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Posts Tagged ‘dementia’

Five long years. That’s how long my mother lived with dementia. It was five years of watching that progressive disease take away the strong, stable and loving mother that I knew. Throughout those years, I found myself on an emotional rollercoaster. There would be days that she was mentally sharp that were followed by days of angry outbursts, vacant stares. My emotions were split between uncertainty, guilt, sadness, hope, frustration, and grief. While I understood most of the emotions, it was difficult for me to understand the emotion of grief. How could I be grieving someone who was still alive? What I have learned since her passing is that grieving someone who is still alive is a term called ambiguous loss.

Ambiguous loss can be experienced when a loved one is physically here, but may not be emotionally or mentally present in the same way they were before dementia. This type of loss is experienced by caregivers of loved ones who are living with such things as mental illness, brain injury and dementia. It is a profound sadness that lingers in caregivers who have lost a relationship with their loved ones.  Unlike grief that is experienced when a loved one dies, ambiguous loss can be difficult to cope with due to the frequent uncertainty of what has been lost or if the loved one will return to how they used to be. In the typical bereavement process grief tends to recede over time, and loved ones are able to have a distinct closure on the relationship. However, ambiguous loss is not a one-time trauma. It is an ongoing series of losses that occur as the disease progresses. In a sense, caregivers and loved ones are frozen in a fog of coping and grieving. This type of loss and grief can also bring the other aspects of the caregiver’s life to a standstill and can affect the caregiver’s career, friendships and other relationships.

As a way to manage the loss and grief that is felt while caregiving for a loved one with dementia, The Alzheimer Society suggests strategies for living positively with ambiguous loss and grief when caring for someone with dementia. Here are a few of their recommendations:

  • Reflect on the losses, and have someone who will understand and allow you to express your feelings.
  • Normalize and begin to accept your feelings of ambiguous loss by talking to others who have similar experiences.
  • Stay Connected with family and friends and support groups.
  • Look after your own needs. Eat well, get enough sleep and exercise. This may mean that you need to take a break from caregiving responsibilities.
  • Let people know how they can help.  Rather than thinking that your family and friends already know what you need.
  • Seek out information on dementia and what to expect. Empower yourself with knowledge.

Recognizing the emotions of loss and grief when caregiving for a loved one with dementia is the first step to help build resiliency throughout the caregiving process. Empowering yourself with knowledge and support systems will help you navigate the emotional tidal waves of ambiguous loss and grief.

Written by: Kathy Tutt, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County

Reviewed by: Kellie Lemly MEd. Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Champaign County

     Ambiguous Loss and Grief in Dementia: A resource for individuals and families. Alzheimer Society of Canada. Retried from https://alzheimer.ca/sites/default/files/documents/ambiguous-loss-and-grief_for-individuals-and-families.pdf#:~:text=Ambiguous%20loss%20is%20a%20type,the%20same%20way%20as%20before.&text=For%20example%2C%20you%20may%20feel,longer%20knows%20who%20you%20are.

      Boss, P. (2000) Ambiguous Loss: Learning to live with unresolved grief. Harvard University Press

     Boss, P. (2011) Loving Someone Who Has Dementia: How to find hope while coping with stress and grief. John Wiley & Sons

     Zaksh, Y. Yehene, E. Elyashiv, M. & Altman, A. (2019), Partially dead, partially separated: Establishing the mechanism between ambiguous loss and grief reaction among caregivers of patients with prolonged disorders of consciousness. Clinical Rehabilitation, Vol 33 (2), 345-356

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Daughter and Mother Living with Dementia

Do you ever forget where you’ve placed your remote, or just can’t recall the name of acquaintance? When this occurs, do you wonder if you are starting to develop dementia? It’s common to become somewhat more forgetful as you age. The question is, how you can tell whether your memory lapses are part of normal aging or are a symptom of something more serious.

