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Diagnosing Alzheimer’s or Dementia

There is NO test that can positively diagnose Alzheimer’s or Dementia. It is about ruling out other things that could be going on. When the family doctor checked my mother’s thyroid, it was fine. Thyroids often become “sluggish” in older people, which leads to memory loss, fatigue, and depression.

The first step in diagnosing Alzheimer’s or Dementia should be finding out about family history. In our case, my mother’s two older sisters had it. The second stage would be the SAGE test, a test that a person takes with pen and paper to measure the strength of their cognitive skills. Hopefully, the doctors will also conduct an MRI, which will detect shrinkage in specific regions of the mid-brain attacked by Alzheimer’s disease. A series of blood tests should also be run, which check for conditions other than Alzheimer’s that may cause confused thinking, trouble focusing, or memory problems. Other causes may include anemia, depression, infection, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, certain vitamin deficiencies, thyroid abnormalities, and problems with the heart, blood vessels, and lungs.

Additionally, there is a test called a PET scan, a brain imaging test, that can show plaque build up in the brain. During the test, the radioactive drug is injected into the body, where it then attaches to the plaque. The drug highlights the plaque so it can be seen on the scan. If the scan does not show any plaque in the brain, then it is much less likely that you have Alzheimer’s. However, you can have plaque in your brain but not have Alzheimer’s.

Seventeen to 30% of Alzheimer’s patients are misdiagnosed so be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with this disease. Remember appreciate the good, laugh at the crazy and deal with the rest. I love you momma!

Rena McDaniel is the founder of The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver and The Million Mile Blog. She is an Alzheimer caregiver, RA patient, Writer, Wife, Mother, and Grandmother. She now lives in sunny South Carolina with her husband and mother. You can find The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver at alzcaregiver@rm29303, , , plus/ McDaniel

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Halloween Activities for the Elderly

All Hallows Eve is not simply for children. Everyone should be able to get into the fun regardless of age. It may seem difficult to include the elderly in Halloween activities upon first thought; however, there is a plethora of activities for them as well. Many areas have local senior communities and senior centers for older adults to gather at and share in the fun. One idea to consider is to have them dress up with the kids to hand out candy instead of taking the children out trick or treating. Below find some activities to do with your elderly friends and loved ones this Halloween!

Harvest Foods
Most all food for Halloween is treats, sweets, and desserts. Many seniors are on diet-specific menus for health reasons; however, there are plenty of treats for them as well. Searching the internet will afford numerous recipes for nutritious cupcakes that are also delicious. Have elderly family members help decorate them with harvest colors. Popcorn and a little food coloring can help create a treat with hues of oranges, yellows, and reds. This can be eaten as well as strung for some cute, party appropriate decorations. Squash and root vegetable beef roasts are perfectly themed for the harvest holiday.

Halloween Décor
Stock up on construction paper of fall colors, scissors, and glue sticks. If you or a friend has an artistic flair, draw some pumpkins, ghosts, and black cats to be cut out for decorating. Ask seniors for their own ideas that they think will make some spooky Halloween shapes to hang. For a little more creativity, get some glitter, beads, and puff balls to glue to the decorations. Make sure to hang them all so the trick-or-treaters will be able to see them!

Costume Creativity
Age is only a number when it comes to dressing up for Halloween. Most everyone loves this activity, especially if it involves a bit of friendly competition. Have a costume contest for everyone and make sure to start it early enough so the children can see the getups, too. Bringing smiles to the kids’ faces will most likely bring smiles to theirs as well. Add a little kick and make a homemade rule. Tell everyone that every element of the costume must be crafted and not bought.

Scare Time
One timeless tradition of Halloween is spooky storytelling. Almost every childhood and local town has at least a handful of ghost stories. Designate an hour or three with the lights turned down and candles lit so all can share. Prizes could be provided for the best, the longest, and/or the scariest stories. Along this same line a Halloween scare trivia game could be designed from the local town lore.

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Shortage of Caregivers

Recently, several reports revealed that communities are about to be confronted with a dramatic shortage of caregivers. In 2010, there were approximately seven or more individuals with caregiving potential for each high risk person who on average is 80 years old or older. It has been estimated that by 2030 there will only be about 4 seniors per 1 caregiver, and by 2050, the ratio will have decreased to less than 3:1.

