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Five Brain Health Reminders for Family Caregivers

Taking care of a loved one can be time consuming, demanding work. Although the rewards are often greater than the cost, researchers brain-in-hand-1312350have found that family caregiving can have an impact on brain health, including increasing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. With these preventative steps, make sure you take care of yourself while you are giving care to your family.

1. Getting Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep is one risk of caregiving. When caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, sleep disturbances occur often, which can affect the sleep of the caregiver. Sleep is one of the most important brain processes that promotes brain health and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia by removing harmful waste products and building long term memory.

If you are struggling to find time to sleep, or your sleep is interrupted, talk to your doctor about possible solutions, such as respite care.

2. Getting Enough Exercise

Although you may feel as though you are constantly on the go, caregivers often do not get an adequate amount of exercise. It is tempting to lounge on the couch in front of your favorite show after a long day, but more active options include taking a brisk walk or following an exercise video. Exercise stimulates blood flow to the brain, increasing the brain’s ability to make connections important for memory function.

3. Regular Healthcare Appointments

Equally important to the healthcare appointments of your loved ones are your own regular check-ups. Illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, and hearing and vision loss can onset silently during the busy time of caregiving. These conditions increase risk of brain related health issues. Prevent these maladies by scheduling your own appointments regularly, and do not wait if you suspect an issue with your physical health.

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Fatigue- Should You be Worried?

sleeping-woman-1432242Everyone feels tired now and then. But, after a good night’s sleep, most people feel refreshed and ready to face a new day. If you continue to feel tired for weeks, it’s time to see your doctor. He or she may be able to help you find out what’s causing your fatigue. In fact, your doctor may even suggest you become more active, as exercise may reduce fatigue and improve quality of life. 

Some Illnesses Cause Fatigue

Feeling fatigued can be like an alarm going off in your body. It may be the first sign that something is wrong. But, fatigue itself is not a disease. For example, people with rheumatoid arthritis, a painful condition that affects the joints, often complain of other symptoms, including fatigue. People with cancer may feel fatigued from the disease, treatments, or both.

Many medical problems and treatments can add to fatigue. These include:

-Taking certain medications, such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and medicines for nausea and pain

-Having medical treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation

-Recovery from major surgery

What Role Do Emotions Play in Feeling Fatigued?

Are you fearful about the future? Do you worry about your health and who will take care of you? Are you afraid you are no longer needed? Emotional worries like these can take a toll on your energy. Fatigue can be linked to many emotions, including:

 -Anxiety

-Depression

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Relocation Stress Syndrome

A move to senior living or even between two different living environments can result in symptoms including anxiety, confusion, andmoving-box-1494493 loneliness. Medical professionals have diagnosed these symptoms in conjunction with a major move in living environment as Relocation Stress Syndrome (RSS), commonly known as “transfer trauma.” Read more about seniors at risk for RSS and how to prevent the syndrome in your loved ones.

“Home is a Feeling”

According to an AARP study, 88% of Americans want to age in the home they have always known – the house where they raised their children, loved their spouse, and cooked meals for holidays for years. When people are removed from that concept of home, the results can be traumatic.

Moving can be just as stressful as losing a job, the death of a loved one, and divorce. It may be difficult for a senior to process leaving the house where they lived so much of their life and moving into a small room or apartment where they very well may see the end of their life. Often accompanied with a move to senior living is the death of a spouse, which increases the grief and depression associated with RSS. Added as an official diagnosis by the North American Nursing Diagnosis Association, many hospitals and insurance companies are treating it as a serious illness.

What to Do If You Suspect a Loved One Has RSS

The symptoms of Relocation Stress Syndrome include anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, and somatic effects. They usually appear right before or within three months of a sudden move, according to Moves for Seniors. Often, RSS is misdiagnosed as dementia because of changes in cognition, eating habits, sleeping habits, insecurity, or a decline in self-care.

If you suspect your loved one may be suffering from RSS, help them to deal with the core issues resulting from the move. Get a therapist involved for an expert’s opinion. Help them to know that they are not alone in their fears and acknowledge the normal sadness and mixed emotions that go along with a move.

Ways to Prevent Relocation Stress Syndrome

Here are some steps you can take to prevent the issue of transfer trauma:

1.  If your loved one is being moved from a hospital, use the “navigator” on staff to help smooth out the process.

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How to Choose a Doctor You Can Talk To

stethoscope-1-1541316A primary care physician with whom you can trust and communicate well is a necessary step to ensure good health. Finding a match with a primary care physician is necessary when moving between cities or when your current doctor no longer serves your needs. Do not worry about hurting a doctor’s feelings when changing physicians; they are professionals who understand the importance of the right doctor in maintaining one’s health. Whether you see a family practitioner, internist, or geriatrician, here are some tips to help you determine who is the right doctor for you.

