For a long time doctors dismissed forgetfulness and mental confusion as a normal part of aging. But scientists now know that memory loss as you get older is by no means inevitable. Indeed, the brain can grow new brain cells and reshape their connections throughout life.
Most people are familiar with at least some of the things that can impair memory, including alcohol and drug abuse, heavy cigarette smoking, head injuries, stroke, sleep deprivation, severe stress, vitamin B12 deficiency, and illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
Forgetful? Your prescription meds could be interfering with your memory. — Larry Williams/Corbis
But what many people don’t realize is that many commonly prescribed drugs also can interfere with memory. Here are 10 of the top types of offenders.
This is a re-post from caring.com, and an excellent article where caregivers reflect back on what they wish they had known before caring for their aging parents.
By Melanie Haiken
, Caring.com senior editor
June 06, 2014
Looking Back on Caregiving
6 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Cared for My Parents
You’ve heard the expression “hindsight is 20/20,” and when it comes to family caregiving, it absolutely applies. Get any group of midlife adults together and you’ll hear caregiving “war stories” about what they’re facing when it comes to aging parents, and how completely unprepared they feel for what’s ahead.
“We are not prepared for this situation as a culture — there just isn’t enough information out there,” says Chicago-based Mary Kay Buysse, director of the National Association of Senior Move Managers (NASMM), who has had many years of experience in helping older adults make changes to their living situations. “People are blindsided when suddenly there’s a crisis and Mom needs help and they’re completely in the dark as to what’s available and how to find it.”
To help you navigate this process with more insight, we’ve put together tips from experts and fellow caregivers on what they know now that they wish they’d known when they started the process of finding a safer situation for Mom and Dad. Having been there, done that, they have a wealth of wisdom to pass along to help you learn from their mistakes.
How Older Adults and Caregivers Can Take Advantage of the Summer Weather
This is a re-post from our friends at agingcare.com, offering ideas for getting outside and enjoying the summer weather together!
Enjoying a breezy spring day or the warm summer temperatures don’t have to be a distant memory for elders and caregivers. After being cooped up in the house for possibly months at a time, senior adults can breathe in the fresh air, even if they are experiencing mobility problems. It takes some advance planning and choosing an activity that won’t seem like a chore, but it’s worth getting out of the house, for you and your elderly parent.
Caregiving at a Cookout: Tips for a Good Time
This is a re-post from agingcare.com, a great website with plenty of ideas and resources for caregivers.
Almost everyone looks forward to gathering with family and friends for a backyard barbecue. But if you’ve been dreading going to one because of your responsibilities as a caregiver, never fear: Both you and your elderly loved one can have a fine time, if you plan ahead.
But first, make sure that your relative is in good enough health to attend a party where there will be heat, bugs, noise, smoke from the grill and possibly rambunctious children. Also, check with your hosts to ensure that they understand and can accommodate your loved one’s limitations. If not, find another caregiver to look after your relative while you attend alone; it’s important for you to socialize and recharge.
However, if your hosts are amenable and your loved one is up to it, don’t leave him or her behind. Joan Wright, a certified geriatric manager at NVNA and Hospice in Norwell, Mass., told AgingCare that you should remember that every elderly person was once young, mobile and eager to socialize. “Those desires are still there even if their physical capacity to fulfill them is not.”
Here are some tips from Ms. Wright and others to ensure that everyone has a good time:
Gardening and Growing Together
This is a re-post from agingcare.com, and I hope it inspires you to get your hands a little dirtier 🙂
To grow a more meaningful and healthy connection with an elderly loved one, put on some rubber clogs and head out together to the garden.
At any age, gardening is one of the best activities we can do outdoors, several experts told AgingCare.com. It stimulates all of the senses; awakens our connection with nature and with each other; and rewards us with fresh flowers and juicy tomatoes. “It’s restorative, even if you have dementia,” says Dee McGuire, a horticultural therapist at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in Baltimore.
Gardening is also an excellent way for aging bodies to get a moderate-intensity aerobic workout, shed calories and stay flexible, according to a Kansas State University study. That’s one reason why gardening remains popular with Americans well into their golden years. Indeed, about three-quarters of households age 55 or older participated in some form of lawn and garden activity in 2010, according to the National Gardening Association (NGA).
Still, there’s no question that bending, lifting, kneeling, squatting, weeding and pruning—not to mention dealing with sun, heat and bugs– all become more challenging as we grow older.
But there are ways to cope.
10 Ideas for Spring Outings
This is a re-post from agingcare.com, and I am happy to pass on some good ideas for your dementia adventures!
Many aging adults spend the bulk of their time just managing to get through the day. They take care of life’s basics but often don’t leave their home, assisted living center or nursing home, except for doctor appointments and an occasional holiday.
Families and friends might like to take a senior out for some fun but they don’t know how to go about it. Even seasoned caregivers can be stumped for ideas, so here are a few to get started:
- Take a Sunday drive. When I was young, driving around the community to check out home town activity was a Sunday afternoon ritual for many adults. While life is more complicated now, many elders still enjoy watching new construction or being shown how the town that they’ve lived in for decades is changing. For those who live near flood prone bodies of water, spring is a terrific time to take a drive to see how this year’s water levels compare to other years. A twist on this approach is to pick a prime time when cherry trees, crab apple trees or other ornamentals are at their peak and do a flower tour. Getting out of the car is optional, based on your elder’s abilities and wishes.
- Go to the zoo. Who doesn’t like baby animals? Spring is birth time for most species. Rent or borrow a wheelchair if one is needed for longer walks. Not only will your elders see baby animals, they will see young children reacting to the animals. As with everything suggested, watch your loved one for signs of fatigue, thirst, too much sun or other issues that could signal that it’s time to leave, perhaps with a promise to return at another time should they wish to do so.
- Go to a restaurant. When was the last time you took your elder to a restaurant that he or she has enjoyed over the years? Now that snow isn’t a problem, it’s easier to navigate such adventures. Keep in mind that going for a meal at off-peak times is a good idea. That usually means less stress for everyone. Also, elders who are hard of hearing won’t feel as isolated if there’s less background noise.
- Visit a Dairy Queen. One of my mom’s favorite treats was a hot fudge sundae from Dairy Queen. I’d often take her to get a sundae on the way home from a doctor visit or other necessary outing, but occasionally we’d go to Dairy Queen just for something to do. She preferred sitting in the car to eat, but I do suggest encouraging your loved ones to sit outside if the weather’s nice and they are able.
- Enjoy children at play. Watch children swim or play on playground equipment. Spring brings young children out in throngs. People who enjoy children often like hearing their laughter and watching the seeming innocence of this type of play.
- Spring programs. Take your elder to the spring programs that most schools sponsor. This is particularly nice if a grandchild or great-grandchild is involved, but that’s not necessary. If your elder doesn’t know any of the children, then I’d suggest focusing on the younger ones. They tend to be “cuter.” However, if grandchildren are involved, take your elder to watch them perform in their concerts, plays or other activities. You may have to arrange for a spouse or friend to be available to take Grandma home if she gets tired or uncomfortable. A twist on this idea is to attend one of the concerts in the park that many communities have during the spring and summer.
- Have a picnic. Whether you go to a park, stay in your own backyard or use the grounds of the nursing home, a picnic is often possible. If your loved one is able, going to a park would be nice, however many nursing homes have gorgeous grounds and nice areas with tables that accommodate wheel chairs. If all else fails—and I’m aware that this isn’t an outing but sometimes we have to punt—bring a picnic to your loved one in the care home.
- Check out the crops. If your elder has an agricultural background or is interested in wildflowers, try taking a country drive. My parents didn’t have any first-hand agricultural experience, but they still enjoyed driving in the country to see new crops being planted and wild flowers blooming. Tailor this outing to your area of the country and your elder’s preferences.
- Go fishing. A friend told me that his community sponsors events where elders are taken out on pontoons—wheelchairs and all—to fish. Volunteers are there to help with anything the elder can’t do. Just being out on the water and holding a rod can be a thrill for someone who has enjoyed fishing in the past. Again, this can be adjusted to accommodate other pastimes.
- Visit a friend. Many elders lose touch with their peers. Sickness, the death of a spouse and/or difficulty getting around can mean they haven’t seen a dear friend for months or even years. See if you can set up a lunch or just a visit with someone your loved one has enjoyed through the years. Perhaps you can take them both to a park or a restaurant.
Use these ideas as springboards. You know your loved one. What did his or she enjoy in their earlier, healthier days? Don’t be afraid to ask what they miss doing or what they’d like to do. They may not hear those questions very often these days.
If you get a shoulder shrug or an “I don’t know,” then be ready to say, “Sunday looks nice so we’ll go for a picnic.” You may get some resistance but if it seems like simple inertia, just say with a smile that it would make you very happy if they’d do this for you. If a loved one truly doesn’t want to be part of an activity, try whittling down your expectations and suggesting something less strenuous.
As mentioned above, during any of these activities monitor your loved one for dehydration and heat issues if the weather is warm, or chilliness if it’s cool. Older bodies don’t adjust to temperature changes as well as younger ones. Be prepared with sun hats and hooded windbreakers. Also, bring water to drink and watch for fatigue.
And remember, you are doing this for pleasure, so don’t overdo anything.
Using ICT in activities for people with dementia
A short guide for social care providers
The Social Care Institute for Excellence has made a great page to introduce technology-supported activities for someone with dementia. It covers a wide range of topics, like how technologies can be used or help, how to start, ideas for activities, examples, and more resources if you want to find out more. I have been following their organization for a few years, since I started my PhD on technologies to support dementia care in 2009, and I recommend them as a resource if you want to learn more about bettering the lives and care of aging adults.
If you check it out, I would really like to hear your opinions and experiences! You can find the page here.
This is a short introduction to using information and communication technology (ICT) in activities for people with dementia. It is aimed at managers and staff in the care sector, and those who organise activities for people with dementia. It’s a plain language guide about using mainstream technologies – you don’t need to be technically minded. We hope it will be useful for you whether you are new to this topic or already have some experience of using ICTs in dementia support.
Want to take a vacation with someone living with dementia? Great! Here are some tips to help you plan.
This text is from dementiacare.org.uk about taking someone with dementia on holiday.
When dementia is first diagnosed it may be important to some people to fulfill lifetime ambitions and visit places they have always wanted to experience. As dementia progresses, however, people usually prefer to travel closer to home to familiar places. Also, coaches and trains can be more enjoyable than long car journeys.
Here are some suggestions of organisations that can help with holidays for people with dementia, and their carers:
- Vitalise run supported holidays for people with dementia, and their carers at accessible holiday centres, 0845 345 1978, visit www.vitalise.org.uk
- Dementia Adventure connects people living with dementia with nature and a sense of adventure. More information available at www.dementiaadventure.wordpress.com
- Tourism For All is the UK’s voice for Accessible Tourism. A national charity, they are dedicated to making tourism welcoming to all www.tourismforall.org.uk
And this list of additional resources was taken from another blog, called Dementia Journeys.