The Quiet Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, affects nearly 6.2 million people in the United States. Dementia, which is a general term for memory loss and cognitive decline, is a progressive disease during which symptoms gradually worsen throughout a number of years. In the most severe stages, people with dementia can lose the ability to carry on a conversation, respond to their surroundings, and are unable to complete basic daily tasks. While Alzheimer’s has no cure, there are treatments that can delay clinical decline. Early Alzheimer’s symptoms can be subtle and hard to identify. However, recognizing symptoms of dementia-related behaviors can help you or your loved one seek treatment sooner.

Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Like the rest of our bodies, our brains also change as we age. Often, these changes are mild or even unnoticeable. However, some older adults develop abnormal neural decline. Alzheimer’s typically begins in the part of the brain that affects learning and can lead to life-affecting changes. Here are some of the most common early Alzheimer’s symptoms:

Short-term memory changes
Memory loss is a common symptom of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. You may notice your loved one forgetting what they had for breakfast or what they did earlier in the day. They may also find it difficult to recall information they’ve recently learned or rely on memory aids, like writing notes and memos, to keep track of things. While most people lose some memory acuity as they age, increased or frequent confusion is a red flag.

Difficulty with problem-solving
A person with early Alzheimer’s symptoms might find it difficult to follow instructions, such as wayfinding directions, simple puzzles, paying bills or adding tips to a restaurant tab.

Growing difficulty with familiar tasks
Regular tasks might become increasingly challenging for people with dementia — for example, cooking dinner, getting to a familiar location, or remembering regularly scheduled activities.

Problems with speaking and writing
As Alzheimer’s progresses, expect your loved one to have difficulty communicating. Staying engaged and following along in conversations can become arduous, and you may find your loved ones removing themselves from conversations and seeming socially remote.

Misplacing items
People with dementia might forget where they’ve placed items they use often, such as the telephone, remote control, important documents, car keys, or their wallet. This can lead to frustration and they might even accuse people of stealing.

Mood and personality changes
Depression and sudden shifts in moods are also symptoms of dementia. You might notice a change in reasoning skills or in lifelong personality traits. For example, if your loved one is usually patient, you might notice them becoming agitated more than normal.

Disengagement from friends and family
You might notice your loved one becoming uninterested in socializing with other people or becoming withdrawn. Those with dementia might also stop doing their favorite hobbies or avoid being with others.

Depression
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, between 40-50% of people with Alzheimer’s disease experience depression, as compared to the 7% of the general population. Both the shock of diagnosis and physical changes in the brain can contribute to feelings of depression. Those with Alzheimer’s disease who are depressed will tend to be apathetic, irritable, and suffer from changes in sleeping patterns. However, they are less likely to be at risk of suicide than depressed people living without Alzheimer’s disease.

Anxiety and agitation
Anxiety and agitation are common in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, as people begin to recognize their losses and the severity of their illness. Later on, people may become anxious about being left alone or abandoned.

Sleep disruptions
Disruptions in sleep patterns are common in the early stages of the disease and can even be an early warning sign. Researchers believe that the changes in the brain due to the disease can leave amyloid plaque deposits, which are linked to poor sleeping habits.

Navigating the Diagnostic Process

If you see two or more of the warning signs listed above in yourself or a loved one, it’s important to visit a dementia center or contact a healthcare provider — a primary care physician, geriatrician, or neurologist. While each person’s situation can look different, a healthcare provider will likely perform a series of tests to provide a diagnosis. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, here’s what you can expect during the diagnostic process.

Medical history. Your healthcare provider will ask you to supply a list of your current and past medical problems, family medical history and diet, and a list of your current and past medications. Your doctor may also ask to speak to your family members to determine if they’ve noticed any changes in your behavior, including your memory and thinking.

Physical exam. Your doctor should conduct a physical exam to assess your blood pressure, temperature, pulse, and any other procedures that help evaluate your overall health.

Mental cognitive status tests. A doctor or neuropsychologist may perform a series of tests designed to evaluate memory, thinking, and simple problem-solving abilities. These tests help identify a baseline or changes in executive function, judgment, attention, and language, all of which can be helpful in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.

Depression screening. You’ll be asked a series of short questions that can help determine the presence of depression, which can cause memory and thinking problems similar to Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.
Laboratory tests. To rule out any infections and to monitor kidney and liver function, you might be asked to supply blood and urine samples.

Brain imaging tests. MRI and CT scans allow doctors to look at the structure of the brain and see how it’s functioning. These scans can help rule out other conditions that can cause dementia-like symptoms, including brain tumors, aneurysm, stroke, or buildup of fluid in the brain.

Living with Alzheimer’s Disease at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living communities, we provide the tools and resources needed after dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Support groups, specialized medical care, and dementia-focused activities are provided for residents living with memory loss. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Supporting a Family Caregiver: Alleviating Stress and Anxiety

As more of the population continues to age, many older adults are relying on friends and family caregivers to close the gap in the demand for healthcare. There are more nonprofessional primary caregivers than ever before.

According to a survey conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP Public Policy Institute, in 2015, an estimated 43.5 million American adults provided unpaid care, with nearly 85% caring for a family member or parent. Caring for an aging parent can often fall on one person in the family, especially those who live nearby. While caregiving can be a rewarding experience, it can also present many issues for a family caregiver. The same survey reported that 40% of caretakers felt emotionally stressed, and almost 20% said caregiving caused financial problems and physical strain. When unaddressed, long-term stress, often referred to as caregiver burnout, can negatively affect overall health and increase the risk factors for chronic illnesses and depression. The first step in addressing caregiver stress is to be able to recognize and identify the symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Caregiver Stress
For most caregivers, providing care for a loved one can be a fulfilling responsibility. However, with any transition or life event, it’s normal to experience a range of emotions. At some point, family caregivers will likely experience burnout, which may manifest itself with symptoms such as anger, stress, exhaustion, or loneliness. According to the Mayo Clinic, these factors can increase the risk of caregiver stress in individuals:

Living with the person for whom you provide care
Feeling socially isolated
Living with a depression diagnosis
Experiencing financial strain
Caregiving most hours of the day
Lacking coping skills and problem-solving abilities
Lacking choice in being a caregiver

If you or a loved one is caring for a family member, such as an aging parent, it’s important to look for the signs of caregiving stress and acknowledge them quickly. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, here are a few of the most common signs of caregiver stress:

Watching your loved one deal with an illness is both emotionally and physically difficult. Denial is a natural coping mechanism and can be a sign that a caregiver is beginning to experience tremendous stress. Denying a loved one’s disease or even denying feelings of stress are common among family caregivers.

