Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s: Which Is It?
Each January and February, senior living facilities often notice an increase in phone calls requesting information about admission requirements. Inquiries come from family members who have observed differences in a loved one’s personality, memory or daily routine during holiday visits.
It’s common for family members to begin using both “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” to describe their loved one’s changing state of mind, but the medical conditions are not the same. The article from AARP below will help caretakers begin to understand the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s and provide talking points for discussions with medical professionals about your loved one’s health.
Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s: Which Is It?
How to understand the difference — and why it matters
The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” have been around for more than a century, which means people have likely been mixing them up for that long, too. But knowing the difference is important. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia (accounting for an estimated 60 to 80 percent of cases), there are several other types. The second most common form, vascular dementia, has a very different cause — namely, high blood pressure. Other types of dementia include alcohol-related dementia, Parkinson’s dementia and frontotemporal dementia; each has different causes as well. In addition, certain medical conditions can cause serious memory problems that resemble dementia.
A correct diagnosis means the right medicines, remedies and support. For example, knowing that you have Alzheimer’s instead of another type of dementia might lead to a prescription for a cognition-enhancing drug instead of an antidepressant. Finally, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial for Alzheimer’s if you’ve been specifically diagnosed with the disease.
What it is…
In the simplest terms, dementia is a nonreversible decline in mental function.
It is a catchall phrase that encompasses several disorders that cause chronic memory loss, personality changes or impaired reasoning, Alzheimer’s disease being just one of them, says Dan G. Blazer, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center.
To be called dementia, the disorder must be severe enough to interfere with your daily life, says Constantine George Lyketsos, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center in Baltimore.
It is a specific disease that slowly and irreversibly destroys memory and thinking skills.
Eventually, Alzheimer’s disease takes away the ability to carry out even the simplest tasks.
A cure for Alzheimer’s remains elusive, although researchers have identified biological evidence of the disease: amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain. You can see them microscopically, or more recently, using a PET scan that employs a newly discovered tracer that binds to the proteins. You can also detect the presence of these proteins in cerebral spinal fluid, but that method isn’t used often in the U.S.
How it’s diagnosed…
A doctor must find that you have two or three cognitive areas in decline.
These areas include disorientation, disorganization, language impairment and memory loss. To make that diagnosis, a doctor or neurologist typically administers several mental-skill challenges.
In the Hopkins verbal learning test, for example, you try to memorize then recall a list of 12 words — and a few similar words may be thrown in to challenge you. Another test — also used to evaluate driving skills — has you draw lines to connect a series of numbers and letters in a complicated sequence.
There’s no definitive test; doctors mostly rely on observation and ruling out other possibilities.
For decades, diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease has been a guessing game based on looking at a person’s symptoms. A firm diagnosis was not possible until an autopsy was performed.
But that so-called guessing game, which is still used today in diagnosing the disease, is accurate between 85 and 90 percent of the time, Lyketsos says. The new PET scan can get you to 95 percent accuracy, but it’s usually recommended only as a way to identify Alzheimer’s in patients who have atypical symptoms.
Closing Thoughts from St. Anne’s…
As a caretaker, the most important thing is noticing a difference in your loved one’s behavior – and not trying to diagnose the condition or the cause on your own. Make notes of your observations, have conversations with other family members and ultimately schedule an appointment with a doctor who can provide guidance regarding your love one’s changing health. It’s also helpful to contact senior living facilities about admission requirements, waiting lists and other information related to your loved one’s care.
Source: AARP, June 25, 2018
Surviving the Holidays: Tips to Help Older Adults Savor the Season
We’ve all been there. While our vision for the holiday season is one of intimate gatherings, delicious meals and bliss, the reality can be much the opposite. The volume of activities, shifting of schedules, decadent food and potential for conflict can put added strain on the entire family. Especially older adults.
If you’re an older adult, or if you care for someone who is, you can make the holidays more manageable by taking just a short amount of time to plan ahead. By considering some of the factors you can control this season, you can make the holidays safer, healthier and merrier. Holiday activities for older adults. Here are tips for surviving – and savoring – the holiday season.