If you are in your 40’s, 50’s or 60’s, you may have noticed that you might need a bit longer to remember things, get distracted more easily or struggle to multi-task as well as you once did. You may worry that these are an early sign of dementia, it is important not to worry too much. While these changes are frustrating at times, they are a part of normal aging.  

By contrast, people with dementia have a loss of memory and other mental function severe enough that it affects their ability to live independently at home, interact is social activities and at work. While some memory loss, such as recall and recognition, is the result of the aging brain, dementia is some type of injury to the brain that goes beyond normal changes. For a variety of reasons, once-healthy neurons (nerve cells) in the brain stop working, lose connections with other brain cells, and die.

Dementia can cause a significant decline in a person’s mental abilities by affecting their capacity for things like memory, thinking and reasoning.

Although people in the earliest stages of dementia often sense the something is wrong, the illness eventually deprives them of the insight necessary to understand their problems. So it’s usually up to a family member or friend to recognize the symptoms. The Alzheimer’s Association,  Know the 10 Signs brochure highlights a list of 10 signs that should not be ignored.

  1. Memory loss that is severe enough to disrupt daily life-for example, asking for information over and over again.
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems, such as trouble following a recipe or keeping track of monthly bills.
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure-for example, trouble driving to a familiar location.
  4. Confusion over time or place.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, including difficulty judging distances and determining color.
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing, including difficulty following or joining a conversation.
  7. Putting things in unusual places and being unable to find them again.
  8. Decreased or poor judgement-for example, giving large amounts of money to telemarketers or paying less attention to personal hygiene.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality, including becoming suspicious, depressed, fearful, or anxious.

If after reading this list you are worried about yourself or someone close to you, arrange for a medical evaluation. Making a diagnosis of dementia requires a thorough examination by a physician. Many forms of dementia are not reversible, but early detection provides an opportunity to minimize other medical conditions that may bring on severe dementia symptoms earlier than they might otherwise show.

If you would like to learn more about your memory, please join us at 10a.m. on Wednesdays in May for the Virtual Master of Memory. These four sessions will be offered online. Sessions will include information on memory strategies, nutrition, medications, medical conditions, and exercise for the body and mind.

Sessions are free – but registration is required. You may register here: https://go.osu.edu/masterofmemory

Written by: Kathy Tutt, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension-Clark County, tutt.19@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Roseanne Scammahorn, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension-Darke County, scammahorn.5@osu.edu

Sources:

Alzheimer’s Association, https://www.alz.org/

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Dementia-Information-Page

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Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It is not part of the normal aging process. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that begins with mild memory loss and can later affect one’s ability to carry out activities of daily living.  On a personal note, my Mom – an Alzheimer’s patient – no longer recalls who I am and struggles with most daily activities.   Alzheimer’s caught up with us in November 2011.  After she received her diagnosis, we developed an action plan to direct her care with a goal for her to live well with Alzheimer’s.  

When seeking to take control of your health and wellness after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, it may be helpful to focus your energy on the aspects of your life that are most meaningful.  Recognize that there will be good days and bad days, and an emphasis on living a healthier life will help prepare you to center your energies on what is most important to you.  Start today by:

  • Managing your physical health
    • Get regular checkups
    • Establish a relationship with a physician you trust
    • Get plenty or rest
  • Taking charge of your emotional health
    • Allow yourself to experience a range of emotions
    • Consider meeting with a trusted friend
    • Maintain close relationships with loved ones
    • If experiencing rapid mood changes or a short temper, be mindful of negative responses and understand your reaction is caused by the disease
    • If today is not going well, do not force it.  Stop. Do something you enjoy.
  • Increasing mental stimulation
    • Take a class
    • Try a new hobby
  • Educating yourself about the disease    
    • Plan for the future

Examine the influences that impact your experience living with Alzheimer’s.  Choosing to live a healthy life by maintaining your physical, social, and emotional well-being will help improve your daily life.