It’s common to feel anger toward the person with the disease or illness for not being able to do the things they once did. Role reversal can spark anger in family members, especially adult children, as they begin to care for their parents.

Social withdrawal. You may notice a caregiver has withdrawn from people or social events they once enjoyed.
Anxiety. Primary caregivers experiencing stress may also show signs of anxiety about the future. It’s common for caregivers to worry about how they’ll provide care as their loved one’s condition progresses.
Exhaustion. Caregiving is a physically and emotionally demanding responsibility, which can result in exhaustion. Caregivers may experience sleeplessness due to distress or disrupted sleep if care is needed throughout the night. Either way, sooner or later exhaustion will set in, adding to caregiver burnout.
Irritability. Coupled with exhaustion and anxiety, you may notice a caregiver becoming irritable. Moodiness and unlikely behaviors are also signs of caregiver stress.
Lack of concentration. A primary caregiver can become so overwhelmed with day-to-day tasks that they lose the ability to concentrate on one task at a time. This can lead to missing appointments or mismanaging medications.

Tips for Preventing Caregiver Burnout
When you notice a caregiver struggling or experiencing stress, there are several things you can do to help. It can be difficult for a primary caregiver to admit they need additional support. The best way to help is to offer. Here are a few ways to alleviate stress and anxiety for a family caregiver:

Prioritize caregiver health. Caregivers are better able to take care of their loved ones if they prioritize their own health. You might consider showing your support to your family caregiver by preparing healthy meals or taking over caregiving duties so they can exercise, go to their own doctor appointments, or spend time doing something for themselves.
Create a support group. If you have a family member acting as a primary caregiver, there are many ways to help out even if you live far away. Consider organizing other family members or friends to chip in with peripheral support.

Some examples include:

  • Schedule a regular phone call for social support.
  • Offer to deliver meals from time to time.
  • Help with bill-paying, medical paperwork or other accounting necessities.
  • Provide respite by taking over caregiving for a few hours.
  • Caregiving really can’t be done alone. Family caregivers need support, even if they’re reluctant to ask for it.
  • Encouraging breaks. Taking a break is one of the best things a caregiver can do for themselves. Family members can help support their caregivers by encouraging things like respite care and adult care centers. Medicare will usually cover most of the cost of respite care in which an aide comes to the home to provide care or the individual stays in a hospital or nursing facility. Adult care centers can also provide a nice break during the daytime, so caregivers can attend to their own needs or use the time to take a break.
  • Help set realistic goals. If your family member is feeling stressed about their responsibilities, consider helping them break down large tasks into smaller steps. When we feel stressed, it can be difficult to remember how to prioritize tasks and organize our days. Offering help and encouragement can make your family member feel supported.
  • Provide resources. There are a variety of resources designed specifically for family caregivers, but it can be difficult to look for them when experiencing stress or anxiety. Other family members can compile and organize a list of resources for additional support. Providing links to websites, such as the Family Caregiver Alliance, support groups, and respite care options can help your caregiver find the support they need when they need it.

Supporting Caregivers at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living, we know caregiving has its joys and challenges. That’s why we offer a wide variety of support for caregivers providing care for family members. To learn more about these offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Alzheimer’s Research Trends in 2021

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior. It’s also a progressive disease that causes symptoms to worsen over time. Older adults who are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s might notice mild memory loss, whereas those in the late stages can lose the ability to carry on a conversation or even respond to their environment. Alzheimer’s disease affects one in nine people age 65 and older, and women more significantly than men. Although there’s been significant research on Alzheimer’s, because of the complexity of the illness, there is no cure. However, that hasn’t stopped medical professionals from continuing their Alzheimer’s research. Join us as we discuss Alzheimer’s research trends in 2021.

How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Treated?
Alzheimer’s is characterized by abnormal changes in the brain. While scientists do not know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s, most experts believe plaques and tangles play a significant role. Plaques, which are deposits of a protein fragment, build up in the spaces between nerve cells, and tangles, which are twisted fibers of a different protein, develop more frequently and predictably in the brain of someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. Because Alzheimer’s can look different in each individual, it’s highly unlikely that one drug would be able to treat all individuals with the disease. However, because of research and clinical trials, scientists have made significant progress in understanding the memory problems associated with Alzheimer’s.

While there are several prescription drugs to help manage the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, none have been able to cure it or even stop the progression of the disease. The first FDA-approved therapy that addresses the underlying biology of Alzheimer’s has recently received approval as treatment. Aducanumab works to remove amyloid, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s, from the brain, which can help reduce cognitive and functional decline for those with early-stage Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s Research
In addition to the recent approval of Aducanumab, international researchers have made significant progress in learning more about Alzheimer’s disease this past year. Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University recently discovered that a specific element of a key protein, called tau, may cause the proteins to accumulate in the brain. These deposits can actually trigger Alzheimer’s. While the tau protein is key to the healthy function of certain cells, when the microtubules, or “cell highways” they create aren’t formed properly, it can cause a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases. To learn how to identify when a tau protein isn’t working properly, researchers are using different organisms, such as the drosophila fruit fly.

An upcoming research study at the University of Arizona Health Sciences will focus on identifying various therapies that prevent or delay the progression of Alzheimer’s. The study will focus on understanding one of the strongest genetic risk factors, ApoE4, which is a key element in how our bodies metabolize fat and brain energy. This study is expected to allow researchers to more thoroughly understand and develop interventions for those with late-onset Alzheimer’s.

