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.
Adults living with schizophrenia may experience a cyclical pattern with their schizophrenia treatment journey, consisting of beginning a new treatment which lessens their symptoms, followed by a lack of adherence with their treatment plan and missing doses and leading to worsening schizophrenia symptoms or a relapse. Finding the right treatment plan, often consisting of a combination of supportive therapies and medication, can help adults control their schizophrenia symptoms.
(BPT) - Schizophrenia is a complex and chronic brain disorder that can interrupt every aspect of an adult’s life. For adults living with serious mental illness, like Jason, the journey to finding the right treatment plan, including medication and supportive therapies, can take years. During that time, adults living with schizophrenia may experience multiple episodes, breakthrough symptoms or relapse. While it can be challenging for many individuals to remember to take their daily medication, it can be especially difficult for adults living with schizophrenia, who after missing doses of their treatment may increase their risk for breakthrough schizophrenia symptoms or relapse.
Jason was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was in his mid-twenties. Following his diagnosis, Jason struggled for ten years to consistently follow his schizophrenia treatment plan.
“At the time, my schizophrenia hallucinations and delusions were full blown. I thought I had special powers — that when I made eye contact with people, I could talk to them. I thought most people were out to get me, including my parents,” Jason says. “When I was having a lot of challenges, it strained my relationship with my parents.”
Unfortunately, Jason’s story is not uncommon. Adults living with schizophrenia may experience a cyclical pattern with their schizophrenia treatment journey, consisting of beginning a new treatment which lessens their symptoms, followed by a lack of adherence with their treatment plan and missing doses and leading to worsening schizophrenia symptoms or a relapse. As a matter of fact, research has found that adults living with schizophrenia experience on average 9 relapses in less than 6 years. There are multiple factors that can increase the risk of an episode (breakthrough symptoms or relapse), including missing doses or stopping medication.
After trying numerous treatment options and being hospitalized multiple times due to his schizophrenia symptoms, Jason’s doctor talked to him and his parents about switching his medication to a once-monthly injection to limit worrying about missing doses and to help Jason better manage his schizophrenia. Together, they reviewed the potential benefits and side effects of treatment options.
After being treated with a once-monthly injection and participating in supportive therapies, Jason’s symptoms were more controlled.
“For me, it was important to get healthy, which included working with a psychologist and attending group therapy sessions early in my treatment journey, as well as taking my medication and exercising,” Jason said.
By finding a comprehensive treatment plan that worked for him, Jason was able to focus on other things like friends, family, and activities he enjoys like writing, kickboxing, and spending time with his nieces and nephews. “Most importantly,” he said, “I started working with those who were trying to help me. I began to see my parents as allies in my fight. Now I am closer to them than ever.”
Reflecting on his past experiences, Jason now wants to share his personal story to help other adults with schizophrenia navigate their own treatment journey.
“I didn’t ask for this, but I am dealing with it. I want to help other people. Don’t give up!”
If you or a loved one are an adult living with schizophrenia, ask your doctor if a change in your treatment plan could make the difference for you. Learn more at https://www.oncemonthlydifference.com.
Jason is a volunteer with the SHARE Network, a Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., program made up of people who are dedicated to inspiring others through their personal health journeys and stories of caring.
Holistic healing is a method of medicine that doesn't adhere to traditional western standards. If this is a method of healing that appeals to you, the odds are good that a holistic healing session will leave you feeling more relaxed and spiritually connected. You've likely heard of some common holistic healing techniques, like massage or meditation, but there's a lot more out there. Here are three great examples of healing techniques that you probably haven't heard of.
You may have already heard of aromatherapy, which uses natural smells and extracts to improve your health. But, there are many other sense-healing methods out there. As the name suggests, these are healing methods that engage a particular sense. For example, practitioners of sound and music therapy claim to be able to calm the mind and address a variety of illnesses through appropriate sounds or music, such as meditative chants or relaxing songs. Another type of sense healing is color therapy. You can correct energy imbalances by exposing yourself to various colors.
You may have heard of Reiki, the most well-known type of energy healing. The word Reiki means "spiritually guided life force energy," and it's used to heal your ills and increase your overall sense of well-being. Magnetic healing also falls under the energy-healing umbrella. This is a type of healing that purports to improve your blood flow, thus promoting healing and removing your aches and pains. This is accomplished through the application of magnetic bracelets, or by applying magnetic strips and blankets to a patient.
Reflexology is based on the idea that zones in your feet correspond to areas of your body; as such, massaging or caring for these specific parts of your foot will result in decreased pain and improved functionality. A typical reflexology session will involve the patient taking off their shoes and socks, sitting or lying down, and having their feet worked on by a practitioner. Regardless of how a session ultimately turns out, a reflexology session will be relaxing and result in you getting a good foot massage.
