Brain Health Feed

Could Loneliness Be a Symptom of Preclinical Dementia?

LonelinessManLoneliness as a dementia risk, particularly Alzheimer’s disease (AD), has long been considered solid science. It’s hard to quantify loneliness, as it’s not as simple as whether a person has opportunities to interact with others. Yet, the difficulty of defining loneliness has not kept researchers from studying its impact on health. For example, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports study results showing that "After adjustment for other risk factors, older persons with feelings of loneliness were more likely to develop dementia” than people without such feelings.

Read full article on HealthCentral about which comes first - loneliness or dementia:

Purchase Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories – paperback or ebook

An amazing book of stories that will touch your heart and encourage you, especially if you are a caregiver. Carol  Bradley Bursack also has an excellent website devoted to the elderly and their caregivers. - Carol Heilman


The Importance of Eating Your ABCs as You Age

Vitamins“There is a great deal of focus today on nutrition and eating well,” says Kim English, BScN, MN, professor at the Trent/Fleming School of Nursing in Peterborough, Ontario. “We hear about no carb vs. whole carb, low fat vs. full fat, and ketogenic diets vs. paleo diets. However, what is often missing from this discussion is the necessity of vitamins in our body, particularly as we age.”

Read full article on Agingcare about eating well as we age:

Purchase Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories – paperback or ebook

An amazing book of stories that will touch your heart and encourage you, especially if you are a caregiver. Carol  Bradley Bursack also has an excellent website devoted to the elderly and their caregivers. - Carol Heilman


Delirium and Even Death Following Physical Trauma Not Unusual for Elders

DepressionthinkstockDear Carol: My mother, who was in her early 80s, was doing well except for arthritis and high blood pressure. Then she fell and broke her hip. After surgery, she seemed not just foggy but completely irrational. The doctor said that this wasn’t unusual for someone her age considering what she’d been through and that she’d get better. Mom spent several days in the hospital and was then moved to a nursing home to recover and receive physical therapy. The staff was terrific with Mom. When I asked them if Mom would recover mentally, they were non-committal. They didn’t want to say that she wouldn’t but they seemed less sure than the doctor. As the weeks went by she didn’t improve mentally, though she was doing okay physically. The, five weeks after the surgery, she suddenly died. It’s hard to accept. How common is this? – Terri

Read full column on Inforum about the effects of hospitalization on elders:

Support a caregiver or jump start discussion in support groups with real stories - for bulk orders of Minding Our Elders e-mail Carol


Making Life More Fulfilling for Older Adults with Low Vision

LowVisionMany people would consider losing their sight one of the worst potential losses that they could encounter. While most of us will not suffer from complete blindness, millions currently suffer from some form of visual impairment, with numbers growing rapidly as we age. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), older adults represent the majority of the visually impaired population, with visual impairment included among the 10 most prevalent causes of disability in the U.S.

Read full article on Agingcare about making life easier for those with low vision:    

Support a caregiver or jump start discussion in support groups with real stories - for bulk orders of Minding Our Elders e-mail Carol


Are Your Caring for Parents Who Didn't Care for You?

Family10...Now her parents are getting frail. Nancy had been through a lot of therapy so she could learn to cope with her childhood issues. She's come to terms with the fact that her father did what he thought he was supposed to do. She rightly felt, as a child, that he should recognize and stop the abuse her mother was doling out. Through therapy, she has learned to forgive her father for his lack of involvement and the fact that he didn't stop the abuse.

She's learned that he likely didn't know about a lot of it. She's also learned that he probably was in denial about what he did suspect, because he really didn't know what to do. He was wrong, but she's managed to forgive him for what he didn't know, and for what he didn't do about what he did know. Part of this is that her father recognizes where he failed. As he ages – and he's the one who is showing the need for care at this point – she feels she is capable of caring for him, in some "hands-on" capacity.

Read full article on Agingcare about caring for parents who we not good parents to you:

Support a caregiver or jump start discussion in support groups with real stories - for bulk orders of Minding Our Elders e-mail Carol


Alzheimer's: Sedentary People Have the Same Risk as Those Who Carry the Genes

BraingamesA study has shown that sedentary people face a similar risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease to those who carry a genetic risk for the disease. To me, this information is startling. It should provide enough incentive to get those of us who have a thousand excuses for not exercising, to get in the game. The study’s researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario came to their conclusion after following the health of more than 1,600 Canadians over a period of five years. According to the abstract, physical exercise may be an effective strategy for preventing dementia.