Written by: Beth Stefura, OSU Extension Educator, Mahoning County. stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by:  Jenny Lobb, OSU Extension Educator, Franklin County.  lobb.3@osu.edu

References:

https://www.cdc.gov/aging/aginginfo/alzheimers.htm

https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-alzheimers

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Caring for a family member with dementia can be challenging and the holiday season can add more to an already full plate for many caregivers. The holidays are a time for family and friends to come together, share traditions, and make memories, but for families living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, it may take additional care.

One of the things to consider when planning for the picture of familyholidays with a person with dementia is the stage of the illness. Those family members in the early stages can experience minor changes, and some may go unnoticed. However, the person with dementia may have trouble following conversations or may repeat himself or herself. They may feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable, and might withdraw from the group.  Do not point out errors in their conversations or their difficulty recalling specifics. Periodically checking in with them with a simple “How are you coping with everything?” can help you determine their comfort level with the activities.

It is also helpful to inform other family members as to what to expect from their loved one when they arrive. A group text or email explaining changes to memory or behaviors can help the family prepare in advance. In the message, you can explain any unpredictable emotions, memory loss or possible soothing techniques.

As the caregiver, you also need to be good to yourself. The stress of caregiving responsibilities layered with holiday traditions can take a toll. Some variations might need to be made to your holiday traditions. Some things that may assist in lessening the holiday stress are:

  • Adjust your expectations. Talk to family members about your current caregiving situation and make them aware of what you realistically can and cannot do.
  • Ask for help. No one should expect you to be the sole person responsible for maintain every holiday tradition. Have other family members contribute to the meal or even hosting an event at their home.
  • Set limits. Break large gatherings up into smaller visits. Set time limits for visitors to help the person with dementia and yourself from getting overtired.
  • Make some variations. Sometimes evening is a time of agitation for people with dementia. Move the celebrations to mid-day and have a holiday brunch instead of dinner.
  • Mind Your Mindset. Negative thinking actually activates your body’s stress response, so steer your mind to the positives when you start down that slippery slope. Try to stay mindful, concentrating on the present moment. Think about what you can accomplish instead of what isn’t getting done; revel in the holiday joys you experience instead of focusing on those you bypass; appreciate the help you are receiving rather than resenting those who aren’t supportive.
  • Avoid triggers. Be careful of blinking lights and noisy locations as this might exaggerate confusion and agitation.
  • Maintain a normal routine. Keep routines as normal as possible. This will help keep the holidays from being disruptive or confusing.
  • Plan time for a break or rest period. While your loved one may relish in the company and holiday celebrations, he may need a place to retreat. Arrange for a quiet place for your loved one to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday celebration if needed.

Remember that perfection is not the goal of the holidays. There are many factors we can’t control when it comes to our loved ones’ health and abilities, so adjust your view of a successful holiday. Focus on what feels necessary to produce a holiday feeling and create good memories.

For more ideas and support, join ALZConnected, an online support community where caregivers like you share tips on what has worked for them.

 

Writer: Kathy Goins, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, goins.115@osu.edu

 

Reviewer: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

 

Sources:

Alzheimer’s Association, (2017). The Holidays and Alzheimers. Retrieved from: https://www.alz.org/help-support/resources/holidays

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (2018). Helping Alzheimer’s Caregivers. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/features/alzheimers-caregivers/

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brainThere’s no denying that as we age, our brains age along with our bodies. We have a growing population of aging adults interested in learning strategies to help reduce memory loss. The good news is that you can improve your chances of maintaining a healthy brain if you choose some of the following brain boosting tips:

