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7 Ways for Non-physician Caregivers to Help Seniors With Their Cognitive Functions

A Healthy Mind Creates a Healthy Body

Sometimes it can be hard to tell whether a senior’s forgetfulness is something to worry about or not. You don’t want to make any assumptions, especially if you aren’t a doctor. You will want to get a second opinion, but it can be hard to get a senior to a doctor. There are some ways that non-physician care providers can help seniors with their cognitive functions.

7 Ways for Non-physician Caregivers to Help Seniors With Their Cognitive Functions

7 Ways for Non-physician Caregivers to Help Seniors With Their Cognitive Functions

These seven ways you can talk about a senior’s cognitive function and possible decline, notice any deterioration, and support the senior in your life.

1. Have All the Info Needed

Everyone needs to have all the necessary information. A caregiver should give information about the brain and cognitive decline to you and your senior. They will even refer you to a doctor if it’s needed.

2. Know the Signs and Symptoms

Everyone must know the signs and symptoms of cognitive impairment. Especially the people in charge of the senior. They should be trained to know that these signs may not be enough for a diagnosis, and a doctor needs to do an official evaluation.

3. Be Aware

It never hurts to be aware. Listen for concerns about cognition; look for any signs or any changes that happen slowly over time. This is something that both professional and family members can do.

It’s good for both the family and the professionals to talk to each other as well. Together you will be able to create the whole picture.

4. Create a List of Procedures and Referrals

It’s good for professional non-physician caregivers to develop a system to detect any changes in cognitive functions. It’s also good to have a list of doctors that can evaluate the brain if and when it’s needed.

5. Mental Status Test

Non-physician caregivers should use a test to detect cognitive impairment only if

  • this type of testing is within the scope of practice of the non-physician care provider
  • The non-physician care provider has been trained to use the test
  • Everyone consents to the test
  • There is a procedure for offering a referral for people who score poorly on the test to a doctor for an evaluation

6. Encourage Seniors to Listen to Their Doctor

If a doctor comes up with a game plan for a senior, it’s up to the non-physician care providers to work with the senior and their family to follow it. You can also encourage the family to get additional info from the doctor if it’s needed.

7. Be Supportive

Getting a dementia diagnosis can really shuffle up a person’s life. The senior and their family will be looking for support. Talk to them if they don’t understand the diagnosis and encourage them to talk to the doctor that gave the diagnosis.

Read more here.

Is Doll Therapy Helpful or Hurtful?

Is Doll Therapy Helpful or Hurtful?

Many times you will see seniors who have dementia with stuffed animals or dolls. Usually, they are petting them or talking to these toys. Doll therapy is when you use dolls to ease stress in those who have dementia or Alzheimer’s. This type of treatment is controversial at the moment because it could be seen as demeaning to have an older adult play with a doll as if they were a kid.

Is Doll Therapy Helpful or Hurtful?

Is Doll Therapy Helpful or Hurtful?

 

Despite the controversy, many senior communities around the country are using doll therapy. It can bring out the best in people and even encourage social activity. Many times, those with dementia or Alzheimer’s still want to feel useful and feel a connection, even if they can’t remember much of their own life.

Those who use this therapy never try to convince seniors the dolls are real, and they aren’t trying to make them seem like children. They see it as a new form of communication.

The benefits of this type of therapy are that it can reduce the need for medications, lower anxiety, and allow seniors to communicate better. Some people believe that the doll can give older adults an anchor in uncertain times. It can also provide them with a sense of independence. It can even allow individuals who can’t participate in activities a way to interact with others.

Read more here.

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Memory

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Memory

As you get older, it can be hard not to worry if you start to forget things. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and begin to worry if your forgetfulness is a sign of dementia. General forgetfulness is normal, but there are ways to strengthen your memory.

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Memory

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Memory

 

Fear and anxiety can make it harder to remember because they stress your brain out. These ways to strengthen your memory may be awkward at first but will get easier over time.

1. Practice Active Attention

What does this mean? Basically, it’s paying attention with a purpose. Instead of just focusing on something, like reading, for example, think about how it makes you feel, does it raise questions for you, what stands out?

Don’t start thinking about what you are going to do next.

2. Allow No Distractions When Learning Something New

Remember what it was like when you were in school? There were little to no distractions allowed so that you can focus on learning.

Take that idea with you today. When you are learning something new, turn off your phone, don’t have the TV on, and keep your area clean. Politely tell people to leave you alone while you are working.

Also, take breaks every ten minutes or so to give your brain a break.

