are medium in difficulty. This ocean theme page is simple and fun

By DailyCaring.com
Image: HubPages

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Solve Foot Pain with Adaptive Shoes for Seniors

shoes Photo

 

Everyone needs comfortable shoes
To maintain their health, it’s important for older adults to be as active and mobile as possible. They also need to be stable and safe while on their feet. That’s why comfortable, well-fitting shoes are essential for all seniors. Also, it’s pretty tough to be happy and have good quality of life if your feet hurt all the time!

Many seniors need special shoes
Aging and health conditions (like diabetes, arthritis, bunions, or swelling) can cause changes in your older adult’s feet. This might make regular shoes difficult to put on or uncomfortable to wear. The solution is to find special shoes that adapt to their needs.

What to look for in adaptive shoes
In general, adaptive shoes for seniors should have:

  • Non-slip or non-skid soles to help prevent falls
  • Easy open and close fastener
  • Wider opening so it’s easy to get feet into shoes
  • Extra padding for comfort

Adaptive shoe and slipper options

  1. Silvert’s
    Silvert’s specializes in adaptive clothing and footwear. They have a nice selection of adaptive shoes, slippers, and socks for women and men. They also have an excellent return policy because they know caregivers are usually doing the purchasing for an older adult. See all the footwear at Silvert’s >
  1. Buck & Buck
    Buck & Buck is another well-known retailer of adaptive clothing and shoes. Their customer service is friendly and helpful and they also have a good return policy.

    Women’s ShoesSlippersSocks
    Men’s ShoesSlippersSocks

  1. New technology from Nike
    Nike launched a new type of sneaker that’s inspired by a young man with cerebral palsy. They’re designed to be easy to get on and off with one hand so people with disabilities can put on and take off their shoes independently. The Nike Flyease sneaker line has options for men and women. These are great for people who enjoy wearing athletic shoes, but need assistance to put them on and take them off.

Shoehorns are a big help!
Sometimes, bending over to put shoes on is half the battle. These sturdy, long shoehorns make putting on shoes easier and safer.

Support socks
Bunions can be removed by surgery, but that is not the only solution! There are special shoes, pads, toe separators, arch supports and support socks that provide comfort and relief.

Bottom line
Check with your older adult to make sure they’re truly comfortable and safe in their current shoes. If not, consider one of these adaptive options or adding a long shoehorn to make life easier.

By DailyCaring.com
Image: Amazon, AmberCity, Silvert’s

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Visiting Aging Parents for the Holidays

Visiting Family
Take advantage of your holiday visit
During the holidays, many of us will be visiting aging parents. It’s a perfect time to observe them in their “natural habitat” — you’ll see how they’re really doing. Plus, these tips help you focus on important details that will make a big difference in the long run.

  1. Discreetly check on independent parents
    When your parents are living independently, the holidays are a great time to discreetly check on them. If you do this every year and keep a few notes, you’ll be able to spot changes more easily in the future.Try our handy printable PDF checklist that helps you evaluate any changes in their physical, mental, and emotional health.
  1. Spend an afternoon on home safety updates
    While you’re visiting, you might have an opportunity to make a few simple safety updates. These easy fixes don’t take much time and will help your parents avoid common accidents so they can stay independent longer. They don’t take a lot of time, but they’re very effective.

Try these:

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Watch Out for 5 Common Diabetes Complications

Diabetes Warning sign

Diabetes can cause health complications
Diabetes in older adults is associated with increased risk of other serious medical conditions like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and falls.

Today, more than 25% of the US population aged 65 and over have diabetes. The link between diabetes and other serious health issues is a likely reason why so many older adults have multiple health conditions.

Why does diabetes cause other health problems?
Diabetes is a disease where the level of glucose in the blood (also called blood sugar) is too high. This can happen when the body doesn’t make enough insulin.

Insulin moves glucose from the blood into the cells of the body. But when there isn’t enough insulin, glucose doesn’t get into the cells and builds up in the blood. This causes symptoms like extreme thirst or hunger, frequent need to urinate, and fatigue.

Over time, high blood glucose seriously damages the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, gums, teeth, nerves, and blood vessels.

This can lead to health complications like heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney disease, nerve problems, gum infections, and amputation. People with diabetes are also more likely to have heart disease or a stroke and at an earlier age.

