Saturday, December 15, 2018

Brain Health Through Mindfulness


More and more people are becoming familiar with the term “mindful” or “mindfulness.” Being mindful is exactly what it sounds like. It’s what you’re consuming your mind with at that time.

When it comes to brain health, being mindful during our daily activities has many positive benefits. On an average day, our brains can be bogged down with to-do lists, family, career, and all the other things that compete for our time and take up space in our mind.

We can add to this the fact that many people spend a lot of time sitting in front of their computer, with multiple browser windows open, and their cell phone right by their side waiting for text messages.

With our brains being consumed with processing too much information, we often don’t take the time to be mindful of the basics of our body. Taking some quiet time to be mindful of our breathing can have a positive impact on the brain that goes beyond simple stress management.

The process itself doesn’t need to take a great deal of time out of each day. It could be as short as two minutes, five, 10, or 20 minutes at the maximum for beginners. A simple breathing exercise is a good place to start.

All you need to do is find a consistent time at some point in your day where you sit in a quiet place away from phones, browsers, kids, pets and all of your usual distractions, and simply listen to your breathing. Try to be mindful of your breathing. Feel the air coming in through your nose – how does it feel? Is it cold? Usually, it’s a little bit cooler coming in and a little bit warmer going out.

Let your breath out through your mouth. Be mindful of your lungs inflating. Where do they inflate? Is it the chest? Is it near the level of the stomach? We should be inflating at the stomach first and then the chest last (diaphragmatic breathing). Ahhh, feel better?

There is significant evidence that being mindful and taking your attention away from the distractions of the day and putting them on body processes like heart rate and breathing can be incredibly powerful. Shutting the brain down for a short amount of time helps it to heal and learn more efficiently. It’s about more than just sitting and listening to your breath. It’s about healing and pushing your brain in a positive direction.

Contributor: Dr. Michael Trayford is a Board-Certified Chiropractic Neurologist and Founder of APEX Brain Centers in Asheville, NC.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse or guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Understanding Memory and Language


In the broadest sense, memory is the ability to retrieve information from specific areas of the brain. Types of memory fall into two categories – long-term memory and short-term memory. The kinds of information associated with long-term memory are the names, places, and dates that compose our personal history. Long-term memory also includes such things as the skills we have learned as well as the acquisition and use of language. 

When Dementia damages our long-term memory banks, we forget such things as our address and birth date, and may no longer remember how to drive the car or to use the washing machine.

When we lose access to our collection of learned information and built-in skills, we require assistance to live safely at home. Short-term memory, or working memory, is the ability to retain small bits of recently learned information, such as phone numbers, login codes, and street addresses.

People who have short-term memory deficits may not remember they have already taken their medication or, just an hour ago, ate lunch.

The ability to recall and use language is one of many ways to assess the progression of Dementia. In addition, specific kinds of language difficulties can help clinicians differentiate Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) from other types of Dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Language difficulties most often associated with Alzheimer’s disease are difficulty in finding the right words, describing objects rather than calling them by name, repeated use of familiar words, relying on gestures to express ideas, and reverting back to speaking a native language.

Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, people who have FTD often have difficulty in using and understanding spoken and written language. Language problems include repeated mispronunciations, such as “sork” for “fork” and the inability to make appropriate associations between names and objects. If your parent is not able to associate an object with a word, he or she may point to a sandwich and call it a baseball. People who have FTD are not aware of how they have changed.

Using words and phrases such as “this,” “that” and “over there” in the place of specific nouns and descriptions are language deficits typical of many types of dementia.

Memory loss and language difficulties often make communication awkward, difficult, and frustrating. It doesn’t take long before “never mind” replaces your efforts to engage in conversation.

Here are a few tips you can use to improve communication between you and your loved one. As you will read, most are expected norms of polite conversation.

· Give your loved-one the time to formulate a response
· Engage in one-on-one conversation
· Converse in a quiet space with few distractions
· Maintain eye contact
· Avoid criticizing or correcting misinformation
· Listen
· Avoid arguments
· Speak slowly
· Give step-by-step instructions
· Use written notes to prevent the frustration and confusion of remembering details.