Trials and Research of Alzheimer’s Disease
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, clinical trials allow researchers to conduct studies with human volunteers to determine whether a possible treatment is safe and effective. Without the help of participants and clinical research, there can be no treatments, preventions, or cures. New drugs must complete a series of phases before being approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The treatment must perform well enough to move on to the next phase.

  • Phase I trials. The first stage of testing typically involves 100 volunteers or less and looks at the risks and side effects of a drug. These participants are usually healthy volunteers who haven’t been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
  • Phase II trials. This phase requires volunteers who have been diagnosed with the condition the drug is designed to treat. These studies help provide information about the treatment’s safety and help to determine the best dosage of the medication.
  • Phase III trials. The third stage requires a research team to enroll several hundred to thousands of volunteers at multiple sites worldwide. This provides evidence for safety and effectiveness that will be considered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
  • Phase IV trials. After the FDA approves a drug, researchers must continue to monitor the health of those taking the medication to gain insight into its long-term safety and effectiveness.

Getting Involved in a Clinical Trial
If you or a loved one is interested in participating in or learning more about a clinical trial, there are various ways to get involved. The first option is to speak with your healthcare provider. Because your doctor has a deep understanding of your medical information, they may be able to connect you with an appropriate clinical trial.

In addition, TrialMatch, operated by the Alzheimer’s Association, connects individuals to clinical studies in their area. To be connected within TrialMatch, you’ll need your clinical diagnosis, tests used to diagnose the stage of the disease, and a current Alzheimer’s medication list.

Questions to Consider
Before you commit to participating in a clinical trial, it’s important to understand the trial information by making an appointment with your healthcare provider. According to the National Institute on Aging, individuals considering participation in a clinical trial should ask the research team these questions:

● What’s the purpose of the study?
● What tests and treatments will be given?
● What are the risks and side effects?
● What are the benefits of the research?
● How much time is required?
● How long will the study run?
● How will the trial affect my daily life?
● Will I learn my results?
● Are expenses reimbursed?
● Will I be paid?

Living with Alzheimer’s at Maplewood Senior Living
Memory care residents at our Maplewood Senior Living communities have access to high-quality medical care and staff trained specifically in dementia care. Support groups, access to clinical trial information, and Alzheimer’s medication are available to all residents living with Alzheimer’s. To learn more about these offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Benefits of Talk Therapy for Seniors

Each individual approaches their retirement years differently. For some, this period of transition may be met with excitement and anticipation while others worry about the physical and mental effects of aging. Throughout the aging process, it’s normal to experience a wide range of emotions. However, some periods might be more difficult than others. Losing a spouse or friend, learning to transition into a new home, feeling isolated, or dealing with an illness or chronic condition can severely impact one’s mental health and quality of life.

Healthcare providers often recommend senior talk therapy or psychotherapy to help navigate these difficult periods. What is talk therapy? According to the American Psychiatric Association, “psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a way to help people with a broad variety of mental illness and emotional difficulties. Psychotherapy can help eliminate or control troubling symptoms so a person can function better and increase well-being and healing.” Psychotherapy — like talk therapy for depression — can be beneficial in many situations especially as older adults go through the aging process.

When Should You Consider Seeing a Therapist?
There are many different reasons to try senior talk therapy. While some older adults may be having difficulties with age-related life changes, others simply want to adopt a new mindset or perspective.

Here are some of the different situations in which an older adult might choose to work with a therapist:

When experiencing medical issues
According to the National Institute on Aging, approximately 85% of older adults have at least one chronic condition and 60% have two or more conditions. Chronic pain can interfere with daily life and change how you function. However, senior talk therapy can help you deal with pain and allow you to live a happier and healthier life. In addition, those who have a stroke or are at risk of stroke or those who have a family history of heart disease might also choose to work with a therapist to help cope with fear and the side effects of experiencing a medical condition.
For cognitive and mental health concerns
Older adults often experience normal age-related memory loss as they age. However, some adults may develop Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia that can interfere with daily life. Other mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are also common among older adults and can severely impact an individual’s quality of life. Senior talk therapy can provide ways to cope with mental health concerns and conditions.
Issues that come with old age
Many older adults experience grief and loss in some form during their retirement years. For some, the loss of independence, death of a spouse or friends, or dealing with mobility issues can cause these feelings to come to the surface. Ongoing therapy sessions can help them work through their feelings.

Benefits of Talk Therapy
Physical and mental changes that come with aging can result in irritability, changes in appetite and sleep quality, difficulty concentrating, and forgetfulness. When these conditions go unaddressed, they often get worse. Speaking to a psychotherapist can help you identify issues and improve your overall quality of life.

Here are some of the benefits that come with working with a therapist:

Helps you adopt an optimistic mindset. It’s easy to get stuck in the “it is what it is” approach to life, especially when it comes to aging. However, older adults need to feel fulfilled in life, just as much as someone in their younger years. Therapy can help identify aspects of our lives that aren’t serving us and work to improve our mindset.
Teaches new sources of meaning. Retirement provides the opportunity to tap into other parts of our personalities. As we age, there’s more freedom to explore hobbies and other interests we might not have had time for in our past. Working with a therapist can help with this transition and encourage us to get more out of life.
Teaches you how to ask for help. Learning how to ask for help can be a lifelong lesson. It’s common for older adults to associate asking for help with losing their independence. However, that’s rarely the case. Therapists can help older adults build a solid support system without losing autonomy.
Creates a vision for the future. We always need a vision for the future, even as older adults. Knowing what you want your future to look like can be a powerful source of self-esteem and encouragement.
Assists in a change of behaviors. Sometimes our habits can contribute to our problems. Speaking with a therapist can help bring awareness to our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, which can allow us to regain control.
Provides support and validation. Counselors provide support and guidance by creating a non-judgmental atmosphere where clients feel safe to express themselves. Good therapists will show compassion, understanding, and empathy.
Aids in self-discovery. Seeing a therapist will provide you with the opportunity to understand yourself more deeply. By understanding your values, personality, and beliefs on a deeper level, you embark on a journey of self-growth and healing.

