TIME on Alzheimer’s: Largely a Woman’s Issue

By Meredith Melnick Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Recently the Alzheimer’s Association teamed up with California’s First Lady Maria Shriver and issued The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Takes on Alzheimer’s, based on a survey of 3,118 American adults about the experience and impact of Alzheimer’s disease. The report found that Alzheimer’s is disproportionately a woman’s problem. Two-thirds of the disease’s sufferers are women. And 60% of unpaid caretakers of Alzheimer’s patients (usually family members) are women. In total, 10 million or 6.4% of all American women are affected by the disease.

In my colleague Alice Park’s recent TIME Magazine cover story about Alzheimer’s, she revealed that a 65-year-old has a 10% chance of developing the disease. With 78 million baby boomers reaching peak age for diagnosis in the next few years, Alzheimer’s will add an additional $627 billion burden to our health care system — more than doubling our current Alzheimer’s costs of about $300 billion a year.

Read more at TIME.com

Study: Alzheimer’s risk spikes 157% with heavy smoking

If you needed another reason to quite smoking, well, here you go…-SP

By Mary Brophy Marcus, USA TODAY
Heavy smoking in midlife more than doubles your odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease, a Kaiser Permanente study said Monday.
The study is the first to examine the long-term consequences of heavy smoking on Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, says the study’s principal investigator, Rachel Whitmer, a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland.

From 1994 to 2008, researchers evaluated the records of 21,123 men and women in midlife and continued following them, on average, for 23 years. Compared with non-smokers, those who had smoked two packs of cigarettes a day increased their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by more than 157% and had a 172% higher risk of developing vascular dementia — the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s. The research is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Read the full article at USA Today’s website.

The Family Caregiver Toolbox

From the National Family Caregiver Association website.

With this issue of TAKE CARE!, NFCA is pleased to begin a new feature aimed at providing family caregivers with a variety of tips, tools and ideas to help you make life a little easier, take better care of your loved ones, and plan for the future.

In Case of Emergency …

No one wants to think about the “what if” scenarios, but a responsible family caregiver should always have a plan in place that addresses the unthinkable. What would your loved ones need to know should you, the family caregiver, become incapacitated, or worse? Kate Finan, a daily money manager with Help Unlimited, Inc. in Maryland, suggests that you take a three-ring binder and label it “All They Need to Know.” In it, put the location of all your important papers as well as the location of a copy of each document. Include information about your credit cards, your brokerage and retirement accounts, and all your insurance policies. If some of your bills are paid automatically through your bank, this information should be included as well. And don’t forget to make a list of your computer and other passwords so that family members can access important accounts quickly in an emergency. Use sheet protectors to keep the pages clean and safe. Finally, because the information in your binder is highly privileged, it’s important to store it in a secure place and to share its location only with the individuals you choose to have access to it.

No one wants to think about the unthinkable. But doing so now will provide both you and your family members with enormous peace of mind.

Family Caregiving Requires A Village

By Suzanne Mintz

One of NFCA’s core messages for family caregivers is, “Reach Out for Help,” because caregiving is more than a one person job. Hillary Clinton said, “It takes a village,” referring to the rearing of children. Well, it takes a village to care for someone with a chronic condition as well.

Your circumstances may not be like mine and so the specifics of my story may not relate to your day-to-day life, but I know that you’ve had, or will have, situations in which a “village” would be the answer to your problems, too.

I should have known there was trouble ahead when 10 minutes before a taxi was to arrive to take me to the airport (I was going to Chicago for a conference) my husband, Steven, and I both fell as we were transferring him from his manual wheelchair to his electric one. Steven has MS and has been in a wheelchair for more than a dozen years now. Transferring was nothing new to us. We do it at least four times a day.

Neither one of us was hurt, but we were left with the problem of how to get him up and in his power chair and me ready when the taxi arrived. After trying several neighbors who weren’t home, I finally reached Peter*, who lives one street over. He came over right away and between the two of us we were able to get Steven safely and comfortably situated for the day. The taxi arrived, graciously waited for me, and got me to the airport on time. Crisis solved. Or so I thought.

Read more at the National Family Caregiver Association website.

“Wandering” in Dementia Patients: the Home Care Perspective

From the Right at Home website.

Wandering is one of the greatest challenges faced by family caregivers whose loved one has Alzheimer’s or other memory loss. Over 60% of Alzheimer’s patients will become lost at some time. Most are gone only briefly, though long enough to frighten their loved ones. Others may be lost for an extended period of time, and unfortunately, there are news reports each year of missing Alzheimer’s patients who are never located. It is a sobering fact that if a person with dementia is lost for over 24 hours, he or she is likely to suffer a fall or other serious injury, or even death from injury or exposure. Reports one family caregiver, “The thought that Dad would climb onto a bus at the corner and we would never find him again keeps me awake at night, even on nights when he is getting a good night’s sleep.”

Learn tip and tricks at the Right at Home website.

Help Teens Impacted by Alzheimer’s Disease!

