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Dementia and Hallucinations: An Overview

Most of the symptoms of dementia include cognitive changes or loss of thought processes. In addition to loss of memory, confusion, difficulty with communication and organizational processes, a person with dementia may exhibit changes with the senses, particularly vision and perception. One major troubling symptom of dementia can be the development of hallucinations.

Hallucinations occur when a person senses something that is not really there. Hallucinations can occur with any of the senses including sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste but visual hallucinations are most common in dementia.

Normal Visual Changes of Aging
The process of vision is a complex process that involves transferring information from the eyes, to the brain where it can be interpreted and understood. What we understand from the visual images that we see are also influenced by information coming from other sources – hearing, thoughts, and memories.

Normal processes of aging can contribute to visual difficulties. Vision becomes less focused, it is harder to adjust from lightness to dark, a person may have “floaters” and there may be problems with depth perception. Age-related visual changes do not cause hallucinations or visual disturbances in dementia but they can contribute to them.

Additional Visual Changes Important in Dementia
In addition to normal age-related visual changes, dementia patients have changes in the brain which affect how vision process works. Cognitive losses can change the way a patient understands what is seen. If memories are lost and thoughts are disorganized, visual images can be difficult to understand.

Dementia patients may have additional visual challenges like decreased ability to see contrasting colors or patterns, detect movement, or recognize and identify colors, objects or people. The patient may also have difficulty with double vision or a reduced visual field and may have trouble with balance or hearing as well.

These changes, combined with the cognitive changes of dementia, leave the brain to interpret images with less information. This may result in misperceptions and misidentifications of two types: Illusions (seeing one thing and believing it is another) and hallucinations (seeing something that is not there).

Dementia and Hallucinations
In some cases, people with dementia are thought to be experiencing hallucinations when they are actually misinterpreting what they have seen or having an illusion. An example would be a dementia patient who “sees” a person in the kitchen, when it is really an apron hanging on a hook.

In other cases, actual hallucinations may be occurring. Dementia with “Lewy bodies” (DLB) causes protein formations in the brain may cause hallucination. It is associated with Parkinson’s disease and may occur alongside Alzheimer’s disease or it may occur alone. Patients with DLB often have hallucinations of brightly colored objects, people or animals. They may also experience hallucinations with other senses – including sounds, smells or perceptions of touch. There are other medical conditions which may cause hallucinations such as schizophrenia, medication reactions, dehydration, intense pain or infections. These causes should be investigated and eliminated as a medical cause but if a patient is in advanced stages of dementia, there is probably no other cause.

Supportive care, reassurance and distraction may be the only treatments for dementia-related hallucinations. If a particular object, such as a mirror, continues to cause a disturbance, it should be removed from the environment. The main goal is to help the dementia patient remain calm and feeling safe.

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Springtime and the Benefits of Vitamin D in Aging

It’s common knowledge that Vitamin D is needed for the healthy formation of bones and teeth. We also know that Spring brings feelings of renewal. So what do these two things have to do with one another?

New flowers, green lawns, and light breezes can all contribute to our sense of well-being but Springtime brings health benefits, too. In fact, your body can make Vitamin D from sunlight!

What is Vitamin D good for?
Maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels is very important for our health. Vitamin D helps conserve integrity of your bones and teeth to prevent osteoporosis and avoid tooth loss. Vitamin D also helps lower blood pressure, prevent diabetes and inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, lower your chance of heart attack or stroke. Additionally, it may help to prevent certain kinds of cancer.

What if you don’t have enough Vitamin D?
Many people are deficient in Vitamin D, but the elderly may be particularly affected. A recent study showed that Vitamin D may have a greater influence on the aging body and brain than we thought. Low Vitamin D levels are now thought to be associated with a decreased ability to perform certain tasks in those over the age of 55.

In this study, participants were asked to perform a number of routine activities such as cutting their toenails, walking up and down stairs, getting dressed and undressed, walking alone outside, and using public transportation.

Researchers found that men and women who had low Vitamin D levels were not as able to perform these ordinary tasks, while those whose levels were in the “normal” range, had less difficulty. The scientists were not able to prove that low Vitamin D levels were the cause of the disabilities but did show that Vitamin D levels may have an effect in our ability to perform normal activities as we age.

How do I get Vitamin D?
Vitamin D can be obtained through the diet as many foods naturally contain Vitamin D. You may also take vitamin supplements, but should consult a doctor before adding these to a diet. The good news is that your body can manufacture its own Vitamin D – with sunlight!