How to Find a Therapist
If you’re interested in working with a therapist, it’s important to find the right fit. A good way to find an appropriate therapist is to ask a friend or trusted family member for a referral or start researching online.

Here are a few tips to consider as you do your research:
First, it’s important to check your medical insurance to see what type of care is provided. For those aged 65 and older, Medicare covers individual and group psychotherapy with doctors and other licensed professionals. If you use another type of insurance, you might consider calling your patient advocate to see what’s covered.

Once you understand what is covered by your insurance provider, you can start researching providers in your area that work with your insurance type. Online review sites are helpful when deciding if a counselor might be right for you. Psychology Today’s Find a Therapist, American Psychological Association’s Locator, or ZenCare are all great resources to consider. You can search providers by location, specialties, and age group specialization.

Most providers offer a free phone-call appointment which provides the perfect opportunity to ask questions, go over any specific concerns you might have, and ask about their schedule and payment options. Remember, it might take meeting a few different counselors to find the right fit.

Prioritizing Mental Health at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living, health is our number one priority. In addition to traditional medical care, our integrated care model also offers mental health services for all of our residents. By taking care of their mental health, our residents can live more joyful and fulfilled lives. To learn more about these offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

How to Become Your Own Health Advocate

Approximately 85% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, which means as we age we’re more likely to need additional support from our healthcare providers. It’s a common practice to take a doctor’s belief as to the final word; however, individuals need to play an active role in their own healthcare. Learning how to be an advocate for your health can help you become more confident in making decisions, nurture trusting doctor-patient relationships, and lead to better overall treatment.

Staying in Control of Your Health
Every individual deserves to have control over their healthcare, but knowing where to start might feel like a challenge. Becoming your own healthcare advocate starts by thinking about what you want out of your experience and what you need to feel confident about your healthcare-related decisions. U.S. News & World Report compiled a list of tips to help you get started. Here are a few of our favorite ways to become an advocate for your health:
Understand your medical insurance
Medical insurance can be complicated, but understanding your policy will serve you well. This insight will help you know which healthcare providers are available to you and how to budget for medical costs. If you’re 65 years and older, you’re eligible for Medicare, which is the federal health insurance program for older adults and can be broken down into four parts. You can learn more about Medicare here.

Know which questions to ask
Healthcare providers typically see several patients in one day, so you may not have much one-on-one time with your doctor. Create a list of questions and ask them at the beginning of the appointment. This can help the visit progress naturally and will ensure your most important questions get answered. Getting your questions answered is paramount to being an advocate for your own health.
Maintain your medical records
If you’re seeing a new healthcare provider or adding a specialist, consider keeping your own copy of your medical records. Most healthcare providers keep electronic copies of your records, so sharing them shouldn’t be difficult. Having your records handy puts you and your doctor on common ground, and it can expedite the process of beginning a new healthcare relationship.
Always review your medical bills
Medical bills can be difficult to understand, and reviewing them can save you money. Instead of paying your medical bill immediately, take some time to review it. Question anything that doesn’t add up or seems like an extra charge. This can also help you improve your medical literacy for the future.
Ask for a second opinion
If you don’t understand your diagnosis, receive recommendations for major non-emergency surgery, or if you don’t feel comfortable with your healthcare provider — seek a second medical opinion. A reputable physician will understand a patient’s desire for this and may even recommend another doctor. A physician’s resistance to your getting a second opinion should be seen as a red flag. A second opinion can often save you money and keep you feeling confident in your choices.
Communicate concerns and needs
The best way to advocate for your health is to communicate what you need with your healthcare provider. If you have questions about the cost of your premium, treatment plans, diagnosis, or medications — you’re within your rights to ask and get answers.

What Are You Advocating For?
Before any appointment, spend some time reflecting on what would make you feel most comfortable and cared for during a medical visit. This could be anything from the level of attentiveness from staff to the ease of parking at the office. You want to advocate for your ideal appointment, whatever that might look like. Here are a few things to consider:

Office. What does your ideal doctor’s office look like? Spend some time thinking about your expectations and start advocating for them right away. Do you want an office that is clean and organized? Do you prefer your office to have a dedicated wait space that is well maintained? Are the chairs easy to get in and out of? By evaluating the importance of these items, you’ll have a better idea of your expectations and how to seek them out.

Staff. During an ideal medical appointment, think about how you’d expect to be treated by the office staff. Are they friendly and attentive? Do they put in extra effort to explain your billing questions and professionally address your concerns? If you’re dissatisfied with the way you’re treated, mention it to your doctor. Ultimately, they’re in charge of your experience.

Practitioners. While all aspects of a medical appointment are important, it’s crucial to evaluate the expectations you have for your practitioner. What values are important for you? Is a certain amount of time with the provider an expectation? By clarifying what qualities are non-negotiable — to yourself and your provider — you’ll know when you’ve found an ideal doctor-patient relationship.

What to Do Before Your Appointment
Preparation is part of being an advocate for your health. The more prepared you are for your appointment or medical event, the more confident you’ll feel. Here are a few things you can do to get prepared:
Research your provider
Learn about your provider, especially if it’s your first time. Do an online search about them. Ask friends if they have a provider they trust and would recommend, or call the provider’s office and ask for some additional information.
Guide the conversation
If there’s certain information you want your practitioner to know before your appointment, you can always disclose any additional information when scheduling the visit. For example, if you’re overweight and you would prefer not to discuss this topic, the staff can make a note of this and share it with the healthcare provider.
Keep track of your symptoms
If you’re seeing a practitioner for a specific reason, keep track of your symptoms or whatever might be bothering you. This can help speed up the diagnosis process and help you get the right treatment quickly.

Advocating for Health at Maplewood Senior Living
Protecting the health and well-being of our residents is our priority at Maplewood Senior Living. Our communities offer high-quality care that is patient-centered and customized to meet the needs of each individual. If you’d like to learn more about our offerings or schedule a tour, please contact us. It’s a smart step toward becoming your own health advocate.

