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Medical Breakthroughs in the Quest to Identify Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is the most commonly diagnosed form of dementia. Though early-onset Alzheimer’s can be diagnosed in people as young as their 30s, it is most often diagnosed among people in their late 50s. When compared to Alzheimer’s that affects older adults over the age of 65, early-onset Alzheimer’s is thought to be inherited, genetically running in families.

Unfortunately, as with all forms of dementia, early diagnosis is extremely difficult. Most doctors encourage their patients to be aware of any family history of the disease and to keep track of memory loss symptoms.

Recent Breakthroughs in Diagnosis
When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, the earlier a medical expert can detect the condition, the better the outcome for the patient. Here’s a look at some of the most recent and promising breakthroughs:

The Spinal Fluid Test
Scientists from the University of Texas Medical School in Houston discovered and fine-tuned a new spinal fluid test that can detect the specific protein clusters linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers found that these protein clusters ultimately migrate into a patient’s spinal fluid several years before any of the Alzheimer’s symptoms occur. Since obtaining a sample of spinal fluid is extremely painful and dangerous for the patients, scientists are hard at work developing a new blood test to detect the protein clusters.

REST Protein Markers
Harvard University scientists recently discovered that something called the REST protein might help to protect seniors against Alzheimer’s. The REST protein is present in the brains of fetuses, but is inactivated after babies are born. However, once people reach approximately 65 years of age, the REST protein reactivates in the brain, protecting a select number of neurons from stress-related damage. Among seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, seniors noticed that the REST protein is depleted, suggesting that a boost of this specific protein could help seniors fight off the deadly form of dementia. Much more research is needed before this information will make a significant impact on the Alzheimer’s community.

Laser Eye Testing
Sapphire II is a new type of eye exam technology that experts hope will be able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease in a matter of minutes. Developed by an Alzheimer’s research company, Sapphire II is a laser device and specialized eye ointment duo. Clinical trials have shown that the laser can detect classic beta-amyoid signatures in a senior’s eyes – a common sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

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10 Tips For Alzheimer Caregiving

On September 20th, I will be mom’s caregiver for a whole year. That’s a big one for me. We have bad days and good days but how I handle it, that’s a whole new ball of wax. I made a list of the top 10 things I have learned about Alzheimer’s Disease and being a caregiver.


  1.  Be attentive to the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s. My mother had been showing signs for years but we just didn’t recognize them.
  2. Understand the lengths at which a person will go to hide their symptom, which makes being attentive to the signs even harder! My mother tried to hide her symptoms from me at times.
  3. Know how hard it is to diagnose Alzheimer’s. We’d been to 2 primary care doctors and a Neurologist. My mom had a physical, family history, MRI, clock test, and several other tests but there was no clear cut diagnosis. Though all agree that she is suffering from Alzheimer’s, there is no single test that will diagnose it.
  4. Be patient and understanding. If you try to talk to an ALZ patient the way you would talk to anyone else they are not going to get it. Speak loudly but don’t scream, slow your words down and use as few words as possible to get your point across. Spend more time listening to them than talking to them.
  5. Make a routine! Routine and schedules cannot be stressed enough as it makes life go so much smoother. When mom gets up and does the same thing everyday, she isn’t afraid as much of what’s coming next. Instinctively she knows. Keep important things for morning time because as the day goes by so does their mental function.
  6. Have a Power of Attorney. This is a must for any family caregiver to have. As their mental function decreases so does the ability to make important health and financial decisions. If you wait too long, their mental capacity deficit may mean it is too late to sign one. At this point, you would have to hire a lawyer, go to court, and request guardianship.
  7. Keep track of everything and stay organized. I have several calenders and write everything down as well as file things in a filing cabinet to keep track of doctors appointments and medications.
  8. As Alzheimer’s progresses you have to understand the fear of abandonment that goes along with it. If I am out of mom’s sight for very long she will come and hunt me down. She’s not being nosy she is just afraid of losing me. It can get frustrating but if you look at your loved ones face and see the look of happiness when they find you it makes all those frustrations dissolve.
  9. Conceal your own feelings and emotions. This is one of the hardest as a caregiver, you will go through so many emotions: sadness, frustration, anger and guilt to name a few. If you are agitated and frustrated, they will be too. Likewise, if you stay calm and keep a cheerful tone in your voice, they will mimic that too and life will be so much smoother.
  10. You are not alone! Lean on family and friends when needed, delegate what you can, use social media. There are also great organizations both local and online that can be a huge help. This is not a “one person” job – ask for help when you need it. Appreciate the good, laugh at the crazy and deal with the rest.
 