Proposed Causes
Most individuals today do not wish to live their golden years out in assisted living facilities or nursing homes. While many simply cannot afford it, others wish to spend as much time as possible with their families. Additionally, some older adults may have deeper seated, psychological reasons. Local governments and private companies have recently begun offering amenities to assist the elderly. These programs allow them to age in place with the help of loved ones.

This has become an issue for baby boomers who decided to have only one, two, or no children. Divorce rates among these individuals is also extremely high. It has been projected that approximately 36% of older men will have been single for at least 10 years by 2030. This, combined with the projected caregiver shortage crisis, presents an upcoming problem for many individuals across the country.

There are currently about 42.1 million adult individuals within the country who care for family members and/or friends. They are most predominantly female and those they care for are generally above 50 years of age. Caring for a family member 20 hours each week while working an additional 40 hours outside the home can be an extremely difficult situation. Within the next 10 years, the availability of these types of care providers will decrease as they themselves may require a certain amount of care.

Serious Demographics
This projected situation is critical and the United States has shifted its concentration to services for long-term care at home. It’s estimated that approximately eight out of 10 individuals receive home assistance as opposed to facility living assistance. The topic which hangs in the balance is who will provide this care. The government’s shift in focus is ever increasing the number of individuals choosing aging in place. This does not mention the fact that paid aides now receive much lower salaries and extremely meager benefits. The demographic trends stated above will greatly decrease these ranks as well.

One factor to consider is nursing school statistics. This may shine a ray of hope on the caregiving shortage. Many stats show that the job demand in this area is growing at a rate of about 19%, which is quicker than the average. This demand is increasing the number of potential candidates that apply for education within the nursing field. The enrollment of students into doctor of nursing programs increased in 2011 by 28.9%.

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The Many Forms of Elder Abuse

The Many Forms of Elder Abuse

It’s unfortunate to say but elder abuse takes place everyday. It can take place in a senior’s home, in a relative’s house, or even in a facility that takes care of older adults. It’s very important that if you suspect any kind of abuse, you speak up. In order to be fully informed, you must know all the different types of elder abuse. To learn more about Elder Abuse, join LivHOME’s HOMEcare Hangout on Tuesday, October 28th as our featured eldercare professionals discuss the signs, causes, and prevention of Elder Abuse. Visit to learn more about the event!

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse involves any use of force that is non-accidental and causes pain or impairment. This comes in many forms such as pushing, hitting, tripping, or any other kind of physical assault. If you suspect an elderly person to be the victim of physical abuse, you may notice bruises, scrapes, scars, or limitations to their mobility. They may be shy about it at first or even lie that they had fallen, but it’s important to get to the truth when dealing with physical abuse against an elderly person.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is another type of harm against the elderly, except it does not involve physical pain but psychological damage. This can occur in two ways. The first form is verbal emotional abuse. This involves a person threatening or intimidating a senior by yelling at them and using their words to hurt them. They might also humiliate them or blame them for unreasonable things. The second form of emotional abuse is non-verbal emotional abuse. This can cause just as much psychological damage on a senior. This form of abuse involves neglect or ignoring a senior as well as isolating them from their friends or group activities

Financial Abuse

This type of exploitation involves the misuse of an elderly person’s personal checkbook or bank account. The perpetrators can be anyone from the senior’s own children, to an unscrupulous caregiver, or even an outside scam artist. This type of abuse occurs all too often and most of the times their social security checks are stolen or money is taken directly from their home. That’s why it’s always a good idea to run a background check on someone who is about to take care of your senior loved one. You want the best possible care for them given by honest and loving people.  

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Coming Home: a Revelation in Caregiving

Coming home again was a delicate mix of comforting memories and eagerness to make much-needed changes. It had been 6 years since Iʼd visited my mother shortly after my father passed away. Since then, not much had changed in the house, except for the obvious absence of “Dad things” here and there. No more candy in the crystal bowl, with which he discreetly filled his pockets on his way to his dental practice. (He was a dentist with a sweet tooth!) No “Hello, nice people!” punctually at 6pm when he returned home. No freshly baked pound cake under the dark blue dome of the bread box, which Mom made sure was there for Dad to nibble on. Although I felt Dadʼs presence everywhere, this was now our Motherʼs home.

