When a loved one lives with Alzheimer’s disease, members of their family often worry if there is a genetic link. Watching someone you love suffer with dementia makes that concern inevitable. While the cause of Alzheimer’s disease continues to elude researchers, some clinical trials are shedding light on possible links between health problems and the disease. One medical condition that has interested scientists for some time is a possible link between older adults with anemia and the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Exploring the Relationship between Alzheimer’s Disease and Anemia
A study published in Neurology magazine last year explored the idea that patients who were anemic were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. They hypothesize that because people who are anemic have fewer red blood cells, they have less oxygen reaching their brain. Can that somehow contribute to the plaques and tangles believed to lead to Alzheimer’s? In this trial, 2,552 participants who were dementia-free were evaluated and followed. 392 of them had anemia at the start of the trial. Over the course of the 11 year study, participants who had anemia were 40% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Even though that is a very significant percentage, scientists aren’t ready to say for certain there is a causal relationship. Instead they want to investigate the relationship more and examine what, if any, impact anemia prevention might have on the development of Alzheimer’s disease.
Talking with a Senior Loved One’s Physician About Anemia
If you are worried the Michigan senior you love might be at risk for anemia because of a poor diet or another health concern, share your concerns with their physician. They can make that diagnosis. If your hunch is right, their physician can help develop a plan to improve it. The bottom line is that even though these are preliminary studies, it is yet one more reason older adults need to adopt a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients, and to take advantage of community-based senior nutrition programs for support.
When you are a caregiver for a Michigan senior, the many safety issues you face can feel overwhelming. You worry about how well they manage their medications, if they are eating right and their overall health. And it isn’t just the cold Michigan winter that puts seniors at greater risk. Hyperthermia is just as much of a concern as hypothermia.
Our aging loved ones are often at higher risk for heart-related illnesses because of health conditions like high blood pressure or heat disease. Even some of the medications seniors take have side effects that make them more susceptible to sunburn and sun poisoning. In this week’s article, we thought it would be helpful to share the warning signs of dehydration and heat stroke in an older person.
Many caregivers have the misconception that a senior needs to be out in the sun for an extended period of time before they are at risk for a heat-related illness. In fact, dehydration and heat exhaustion can quickly lead to heat stroke if left untreated. How hot and humid it is makes a difference, as does how much hydration the person has been taking in and how physically active they are in the sun.
Knowing the warning signs of dehydration can help prevent a serious heat-related illness or even heat stroke. Here are a few symptoms to be on the lookout for this summer:
- Dry, sticky mouth
- Feeling tired and fatigued
- Decreased urine and lack of sweating
- Muscle weakness
- Rapid heartbeat
- Fever despite how hot it is outdoors
- Slow or low blood pressure
- Confusion and disorientation
- Problems speaking or putting together sentences
If you or a loved one you are a caregiver for exhibits any of the symptoms above, seek medical assistance immediately. Don’t delay calling 911 to see if they feel better. Heat-related illnesses that are detected early can be treated before they cause permanent damage.
For older adults who call a Michigan assisted living community “home,” part of the sense of belonging comes from being surrounded by fellow residents and staff who care for one another. When a resident receives the news that they have a life-limiting illness, their community of friends can offer a strong support system. When the time comes, hospice services can be brought to them to provide an additional layer of care and services.
The Medicare Hospice Benefit
The Medicare hospice benefit has four levels of care. Most people are more familiar with “routine care.” It is when hospice services are provided in whatever setting the patient considers home. That could be their private home, the home of an adult child, or an assisted living community. A senior loved one can receive the same hospice services in their assisted living apartment that they would if they were still in their own home.
In addition to routine care, there are several other levels of care hospice offers to meet each patient’s unique needs. For example, if a high fever or infection leads to complications that require more support, hospice can increase services to what is known as “continuous care.” It is a short-term solution that provides more concentrated care until the crisis has passed. In most cases, the hospice patient can remain in their assisted living apartment and have the additional support come to them.
The Services Hospice Brings to an Assisted Living Community
The Medicare Hospice benefit will pay for a variety of services, medications related to the life-limiting illness and any necessary medical equipment. The services hospice will bring to the resident of an assisted living community include:
- Skilled care of nurses and nurse aides
- Spiritual care support for the resident and for family members
- Pain and symptom management
- Alternative therapies that range from massage therapy to art therapy
- Social work support
- Dietary counseling
To learn more about the Medicare Hospice benefit, download this publication from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
My 91-year old father lives just outside Holland, Michigan. He lives alone in a home he and my mother bought when they were first married. Since her death three years ago, his health has really declined. In the last six months, he has fallen four times. My family and I leave in Kalamazoo so it isn’t easy to get to him quickly. He has had to use his medical alert pendant to call for help each time. His house is old and not very senior-friendly. Despite the home improvements we’ve tried to make to keep him safe, he just isn’t. I’ve tried to convince him that moving to assisted living would help him and me, but he is very stubborn. He thinks he will have to give up his privacy and that he will be forced to play games. I am worn out and stressed out from trying to juggle my family’s needs and his while also working full-time. Do you have any advice?
Alice in Kalamazoo, Michigan
We hear stories similar to yours almost every day. Giving up the home he has lived in for decades is surely hard for your father. Doubly so given the memories he no doubt has of your mother there. It obviously doesn’t help that he has some big misconceptions about what a Michigan assisted living community is really like for residents.
One suggestion might be to try to get him to consider a trial assisted living stay, officially known as respite. Some families have found that telling an aging loved one they will be out-of-state for an event makes it easier to convince their senior loved one to agree to a respite stay. It can be a non-threatening way to try assisted living. Your father may be willing to try this if you tell him, for example, you will take him on Thursday and pick him up the following Wednesday. By giving him a definite date to return home, he may not feel abandoned or at risk of being “forced” to stay.
Once he agrees you can work closely with the staff at the assisted living community to make sure the experience is a positive one. You can plan his trial stay around events or activities at the assisted living community that may be of special interest to him, match him up with other residents that he has things in common with, and help him review dining options and menu items ahead of time. While respite suites are usually furnished, you might want to bring just a few family photos and treasures to make him feel more at home. Not too many though. You don’t want him to be suspicious! Once he sees how much easier life can be in an assisted living community and that he won’t be forced to join in any activities he isn’t interested in, you might find him to be more open to the idea of moving. It might take him a few respite stays to be convinced, but it will be worth it knowing he is safe.
I hope this idea works for you, Alice! Please contact us if you need help setting up a respite stay for your Dad.