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More Facts About Alzheimer's Disease You Should Know

Darren Kincaid - Monday, October 29, 2018
Spring Arbor - VA, NC, TN, SC

Whether you fear a loved one is showing signs of Alzheimer’s or they’ve received a diagnosis, you may be confused, scared, and not sure what to expect. We have rounded up 10 essential facts about Alzheimer’s disease to offer some understanding of what the condition entails. Last week we discussed the first 5 You Should Know. This week we will discuss the remaining five.

  1. There’s also a genetic component for some people, especially those with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

    Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease happens when a person develops the condition anywhere from their 30s to mid-60s, according to the NIA. People with this early-onset form comprise less than 10 percent of the Alzheimer’s population. These cases are sometimes due to three specific gene mutations or other genetic factors. However, this kind of genetic influence is only involved in less than 5 percent of Alzheimer’s disease cases overall, according to the Mayo Clinic.

    Late-onset Alzheimer’s (which is much more common and typically shows up in someone’s mid-60s) mainly arises due to age and brain changes. Genetics are sometimes involved, but much more rarely than in a person who starts exhibiting symptoms when they’re younger.

  2. Experts have pinpointed certain risk factors that increase your odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

    Getting older is the biggest one, the Mayo Clinic says. To be clear, Alzheimer’s isn’t just a regular part of aging that everyone should expect, but it’s much more common in people over 65. This is part of why women seem to be at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease—they simply tend to live longer.

    Having a first-degree relative (like a dad or sister) with the disease also seems to raise your risk. This is due to that genetic component, which doctors are still investigating.
    Another potential factor: past head trauma, like a concussion. In general, head injuries can result in less brain [matter] because an accompanying brain injury can occur. Less brain means less ability for the brain to age gracefully.

    There’s also a surprising potential link between heart disease risk factors and those that contribute to your chances of getting Alzheimer’s. For example, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, and poorly controlled type 2 diabetes can increase your risk of developing both conditions. This may be because of a health issue called vascular dementia, which is when impaired blood vessels in the brain cause memory and cognitive difficulties.

    In addition, Down syndrome is one of the strongest risk factors for one day developing Alzheimer’s, and symptoms tend to present 10 to 20 years earlier than they do in the general population. The Down/Alzheimer’s link may center around having an extra copy of chromosome 21, which is what brings about characteristics of Down syndrome. This extra chromosome material contains the gene that produces those beta-amyloid plaques that can harm brain cells, the NIA explains.

  3. Doctors can’t definitively diagnose Alzheimer’s without looking at a person’s brain, but they know enough about the symptoms to tell when someone has it.
    The only current test to absolutely confirm Alzheimer’s involves a microscopic exam of a deceased person’s brain to look for those plaques and tangles. Although tests to confirm whether or not a living person has Alzheimer’s seem to be forthcoming, they’re not yet ready for widespread use.

    Instead, doctors basically make an extremely educated guess. They do this with strategies like ordering blood tests to rule out other causes of memory loss, administering mental status tests to evaluate a person’s thinking and memory, ordering brain imaging such as an MRI or CT scan, and testing a person’s cerebrospinal fluid for biological markers that can point toward the possibility of Alzheimer’s.

  4. There’s no proven way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but certain lifestyle factors could reduce your risk.

    Research has found a link between engaging in socially and mentally stimulating activities and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It seems as though these types of activities strengthen your “cognitive reserve,” making it easier for your brain to compensate for age-related changes.

    Reducing your risk of heart disease may also help lower your risk of Alzheimer’s. Things that promote a healthy body will promote a healthy brain. In this case, healthier blood vessels are less likely to become damaged and more likely to support the brain. Lowering your risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s means staying active and eating well, among other things. Exercise may slow existing cognitive deterioration by stabilizing older brain connections and helping to make new connections. Experts are also investigating if exercise can bolster the size of brain structures that are key for memory and learning. In any case, the American Heart Association recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week or 75 minutes of vigorous movement (or a mix of moderate and vigorous workouts) each week.

    The Mediterranean diet, which focuses on eating produce, healthy oils, and foods low in saturated fat, has also been linked with a lowered risk of developing heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
    Does this mean you have to overhaul the way you currently eat in order to avoid Alzheimer’s? No. It only means that scientists have studied one specific way of eating enough to land on this result. Healthy eating looks different for different people, and a lot of this can depend on your culture too. The point is really to eat in a way that helps to reinforce your body and mind, not that you need to follow any one type of way for optimal health.