Here, we talk about the 5 most common diabetes complications.

5 common diabetes complications

  1. Heart disease
    Heart diseases are more likely to occur in older adults with diabetes. Talk with the doctor to get prevention tips, learn about symptoms to watch for, and find out about treatment options for someone who has both diabetes and heart diseases.
  1. Alzheimer’s & dementia
    Alzheimer’s and dementia are twice as likely to occur in patients with diabetes. If you notice unusual behavior or recurring memory or cognitive problems, visit the doctor for a full evaluation.
  1. Falls & fractures
    Diabetes and related conditions that make physical movement more difficult are associated with higher risk of falls and fractures. Stay on top of this by asking their doctor to regularly evaluate your senior’s fall risk.
  1. Multiple medications
    Diabetic older adults often use 6 or more prescription medications. Because so many medicines are being taken, people with diabetes have a higher risk of side effects and drug interactions. Ask the doctor to do a comprehensive medication and supplement review on a regular basis.
  1. Other complications
    Depression, vision or hearing impairment, and incontinence are additional medical conditions that are more likely to occur in people with diabetes. Be aware that these conditions may be related to diabetes and get symptoms checked by a doctor.

Bottom line
These 5 medical complications are seen at a much higher rate among older adults with diabetes.

If you notice your senior developing new symptoms or see signs of these complications, talk to their doctor ASAP to find out what’s causing the problem. Early detection and treatment can make a big difference in quality of life and treatment options.

By DailyCaring.com
Sources: NIH Senior Health, American Diabetes Association & American Geriatrics Society
Image: Your Lighter Side

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Ways to Respond to Repetitive Questions

questionsPeople with Alzheimer’s may repeat things…a lot
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias cause problems with short-term memory. This can lead to repetitive behaviors, like asking the same question over and over again.

Your older adult isn’t doing it on purpose to annoy you, they truly have no memory of asking the first or twenty-third time.

You might be able to answer patiently the first few times, but after hearing the same thing a dozen times, it’s natural to lose your temper. That’s why it’s important to arm yourself with kind techniques that stop the flow of questions before you get too frustrated.

Why someone with Alzheimer’s repeats questions
Repetitive behaviors are often caused by stress, anxiety, frustration, or fear. People with Alzheimer’s or dementia are often unsure of what’s happening, where they are, or what time or day it is. Those are pretty unsettling feelings.

Your senior isn’t repeating questions because they need the information. They’re asking because they’re feeling stressed or anxious and need reassurance.

4 ways to respond when someone with Alzheimer’s is repeating questions

  1. Respond to the emotions, not the words
    When your older adult starts to repeat a question over and over, try to guess what feelings might be causing the behavior. If they might be feeling anxious, giving a brief hug or hand squeeze while calmly answering the question may soothe them enough to stop their need to keep asking.
  1. Keep your answers brief
    It’s tempting to answer a question from a person with Alzheimer’s the same way you’d answer anybody else. But the shorter and simpler your answer, the better. It saves you time and energy and reduces your exasperation when you have to repeat it five more times.

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Brushing Someone’s Teeth is Difficult with Alzheimer’s

woman helping Alzheimer's patient brush teeth

Brushing someone’s teeth is difficult
If you’ve ever tried to help someone with Alzheimer’s brush their teeth, you know it’s incredibly difficult.

Very few people are willing to sit quietly and allow someone else to stick things in their mouth. Think of how you’d react if someone tried to do that to you! They’re not trying to be difficult, it’s human instinct to resist.

Poor dental care leads to unwanted complications
However, if your older adult has Alzheimer’s or dementia and can’t properly brush their own teeth, they’ll need your help. Otherwise, their dental health will suffer and that will lead to unwanted complications.

Aside from the health problems associated with poor dental health, can you imagine having to take your senior with dementia to get a cavity filled or tooth extracted? Nightmare!!

Dementia care expert shows how to brush someone else’s teeth
Teepa Snow is a leading expert in dementia care. She has impressive credentials and when you watch her videos, you can clearly see why she’s in such high demand as a dementia educator. She really knows what she’s talking about!

In this 2 minute video, Teepa shows how to successfully brush someone else’s teeth by calming and distracting those natural instincts to resist. She demonstrates on an audience volunteer and explains why her techniques work.