Rena McDaniel is the founder of The Diary of an Alzheimer’s Caregiver and also 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, facebook.com/thediaryofanalzheimercaregiver , pinterest.com/rm29303 , plus/google.com/Rena McDaniel

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Why Seniors Should Stick to a Recommended Vaccination Schedule

In the United States, far too many seniors fail to get the vaccinations they need. In the absence of these disease-preventing injections, older adults are at a much higher risk of developing and spreading serious illnesses. Though vaccinations may seem like a no-brainer, many people are surprised to learn just how many segments of the population – including seniors over the age of 65 – do not keep their immunizations up to date.

Why Aren’t People Getting Vaccinated?
There are plenty of reasons that seniors miss out on their vaccinations. Cost, lack of transportation, immobility, complacency, minimal interaction with a physician or medical provider, lack of vaccine knowledge and the growing anti-vaccine movement are the most commonly cited reasons.

Believe it or not, the United States is experiencing an increase in infectious and communicable diseases. In fact, there are more than 50,000 vaccine-preventable deaths in the U.S. each year.

In a recent CDC press release, Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H, said that far too many people think “infectious diseases are over in the industrialized world,” but global travel and trade can spread infectious diseases “anywhere in the world within 24 hours.” Pretty scary thought, isn’t it?

In response to the spread of communicable disease, a group of experts formed the National Adult Vaccination Program (NAVP) to “improve adult vaccinations aligned with the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. In fact, the NAVP is spearheaded by The Gerontological Society of America (GSA), a group representing millions of older adults around the country.

Why Should Seniors Care About Vaccinations?
For seniors, one of the greatest benefits of an up-to-date vaccination schedule is that the inoculations keep more than a few diseases at bay; they can also keep other – often deadly – medical complications at bay, too. Take the flu vaccine for example. For older adults with heart disease, annual vaccinations against influenza can help to reduce the likelihood of major adverse cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke. Research published in the medical journal JAMA reveals that older adults who receive the influenza vaccine have a 36 percent lower risk of cardiovascular events, when compared to older adults who have not been immunized against the flu.

Additional Importance for Seniors
Vaccines are also beneficial for older adults because:

  • They have declining immune systems
  • Multiple medical conditions increase the risk of contracting preventable diseases
  • Seniors need “community immunity”


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Simple Tips for Preventing At-Home Injuries

Among independent seniors, accidental slips and falls at home are the leading causes of injury. These falls impact much more than just a senior’s physical wellbeing; they can also damage mental health. The good news is that most, if not all, falls within the home can be prevented.

Facts of Accidental Falls
Seniors who live at home, particularly those living alone, are at a much higher risk for slipping and falling. Some recent fall statistics include:
  • 70 percent of all serious injuries that require emergency room visits and/or surgery occur inside or just 30 yards outside the home.
  • The most common injuries seniors sustain from slip and fall accidents are hip, pelvic or other fractures, followed by traumatic brain injuries.
  • Older adults who are ages 55 or over are at the highest risk for sustaining serious slip and fall injuries.


