Showing posts with label Alzheimer’s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alzheimer’s. Show all posts

Monday, August 22, 2016

Healthy Aging Month - Caring for the Elderly

 As the chorus of the 1970s Bill Withers song goes, “Lean on me when you’re not strong, and I’ll help you carry on.” But those words can take on a new meaning as your loved ones age. Sometimes, in spite best efforts, the effects of aging, such as reduced mental and physical function, strip away independence and require help from a family member or caregiver.

With the approach of September’s Healthy Aging Month, this is an ideal time to evaluate the health status of your loved ones and potentially prepare for a future role as a caregiver. This can be overwhelming, but the following tips will make the transition easier, whether you or someone else will be looking after the person.

Tip #1 – View institutionalization as a last resort

Nursing home placement is rarely the first choice of the elderly, or their relatives, and for good reason. No matter how good the institution is, being placed in a nursing home can be traumatic, not to mention costly.

Finding workable alternative solutions that allow the aging person to stay in their home, or at least with those they know and love, is preferable. Keeping familiar surroundings and faces in the person’s daily life eliminates the stress that can occur when being moved to a nursing home.

Tip #2 – Find intermediate solutions involving close friends or family

Though this may be hard to find, a loved one living nearby may be able to extend the aging person’s independence by dropping in regularly to assist where it’s needed, whether that’s in the form of housekeeping, cooking, or personal care.

If you’re too busy to take on the extra work, consider hiring a younger relative, such as teenager or responsible adolescent in the family who could use a little extra spending money. It creates welcome social interaction and can be valuable job training for the person helping out.

Tip #3 – Seek professional intermediate solutions

If there is no one available among family and friends, there are many resources to assist professionally at home. For example:
  • If the aging person is already in a retirement community, research the transitional services available on-site – staff resources who can check in on your relative and assist with certain tasks that have become too difficult for them.
  • If living in their home, there are many in-home care provider services available, some of which are government subsidized. These services provide regular in-home visits to handle personal or household tasks.

Tip #4 – Look for electronic support

To help an aging elder to stay safe while maintaining a degree of independence, consider gadgets that can help. For example:
  • A wearable alarm button, often referred to as a Senior Alert Device or a Medical Alert for Seniors, that is manually activated by the person by clicking a button on the device – often a bracelet or necklace. Most operate like cellular mobile devices, connecting the wearer to selected loved ones or to a company operator, who can determine if emergency personnel should be called.
  • Wearables that monitor vital signs are part of a growing medical devices trend, including ECG monitors, glucose monitors, blood pressure, and pulse monitors. The wearable device tracks patients' movements and vitals, and then sends health measurements to caregivers or to their doctor. 
  • For a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia, you can get assistance devices that are worn around the neck and that boldly state on them that the wearer has mental impairment. When activated, it connects to selected friends or relatives. These are valuable if the person has wandered away from home and is lost or confused.

Tip #5 – Save them money on their prescription medicines

Many of the elderly are on numerous medications, the cost of which can really add up! Help your elderly friend or relative sign up for a free FamilyWize Prescription Savings Card. Now more than ever, they can benefit from discounts of 43%, on average. If you are responsible for picking up prescriptions for that person, you can use your own FamilyWize card to save on their behalf.

Download a free card online today or request a card by calling 1-800-222-2818. You can also get the free FamilyWize app, available for both Android at the Google Play Store and Apple Devices (iPhone and iPad) at the App Store.

It can be difficult to watch a loved one age, but it’s possible to help them do so with grace and dignity.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Losing Sleep Harms Your Brain

Study shows: If you don’t snooze, you lose.

We already know from earlier studies that that losing sleep reduces your IQ the following day (so much for the “cram for the exam” practice), and that important synaptic connections in children's brains strengthen during sleep, for instance. But two recent sleep research studies reveal that losing significant sleep, such as when pulling an all-nighter, can shrink your brain, according one to study, and create brain damage , according to the other.

Study #1 – Lasting brain damage from sleep deprivation

A 2013 Swedish study found that depriving yourself of a good night’s sleep can result in damage to brain tissue.  The alarming news is that it happens almost right away; losing even one night’s sleep can lead to the type of brain damage more commonly seen as a result of a head injury. 

The goal of the study was to determine if  “total sleep deprivation” – i.e., pulling an all-nighter – would negatively affect certain neurons or proteins in the human brain. To test this, the scientists took 15 young and healthy normal-weight men and subjected them to few hours of sleep deprivation, drawing blood samples before and after the sleep intervention (because high concentrations of certain markers in blood suggest possible neuron damage or impairment of the blood brain barrier function). The scientist also tested the same subjects’ blood after getting a full night’s sleep.

The researchers found that the critical markers – increased blood concentrations of molecules NSE and S-100B – were present the morning after the sleep deprivation. These chemicals are the same ones that would be elevated in blood levels after a brain damage event (though not to the same degree).

Their conclusion: lack of sleep can invoke brain-degenerative processes.

The theory the scientists postulated from the study is that the lack of sleep prevents the brain from performing normal toxin-clearing functions.  Though the study did not go deep enough to connect the sleep deprivation with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or multiple sclerosis, the scientists suspect that further studies based on their research may make such a connection.

Study #2 – Brain shrinkage from sleep deprivation

Sleep has been proposed to be "the brain's housekeeper," serving to repair and restore the brain. A 2014 study, reported in the September issue of Neurology®, supported that theory, showing that sleep difficulties may be linked to faster rates of decline in brain volume.

The study researchers examined 147 young and elder adults, seeking a link between sleep difficulties (having trouble falling/staying asleep at night), and brain volume. The participants underwent two MRI brain scans, an average of 3.5 years apart, before completing a questionnaire about their sleep habits. The assessment looked at how long people slept, how long it took them to fall asleep at night, use of sleeping medications, and other factors.

The study found that those with sleep difficulties showed a more rapid decline in brain volume over the course of the study in widespread brain regions, including within frontal, temporal and parietal areas, with results most pronounced in those over age 60.

"It is not yet known whether poor sleep quality is a cause or consequence of changes in brain structure," said study author Claire E. Sexton, DPhil, with the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

"There are effective treatments for sleep problems, so future research needs to test whether improving people's quality of sleep could slow the rate of brain volume loss. If that is the case, improving people's sleep habits could be an important way to improve brain health."

Are you getting enough sleep? 

To learn more about getting a healthy night’s sleep, check out these related sleep resources:
Make sure to pass this article on to anyone you know that uses all night exam-cram sessions so that they will be aware of the health risks.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer