June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month. This month, take time to discuss the importance of brain health with your friends, relatives, and elderly adults in your life—especially those who may be at risk for dementia and cognitive impairment. Taking steps to improve brain health early on can often reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.
Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 6.5 million Americans. As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder that destroys brain cells and causes the brain to shrink. It is most common among adults over the age of 65.
Memory loss is the primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s can also affect a person’s concentration, judgement, and decision-making ability, leading to problems with carrying out essential daily tasks like bathing, getting dressed, and cooking. Many people with Alzheimer’s often require hospice care so they can get help with performing these activities.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that develops gradually over time. There is no designated screening test for Alzheimer’s, though your doctor can review your medical history and perform an evaluation to determine your risk.
Maintaining optimal brain health is key to reducing your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. If you are caring for Alzheimer’s patients, you can work with them to improve their brain health and reduce the severity of certain symptoms.
Leafy greens, fatty fish, and almonds are some of the many foods that contribute to good brain health. Foods like these are loaded with nutrients, including vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, that are shown to boost brain health and delay the progression of Alzheimer’s. Eat a higher amount of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, and nuts to improve your cognition.
Socializing with others on a regular basis can stimulate your memory and attention, strengthening neural networks to improve overall brain function. Being social can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, boosting the quality of life in people with Alzheimer’s. Go dancing, join book clubs, and attend social events at community centers. Many hospice care providers can help you find social activities geared toward older adults and seniors.
Physical activity offers a wide range of benefits for cognition and brain health. It improves your circulation and blood flow, boosting your memory and problem-solving ability. It can even help ward off anxiety and mood disorders, including depression. Schedule exercise into your daily schedule, even if it’s only a 10- to 15-minute walk. Better yet, join exercise classes for seniors, such as water aerobics and yoga.
Learning new skills and challenging your brain can lead to the formation of new connections between brain cells, which reduces your risk for cognitive problems, including Alzheimer’s. Play board games with your relatives and other seniors in the community, or take classes that teach you a new language or how to cook a certain cuisine. You can even download and play brain games on your smartphone, such as Wordle, Lumosity, and Candy Crush.
Watching someone you love suffer from Alzheimer’s or another memory debilitating illness is incredibly difficult, and it can be even more challenging to decide when it’s time to consider hospice care. Our latest video discusses the following five signs that indicate it may be time for hospice for an Alzheimer’s patient.
1. Physician determines they are at or beyond stage 7 of the Functional Assessment Staging Scale
The Functional Assessment Staging (FAST) Scale is a tool used to determine if changes in a patient’s condition are related to Alzheimer’s disease or another condition. If due to Alzheimer’s, the changes will occur in sequential order. Alzheimer’s disease-related changes do not skip FAST stages.
2. Unable to ambulate independently
This means a person is no longer able to get around on their own. For example, they require assistance getting from room to room.
3. Requires assistance to dress or bathe
Without assistance, you may notice they put their shoes on the wrong feet or their day-time ‘street’ clothes on over their pajamas. They are also unable to bathe without assistance.
4. Becomes incontinent
This includes urinary or fecal incontinence or both.
5. Unable to speak or communicate
This may begin as the patient only saying 5-6 words per day and gradually reduce to only speaking one word clearly until they can no longer speak or communicate at all. This will also include the inability to smile.
Why Choose Hospice
Hospice care is for patients with a life limiting illness and a life expectancy of six months or less. The main focus is to manage pain and symptoms and ultimately keep the patient comfortable. When you choose hospice for your loved one, their care team can help you to understand what to expect in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. They will also provide support to you and the rest of your family throughout the end-of-life process.
If you would like more information on hospice care for Alzheimer’s patients, please contact us. We are here to answer any questions you may have.
Changes in Communication
As Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month continues, we want to discuss a very important topic- communication and Alzheimer’s. As the disease progresses, a person’s ability to communicate gradually diminishes. Changes in communication vary from person to person, but there are several common issues you can expect to see, including difficulty finding the right words and organizing words logically.
If someone you love is living with the disease, you know it can be challenging at times to communicate with them. The video above discusses the following ten tips for effectively communicating with your loved one.
Never argue. Instead, listen.
Never reason. Instead, divert.
Never shame. Instead, distract.
Never lecture. Instead, reassure.
Never say ‘remember.’ Instead, reminisce.
Never say ‘you can’t.’ Instead, remind them what they can do.
Being aware of things like your tone, how loud your voice is, how you look at them, and your body language
Encouraging two-way conversation for as long as possible
Using other methods, such as gently touching
Distracting the person if communication creates problems
You also want to encourage the person to communicate with you. You can do this by doing things like holding their hand while you talk and showing a warm, loving manner. It is also important to be patient with angry outbursts and remember that it is just the illness talking.
If The Person is Aware of Memory Loss
Since the disease is being diagnosed at earlier stages, many people are aware of how it is impacting their memory. This can make communication even more sensitive because they may become frustrated when they are aware of the memory loss. Here are some tips for how to help someone who knows they have memory problems.
Take time to listen. They may want to talk about the changes they are noticing
Be as sensitive as you can and try to understand it is a struggle for them to communicate. Don’t correct them every time they forget something or say something odd
Be patient when they have a difficult time finding the right words
Find a balance between helping them find the right words and putting words in their mouth
Be aware of nonverbal communication. As they lose the ability to speak clearly, they may rely on other ways to communicate their thoughts and feelings
June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. This month-long celebration provides the opportunity to focus on raising awareness for the 50 million people worldwide living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. It causes a slow decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you notice any of these ten signs and symptoms:
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
Confusion with time or place
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
New problems with words in speaking or writing
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
Decreased or poor judgment
Withdrawal from work or social activities
Changes in mood and personality
Visit the website for the Alzheimer’s Association for more information on these signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for.
There are several ways to get involved in Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month! On June 20th, join the cause by celebrating ‘The Longest Day’ through a fundraising activity of your choice! There are a variety of ways to get involved, including virtually and in-person.
So put on your purple gear, share your story of why you go purple, and join the fight to #EndAlz!
Hospice of North Alabama has been recognized by Strategic Healthcare Programs (SHP) as a “Superior Performer” for achieving an overall caregiver and family satisfaction score that ranked in the top 20% of all eligible SHP clients for the 2021 calendar year.
Hospice of North Alabama offers individualized in-home hospice care, allowing patients a peaceful end-of-life experience in a familiar and secure environment. We provide a full spectrum of hospice services uniquely designed for each patient.