How Can Seniors and Caregivers Prevent Injuries?
Prevention is key when it comes to avoiding at-home falls among older adults. Let’s take a look at some simple tips that are sure to increase safety:

Stay Focused
Seniors must always be mindful of their surroundings and even the people around them. For example, should a senior let her mind wander or get preoccupied with planning a mental shopping list, the lack of environmental focus can lead to disaster. Senior caregivers or older adults requiring in-home care should always:
  • Pay close attention to the task at hand when climbing or descending a flight of stairs
  • Use railings for added support and stability when taking the stairs
  • Identify hazardous carpet or linoleum defects, then conduct repairs
  • Avoid rushing anywhere – that includes the house, basement, stairs or outdoors
  • Pay attention to gut feelings; if a situation makes a senior uneasy, call out for help


Stop, Look, Listen
Many times, taking a short pause to look around and absorb current surroundings can prevent hazardous at-home falls among seniors. For example, when entering a room, especially if the lights aren’t on, it’s a good time for seniors to slow down, locate the light switch and make it across the room safely. In the beginning, all these safety rules may seem like a big waste of time. However, as they become automatic routines, seniors will feel more adept and, more importantly, have the tools to avoid unnecessary injuries.

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“Alive Inside” Proves Music Makes a Perfect Alzheimer’s Tool

It’s a rare treat when a movie or book comes along and captures what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. However, Dan Cohen, the founder of a nonprofit organization known as Music and Memory, has been able to do just that with his film entitled Alive Inside. Through the camera lens, Cohen is able to show viewers three disturbing themes classically associated with Alzheimer’s disease: aging in place, mortality and the real truth about U.S. nursing homes. Perhaps more importantly, Alive Inside proves that music can help seniors diagnosed with the deadly form of dementia.

Music Therapy Shows Great Promise Among Seniors with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia seem to literally erase the mental and physical presence of affected seniors. However, Cohen noticed that, when he played certain songs for dementia-diagnosed seniors in nursing homes, they were still inclined to respond.

By simply exposing seniors to familiar music, friends and family members are able to once again connect on an emotional level. As the older adults continue to experience reactions brought on by music, loved ones are able to get answers to direct questions or simply rejoice in the moment, listening to stories of the seniors’ past.

Music, as the film’s title suggests, proves seniors with Alzheimer’s are quite literally Alive Inside.

Individual Proof
During the opening scenes of Alive Inside, we’re shown a 90-year old woman apologizing to the cameraman. She’s apologizing because she can’t remember anything when she’s asked to talk about her past life. Once she has headphones placed over her ears, the reaction is undeniable.

By playing Louis Armstrong’s classic rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” viewers get a first-hand look at the transformation of this woman’s expressions. In a matter of minutes, the woman becomes emotional and tears of joy begin rolling down her cheeks. Next, the elderly woman starts talking about her past and the detailed memories the Louis Armstrong tune has evoked. Quite simply, the music has transformed her brain’s functioning power and memory recall.

The Mission
Dan Cohen’s drive to help seniors with Alzheimer’s is strong – as is his belief that music therapy and memory are irreversibly bound to one another. A firm believer that music can improve lives, Cohen would love to see every nursing home patient be provided with a pre-loaded MP3 player full of their favorite music.

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Why it’s Important for Seniors to Keep Moving

We now know that, in order to stay sharp and healthy, seniors must remain active. In fact, research has proven that seniors get the most benefits by completing both mental and physical forms of exercise. These activities can essentially pump up the brain and overall muscle tone.

For seniors, daily physical and mental activities can ultimately produce tangible results in the brain and body. So daily activities, for instance, help to boost mobility, brain activity and overall quality of a senior’s life.

Additional reasons that older adults need a daily dose of activity can include the following:
  • Independence: For seniors living independently and in their own homes, the possibility of a fall is never far from a loved one’s mind. However, with daily exercise and mental stimulation, seniors are able to live in a much safer environment while also putting the worries of loved ones at rest. Physical activities promote muscle strength and improve mobility, while a mental workout improves clarity and decreases forgetfulness. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
  • Awesome balance and reflexes: As aging in place continues, a progressive and natural decline of balance and coordination are working behind the scenes. When seniors include daily mental and physical activities, a decline of these skills can be delayed or prevented altogether. Not only will strength and coordination skills benefit, a senior’s reflexes will also enjoy a much-needed boost to reflexes, ultimately helping to prevent falls and other injuries within the home.
  • The end of high stress levels: Life can be particularly stressful for older adults. Stress has a way of wreaking havoc on the body, mind, and blood pressure of all seniors. It is also known to increase the risk of heart disease, affect the way the brain processes/uses information and decreases memory retention. Fortunately, seniors can work to reduce stress by performing both mental and physical activities. Stress can literally be a killer.