1. Set realistic expectations.
Most people have a tendency to romanticize the holiday season. They yearn for the movie-scene, stress-free experiences where everyone is happy and healthy. Where everything is easy and there are no mishaps. But the reality is that, for most families, the holidays don’t go exactly as planned. They bring some stress. And they may even be a source of conflict. By expecting the unexpected during the holidays, you can be prepared for whatever they hold and eliminate the disappointment that can come with inflated expectations.
2. Plan ahead for dietary needs.
The holidays are the time of extravagant menus. Decadent treats. And favorite traditional foods. But older adults may have dietary needs that prevent them from indulging. If you’re planning a holiday meal or event, be sure to ask your guests about special dietary needs in advance. If you’re the person with the special needs, consider bringing your own dish. Or modify elements of the meal you’re served.
3. Be aware of safety risks in unfamiliar homes.
For older adults with disabilities or mobility challenges, an unfamiliar place can be loaded with hidden hazards. Be aware of things like throw rugs, door mats, barriers in doorways or hallways, and cords or loose items that may present a fall risk for older adults. Keep rooms and hallways illuminated. And if a holiday event is being hosted in the home of an older adult with any type of cognitive condition or memory loss, consider how moving furniture or changing the configuration of a room might effect their experience.
4. Be prepared for quickly changing weather conditions.
December is a month that, in many parts of the country, can bring extreme fluctuations in temperature and weather. Layering can help ensure older adults are comfortable during the holidays. And appropriate outerwear – including hats, gloves and boots – can help protect them from the elements as they make their way to all of their holiday events and activities. If you live in colder climates, be sure you’re armed with shovels, salt and other supplies that will keep porches and walkways safe.
5. Recognize the signs of seasonal depression.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 7 million adults over the age of 65 experience depression. Why? Because depression can be triggered by certain health conditions, and even medications. It can also become more likely when an older adult is adjusting to a significant change, such as a loss, illness or home relocation. The holiday season can intensify depression and its symptoms for older adults. If you or someone you love is experiencing deep feelings of sadness or anxiety, a change in eating or sleeping habits or loss of interest in daily activities and/or personal hygiene, see your doctor.
6. Try to maintain a schedule and routine.
While it may not be possible to maintain every routine during the busy holiday season, keeping some structure can be invaluable for older adults. Predictability and consistency in schedule and routine can help improve quality of life. And studies have shown that routines can help reduce stress and anxiety; enhance feelings of safety, security and confidence; and aid in better sleep. While some routines can have some degree of flexibility, there is one that cannot – and that is the medication schedule. Be sure to keep it on track as holiday activities take hold. Consider calendar reminders, alerts or alarms to help ensure older adults continue prescribed dosage and schedule for important medications.
7. Get adequate sleep.
Getting effective, restorative sleep can be a challenge for older adults. The aging process, chronic health conditions and certain medications can disrupt sleep. And contrary to popular belief, people don’t need less sleep as they age. Older adults require about the same amount of sleep as their 20-year-old counterparts. Sleep deprivation can effect mood, memory and cognition – among other things – in older adults. And it can have an impact on their ability to enjoy the holiday season. So don’t shortchange sleep in favor of more holiday activities. And be sure older adults get plenty of rest after traveling, when the body may need extra time to recover.
8. Find ways to include everyone in activities.
It can be difficult – and even emotional – for older adults whose age or health prevent them from participating in activities or playing their traditional holiday roles. Think about new ways to get them involved. For example, break down meal-preparation tasks and assign appropriate roles to family members young and old. Plan games or activities that can be enjoyed by everyone. Tag-team on gift wrapping or shopping.
9. Don’t do it all alone.
For many older adults, they no longer have the health status or stamina to manage the holiday activities they once could. If you’re an older adult, ask for help. If you care for an older adult, be sure to check in to identify needed help or support. And don’t forget that there are resources – like home care – that can help you manage all of the demands on the holiday season, and beyond.
10. Enjoy your time together.
Regardless of how the meals, parties, gifts or activities of the holiday season play out, remember to enjoy the time spent with family and friends. Connecting and engaging with loved ones can be meaningful and fulfilling for older adults, contributing to overall happiness and well-being.