3. Be Organized with Storage

If you are constantly losing items, then maybe it’s time to get organized. Keep things in specific places, like putting keys in a bowl or on a hook.

Use labels for boxes that way you can take a quick glance and find what you are looking for.

This way you can retrace your steps with ease.

4. Don’t Be Afraid to Repeat Info Outloud

This may seem embarrassing, but it can help. Repeat the info to yourself once or twice after hearing it. Then do it again thirty minutes or an hour later.

Saying it out loud sharpens your focus with the material.

5. Write Things Down

Make flash cards, take notes, write a summary or a list of key points. Writing is another way to repeat information and makes it easier to remember. Plus, you have something you can look at later.

Read more here.

Can Electromagnets Help Boost Your Brain’s Memory?

Can Electromagnets Help Boost Your Brain's Memory?

Memory gets more precious as we age and it can feel like there is nothing we can do to restore it once it’s lost. It might not be all hopeless though. A new study says that electromagnets can help boost your brain’s memory.

Can Electromagnets Help Boost Your Brain's Memory?

Can Electromagnets Help Boost Your Brain’s Memory?

 

The study, published in Neurology, worked with a small group of seniors aged 64 to 80 who had average memory loss that comes with age. People’s memory got better after 5 sessions with a special device. Their improvement was so impressive that the group performed similarly to the control group of young adults.

The process is called transcranial magnetic stimulation and is already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s mostly been used to help with depression.

Researchers thought that it could help wake up regions of the brain that have to do with memory. The hippocampus is a particular part they focused on because it’s thought to be the part of the brain that causes forgetfulness. Using MRI brain scans, researchers were able to target specific areas.

 

The Process

 

The stimulation happened in 30-minute sessions five days in a row. Essentially, what the researchers did was put up an 8-shaped magnetic coil against each person’s head. Because of the way the magnetic field works, no actual electricity went through their skull.

The hippocampus is too deep in the brain for the magnetic fields to touch, so the researchers looked at the area of the parietal lobe. The lobe is behind, and a little above your left ear and is connected to the hippocampus.

The participants were brought back after a day’s rest to see if the magnets had any effect.

The Results

 

Before the experiment, the seniors did worse on memory tasks than a group of young adults aged 25. The seniors only got around 40% of the questions right while the younger people got 55%.

After the magnets, the seniors did as well as the young adults. The ability to remember went up 31%, and on average the seniors were able to answer 43 out of 84 questions right instead of the 33 before.

Sadly, the effect didn’t last a long time. A week later the seniors’ ability to remember went back to how it was before. It could be possible that using the magnetics for a longer period of time could make the memory improvement better and last longer.

The process is very expensive and hard to come by.

Did You Know You Can Experience Dementia Without Having the Disease?

Did You Know You Can Experience Dementia Without Having the Disease?

It’s hard to imagine what it’s like to have dementia. It can be even harder to communicate with those who have it. Did you know there is a class called “A Walk in Their Shoes” that can give you the experience of having dementia without having the disease?

Did You Know You Can Experience Dementia Without Having the Disease?

Did You Know You Can Experience Dementia Without Having the Disease?

 

When you take the class, you learn about dementia through your senses. You will put on garden gloves, and a few fingers will be banded together. You will have a nose clip and a giant clothespin. The sunglasses you’ll wear have small dots on the lenses. This makes everything hard to see and put together.

You will have popcorn kernels in your shoes to make standing and walking painful and cause you to wobble. Finally, you’ll have headphones streaming a ton of different and indecipherable sounds.

The idea is to create what daily life is like with dementia. You will probably feel anxious and afraid. You will be overwhelmed.

The class was created by Alyssa Mackey, who is a dementia trainer and direction of business development at The Residence at Salem Woods. The goal is to help people of all walks of life to be able to talk to people with dementia in better ways. To have them speak slower and be more patient.

Things like facial expression, stance, proximity, and tone of voice are key messages to those with dementia. Things become more focused on feelings and instinct.

Read more here.

6 Key Aspects of Person-Centered Care

9 Activities Seniors with Limited Mobility Can Do

Person-centered care is the best kind of care a senior can get. It’s a way that seniors still get to be people instead of numbers. Seniors Helping Seniors NH has a person-centered approach with how we give care. If you or a loved one are receiving care and want to make sure you are getting this kind of care, you need to know the 6 key aspects of it.

6 Key Aspects of Person-Centered Care

6 Key Aspects of Person-Centered Care

 

These practices are what gives a senior dignity while they receive care, especially if they have dementia or Alzheimer’s.