Having been a long-distance caregiver for my mother since 2008, my head was full of ideas of how I could spruce up the house and coordinate some repairs. I had mentioned them to Mom on the phone several times and she always greeted the ideas with a “Well, letʼs see…” My enthusiasm quelled when, once there, I realized that, while I was home again, I was not in my home. This was Momʼs home and I needed to respect that.

My brother, sister and I teamed up to become Momʼs family caregivers. While she is relatively healthy and astounds her doctors with her flexibility, we help her with everyday tasks. My brother and sister, who live somewhat near her, pick up groceries, take her to the post office, visit and chat, take her on outings and bring her homemade dishes and juicy hamburgers. I take care of bills, taxes, legal documents and anything that can be done online. One of us calls her every day and reassures her that she can count on us to be there for her the way she continues to be for us.

The temptation to take over for the sake of efficiency or practicality was a challenge for me as I saw the need for several projects to begin. Home repairs that remain on the todo list and sorting through old or unused items to make space were a priority for me. The question was, were they a priority for Mom?

My sister pointed out a few years ago that, in helping Mom move forward with a new life without Dad, we must not try to shape her into the person that we expect her to be. My brother added that we ought to just make the best of our time together and show her life! My view has always been to encourage her to do what she can do and to let us jump in when she needs our assistance. Because I am also a family caregiver for my homebound husband, I donʼt let my mother forget that she is quite capable of handling many tasks on her own. It behooves her to see that she does not need to rely on others for everything. Proof is, she has called me several times to proudly inform me that she has taken care of this or that!

With love comes respect. In caregiving, sometimes the line between providing care and maintaining respect and independence gets blurry. Family caregivers who are devoted to the care of a senior may face the dilemma of providing compassionate care or stepping back when that care is rejected. Preserving their careeʼs dignity and selfsufficiency is crucial. Wendy Lustbader, MSW, writes in her book, Counting on Kindness – The Dilemmas of Dependency, “Unless we exert control over some aspect of our lives, no matter how mundane or seemingly inconsequential, a significant part of our spirit dies.” Allowing our loved ones to manage all that they safely can, in their own way, helps family caregivers to foment their seniorsʼ self-worth and independence. Isnʼt that how we would like to be treated?

About the author

Lynn Greenblatt is a family caregiver and the founder of – an online directory of links to caregiving information, resources & support that can help caregivers to more efficiently & effectively manage their tasks. She also encourages family caregivers to take good care of themselves.

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Migraines and Your Movement

According to a study published in Neurology back in September, there appears to be evidence that those who get migraines in their middle age have a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Migraines are a common brain disorder and one of the most painful. Often times, they are preceded by an aura or a visual disturbance such as flashing light or a total loss of vision.

In the study, which included over 5,000 people, participants were questioned about various migraine symptoms. The longitudinal study, which lasted over a span of 25 years, revealed that many traumatic head injuries later resulted in Parkinson’s symptoms.

However, the numbers are staggering. According to the follow up research, those who suffered from migraines had twice the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorders. Unfortunately, researchers are still unsure of the link between the two. There are various factors that may attribute to this link, including the dopamine-blocking medication for headaches and other brain related diseases.

It will be interesting to see what other data will be revealed from this controlled experiment. Parkinson’s disease is a lot like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. We understand these disorders are linked to the brain but we are unsure of why they occur and how to prevent them. This new research will hopefully help us understand the connections between these brain disorders and identify a preventative approach.

It’s always terrifying when we find other possible symptoms that may attribute to these awful diseases, yet there is always hope. The more we know the better. The greater understanding we have, the closer we are to finding a cure to degenerative brain disorders and diseases.