Source: FirstLight Home Care LLC
Can Your Aging Loved One Still Live Alone?
Throughout the course of our life, we all need help in one way or another, but how we define it changes as we age. It might come as insight on homework as a young student, or collaboration with an office colleague as an adult, or assistance with grocery trips as a senior because as The Beatles sang it, we “get by with a little help from (my) friends.”
Yet as we age, it often becomes harder to admit we need help – especially when it means asking for assistance from those for whom you’ve always been the caregiver. Because of this, it is important to be able to identify signs that a parent or loved one may be struggling with daily tasks or unable to safely live alone. Although the signs may seem obvious, the call for help is often silent.
Is your loved one…
- Forgetting to take daily medication, supplements or vitamins
Are they dependent on you or their spouse to remember?
- Struggling with home maintenance
Is their spotlessly clean kitchen or pristine landscaping looking messy?
- Contacting family members about the same issue multiple times.
Have they called you about an upcoming appointment more than once in a day?
- Falling or having unexplained bruises on their body
Are they falling more often or do you have concerns about falls they don’t tell you about?
- Suffering from multiple conditions that make regular tasks more difficult
Does your loved one have arthritis and poor vision which can make it difficult to navigate their home?
- Receiving late notices or calls about unpaid bills or bounced checks
Are they neglecting to pay their monthly bills on time or losing track of personal finances?
- Displaying signs of poor personal hygiene or a decline in personal appearance
Do they have body odor, bad breath, or unclean and disheveled clothing?
- Driving a vehicle with new or unexplained dents, scratches or missing parts
Are they having difficulty maneuvering their car because of limitations with eye sight and/or mobility?
- Showing signs of depression or loneliness
Would they benefit from socializing with people their same age at a retirement community or organization
While the signs your aging loved one may need help can be easy to spot, having a conversation to address them is often difficult – especially when there is denial from your aging loved one, family members or caregivers.
If your aging loved one is beginning to show signs of decline…
Take time to address home safety concerns with all family members or caregivers like cleaning cluttered rooms, clearing outdoor pathways, installing more stair rails or adding bars in the bathrooms.
Talk about areas of decline as you see them instead of saving it for one big conversation or allowing it to become an emergency situation. You can also plan to discuss areas of concern at doctor’s appointments, as it may be easier for a doctor to have or initiate the dialogue.
Begin to explore a continuing care retirement community (CRCC) and other assisted living options as it is beneficial to understand application and admission processes in addition to any waitlist requirements for communities or home care services. Plus, speaking with an admissions team at a CRCC or home health care service can help you determine exactly what your aging loved one needs to make every day a safe and happy one.
At a continuing care retirement community (CRCC), like St. Anne’s Retirement Community, your loved one can find all the levels of care they may need in one place – from independent living, to assisted living, to personal care, to rehabilitation services, to skilled nursing care and memory support. For more information about St. Anne’s Retirement Community, or to discuss the needs of your aging loved ones, please call 717-285-5443.
The Elephant in the Room
Retirement living is one thing, but moving to retirement community living is quite another. The subject can generate a lot of resistance – the “elephant in the room.”
The elephant in the room points to an issue that is not being addressed. The elephant in the room is a hard subject that is easier to avoid.
Aging: The Elephant in the Room
As it turns out, in the matter of aging, there is a huge elephant in the room. We at St Anne’s call that elephant “Annie,” and she is so common that many, if not most of you reading this, already know what is meant:
- Aging parents, relatives and friends who are unable to recognize their own situation.
- Loved ones, otherwise responsible people, who are unable or unwilling to take personal responsibility for their aging.
Pro-active aging or pro-aging is to anticipate and plan for the “next step” of life. It is a measure of personal maturity and, in pro-aging families, there is little or no Annie in the room. However, we are living in a time when people are living longer than in previous generations and the responsible thing to do is often met with resistance…even though the answer is obvious to most everyone: the elephant in the room.
We must respect the resistance of our loved ones, even as we must do what needs to be done. We must seek understanding, and where that is not possible, seek counsel regarding best care guidelines.
The decision is not easy and often not black or white…it’s gray, just like an elephant.