Contributor: Janet Yagoda Shagam, PhD, is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of “An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.” Available through Amazon.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Dementia Can Affect Motor Skills


There is accumulating evidence that Dementia has a long pre-clinical phase that may begin years, or even decades prior to a clinical diagnosis.(1) In addition, there is data indicating the pre-clinical signs of Dementia, in addition to declines in memory and other cognitive skills, also include motor skill difficulties.

It’s difficult to tease out normal age-related changes in coordination and balance from those motor skills that put people at increased risk for Dementia. Measures of pre-clinical impairments include changes in gait and walking speed, loss of muscle mass and strength, as well as reduced manual dexterity and balance.

Once Dementia becomes part of the picture, friends and family members become increasingly aware of the changes in their loved one's memory and organizational skills. They may also notice their loved one has difficulty dressing or walking without assistance. Like the worsening cognition we associate with Dementia, losses in stamina and coordination also reflect more widespread brain damage.

Research shows that physical exercise plays an important role in helping to protect, maintain, and improve the health and well-being of people in either the pre-clinical or the clinical stages of Dementia. As is true for everyone, physical exercises must be safe, interesting, as well as give a sense of accomplishment. However, before embarking on new or increased amounts of physical activity, it is important that you first get approval from your loved one’s doctor.

A physical therapist (PT) is often a good place to start. He or she can devise an exercise plan to improve stamina, flexibility, balance as well as exercises that can prevent falls. You can find information about local physical therapists on the American Physical Therapy webpage. Your loved one's doctor, nurse, or medical social worker are other good sources of information.

Exercise also includes activities such as walking, dancing, gardening, and housework. All are inexpensive, do not require specialized equipment, and come with the satisfaction of having done something useful. As an added benefit all of these, and similar activities are sources of social and cognitive stimulation.

Exercise also includes activities that improve small or fine-muscle motor skills. The ability to button a shirt, open a cereal box, or use eating utensils, helps people who have Dementia maintain their independence for as long as it possible. An occupational therapist (OT) can suggest helpful exercises and adaptive equipment that can make it possible to live at home for as long as is possible. Go to The American Occupational Therapy Association webpage to learn more about occupational therapy and the many ways occupational therapy can help people who have Dementia.

Small muscle exercises include pastimes such as craft projects, scrapbooking, baking, working with clay, painting, and drawing. These simple and inexpensive small muscle activities encourage socialization and maintain or improve cognition. An added benefit and perhaps the most important one is making things to share with others creates mementos of a life together and affirms the whole person. 


Contributor: Janet Yagoda Shagam, PhD, is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of “An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.”

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse or guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. 



Reference: (1) Buchman AS and D Bennett. Loss of Motor Function in Pre-clinical Alzheimer's Disease. Access; September 25, 2016.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Dementia Risk Factors: Blood Pressure



Blood pressure and health is a frequent topic of casual conversation between friends. However, many people are not aware of the relationship between blood pressure and risk for having Dementia later in life.

Blood pressure is a measure of the force blood exerts against the inner walls of the blood vessels and arteries as the heart pumps blood throughout the body. The first or higher number, the systolic pressure, determines the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts. A higher than normal pressure, one that is greater than 120, causes the heart to work harder and increases risk for heart attacks, and strokes.

The second number, the diastolic pressure, determines pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle relaxes between heartbeats. A lower than normal blood pressure is having a systolic pressure below 90 or a diastolic lower than 60. Most doctors consider chronically low blood pressure a problem only if it causes noticeable symptoms such as dizziness, fainting, or rapid and shallow breathing.

Some causes for too-high or too low-blood pressure are cardiovascular and neurological abnormalities present at birth and the side effects of certain medications.

Conditions and behaviors such as blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, obesity, smoking and insufficient exercise are all causes for having high blood pressure.

Risk factors associated with having low blood pressure include advanced age, medications such as the alpha blockers used to treat high blood pressure, as well as having diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson disease, severe infections, and certain heart conditions.