Teepa’s 3 key tips for brushing someone’s teeth
It’s best to watch this brief video to see Teepa’s techniques in action so you can use them yourself, but here’s a summary of her 3 key tips from the video. Continue Reading

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Family in Denial About Seniors Needing Help?

Family denial

 

When family doesn’t believe your senior needs help
Family caregivers are often frustrated by relatives who are in denial about their older adult’s declining health. Whether it’s about Alzheimer’s, fall risk, or post-stroke recovery, their denial can make you feel angry, stressed out, and frustrated.

Why are they in denial?
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Denial is a coping mechanism that gives you time to adjust to distressing situations.” Asking someone to change how they see your older adult threatens their whole world. That’s usually why people fall back on denial.

It’s safe and comfortable to pretend that everything is fine and nothing is changing. For some, denial is a subconscious way to ignore the fact that their parent is declining. For others, it’s a way to avoid taking on caregiving responsibilities.

3 ways to deal with family in denial

  1. Stay calm and be the bigger person
    Family in denial about seniors needing help are incredibly frustrating. Even if you really don’t want to bite your tongue, it helps to stay calm and be the bigger person.Do your best to be kind and understanding when speaking with someone in denial. Showing anger or being sarcastic will only make them dig their heels in deeper or feel justified in resisting.
  1. Be ready with educational information
    Sometimes denial comes from not fully understanding the situation. Give them educational information that explains your older adult’s condition, typical symptoms, and the type of care they’ll most likely need.For example, your brother may have no idea how Alzheimer’s or dementia affects people besides the stereotypical memory loss or confusion. So, he takes mom’s side when she insists that she’s still perfectly capable of driving her car.Rather than arguing, show him the doctor’s report stating that she should no longer drive because of her advancing Alzheimer’s condition. And, point him to trusted sources of information about Alzheimer’s and dementia — like Alzheimer’s Association or here on DailyCaring.
  1. Meet together with an expert
    Some family members may not believe you, but might listen to an impartial expert. Offer to go together to talk with the doctor about your dad’s health and care needs. Or, invite a geriatric care manager, elder mediator, or spiritual leader who understands the situation to attend a family meeting.

Bottom line
It’s not fair that you have to be the voice of reason on top of everything else, but these 3 techniques will help convince family members that your senior needs caregiving help.

If you can’t break through someone’s denial, you can at least move on and make decisions without their input, knowing you did your best to help them understand.

By Connie Chow, Contributing Writer and Founder of DailyCaring.com
Image: Care Compare

Photo of Connie Chow, founder of DailyCaring

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Seniors and Caregivers Should Get a Flu Shot Today

Woman with FLU blowing her nose
Flu season is here and seniors and caregivers are vulnerable.
Cold and flu season is upon us again. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone should get vaccinated before the end of October, but anytime is better than not getting a shot at all.

Getting a flu shot reduces the chance that you, your older adult, and your family will get sick.

Two of the most vulnerable populations are seniors and caregivers. That’s because older adults’ immune systems are weaker due to age and because chronic stress impairs caregivers’ immune systems. Plus, spending a lot of time with each other means you’re more likely to pass germs back and forth.

We share 4 key reasons why seniors and caregivers should get a flu shot as soon as possible.

  1. Avoid serious health complications for seniors
    For seniors, the flu can be a severe illness and may cause death. 90% of flu-related deaths and more than 50% of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and up. The CDC recommends a high-dose shot for seniors.
  1. The shot needs 2 weeks to become effective
    Flu activity starts as early as October. After getting the shot, it takes about 2 weeks for the protective flu antibodies to develop in the body. So, the sooner you and your older adult get the shot, the sooner you’ll have protection against the flu.
  1. Getting a flu shot is quick, convenient, and free
    Flu shots are now available in many convenient locations.

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Improve Senior Dental Health and Reduce Heart Disease and Alzheimer’s

Seniors brushing teeth
Poor dental health leads to serious health conditions
When taking care of older adults, dental care isn’t just something that’s nice to have. Dental health seriously affects overall physical health, nutrition, and well-being. Poor dental health is also associated with increased risk for heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other serious conditions.

But senior dental care isn’t always easy, especially for those with serious health conditions. We’ve got 3 tips that make it easier for older adults to practice good dental hygiene.

