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April 2011

Managing stress hormones to protect our brain

It's no secret that the fight and flight response our bodies have as part of our DNA can quite often get stuck in overdrive. No longer does this response, which causes the body to pump out hormones to help us flee danger, kick in only in life threatening situations. For many of us, daily life keeps these hormones flowing at top speed. Gradually, as we age, the overload of stress hormones can take a toll on our cardiovascular system or/or our brain. Heart attacks, strokes and memory issues can be the result. 

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How do you get aging parents to move out of their unsafe, often unsanitary homes?

Aging parents can often stubbornly insist that they want to stay in their home, yet the home is dirty, unsafe and they can't care for themselves. They refuse in-home help. How do you get them to move?

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How Much of Their Lives Do Adult Children Owe Their Parents?

Caregiving takes time, whether it's child care or elder care, or for that matter, spousal care. However, when we are faced with aging parents, we can feel conflict within ourselves and our families as to how much of our lives we should be giving to their care. Guilt seems to be our companion the whole way.

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How often do we tell person with dementia a parent is long dead?

Dear Carol: My mom has dementia. She insists that her dead aunt and grandma are still alive and when I tell her they are dead, she gets angry and then cries as if they died yesterday. She's shocked that no one told her that they are gone, but of course she knew years ago. Also, she starts packing her clothes to get ready to go back “home,” which is in another country. She's been in this country for 35 years, yet she insists she is only here to visit. My dad has to hide suitcases to keep her from packing. How can I convince that she is home and her family is here? Juana 

Dear Juana: With dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease, people mentally go back in time. Your mom is thinking of her aunt and grandma as they were many years ago, likely when your mom was young. 

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Moving an elder can be emotional on both sides

When an elder must leave a home of many years, memories are around every corner. Moving isn't just a physical problem, it's an emotional landmine. Then there are the adult children. Like it or not, they too probably have memories associated with their parents' home, and with certain items that go with it. Moving is tough at best, but this may be the hardest move ever. There is help.

Read more about the emotional side of moving on agingcare.com:

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“Alzheimer’s in America” informs the mind; captures the heart

AlzAmeric "I spent most of my life under my grandmother’s roof…She was the love of my life…The disease took her mind away…She never really understood I was becoming a professional…”

The above quote is taken from an essay by Terrell Owens, wide receiver for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, describing how Alzheimer’s disease affected him very personally. Owen’s account is just one of many personal stories in “Alzheimer’s in America: The Shriver Report on Women and Alzheimer’s,” a study about Alzheimer’s by Maria Shriver and the Alzheimer’s Association.

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When both parents have dementia caregivers are really up against it

Many people - far more than we like to think about - are having to cope with not one, but both parents having at least one type of dementia. How do they handle such a challenge? As you can imagine, it's one of the biggest challenges in life they'll have to face.

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When your loved one repeats and repeats and repeats...

Elders with memory problems, particularly Alzheimer's disease, can ask the same question repeated, nearly driving the caregiver to distraction. This is different, by the way, than a person who is aging and retelling stories to try to make sense of their lives and how events have come together. One is normal, one is not.

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Tips on how to care for an elder's hair

I'm a hair care klutz, okay? However, I've been in the position where I've been the only person who could help an elder with her hair. In general, people feel better when they look their best, so I did my best to accommodate. 

Read hair care tips for people - mostly women - with dementia:

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Check benefits of Long-term Care policy

Dear Carol: I encouraged my mother to take out a long-term care insurance policy when she was 80 years old. She is now 88 years old. I'm wondering whether she should keep this policy.  She has very little money saved and her income is extremely low.  She is living off her very small nest egg just to pay her rent and expenses. 

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