Mind and Body Activities
Seniors looking to get active or boost brain power should consider some of the following activities:
  • Sudoku or similar forms of mentally-stimulating puzzles
  • Brisk walks in environments that aren’t too physically challenging
  • Swimming or water aerobics (age-appropriate classes are usually available)


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How Will You Celebrate National Senior Citizens Day?

National Senior Citizens Day is here once again, so mark your calendars for August 21. The day of recognition was established by President Ronald Reagan 26 years ago. On August 19, 1988, the President issued what’s known as “Proclamation 5847” to create National Senior Citizens Day. The date of celebration was then scheduled to fall on August 21 each year, providing a designated time to acknowledge the life-long contributions our nation’s seniors have made to their communities.

In Proclamation 5847, President Reagan stated:

“For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute,” Ronald Reagan said. “We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older—places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.

“Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, president of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Aug. 21, 1988 as National Senior Citizens Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

Celebration Tips
For the senior caregivers, adult children, grandchildren and friends of older adults, a few celebration ideas for National Senior Citizens Day 2014 might include:
  • Spending some extra time visiting with senior citizens
  • Showing appreciation for seniors’ accomplishments and sacrifices, starting a dialogue that gives them a chance to share stories and wisdom
  • Taking on various forms of volunteer work that support of the elderly, such as meals-on-wheels


For Seniors
If you are a senior citizen, feel free to take time and enjoy your day any way you’d like. It’s called National Senior Citizens Day for a reason, you know? For example, most large department stores offer an additional senior citizen discount on August 21st. This day is all about you and spending time with the people who make you feel loved.

See President Regan’s official Congressional Proclamation of National Senior Citizens Day by visiting here.

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Grandparents Play a Role in Back to School Activities

Despite the fact that most seniors’ days of sitting in a classroom are a distant memory, older adults can still get the “back to school” butterflies. For those who are lucky enough to have grandchildren, preparing for a new school year is still a time of hustle and bustle. Most children love having an opportunity to share the excitement of school days and grandparents can take advantage of this time. Let’s take a look at some activities that give grandparents an opportunity to bond with their beloved grandchildren when the school year begins.

Relax and Take it Easy
Sounds a little too simple, doesn’t it? Well, believe it or not, spending leisure time with grandchildren is one of the best ways to interact and bond without constraints. While parents are constantly pushing kids to keep a schedule and run a household, grandparents get to enjoy a different kind of relationship with these kids. No need to rush; operating at a slower pace can give children the chance to feel, reflect and express their feelings.

Take it Outside
For seniors and their grandchildren, spending time outdoors is the perfect way to get back to basics. Nature has a way of calming humans. In fact, the great outdoors has even been shown to elicit mental and physical healing properties. While taking a leisurely stroll through the woods or a local park, Grandparents have an opportunity to engage children and participate in some pretty interesting conversations.

Seniors might want to think about starting a yearly “back to school” family tradition in the outdoors. It’s possible to start out taking short nature walks during a child’s toddler years, making them longer with age.

Share Your Passions
Taking an active role in the hobbies and activities that grandchildren enjoy provides a golden opportunity for quality time. It’s also a great way to learn where a child’s passions lie. Who knows, the two might share a number of passions. Some great examples of these activities are gardening, dog walking or knitting.

When grandparents and their grandchildren share similar passions, tackling them as a duo encourages an open line of communication. Children will be more apt to open up and talk to their grandparent about the ups and downs of school.

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Slipping and Sliding is Not a New Dance Craze

Home Safety Tips from The Complete Eldercare Planner by Joy Loverde


TCEP updated The majority of accidents happen at home; but did you know that more accidents happen in the living room than anywhere else?  Given the probability that our “home sweet home” can be anything but, The Complete Eldercare Planner  suggests tried and true strategies that help make home a safer place to be.