3 ways to help seniors keep their mouths healthy

  1. Switch to an electric toothbrush
    Arthritis, hand tremors, or weakness can make it nearly impossible to brush teeth thoroughly. To make it easier, switch to an electric (automatic) toothbrush. Less hand strength and control are needed and it takes the work out of brushing. Some toothbrushes even have built-in timers so there’s no need to guess how long to brush.

Some options:

  1. Brush or rinse after meals
    Seniors tend to have less saliva because of medication side effects and the natural effects of aging. After meals, trapped food particles can quickly become bacteria breeding grounds. Minimize bacteria in your older adult’s mouth by getting them into the habit of brushing (or at least rinsing) about 30 to 60 minutes after eating. Fortunately, that’s most likely when they’ll need to use the toilet anyway.
  1. Change to a salt water rinse
    Using salt water to rinse the mouth instead of plain water is a very effective way to improve senior dental health. Just add about a half teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water, stir, and rinse! A salt water rinse increases the pH balance of the mouth. This makes it more difficult for bacteria to grow. It’s less irritating to the mouth than a store-bought mouthwash — and cheaper too!

Bottom line
Keeping your older adult’s mouth healthy is just as important as caring for the rest of their body.

A healthy mouth helps seniors keep more of their natural teeth so it’s easier to eat, reduces the risk of pain and inflammation, and reduces risk of serious conditions like heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

 

By Connie Chow, Contributing Writer and Founder of DailyCaring.com
Image: Westgate Family Dental

Photo of Connie Chow, founder of DailyCaring

 

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Alzheimer’s Fidget Quilts Keep Hands Busy

Activity quilt

Alzheimer’s can cause busy hands
Your older adult with Alzheimer’s or dementia may show anxiety or agitation through fidgety hands. Signs include pulling or rubbing at clothes or bedding, rubbing hands together, tapping fingers, twisting fingers, wringing hands, and generally keeping hands in motion.

Sensory therapy or fidget toys are an effective way to reduce anxiety, calm nerves, and provide comfort. These are simple touch-based activities that help someone with Alzheimer’s keep hands busy in safe, soothing ways.

We have 6 suggestions to help your older adult stay calm and comforted.

Choose safe activities
It’s important to find activities that are safe. You know your older adult best and can choose what works best for them.

For example, some older adults tend to put things in their mouth. If that’s the case, avoid small objects that could become a choking hazard. Other seniors may like to tie strings around fingers (or necks!) and restrict circulation. If that’s true for your older adult, avoid anything with long ribbon or string.

6 ways to help seniors with Alzheimer’s keep hands busy

  1. Buy or make a fidget blanket

DailyCaring tip: For a quick DIY fidget blanket with minimal sewing, start with a fluffy bath towel or large piece of soft fleece and securely sew on a variety of embellishments. Browse the ready-made ones above to get inspiration!

  1. Try affordable sensory toys

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Art Therapy Activities for Dementia: MnemeTherapy

Painting of flowers in a vase

Art therapy activities for dementia
Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia benefit from creative activities like art and music. Music reduces agitation and boosts mood. Art projects give a sense of accomplishment and purpose and also allow seniors to express themselves non-verbally.

A specialized type of art therapy for dementia is called MnemeTherapy (pronounced “nemma” therapy). It combines art, song, and movement to stimulate the brain. MnemeTherapy can help older adults who have Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, brain trauma, stroke, MS, or other cognitive issues.

Using this combination of activities is thought to stimulate the brain to adapt and rebuild lost function by reorienting and remapping it. Some seniors who have done MnemeTherapy have shown significant improvement in verbal skills, mobility, and reduced combativeness.

See what a MnemeTherapy session is like
Evelyn is an 89 year old woman with Alzheimer’s disease. The home care agency who takes care of her offers specialized art therapy through their partnership with Paulette, a certified MnemeTherapy instructor. Evelyn enjoys weekly sessions with Paulette and gave us a peek into her experience.

Warm up
Paulette visits Evelyn weekly in her home for one hour. They start the session sitting face-to-face. To warm up, Paulette takes Evelyn’s hands and swings them left to right as she leads her in the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” This activity is intended to stimulate word memory.

Then, she asks Evelyn to “high five” her with one hand and then the other, engaging her in a game of “patty cake.” Next, Paulette holds up two fingers and moves them from left to right asking her how many fingers she’s holding. She then flutters her fingers like a butterfly and asks Evelyn to capture it.