Letting your own skin make Vitamin D may be the best way to ensure that you have enough. Just 10 to 15 minutes, two or three times a week in direct sunlight can give you all the Vitamin D you need. You do need exposure to both UVA and UVB rays so you must be in direct sunlight without wearing sunscreen. It is Springtime! Get out, enjoy the sun, and make some Vitamin D. Your body will thank you for it!

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Moving Mom and Dad In

There are a lot of questions that need to be answered when moving a parent or other relative into your home. However, you should already know the answer to one question: “Am I the only one moving my parent(s) into my home?” The answer is no. 1 out of 4 caregivers live with the disabled or elderly relative that they care for. Now that we have one question answered, let’s learn about the others!

What Level of Care Do They Need?
Is your parent or relative severely disabled? Do they require handicapped accessibility? Is your home handicapped accessible? If your elderly loved one is still spry and does not require too much care, then there’s not a whole lot to worry about.

On the other hand, if they’re confined to a wheelchair or require a walker to move, you might need to rethink about your living conditions. The last thing you want is for them to climb stairs every night to get to bed. You may need to rearrange the house in order to provide your elderly loved one with a safe, comfortable living situation. A bedroom on the first floor is a good way to start the rearranging. That way, everything your elderly loved needs such as bathroom, bed, food, and drink are all right on one floor.

Do You Get Along with Them?
This may seem like a silly question to ask, but plenty of people take in aging loved ones because they feel obligated. That’s no way to begin caring for them. Caregivers do not provide care to people because they feel like they have to. Caregivers provide care because they have a passion for helping others. Getting along with the person you’re caring for not only makes the situation easier, but it makes it fun. There are a lot of benefits to multigenerational living and the things you can learn from older generations is one of them.

Will They Help Financially?
More times than not, older adults will want to help contribute to the overall finances of the house. If this is the case than it’s a great help on your financial status. There is no right or wrong way to divvy up the household bills. Most families have to figure out how to do it from month to month. There are numerous expenses that can add to the total bill. You just need to figure out what’s fair for everyone.

Do You Have the Time to Care for Your Loved One?
This is a very important question to answer before you add another person under your roof. If you truly believe your life is too hectic to add another person to your household, then it’s not a good idea. The last thing you want is to be unable to care for your parent or loved one. It’s also important to care for yourself and all the crazy aspects that go on being a parent and caring for a parent. It’s difficult to balance. If you can’t do it, then your parent or relative will not receive the proper care they deserve.

If this is the case, then it might be best to hire a caregiver to tend to your aging loved one in their own home. Being a caregiver requires a lot of important skills as well as having the time to do it. Sometimes family life takes up all the time you have, so you have none left to offer your aging loved one. There’s nothing wrong with providing them with in house care, even if you’re not the one providing it.

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3 Ways Eldercare can Benefit Veterans

It requires a lot of courage to sign up for the military, especially during wartime. Being in active combat or just serving in the military can place a lot of strain on a veteran’s body and mind. That’s why most veterans who served during active war periods or just in general can benefit from eldercare. Here are some great ways at home care can serve those who served our country.

Relieve PTSD
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD is a mental health issue that occurs in someone who had a near death experience. Often times, it’s hard for that person to forget that memory, and they struggle when it comes to relaxing. Fortunately, caregivers are trained in soothing people and keeping them calm. Of course, it’s difficult to alleviate all signs of PTSD without the help of a trained psychologist, so episodes may still occur. However, caregivers still have the wherewithal to deal with such issues. They can also provide the emotional support to someone who suffers with PTSD. Sometimes, listening to their problems is all a veteran needs to feel a little relieved.

Alleviate Depression
Some veterans who have not encountered a near death experience can still experience depression from being in the military. Also, it’s very difficult assimilating back into society after being overseas or away from your family and friends for so long. All of these things can add up to depression or other mental health illnesses. Older veterans may lack energy to do activities or the things they used to enjoy aren’t fun anymore. Luckily, the help of a caregiver can reduce these symptoms. It’s much easier to participate in activities when you have a partner accompanying you to make you feel comfortable. Caregivers are also great listeners as we said previously. Sometimes talking through your feelings is a better way to overcome depression than hoping to ride out the illness.

Aid for those with TBI’s
Traumatic brain injuries are quite common within the military. If you’ve ever been concussed, you know that regular life can become difficult. Everything is a little hazy and your memory isn’t quite there. However, concussions heal over time. Traumatic brain injuries leave individuals with various disabilities that are permanent. As a result, the individual requires aid from a caregiver in order to carry on with everyday life.

