Archive for the ‘Aging & Caring’ Category

AGING & CARING: 10 ways to help your parents prevent a heart attack


heart1Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. For people over 65 years of age, the risk is even greater: eight out of ten people who die of heart disease are 65 or older. Although these statistics sound dire, take heart: With these strategies, you can help your parents reduce their risk — and reduce your own at the same time.

Know the early warning signs and seek treatment right away

Some typical symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • Chest pain (angina)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations (skipped beats or a racing or pounding heart)
  • Leg swelling
  • Bluish skin color (cyanosis)
  • A prolonged, unexplained cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Persistent fatigue or feeling unwell
  • Passing out

But sometimes the symptoms aren’t so obvious. The pain of a heart attack may feel like really bad heartburn or even the flu. And the symptoms of a second heart attack may not be the same as those for the first. If your parent has already had a …

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AGING & CARING: Parkinson’s Disease — A guide to mind and mood


Some of the most profound consequences of Parkinson’s disease may result not from motor symptoms, but from psychiatric and behavioral difficulties. These problems often go unrecognized and untreated. Here’s what to watch for:

Parkinson’s disease can cause changes in mood, thinking, and behavior

PARKIN1Many family caregivers don’t realize that some of the most stressful challenges of Parkinson’s can come from changes in a patient’s mood, thinking, and behavior. For instance, depression, dementia, and drug-induced psychosis are potentially crippling conditions that often accompany Parkinson’s. Yet doctors and researchers haven’t paid much attention to such troubles.

“If the patients do mention it” — and, typically, they don’t — “it kind of gets shoved to the side by the issues that are more interesting to the doctor rather than to the patient,” says neurologist Joseph Friedman, director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at …

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AGING & CARING: The new stages of grief — 5 tasks, no timeline


Bereaved people often brace for the so-called stages of grief, only to discover their own grieving process unfolds differently. The stages of grief — popularized from earlier theories put forth by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in her 1969 book On Death and Dying, and later modified by others — initially described responses to terminal illness: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. While some find those responses relevant to coping with death, psychologists increasingly believe that the idea of “stages” oversimplifies a complex experience. And grieving survivors seem to agree.

“When we’re confronted with emotional chaos, we yearn for clarity, and the Kübler-Ross stages of grief serve as a kind of road map,” says Robert Neimeyer, a professor of psychology at the University of Memphis who studies grief. “But it’s more accurate to think about phases of adaptation rather than stages of grief. And they overlap rather than fall in sequence.”

No two …

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AGING & CARING: Six steps to diagnosing Alzheimer’s


If a parent or other family member has started to show signs of dementia or possible Alzheimer’s disease, you may feel overwhelmed and unable to figure out what to do. Your most important priority is to get a diagnosis. The earlier you can put a name to the problem, the easier it is to organize a care plan.

There’s no single test for Alzheimer’s disease or most other dementias. In fact, a definitive diagnosis can only be made after death, by examining brain tissue for telltale changes. But doctors can make a probable diagnosis of Alzheimer’s with as much as 90 percent certainty. Start here:

1. Create a record

It’s almost always family members, more than physicians, who spot the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Start by writing down observations that you and others make of the person you’re concerned about. You’ll be better able to notice patterns or changes in the frequency of certain behaviors than if you keep a mental record. This evidence …

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AGING & CARING: Memory enhancers for someone with Alzheimer’s


The following ideas are easy to implement and will help you manage the daily life of a person with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Timely suggestions

Calendar: Hang a wall calendar with large squares in a centralized location. Encourage the person to keep track of the date by crossing off each day on the calendar — ideally as part of a routine, such as first thing in the morning or before
going to bed. Attach a pen or marker to the calendar with a string so it doesn’t get lost. Mark key events on the calendar: trash pickup day, family birthdays or events, medical appointments, days any bills are due, family visits.

clockClock: Keep a large-faced, easy-to-read clock in plain view in every room the person frequents. Ideal is a digital clock that displays the day and date along with the time. You may also want to use written reminders (”I’ll be right back at 2
p.m.”) or an inverted hourglass to help track time when this ability becomes more …

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AGING & CARING: 20 easy ways to boost your memory


Worried about fading brain power? If you’re older than 27, you have good reason. That’s the age when cognitive skills start to decline, according to new University of Virginia research. But while some changes in thinking and memory are inevitable as we age, the good news is that lifestyle seems to be able to blunt those effects — and keep many minds working sharply well into old age.

