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Caregiver Dementia

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Spring Arbor, Richmond, VAFor years, we’ve read that Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia. That’s not entirely true.

The leading cause is “caregiver dementia,” which strikes an estimated 100 million overwhelmed and stressed-out caregivers worldwide. The term was used initially in the 1980s, and while not an official medical diagnosis, it includes symptoms such as disorientation, forgetfulness and depression.

Stressful conditions produce high levels of the hormone cortisol, which, over time, may contribute to memory loss. Think about it: You’re working long hours, you see no end in sight and you’re exhausted. Who can think straight under those conditions?

A 2010 Utah study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society of 1,221 couples tracked for 12 years found that seniors caring for a husband or wife with dementia had six times the risk of getting dementia as members of the general population. Surprisingly, men were most susceptible, facing double that risk.

Some Dementias Are Reversible

Even undiagnosed urinary tract infections may lead to sudden behavior changes such as confusion, agitation, withdrawal or delirium.

Medicines will also have varying effects, as we grow older. As we age, our liver and kidneys don’t work as efficiently resulting in a buildup over time of unprocessed medications. These chemicals become toxic leading to dementia symptoms or delirium.

Which leaves us with caregiver dementia.

Until caregivers are able to take proactive steps to overcome feelings of hopelessness resulting from the stress of caring for another person, they’ll continue to endure embarrassing and even scary moments.

Caregivers Will Overcome

The onset of caregiver dementia is real and it strikes primary caregivers. Those who heed the call and take action will survive.

But there’s more to being a caregiver than just surviving. We need to apply both legs of our “caring” and “giving” nature to overcome and thrive. We start with a break. As little as a five-minute respite can make all the difference. Ultimately, we’ll need help. Today, caregivers have a variety of options to choose from, including in-home and adult day care, residential care and assisted living. The only other cure is to stop caregiving, and this is not an option for many.

For more information on caring for those with Alzheimer's or Dementia, contact Spring Arbor.


US News - Health

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month: Know the 10 Signs

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, June 20, 2017

June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, and the Alzheimer’s Association® needs you to get involved and raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Everyone who has a brain is at risk to develop Alzheimer’s, a disease that is often misunderstood. Did you know:

  • Alzheimer’s is fatal. It kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined.
  • Alzheimer’s is not normal aging. It’s a progressive brain disease without any cure.
  • Alzheimer’s is more than memory loss. It appears through a variety of signs and symptoms.

During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks you to learn more about Alzheimer’s, share your story and take action.

Know the 10 Signs - Early Detection Matters

You can help raise awareness of the truth about Alzheimer’s.

For more information on Alzheimer’s or memory care, contact Spring Arbor.


Memory Changes: When They Are More Than Just "Getting Older"

Joseph Coupal - Friday, June 16, 2017

Spring Arbor, Richmond, VAYou've probably heard this phrase before: "I'm just getting older." The statement is often made to explain myriad aches and pains, memory lapses and mobility limitations, and may reflect acceptance that some parts of the body do not work as well as they once did due to aging – a truth that all creatures experience.

The explanation should be used with caution, though. No one should blame something they are experiencing on "just getting older," because they might miss something that could be treatable. This expression is frequently used to dismiss daily symptoms, which could result from an underlying disease, leading to needless suffering that could have been evaluated and appropriately treated.

Memory complaints do occur very frequently as one gets get older. Delays in recalling words and names – feeling that what you want to say is "just on the tip of your tongue" – are a part of normal aging, and unfortunately these delays lengthen as a person gets older. Multitasking and learning new things also become more challenging. These are normal aging experiences, but none of these changes should affect one's ability to remain independent in performing basic and instrumental daily living activities.

Often, a person who experiences a memory complaint never brings up the issue with his or her doctor. Sometimes the same patient has so many medical problems that, despite the best efforts of the patient's primary care physician, managing other medical problems takes away the time needed to address a memory concern appropriately.

Memory complaints become significant when you start to see them affect daily life. Sometimes a person's ability to remain employed, perform work-related tasks, participate in community activities or maintain hobbies declines, leading that person to retire or quit an activity. When memory problems impair a person's ability to engage in everyday routines such as managing finances, driving in familiar areas or taking medications regularly and reliably, then the memory problems should not be ignored or brushed off as a normal part of aging. An evaluation focused on memory complaints should be performed if such signs are observed.

A basic workup includes a review of the memory or cognitive issues, specifically how long the problems have been noted, and any other associated mood, behavioral or movement problems. Cognitive testing (such as a Folstein Mini-Mental State Examination or Montreal Cognitive Assessment) should be performed to document the presence and severity of the cognitive impairments. A screening for depression should also be performed, along with routine bloodwork. A CT scan of the brain could also be performed to exclude other problems. Ultimately, all of this information should be reviewed to uncover the most likely explanation for the memory problems and to determine the best ways to manage those issues.

Though dementia may be the first cause that comes to mind, there can be others. Sometimes depression can trigger memory complaints, although they're often accompanied by other symptoms, such as loss of interests in hobbies or activities a person previously enjoyed, a feeling of worthlessness, sleep problems or loss of appetite. A recent illness or hospitalization could cause a temporary period of confusion called delirium, which typically resolves over time. Medications – prescribed, over-the-counter or herbal – that affect the brain, and medical conditions such as stroke, thyroid problems or vitamin deficiencies, could also produce memory and/or cognitive problems.

