Since elders by definition have many decades of life to their credit, they will likely enjoy looking back on the past. This is especially important when people have Alzheimer’s disease because their disease prevents them from forming new memories. Nearly everyone enjoys reminiscing to some degree. To help you kick off a nice visit with the elder you intend to spend time with try bringing some props. Physical reminders should help your visit go more smoothly.
It’s been known for years that women are more at risk for Alzheimer’s disease than men. Now, there’s even more evidence of gender differences. A new study has found that among those who've been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), women show a much faster rate of memory loss than men. The 2015 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference took place recently in Washington, D.C. While many topics were covered, including some drugs that are showing promise, this study about women has attracted its share of attention. Earlier studies showing that more women developed Alzheimer’s than men concluded that this statistic simply reflected the fact that women live longer than men. Since age is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, it would stand to reason that more women would develop the disease. #WomensHealth
Throughout decades of study, hormone therapy (HT), often but not always the same as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), has been glorified and demonized in turn. The information that doctors receive has come from ongoing studies that seemed to offer over time radically conflicting results. A new study may add more confusion since this study has found that not only does HT given near menopause create changes in a woman’s brain, but motherhood itself creates changes.
“At Senior Lifestyle Advantage magazine, we speak to those who are 55 and older, encouraging them to live a healthier, more balanced life with hope. Each issue shares expert advice, easy recipes, travel, and feature stories about living with joy.”
These words are the short version of the message that Judith Stanton, founder and publisher of Senior Lifestyle Advantage, wants to spread. Stanton’s magazine focuses on the ways in which aging can be positive and fun, a viewpoint that is sorely needed at a time when ageism marginalizes a large percentage of our population.
Pain management can be a problem for aging bodies. With the current focus on removing opioids as a go-to solution, doctors are working hard to provide alternatives for their patients. Dr. Denis Patterson is a Board Certified Pain Medicine, Physical Medicine, and Rehabilitation physician and he is the founder and owner of Nevada Advanced Pain Specialists in Reno, Nevada. I’ve had questions for some time about what doctors are suggesting for pain management for aging bodies that may be suffering from old injuries or current issues such as severe arthritic pain, so I asked Dr. Patterson if he would be willing to provide us with information from the perspective of a specialist. He did so in this email interview.
People of every age experience digestive issues from time to time, but as we get older, annoyances like constipation, diarrhea and gas can become increasingly common. Aspects of our physical health change naturally with age, but poor diet, reduced digestive enzymes, and unbalanced gastrointestinal flora can wreak havoc on both our digestive and immune systems.There are countless products on the market right now to help improve gut health and immune function, but do any of these actually work?
Dear Carol: My mother has had bipolar disorder for most of her life, though medications have helped her stay fairly balanced. She also has diabetes and severe breathing problems so she’s recently entered a nursing home. Mom knew that the move was necessary for her safety and started out quite happy. The staff is great and the home offers a lot of activities for when she’s felt up to it. Lately, though, she’s been so lethargic that I’ve inquired about her medications. It seems that the doctor, who is a geriatrician, has changed them significantly. I realize that Mom has a tricky combination of health problems that require medicating, but I’m wondering if they are purposely overmedicating Mom to make her easier to care for. I don’t like being suspicious, but I’ve read so much about this. What’s your take? - Rob
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
Summer is a time when it’s generally easier for elders to be out and about than when snow and ice are an issue. Even if our loved ones have dementia, severe arthritis, lung issues or a combination of ailments, there are things we, their caregivers, can do to relieve a sense of being left out of life that can affect people in their situation.
Think about the personality of your ailing elders and consider excursions or entertainment that they may enjoy. A short outing of some type can leave a lasting memory, or it can simply mean that there were some enjoyable moments, but either way, you’ve done something positive for them. Remember to take into account the fact that heat can be dangerous to elders, so prepare for outside activities by educating yourself about how to keep elders safe in the heat.
“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.”
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
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).
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org.