Poor diet has become increasingly recognized as a precursor to poor health, including diabetes and brain diseases, and the health issues are often intertwined. For example, diabetes increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, the suggestions for maintaining heart health are very close to those given to maintain brain health. HealthCentral conducted an email interview with Dr. John Douillard, DC, CAP, to discuss the ways that diet may influence the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease in particular, but related diseases, as well.
Dear Carol: My dad had a massive stroke five years ago when he was 78, and Mom, who’s the same age, is caring for him at home. Mom's finally realizing that she can’t keep this up because her health is declining. I live 500 miles away so I can only help so much. Mom’s tried hiring in-home care but that hasn’t worked out consistently so Dad’s on a list for a nearby nursing home. Having to make this move is heartbreaking for Mom but she knows that it needs to be done. The problem is Dad’s sister, who is also Mom’s friend. She’s been laying guilt on Mom saying that Mom’s not honoring her marriage vows if she moves Dad. This woman has been a widow for 30 years and her husband died suddenly of a heart attack. She has no idea about what Mom’s been through. Mom’s moving ahead with the plan, but my aunt’s bitter words are painful for her. Mom reads your column. Could you give us both some support? TM
Dementia is not a single disease. It’s a non-specific syndrome that affects cognitive areas of the brain that control memory, language, attention and problem-solving. To be considered dementia, the problems must be severe enough to affect daily living. Because Alzheimer’s is responsible for 50 to 60 percent of dementia cases, it’s the most broadly recognized form. However, there are up to 50 different known versions of dementia. Dementia symptoms can include changes in personality, mood, and behavior. While some cases, such as dementia caused by medications, infections, hormone imbalances, vitamin deficiencies and alcohol and drug abuse can be cured, most cases cannot.
A study published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry has found that people who feel lonely are significantly more at risk for developing dementia. The study, headed by Tjalling Jan Holwerda of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, found that participants who reported feeling lonely, no matter how many friends and family surrounded them, were more likely to experience dementia than those who didn’t feel lonely. The team focused on approximately 2,200 older adults living in Amsterdam, ages 65 to 86. None of the participants exhibited signs of dementia and none of them lived in facilities such as nursing homes. The researchers visited the elders two times over the course of three years. About half of them lived alone, with 20 percent reporting feelings of loneliness, even if they were married or lived with family.
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.
As people age, they are likely to find that balance issues, arthritis, neurological diseases, and other health problems become a threat to their quality of life. People facing these problems often find that being evaluated and treated by a physical therapist can be a significant step toward improvement in safety and mobility, or at least stabilization.
We are, for good reason, repeatedly reminded of the horrifying statistics related to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The number of people over the age of 65 is exploding and most dementia symptoms develop as a person ages. This is fact. In no way does this article intend to distract from the need to cure all types of dementia. However, there is one thing to celebrate. Alzheimer’s rates seem to be declining.
Dear Carol: My mother was diagnosed with mixed dementia (vascular dementia along with Alzheimer’s) at age 67. She’s now 75 and the doctor says she’s in Alzheimer's stage seven. She’s had two strokes and takes medication for high blood pressure. Mom doesn’t know anyone and simply sits and stares into space without reacting very much. All of her doctors are vague about her life expectancy. I don’t expect the doctor to know exactly how long she will continue this way but I’d like some idea. Are they uncomfortable with my question? PT
Frustrated caregivers often wonder why their loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s sometimes reacts with anger as the caregivers attempt to help. Understanding why a spouse, parent or grandparent behaves this way can help the caregiver limit these stressful, frustrating times. To do that, the caregivers must understand life from the point of view of their loved one’s impaired mind.
Flu isn't just an inconvenience, especially among the elderly population. For expert information on how caregivers can help their elders stay healthy and if possible avoid the flu, I reached out to Martie Moore, R.N., MAOM, CPHQ, who is Chief Nursing Officer, Medline Industries, Inc. for some answers.