1. Know the Person Living with Dementia

No one wants to be known as a number or diagnosis. You can’t give person-centered care if you don’t recognize the person. You should get the know person’s likes and dislikes, what they were like in the past, hobbies, and so much more.

2. Understand the Person’s New Reality

If someone has dementia, they see the world in a totally different way. This means that they will also communicate differently. By acknowledging it, you will be able to communicate with the senior in a better, smoother, way. This way they feel validated and not talked down to.

3. Take Opportunities to Engage With Senior

Realize that every experience and interaction is an opportunity to connect. It needs to be a meaningful connection to the senior to work. You can join them in their hobbies, watch their favorite show together, and more. Even if the senior has severe dementia, they can still have fun and enjoy activities.

4. Build a Relationship

While it may be your job to take care of a senior (if you are a caregiver and not a family member), you shouldn’t treat a senior like a task. They are a person and deserve respect and dignity. Focus on the interaction and not the tasks. Think “doing with” instead of “doing for.”

5. Have a Supportive Community

Having a community will make you, the senior, and their family feel more secure. It also makes it easy for you to succeed. A community will also support the senior and help fight against the loneliness that most seniors have.

6. Have a Flexible Care Practices

Constantly be aware and assessing care practices will make caring for a senior as effective as possible. People who have dementia will need flexibility in their care because things change for them all the time. It’s good to look at what you are doing and see if you can improve anything.

Read more here.

9 Ways to Help With Dementia Symptoms Without Medications

9 Ways to Help With Dementia Symptoms Without Medications

Being able to take medicine is a blessing and a curse. Different medications can really change seniors lives’ for the better. Though sometimes we can all feel overmedicated. The Gerontologist explores different ways to help with dementia symptoms without medications.

The Gerontologist Study

 

The study looked through different articles and studies from January 2010 through January 2017. Solutions without medications were separated by the practice, the effectiveness, and the conclusion. Each practice was thoroughly reviewed to see the acceptability, harmful effects, elements of effectiveness, and the level of investment needed.

These practices help with behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSDs).

The practices include sensory ideas like aromatherapy and massage and psychosocial practices like validation therapy and pet therapy.

Most of these worked well with no harmful effects, and don’t need a huge investment.

Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia

 

Symptoms of dementia can honestly be the most stressful part of having the disease. 97% of people with dementia have at least one of these symptoms.

BPSDs come from changes in the brain in relation to the characteristics of their environment.

Symptoms include

  • Agitation
  • Aberrant Motor Behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Apathy
  • Disinhibition
  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleep or Appetite Changes

 

9 Ways to Help With Dementia Symptoms Without Medications

 

There are many different ways that you can help a loved one who has dementia without using medication.

1. Aromatherapy

This is a type of therapy that uses scented oils to help calm the body and mind. Certain scents will help with anxiety and bodily pains. Basically, they can change the brain dramatically depending on the scent.

The scents can come from seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers, and other plant parts.

Different studies have looked into how well aromatherapy works for agitation and aggression in dementia. In the studies, the practice had been used through room diffusions, sachets, a patch, or skin cream. Dosages ranged from 3 minutes to a whole day for anywhere between 2-360 days.

There have been mixed results. It really depends on the person. Some people saw great results, others didn’t see a difference. Either way, there are no harmful effects and has a low investment need.

Social and physical contact can be key to getting aromatherapy to work.

2. Massage

Massage can help seniors feel less isolated. This is because touch is a way to communicate without words. Through touch, a person with dementia can feel comforted and cared about. This is especially good for people in communities because touch can feel more systematic than human.

A bonus is that it can also let seniors get to know their health provider better.

You can massage different parts of the body: back, shoulders, neck, hands, or lower legs and feet. A masseuse can use slow or large strokes, rub or knead, non-contact therapeutic touch, or acupressure.

Massage has been shown to reduce agitation, aggression, stress, anxiety, depression, and disruptive vocalizations for a while. As long as the senior is open to it, there are no harmful effects and little investment.

3. Multisensory Stimulation (MSS)

This practice is meant to give “a stress-free, entertaining environment to stimulate and to relax.” It doesn’t need cognitive processing or short term memory.

MSS environments are designed to be explored by the individual in their own way. It’s also supposed to encourage control and autonomy. This can be great for people who have dementia.

MSS simulates different senses through a combo of light effects, calming sounds, smells, and/or tactile stimulation.

