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January 2013 Feed

Study Shows Mental Decline in Elders After Hospital Stay Significant

Years back, my dad came out of the hospital with severe, irreversible dementia. True, he’d had brain surgery. The surgery was meant to correct the effects aging was having on scar tissue from his WWII brain injury. Still, the change in my dad post-surgery was dramatic, to put it lightly. At the time, medical people were not aware – or were not acknowledging – the risks of surgery and hospitalization for elders. 

Through the years, I’ve answered anguished questions from readers telling their personal tale of a mother or father coming home from the hospital dramatically changed. I could empathize and tell them I understood their pain. But until the last couple of years, there’s been little scientific evidence to back up what many family members have witnessed firsthand.

Read more about mental decline in elders after hospitalization:

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Positive Coping Strategies Help Slow Alzheimer's

For the most part, I’ve always been a “glass half full” person. Even during very trying times, I try to find the good in what’s happening, or at least contemplate what I can learn from the negative aspects of life. After reading about a study done by Utah State University, I realize that as a caregiver for multiple people, looking on the brighter side of life may have helped my care receivers, as well.

The study, published in the January 2013 issue of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, found that employing higher levels of positive coping strategies, such as problem-focused coping, high social support and counting blessings, slowed decline in people with Alzheimer’s disease as measured by the Mini-Mental State Exams.

Read more about the University of Utah study and positive caregiving:

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Lewy Body Dementia Often Confused With Alzheimer’s

When most people think of dementia they probably think of Alzheimer’s disease. Since Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and one of the biggest risk factors for developing AD is age, new developments to combat the disease are often in the news.

There are, however, other types of dementia that are just as devastating as Alzheimer’s disease and they are not necessarily rare. The dementia we’ll focus on in this article is Lewy body dementia. I frequently hear from spouses or adult children of people who have developed LBD. It saddens me that there’s little news to relate to them about research to combat the disease.

Read more about Lewy body dementia and how it's often confused with Alzheimer's:

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Daughter Overwhelmed With Parents’ Sudden Care Needs

Dear Carol: A year ago, my mother had a heart attack. She came out of it fairly well, but still can’t do much around the house. Then, last month my dad had a stroke. I’m an only child and feel overwhelmed with all of this. Before his stroke, Dad could take care of Mom and the house. He’s now in rehab and even with therapy the specialists don’t think he’ll walk again. I’m married and have two children and a job. I guess I just feel overwhelmed. How do I go about getting our lives in order so I can help my parents and still care for my family and work? - Janet

Dear Janet: It’s no wonder you feel overwhelmed. When our parents need help, we generally want to dive in and do all we can. You also have a family and a job. There is only so much you can do, so you’ll probably need to start arranging for some paid assistance. If you can afford a geriatric care manager, that would be a terrific first step because this person could help you plan and delegate. However, good care managers are expensive. If that’s not an option, you’ll have to find resources on your own.

Read more about feeling overwhelmed by new caregiving responsibilities:

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Study Says Exercise Key to Preventing Alzheimer’s

A recent paper published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry reported on some encouraging results about the benefits of exercise. Researchers at Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan concluded exercise is something we can do right now to help prevent Alzheimer's disease. While the study was done on mice, the researchers feel strongly that people will show similar results.

Read more about preventing Alzheimer's through exercise:

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Is Alzheimer’s Disease the Default Diagnosis for Confused Elders?

Alzheimer's organizations have worked diligently to raise public awareness of the disease. Their efforts are paying off handsomely. I’d challenge nearly anyone to find a friend or neighbor who hasn’t heard enough about Alzheimer’s disease to give some type of description of the symptoms. The downside of this awareness, however, is that even doctors can jump to possibly faulty conclusions when they see an elderly person showing signs of memory loss or significant confusion. 

A recent article in the Detroit Freet Press features Peter Lichtenberg, Ph.D., head of Wayne State University's Institute of Gerontology. In a paper for the journal Clinical Gerontology, Lichtenberg, according to the article, “highlighted two case studies: in one, a man's bouts of confusion and agitation in his late 70s were caused by illness and painful cellulitis, not Alzheimer's; in the other, an 87-year-old woman, who seemed suddenly confused, was suffering from depression.”

Read more about Alzheimer's being the default diagnosis for confused elders:

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Know Your Hospitalization Codes or Risk Medicare Denial

Your mom has fallen in her home and you’re now sitting with her in the hospital. Nothing is broken, they said, but she suffered a back injury they want to monitor. They’d like to keep her in the hospital for observation. You say sure, why not? She stays several days and then is released to a rehab facility for follow-up care.

Medicare pays for the first 20 days a patient is in a rehab facility only if the patient is admitted and remains in the hospital for three days prior to treatment. But, according to AAPR, hospitals are increasingly leaving Medicare hospital patients “under observation” without officially admitting them.

Read more about Medicare colds and being admitted to the hospital:

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Women Caregivers Report More Health Issues Than Men

A report from the meeting of The American Geriatrics Society held in Seattle focused on the differences between reported health issues affecting male and female spousal caregivers. The period of concern for the caregiver’s health covered the time during active caregiving and continued up to three years after the death of his or her spouse.

According to the report, the health of surviving wives suffered more than the health of surviving husbands. A post on the New Old Age Blog titled A Special Burden for Women discusses the findings of University of California, San Francisco, researchers. Not surprisingly, the researchers say that caring for an ailing spouse is extremely difficult emotionally and physically for either gender. However, the researchers discovered that three years after the death of their spouse, surviving wives reportedly fared worse than surviving husbands.

Read more about women caregivers and their health issues:

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Tips to Prevent Alzheimer’s Related Wandering

During a time when my father-in-law was ill, I sat with him while my mother-in-law went to the grocery store. This store was only a few blocks away from their home and she’d made the trip routinely for years. Only this time, she was gone so long we were worried. Once she finally returned she admitted to getting lost and having had trouble finding her way home. What happened to her is what Alzheimer’s disease experts call wandering.

What happened to her is what Alzheimer’s disease experts call wandering. Wandering can occur during nearly any stage of Alzheimer’s, though people in the later stages of the disease are often the most at risk for a tragic outcome. 

Read more about wandering and what you can do to prevent it:

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Help Elders Endure Isolation Due to Flu Outbreak

DEAR CAROL: My mother is in a nursing home because of mid-stage Alzheimer's disease and severe arthritis. While I live at a distance, my sister, Marie, lives near mom and visits several times a week. Now, with this flu outbreak, the nursing home where my mother lives has isolated residents and is not allowing visitors. Marie says Mom is very upset. Mom understands when Marie tells her on the phone why she can’t visit, but then Mom quickly forgets and calls wondering why my Marie’s not there. What can we do to make Mom feel better? - Gale

DEAR GALE: Because most long-term facilities encourage flu shots for their residents, the typical flu season generally passes without a lot of problems. However, once in a while we have a very bad year. Since it’s the responsibility of the facilities to protect their residents, even at the cost of some emotional distress like that of your Mom, visitors aren’t allowed for a time. This is one of those years.

Read more about how to help elders when visitors are limited during flu outbreak:

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