Read full article on HealthCentral about how a sedentary lifestyle increases our AD risk as much as genetic risk:

Purchase Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories – paperback or ebook

The stories in this fine book showed us how others have gone through similar things with their families and that is somehow reassuring. There are some helpful suggestions but mostly there is the recognition that others went through the same thing. All we can do is our best. That is greatly reassuring during these difficult emotional times. If you are a caregiver, this is a must read. - Delores Edwards


How We Can Balance Elder Care With Other Relationships

Balance4 (2)As caregivers, the first thing to go is the time, or even the energy and desire, to maintain friendships. Even maintaining friendships that go back years can seem like just one more thing to do when a caregiver is so swamped with demands. So, caregivers stop seeing friends, hence friends stop asking them to do anything fun. Friends get tired of being turned down. And caregivers forget that life was once fun. They are too busy giving care to everyone else to even notice the loss.

Read full article on Agingcare about balancing caregiving with other relationships:

Purchase Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories – paperback or ebook

“I hold onto your book as a life preserver and am reading it slowly on purpose...I don't want it to end.”  Craig William Dayton, Film Composer


Learning to Back Off and Accept Risks While Caregiving

BicycleRisk...I am aware that many people under age 65 need assistance from their adult children or other sources because of health problems. That being said, having arthritis or heart issues, for example, doesn’t make a person cognitively impaired. Therefore, when we offer to help in these situations, the elders’ opinions and wishes must be taken into consideration. I know only too well that watching our parents get older is difficult. Ideally, they were once our anchors. No matter how difficult life became, there was comfort in knowing that our parents were around, even if they were half way across the country. Now, when we see their joints needing replacement, their skin wrinkling, perhaps even their memory recall slowing, we cringe. Whether or not we wish to admit it, we are afraid. We know that our parents are not immortal. One day we will be without them.

Read full article on Agingcare about why we need to step back and not interfere with our elders' happiness:

Support a caregiver or jump start discussion in support groups with real stories - for bulk orders of Minding Our Elders e-mail Carol


Hard Times for Caregivers: When Loved Ones Rally Before Death

DeathComfortMany adults sit by the side of their dying loved ones, sometimes for days, working on accepting the loss of their physical presence and what this loss means in their lives. Then, a spouse, parent, child or friend suddenly rallies, becomes more stable and in some cases wants to talk. We grasp at what seems to be a turnaround and sigh with relief. They are going to hang on for a while; or are they?

Read full article on Agingcare about the intricacies of the death rally:

Support a caregiver or jump start discussion in support groups with real stories - for bulk orders of Minding Our Elders e-mail Carol


National Healthcare Decisions Week (NHDD): Why End-Of-Life Documents Should Remain Fluid

 This is National Healthcare Decisions Week (formerly "Day"). This book is a wonderful guide for deciding what you would want in the future. (Full disclosure: I wrote the foreword to the second edition).

WishesToDieForBestSeller"Code Blue!" A voice cries out in the Emergency Department. "Is there a doctor who can 'tube' a patient in Cardiac Cath Lab?"

These beginning lines of "Wishes To Die For: Expanding Upon Doing Less in Advanced Care Directives," by Dr. Kevin J. Haselhorst, prepare the reader for an adventure in self-examination.

The first chapter, titled "Self Determination," describes the author's own internal battle to balance his training as a doctor who cures at all costs with the wishes of his patients. Through his book, Haselhorst gently encourages us, the potential patients, to examine our right to decide how and under what circumstances we will be allowed a natural death.

In "Wish 10: Pre-Stamp Three Coins in the Fountain," Haselhorst writes, "I cannot remember the last time that I wished for a feeding tube, dialysis or ventilator." The author is not negating the importance of these treatments, but he is stressing that we must keep a record of our wishes up to date. He challenges us to examine what we really want at each stage of life. Any of the above efforts to increase our chances for survival may be a correct choice under some circumstances, but there often comes a time in our lives where less treatment is in our best interest. Unless our current wishes are made known, we may not be able to choose the manner in which our life comes to a close.

While reading the book I highlighted, underlined, and clipped colored markers on pages, thinking to myself that I must include this quote or that paragraph as I wrote. Before long, I realized that scores of quotes would be needed to do this work justice. The complete book with everything in context is needed before the reader can grasp the manner in which Haselhorst guides readers through their own journeys of self-examination.

That being said, what Haselhorst writes toward the closing of his book comes close to summing it up. He says that, "Death with dignity is only realized through the empowerment attained from engagement (of the patient)."

To address this belief, Haselhorst has designed a wristband similar to the well-known Livestrong Foundation wristband. The difference is that this band is bright yellow on one side and embossed with the words "Alpha care," meaning that the patient wishes doctors to keep trying all routes to keep him or her alive. The reverse side is a subdued blue and embossed with the words "Omega care" indicating the patient's wish to be allowed a natural death. With a twist of the wristband, a patient can communicate his or her current thoughts.

"Wishes To Die For" is an intellectual book, best-absorbed chapter by chapter. In my opinion, it's well worth taking this journey with the author to help us clarify our own beliefs. For more about Haselhorst and his work, visit www.wishestodiefor.com. The book "Wishes To Die For" is available at Amazon.com.

Previously published as a Minding Our Elders column for the Forum: Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carolbursack@msn.com.