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Young Children + People with Alzheimer's Disease = Victory

Sunday April 13, 2014

Have you ever seen the reaction of someone with dementia when a young child comes near? This is one of my favorite interactions to observe. Why? Because the vast majority of time, the dementia takes a back seat to the presence of the child. For me, the type of interactions I witness between someone with Alzheimer's disease and with children is one of those victorious moments in the battle against dementia.

Alzheimer's disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia and other types of dementia rob abilities, memories, words and so much more. But for many people, their reactions to kids remain or even intensify. Although not every person with dementia loves babies and young children, most derive great joy from watching babies smile, listening to the giggles of a two-year old, playing a game with a preschooler or hearing a 5 year-old sing a song.  That joy is why I love to watch these interactions, and why I count them as victories over dementia.

Related Reading

Therapeutic Benefits of Young Children for People with Dementia- Here's an article I wrote recently that looks at the research behind these benefits, the challenges associated with arranging intergenerational interactions and some suggestions on how to facilitate them.

Alzheimer's Disease + Makeup Tattoo = Victory- This is one of my earliest blogs, and I love the idea it highlights. If you haven't read it, it's worth your time, in my humble opinion. It's another one of those victorious moments I describe above.

Doll Therapy for People with Dementia- Here's another recent article on how dolls can be helpful for some people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia.

Vitamin D: Good for More than Just Your Bone Health

Sunday April 6, 2014

When it comes to vitamin D, most of us are familiar with the thought that it's helpful in keeping our bones strong. But did you know that it has many other benefits as well?

Adequate levels of vitamin D have been associated with a lower risk of diabetes, certain types of cancer and muscle and bone pain. Of particular interest, vitamin D has also been connected with brain health. Low levels of vitamin D have been correlated with a higher risk of cognitive decline and with symptoms of mild cognitive impairment.

Research has also shown some possible benefit from using vitamin D to treat dementia as well, but more studies are needed to more clearly determine if adequate vitamin D slows down the symptoms of dementia or even improves cognitive functioning for a time.

Meanwhile, those of us who live in locations where we're not getting much of our vitamin D from the sun might want to make sure our diet contains enough of it from other sources.

Related Reading

How Vitamin D Helps Your Brain - The research behind the claims regarding vitamin D and your brain.

Vitamin D Shown to Be Important in Reducing Brain Plaques in Alzheimer's Disease - An earlier study I highlighted regarding the effects of vitamin D on the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

Reducing the Risk of Dementia - A link to several articles on how to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer's and other kinds of dementia.

Friendships- Good for Your Heart and Your Brain?

Sunday March 30, 2014

I recently wrote an article about the benefits of social interaction, specifically outlining what research says about how friendships and the act of socializing and interacting with others impacts our risk of developing dementia. Here's the article: Does Social Interaction Prevent Dementia?

As I reviewed data for that article, I found some interesting research that was published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. The short version of the research is that after 15 years of studying more than 2000 participants' cognitive status and administering socialization questionnaires, researchers determined that social interactions reduced the risk of dementia. But, more significantly, they found that the quality of these social relationships- not the quantity of them- was the key factor in the reduction of the risk for dementia. Thus, not only should you spend time with others, but it can make a difference- even years from now- with whom you spend time with and how that time is being spent.

So, consider this a gentle nudge to prioritize in the busyness of life and be intentional about developing strong friendships with others. Those kinds of relationships require time and energy, but the benefits are significant, both for the present- in terms of quality of life- and for the future- in a decreased risk of Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia.

Related Reading

How to Meet New Friends - Friendless? About.com's friendship expert provides some suggestions of where to start if you find yourself wanting to make friends with others.

Fact or Myth? Do Crossword Puzzles Prevent Dementia? - Love crossword puzzles? Find out if they benefit your brain or are just a fun way to pass the time.

How to React when a Friend or Family Member Tells You She Has Dementia - Here are a few suggestions on how to be a supportive friend or family member when dementia strikes.

10 Things Not to Say To Caregivers - Have a friend who's a caregiver? These tips may help you avoid some of the common mistakes as you're trying to encourage your friend.

Coping with the Challenges of Being a Long-Distance Caregiver

Sunday March 23, 2014

Ask caregivers about the ups and downs of their role, and you'll hear a variety of responses. In addition to a list of challenges, you may also hear some positives, including the feeling that it's a privilege and that they wouldn't want to have it any other way. What you probably won't hear is the phrase, "It's easy."

There are many reasons being a caregiver can be a challenge, and not the least of these is living far from the person who is receiving the care. Caring from a distance can involve guilt feelings, emergency trips, worry, time off work, disagreements with siblings, unfamiliarity with the resources that may be available and increased financial stress. And that's not an all-inclusive list.

Let's be honest, here. There are no "3 Easy Steps to Stress-Free Long Distance Caregiving- Guaranteed!" (said in an overly-enthusiastic sales pitch voice.) There are, however, some ways to decrease the challenges associated with caring from a distance.

One of those is to pro-actively become familiar with the resources of that community at a time of your choosing, rather than in the middle of a crisis. Too often, the demands of life encourage us to put off the tasks that aren't required for the moment. Think- "tyranny of the urgent." We're juggling several different roles and what doesn't need to be done today, doesn't get done today. But when things fall apart for our loved one and she's not able to care adequately for herself anymore, trying to figure out an emergency plan for increased care or services on the fly is not fun. Taking the time to outline these possibilities before we're in that position can provide a sense of direction when the crisis does occur.

So, call your loved one's Area Agency of Aging or Alzheimer's Association. Ask for some information about home health care agencies, sub-acute rehabilitation facilities (in case a fall and hip fracture occur), assisted living facilities, nursing homes and the local Meals on Wheels program. Gather these resources before they're needed, and conduct your research on facilities at a time of your choosing. Perhaps you may never need the information, but even then, the peace of mind that comes from having some basic plans in place is well worth it.

For more suggestions on how to manage the challenges of long-distance caregiving, here's the complete article:

Challenges and Tips for Long-Distance Caregivers

Also, please feel free to comment below with any suggestions or specific challenges you may be facing in long-distance caregiving.

Related Reading

How to Research and Choose a Nursing Home

Tips on Home Safety for People with Dementia

10 Things to Stop Doing if You're a Caregiver for Someone with Alzheimer's

10 Things Not to Say to Caregivers

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