It's important to remember that changes with memory and cognitive function accompany, but aren't necessarily explained by normal aging. If there is a concern or if function becomes compromised because of memory problems, it should always be brought up with your physician. The ultimate goal is to preserve independence and to plan ahead if you need assistance.

For more information on memory care, contact Spring Arbor.


US News - Health

Downsizing? What to Look for in an Age-Friendly Community

Joseph Coupal - Monday, June 12, 2017

Spring Arbor, Greensboro, NCEmpty-nesters in search of new digs may have a wish list that looks something like this: warm climate, tennis courts, golf courses, walking trails and a spare room for the grandchildren to stay.

But here’s the thing. What we want at age 65 may not be what we need 10, 20 or 30 years down the road. Even the most physically active among us could have a stroke or end up in a wheelchair in early retirement.

As boomers cash out, gerontologists are urging newly minted seniors to think hard before choosing their next place to live. Cognitive decline, or loss of a spouse, could push them out sooner than they think.

Instead of just downsizing into a condo or one-story home, researchers say retirees should consider what their broader surroundings may offer as their needs change.

Here are five things to look for in an age-friendly community:

Car-free transportation

Many of us assume we’ll be driving until the day we die. But now that people are living longer, more and more of us will end up with vision problems, physical disabilities or cognitive impairments that prevent us from driving years before we take our last breath.

House hunters nearing retirement should think about how they would get to the grocery store, pharmacy, swimming pool or a friend’s house without a driver’s license. When retirees choose to live in car-oriented communities, it may actually curtail the amount of time they can live independently.

Meaningful relationships

When deciding to move later in life, it’s important to choose a community where you can either maintain, redevelop or re-establish your social network.

Older adults should think twice about moving to places that lack community centers and activities that draw like-minded people. Finding friends to go bowling with may not be enough. You want to have reciprocal relationships with the community so you’re looking for opportunities for employment, or volunteering.

Before moving, older adults should pay close attention to their specific social needs. Social isolation, especially later in life, is quite literally deadly.

Mental stimulation

Many new retirees can’t wait for all the golfing, Zumba classes and exotic travels in their future. But a leisure-focused life may quickly lose its charm.

Boomers are no longer interested in bingo. Check for lifelong learning opportunities in a neighborhood of choice. Many colleges and universities offer free tuition to people over 65 for a variety of courses. Other adults may prefer to search out creative activities, such as community arts projects and music groups.

Health services

Planning for healthy aging after retirement goes beyond choosing to live near a hospital. The community should have an adequate number of family doctors and medical clinics, too. Health and social services should be accessible to older adults using any mode of transportation.

Care in the twilight years

Boomers may see retirement as a last chance to live on a houseboat or a quaint island before senescence forces them into a nursing home. But the plan to move again sometime in the distant future could set them up for a harsh transition, and ultimately, poorer health. With every move, especially later in life, the change is really hard on people. The research shows that elderly people tend to be healthier and happier when they stay in their homes.

Giving up the houseboat fantasy may be worth the price if older adults can remain or settle in a community where family and friends can help. Otherwise, retirees should make sure that affordable home-care services are available in their area. Personal care, housekeeping, snow removal and yard work services could help them remain at home until their last days.

For more information senior living communities, contact Spring Arbor.


Downsizing Your Home

Joseph Coupal - Friday, June 02, 2017

Spring Arbor, Richmond, VADownsizing your home can be stressful enough as it is, let alone without worrying about what to do with a lifetime of possessions.

Whether you’re moving to a retirement village, a smaller home or unit, or to an aged care facility, there is ways you can keep some of your unique personal style and make your new home just as homely as your family home.

One of the biggest obstacles is sorting through possessions.

A lot of people put off doing this, that’s why they put off downsizing.

Family dynamics can make it worse, especially if mother has furniture that the kids don’t want or the kids start to make decisions about possessions for her. Here is some advice for the main downsizing decisions – assisted living, and retirement living.

Assisted Living

Even if you’re not downsizing to an aged care facility, chances are you may have to help a loved one such as a parent through that process.

Some assisted living facilities may have shared rooms or there is just limited space in a private room for you or your loved one.

It’s important to measure up and see if any existing furniture can be taken to the assisted living facility.

That can be important to a lot of older people, but often their furniture is too big or it’s not stable enough.

There are really simple inexpensive storage options out there, such as the little cube units, that people can put their belongings in before they are ready to let them go.

All those little treasures in their home can still fit in their room if they have a small shelf.

It’s important to bring those little touches with you to make it homely.

If you’re helping an elderly relative through this process of downsizing to assisted living, then it can be very stressful on everyone.

You may need to bring a specialist third party in to assist you.

It’s important to include your loved one in the process, even if they don’t completely have mental or physical capabilities to assist.

Retirement living

Most retirement villages, over-55s communities or lifestyle resorts offer small, one-and-a-half or two bedroom units.

This is the downsizing scenario you’re most likely to undertake.

It’s one of the biggest, most life-changing events you can experience after you retire.

But instead of viewing it as a stressful experience, look at it as a good opportunity to “cleanse your life”.

If you don’t make it a nice living space, and fill it with clutter, it can be overwhelming for you.

Moving is a good opportunity to get rid of some of the clutter, not just possessions, but also to cleanse your head and address those things that have been living in the background for some time.

For more information on moving to assisted living, contact Spring Arbor.