Latest Technology Trends for Seniors

With 10,000 individuals turning 65 each day, economists and researchers have coined this phenomenon the “silver tsunami.” With this wave of individuals entering into retirement, experts predict our economy will be affected in several ways, especially in our healthcare system and the senior living industry. As we age, it’s common to have to manage one or more chronic conditions, potentially overwhelming the accessibility to senior healthcare resources. To help bridge this gap between supply and demand, many older adults are following technology trends that allow them to manage their health conditions and stay independent for longer.

Today’s seniors are more comfortable with technology. Meanwhile, “smart” products are becoming more user-friendly. Today, voice activation technology, GPS, Bluetooth, cellular connectivity via mobile phones, smartphone monitoring apps, and sophisticated computers all contribute to the technology trend of conveniently connecting seniors to their families, care providers, and vendors of life’s necessities. Food, clothing, transportation, and just about anything else can be procured with a few clicks or with a verbal order to a smart speaker.

Benefits of Technology for Seniors
More than ever, tech trends are changing the way we interact with our health, maintain relationships and engage with the world around us. While keeping up with evolving technology can seem difficult, especially as we age, research shows tech for seniors is more common than ever, and older adults are eager to engage with the newest products. In addition to helping adults stay independent for longer, using technology has many health benefits.
Socialization
Older adults are at an increased risk of loneliness and social isolation. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that more than one-fourth of adults age 65 and older are socially isolated. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention suggests that long-term social isolation can significantly increase a person’s risk of premature death, dementia, depression, anxiety, and suicide.
Many older adults are looking to technology to help combat social isolation and prevent its serious long-term effects. A study conducted by The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research found that “using the internet is associated with lower depression and loneliness and higher levels of social support, life satisfaction, purpose in life, and social capital.” In this same study, seniors reported using technology to prevent feelings of loneliness and found that using the internet decreased feelings of social isolation and promoted connection.
Today, it’s easy to communicate through modern technology. Tablets and smartphones allow us to see and talk to others while making them accessible for older adults with low vision or hearing loss.
Safety
It’s normal for families to worry about the safety of their older loved ones, especially if they live far away. Technology has helped ease this concern by providing security features such as monitoring a person’s movement, sleep, location, and care patterns. Some devices can even send an alert to emergency medical professionals with the push of a button.
Entertainment
Technology trends always lead toward new entertainment options. Today, some of these options are specifically designed for older adults. Smart devices can provide online exercise classes, games, movies, and experiences that allow older adults to engage with others in the comfort of their own homes. Smart devices can also enhance traditional hobbies by making them more accessible to those with specific health needs. For example, those with low vision can enlarge the font when reading a book on a tablet, and those with hearing loss can connect their devices to their hearing aids, making it easier to talk on the phone or listen to a podcast.
Exercise and health tracking
Maintaining your physical health is important at any age, but especially for older adults. Senior health tracking tools and apps can help track important health information such as level of activity, medication schedules, medical history, health conditions, and important numbers. Devices can also be used to help promote daily exercise by counting steps and sending reminders when it’s time to move.

A Few Recommended Tech Products for Seniors
Technology is constantly evolving to meet the needs of seniors, their families, and caregivers. Smart devices can help manage the everyday needs of seniors such as entertainment, socialization, and medical attention. Here are a few of the latest tech trends for older adults. As evidence of their benefits, some of the products below are used throughout Maplewood Senior Living communities:

Alexa Care Hub. By now we’re all familiar with Amazon’s Alexa, a virtual assistant AI technology that responds to voice commands. Alexa can be used to manage your calendar, connect to your phone, control your light switches, and even play games. But now, Alexa can also keep you connected to those who keep you safe. According to Business Insider, the Care Hub is a feature available in all Alexa-enabled devices that lets family members and caregivers stay in contact with anyone who needs extra care and monitoring. By using the Care Hub, alerts can be sent to a caregiver or family member’s phone to notify when a loved one has used their Alexa or if they’ve been absent for long periods of time. This feature also allows an individual to “call for help,” by notifying an emergency contact.
Rendever Virtual Reality. Rendever is overcoming social isolation through the power of virtual reality and shared experiences. Virtual reality, which has gained traction with older adults, has been used within senior living communities to increase social engagement, improve medical care, and provide risk-free adventure and stimulation for seniors. Virtual reality provides the opportunity to revisit the past, explore new places, and connect with others through specially curated experiences that use sight and sound to engage the mind.
Eversound. Eversound wireless technology is designed to help those with hearing loss connect with those around them more easily. Headphones are connected to an audio source to break down communication barriers, enhance group communication, and better connect with those around them. Retirement communities, like those in the Maplewood Senior Living family, utilize this technology to enhance resident tours and group programs such as book clubs and exercise classes.
Temi Robot. The pinnacle of personal assistance? Some experts suggest assistive robots will be the next tech trend for seniors. The Temi robot, for example, is designed with older adults in mind. This self-perambulating companion can help with medication reminders, calendar-keeping, alerting medical professionals in case of an emergency, displaying telehealth appointments, and playing interactive videos. It’s pricey today, but who knows — one day we might all have a personal robot to help us manage our lives.

Utilizing the Power of Technology at Maplewood Senior Living
At Maplewood Senior Living, technology is one component we use to provide seniors with a high quality of life. By vetting and appropriately embracing the most beneficial tech products, residents at every level of living more fully enjoy a life of wellness, social happiness, and safety. It’s good for residents and their families. To learn more about living well in a Maplewood Senior Living community, contact us here. 

How to Balance Being a Caregiver and a Spouse

As we age, there is an increased risk of developing a disabling chronic condition, which often leads half of a married couple to become a spouse-caregiver. According to the National Institute on Aging, 79% of people age 70 and older have at least one of seven chronic conditions, including, arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, respiratory diseases, and cancer. The risk of developing other conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease or another form of, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease, also increases with age. As these conditions and diseases progress, many people will begin to need assistance with basic daily tasks. For married couples, this usually means one person will become a caregiver to a spouse. A report by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving reported that one in 10 caregivers is a married person who looks after their spouse. While caregiving can be rewarding for many individuals, it can also be stressful. According to the American Psychological Association, spouse caregivers experience a 23% higher level of stress hormones, which affects their health and their close relationships. It’s not uncommon for marriages to flounder as roles and responsibilities often change. This change, compounded with the stress of disease, can be overwhelming.