High blood pressure, independent of its cause, increases risk of having Dementia. However, the good news is there are ways to decrease risk for Alzheimer disease and vascular dementia - the two most common types of Dementia. Some of these include reducing stress, eating a heart-healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and to stop smoking. It’s also important to follow your doctor’s instructions and take your blood pressure medication as prescribed.

Changing lifelong habits is often easier said than done. It’s difficult to reduce stress and to find the time to exercise when juggling the responsibilities of a tightly scheduled day. When eating out, or socializing with family, friends, and coworkers, it is a challenge to manage large portions and to choose foods that are low in saturated fats, salt, and added sugar.

Support groups as well as your friends and family can be your best allies in helping you to achieve a healthier lifestyle. However, be sure to tell your friends and family the reason for making these lifestyle changes is to reduce your risk for dementia. Maybe, just maybe, your explanation will be the motivation they need to make similar healthful changes. 

Contributor: Janet Yagoda Shagam, PhD, is a freelance medical and science writer and the author of “An Unintended Journey: A Caregiver's Guide to Dementia.”


The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor. www.DementiaSociety.org

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Making Sense! Spotlight On Hearing


Making Sense! Spotlight On Hearing

Hearing connects us to the world, helping us communicate, work, socialize and be alert to potential danger. Hearing impairment, likely affecting over 30% of seniors, touches all aspects of daily living. It contributes to depression, loneliness, poor job performance, and in the long run, may lead to Dementia. It is thought by some, that untreated hearing loss could be responsible for 9% of Dementia worldwide. The good news is that healthy lifestyle choices that include correction of hearing loss, might possibly delay or prevent one-third of Dementia cases.  

Here is a guide to understanding hearing loss and what to do about it:

What causes hearing loss? 

  • Age
  • Genetics (family history)
  • Chronic illness (type-2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular, autoimmune and infectious diseases)
  • Medication (diuretics, antibiotics, chemotherapy, others)
  • Environment (noise, pollution, industrial chemicals)
  • Head trauma
  • Smoking
  • And more ...

We can’t change our genetics, but we can take steps to affect the other factors. 

What are the types of hearing loss? Peripheral hearing loss occurs in the ear, while central loss involves parts of the brain that process auditory signals. Hearing loss is often a mix of both types.

How does hearing loss cause Dementia? It increases social isolation, reduces stimulation to the brain, and/or it may arise from the same brain changes that cause dementia. 

What does testing involve?  

To be thorough, take three tests:

  • Ear testing: wear headphones while identifying short sounds played at different volumes and pitches.
  • Central auditory processing (CAP) evaluation: checks speech reception and word recognition using the Staggered Spondaic Word Test (SSW) and the Synthetic Sentence Identification with Ipsilateral Competing Message test (SSI-ICM).
  • Cognition: The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA), available online, for free, in multiple languages and dialects, is one page and takes ten minutes. MOCA detects mild cognitive impairment and early dementia.

What treatment is available? 

  • Hearing aids make sounds louder and easier to pick up. 
  • Middle or inner (cochlear) ear implants boost signals that go to the brain. 

Treatment slows mental decline and improves cognitive test scores, so sooner is better. 

What lifestyle strategies support hearing? : 

  • Moderate alcohol consumption
  • Bone-strengthening exercise
  • Antioxidant (Mediterranean, DASH) diets
  • Stop smoking

Correcting hearing loss improves life enjoyment, daily function, and brain health. Take action today to help counter this modifiable risk for Dementia.