Decide What You Are Looking for in a Doctor

Make a list of what you are looking for in a doctor. If certain attributes matter to you, make sure to include them. Some examples are:

  • Gender
  • Office Hours
  • Association with a hopsital or medical center
  • Part of a group of doctors 

Identify Several Possible Doctors

Talk to family and friends about whom they would recommend. Ask about that person’s experiences with that doctor. Check to see if that doctor fits within your health maintenance organization (HMO) or preferred provider organization (PPO), if you are a part of one, to avoid paying extra fees for a doctor outside the network. Develop a list of a few names so that you have a backup in case one doctor is not taking new patients or if the first doctor simply doesn’t work out.

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Music Therapy for Dementia Patients

guitar-1-1425243An elderly Alzheimer’s patient spoke for the first time in years – with the help of music. When Concetta Tomaino, DA, sang an old Yiddish song to him, something about the music grabbed his attention. He began trying to sing the song for himself, and soon after, began talking again.

THE BRAIN MUSIC

Just how the brain and body process music remains mysterious. Tomaino, director of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Family of Health Services in New York, says we at least know music is processed on many levels at once.

 “Why it’s so positive is that we process music with almost every part of our brain,” she says. “Music that has personal significance to someone or is connected with historical events is a strong stimulus to engage responses in people, even in late stages of dementia. Even if they’re not necessarily able to tell you what the song is, they are able to be moved and feel the associations.”

The Institute for Music and Neurologic Function was founded on Tomaino’s observations, together with those of noted neurologist and colleague Dr. Oliver Sacks and others, that many people with neurological damage learned to move better, remember more, and even regain speech through listening to and playing music. In numerous clinical studies of older adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, familiar and likable music, not medication, has reduced depression; lessened agitation increased sociability, movement, and cognitive ability; and decreased problem behaviors

“[Music therapy] is not going to change the course of the disease,” cautions Suzanne Hanser, PhD, “but it will allow the person to temporarily engage and be much more capable of communicating more clearly.”

TWO TYPES OF MUSIC THERAPY

Hanser and her more than 3,200 colleagues of the American Music Therapy Association practice two types of music therapy: active and passive. Familiar and, most importantly, likable, music elicits the best responses.

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Helping Family and Friends Understand Alzheimer's Disease

walking-the-trunk-1314201When you learn that someone has Alzheimer’s disease, you may wonder when and how to tell your family and friends. You may be worried about how others will react to or treat the person. Realize that family and friends often sense that something is wrong before they are told. Alzheimer’s disease is hard to keep secret.

There’s no single right way to tell others about Alzheimer’s disease. When the time seems right, be honest with family, friends, and others. Use this as a chance to educate them about Alzheimer’s. You can:

When a family member has Alzheimer’s disease, it affects everyone in the family, including children and grandchildren. It’s important to talk to them about what is happening. For tips on helping children cope when a loved one has the disease, see Helping Kids Understand Alzheimer’s Disease.

Tips for Communicating

You can help family and friends understand how to interact with the person with Alzheimer’s disease. Here are some tips:

  • Help family and friends realize what the person can still do and how much he or she still can understand.
  • Give visitors suggestions about how to start talking with the person. For example, make eye contact and say, “Hello George, I’m John. We used to work together.”
  • Help them avoid correcting the person with Alzheimer’s if he or she makes a mistake or forgets something. Instead, ask visitors to respond to the feelings expressed or talk about something different.
  • Help family and friends plan fun activities with the person, such as going to family reunions or visiting old friends. A photo album or other activity can help if the person is bored or confused and needs to be distracted.

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Herbal Supplements: What You Should Know

pestle-and-mortar-1326016For centuries, people have used herbal remedies as a natural solution to prevent colds, improve memory, and improve their quality of life. Herbal dietary supplements, also know as botanicals, have many benefits, but they are not as strictly regulated as other medications. Though they are processed consistently and required to meet quality standards, they do not need approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being sold. It is very important to do your research and consult your physician on the pros and cons of taking herbal supplements before adding them to your diet.

Herbal supplements are regulated by the FDA, but not as drugs or as foods. They fall under a category called dietary supplements. The rules for dietary supplements are as follows:

·        Manufacturers don't have to seek FDA approval before selling dietary supplements.

·        Companies can claim that products address a nutrient deficiency, support health or are linked to body functions — if they have supporting research and they include a disclaimer that the FDA hasn't evaluated the claim.

·        Companies aren't allowed to make a specific medical claim. An example of a specific medical claim might be, "This herb reduces the frequency of urination due to an enlarged prostate."

·        Manufacturers must follow good manufacturing practices to ensure that supplements are processed consistently and meet quality standards. These regulations are intended to keep the wrong ingredients and contaminants out of supplements, as well as make sure that the right ingredients are included in appropriate amounts.

·        The FDA is responsible for monitoring dietary supplements that are on the market. If the FDA finds a product to be unsafe, it can take action against the manufacturer or distributor or both, and may issue a warning or require that the product be removed from the market.

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