Getting the news that you or a senior loved one has Alzheimer’s can be life-changing. A frustration for both seniors and their families is the lack of solid science about the cause of the disease. Recent studies linking diabetes and Alzheimer’s, however, seem to be gaining ground.
Nearly 26% of adults age 65 and older have diabetes. One out of eight older adults lives with Alzheimer’s disease. What researchers are trying to determine is if there is a link between the two.
Is There a Link between Diabetes and Dementia?
Since 2005, the link between dementia and insulin-resistance has grown stronger. It’s even led some researchers to begin referring to Alzheimer’s by a new name: Type 3 diabetes.
These studies seem to indicate seniors with diabetes are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
While researchers don’t yet understand the cause-and-effect between diabetes and dementia, they do know that high blood sugar can have a negative impact on brain health.
Type 2 diabetes results when the body doesn’t make the right amount of insulin or doesn’t process it properly. As blood sugar in the body rises, it puts more stress on blood vessels, including those in the brain. This causes arteries in the brain to harden and narrow.
If an adequate supply of blood doesn’t reach the brain, an older adult’s cognitive abilities may decline. They may develop problems with memory or have trouble completing daily tasks independently.
Excess glucose (sugar) also limits the brain’s ability to break down fatty membranes. When these clump together, they form plaques and tangles that are believed to contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
How to Lower an Older Adult’s Risk for Diabetes
While there is no definitive way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, researchers believe lifestyle is the key.
According to the American Diabetes Association, you can lower your risk for diabetes by:
- Using the plate-method to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Get 150 combined minutes of exercise each week. Most physicians recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week.
- Work with your family physician to monitor and manage cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Don’t smoke.
- Limit alcoholic beverages to just a few times a week or less.
Successfully controlling blood sugar may help seniors prevent or delay the onset of dementia allowing them to live healthier, more active lives.
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We recently moved my mother-in-law to an assisted living community in Holland, Michigan. The process of downsizing for the move required her to part with many of her belongings, and it was still a tight fit to get her settled and find a place for everything.
With Mother’s Day approaching, we aren’t sure what to get her for a gift or how to plan a celebration. She doesn’t have very much space for more “stuff” and the community where she lives now provides almost everything she could want or need.
Do you have any suggestions for gifts? Or for planning our celebration? We feel like it is important to make the day extra special for her this year.
Mother’s Day Gift Ideas for Seniors in an Assisted Living Community
Your question is one we often receive this time of year, especially from families who are new to assisted living.
Our first suggestion is to talk to the team at your mother-in-laws assisted living community. They can offer suggestions for reserving more space at the community if you need it, as well as for helping to make arrangements for food.
As far as gift ideas, here is a list of ideas we’ve noticed have been popular with our residents in past years:
- A family calendar that has family members’ birthdays and anniversaries marked, along with family photos on each month’s page
- A handmade coupon book with vouchers to trade in for outings to the mall or a local restaurant, help with their computer, a trip to a local spa or another favorite treat
- A digital scrapbook or family video
- A photo bouquet of family pictures
- Gift certificate for the in-house beauty/barber shop
- A custom gift basket with items she can use to pamper herself, such as essential oils, lotions and other beauty products
- A gift card to a clothing store
- A pedometer or fitness tracker
- A fruit-of-the-month club membership
- Gift cards to a restaurant and/or movie theater
- Gift card to their favorite craft or hobby store
- A tablet device they can use for connecting on social media and email
- A bird feeder to place outside their window along with seed
- A basket of DVDs, games and puzzles to enjoy when the grandkids visit
Finally, don’t overlook the more traditional Mother’s Day gifts. A potted plant, a bouquet of flowers, or a box of chocolates might be the perfect treat!
Best of luck to you and your family, Tami! I’m sure your mother-in-law will appreciate your efforts.
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If you are a Michigan senior loved one’s primary caregiver, you’ve probably worried about what would happen to them if you suffered an emergency of your own. Because you are involved in their day-to-day care, you likely know their medical history well. You also understand what medications they take and what the schedule is.
But in the event of an emergency, would someone else in the family know what your aging family member needs? What their allergies are? When their next physician appointment is?
Having an emergency caregiver in place before a crisis occurs is the key.
There are two important steps for creating a successful caregiver backup plan. The first part is to carefully craft the plan and the second is to share it with others.
How to Create an Emergency Care Plan for a Senior
Begin by pulling together all of the information someone else would need to be able to care for your senior loved one in the event you are unable to.
At a minimum, your back up plan should include:
- Medical history: Create a complete health file that includes your senior family member’s medical history, past surgeries, current and past medical issues, and any allergies.
- Medication list: Also put together a list of prescription and over-the-counter medications your loved one takes along with the schedule. Be sure you include the prescribing physician and pharmacy name in case the back-up caregivers need to have one refilled.