Challenges of Spousal Caregiving
Learning how to take on the role of being a spouse caregiver can take some practice. The Family Caregiver Alliance compiled some of the most common challenges for individuals who are caregivers for their husband or wife. Here are a few things you might expect to experience when caring for your spouse:
Emotional impact
Caregiving can be emotionally draining even when done professionally. Caregiving for a spouse brings additional layers of emotional distress, which can lead to mental and emotional exhaustion. It’s common for people patients who experience diseases that affect their quality of life to experience depression. However, studies have suggested that caregivers who attend to a spouse are as equally at much risk of depression as their loved one suffering from a debilitating illness.

Physical challenges
Caregiving is a physically demanding role. It can include lifting an individual for bathing and dressing and engaging in more physical activity like walking and standing. This can put a strain on the physical health of a spouse caregiver, especially as they age. In addition, long-term stress and anxiety, which are common in caregivers, can lead to poor quality sleep, increased blood pressure, and unhealthy affect eating habits.

Changes in intimacy
While all marriages experience changes in intimacy at one point or another, a shift in roles — from an established partnership to spouse caregiver, and patient — can influence these changes. Sexual intimacy can also change when a relationship of mutual responsibility becomes more one-sided. Stress, physical challenges, and fatigue that comes from caregiving can cause a loss of sexual interest. However, physical touch and emotional support remain crucial to any healthy relationship.

Loss of balance
Disease and illness can influence every decision within a family structure. As roles within the marriage shift and one takes on new responsibilities, that balance can feel uneven. Juggling friendships and individual interests on top of caregiving can be an added challenge.

Tips for Creating Balance
Becoming a spouse caregiver can create strain in any marriage. However, there are ways to manage these situations. If you’re a caregiver to a spouse, you might consider using these tactics to help you navigate any difficult or challenging situation:

  • Prepare for change. An illness or diagnosis can put pressure and stress on a relationship, especially in a marriage. Once you receive a diagnosis, it’s important to have an honest conversation with your spouse about your future. This is a conversation that can be revisited whenever the situation changes or when new problems need to be addressed. The sooner you can have a conversation about how the relationship is changing, the sooner you’ll be able to identify solutions that work best for both individuals.
  • Reassess your roles. Responsibilities within the marriage may evolve by necessity, as one person’s abilities diminish. It’s best to review household responsibilities and determine which spouse will be responsible for each task. While these may need to be readdressed throughout the progression of the disease, it’s a good place to start.
  • Separate caregiving from being a spouse. Caregiving is a full-time job, but when you’re a caregiver to a spouse, there need to be boundaries. This might mean setting times during the day where the discussion is not about medical issues. Making time to do enjoyable activities together can also help bring friendship and emotional intimacy back into the relationship.
  • Seek support. Becoming a spouse caregiver is a life-changing event that may require professional support. Both individual and couples counseling can provide the tools necessary to manage stress and promote growth and happiness.
  • Avoid isolation. Caregivers are at an increased risk of isolation and depression. This becomes an added risk if the patient-loved one is homebound. To avoid caregiver loneliness, exhaustion, and caregiver burnout, join support groups, schedule outings and phone calls with friends, and make time for yourself.
  • Create joy. While your life and marriage might feel different than they used to, it’s important to find and create joy, both individually and within your marriage. Whenever possible, create time for fun.
  • Create a care plan. Having a plan can help reduce feelings of stress and ensure that both spouses have the same expectations in terms of treatment and responsibilities. This might include discussing a move to an assisted living community or scheduling respite care to support the caregiver.

Spousal Caregiving at Maplewood Senior Living
Maplewood Senior Living communities offer additional support for spouse caregivers. Access to 24-hour medical care, support groups, and dining help relieve some of the burdens on caregivers and give couples time to spend together. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

How to Communicate with People Who Have Dementia

Dementia is a progressive illness. It affects how the brain functions and leads to memory loss and other cognitive problems. Dementia can ultimately affect one’s ability to speak and communicate with others. All this can leave those in the family or social orbit of the sufferer at a loss as to how to communicate to people with dementia.

In some stages of dementia, it’s not uncommon for individuals to experience difficulty recalling words or focusing during a conversation. As the disease progresses, many individuals rely on other forms of communication, such as hand gestures and some vocal sounds. While nearly 50 million individuals suffer from dementia worldwide, many caregivers still struggle with how to communicate with someone with dementia. According to the National Institute on Aging, these are common effects of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia on the ability to communicate:

  • Losing a train of thought when speaking
  • Having difficulty understanding what words mean
  • Not paying attention during long conversations

Communication During Stages of Alzheimer’s and Dementia
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, communication can look very different during each stage of the disease. As your loved one progresses through the disease, keep these communication tips in mind:

Early Stage
In the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease, an individual will be able to participate in conversations and engage in normal social activities. However, the sufferer may notice some difficulties with word recall and be overwhelmed by excessive stimulation. If your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it’s important not to make assumptions about the person’s ability to communicate because of a diagnosis. Instead, take time to listen and engage with the person, giving them the time they need to respond. At this stage, it’s appropriate to discuss which method of communication is most comfortable for them, such as face-to-face conversation, email, or phone calls.
Middle Stage
Moderate Alzheimer’s, or the middle stage of the disease, is the longest and can last for many years. As the disease progresses, communicating can get more challenging. It’s most important to engage with the person in one-on-one conversations while limiting distractions. Be sure to speak slowly and clearly while maintaining eye contact and physical touch, if appropriate. Be patient and give the individual plenty of time to respond.
Late Stage
In this stage of Alzheimer’s or dementia, an individual may fully rely on nonverbal communication, such as facial expressions, touch, and vocal sounds. When you’re communicating with a person in late-stage dementia, always approach the person from the front (Alzheimer’s can reduce a person’s peripheral vision). Identify yourself by name and relationship. Use touch, sight, and sounds as methods to communicate with people with dementia.