  5. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but there are treatment options to help with symptoms.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications to help manage the memory loss, confusion, and problems with thinking and reasoning of Alzheimer's disease.

    Cholinesterase inhibitors are reserved for mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. It seems as though they impede the breakdown of acetylcholine, a brain chemical implicated in memory and thinking, but these drugs may start to work less effectively as Alzheimer’s progresses and a person produces less acetylcholine.

When it comes to moderate to severe Alzheimer’s, doctors may use a drug called memantine, which appears to regulate glutamate, a neurotransmitter that can cause brain cell death in large amounts. Sometimes doctors prescribe both cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine drugs, since they work in different ways.

Unfortunately, these drugs won’t fully stop the progression of the disease. But they may help slow the symptoms so that a person with Alzheimer’s can have a better quality of life for a longer period of time.

For more information on Alzheimer's care for a loved one, contact Spring Arbor.

source: self.com

See previous blog...


Facts About Alzheimer's Disease You Should Know

Darren Kincaid - Friday, October 26, 2018
Spring Arbor - VA, NC, TN, SC

This is stating the obvious: Alzheimer’s disease is terrible, and no one should ever have to deal with it. Whether you fear a loved one is showing signs of Alzheimer’s or they’ve received a diagnosis, you may be confused, scared, and not sure what to expect. We have rounded up 10 essential facts about Alzheimer’s disease to offer some understanding of what the condition entails. Below are the first five, in next week's blog we'll cover the other five.

  1. Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive condition that destroys a person’s memory and other important mental (and eventually physical) functions.

    This disease is the most common cause of dementia, which describes a group of brain disorders that erode a person’s cognitive abilities and communication skills.

    If someone has Alzheimer’s, they typically experience mild confusion and difficulty remembering things to start, but eventually they may forget important people in their lives; undergo dramatic personality changes; have trouble planning, communicating, and making safe decisions;y and need full-time care.

  2. Alzheimer’s progresses through five stages, and the first one doesn’t cause any symptoms at all.

    This first stage is called preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. People in this stage don’t exhibit any outward symptoms of the condition, but they are undergoing brain changes that will induce signs of Alzheimer’s down the line. Although symptoms aren’t apparent at this point, experts are working on developing innovative brain imaging technology that might be able to pick up on signs of the condition at this stage.

    After preclinical Alzheimer’s, which can last for years, a person develops what’s called mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease. This involves confusion, trouble making decisions, and issues remembering things such as recent conversations or upcoming appointments, but not at a severe enough level for it to really affect a person’s job or relationships.

    The following phase is due to Alzheimer’s disease. This is when symptoms become apparent enough that they often lead to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. At this point, Alzheimer’s is affecting a person’s day-to-day life with symptoms such as noticeable short-term memory loss, trouble with problem-solving, poor decision-making, mood changes, losing items, getting lost themselves (even in familiar locations), and having a hard time expressing themselves. This can translate into the person asking the same question repeatedly because they forget the answer, a difficult time handling what used to be manageable responsibilities (like tracking their budget), and irritability or anger as their world begins to shift in confounding ways.

    This eventually progresses into moderate dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, which is essentially an intensifying of symptoms. A person with this stage of Alzheimer’s tends to need more care making it through the day and avoiding dangerous situations, such as becoming lost (wandering around to find a familiar setting is common in this stage). This is also when long-term memory becomes more compromised, so a person with this level of Alzheimer’s may begin to forget who their loved ones are or get them confused with each other.

    Lastly, during severe dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease, a person may be unable to communicate coherently, even if they are physically able to speak. As they lose control over physical functions such as walking, holding their head up, and bladder and bowel activity, they may depend on others to care for them. People with this final stage of Alzheimer’s may also have difficulty swallowing. Sadly, this is often how death from Alzheimer’s can come about. Food or drinks can wind up in the lungs due to impaired swallowing, leading to pneumonia, or a person may become dehydrated or malnourished.

    There’s no set amount of time it takes for every person with Alzheimer’s to advance through each of these stages, but the Mayo Clinic notes that people with the condition live eight to 10 years after diagnosis on average.

  3. Normal forgetfulness is a thing, and it’s very different from Alzheimer’s-related memory loss.

    It’s completely fine to occasionally forget where you put things, the names of people you don’t see that often, why you entered a room, and other minor details. Memory lapses can happen for all sorts of reasons, from a lack of sleep to normal cognitive changes as you grow older.

