The stark reality is that more and more Americans each and every day find themselves taking on the role of caregiver for a family member. This can present immense physical and emotional challenges. The first steps suggested here can help you find some balance as you navigate your caregiver journey.
(BPT) - Caring for a loved one with a chronic illness is something millions of Americans do every day. Whether it is a parent, spouse, extended family member or friend, the stress of caring for another adult can take a toll.
"I have to do absolutely everything for her," explains Anthony Cowels, whose 71-year-old wife, Florence, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986. As he watched her disease progress, his caregiver responsibilities grew. What's more, for some of the years Cowels also cared for his elderly parents, compounding his responsibilities.
"It has been a long journey of caregiving," says Cowels, 70. "I try not to let it overwhelm me. I always look for ways to do better." Cowels learned to care for both himself and his wife better through useful tools, education and friendship and by joining a caregiver support group. He says he can "interact with others who identify with my situation.”
Family caregiving: A growing trend
Cowels represents a growing number of Americans who care for older or aging loved ones. About 41 million family caregivers in the United States provided an estimated 34 billion hours of care to an adult with limitations in daily activities in 2017, notes the AARP report Valuing the Invaluable: 2019 Update. What's more, as the population ages, caregiving demands are increasing while the pool of potential caregivers is decreasing.
As the Valuing report states, "Americans will have more older relatives or close friends to potentially care for than children in about 15 years. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that, by the year 2035, adults ages 65 and older will outnumber children under the age of 18 for the first time in U.S. history. This fundamental demographic shift is the result of the aging of the U.S. population, increasing longevity, and a declining birth rate. "
Caring for yourself
In addition to helping with self-care activities like bathing, dressing and going to the bathroom, family caregivers today often perform complex medical tasks, including wound care, giving injections and handling medical equipment. The tasks that were once provided in hospitals and health care clinics are increasingly the responsibility of family and friends, who are often given little training or support.
While many family caregivers often report positive feelings in their role such as a sense of purpose or connection with their loved one, it often comes with feelings of being overwhelmed. Exhaustion, worry, loneliness and financial stress are common challenges caregivers face. If you also work a full-time job, it can be even more difficult to balance your needs and responsibilities.
While you may not achieve perfect balance, it is important to prioritize your physical and mental wellbeing, so you can be there for the person you care for. These first steps can help you find some balance as you navigate your caregiver journey:
It is important for family caregivers to stay mentally and physically healthy so they can provide the best care possible to the growing number of people who need support. For helpful tips and caregiver resources, visit www.aarp.org/caregiving.
Most people believe that a young age means good or even great health. You might be surprised to discover that many conditions and diseases that are typically associated with older age often begin during childhood or the young adult years. You may even develop symptoms during your young- or middle-adult years. These three conditions could affect your health earlier than you might think.
Dementia, which includes the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, can affect people younger than the age of 65. When it does, it is considered to be early or younger onset. Dementia can be diagnosed in your 30s, 40s, or 50s. To catch it early, you can take a cognitive test at home once per month, and track your scores over time. An early diagnosis allows you to get good medical care. According to Columbia University Department of Neurology, “early treatment for younger-onset dementia could help you prolong your mental faculties and have a better quality of life for as long as possible.”
Hearing loss does not only affect the elderly. Younger adults can get it, too. Some of the causes of premature hearing loss include repeated ear infections, physical damage to the eardrum, and exposure to loud sounds. Listening to loud music with earbuds or headphones may contribute to younger people developing hearing loss. According to Gardens Cosmetic Center, “about 36 million people have hearing impairments in the U.S., and almost half of them are under the age of 65.”
Heart disease is the top cause of death among Americans. Most people associate heart disease with old age. However, between 4 and 10 percent of heart attacks in men happen before the age of 45. According to UnityPoint Health, “nearly one in every 100 men develops signs of heart disease by the age of 45. By age 55, the risk doubles and continues to increase until age 85, when about 7.4 out of every 100 men have heart disease.” Hardening of the arteries may start during childhood and continue progressing through the teenage and young adult years. It is important to be aware of the warning signs of early-onset heart disease and to visit your doctor if you have them. You family history cannot be changed, but you may be able to make lifestyle changes now in order to lower your risk.