How to Manage the Elephant in the Room
St. Anne’s Retirement Community understands the elephant in the room. Every day, families seeking a safe home environment for relatives come to our door and see Annie, our elephant who stands seven feet tall. Her friendly expression brings smiles to faces and serves as a reminder that we are not alone in dealing with Annie, the elephant in the room.
How to Approach the Elephant in the Room:
- Do not avoid Annie, as it only makes the outcome more averse to all.
- Gather all parties and make a plan of care for your loved ones.
- Include your loved ones in every step of the process.
- Meet with an expert to help facilitate a difficult conversation and make sure you are clearly seeing the options.
St. Anne’s Retirement Community promotes proactive aging by encouraging and facilitating conversations about Annie, the elephant in the room. To meet with our Admissions team and discuss plans for you or a loved one’s future, please call 717-285-5443.
Fraud Against Seniors:
Turn “Why Me?” into “Not Me!”
Money doesn’t grow on trees. After years of building up bank accounts and investment funds, why let hard earned money fall into the hands of deceptive criminals?
Why are Seniors a Likely Target for Fraud?
While fraud can affect people of all ages, seniors are often a prime and common target. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, older Americans are more likely to be a victim of fraud for the five reasons:
- Senior citizens are most likely to have a “nest egg,” to own their home, and/or to have excellent credit—all of which make them attractive to con artists.
- People who grew up in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Con artists exploit these traits, knowing that it is difficult or impossible for these individuals to say “no” or just hang up the telephone.
- Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud because they don’t know who to report it to, are too ashamed at having been scammed, or don’t know they have been scammed. Elderly victims may not report crimes, for example, because they are concerned that relatives may think the victims no longer have the mental capacity to take care of their own financial affairs.
- When an elderly victim does report the crime, they often make poor witnesses. Con artists know the effects of age on memory, and they are counting on elderly victims not being able to supply enough detailed information to investigators. In addition, the victims’ realization that they have been swindled may take weeks—or more likely, months—after contact with the fraudster. This extended time frame makes it even more difficult to remember details from the events.
- Senior citizens are more interested in and susceptible to products promising increased cognitive function, virility, physical conditioning, anti-cancer properties, and so on. In a country where new cures and vaccinations for old diseases have given every American hope for a long and fruitful life, it is not so unbelievable that the con artists’ products can do what they claim
10 Ways Seniors Can Prevent Fraud
Fraud comes in many different forms and through different channels. Whether it’s by phone, online or in-person, there are ways to decrease your chances of being scammed. Here are a few common tips to help avoid falling victim to this crime.
- Create strong passwords for online accounts containing capital and lower case letter as well as numbers and symbols.
- TIP: A great way to develop and REMEMBER such a password is tying it to a sentence, for example: “My daughter Judy was born in 1960” would translate to the password “MdJwbi1960”.
- Do not open emails from people you don’t know. Beware of emails with generic subjects like “Hi” or “Hello”, or no subject at all.
- Never trust a call or letter claiming you’ve won a lottery, contest or drawing if you have to:
- Pay a fee upfront to claim your prize.
- Deposit a check for more than you’ve won and wire the difference.
- Think twice before wiring money to any source as it is nearly impossible to ever get the funds back.
- Ask questions if you receive a call from a “family member” in need of emergency funds.
- A true family member or relative would be able to answer questions about other family members or traditions. If the caller can’t answer your questions correctly, hang up!
- Offer to call the “family member” back and use a phone number YOU have on file. DO NOT USE the number the caller provides to you.
- If you’ve purchased an item from an online source, like Craigslist or internet yard sales, and agree to meet in person, consider using the parking lot of your local police station to exchange money for goods.
- Never give personal information (social security number, date of birth, account numbers, PIN numbers, etc.) over the phone or on the internet unless you initiated the call and know how the information will be used.
*If you gave out information to such a source, contact your financial institution immediately.
- Avoid using public WiFi with a shared or unsecured password to transmit personal information because it can easily be intercepted by fraudsters.
- Do your RESEARCH!