Phrases to Avoid
While the stages of dementia are good markers for when communication skills may decline, each individual is different. However, the words other people use to communicate to a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia can influence how successful the connection is. Practicing good communication techniques can help our loved ones feel heard and live well. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, these are a few phrases to avoid in conversation:

  • “Remember when?” This phrase can often evoke feelings of frustration, even if it’s meant to be encouraging and helpful. While talking about the past can bring up wonderful memories, try leading with a different phrase such as, “I remember when…” This way, your loved one won’t feel embarrassed if they can’t remember, or can join in on the conversation if they recall the memory.
  • “I’ve just told you that.” It’s normal to feel frustrated when a loved one has difficulty remembering words or thoughts you’ve just said. However, the most important part of communicating with someone suffering from dementia is to have patience and compassion. While it can be tempting to use this phrase, think about some tools that might help you when you’re feeling frustrated.
  • “What did you do this morning?” Open-ended questions can become challenging to answer as the individual moves through the stages of dementia. Instead, focus on the present situation as a conversation starter. One of the most common concerns is whether your loved one is eating well. Don’t ask, “Did you have breakfast this morning?” Stay in the present and ask, “Are you hungry now?”

Tips for Communicating
How you communicate with a person with dementia will change. However, your communication and connection don’t have to be less effective. As you learn to change the way you communicate based on your loved one’s needs, consider using these simple tips:
Be attentive — Your loved one may need time to recall words as they speak, especially in the middle and late stages of the disease. A good communicator will show they’re listening by using eye contact and friendly facial expressions.
Prioritize clarity — It’s important to speak clearly and avoid slurring words or mumbling when you’re speaking to someone with dementia. In addition, try to keep your hands away from your face when having a conversation. This can help your loved one understand what you’re saying and know how to respond.
Rephrase — It can be tempting to repeat what you’ve said if your loved one isn’t understanding. However, experts agree the best thing is to rephrase what you’re trying to communicate, using different words or gestures.
Offer choices — If your loved one begins to resist a basic daily task, like eating or showering, consider providing options to inspire a sense of independence. For example, you could say, “Would you like to eat now or after we take a walk?”
Avoid arguing — If your loved one says something you disagree with, avoid arguing with them. Instead, you might redirect the course of the conversation.

Providing Care at Maplewood Senior Living
Living with dementia or caring for someone who has it is difficult and almost always requires help. In addition to providing assistance with daily activities, Maplewood Senior Living communities offer support groups for both the individual and the caregiver to help navigate life after a diagnosis. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Osteoporosis- How to Improve Bone Health

It’s not uncommon for older adults to feel a bit weaker than they used to in their younger years. However, maintaining bone health and muscle strength becomes increasingly important as we age. Keeping our bones healthy is vital to our overall well-being. According to the Mayo Clinic, “bones play many roles in the body by providing structure, protecting our organs, anchoring our muscles, and storing calcium.” While all people should monitor their bone health, it’s especially important for older adults as bone diseases, such as osteoporosis, are more prevalent in adults over the age of 65.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis literally means “porous bone”.  Healthy bones look like honeycomb but as they age the spaces get bigger causing bones to become more brittle.

Our bodies naturally change. Our bones are continuously breaking down and rebuilding. By the time we reach the age of 30, the rate at which our bones rebuild decreases. When older adults have low bone mass, they are more at risk of osteoporosis. People who are diagnosed with osteoporosis easily break their bones, especially in their wrist, spine, and hip. Unfortunately, a broken bone is often the first sign of the disease. While we are all at risk of osteoporosis to some degree, certain factors increase the risk of developing the disease.

Risk Factors of Osteoporosis

According to the National Institutes of Health, many risk factors play a part in developing osteoporosis. Here are some of the most common factors that we can’t control:

• Age- As we get older, our chances of developing osteoporosis increase. Women should get screened for the disease at age 65 and men at age 70.
• Gender-Women are at greater risk of developing the disease when compared to men. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports that women are more at risk of osteoporosis because they are likely to have smaller bones than men. The hormone estrogen, which protects bones, decreases when women go through menopause and can cause bone loss.
• Ethnicity- Women who are white or of Asian descent are statistically more at risk of the disease.
• Family history- If your family has a strong history of broken bones, or if a family member has been diagnosed with the disease, you are at a greater risk of developing the disease yourself.

Fortunately, there are some risk factors that we can control. When the proper steps are taken to address these risk factors, they become less of an issue.

• Diet- Vitamin D and calcium deficiencies have been linked to osteoporosis.
• Physical activity- Those who are inactive for longer periods are likely to have weaker bones than those who exercise.
• Body size- Those with a body mass index (BMI) of 19 or less are at risk of developing the disease because bone mass is likely to be too low.
• Eating disorders- People who have struggled with eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia are likely to have impacted their bone mass without fueling themselves properly. Diseases such as Crohn’s, celiac, and Cushing’s can impact the body’s ability to absorb calcium, affecting our bone density.

5 Ways to Improve Bone Health

Whether you’re looking to prevent osteoporosis or strengthen your bones after a diagnosis, there are many different ways to improve and maintain bone health. Here are a few recommendations made by the National Institutes of Health.

1. Physical activity
Exercise is important for our overall health, not just our bones. However, consistent daily exercise can help improve bone strength and decrease our risk of osteoporosis. Certain exercises such as weight lifting and strength training focus on bone strength and can improve our exercise performance. The next time you go to exercise you might consider walking, climbing stairs or dancing.

2. Prevent falls
Falling is the leading cause of injury in older adults. Falls can be especially harmful to those with osteoporosis. However, most falls can be prevented by clearing hallways, installing good lighting, and removing other fall risks in the home.

3. Consult with a doctor
If you’re at high risk of osteoporosis or are concerned with developing the disease, you might consider making an appointment with your healthcare provider. Your doctor can give you a bone density test and prescribe medicine if needed.