There is a wide array of holistic healing techniques that are available to you, and they can often leave you feeling calmer and more at peace with the world. If you're willing to approach these types of therapies with an open mind while understanding the differences between western medicine and holistic healing, make sure to give these methods a look.
Related: 10 Expert Health Tips That Simplify Holistic Living
Your teeth may be small, but good oral health can be a big part of your overall hygiene routine. Teeth are resilient, but your mouth needs proper care and attention if your teeth are going to do their jobs effectively. Understanding what good oral health is and the risks associated with ignoring it can help you develop a good routine.
What is Good Oral Health?
Dentists often speak to clients about good oral health, but they aren’t always clear about what that means. In most cases, practicing good oral hygiene means that once you are finished with your daily routine for your teeth, your mouth should look and feel good. It should also smell good or neutral. According to the American Dental Association, some of the best practices for good oral health might differ from one person to the next depending on specific needs. You may need a certain kind of toothpaste or to use flossing techniques beneficial for your teeth and gums. However, there are basic hygiene actions that everyone should practice whenever possible.
Related Health Issues
Taking care of your teeth can help you avoid other health problems that are related to poor oral hygiene. Some conditions can affect your gums. According to Fort Bend Periodontics & Implantology, gum disease is often referred to as a silent disease because many of the early signs are not visible to the naked eye. Some developed signs of gum disease could be red, swollen, or tender gums; receding gums; and persistent bad breath. These things have the potential to affect you both physically and emotionally. Problems stemming from gum disease or issues such as broken teeth might impact your social life or your ability to find new employment. Pain associated with problematic teeth could impact your mood or concentration levels.
Mental Health and Oral Health
Some researchers have studied possible links between oral hygiene and overall mental health. People with bad breath, missing teeth, gaps, or poor oral health may have negative mental and emotional feelings from these problems. According to Delta Dental of Washington, some studies show that there can be links to poor oral health and depression. It has become prevalent enough that dentists may ask about health history to determine what kind of oral care a client might need in order to be healthy mentally. Having good oral care and practicing good habits may put you in a better frame of mind.
Good oral health doesn't have to be complex or time-consuming. Knowing how to take care of your teeth and what signs to watch out for to avoid gum disease and other issues can help you keep your teeth looking good and performing great.
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.
Photo courtesy of Getty ImagesSOURCE:
Alzheimer’s Prevention Trials
Mental Health Awareness Month is the perfect time for people to consider the state of their mental health and that of their loved ones and friends. Family doctors from all over the U.S. and the American Academy of Family Physicians are calling on people to do just that. Join the movement today!
(BPT) - Mental health and emotional wellness affect every aspect of a person’s life, from work to family to leisure. One in five adults lives with mental illness, which can range from mild to severe. Many times, before mental illness is diagnosed, it can trigger physical symptoms.
Take, for example, 26-year-old Michael who suffered a construction work injury that started him on a vicious cycle of pain and feeling helpless. After being treated for the pain, he noticed red, flaky sores on his skin. His family doctor diagnosed him with depression-related psoriasis and together they worked out a treatment plan.
Then there’s Jennifer, a 35-year-old hair stylist, who showed the textbook signs of a heart attack: She couldn’t catch her breath, was sweating, and had a rapid heartbeat and nausea. After multiple tests in the ER costing thousands of dollars, she was diagnosed with acute anxiety. Her prescription? See her family doctor and determine the right course of treatment for her situation — both physical and emotional.
This mind/body connection is very real, complicated and many times, not well understood. That’s one reason why it’s important to have a family doctor who knows the patient and their family in the context of their community. Family doctors are on the front lines of diagnosing and treating mental health concerns. In fact, primary care physicians provide the majority of U.S. mental health services.
Mental Health Awareness Month is the perfect time for people to consider the state of their mental health and that of their loved ones and friends. Family doctors from all over the U.S. and the American Academy of Family Physicians are calling on people to do just that.
Join the movement. Go to familydoctor.org to learn:
* When and how to talk to your family doctor about mental health
* What your doctor can do for you
* How to prepare for an appointment and questions to ask your doctor
Download a guide to help start the conversation, including taking note of
* Physical, emotional or behavioral symptoms
* Any recent life changes
* Medications you are taking
Help start the conversation on talking to your family doctor about mental health and well-being online. Tell others about the resources on your social media channels using the hashtag #MentalHealthMatters. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Your family doctor is a good place to start.
(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.
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