    Mild forgetfulness is a common complaint in people as they age. The main difference between age-related memory loss and dementia (such as Alzheimer’s disease) is that in normal aging, the forgetfulness does not interfere with your ability to carry on with daily activities. The memory lapses have little impact on your daily life.

    If you or a loved one is dealing with persistent memory loss and accompanying symptoms such as difficulty staying organized, confusion, and mood changes, that’s more of a cause for concern.

  4. Alzheimer’s affects millions of people in the United States, causing over 110,000 deaths each year.

    Estimates range, but the National Institute on Aging (NIA) says that more than 5.5 million people in the United States have the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was the sixth leading cause of death in the United States in 2017, killing 116,103 people.

  5. Doctors aren’t totally sure what causes Alzheimer’s disease, but brain changes are definitely involved.

    Alzheimer’s disease damages and kills brain cells. This destruction is what affects a person’s cognitive, social, and physical abilities.

    Researchers have also discovered two specific abnormalities in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease. One is that they have plaques, or buildup of a protein called beta-amyloid, that may harm brain cells, including by impeding cell-to-cell communication. Another is tangles in the transportation system that brain cells rely on to move nutrients and other substances that are necessary for your brain to function properly.

For more information on Alzheimer's care for a loved one, contact Spring Arbor.

self.com

continued to next blog...


How Alzheimer's Disease Progresses

Joseph Coupal - Monday, October 22, 2018

Spring Arbor, NC, VAAlzheimer's disease tends to develops slowly and gradually worsens over several years. Eventually, Alzheimer's disease affects most areas of your brain. Memory, thinking, judgment, language, problem-solving, personality, and movement can all be affected by the disease.

There are five stages associated with Alzheimer's disease: preclinical Alzheimer's disease, mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease, mild dementia due to Alzheimer's, moderate dementia due to Alzheimer's, and severe dementia due to Alzheimer's. Dementia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms that affect intellectual and social abilities severely enough to interfere with daily function.

The five Alzheimer's stages can help you understand what might happen, but it's important to know that these stages are only rough generalizations. The disease is a continuous process. Your experience with Alzheimer's, its symptoms, and when they appear may vary.

Preclinical Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease begins long before any symptoms become apparent. This stage is called preclinical Alzheimer's disease. You won't notice symptoms during this stage, nor will those around you.

This stage of Alzheimer's can last for years, possibly even decades. Although you won't notice any changes, new imaging technologies can now identify deposits of a protein called amyloid beta that is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. The ability to identify these early deposits may be especially important in the future as new treatments are developed for Alzheimer's disease.

Additional biomarkers—measures that can indicate an increased risk of disease—have been identified for Alzheimer's disease. These biomarkers can be used to support the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, typically, after symptoms are evident.

There are also genetic tests that can tell you if you have a higher risk of Alzheimer's disease, particularly early-onset Alzheimer's disease. As with newer imaging techniques, biomarkers and genetic tests will become more important as new treatments for Alzheimer's disease are developed.

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer's disease

People with mild cognitive impairment have mild changes in their memory and thinking ability. These changes aren't significant enough to affect work or relationships yet. People with MCI may have memory lapses when it comes to information that is usually easily remembered, such as conversations, recent events, or appointments.

People with MCI may also have trouble judging the amount of time needed for a task, or they may have difficulty correctly judging the number or sequence of steps needed to complete a task. The ability to make sound decisions can become harder for people with MCI.

Not everyone with mild cognitive impairment has Alzheimer's disease. The same procedures used to identify preclinical Alzheimer's disease can help determine whether MCI is due to Alzheimer's disease or something else.

Mild dementia due to Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is often diagnosed in the mild dementia stage, when it becomes clear to family and doctors that a person is having significant trouble with memory and thinking that impacts daily functioning.

In the mild Alzheimer's stage, people may experience:

  • Memory loss for recent events. Individuals may have an especially hard time remembering newly learned information and ask the same question over and over.
  • Difficulty with problem-solving, complex tasks, and sound judgments. Planning a family event or balancing a checkbook may become overwhelming. Many people experience lapses in judgment, such as when making financial decisions.
  • Changes in personality. People may become subdued or withdrawn—especially in socially challenging situations—or show uncharacteristic irritability or anger. Reduced motivation to complete tasks also is common.
  • Difficulty organizing and expressing thoughts. Finding the right words to describe objects or clearly express ideas becomes increasingly challenging. Getting lost or misplacing belongings. Individuals have increasing trouble finding their way around, even in familiar places. It's also common to lose or misplace things, including valuable items.