When something seems off with your body, make an appointment with your doctor. You know your body better than anyone else, and your physician should be willing to run the necessary diagnostic tests and to help you keep track of your health status. Remember, the earlier you seek diagnosis and treatment for the symptoms of these conditions, the better quality of life you can have.
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Over the past 10 years, researchers have learned Alzheimer’s disease starts much earlier than the onset of symptoms – 10-20 years before an individual, family member or friend might notice the signs of the debilitating disease. Researchers are looking for a diverse group of people ages 50 or older who have normal thinking and memory function.
How the Internet Can Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
(Family Features) Over the past 10 years, researchers have learned Alzheimer’s disease starts much earlier than the onset of symptoms – 10-20 years before an individual, family member or friend might notice the signs of the debilitating disease.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.5 million Americans, of all races and ethnicities, age 65 and older currently live with Alzheimer’s disease, which is expected to grow to more than 7 million people by 2025.
The first-of-its-kind Alzheimer Prevention Trials Webstudy (APT Webstudy), funded by the National Institutes of Health, aims to increase the pace of research by enlisting thousands of healthy volunteers who can quickly be enrolled in clinical trials focused on preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Enrollees in the APT Webstudy can use the internet to help stop the disease while being alerted to changes in their own memory function.
“In order to change the lives of the numerous people and their loved ones who will be affected by Alzheimer’s, we need everyone to get involved with prevention efforts,” said Paul Aisen, MD, co-principal investigator of the APT Webstudy. “The bigger the army of volunteers, the faster we can work to prevent this terrible disease.”
Volunteers can access the Webstudy when and where it is convenient for them, such as on their computer or tablet, or even a public library; anywhere they can access the internet. Volunteers participate in regular online memory testing. If there is a change in memory function, eligible volunteers are alerted and may be invited to a no-cost, in-person evaluation at one of the research sites across the country.
“This is an opportunity for everyone to help future generations avoid the suffering caused by Alzheimer’s,” Aisen said. “With enough volunteers, we will be one step closer to seeing the first Alzheimer’s survivor.”
Researchers are looking for a diverse group of people ages 50 or older who have normal thinking and memory function. Volunteers must be willing to answer a few questions about their family and medical history and provide information about their lifestyles. Volunteers will take online memory tests every three months, each one about 20 minutes long.
If you are interested in participating, visit aptwebstudy.org to learn more.
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Alzheimer’s Prevention Trials
A study funded by the National Institutes of Health is testing whether the nicotine patch can improve memory and functioning in people who have mild memory loss or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).
Nicotine to Help Treat Memory Loss?
(Family Features) A study funded by the National Institutes of Health is testing whether the nicotine patch can improve memory and functioning in people who have mild memory loss or Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).
The largest and longest running study of its kind, the MIND (Memory Improvement through Nicotine Dosing) Study is looking for 300 volunteers at sites across the United States who have mild memory loss but are otherwise healthy, non-smokers over the age of 55.
“The MIND Study will provide valuable information for researchers with regard to early memory loss that is associated with normal aging and early Alzheimer’s disease, but we need volunteers if we are going to succeed,” said Dr. Paul Newhouse, MD, director of the Vanderbilt Center for Cognitive Medicine and lead investigator for the MIND Study.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately one in five people age 65 or older have mild memory loss or MCI and are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. Currently, there is no FDA-approved medication indicated to treat this condition; however, nicotine stimulates an area in the brain known to be important for thinking and memory, and scientists believe it could be an effective treatment for adults with MCI.
“People often think nicotine is addictive and harmful because it is in tobacco products, but it’s safe when used in patch form,” Newhouse said. “Nicotine is an inexpensive, readily available treatment that could have significant benefits for people experiencing mild memory impairment.”
The MIND Study needs 300 people to enroll in sites across the United States. Researchers are looking for healthy, non-smoking adults over the age of 55 who are in the earliest stages of memory loss to participate in the MIND Study.
Potential study volunteers can learn more by visiting MINDStudy.org or calling 1-866-MIND-150.