Contributing Blogger: Jennie Ann Freiman, MD, author of The SEEDS Plan.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse or guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

References:
  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29964378    
  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29735277
  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29212633
  www.thelancet.com/commissions/dementia2017?code=lancet-site
  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29937713
  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30011159
  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29430246
  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28894825
  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27806352
  www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29937713

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Have Fun, But be Mindful of Summer's Dangers



Who doesn’t love summer? For many of us it means trips to the beach, longer daylight hours, more socializing with family and friends, picnics, outdoor activities and more. But the lazy, hazy days that summer brings – specifically in sizzling temperatures – also can pose some serious health risks to seniors. Here are some tips to allow for a safe summer season.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Keep your water bottle near you (and filled) at all times. Seniors are more susceptible to dehydration. As we age, our body naturally loses water, so that by the time we reach 80 years of age, we have 15 percent less water than that of a 20-year-old. Aside from that, our kidneys function less efficiently, and we tend to lose our sensation of thirst. Dehydration can manifest itself as dry mouth, troubled speech, lack of sweat, or confusion.

To counteract that, seniors should drink at least a half-ounce of water for each pound they weigh. So, a person weighing 160 pounds should drink 80 oz., or 10 8-oz. glasses of water, to stay hydrated. If spending time outside, seniors should up that quantity.

Sunburn Woes
Older skin is more susceptible to the effects of sun exposure. It’s thinner and has a reduced healing factor when it comes to sunburn. Also, certain medications that seniors take can make them more vulnerable to unsafe sun exposure.

To guard against sunburn, apply sunscreen heavily and often, using a product with an SPF of at least 15. If you must spend time in the sun during the hottest part of the day (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), reapply more often.

Preventing Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
As we age, our internal temperature regulation system doesn’t work as good as it did during our days of youth. As a result, heat exhaustion – when our core temperature reaches 100 degrees – can come about quickly and unexpectedly. Symptoms may include nausea, dizziness, a rapid pulse and muscle cramps. If left untreated, that condition could quickly escalate to heat stroke, a life-threatening condition.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to these heat-related conditions. To prevent them from occurring, drink plenty of water and wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing – cotton and linen are great options – when going outside.

Making the right choices when it comes to your health will allow you to enjoy all the best that summer offers.

Source: Visiting Angels, a national agency, providing families with in-home elder care services.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse or guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Stay Sharp for Safe Driving



The fitness of your mind and body must work together in order to drive safely. Follow these tips from AARP to keep yourself sharp, healthy, and ready for the road.

Your eyesight is key to all aspects of driving, but you may not realize how complex vision actually is. Good vision, both near and far, is needed to identify road hazards, road signs, and view your dashboard.

Visual acuity is how clearly or accurately you can see. There are many conditions that affect visual acuity, especially as we age. Here are a few conditions to keep watch for:
  • Colorblindness and cataracts may cause problems when identifying traffic signals or brake lights of other cars while driving.
  • Decreased contrast sensitivity is the visual ability to see objects that are not outlined clearly or do not stand out from their background. Examples are difficulty seeing pedestrians and road signs, especially in poorly lit roads or in fog.
  • Decreased useful field of view refers to the amount of visual information that can be processed in a brief glance using both eyes. The ability to process information slows with age, particularly for situations in which the environment is very complex, e.g., a busy roadway.
  • Decreased depth perception and peripheral vision is the ability to judge the distance of objects in relation to ourselves and the ability to see outside our immediate field of view.  Both tend to decrease with age and are essential in everyday driving situations, such as judging the distance and speed of approaching cars when merging or seeing a car approaching you from either side.

With that in mind, it is incredibly important to get regular eye exams to maintain good eye health.

Over time, we can lose the ability to quickly assess and react appropriately to the demands of driving. From something as simple as fatigue to minor memory loss to something as complex as Dementia, our brain health, and overall mental well-being are crucial to the task of driving.

Your ability to carry out the following processes should be gauged in assessing your driving fitness:
  • Attention and reaction time
  • Concentration (paying attention to changes in your driving environment)
  • Ability to process information quickly and accurately
  • Problem-solving skills (how to get help if you have a flat tire)
  • Memory (how to get to the doctor’s office)
Stimulate your brain by trying new activities. Try testing your memory and problem-solving skills; it can be something as simple as taking a new route to a familiar location. A study by the National Institute of Health recently found that people who had cognitive training for memory, reasoning or speed of processing had 50 percent fewer car accidents than those in the control group.

