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Posts Tagged ‘dementia’

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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