Risky Resident
Let’s start with you – the homeowner. The cause of accidents is not always environmental. Underlying medical conditions contribute equally to home hazards. Review the following checklist to see if you are healthy enough to manage a household on your own


  • Instability associated with impaired general health
  • Compromised strength, balance, and gait
  • Decline in vision and hearing
  • Chronic disease
  • Mental health problems
  • Deficiencies in the diet
  • Prescription medicines


Stairway to Heaven
According to home-safety experts, fifty-five per cent of accidental injuries in the home involve falls, with the largest proportion of accidents being falls from stairs or steps. FYI… a whopping 60% of deaths result from accidents on stairs! Here are a few facts to consider:


  • Most stairway falls that cause injuries occur while people are walking down the stairs.
  • Absence of handrails account for a large percentage of falls on stairs.
  • Neglecting to use handrails that are installed to reduce the potential for miss-stepping and providing the means to retrieve balance contribute to injuries.
  • Unexpected location of stairs leads to many falls. For example, stairs of just one or two steps in a hallway or doorway are especially hazardous.


Given the severe consequences, do your stairs measure up to safety standards?

  • Steps are moisture-free and clutter-free
  • Steps are level and in good repair
  • Landings, stairs, and hallways are well lit with two-way light switches
  • Handrails are installed, sturdy, and used regularly


Bed, Bath, and Beyond
Getting up in the middle of the night and taking a tumble is unfortunately all too common. From getting tangled up in draping bedding to medications that cause dizziness and disorientation here are a few strategies that help to avert bedroom and bathroom mishaps:


  • If it’s a bathroom problem, talk to the physician to figure out the best way to manage hydration and work on a toileting schedule to avoid needing to go at night.
  • Resist the temptation to purchase silk-like sheets, blankets, and pajamas.
  • Before getting into bed for the night, securely tuck sheets and blankets into place.
  • Turn on the nightstand light before getting out of bed.
  • Remove area rugs and mats as well as damaged and worn carpeting in the bedroom, hallway, and bathroom.


Who you gonna call?
It goes without saying that dialing 911 is your first course of action when a serious accident occurs. Additionally, be sure you know the telephone numbers of the following:


  • plumber
  • electrician
  • handyman
  • electric company
  • water company
  • gas company


More Info
Author Joy Loverde encourages you to visit her website at www.elderindustry.com for more information and to obtain free downloads and checklists from her best-seller, The Complete Eldercare Planner.  

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New Report Highlights the Dangers of Acetaminophen

It’s no secret that the body’s aches and pains can grow substantially worse as time goes by. Chronic pain is a serious problem among people of all ages, but it’s particularly a condition that plagues seniors. Non-prescription painkillers are one of the first treatment options older adults turn to for relief – particularly in the form of acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol). The problem is the use of Tylenol has skyrocketed over the last several years and, according to a new Consumer Report, accidental acetaminophen overdoses are growing to be a serious problem.

Over-the-Counter Dangers
The rise of popular over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, particularly acetaminophen, leads to more than 80,000 emergency room visits each year. More often than not, these emergencies resulted from taking way too much acetaminophen. It’s important for seniors and their caregivers to understand that acetaminophen is found in more than Tylenol. In fact, the drug is an active ingredient of over 600 OTC and prescription medications, such as allergy relief, common cold remedies and sleep aids. The Consumer Report also said that OTC drugs do not have scientifically-proven data to support guidelines for the consumer’s recommended acetaminophen levels. No one seems to know how much acetaminophen should be considered “too much” over a 24-hour period.

“We found recommendations varying from 1,000mg per day in some nighttime pain relievers to 3,900 milligrams in some products that combine acetaminophen with allergy drugs or cold and flu drugs. We think the labeled daily limit should be no more than 3,250 milligrams,” the report reads.

Going Forward
In an attempt to prevent more accidental acetaminophen overdoses, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chose to alter its prescribing guidelines. Physicians are now under orders from the FDA, preventing the medical professionals from prescribing more than 325mg of acetaminophen for patients. The FDA also mentioned that clinical trials have yet to prove higher doses of the drug can offer additional pain relieving benefits.

For seniors who rely on OTC acetaminophen for frequent pain relief, the Consumer Report piece should serve as a source of knowledge. If a decrease in the dosage amount is not possible, speak with the family physician about regular monitoring of pain and blood work to determine liver health.

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