Driving is a demanding activity that requires your full attention to many things at the same time. Eliminate distractions inside the vehicle and minimize activities that require you to take your eyes off the road or take both hands off the wheel, especially in heavy traffic. Some suggestions:
  • Put your cell phone on silent and tuck it away so you are not tempted to answer a text or phone call while driving.
  • Pre-set your radio with your favorite radio stations. That way you won’t have to look away from the road to change the station.
  • Don’t eat, drink, or smoke while driving.
These important tips will keep you sharp and ready to drive. Driving is demanding, so take measures to ensure good vision, brain health, and reduce distractions while on the road.

Source: AARP

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse or guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Keeping the Home Safe for Those Living With Dementia



Those living with Dementia often become less able to manage around the house as their condition progresses. For example, they may forget to turn off the oven or the water, how to use the phone during an emergency, which things around the house are dangerous, and where things are in their own home.

Prevention is key. It is more effective to change the person’s surroundings — for example, to remove dangerous items — than to try to change behaviors. Changing the home environment can give the person more freedom to move around independently and safely.

The National Institute on Aging provides these tips on creating a Dementia-safe home.

Simplify the Home
Get rid of clutter, too much furniture, exposed cords, and small throw rugs – anything that could lead to falls and injuries. Installing non-skid strips on floors can help. Shoes and slippers with good traction also help the person move around safely.

Minimize Danger by Addressing the Five Senses
Those living with Dementia may no longer accurately interpret what they see. Any objects – curtains or bedspreads, for example – that have busy patterns can cause confusion. Mark the edges of steps with brightly colored tape so people can see the steps as they go up or downstairs. Limit the size and number of mirrors, as they also can cause confusion.

People with Dementia may experience loss of touch or sensation, or may no longer be able to relate to feelings of heat, cold, or discomfort. Lower hot water heaters to 120 degrees to prevent burns. Put signs near the oven, toaster, iron, and other things that get hot. The sign could say, "Stop!" or "Don't Touch — Very Hot!" The person with Dementia should not use appliances without supervision.

A loss of or decrease in smell is common in people with Dementia. Check smoke detectors to make sure they are working properly, since those with Dementia may not be able to smell smoke. Also, check on refrigerated foods to make sure they have not spoiled.

People with Dementia may not taste as well as before. They also may place dangerous or inappropriate things in their mouths.  Put away or lock up things like toothpaste, lotions, shampoos, rubbing alcohol, soap, perfume, or laundry detergent pods. They may look and smell like food to a person with Dementia. Keep the Poison Control Center number (1-800-222-1222) by the phone.

Those living with Dementia may also lose their ability to interpret what they hear – even if they have normal hearing. This may result in confusion or over-stimulation. Don't play the TV or music too loudly, and don't play them at the same time. Loud music or too many different sounds may be too much for the person with Dementia to handle.

Click here for more on home safety and those living with some form of Dementia.

Source: National Institute on Aging

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse or guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Helpful Tips When Escorting Those With Dementia in Public Places



Being in public with a loved one who lives with some form of Dementia can be stressful for the care partner if that person suddenly starts to express themselves in a way which others find out of the norm. Hey, it can happen, it's life, and it's okay. But, if Uncle Ned starts to take off his clothes in a shopping mall, or your wife, Alice, falsely accuses a stranger of stealing, what do you do? Worse yet, many businesses interfacing with their customers don’t understand the special needs of those living with Dementia, and instead of being supportive, may firmly ask them to leave the establishment.

If you dread the thought of taking your loved one out in public, you’re not alone. In a recent survey conducted by Home Instead Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network, 74 percent of surveyed family caregivers caring for an individual with some form of Dementia said they and their loved ones had become more isolated as a result of the risks. Caregivers said the unpredictable behavior that can sometimes accompany Dementia made the idea of going out in public taxing.

Fortunately, more businesses are becoming “Dementia-aware,” and you can promote this trend by supporting these forward-thinking stores. Using some helpful tips will equip you with the knowledge and skills you need to venture confidently into a public setting.