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Memory Improvement through Nicotine Dosing (MIND)
(BPT) - Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or other dementias is exceptionally demanding, and especially challenging.
A recent survey by the Alzheimer’s Association indicates many caregivers are not getting the help and support they need — 84 percent of caregivers say they would like more support in caring for someone with Alzheimer’s, especially from family members.
“Too many people are shouldering the caregiving burden alone,” says Ruth Drew, director of information and support services at the Alzheimer’s Association. “Many people want or would welcome help, but they are reluctant or just too overwhelmed to ask.”
Tips for supporting a caregiver
Providing help and support to caregivers can be easier than most people think. Even little acts can make a significant difference, Drew says. The Alzheimer’s Association offers these suggestions:
Learn: Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s disease — its symptoms, its progression and challenges facing caregivers. The more you know, the easier it will be to find ways to help.
Build a team: Organize family and friends who want to help. The Alzheimer's Association Care Team Calendar is a free, personalized online tool that allows helpers to sign up for specific tasks, such as preparing meals, providing rides or running errands.
Give a break: Spend time with the person with dementia, allowing the caregiver a chance to run errands, go to their own doctor’s appointment or engage in an activity that helps them recharge. Even one hour can provide the caregiver some relief.
Check in: Many caregivers report feeling isolated or alone; make a phone call to check in, send a note or stop by for a visit.
Tackle the to-do list: Ask for a list of errands that need to be done. Pick up groceries or dry cleaning, or even offer to shuttle kids to and from activities.
Be specific and be flexible: Open-ended offers of support (“Call me if you need anything,” or “Let me know if I can help.”) may be well-intended, but are often dismissed. Be specific in your offer (“I’m going to the store, what do you need?”). Continue to let the caregiver know that you are there and ready to help.
Join the fight: Honor a person living with the disease and their caregiver by supporting the Alzheimer’s cause. Volunteer at your local Alzheimer’s Association office or participate in fundraising events.
“It’s a mistake to assume caregivers have everything under control,” Drew says. “Most caregivers can use and would appreciate help. No one can do everything, but each of us can do something.”
To learn more about Alzheimer’s disease and ways you can support families and people living with the disease, visit www.alz.org, the website of the Alzheimer’s Association.
(BPT) - It's the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, affects more than 5 million Americans and one out of every three seniors will die from it. Yet misconceptions surround Alzheimer's disease.
Contrary to what many people think about Alzheimer's, it's not a normal part of growing older. And while there's not yet a way to prevent, cure or even slow the progression of the disease, people with Alzheimer's can benefit from detecting it early. During June - Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month - the Alzheimer's Association is encouraging everyone to learn the truth about Alzheimer's disease.
"Misunderstanding crucial facts about the disease can have consequences that can lead to stigma, delayed medical attention and inadequate support for caregivers," says Ruth Drew, director of family and information services, Alzheimer's Association. "Greater understanding of Alzheimer's is urgently needed given the dramatic impact of the disease. It devastates too many families for it to remain a mystery. We need everyone to know the truth about Alzheimer's so we can bridge current gaps and build greater support toward advancing treatments and finding a cure."
Debunking common myths
Alzheimer's is most often associated with memory loss, but the truth is the disease can appear through a variety of signs and symptoms. A progressive and fatal disease, Alzheimer's attacks the brain, killing nerve cells and brain tissue, which affects a person's ability to remember, think and plan.
While the majority of people who have Alzheimer's are seniors, it can also affect people in their 30s, 40s and 50s - a form of the disease known as younger-onset Alzheimer's. About 5 percent of people with the disease have younger-onset Alzheimer's. Everyone is, technically, at risk of developing Alzheimer's, but certain groups have elevated risks; African-Americans are twice as likely as whites and Hispanics one and a half times as likely to develop Alzheimer's. Nearly two-thirds of all people who have Alzheimer's are women.
Every 66 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Detecting the disease early may help the person with Alzheimer's, caregivers and loved ones in multiple ways.
People who receive an early diagnosis may have more time to explore treatments that could help relieve some symptoms, and help them stay independent longer. They may be able to participate in a clinical drug trial to help advance Alzheimer's research. Resources such as Alzheimer's Association TrialMatch can help you find current studies.