Moderate dementia due to Alzheimer's disease

During the moderate stage of Alzheimer's disease, people grow more confused and forgetful and begin to need more help with daily activities and self-care.

People with moderate Alzheimer's disease may:

  • Show increasingly poor judgment and deepening confusion. Individuals lose track of where they are, the day of the week, or the season. They may confuse family members or close friends with one another, or mistake strangers for family. They may wander, possibly in search of surroundings that feel more familiar. These difficulties make it unsafe to leave those in the moderate Alzheimer's stage on their own.
  • Experience even greater memory loss. People may forget details of their personal history, such as their address or phone number, or where they attended school. They repeat favorite stories or make up stories to fill gaps in memory.
  • Need help with some daily activities. Assistance may be required with choosing proper clothing for the occasion or the weather and with bathing, grooming, using the bathroom, and other self-care. Some individuals occasionally lose control of their bladder or bowel movements.
  • Undergo significant changes in personality and behavior. It's not unusual for people with moderate Alzheimer's disease to develop unfounded suspicions—for example, to become convinced that friends, family, or professional caregivers are stealing from them or that a spouse is having an affair. Others may see or hear things that aren't really there. Individuals often grow restless or agitated, especially late in the day. Some people may have outbursts of aggressive physical behavior.

Severe dementia due to Alzheimer's disease

In the severe (late) stage of Alzheimer's disease, mental function continues to decline, and the disease has a growing impact on movement and physical capabilities.

In severe Alzheimer's disease, people generally:

  • Lose the ability to communicate coherently. An individual can no longer converse or speak coherently, although he or she may occasionally say words or phrases.
  • Require daily assistance with personal care. This includes total assistance with eating, dressing, using the bathroom, and all other daily self-care tasks.
  • Experience a decline in physical abilities. A person may become unable to walk without assistance, then unable to sit or hold up his or her head without support. Muscles may become rigid and reflexes abnormal. Eventually, a person loses the ability to swallow and to control bladder and bowel functions.

Rate of progression through Alzheimer's disease stages

The rate of progression for Alzheimer's disease varies widely. On average, people with Alzheimer's disease live eight to 10 years after diagnosis, but some survive 20 years or more.

Pneumonia is a common cause of death because impaired swallowing allows food or beverages to enter the lungs, where an infection can begin. Other common causes of death include dehydration, malnutrition, and other infections.

For more information on Alzheimer's care, contact Spring Arbor.

#HowYouLive

self.com


Tips for Looking After Someone With Alzheimer's

Joseph Coupal - Monday, October 15, 2018

Spring Arbor, NC, VAAn Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis isn’t just devastating for the person with the condition. Many people will end up serving as caregivers for loved ones with Alzheimer’s, which can be incredibly distressing, isolating, and life-altering.

Several Alzheimer’s caregivers give their best advice on how to look after someone with the disease—and how to care for yourself in the process, too.

1. Try to be as patient as you can with your loved one.

Alzheimer’s disease is notorious for tragically stealing a person’s memory. No one could blame you for feeling awful as this affects your loved one. It’s also normal if sometimes you get frustrated about it, but taking that frustration out on your loved one won’t help.

2. Don’t waste energy reminding them that they’ve learned something before.

Trying to make a person with Alzheimer’s remember that they once knew something can just lead to a lot of frustration on both ends.

That’s not to say you can’t kindly try to help them remember things that would make them happy. Compiling something like a memory box may help a person with Alzheimer’s remember the past. But reminding them that they once knew something—or asking if they remember when they clearly don’t—isn’t the same thing.

3. Keep things simple so they’re easier for your loved one to understand.

4. Have go-to methods of calming them when they’re upset.

When mom gets confused, try to distract her with something very simple.

5. Use aids to help them keep track of time.

People with Alzheimer’s disease can have difficulty keeping track of details like what time and day it is. “Grammy had a tendency to take a nap and then wake up and think it was a new day,” Cecelia N. tells SELF of her grandmother. So, her family installed two clocks on the wall. One told the date; the other told the time and showed a sun or moon to help distinguish night from day.

6. Build in more time for chores and self-care tasks than your loved one would have needed before.

Chores and self-care can be a challenge for people with Alzheimer’s. It might seem simple, but there are actually so many components to taking a shower, from turning the knob on the faucet, to shampooing and conditioning, to picking up the soap and putting it on a washcloth. This can make something as seemingly easy as taking a shower really difficult and time-consuming for someone with Alzheimer’s. (Or, if you’re helping them, it can take longer than you would expect.)

Try to help with some of these duties so life is easier for your loved one.