The teens division of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is currently competing for a $25,000 award from the Pepsi Refresh Contest that will help teens impacted by Alzheimer’s disease get connected, educated and involved.

AFA Teens would use the award to add interactive, educational tools to its Web site (www.afateens.org)

and help teens build support systems in their communities by distributing funds to AFA Teens chapters nationwide. The online tools will explain disease progression, offer coping strategies, and encourage teens to adopt healthy lifestyles that may lower risk factors for chronic diseases as they age.
Award winners are determined by the number of votes received from the public during a specific month that the proposal is posted. AFA Teens is competing through May 31.

“We encourage you to vote each day throughout May and spread the word so we can assist teens across America.

Together, we can change the face of care,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA’s president and CEO.

Visit the AFA website for more information.

NEWS: Music Aids Alzheimer’s Patients in Remembering New Informations

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have shown that patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) are better able to remember new verbal information when it is provided in the context of music even when compared to healthy, older adults. The findings, which currently appear on-line in Neuropsychologia, offer possible applications in treating and caring for patients with AD.

Read more at ScienceDaily.com

NEWS: Two Vastly Differing Approaches to Dealing with Dementia

The first is a unique solution for the “I want to go home” problem that many with dementia encounter daily. Home, however, is in the mind of the patient, not HOME as the caregiver might understand it. Listen to this podcast on Radiolab (sort of long, but worth it) that offers an excellent solution to the problem. (Tip: Have the Kleenex handy for this one.)

The second approach is one based on research and assistive technology, using touch screen TV to create interactive memory sessions and interactive art and music sessions. These two vastly different and innovative approaches to making life easier for those suffering from Alzheimer’s or related dementias and their caregivers share one common goal: keeping the patient happy and engaged. Learn more here.

From Practical Care Continuum’s newsletter.

Pets and the Seniors Who Love Them

This article is from our friends at Faith in Action!

How many elderly people do you know who have a pet? Are you elderly yourself? How many elderly people do you know?

Elderly people, in general, can be at risk of social isolation. They are no longer employed, many friends have died, they may have financial considerations and their health may restrict their activities. Feelings of loneliness grow stronger as people age and there is no doubt that pet ownership can provide much-needed companionship for elderly people

Elderly pet owners themselves actually state companionship as the most important criterion in pet ownership, as it is in other groups of people. Plans for the day or even the week may center on rituals with their pets. For some elderly people, their pets are their only friends.

The presence of a pet may help alleviate any loneliness by providing contact with others. Dog-walking owners speak regularly to passers-by about their dogs and also speak directly to their dogs. Cats and other pets provide a topic of conversation.
It is not only companionship that pets can help provide. Retiring from work can leave elderly people with the absence of a role in life. Here, pets can provide the role, motivating the elderly person to keep a routine or simply get up in the morning. People are never too old to play with their pets and the majority of older people do so regularly.

The benefit of a good relationship with a pet can benefit more people than just the elderly owner themselves. In general, pet owners experience improved levels of health and well being. People often consider pet owners to be happier than non-owners and one group of elderly pet owning women was found to have a closer relationship with their husbands than the non-owners. Even rating themselves, elderly pet owners considered themselves more nurturing, independent and optimistic in comparison to non-pet owners. Men who were not pet owners were considered more arrogant and hostile than pet owners and women in general.

Not every elderly person wants to own a pet, even those who were previous pet owners. This decision should be respected and no older person should have to take care of an unwanted gift. Some older people, who do not wish to own a pet, may still desire some contact with animals. Neighbourhood pets and friends and family can oblige here.

Many elderly people would, however, like to own a pet but sadly the absence of suitable support in the form of daily care, suitable housing or finance is absent. Due to the companionship and social benefits that a pet provides, the elderly may benefit most. Having a companion animal gives them a chance to nurture once more.

For many elderly people there is the worry of what would happen to their pet if they should die first. When questioned about any arrangements should they predecease their pet, around half of those questioned had plans which usually included family members, friends or spouse, if present, keeping the pet. Those people with low incomes were more likely to have made plans for their pet.

As with other groups of pet owners, death of a beloved pet can leave an elderly person grief stricken and this is complicated by the fact that they are aware that they may never own another pet in their lifetime.

For those older people who still wish to have the companionship of a friendly pet, other members of society can help. Volunteers can walk dogs, wash and groom pets, provide transport and foster care and give financial assistance where necessary. Many programs of assistance programs have been initiated in other countries and help elderly people keep their pets or at least have regular contact with a companion animal.

AFA Offers Online Guide to Long-Term Care

About 70 percent of individuals older than age 65 will require at least some type of long-term care services during their lifetime. Often, cognitive and physical impairments resulting from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia prompt the need for long-term care. So for those encountering this issue, what different types of long-term care are available? How can families ease the transition to residential settings? How do you go about paying for long-term care? And is there insurance available? The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) now offers the answers to these and other questions in an extensive guide to long-term care on its Web site.

Click here to learn more.