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Respiratory Care Week: 4 Tips Your Lungs Will Thank You For

The last full week in October is dedicated to the recognition of those in the respiratory care profession as well as promoting healthy lung habits. The week is called Respiratory Care Week and it’s full of events meant to celebrate those who help keeps our lungs healthy, motivate those who are fighting lung disease, and educate us on proper lung health.

In order to get everyone in the holiday spirit, LivHOME would like to present 4 tips for keeping the lungs healthy and you happy.

Walk Faster
According to a study done by the Journal of the American Medical Association, the speed at which you walk at may help predict how long of a life you may live. Now, we’re not saying that if you pick up the pace of your walking, you’ll live until you’re 100, but there is strong evidence that points to a healthier individual based on how fast they walk. According to this study of 34,000 people who were aged 65 years and older, those who walked at a pace of 2.5 mph or faster lived longer than those who walked slower. If you are unable to increase the speed at which you walk at, then perhaps consult your doctor for a possible underlying health issue.

Maintain a Healthy Weight
Added weight can place a lot of stress on your lungs. This causes the respiratory muscles to compress more causing them to work harder but less efficient. Over time this will cause a lot of damage to your respiratory system. It’s important to keep a nutritious diet, one that works for you, in order to keep those extra pounds off. Your lungs will thank you in the long run.

Drink Water
Staying hydrated is obviously important to your overall health. However, drinking water does help your respiratory system by keeping a thin consistency to the mucus lining of your lungs. Dehydration thickens it which will slow down your respiration and cause you to breath heavier with less efficiency.

Stop Smoking
It seems like whenever there is a list of health tips, quitting smoking can always be found on it. This is especially true when it comes to lung health. Smoking damages respiratory cells and can even kill them, it induces inflammation, and leads you on the path of lung illnesses such as emphysema, chronic lung disease, chronic bronchitis, and lung cancer. Smoking is a nasty, addicting habit. It’s very tough to quit, but much like finding a nutritious diet that works for you, you should find method of quitting that fits you perfectly. The lungs can heal themselves at an incredible pace. The sooner you quit the better.

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A New Link to Alzheimer’s Disease

There are multiple culprits as to what causes Alzheimer’s disease. Some experts believe that it depends on your genetic makeup, that you are bound to this disease no matter how healthy or unhealthy your lifestyle is. Others believe that by keeping your mind physically fit, you can reduce your chances of getting Alzheimer’s. Everyone knows what Alzheimer’s disease does to your brain, but no one is exactly sure why the disease starts or how to stop it. Scientists have discovered another possible cause that may increase the percentage of people with Alzheimer’s in the world.

According to (include source), this new potential trigger for Alzheimer’s is a chemical called benzodiazepine. Benzodiazepine is found in the most common of anti-anxiety medications such as Ativan, Xanax, Valium, and Klonopin. Research has found that by taking this chemical for three months or more, your chances at getting Alzheimer’s significantly increases.

This new study shows substantial evidence that these drugs do increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. The study entailed the insurance record of over 1,800 elderly residents of Quebec and if they had been prescribed anti-anxiety medication before they had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers found that those who had taken the chemical benzodiazepine for more than three months had a 50 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Additionally, it didn’t matter how long the individual was taking the chemical benzodiazepine, but how large of a dose they were taking. The higher the dose, the higher the risk.

Researchers and scientists are aware of the connection between this chemical and Alzheimer’s, however, we’re not fully sure why. We know how it works, but why the chemical benzodiazepine is highly correlated with Alzheimer’s disease is currently unclear. What is clear is that everyone should know the potential threats to their health. If you or a loved one has been prescribed a new medication; be weary of the dosage, be weary of the chemicals it contains, and be weary of how often it is taken. Don’t distrust medication, but be cautious of it. Let’s promote healthy habits, especially those we are certain that are good for us.
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PT Sue LogoAs we all age and circumstances of life (retirement, loss of family and friends, financial concerns, failing health and mobility) take their toll on our daily lives, loneliness becomes more of an issue. Everyone has moments where they feel lonely but when those “moments” add up to a major amount of time, it is definitely time to initiate some changes.

Research now shows that persistent loneliness has a progressive negative effect on physical and psychological health. As the individual becomes lonelier and then does less physically and mentally, it sets up a cycle that will deteriorate that individual. Loneliness can actually increase the risk of premature death in individuals over the age of 50 by 14%.