That’s reassuring, given headlines from the Alzheimer’s Association’s new annual report showing that every 70 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s (the most common form of dementia).

Debilitating memory loss doesn’t happen to everyone, though. Learn what you can do to preserve yours.

1. Take the stairs

stairsExercise benefits your head as much as the rest of your body, a growing number of studies indicate. Overall cardiorespiratory fitness also lowers the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems — all known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. …

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AGING & CARING: 5 foods that sabotage your sleep


If you’re having trouble sleeping, what about a midnight snack? Think twice — here are five foods that can prevent you from getting a good night’s rest:

HG-Bedding_184611_2505091. Preserved and smoked meats. Slap your hand away when it reaches to make a ham sandwich as an evening snack. Ham, bacon, sausages, and smoked meats contain high levels of the amino acid tyramine, which triggers the brain to release norepinephrine, a brain stimulant that makes us feel alert and wired.

2. Chocolate. Love an evening cup of cocoa? That sundae in front of the TV? Be careful of chocolate in all its disguises. Many people are increasingly sensitive to caffeine as they get older, and even the little chocolate chunks in chocolate chip ice cream could zap you just enough to prevent ZZZZs. Chocolate also contains tyrosine, a stimulating amino acid.

3. Energy drinks. Red Bull and other energy drinks are high in caffeine as well as the amino acid taurine, which boosts alertness and …

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AGING & CARING: How to know when it’s time to stop driving


If your aging parent or other family member is like most people, the decision to stop driving is likely to be a wrenching one. It raises daunting practical problems (How am I going to get to the doctor? What about my weekly outings for dinner and a movie?). It also represents another loss at a time of life already buffeted by major losses — of independence, health, and lifelong friends and loved ones.

For practical and emotional reasons, then, giving up driving is a transition that everyone involved wishes to put off as long as possible. It’s no wonder that many adult children and spouses say that taking away the car keys was among the hardest things they ever had to do.

Older drivers: increased risk

Still, if you have concerns about a family member’s driving ability, it’s vital not to ignore them. Many seniors are able to drive safely well into their 80s and even early 90s, but it’s also common for elderly people to have vision and hearing …

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AGING & CARING: 10 things to consider including in a will


Wills are generally the centerpiece of an estate plan, allowing people to direct how their property should be divided and who should get it after they die.

Anyone can create a will with an inexpensive software package or, if there are significant assets or a complicated plan for dividing your property, you can pay an attorney several thousand dollars to draft one a will. In either case, it’s money well spent.

Discourage your parents from trying to save money by having a joint will, in which each one leaves all money and property to the other. Each parent should have a separate will — and consider covering the key points discussed below.

Top Three Items to Consider

Name a personal representative or executor.

In an individual will, your parent can name a person or institution to act as personal representative, called an executor in some states, who will be responsible for making sure that the will is carried out as written and that the …

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AGING & CARING: Ways to help ensure a ‘good death’


Poets, professors, priests, and plain folks all opine about what makes a “good death.” In truth, deaths are nearly as unique as the lives that came before them — shaped by the attitudes, physical conditions, medical treatments, and mix of people involved.

Still, many have pointed to a few common factors that can help a death seem good — and even inspiring — as opposed to frightening, sad, or tortuous. By most standards, a good death is one in which a person dies on his own terms, relatively free from pain, in a supported and dignified setting. Other things to consider:

Having affairs in order

Not everyone has the luxury of planning for death. But those who take the time and make the effort to think about their deaths during life and plan for some of the details of their final care and comfort are more apt to retain some control and say-so in their final months and days of life.

Legal specifics of such planning can include taking steps to get …

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