If you know a loved one who is a veteran and has a traumatic brain injury, find them a caregiver. The help is enormous. It’s possible for someone to suffer a serious enough TBI that feeding themselves is difficult as well as bathing and other “simple” tasks we take for grant it. What is not an easy task is serving your country. These brave men and women sacrificed a lot defending our country. The least we can do is make sure they get all the help they need after returning home from duty.

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National Cancer Control Month: Importance of Prevention

There are a myriad of cancer awareness observances in the month of March which makes National Cancer Control Month a little redundant. However, that is not the case. Even as cancer death tolls continue to decline there are plenty of things we still need to do in order to keep cancer at bay. After all, it still is the 2nd most common cause of death in America. Here are some healthy choices you can make in order to decrease your chances of getting cancer.

Visit Your Doctor Annually
Some people have a predisposition to cancer. If there’s a history of the disease in your family it’s best to schedule annual doctor’s appointments. Unfortunately, if that’s the case prevention may be difficult, because you’re genetic makeup puts you at a higher risk for it. However, early detection is key to defeating cancer. If you visit your doctor regularly, chances are he or she is going to discover the abnormality, and the quicker it gets discovered, the more likely you are to beat it. Annual doctor visits is a great way to make sure you’re healthy and a great way to detect if you’re not. Don’t just guess or rest on your laurels. Seek the help of a medical professional if you believe you might be at a higher risk for cancer.

Maintain a Healthy Weight
It’s estimated that over 500,000 people will die of cancer in America. Around one third of those deaths can be linked to an unhealthy weight as well as physical inactivity. Why does an unhealthy weight contribute to a higher risk of cancer? The answer is that being overweight, your body produces more insulin and estrogen, two hormones that can stimulate the growth of cancer.

The good news is there are a lot of ways to maintain a healthy weight. For starters, you can eat well, electing to eat more fruits and vegetables, as well as doing some physical activity for at least 30 minutes everyday. It’s also important to keep track of your BMI (Body Mass Index). This is the ratio between your height and weight. A normal older adult’s BMI should be between 25 and 27, which is slightly higher than a normal young adult’s BMI. The higher BMI can help against osteoporosis.

Protect Yourself from the Sun
Skin cancer is a very common type of cancer. It’s also incredibly preventable. Here are a few tips to prevent melanoma or any other type of skin cancer.

  • Avoid the midday sun without any skin protection. That is when it’s most likely to cause damage to your skin
  • Stick to the shade on sunny days. Along with avoiding heat stroke, you can also avoid getting burnt and increasing your chances at skin cancer.
  • Make sure you cover your exposed areas with sunscreen that has a high SPF or with clothing that are preferably darker in order to reflect more UV rays.

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5 Useful Apps for your Aging Loved One

With technology growing at a rapid rate, it might be easy to get lost in it all. However, there are some very useful apps that are a great help for an aging loved one. They can be downloaded to any phone or tablet. Below are five useful apps you should know about if you’re a caregiver.

  1. Heartwise Blood Pressure Tracker – This app is great for those daily checkups without ever having to go to the doctor. The Heartwise Blood Pressure Tracker can track an elderly loved one’s blood pressure, resting heart rate, and weight. It’s very useful especially if your loved one has diabetes which causes specific complications to blood pressure and other circulatory problems.

  2. Pillboxie – Remembering when your parent or loved one has to take their medication is difficult but this app can help! The trickiest part of remembering when to take medication is when specific pills need to be taken at specific times of the day. Luckily, this app can help customize your virtual pill box, so it can get every detail of your senior’s medication schedule down perfectly.

  3. EyeReader – This useful tool is great for any senior who loves reading. If you download this app, you can hold it over any small text you might be reading at the time and it helps magnify the letters onto your phone or tablet screen. It even uses the flash from the camera to shine a light on the text in order to make it even more visible. It’s a good alternative to a magnifying glass.

  4. Park’n’Forget – Never worry about your loved one losing their car again! Park’n’Forget gives you options for where you’re parking. Maybe you’re off to a large shopping complex and your only option is parking in an enormous parking garage? It’s difficult remembering exactly what floor you’re on and the lettered section you’re in. This app will remind you as you insert what floor you’re on and the section. It even has a parking meter reminder in case you’re in the city with your loved one. It’s a great app for when you want to enjoy your time out with your parent or loved one.

  5. Lumosity – This is a great brain game app. It comes with plenty of different games to help with memory, brain health, and cognitive ability. It’s a nice little way to include some mental exercise in the middle of a senior’s day. It’s a successful day if you can get them to break a sweat as well as a mental sweat!

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The Benefits of a Positive Attitude

There have been many studies focusing on various factors that work with or against the human body that determine your longevity. Obviously, refraining from smoking, exercising regularly, and eating well all add up to a longer life. However, there has been one study that shows a positive attitude may be all that you need to ensure a longer, happier life (but you should still eat well and exercise).