This practice can range from 3 sessions to daily sessions over 15 months.

Overall, it seems MSS reduces short-term anxiety, agitation, and apathy. There appear to be no harmful effects, though it requires a moderate investment.

4. Bright Light Therapy

Aging is connected to changes within our circadian sleep cycle which can mess with our sleeping patterns. Anyone who has dementia can be more severely affected by these changes. The changes can show up in symptoms like agitation and sundowning.

Bright light therapy is meant to regulate the circadian rhythms with light and dark cycles. This is particularly good for those in communities and may not get enough sunlight. The light will shine through a light box, light visor, lighting that can be similar to twilight, or natural bright light.

People can be exposed to this lighting for 1 or 2 hours a day for 10 days or up to 2 months.

This type of therapy does not seem to have a real effect on reducing sleep disturbances and other BPSDs. Some studies even suggested it could make things worse.

There are a few that say it helps with agitation, depression, and sleep with certain people.

It’s a toss-up.

It does need a moderate investment with both time and money.

5. Validation Therapy

This type of therapy focuses on accepting the reality of living with dementia. The aim is to help soothe bad feelings and focus more on good feelings. It’s done through different ways like using non-threatening words to create understanding, rephrasing the person’s words, maintain eye contact and a gentle tone of voice, and so much more.

The evidence for this type of therapy is mixed. One study had the therapy happen twice a week for 12 weeks, and each session lasted 45-60 minutes. The study found significant improvements. Another study had both individual and group therapy and found a decrease in certain BPSDs.

Though other reviews found little evidence of it helping seniors.

Either way, there is little investment needed with this type of therapy. There is little to no negative effect, though a person’s feelings of distress can be made worse if providers aren’t properly prepared to honor and alleviate those feelings.

6. Reminiscence Therapy

This uses talking about past events and experiences with the goal of making people feel better, giving pleasure, and cognitive stimulation. The concept is that older memories are more enduring than newer ones. It can be done either as an individual session or as a group. It uses talking, photos, music, and the like to create better feelings.

There is a good amount of evidence that says this type of therapy helps with depression and agitation for a while. There isn’t enough to show long term benefits. There are no real negative effects and it needs a moderate investment.

7. Music Therapy

Music can help people with dementia in a lot of ways. It promotes well-being and increases sociability. Also, musical memory is retained longer than other memories.

It can reduce anxiety through general mind activation and certain memories will trigger. It can lower stress by creating a sense of familiarity and regularity in the environment.

People have used music therapy for an hour, 2 or 3 times a week for 10 weeks.

Reviews have shown that there is a positive effect with music therapy. It can reduce anxiety, agitation, and apathy. Investment in this type of therapy is moderate due to time and training to set everything up. There are no negative effects.

8. Pet Therapy

Pet therapy has been used for a long time to treat mental and physical health disorders and to promote socialization and emotional support, sensory stimulation, and enhance well-being. Quiet interaction with an animal can help lower blood pressure and increase the production of neurochemicals associated with relaxing and bonding.

Pet therapy in dementia usually involves dogs. It’s been tested daily for 1 to 2 times a week for 30-90 minutes for 1-12 weeks in a structured or unstructured format.

It has been shown to reduce agitation and disruptive behavior, increase social and verbal interactions and decreased passivity. It needs minimal to moderate investment depending on the costs of getting and caring for an animal.

Negative effects can include allergic reactions, hygiene concerns, or anxiety among those uncomfortable around animals.

9. Meaningful Activities

Meaningful activities are considered an important element of person-centered care and can help with BPSDs by enhancing the overall quality of life. It gives the opportunity for more social interactions, opportunities for self-expression, and self-determination. It’s important that everyone can participate no matter what their cognitive capacity.

Individualized activities have mixed findings. One review found that group activities reduced agitation levels in the short run, but there isn’t enough info for the longer term.

It’s a mixed bag on how effective it is. It can depend on the person or community. The investment depends on how much work the particular activity is.

Why These Practices Need to Be More Common

 

These practices are more person-centered instead of just giving someone pills. It gives people the socialization that they need and helps them feel more connected to the world.

You can use these practices anywhere—at home or in a community.

More studies need to happen, so everyone can see the benefits.

Read the whole study here.

9 Signs of Caregiver Stress

9 Signs of Caregiver Stress

Being a caregiver is hard. It’s emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausting. There are a lot of ways stress can sneak up on you. If you or someone you know is a caregiver, look for these 9 signs of caregiver stress.

