While many of us have spent years as family caregivers, some caregivers are new to this challenge. So new, in fact, that they have yet to realize that they are caregivers. So new that they haven’t had time to even consider the stress that they are under – stress that will likely increase, rather than decrease, if they don’t begin to develop some self-care strategies early on.
We frequently hear about some promising new potential drug breakthrough, yet there is at this time no medical cure and it’s not likely that there will be one anytime soon. Thus, the interest in exercise, diet, vitamin and herbal remedies and brain challenges.
Could life experience make up for some of the effects of age on the brain? According to researchers from the School of Business Administration at the University of California, Riverside, it can and does. The research group measured a person's decision making ability over their entire lifespan. Using two difference types of intelligence - fluid and crystallized – they found that experience and acquired knowledge from a lifetime of decision-making often offset the declining ability to learn new information.
Alzheimer’s is a global issue that is on track to bankrupt worldwide health systems if a cure is not found. Therefore, funding for research is paramount, not just for those who have the disease but for all generations. However, large numbers of the people who have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia at this time are trying to make the point that it is equally important to put imagination, research and funding into how to care for those who already have this incurable disease.
By treating aging as a disease are we just prolonging the inevitable or can we change the course of our lives? This question will be discussed at length on "Breakthrough: The Age of Aging" premiering Sunday, November 29, at 9 pm ET on National Geographic Channel.
My opinion? Aging is a process and it’s not all bad. We gain hindsight and wisdom. We gain experience from our successes as well as our mistakes. The wisest among us gain perspective about what really matters as we each navigate our personal path through life.
For me, the question is more about how we live and how we die than it is whether or not aging should be treated as a disease that needs to be cured.
If we take care of our body, our mind, and our spirit, we have a better chance of enjoying good health as we age. Will we have annoying issues that accompany aging? Most likely we will. However, many of us can mitigate some of the negative symptoms of aging if we consume a fairly healthy diet, exercise moderately and challenge our brains.
I believe that by maintaining a positive outlook on life, which is often enhanced by making some type of spiritual connection habitual, we can limit stress. Stress has proven to be destructive to our body and our mind, so by limiting stress we stand a better chance of staying reasonably healthy. Maintaining relationships that we enjoy and eliminating those that are toxic to our wellbeing may also improve our chances of living well as we age.
Rather than thinking of aging as a disease, or just accepting that there’s nothing we can do to improve negative symptoms of aging, I'd rather think of aging as something that we can do with grace. Therefore, in this way, yes I think we can change the course of our lives to some degree.
I believe that by accepting aging as part of the circle of life and respecting the process, we can age graciously. Then, if we're fortunate, when our time comes we can also experience a dignified death. To me, this means knowing when to quit treating any disease - including aging if, indeed aging is a disease - and moving on to whatever exists beyond the physical.
For breakthrough information, as well as opinions from people who’ve intensely studied this issue, tune in to "Breakthrough: The Age of Aging" premiering Sunday, November 29, at 9 pm ET on National Geographic Channel.
It’s easy to feel grateful when life is going well, and certainly it’s desirable to acknowledge life at its best with appropriate gratitude. What’s not easy is finding gratitude when life hard. Is it even realistic to try? Yes. Discovering gratitude during difficult times can be a giant step toward peace.
As people age, even the healthiest among us tend to need more maintenance. While young people can skip sleep and still function well, older people may need more rest to regain their energy. While young people may seem to thrive on junk food and sporadic exercise, older people may find that their bodies are more demanding about receiving their required nutrients and exercise if they are to stay vital. Increasingly, oral health is making news in this area.
Our culture is steeped in language makes accepting the terminal diagnosis of ourselves or a loved one more difficult to accept than it needs to be. Doctors say, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do. You might as well go on hospice care.” Patients say that they want “aggressive treatment,” until there is nothing else that can be done, then they will go on hospice care. The focus of these conversations is that medicine will do everything possible and then when you give up you will go on hospice care. Hospice is not about giving up. It’s about allowing people who are dying a chance to live their final weeks or months with dignity and quality of life.
Sadly, even after years of work to educate the public about any illness that affects the brain, a stigma remains. No matter that most, if not all, mental illnesses have a biological basis. No matter that people aren’t any more responsible for a brain illness than they are for other illnesses. The fact remains that whether the disease affects the brain occurs at a younger age in the form of depression or bi-polar disease or an older age in the form of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, people with brain illnesses are often reluctant to acknowledge their illness for fear of being treated differently than others.
Thursday, November 12, 2015, HealthCentral - via their @health_tips Twitter handle - will host a day long Twitter Takeover. This takeover will use the hashtag #chroniclife. The discussion is for people with chronic illness; caregivers for people of all ages; people with Alzheimer’s or any type of dementia or those caring for someone with any type of dementia; hospice care providers and those who use hospice for their comforting end-of-life services. In other words, the gathering is for just about anyone who has a concern about health or caregiving.