Detecting Alzheimer's early can also give people with the disease, their caregivers and loved ones more time to plan for the future. If you are diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, you may be able to participate in decisions about your care, living arrangements, and financial and legal matters.
Only a doctor can accurately diagnose Alzheimer's disease, but the Alzheimer's Association has developed 10 warning signs and symptoms that may help you decide it's time to consult a physician, including:
* Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
* Challenges in planning and solving problems.
* Difficulty completing familiar tasks.
* Confusion over time or place.
* Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships.
* New problems with spoken or written words.
* Misplacing things and not being able to find them by retracing your movements.
* Decreased or poor judgment.
* Withdrawal from others at work or in social situations.
* Changes in mood or personality.
"If a person is having trouble doing something that they routinely did for years or they demonstrate a significant shift in personality that lasts over time - those are warning signs that need to be explored," Drew says. "Too often people dismiss these changes as stress or having too much to do, but when they persist over time, it's best to get it checked out. Ignoring the situation is the worst way of handling it."
To learn more about Alzheimer's disease and to find resources for caregivers, families and people living with the disease, visit www.alz.org, the website of the Alzheimer's Association.
The brain is the body’s most complex organ. It’s also the most important one. As it turns out, the things that you do to keep your body and heart healthy may also be good for your brain. Incorporate these eight healthy habits and activities into your daily life to help you optimize brain health and stay sharp in the years ahead.
8 Ways to Keep Your Brain Healthy and Sharp
(Family Features) The brain is the body’s most complex organ. It’s also the most important one. That’s why keeping it healthy is critical, especially as you age. Every day, scientists are discovering how closely our minds and bodies are connected. As it turns out, the things that you do to keep your body and heart healthy may also be good for your brain.
Incorporate these eight healthy habits and activities into your daily life to help you optimize brain health and stay sharp in the years ahead.
Eat to Thrive
Know Your Blood Pressure
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Discover a New Talent
Talk to Your Doctor
For more tips on keeping your brain healthy and thriving, visit BrainHealth.gov.
(BPT) - With nearly 8 million Americans still unemployed, it may be difficult to imagine a labor shortage is on the horizon. Yet many labor experts predict the health care industry is headed in that direction — and older adults may be one of the groups that will suffer the most if a shortage does occur as forecasted.
“The potential lack of nurses in assisted living communities is particularly concerning,” says Kim Estes, senior vice president of clinical services for Brookdale Senior Living.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2022, American health care facilities will need 1 million more nurses than there will be nurses practicing. At the same time, people 65 and older will account for 16 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureaus. With 85 percent of seniors having at least one chronic medical condition, and more than two-thirds having at least two, seniors are the age group most in need of care.
Any labor shortage, however, can have a silver lining for those who are willing to train for the understaffed market and pursue available jobs where the need is greatest.
“The nursing shortage, aging population and rising incidence of chronic conditions are creating a perfect storm of opportunity for nurses who want to go into caring for those in assisted living,” Estes says. “Many nurses don’t think about going into senior living as a career path because it’s not a typical hospital or doctor’s office position, but it can be very rewarding. Rather than treating a patient and moving onto another patient, assisted living gives nurses the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships and enrich the lives of residents and their families.”
Brookdale’s assisted living communities hire nurses as health and wellness directors. They oversee all clinical services within a community including managing care associates, setting standards, and leading health and wellness programming. Rather than providing daily hands-on care, these nurses shape the overall quality and content of care their community’s seniors receive on a daily basis. The work offers opportunity to advance to higher-level leadership positions at the district, regional and corporate level which pay significantly more than a typical hospital or physician’s office job.
Some healthcare providers are taking action to combat the looming nursing shortage, offering support, training and assistance to people interested in entering the profession. For example, Brookdale is launching a student loan reimbursement program hoping to attract more nurses to work in assisted living.
“Whether you’re already working as a nurse, or are considering a career in nursing, working in a senior living community can be professionally, personally and financially rewarding,” Estes says. To learn more about job opportunities at Brookdale Senior Living, visit www.brookdalecareers.com.
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