9 Signs of Caregiver Stress

9 Signs of Caregiver Stress

 

It can be particularly hard if you are caring for someone who has cognitive impairments. You’ll find yourself repeating yourself often, getting frustrated, and wanting to snap. It’s hard to remind yourself that they aren’t doing this on purpose.

No matter what type of caregiving you do, it’s good to be aware of these signs.

1. Exhaustion

If you are always feeling tired, even after sleeping, then you have a problem. Another part of exhaustion is not being able to do basic daily tasks. If you find that getting up in the morning, making a meal, or showering takes too much energy, you could be suffering from exhaustion.

2. Change in Sleeping and Eating Patterns

Sleeping and eating are key functions that your body needs to survive. Stress can cause a change in your eating and sleeping patterns. If you notice that you are either sleeping or eating too much or not enough, that’s an obvious sign of stress.

3. Anger or Irritation

When you’re stressed out, your fuse gets shorter. If you notice you’re snapping more lately or even fully losing your temper, it could be due stress. Especially if it’s at your loved ones. This is because you are so run down and stretched thin that every little things seems to be an annoyance.

4. Anxiety

It’s easy to cross the line from worry into anxiety. If you start to obsess over every little concern or worry, then you are now in the anxiety arena. No worry should make you feel like you are stuck in place with no options. That’s the difference between worry and anxiety.

5. Depression

If you are feeling overwhelmingly sad, hopeless, and are crying all the time, then you may be suffering from depression. This can get bad enough that it interferes with your daily life.

6. Lack of Concentration

There’s a problem if you aren’t able to focus on anything and have a hard time finishing tasks. Things become overwhelming very quickly and you start to forget things.

7. Social Withdrawal

This when you don’t go out with friends and family anymore. You’d rather stay home and be alone. You eventually isolate yourself to the point of not leaving your house for days on end.

8. Denial

This is when you refuse to believe that your loved one is reaching the end of their life. You think things will be better, as if it’s getting over the Flu.

You may not even believe there’s a problem. This can cause you to not take the proper steps to care for your loved ones.

9. Health Problems

Stress wears your body out and makes it easier for you to get sick. If you can’t remember the last time you felt good, you should go to the doctor.

Read more here.

How Language Affects Medical Trials

Medical trials are the key to any kind of progress. The problem is that depending on the trial, there aren’t enough participants. Participants that speak different languages aren’t able to join the trials, due to translation issues.

How Language Affects Medical Trials

How Language Affects Medical Trials

 

Medical trials have a problem finding people because they can be risky and there isn’t a guarantee that it will help. But trials are the only way to know if medications or procedures are safe.

There are millions of immigrants that could be part of trials, but very few studies have translators.

This can be because some doctors are concerned about interpreters. There could be some key things that get lost in translation that can negatively affect the study.

Particularly Difficult in Alzheimer’s Trials

 

In particular, Alzheimer’s studies don’t include translators. These barriers are really noticeable by the amount of Spanish speaking people in the country. There are almost 6 million American seniors, 2.2 million are Spanish speaking and not good with English.

This will only get worse as the years go on. This is because the Hispanic population is growing.

Different ethnicities can be a scientific goldmine. It’s not know that all medicine will work on people of different ethnicities.

Read more here.

Not Drinking During Midlife May Be Connected to Dementia

Not Drinking During Middle Age May Be Connected to Dementia

People who don’t drink when they reach middle age could have a heightened risk of dementia. A long term study of more than 9,000 people in London found that people who drank over the recommended limits for men and women, and those who were completely sober were at higher risk of the disease.

Not Drinking During Middle Age May Be Connected to Dementia

Not Drinking During Midlife May Be Connected to Dementia

 

The study was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). It followed people who were between 35 and 55 when it began in the mid-80s.

Not drinking in midlife was connected to 45% higher risk of dementia compared to people who consumed a normal amount of alcohol a week. Long term abstainers and those who reported a decrease in alcohol consumption also had an increased risk.

Researchers measured during the years of 1985 and 1993. This is when the participants had an average age of 50. They were followed up for an average of 23 years, with cases of dementia identified through hospital, mental health service, and mortality records.

A total of 397 cases were recorded.

The Connection Between Alcohol and Dementia

 

The team of French and British researchers think that part of the increased risk of the disease in abstainers could be due to the greater risk of cardiometabolic disease.

Among excessive drinkers, they found a higher risk the more a person drank. With every 7 unit per week increase there was a 17% rise in dementia risk.

More research needs to be done with not only middle age, but with older people as well.

Read more here.