Immune System
One benefit of positive thinking is that it can actually affect your immune system. The mind, in general, can have a great power over the rest of your body. It does control everything that goes on under your skin. In one study, scientists found that if the area of the brain associated with negative emotions was activated for longer, people had a weaker response to the flu vaccine. On the other hand, those who appeared optimistic exhibited a stronger response to the vaccine and their immune system got stronger.

Heart Health
One key factor for optimists is that they believe a situation is never out of their control. If bad things happen, they focus on what they can change in order to prevent further disappointments, as opposed to believing that the situation is out of their hands. As a result, their levels of stress get reduced. Reduced stress is great for your health. It helps keep your blood pressure level which ultimately leads to a happy heart. Therefore, never dwell on the bad. Analyze where the stress is coming from and think of ways to change that!

Increased Life Span
As we mentioned earlier in this article, optimists appear to live longer than those who think negatively all the time. Why? The answer can be explained up above. Of course people are going to live longer if they have a stronger immune system, low levels of stress, and good cardiovascular health. Positive thinking is like taking your daily vitamins, however you should probably do it more than once a day. There are so many great benefits to your health when you see the glass as half full.

It can be tricky, trying to be positive at all times of the day, and if you do associate yourself as someone who is relatively negative, there’s good news. There are plenty of positive thinking exercises you can do in order to reverse the way you think. Anything from simply reminding yourself of all the good things that happened to you before bed, to something more complicated like replacing negative thoughts the moment you think of them. Whatever works for you! But as you can see, positive is the way to be! Start seeing that glass as half full and start reaping those great health benefits.

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Know the Warnings: Diagnosing Dementia

It’s very difficult to diagnose dementia. Only trained professional doctors who have tons of experience in this field have all the required tools to make that diagnosis. However, there are specific warning signs that show it may be time to take mom or dad to the hospital to get checked out. It’s scary and unfortunate but the sooner you know if your loved one has dementia, the sooner you can prevent their cognitive decline. Below please find some telling warning signs for dementia.

Familiar Tasks are Difficult
Does your mother or father have a specific meal they like to prepare time and time again? Is it their speciality that they cook to perfection each time they make it? Most people have that one specialized meal that they knock out of the park. However, if you’ve noticed them struggling with this activity, it could be a sign of dementia. Having difficulty with a familiar task can alert you that something may be wrong, and it’s not just with cooking.

Perhaps you and your loved one have a favorite game you like to play. Are they struggling with remembering the rules? Difficulties with a loved one’s favorite activities like cooking and playing games are good telltale signs that their cognitive ability might be in decline.

Trouble with Time
A common symptom of dementia is that the individual has trouble remembering the day of the week in addition to dates in general. They may get confused thinking it’s the weekend, but eventually figure out that it’s Monday. Another common problem is time of day. It confuses them, especially if it’s late evening or nighttime.

If a person is having trouble keeping track of time, they’ll only truly understand what’s happening right in front of them. They won’t be able to remember conversations that happened an hour ago. Don’t let the frustration build. Instead, take them to go get checked out.

Trouble with Speaking
If you notice your loved one is having a difficult time coming up with the right words while speaking, they might need to be tested. Trouble with vocabulary is another common sign of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. However, do not be alarmed if you happened to notice it one time. We all have trouble, on occasion, picking the right word. Although, if you’re noticing it more and more it may be something serious.

A lack of vocabulary is frustrating to the person having trouble. It alienates the individual and draws them away from conversation. If the person becomes withdrawn because of their difficulty speaking, it may lead to loneliness, depression, and other mental illnesses. If you suspect your loved one is suffering from possible dementia, take them to a physician early on. It can’t be defeated but you can slow its progression, providing more valuable years to your love one’s life.

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How to Prevent a Parent from Hiding Aging Issues

As parents age, they do their best become less of a burden on their families by hiding their aging issues. Parents are wonderful. They spend a good portion of their lives’ raising their kids to be successful individuals. We owe a lot to them. Therefore, when parents age, the least we can do is help them age happily.

However, some parents still try their hardest to keep things from their children in order to prevent further worrying. That’s why it’s important to let your parents know that you’re here to help. There are several health-related issues that adults go through when they get older. Talk to them and explain that it’s important to say something when they’re not feeling great. Here are a list of various issues that may arise as your parents ages.

Falls are the number one cause of older adults ending up in the hospital. They might try to keep certain fall-related injuries a secret from you because this could mean that they need extra help getting around to various locations. They could also fear that you’ll want their home modified in order for it to be livable to them. Parents want to be less of a burden, but they also want to keep their independence.