Loneliness is not always easy to detect by the individual, family, or friends. Here are some warning signs:

  1. Spending hours alone—reading, TV, computer use
  2. Anger or envy when others around you are happy
  3. A sense of dissatisfaction when you are spending time with other people. You can have a feeling of loneliness even when you are surrounded by other people.

Current research has linked loneliness to elevated blood pressure, increased stress and anxiety, impaired immune system, and a decrease in mobility. There has been a long time link between loneliness and depression. However, you can be lonely and not be depressed. Research also shows that the greater the degree of loneliness, the more fragmented and less relaxing the night’s sleep. Over a period of time this could have serious consequences.

Here are some tips to deal with loneliness:

  1. Make a point to meet with friends and share more details about yourself to secure a more honest link with another person and to express inner feelings that when shared don’t seem quite so insurmountable.
  2. Reach out for “small” connections, such as with the postal person, service worker, a stranger, smile and say a friendly word to a stranger.
  3. Get involved in a meaningful activity with a philosophy similar to yours. Reach out to the events of the organization and talk and share thoughts from casual to more intimate. Volunteering is such a good way to stay connected.
  4. Don’t allow yourself to withdraw when life hands you a significant change, such as death of a love one, retirement, health issues. Discipline yourself to reach out to meet a friend for lunch or a volunteer function. At first you will need to force yourself to reach out.
  5. Consider a pet or volunteering at an animal shelter. Animals are very receptive and responsive to human feelings.
  6. Plan a regular physical activity out of your home—walking in your neighborhood or mall; using your wheelchair or scooter to go to a nearby coffee shop. Physical activity is one of the best and cheapest ways to physically and emotionally feel better. And while you are out and about, find something to laugh about.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at my web site,; my office (951)369-6507; or my email, My goal is to help seniors keep healthy and moving. I welcome all questions and/or comments.

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World Food Day: Identifying the Perfect Diet for Your Senior

In celebration of World Food Day, a holiday promoting the significance of family farming in order to eradicate hunger, encourage healthy diets, and achieve sustainable development, LivHOME would like to present a healthy diet sure to keep your senior able-bodied. A healthy diet keeps the heart pumping, the mind limber, and the body feeling fresh. It’s very tempting to take shortcuts when it comes to breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but planning your meals can have many benefits.

Fruits and Vegetables – Focus on the old saying, “you are what you eat.” Don’t you want to be vibrant? Mix and match those colorful fruits and vegetables. When it comes to fruit, don’t stick with juices only. Focus on serving the whole fruit, because it’s an excellent source of fiber. For vegetables, select those dark green leafy vegetables to get a healthy dose of antioxidants to lower your risk of heart disease and various neurological disease.

Healthy Fats – Fats are important. They help you burn energy when you have nothing left in the tank. However, too many fats can lead to high cholesterol and an array of heart complications. That’s why it’s important to include a lot of healthy fats in your diet. Try adding seeds, avocados, and fish to your meals. This will keep you fueled and your arteries clear.

Reduce Sodium – Sodium, or in layman’s term’s ‘salt,’ is a water retention that amplifies dehydration and a greater risk for high blood pressure. It’s important to find foods that are low in sodium. Try to stay away from prepackaged and canned foods as salt is often hidden in them. According to the UCSF Medical Center, the average American eats 5 or more teaspoons of salt a day, which is 20 times the normal amount.

Calcium – Osteoporosis is a serious disease that greatly affects the elderly. It reduces bone density and makes seniors more susceptible to broken bones and fractures. In order to combat osteoporosis, your senior needs to include more calcium in their diet( 1,200 mg to be exact). Milk is a great source, as well as cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products. However, if your senior has a dairy allergy or is lactose intolerant, there are other several non-dairy ways to get their calcium. Tofu, broccoli, almonds, and kale are also exceptional means of calcium.

These are just a few tips and suggestions for World Food Day! Aging healthy is tough to do. Our bodies’ go through drastic changes as we age, however with the dietary knowledge we have now, we can age in the best way possible.

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