These might sound like random games, but according to MnemeTherapy principles, each session is tailored for the client’s specific cognitive or physical challenges. Continue Reading

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How Is Dementia Diagnosed? A Geriatrician Explains

ALZ Diagnose

Geriatrician explains how dementia is diagnosed
Dr. Leslie Kernisan, a San Francisco Bay Area geriatrician, is often asked by family members if their older adult has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Because so many people have asked “how is dementia diagnosed?” she wrote an article explaining how doctors typically evaluate someone for dementia.

In the full article, she describes the basic diagnostic tests, what types of information are needed, and how long it will take. Here are the key points from her article.

5 key features of dementia
Dr. Kernisan explains the issues that people with dementia will experience.

  • Difficulty with one or more types of mental function, like learning, memory, language, judgement
  • Problems that are a change compared to the person’s usual abilities
  • Problems that make it difficult for them to manage everyday life responsibilities, like work or family
  • Problems that aren’t caused by another mental disorder, like depression

5 steps doctors take to diagnose dementia
Doctors typically go through 5 areas of evaluation to figure out whether someone has dementia. The doctor needs to check each area and document what they find.

  1. Difficulty with mental functions
    Usually evaluated with a combination of an office-based cognitive test and finding out about real-world problems by talking with their patient and people close to them.
  1. Decline from previous level of ability
    This can be harder for a doctor to determine, so they need to talk with people who know their patient well to understand their previous abilities versus what they can do today. For example, if a former accountant can no longer do basic math, that’s a decline from their previous ability.
  1. Impairment of daily life function
    This can also be tough to see right away. The doctor will ask about what types of help the person is getting in their daily life and what problems family members have seen.

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7 Ways to Respond to Mean Dementia Behavior

ALZheimer's mean image

Seniors with dementia sometimes say hurtful things
When you’re caring for an older adult with Alzheimer’s or dementia, they might sometimes make mean comments, use hurtful words, or accuse you of terrible (and untrue) things. Of course, this is devastating to hear!

The most important thing to remember is that the disease is causing the behavior. Your senior isn’t saying these things to purposely hurt you.

But trying to keep that in mind while they’re yelling isn’t very helpful. We’ve got 7 tips to help you manage this difficult behavior and reduce the stress and resentment it causes.

Understand why someone with dementia is saying mean things
First, it’s important to understand why this hurtful behavior is happening. Mean comments or hurtful accusations are usually triggered by something in their environment that causes discomfort, pain, fear, anxiety, helplessness, confusion, or frustration.

Dementia is a brain disease that causes parts of the brain to shrink and lose their function. Different parts control different functions like memory, personality, behavior, and speech. Dementia also damages the ability to control impulses, which means actions aren’t intentional.

Even though it’s difficult, do your best to remember that they truly don’t mean the mean things they say. This behavior often happens because they’re unable to express what’s actually bothering them. Accepting that they’re not doing this on purpose reduces your stress and makes the behavior easier to manage.

7 ways to manage mean dementia behavior

  1. Calm the situation down
    The first thing to do is bring the tension level down. You can do this by limiting the distractions in the room, like turning off the TV or asking others to leave.If you stay calm, they’re more likely to calm down. It might help to count to 10 or even leave the room for a short time to cool down. Repeat to yourself “it’s the disease” as a reminder that they’re not intentionally doing this.If the current activity seemed to cause the agitation, try shifting to a more pleasant, calming activity. Or, try soft music or a gentle massage.
  1. Comfort and reassure while checking for causes of discomfort or fear
    Take a deep breath, don’t argue, and use a calm, soothing voice to reassure and comfort your older adult. It also helps to speak slowly and use short, direct sentencesThen, check for possible causes of agitation or fear, like:
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Signs of overstimulation
  • Feeling disturbed by strange surroundings
  • Being overwhelmed by complicated tasks
  • Frustration because of the inability to communicate

It also helps to focus on their emotions rather than their specific words or actions. Look for the feelings behind what they’re doing as a way to identify the cause.

  1. Keep track of and avoid possible triggers
    Whenever difficult behavior comes up, write down what happened, the time, and the date in a dedicated notebook. Also think about what was going on just before the behavior started and write that down as a possible trigger. Having everything in one notebook helps you find possible causes for the behavior.For example, if your notes show that your older adult gets angry and starts calling you names around 4pm on most days, it could be because they haven’t eaten since noon and they’re hungry. They may not realize it or don’t know how to ask for food. To test your theory, try giving them a snack around 3:30pm to see if that helps prevent the outbursts.