  • Start your day with a good night’s sleep.
  •  Eat breakfast. Studies have found that eating breakfast improves short-term memory and attention. Good choices include high-fiber whole grains, dairy, and fruits. Don’t overeat: high-calorie breakfasts appear to hinder concentration.
  •  Cinnamon helps boost activity in the brain by removing nervous tension and memory loss. Love the smell of cinnamon?  You might want to invest in some cinnamon-scented candles to boost cognitive function, memory, and increase alertness and concentration.
  • Eat two servings of fish weekly. Fish are rich in the omega-3 fatty acids that support brain health. Fish consumption has been linked to lower risk for dementia, stroke, and mental decline.
  • Eat some nuts and chocolate. Nuts and seeds are good sources of vitamin E, which has been linked in studies to a lessening of cognitive decline. Dark chocolate in particular has powerful antioxidant properties and contains natural stimulants like caffeine, which can enhance focus.
  • Add avocados. Although avocados contain fat; it’s a good-for-you, monounsaturated fat that helps support healthy blood flow.
  • Research indicates that the antioxidants in tomatoes and blueberries may help protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals. This in turn may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
  • Listen to music. Music promotes memory retention in older adults with dementia by helping the mind move.

Relationships between nutrients and brain health strategies are continually being explored. Eating a well-rounded diet may give your brain the best chance of avoiding disease.

Resources:

Author: Marie Economos, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Trumbull County, Western Reserve EERA, economos.2@osu.edu

Reviewer:  Donna Green, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Erie County, Erie Basin EERA, green.308@osu.edu

 

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Are you eating wheat products?  Lately, the news has included many stories on how wheat is bad for you causing abdominal fat, triggering diseasewheat and breads, and being linked with Alzheimer’s, headaches, depression and others.

If all that is true why is wheat recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, by nutrition experts and American Heart Association?   Isn’t it a part of the Mediterranean Diet which is highly recommended by nutrition professionals.

Does wheat contribute to abdominal fat or belly fat?  High consumption of refined grains has been associated with greater belly fat in studies.  However, lower belly fat has been associated with the consumption of eating whole grains including whole wheat.  Thus, whole grains including whole wheat do not seem to be the problem.  The problem is our consumption of refined grains.  Cutting out processed foods made with refined wheat (wheat flour, white flour, enriched wheat flour, all-purpose flour) and loaded with sugar and saturated fat will help us all avoid or limit the “wheat belly.”   Limit your consumption of cookies, cakes, pastries, crackers, and white bread.

So what about the other charges on mental effects?  Research has shown that both the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet lower the risk of dementia.  Both diets include consumption of whole grains including whole wheat.  Following those diets showed better cognitive ability in adults ages 65 and up over a period of 11 years.  It is true higher glucose levels from too many carbohydrates is a risk factor for dementia, but cutting out all carbohydrates is not the answer either.  Our brain needs glucose (Carbohydrates break down to glucose in our body.) for energy as it does not store glucose.  Thus, diets low in carbohydrates can hurt our thinking and memory.

Again, it is important to eat whole grains.  Whole grains including whole wheat can provide the glucose needed for our brain.   Whole grains including whole wheat breaks down more slowly than simple carbohydrates like refined grains and sugar.

Whole grains also provide fiber.   Consuming the recommended amount of dietary fiber without whole grains would be very difficult.  Gluten-free diets usually only contain six gram of dietary fiber a day, a lot less than the 25-38 grams recommended by the Institute of Medicine.

Do cwhole-grain-stamphoose a variety of whole grains but including whole wheat, unless you need a gluten-free diet.  When shopping be sure to choose products made with “whole wheat” or “whole-grain wheat.”  You can also look for the 100% Stamp from the Whole Grains Council on foods made with all whole grains.

Note:  If your doctor recommends you follow a gluten-free diet, please continue to follow your doctor’s advice.

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Ohio State University Extension, Extension Educator Family and Consumer Sciences

Reviewed by:   Liz Smith, M.S, RDN., L.D. NE Regional Program Specialist, SNAP-ED, Ohio State University Extension

References:

Tufts University, [2014].  The truth about the war on wheat, Tufts University Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Health & Nutrition Letter, March 2014 Special Supplement, p. 1-4.

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