- Physician list: It’s important to document all of your loved one’s physicians and any other health professionals who are involved in their care. Include their contact information along with the reason your family sees each of them.
- Insurance information: To help prevent your family member from falling victim to identity theft, it’s important to keep insurance documents stored in a secure location. Just make sure back-up caregivers are apprised of where and how to access them in the event of a medical emergency.
- Legal Documents: Also share the location of any legal documents your senior loved one has in place, such as a durable power of attorney or living will, with family members who may be called on to pitch in and help with caregiving duties.
Our final tip is to visit with senior care providers in Michigan and develop a list of those you feel would be a good fit for your aging loved one if you aren’t available to provide care. Include this information in your back-up caregiver plan.
Share Your Caregiver Back-Up Plan
Once you have created your plan, it is important to make sure friends and family are aware of it and comfortable with the information it contains.
Some families have found technology makes it easier to keep everyone on track. CareZone, Prime, CareMind and Caring Bridge are a few easy-to-use apps to explore.
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My husband and I would like to take a vacation this spring so we can take our twin girls to Disney World. It is our last chance to do so before they start Kindergarten next fall. The catch is I am the primary caregiver for my mother. She has lived with us since she had a stroke last summer. While she tries to be independent and active, she has some disabilities that prevent her from staying alone.
I’ve talked with home care agencies about providing care for her while we are gone. But I would really feel more comfortable if she had someone nearby around the clock.
Can you explain how respite care works in an assisted living community in Michigan?
Ellie in Grand Haven, Michigan
Your situation is a perfect example of how families can benefit from respite care in an assisted living community. Respite allows an older loved one to enjoy a short-term stay at a senior living community while the family caregiver goes on vacation or takes a break from the around the clock demands of caregiving.
What Types of Services are Included in Respite Care?
From medication management to support with personal care needs, a respite stay provides seniors with the support they need when you can’t be there to help.
Most senior living communities, like the Heritage Senior Communities across Michigan, have furnished suites for respite guests to enjoy. Your mom will have access to the same services and amenities that a permanent resident of the community does.
In addition to support with personal care, a respite stay in most senior living communities includes:
- Three well-balanced meals each day served restaurant style in the dining room.
- A wide variety of life enrichment and wellness activities to participate in with other residents.
- Supportive services such as housekeeping, laundry and transportation.
We always encourage families who are considering a short-term respite stay for a senior loved one to visit us in person. One of our team members will be happy to take you and your mom on a tour. You can even stay for lunch!
Being familiar with the staff and the community will help to decrease any anxiety you and your mom have about your leaving town for vacation.
I hope this information is helpful, Ellie. And I hope you enjoy Disney World with your family!
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Even in the earliest stages, Alzheimer’s can make it tough for an adult to maintain their normal routine. Seniors and their spouses often fear they will be forced to move or to be separated if adult children discover one of them has this common form of dementia. In some cases, older adults go to great lengths to hide what they fear are the early signs of Alzheimer’s.
Tricks Seniors Use to Try to Hide the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s
Here are a few behaviors that might indicate the older loved one in your life is trying to hide troubling symptoms from you:
- Discouraging Visitors: When a senior family member who has always loved spending time with their children and grandchildren begins finding reasons to avoid you, it can be a warning sign. They might tell you they know you are “busy with your job” or that they will be “taking a long vacation.” The real reason just might be they are afraid you will notice the changes and realize something is wrong.
- Hiding Mistakes: An older adult who knows there is a problem but isn’t quite sure what it is may hide their mistakes. From falling victim to a door-to-door scam to mismanaging the checkbook or getting lost when driving, they work hard to keep you from finding out there is a problem.
- Excuses: When an aging loved one seems to be making a lot of excuses for their forgetfulness or for unusual behaviors, it can be a sign of something more serious than the fatigue they blame it on.
- Changes in Activity: If your mother always loved cooking but has recently given her favorite cookbooks away or if your father dropped out of his longstanding poker night, it might be related to problems with memory. Pastimes that require adults to follow directions or problem solve become more challenging as Alzheimer’s progresses.
- Speaking for a Spouse: While some partners are known for finishing one another’s sentences, a change in this dynamic can be another red flag. A spouse may be trying to cover for their partner’s memory loss. They may feel it is necessary to do so to protect their partner and their marriage.
The good news is that there are other illnesses that mimic Alzheimer’s disease and many of them are treatable with early intervention. Seeking the help of your primary care doctor might reveal the diagnosis really isn’t Alzheimer’s at all.
Conditions that Mimic Alzheimer’s Disease
A few conditions that can look like Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Thyroid disorder
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency
- Medication interaction or side effect
- Urinary tract infection (UTI)
You can learn more about the signs of Alzheimer’s by visiting 8 Behaviors to Monitor if You Suspect a Michigan Senior has Alzheimer’s.
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