If you suspect your parents may have had a fall by certain bruises on their bodies or a limp in their step, talk to them. Let them know that they need to be safe in their own home. As we stated before, parents want to keep their independence. Therefore, set up schedules with them. Pick a day and a time where the both of you can knock out specific chores like going to the grocery store or cleaning up the house. They’ll appreciate the help, and you’ll gain that peace of mind knowing they’ve accomplished their chores in a safe manner.

This symptom can lead to the first issue we wrote about. It’s possible that falls can occur from another specific problem. Dizziness is a common health issue in the elderly. It can be caused by low blood pressure, a specific medication that they take, or dehydration. A parent might hide this issue from you, because they feel like it’s something unusual that just occurred that one time. However, if it is caused by something like low blood pressure or dehydration than it’s best to get them a doctor’s appointment. Something like this may seem trivial to them but can wind up being a much larger issue.

Financial Difficulties
Once a parent retires, it’s difficult to keep up with all the bills and expenses of independent living, because they no longer have a steady income. You might notice they’re having trouble with their finances if you see some overdue bills lying around the house. It’s important that you bring it up to them. The last thing you want is for a parent to be hassled by bill collectors. If this is the case, there are a multitude of government programs they can sign up for or even community agencies that can provide assistance.

It might just be that a parent is having trouble paying the bills on time simply because they forget. This is where setting up a schedule becomes useful again. Have a talk with them. Learn when their bills are supposed to be paid, and the two of you can structure a bill paying schedule in order to keep the bills from being overdue.

These are merely a few of the issues that can surround your aging parent. Don’t let these or any other health or financial struggle go unnoticed. You may sit down and talk with them, and they’ll tell you that everything is going great. However, if you notice some warning signs like bruises, hospital bills, or late notices on bills bring it up to them. Provide them with evidence for your concern and be open about it. Your parent won’t want to be burden, but it’s more important that they age happily as opposed to being overlooked.

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Watching Out For Senior Scammers

Technology is a wonderful thing. It has allowed families to video chat with each other from one coast to another, we can now pay our bills online with one click of a button, and we’re more connected than ever. Unfortunately, with this newer technology comes newer scams on seniors. Recently there have been various schemes that you and your elderly loved one should watch out for. They are as follows:

Internet Fraud
It’s unfortunate that with all the great things the internet provides us with, we still need to be very careful when online. There are numerous ways to scam anyone of any age. Nevertheless, here are some potential internet schemes that your elderly loved one needs to be aware of.

  • Emails Scams – When receiving emails from people you don’t know, it’s best to just delete them. However, sometimes you or a loved one may receive an email from a company that looks legitimate, asking you to “update” personal information. If you or a loved one are not fully sure whether this company is one you’ve worked with in the past, do no respond. It’s possible that it’s a phishing scam trying to collect personal information to steal your identity. Be careful. If the company is only vaguely familiar, or you know your elderly loved one has never done business with this specific company, delete the email.
  • Fake Anti-Virus Programs – There are websites out there that can mimic virus scanning websites. Unfortunately, these websites aren’t out there to help you or your older loved one. These websites were created to steal personal information. These simulated programs act like they’re removing terrible viruses from your computer, but instead they’re uploading programs in order to collect passwords, usernames, card numbers, etc. in order to rob older individuals. Make sure you explain to your elderly loved one, if they ever come across and website that wants them to install anti-virus software, close it out. Most computers come with virus protection, so there’s no reasons to download anything from a suspicious website.

Counterfeit Prescriptions
More common than ever, this scam occurs on the internet as well. More and more seniors are now heading online to find better deals on their prescription drugs. Unfortunately, people have created fake websites offering fake drugs. This can be twice as dangerous, because A) your senior loved one is paying money for a useless substance or B) they’re paying money for a substance that could, in turn, harm them rather than help them. Your best defense against this type of scam is to sit down with your elderly loved one, pick out a few trusted websites, bookmark them, and tell them that here are their options when it comes to ordering online prescriptions.

This is considered the most common of scams against senior citizens. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to prevent and very hard to trace. Some of the common schemes amongst telemarketing fraud are posing as a charity and asking for money after a natural disaster, posing as a grandchild asking for a good bit of money, or posing as a victim of some accident asking for money. It’s tough to prevent, as these types of people prey off the goodness found in others. What you can do is sit them down and warn them of the potential threat when people call them over the phone. Never give out any personal information whether it’s over the phone or online. Make this known to your senior loved one. It’s important to keep all personal information to yourself.

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