Seek Out Dementia-friendly Businesses
These establishments have completed specialized training to better serve customers with Dementia illnesses and their caregivers. Employees of these businesses have been given insight into the various types of Dementias, how to respond to agitation in a customer with Dementia, how to use re-direction to regain focus of the customer who becomes disruptive, and how to help with decision-making by offering simple choices.

Prepare Explanations in Advance
If your loved one is prone to getting loud or agitated in public, plan in advance how you will explain this behavior to the strangers around you. Let them know they’re witnessing a disease process at work. Some caregivers print small cards to hand out that state the individual has a form of Dementia and to please forgive the outburst. The Dementia Society of America is about to publish it's useful and practical Aware Share Card. Please send us a note here if you would like some mailed to you upon their availability. Discretely handing a stranger an explanation card can also help preserve your loved one’s dignity.

Keep a “Go” Bag on Hand
Make outings easy on yourself by keeping a tote bag at the ready. Stock it with items your loved one routinely needs, including a couple of incontinence briefs, wipes, sunscreen, magazines, books or anything you normally find yourself reaching for when you take a short trip. By having this bag constantly at-the-ready, you can pick up and head out at a moment’s notice.

Pack Portable Snacks and Water
Keep healthy, grab-n-go snacks on hand, like apples, small containers of grapes, energy bars, cheese sticks or crackers. This benefits you as well as your loved one since frazzled caregivers often go for hours without eating as they attend to their family member’s needs. And don’t forget to take a couple of bottles of water to stay hydrated.

Learn How to Handle  Various Behavior
You can start by understanding the underlying need beneath a behavior. For instance, a person who tries to take her blouse off may be indicating she is too warm. Dealing with challenging behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s disease or other Dementias can put a strain on the caregiver, but knowing what to do - whether by distracting the person or changing the environment or activity - can make all the difference in the world.

Pat Yourself on the Back
Each time you take your loved one with Dementia out in public, you provide interactions that can lift his or her mood and soothe that person’s soul—and yours, too. You also perform a valuable service by showing other people (including businesses) the true face of Dementia and by educating them about how to interact with these special people. So pat yourself on the back. You deserve it!

Source: Caregiverstress.com, a resource of Home Instead Senior Care. Modified slightly from the original to present a more pan-Dementia perspective and to remove words and phrases that are not part of our communications. 

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of the content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Points to Ponder for Seniors Making Housing Choices



One of the most critical choices older adults need to make is where they will live as they age. A variety of factors will go into making that decision. Do they have an active lifestyle? If their activity level changes, will there be support services available to them? What about location? How much will housing options cost? Should relatives be involved in the decision-making process? Whatever option is chosen, the best choice needs to ensure that the older adult’s health, welfare, legal rights and financial needs are protected.

Owning a home
Many homeowners hope to stay in the home where they have lived for many years, raising a family and staying close to family and friends. Some may downsize, but continue to live in the same area. Benefits include continuing relationships they have made through the years, the privacy offered by owning your own home, and being able to count on the home as a future financial resource. Challenges include keeping up with home maintenance or making modifications to be able to still live there comfortably and safely.

Renting options
Renting a room, apartment, or a single-family home can free the older adult of worries of expenses associated with home ownership. Some seniors may be eligible for state or federal rent subsidy programs – another plus. On the list of downsides, there may be restrictions when it comes to owning a pet and a loss of some independence for tenants.

Living in a group setting
Group settings provide housing, a range of in-home support services and some social activities. Assistance with personal care (bathing, dressing, or eating, for example) or activities related to independent living (housework, preparing meals, or managing money) is offered. Benefits include choosing from a variety of housing types (adult foster homes, assisted living facilities, and continuing care retirement communities, to name a few) as well as providing socializing opportunities. Challenges include a lack of privacy or lack of services should the older adult’s needs change.

Living in a nursing home
Nursing homes, or long-term care facilities, are for those who need 24-hour supervision, providing medical and personal care assistance. Organizations such as the National SeniorCitizen’s Law Center (NSCLC) and the National Citizens’ Coalition for NursingHome Reform (NCCNHR) can be used as resources in researching nursing homes.