- Example 1: IRS Scams
- If you receive a call from the IRS claiming you owe money, HANG UP and visit the IRS’ website for notices about current scams from IRS imposters.
- According to the IRS website (www.irs.gov), “The IRS will never call to demand immediate payment, nor will call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill. In addition, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue.”
- Example 2: Contest Scams
- If you’ve won a contest you don’t remember entering, contact the church or organization sponsoring it for more information. It is also helpful to search online for articles regarding the validity of similar calls in your area or nationwide.
- Example 1: IRS Scams
- Call someone you trust for advice!
- Example: If your grandson calls for emergency funds, contact his parents before sending any money, providing account information, etc.
Fraud can rear its ugly head at any time and impacts people of all ages. From telephone scams to online hoaxes, it’s important to understand the types of fraud impacting your local community and scams occurring nationwide.
A good rule of thumb is NEVER respond to unexpected requests for money or personal information, and contact someone you trust when fraud knocks on your door.
You’ve built your nest egg, and now it’s time to enjoy it! After all, you earned it.
Tips on Downsizing for Retirement
Winter is here, and with it comes cold weather causing you to spend more hours indoors than out. Rather than let Old Man Winter give you the blues, use your time inside free up space and begin to downsize for retirement.
While scaling down may seem like a daunting task, there are many obvious places to start, like spare closets, garages and extra bedrooms. Sort through items carefully to identify family mementos to pass onto younger generations and things that can be donated to charity or thrown away. Where ever and whenever you begin, keep one goal in mind – downsize, downsize, downsize!
Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling:
Kitchen Appliances – If you haven’t ground your own coffee beans, squeezed your own citrus juice or made your own pasta in years, it’s time to take back the cabinet space. You can also eliminate serving dishes, extra plates, etc. to make room for a smaller kitchen in a retirement community.
Entertainment Equipment – In a small apartment or cottage, you may not have room for large entertainment centers or old, large televisions. Scale back the furniture on which your television set is displayed and watch for store promotions in the fall and winter if you wish to purchase a more compact, better quality and lighter weight TV.
Outdoor Furniture – If you enjoy spending time outside, there’s no reason to stop doing it when you’re retired! Look for ways to reduce the size or amount of your patio furniture, because chances are, the space in a retirement community will be smaller than in a residential development. If you need to buy new furniture, wait until the end of the summer for reduced prices on patio sets.
Bedroom Furniture – Most retirement communities offer one or two bedroom residences. Consider donating furniture from additional bedrooms that don’t have nostalgic value. In addition, consider keeping smaller pieces over larger ones in the event that your new bedroom(s) are smaller than in your current home.
Holiday Decorations – As you celebrate holidays throughout the year, donate any decorations you haven’t used or those to which you have no sentimental attachment. In addition, you can eliminate items in storage by decorating for the season instead of specific holidays – i.e. winter themed décor vs. Valentine’s Day or St. Patrick’s Day.
Outdoor Maintenance Equipment – Many times, retirement communities will handle the lawn care, snow removal and general landscaping for Residents. So, you won’t need equipment like lawn mowers, snow blowers or leaf blowers, etc.
Childhood Memorabilia – If you’ve been storing artwork, prom dresses, bridesmaid gowns and other items created or used by your grown children, it’s time to talk to them about taking the things they want to keep and donating the rest to charity.
Clothing – If you haven’t worn an article of clothing in the past year, free up the space by donating or consigning it! A popular way to determine unnecessary clothing is to turn the hangers backward in your closet, and at the end of the season, anything that is not facing the correct way can be eliminated from your wardrobe.
Old Documents – If you have a filing cabinet full of documents over a decade old, consider cleaning out. Look up recommended time periods for retaining certain items like tax filings, medical bills, etc. and shred anything with personal information like social security numbers or account numbers.
As you approach retirement, it’s important to not only understand the financial aspects, but to be prepared to embark on the journey itself. If you plan to move into a retirement community like St. Anne’s, downsizing is essential and tackling it early can help minimize the stress of doing it at an older age, completing it within a short timeline or leaving it to your children, relatives or friends in the future. The task might even take you on an unexpected and enjoyable trip down Memory Lane.
Good luck and happy downsizing!