7. Accommodate (or anticipate) their requests if you can, even if you don’t understand them.

8. Pay attention to signs that the disease is progressing.

Alzheimer’s disease goes through five stages starting with preclinical Alzheimer’s (when symptoms aren’t noticeable) and ending with the final phase, severe dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. Since Alzheimer’s isn’t curable, the medical treatments focus on reducing symptoms and preventing how quickly the condition evolves. The sooner you notice your loved one’s symptoms changing, the better.

9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. It’s important to allow yourself to not feel like you’re giving up when you ask for medical help, that sometimes it’s what’s best for them.

10. Build a support network.

When you’re dealing with such an emotionally fraught situation, you might want to carry the load yourself. Don’t. When your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia, you must take steps to build a web of support for yourself and your loved one. That means not only finding a team of medical professionals but connecting with others in the Alzheimer’s disease community.

There is a lot of help and support through the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

11. Remember that you deserve care, too.

For information on Alzheimer's Care for your loved one, contact Spring Arbor.

#HowYouLive

SELF.com


Steps Families Should Take to Find Support or Care Providers for Alzheimer's-Affected Loved Ones?

Joseph Coupal - Monday, October 08, 2018

Spring Arbor, NC, VAIt is often difficult to navigate the various support services and providers and to discern what is best for loved ones with Alzheimer's or dementia.

Caregivers should think about particular needs of their loved ones and specific concerns they have about their care. Some concerns could include how the affected person can live as independently as possible; financial capabilities for care; days/times the caregiver needs help; in-home vs. long-term care; and providers' reputation and quality of care.

Having so many choices and decisions can be a time-consuming process for the caregiver, but research and recommendations from friends and family can assist in locating and securing the most appropriate services for a loved one.

Alzheimer's Services has a database of health care providers and services with contacts and phone numbers which can help reduce a lot of leg work. Also, caregivers can enlist the help of a geriatric care manager, who specializes in finding the resources available and most accommodating in the community for the affected individual and the family.

In any case, it is a good idea for caregivers to start looking for resources before the tasks become too overwhelming and burdensome; it becomes more challenging to make decisions during a time of crisis.

When looking at resources, caregivers should call and/or conduct interviews with the agencies and take notes on all the exchanges, including the contact's name and specific services the agency can provide. It is also important to ask questions about Medicare or Medicaid eligibility, long-term care coverage, and/or veterans benefits to gain a better understanding of financial resources that may be available.

Caregivers should be proactive in their search and assertive with health care providers in ascertaining their specific needs.

Some services available through state programs may require you to be placed on a waiting list since the demand for existing Alzheimer's-related services has increased while funding for some service programs had decreased. In that respect, it would be very advantageous to anticipate the needs of a loved one ahead of time and to complete the process to be placed on the waiting list. These actions might minimize the length of the waiting period.

Holding a family meeting to filter through available services and to select what services match a loved one's needs can help the primary caregiver in the arduous decision-making tasks. Once a plan is made and services confirmed, the caregiver can feel more assured of the future care of their loved one with the disease.

For more information on Alzheimer's Care, contact Spring Arbor.

#HowYouLive

theadvocate.com


Gardening Therapy for Memory Care

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Spring Arbor, NC, VAAt Spring Arbor, our philosophy is to make every day special for our residents suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Our care providers are dedicated to providing a high quality of life for all residents through a range of activities to exercise both the mind and the body. Our residents are encouraged to rekindle old interests or develop new ones. As a result, we are always discovering new and invigorating ways to engage and stimulate our residents. We’re excited to begin offering gardening therapy for memory care residents!

Research shows that access to the outdoors and physical activity can be extremely beneficial for adults living with memory loss. That is why we are so excited to add gardening to our educational and training programs at our memory care residence. Our staff participated in a two-day training program to find ways for gardening to become a weekly activity for all the residents. With instruction from a Horticultural Therapist, staff learned how to bring nature to our Cottage residents through gardening and the stimulating sensory opportunities that we create in our residences.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, gardening demonstrates several benefits for those with dementia including:

  • Gardening Therapy for Memory Care ResidentsProvides great exercise for the mind and body
  • Creates a sense of purpose
  • Lowers stress and blood pressure levels
  • Reduces aggression in those who have Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia
  • Builds confidence by allowing the resident to experience success
  • Helps recall long-term memories of gardening

We’re excited to offer this program as one more example of our vision “To improve the world and how people live by creating meaningful experiences and places of great distinction.” To learn more about Spring Arbor Memory Care, contact us.

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