4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Overall health will help reduce your risk of osteoporosis. Limiting your alcohol and tobacco consumption will help protect your bone mass along with other healthy habits like a healthy diet.

5. Eat a well-balanced diet
Just like exercise, maintaining a healthy diet is crucial to our overall wellbeing, especially as we age. Certain foods can help prevent bone loss and ultimately reduce our risk of osteoporosis. There are also certain foods to increase bone density that you should include in your everyday diet.

Foods that Help Prevent Osteoporosis

While eating a well-balanced diet and focusing on fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats can help our bodies get the nutrients they need, there are some foods and food groups that have been linked to bone health:

• Calcium: This mineral is primarily responsible for maintaining our bone health as well as supporting our heart and nerves. Unknowingly, many people suffer from calcium deficiency. You can add more calcium to your diet by consuming dairy products, green leafy vegetables like broccoli and kale, fish, nuts, and enriched foods.
• Vitamin D: This vitamin is necessary for the absorption of calcium. Most of our vitamin D intake comes from getting exposure to the sun’s UV rays, however, it can also be found in food. Salmon, swordfish, tuna, orange juice, milk, and egg yolks are all high in vitamin D.
• Protein: Many older adults struggle to consume enough protein, which is vital for bone strength. Protein is found in meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, and beans.

Protecting Bone Health at Maplewood Senior Living

Helping our residents live healthy lives is our number one priority at Maplewood Senior Living. Our team of dedicated foodservice professionals uses their experience and knowledge to provide a variety of meals that promote wellness and healing. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Music Therapy: Benefit for Those with Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Forms of Dementia

According to the American Music Therapy Association, music therapy for dementia is the clinical and evidence-based practice of utilizing musical interventions to meet individualized memory support goals facilitated by a credentialed music therapist. While music therapy can be used in many different settings, its use within the Alzheimer’s and dementia community has a long history. Music therapy’s use in the treatment of older adults with memory loss can be traced back more than 2,000 years. During the 20th century, community musicians gathered in military hospitals to play for World War II veterans suffering from both physical and emotional trauma. Later on, the first music therapy program was established in 1944 at Michigan State University, which prompted the creation of music therapy institutions, such as The American Music Therapy Association. Today, music therapy for dementia is widely known for its tremendous effects on those suffering from memory loss and is used throughout the nation in retirement communities and memory care settings.

Research on the effects of music therapy suggests it can provide improvements in memory recall, boost mood, reduce stress and anxiety, help manage pain and discomfort, and encourage emotional intimacy with family members and caregivers. As Alzheimer’s and dementia progress, communication and connection can become more difficult. However, research has shown music therapy for dementia is linked to emotion and memory and can help families and caregivers find new ways to connect with their loved ones.

How Does Music Help with Dementia?
Utilizing music therapy for dementia can help maintain or increase a patient’s level of physical, mental, social, and emotional functions. Music from one’s past can evoke emotion, which can lead to memory recall. By pairing music with everyday activities, patients can develop a rhythm that helps them remember the activity and improve cognitive ability over time. As dementia progresses and communication becomes difficult, music is a great way to connect. Musical aptitude and appreciation are some of the last remaining abilities for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Music can help reach beyond the disease and access emotions differently. Familiar music from the past can be a powerful way to boost mood, reduce agitation, and improve quality of life for periods of time. If your loved one is ambulatory, dancing can often lead to a physical connection such as embracing and holding hands.

Memory in Sound
Alzheimer’s disease and most other forms of dementia are degenerative diseases, which can make expressing basic needs more difficult. However, trained music therapists use musical interventions as a way of communicating nontraditionally. Singing can offer structure and enable dialogue by stimulating different areas of the brain. Music therapy can also be used to provide a renewed sense of identity for those living with Alzheimer’s disease. Singing songs from the past and reliving memories through sound can help those with Alzheimer’s communicate stories and memories to their loved ones and caregivers.

How to Practice Music Therapy at Home
While music therapy for dementia is best when facilitated by a trained and certified music therapist, you can apply the same helpful methods at home. According to the Mayo Clinic, music can be used in a variety of ways to help spark human connections, evoke memories, and decrease feelings of anxiety and agitation. If you’re interested in using music as a way to connect or soothe your loved one, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

Play your loved one’s favorite selections
Start with playing music your loved one will enjoy such as favorite selections from when they were a teenager or young adult. If they have an old record or tape collection, this is a great place to start. These favorites can evoke positive memories and remind them of happy times in their life.

Engage younger generations
Music is a great way for grandkids and adult children to connect with their loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. You might encourage your family members to make a playlist of their loved one’s favorite songs or help them choose what to listen to together.

Set the mood
Playing relaxing and instrumental music can help calm your loved one, especially during meal times or before going to sleep. When it’s appropriate to help your loved one stay alert and engaged, play upbeat music.

Avoid overstimulation
Those with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia can become overwhelmed easily. It’s important to limit distractions while you’re playing music. Turn off the TV, shut the door, and opt for music that isn’t interrupted by commercials when playing through a streaming service.

Encourage movement
Help your loved one clap hands or tap their feet to the beat. If you can, you might consider dancing with your loved ones to keep them engaged and foster a sense of security.

Pay attention to the response
If your loved one enjoys particular songs or types of music, play them often. And make sure to avoid music that seems to provoke agitation or overstimulation.

Let the music play
Music can be beneficial for caregivers as well. Whether creating your playlist to boost your mood after emotional days or finding joy in watching your loved one engage with music, it’s important to find ways to care for yourself, too.

Find a professional music therapist
The American Music Therapy Association represents 5,000 music therapists and other associations that offer information about music therapy studies and provides a list of credentialed music therapists that offer their services in institutional, residential, and private home settings.

Working with Music at Maplewood Senior Living
Maplewood Senior Living communities offer music therapy and other music-related activities that can be beneficial for residents at all levels of care. To learn more about how these programs can serve your loved one, please contact us or schedule a tour.