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Hearing Loss in Seniors: 10 Common Signs

cartoon couple on couch
Hearing loss increases with age
Age-related hearing loss is called presbycusis. Slow and steady hearing loss is caused by changes in the inner ear due to aging.

The older someone is, the more likely they are to experience hearing loss:

  • Nearly 1 out of 3 people over age 65 have some type of hearing loss.
  • In an AARP/ASHA poll of AARP members, 47% of respondents reported having untreated hearing loss.

10 signs of a hearing problem
Hearing loss can’t be seen, so it’s usually noticed as a change in behavior. Family is often the first to notice that their senior is having trouble hearing.

You might notice that your older adult frequently asks you to repeat yourself, the TV volume is very loud, or they complain that you always mumble.

10 common signs of hearing loss in seniors

  1. Having a problem hearing over the telephone
  2. Having trouble following the conversation when two or more people talk at the same time
  3. Turning the TV volume up too high
  4. Straining to understand conversation
  5. Having trouble hearing in a noisy background, like in a restaurant
  6. Complaining of dizziness, pain, or ringing in their ears
  7. Frequently asking people to repeat themselves
  8. Complaining that other people mumble or don’t speak clearly
  9. Misunderstanding what people say and not answering in an
    expected way
  10. Having trouble understanding when women or children talk

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Dehydration in Elderly is Dangerous

two people drinking water
Dehydration is dangerous for seniors
Dehydration is a common and very serious condition in older adults. Seniors can actually die from being dehydrated!

Dehydration in older adults can cause other major health problems like kidney stones, blood clot complications, passing out, rapid but weak pulse, and lowered blood pressure. Being hydrated is also very important for certain medications to work properly.

It’s a common problem
In one study, 31% of residents in a long-term care facility were dehydrated. In a related study, 48% of older adults who were admitted to the hospital after being treated in the emergency room had signs of dehydration in their lab tests.

Why do seniors get dehydrated?
There are many factors that make seniors more likely to become dehydrated.

Common reasons include:

  • Being less sensitive to the feeling of being thirsty
  • Decreased ability to keep fluid levels in balance
  • Kidneys are less efficient, so urine has more water
  • Common medications (like those for blood pressure) flushing water from the body
  • Medications causing side effects like diarrhea or excessive sweating

How much water do seniors need?
A useful rule of thumb for how much water to drink every day is to take one-third of the person’s body weight in pounds and drink that number of ounces of water. Continue Reading

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Should My Older Adult See a Geriatrician?

Image of Geriatrician - a doctor who specializes in senior health.
What is a geriatrician?
A geriatrician is a doctor who specializes in caring for people 65 and older. They’re doctors of internal medicine or family medicine who do an extra 1 or 2 years of training in areas related to elder care.

The additional training helps them to better care for conditions like memory loss, arthritis, osteoporosis, mobility, and Alzheimer’s disease.

What’s the difference between a geriatrician and regular doctor
Regular doctors like internal or family medicine doctors are more likely to have a majority of patients in the 30 to 60 age range.

Because geriatricians see more older people, they are more familiar with issues that are more common to aging adults. They also have more experience with how older adult bodies respond to different treatments. Internal or family medicine doctors might have to make educated guesses based on their experience with younger patients.

It’s similar to how pediatricians specialize in caring for children. In a lifetime, someone could start with a pediatrician, change to an internal medicine doctor, and then switch to a geriatrician.

Should my older adult see a geriatrician?
Older adults who have more health issues may want to see a geriatrician because they’ll most likely have more experience treating multiple health problems.

Geriatricians also tend to collect lots of information about patients’ lifestyles, community, family, and their entire medical history. This is more than what typical internal medicine doctors ask about.

Because they ask patients additional questions, geriatricians can dig deeper to find out if issues are actually caused by non-age related illness or injury rather than chalking it up to getting older.

Of course, if your older adult’s current doctor has plenty of experience with their health conditions and you’re happy with the care they provide, there’s no need to switch.