Source: “Housing Options for Older Adults: A Guide for Making Housing Decisions” produced by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging and written by Holly Robinson, associate staff director at the American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society of America does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

How to Keep Communicating



Dementia is a set of conditions, which can be caused by a variety of known neurodegenerative diseases* (and some still-yet-unknown triggers) which progress over time, and will likely affect a person's ability to remember and understand basic facts, such as names, dates and places. Aside from that, it may gradually affect the way a person communicates as well. His or her ability to present rational ideas and to reason clearly could change, and it is up to those surrounding their affected loved one to modify their ways of communication to reach out and still have a connection.

If you are a caregiver to person with Dementia, you may find that as the illness progresses, you'll have to start discussions to get the person to make conversation. This is common. The person’s ability to process information gets progressively weaker and responses can become delayed.

Encouraging someone with Dementia to communicate
Try to start conversations with the person you're looking after, especially if you notice that the person with Dementia is starting fewer conversations on his or her own.

Ways to encourage communication include:
  • Speaking clearly and slowly, using short sentences.
  • Making eye contact with the person when talking, asking questions or having other conversations.
  • Giving the person time to respond, because he or she may feel pressured if you try to speed up answers.
  • Encouraging the person to join in conversations with others, where possible.
  • Letting them speak for themselves during discussions about their welfare or health issues, as they may not speak up for themselves in other situations.
  • Trying not patronize, or ridiculing what he or she says.
  • Acknowledging what is said, even if your question has not been answered, or what is said seems out of context – show that you've heard the person and encourage the person with Dementia to say more.
  • Giving the person simple choices when conversing.
  • Using other ways to communicate – such as rephrasing questions because the affected person can't answer in the way he or she used to.
Communicating through body language and physical contact
Communication isn't just talking. Gestures, movement and facial expressions can all convey meaning or help you get a message across. Body language and physical contact become significant when speech is difficult for a person with Dementia.

Communicating when someone has difficulty speaking or understanding can be made easier by:
  • Being patient and remaining calm, which can help the person with Dementia communicate more easily.
  • Keeping the tone of voice positive and friendly, where possible.
  • Talking to the person at a respectful distance to avoid intimidation – being at the same level or lower can also help.
  • Patting or holding the person’s hand can provide reassurance and make you feel closer, but watch the person’s body language to make sure the person with Dementia is comfortable with you doing this.
Listening to and understanding someone with Dementia
Communication is a two-way process. As a caregiver of someone with Dementia, you will probably have to learn to “listen” more carefully. You may need to be more aware of non-verbal messages, such as facial expressions and body language. You may have to use more physical contact, such as reassuring pats on the arm, or smiles, as well as speaking.

When communicating with someone with Dementia, “active listening” skills can help. These include:
  • Using eye contact to look at the person, and encouraging that person to look back at you.
  • Trying not to interrupt the affected person, even if you think you know what that person is saying.
  • Stopping what you’re doing so you can give the person your full attention while he or she is speaking.
  • Minimizing distractions that may get in the way of communication, such as the TV or radio playing too loudly.
  • Repeating what you heard back to the person and asking if it’s accurate.
  • “Listening” in a different way – shaking your head, turning away or murmuring are alternative ways of saying no or expressing disapproval.
It’s important to encourage the person with Dementia to communicate wants and needs – however he or she can. Remember, we all find it frustrating when we can’t communicate effectively, or are misunderstood.


*More common diseases which have been identified: Alzheimer's, Vascular Dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, Frontemporal Dementia, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, among many others.

Source: This article was provided by the UK National Health Service (NHS), revised December 2017. All rights reserved.

The opinions expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily the opinions of the Dementia Society, Inc. We do not endorse nor guarantee products, comments, suggestions, links, or other forms of content contained within blog posts that have been provided to us with permission, or otherwise. Dementia Society of America does not provide medical advice. Please consult your doctor.