Turning 50 is a milestone for many people. The half-century mark comes with new rules for medical tests and often brings a couple of health-related signals indicating that it’s for some dietary changes. Even if you have packed away a healthy 50 years or more, our nutritional needs change over time. Gradual dietary tweaks may be wise in order to ensure your golden years are, well, golden.
Dear Carol: My dad suffers from the effects of poorly controlled diabetes. He’s finally trying to follow the advice his doctors have given him which is helping some, but he’s forgetful. He also has some problems with his feet. I watch his diet and pills so that helps. Even when Dad’s feeling fairly well physically, though, he seems vaguely depressed. He claims to be happy enough, but he says that he's not contributing anything to the family. Dad used to be very physical and now there are so many things he can’t do. I know that he gets bored, but I wish he could just accept that he doesn’t have to do more. How can I help him feel better about himself? Meghan
Dear Readers: As you know, I rarely use guest posts, but this is one of my exceptions. Financial aid for caregivers is needed. Please forward to other caregivers who may want to apply. - Carol
In 2015, Kathi Koll started a foundation to help caregivers in need. The issue was a personal one for her. A little more than 10 years before, her husband had suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed from the neck down. Kathi became Don's caregiver for six and half years before his passing in 2011 and learned firsthand about the many challenges of caregiving, including the emotional ups and downs, the changes to one's relationship, and all sorts of new practical matters she needed to address.
By suddenly becoming a caregiver, Kathi dealt with intense anxiety and grief and had to completely reorient her life. But through that process, she also learned how to embrace a new normal, nurture love, and handle her many new life stresses in a way that also made those years filled with fond memories despite the catastrophic change that had occurred.
Even after Don died, caregiving has remained a large part of Kathi's world through her work with the Kathi Koll Foundation, which she created to help other caregivers who were struggling.
Her organization provides small subsidies, ranging from $500 to $1,500 to caregivers in need. In addition, the foundation offers guidance to caregivers who may be struggling with the many new demands on them.
For the small grants, applications are available at http://www.kathikollfoundation.org/caregivers/kathi's_caregivers. Assistance can be provided for specific items, such as rent, utility bills, grocery cards, or a wheelchair. To qualify, an applicant's income must be less than $28,000 for an individual caregiver or $34,000 for someone with minor dependent children.
In addition, the website provides helpful articles and videos about issues caregivers often face, and the foundation offers community outreach. For example, speakers can share insights with groups about many caregiving issues, such as living life after a stroke, the immense anxiety that accompanies a catastrophic event, how to manage the expectations of loved ones, coping with the continuum of grief, readjusting to a new life, working toward new, simpler goals, how to improve a patient's emotional care, finding happiness and learning how to love life again.
The idea is to help as many caregivers as possible as they endeavor to address their loved ones' needs.
People with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia often live in an altered reality that doesn't mesh with ours; yet their perceptions are as real to them as our perceptions are to us. That's a tough concept for many adult children and spouses of people with dementia to absorb. Validation of our loved one's reality is very often the kindest, most respectful response to their altered world that we can provide. In order to offer that validation without coming across as condescending, we need to understand the reason behind "therapeutic fibbing"—as validation therapy is sometimes called.
Many studies have shown that stress, and anxiety which is often at the core of our stress, can lead to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Now, a recent study has shown that anxiety and stress can increase the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) turning into Alzheimer’s disease, as well. People with mild cognitive impairment are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than the general population. Therefore, these findings suggest that while lowering stress is good for all of us, it’s vital for those who have MCI to keep stress levels low in order to decrease their risk of developing full-blown Alzheimer’s disease.
Exhausted caregivers often say that one of the hardest things for them is that they can’t get quality sleep. Even caregivers who have loved ones outside of their homes can have problems since they are still on call day and night for frequent emergencies. However, it’s the Alzheimer’s caregivers who have the hardest time since Alzheimer’s disease can cause severe sleep disruption. Experts still aren’t sure about all of the reasons for the poor sleeping patterns of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors feel that there may be some change in the brain, perhaps the same as with other aging people but more intense, that cause this distressing situation.
As people age, surgery becomes a greater risk to their overall health than the same surgery would be for younger people. Older people often have less robust immune systems so they are more at risk for general infections and they are more at risk for pneumonia. However, one of the most frightening risks for older people is post-surgical delirium. Delirium is described as an acute state of confusion that often affects older adults following surgery or serious illness. A recent study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has found that inflammation most likely plays a key role in the onset on-set of delirium.
How vital is fitness to aging well? Very. A recent study of participants in the 2015 National Senior Games, also known as the Senior Olympics, revealed that the typical participant had a fitness age of more than 20 years younger than his or her chronological age. According to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, fitness age is determined by a measure of cardiovascular endurance and is a better predictor of longevity than chronological age.
Dear Carol: My dad had been fighting cancer for years. Eventually, there was no more hope for a cure, so we agreed to ask for hospice care to keep Dad comfortable during his last weeks of life. He surprised us by doing well under hospice care, living beyond the doctor’s expectation, but, of course, he eventually died. What bothers me is that I wasn’t with him at the moment he passed. He was in a nursing home at the time and the staff was wonderful. They called the family together when it was determined that Dad was close to the end. My siblings and I sat with Dad for two days around the clock. We brought in food at first but as the wait stretched out we took turns going to my nearby home to shower and nap. Dad died during my nap. I still feel devastated and guilty that I wasn’t there when he passed. I go to hospice grief counseling and that is helping, but I’m wondering if you have any words of comfort to offer? Rhonda
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 type of 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.
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