Next Step > Find a geriatrician in your area

 

Photo of Connie Chow, founder of DailyCaring
By Connie Chow, Contributing Writer and Founder of
DailyCaring.com
Image: Myeloma Crowd

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Why Do Seniors Shuffle When They Walk?

image of shuffling woman

– Question –
My mom has started shuffling and sliding her feet when she walks. I always remind her to pick up her feet, but she keeps ignoring me! It’s so annoying! Why does she refuse to walk normally?

– Answer –
Asking your mom to pick up her feet and walk normally isn’t likely to work. Why? Because there’s probably something causing her to shuffle. To help her walk more normally (and safely!), the first step is to find the cause.

10 common reasons seniors shuffle when they walk:

  1. Weak hips and leg muscles
  2. Arthritis pain in joints
  3. Loss of flexibility in feet making it hard to flex them normally
  4. Decreased ability to maintain balance
  5. Decreased vision making it hard to see
  6. Fear because of a recent stumble or fall
  7. Slow reaction time when unbalanced which increases fear of falling
  8. Medication side effects
  9. Worn or poorly-fitting shoes or slippers
  10. Slippery floors

Serious medical conditions, like Parkinson’s or dementia, could also cause your mom to shuffle or walk unsteadily. To make sure her shuffling isn’t caused by a health condition or medication, it’s best to get a check-up from the doctor.

A shuffling walk increases senior fall risk
If your mom is shuffling, dragging, or generally not lifting her feet off the ground when walking, she’s at greater risk of falling. Continue Reading

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Check Medications for Dangerous Drug Interactions

pile of pills
Older adults are at greater risk for drug interactions
Because older adults typically take multiple medications for various health conditions, managing their medication routine can be a balancing act.

Many drugs will interact with each other, food, or supplements. Even if the interaction isn’t fatal, it can affect how well the medication will work or the experience of side effects.

Medscape drug interactions checker
We like using the MedScape drug interactions checker. It’s quick, easy to use, and also includes many vitamins and supplements.

It clearly alerts you to drug interactions in your medication list and how dangerous it is — from minor to serious. Popular foods with known interactions. like grapefruit, are also included.

Drug interaction checker

Discuss all medications with doctors
If your older adult sees multiple doctors, make sure each doctor reviews their complete list of medications, vitamins, and supplements. Continue Reading

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10 Arthritis Aids To Preserve Independence

painful looking arthritis hands
Arthritis can make everyday tasks impossible
Did you know that almost half of adults 65 years old or older have arthritisArthritis pain and stiffness can make normal activities like buttoning a shirt, writing a note, turning on the light, or eating a meal very difficult or impossible. For an otherwise healthy older adult, these limitations can be extremely frustrating.

Seniors and caregivers regularly search, find or create arthritis aids and like us, are always alert for ways to improve quality of life as we age. Not all handy aids are expensive, specially-designed products. However, here are a few gadgets you might like to know about.

10 arthritis aids help seniors stay independent
We found 10 useful arthritis products that make activities of daily living easier for seniors. Being able to accomplish tasks independently boosts self-esteem and improves mood. Plus, there will be fewer things they’ll need your help with!

button hook demonstration

  1. $9 Zipper pull and button hook
    Button shirts and close zippers independently with an easy-grip tool.sock aid image

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Why Do Seniors Have Trouble Swallowing?

Man swallowing water
Swallowing problems are more common in seniors
Some older adults have trouble swallowing food or liquids. This serious condition is called dysphagia and could cause malnutrition, dehydration, or aspiration pneumonia. It can also make mealtime a scary experience for both you and your senior.

What is dysphagia?
Dysphagia means difficulty swallowing and is pronounced dis-fay-gee-ah (hear the word here).

It can happen at any age, but is more common in older adults, especially those with acid reflux. It’s estimated that 15% of seniors and up to 68% of nursing home residents are affected by dysphagia.

Why you should be concerned about swallowing problems
Dysphagia is important to know about because it can cause many serious health problems for seniors, including:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Not taking medication properly
  • Aspiration pneumonia — a lung infection caused by food or liquid particles in the lungs and leading cause of hospitalization and death in nursing home residents

Signs that your senior could have dysphagia
Having trouble swallowing once in a while, usually because of eating too fast or not chewing well, isn’t the same as showing signs of dysphagia. But if swallowing difficulty is happening frequently, it’s important to talk with a doctor. Continue Reading

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