I Think I Can!

A few years ago, I attended an informative Brain and Exercise seminar presented by a few professors from the University of Pittsburgh. Their research and conclusive data supported their hypothesis that 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day staved off memory loss and brain deterioration. After their PowerPoint presentation displayed the graphs and data from their research, I believed their conclusions and I left the seminar with the sense that I had the power to regenerate my brain with daily exercise and a good diet. My efforts with exercise and a good diet are not consistent but every time I make an attempt, I feel that I am helping my brain and overall health. Now, as I contemplate leaving my computer screen behind to take an evening walk, I spy an article that displays contrary data and conclusions to this belief. Even though I will share this article with you, I cannot help but feel that the research is wrong! I cannot wrap my head around their conclusion that exercise doesn’t help with memory loss!  In protest, I am posting this article and then taking a walk around my hilly neighborhood. As I trudge up the hills like the “Little Engine that Could”, I will repeat: “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”…help my brain with exercise!


Emerging Treatments for Alzheimer’s

I ran an Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group for four years. The collection of caregivers who participated were sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and they all shared a common concern: their loved one’s memory impairment. At each monthly meeting, we discussed strategies for caregiving and occasionally had a professional guest speaker present timely information about Alzheimer’s. Many of our participants were eager to hear about emerging treatments, with the hope that their loved one could benefit from the latest research. With sadness, some of those family members succumbed to the disease during that time. Each caregiver, though, maintains the hope that future generations of loved ones will be spared from this insidious disease. We all pray for a cure and celebrate emerging treatments. Here is a new article on emerging treatments to give us hope.

Should and Shouldn’t

We seem to be inundated with the latest research about what we should and should not eat, so it is easy to grow weary of the recommended food restrictions and warnings we receive on a daily basis. Just when you start to eliminate sugar, eggs, coffee, wine, etc., a new study is revealed which discounts previous research and encourages you to indulge in something you eliminated. Sure it can be frustrating to navigate the grocery store when you are inundated with mixed dietary “should and shouldn’t” advice; to be fair, though, most dietary research and recommendation articles are pretty well-intentioned and fairly sensible. I have found that a common theme for healthy eating is to avoid extremes, watch portions, and stay away from processed food and sugar.

Despite my frustration with this plethora of “should and shouldn’t” dietary advice, I am relieved that researchers are interested in how food affects the brain. For years the conversation has always been about a heart healthy diet. With concern over memory loss as we age, our population is hungry to learn more about brain healthy diets. So, indulge me a little and consider this “should” article on food for the mind.

Medical History Volume II

I walked into the examination room for my follow-up visit. The doctor followed me into the room with a thick manila-colored folder in hand. On the cover was written “Volume II.”  I laughed when I saw the title, and then joked about the doctor’s need to use a gurney to transport my thick medical file.

Even though I was joking, I realized that “Volume II” revealed my complicated health history. The contents were vital, as it described my medical tests and lab results, medication allergy, and previous health events. Those records would be difficult to recall by memory during an emergency. I knew that I could not carry Volume I and II in my wallet, or glove box. I needed a manageable system that could speak for me, if I couldn’t.  [Read more…]

Mission Impossible—The Fight to Stop Aging

Today, I saw a movie trailer for the new Mission Impossible movie starring Tom Cruise. The publicity agents have been touting the fact that Cruise did his own stunts—some of them are quite jaw-dropping and spectacular. He is obviously in excellent physical condition for a man over 50—53 to be exact. 

Even though Hollywood actors and models may be able to disguise their age with botox, hair color—or Photoshop—be assured, the passage of time effects them as well.

Normal physical changes that occur with age are inevitable. Despite diet, exercise, and mega-dose vitamins, an aging human body will experience a progressive physical decline. These changes become more noticeable and evident with each decade. [Read more…]

Women more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s

It is a well-known fact that a woman’s life expectancy is longer than a male’s but evidence points to the fact that a longer life may not necessary mean a better quality of life for a female—especially when it comes to cognition and memory.

At the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Washington, research was presented that women tend to run a higher risk than men of developing Alzheimer’s disease and once that happens, deterioration comes at a faster rate.

To read more about the findings presented at the Alzheimer Conference, and a woman’s risk, check out this article

Fran and Caregiver Stress Syndrome

accidental caregiver book coverMy father-in-law, Fran, was my mother-in-law’s caregiver for eight long years. Julie suffered from MS and was bedridden the last eight years of her life. Fran suffered from macular degeneration but was in overall good health for a man in his late seventies. But those years of care and stress did a job on his health and sadly, he passed away from a cardiac event five weeks before Julie died.

Despite the revolving door of caregivers who assisted them, Fran was determined to provide Julie with the bulk of her care. Even though his vision was limited, he still woke at 6:00AM every day to make Julie’s breakfast. Her first caregiver for the day would arrive at 7:00AM—ready to assist Fran as he helped Julia with her bathing and dressing routine.

According to him, he was the only one who knew how Julie liked her toast, the location of her plate on the bed tray, and the comfortable and supportive position of pillows and blankets. After 57 years of marriage, Julie trusted only her husband with her care—and Fran didn’t trust anyone else to help his wife.

Often, the sidelined caregivers—both professional and family members—would watch with a triple combination of awe, admiration and exasperation as Fran fussed over Julie’s care needs. As time passed the family sadly witnessed the inevitable consequence: Julie’s health issues began to impact Fran’s health and anxiety levels. [Read more…]

Does your loved one need supportive care?

Often our loved ones try to mask the need for help, and will not reveal that they need assistance with daily activities. Certainly many seniors are fearful that their independence will be jeopardized if they admit that they can’t perform their routine activities. Limitations may be evident with someone with a physical disability but for someone with a memory disorder or cognitive decline, limitations may not be that noticeable. The following Independent Living Test can help you determine if your loved one is having difficulty performing daily activities:

 Daily Habits

  • Do you notice a lack of personal hygiene? Is your normally well-dressed loved one wearing the same clothes day-in and day-out? Make-up or hair in disarray? Are clothes appropriate for the season?  
  • Toileting problems are embarrassing, so frequently you need to be a detective to determine if this is an issue. Soiled and hidden undergarments, a wet chair, or a noticeable odor can indicate toileting difficulties. Urgent and frequent trips to the bathroom can indicate a health concern that needs to be addressed.  
  • Look closely at the housekeeping. Is unusual clutter or hording evident?  
  • Are pets being ignored?  
  • Is excessive alcohol usage evident? Empty bottles littering the table or garbage can?

[Read more…]

Can We Afford Eldercare? How Family Can Influence the Discussion—and Decision

Money issues are always of paramount concern when an eldercare discussion begins. The presumed cost of eldercare can frequently frighten a family from any type of action—even when action is necessary for the safety and well-being of their aging loved one. In addition, poor communication, rumor and assumptions, and a generalized lack of eldercare knowledge frequently undermines the process—well before an effective eldercare solution can be formulated. Add in a heavy dose of family conflict, and solutions can be stalled, fought over, or avoided. Avoidance of the topic can prove to be even more costly, as delays in quality care often compromise the safety and well-being of the senior.

The topics of money and the cost of eldercare need to be addressed—and often the discussion starts around the parent’s kitchen table. However, a generalized uneasiness is often present when an adult child is forced to discuss money issues with a parent. Children, regardless of age, are often not privy to their parent’s financial balance sheet. Parents frequently do not share their income or financial portfolio with their adult children, so assumptions are often made that may not be accurate. Mom and Dad could have lived a modest life and now have substantial savings and a comfortable retirement income; whereas, a more extravagant couple could have spent every penny they earned. [Read more…]