Is a senior you love acting differently? Maybe an easy going parent has become more irritable and unpredictable? Or has an always upbeat grandparent withdrawn from favorite pastimes and hobbies?
A change in personality, such as increased anxiety, irritability, and depression can all be early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Personality Changes to Look for in a Senior Loved One
A senior may be easily distracted or confused in the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease. For this reason, they may become upset at even simple changes in routine. Or they may withdraw from social networks because they know something is wrong and hope to prevent others from noticing.
On the other hand, a loss of judgment is also common in early Alzheimer’s. It can cause a typically reserved senior to become outgoing and gregarious. They may even act inappropriately and say tactless things because they lose their ability to tell the difference.
Most times, you will notice other changes as well. Common signs of early Alzheimer’s might include:
- Difficulty maintaining a conversation
- Forgetting familiar names, places, or faces
- Forgetting events and appointments and not recalling them later
- Repeating themselves or asking the same question multiple times
- Habitually misplacing items
Exploring Other Causes for Changes in a Senior
Before you jump to the conclusion that a senior you love has Alzheimer’s disease, know that there may be other explanations for the changes you see.
Causes of Depression and Irritability
Depression and irritability can both be caused by aging-related losses. Maybe your senior loved one recently had a close companion relocate to be nearer to their children. Or perhaps they are dealing with health conditions that make it more difficult to participate in hobbies and interests they’ve always enjoyed.
Personality Changes Caused by Medication
Another source for a personality change in a senior might be a medication side effect or interaction. Review your aging loved one’s medications with their pharmacist or physician. Ask if any of them might be creating the problem.
Infection or Thyroid Disease
There are also a variety of health conditions that closely mimic Alzheimer’s. A urinary tract infection (UTI) and thyroid disease are two of the most common ones. Share your concerns with their physician who may want to order blood work to make the determination.
Talk with a Physician or Health Professional about a Memory Screening
If you want to explore the issue further but your senior loved one is reluctant to see their physician, a memory screening might be the answer. It is a non-threatening way to investigate the problem. While it can’t provide a definitive diagnose, it is 80 to 90 percent accurate in detecting memory-related issues.
Since childhood most of us have been encouraged to drink our milk. You probably already know that the calcium and vitamin D it contains are good for keeping bones healthy. But because vitamin D doesn’t occur naturally in very many foods, it is easier to develop a deficiency. This is especially true for those who live in northern climates, like Michigan, where people spend less time outdoors during winter months.
Health Problems Linked to Low Vitamin D
Over the past decade, scientists have discovered a variety of ways that a vitamin D deficiency can negatively impact our health as we age.
Here are a few of the problems associated with a vitamin D deficiency:
- Earlier Stages: The earliest problems caused by a vitamin D deficiency include muscle pain, gait disturbances, fatigue and overall muscular weakness.
- Advanced Deficiency: A more serious deficiency in vitamin D can lead to deep bone pain and fractures. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to greater risk of coronary and vascular diseases, as well as prostate, breast and colon cancer.
What can you and the senior you love do to keep vitamin D levels where they need to be?
Here are a few suggestions:
Overcoming a Vitamin D Deficiency
- Food Choices: Consume foods rich in vitamin D. Healthy options to consider are fresh or canned salmon, milk, tuna, and mushrooms. Other foods often enriched or fortified with vitamin D include soy products, breakfast cereals, orange juice, eggs, and some dairy.
- Sunlight: Limited sun exposure might also help. While it is important to exercise caution and limit exposure to small amounts without sunscreen, sunlight often improves vitamin D levels. Talk with your physician to see if 20 minutes of sun exposure a few times a week might be beneficial.
- Supplements: While most doctors and nutritionists like to see essential vitamins and nutrients coming from healthy food choices, most also recognize that vitamin D can be tough to maintain strictly through diet. Ask your doctor for a recommended daily dosage.
Finally, one resource you might find helpful is a booked called, The Vitamin D Solution. It was written by Dr. Michael Holick, a leading vitamin D expert.
The Wellness Model at Heritage Senior Communities
Residents who call a Heritage Senior community home benefit from our Wellness Model approach to living. Our Assisted Living Centers use this blend of social and health services to maximize the overall “wellness” of each resident. Through it we address issues ranging from a healthy diet to spiritual needs.
Photo Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net
Are you someone who is struggling to care for an aging parent while also caring for children of your own? You aren’t alone. Studies conducted by the Pew Research Center show that one in every eight Americans finds themselves in this situation. The phrase “sandwich generation” was coined to describe this group of family caregivers.
On top of juggling two very demanding roles, many family caregivers work at least part-time outside their home.
So what can you do to survive these difficult years?
We have a few tips we think will help.
4 Survival Tips for Sandwich Generation Caregivers in Michigan
- Accept Help: Adult children commonly believe that it is their duty and theirs alone to care for a parent who needs a helping hand. While it is a noble goal, it isn’t often a very realistic one. When friends and family members offer to help you, let them. It might be by running a few errands or sitting with your senior family member for a while so you can take a break. In addition to helping you out, it will allow loved ones to feel as if they are supporting you in a meaningful way. If you don’t have anyone close to you who can help, call the local Area Agency on Aging. They may know of volunteers who visit homebound seniors or be aware of assisted living communities that offer short-term respite
- Have Realistic Expectations: This is a difficult one for caregivers. But it is important to accept that you cannot be everything to everyone. You might need to make Easter dinner at your house a potluck instead of providing all of the food. Or buy treats from a local bakery for a child’s birthday instead of making them yourself. Accept that a few short-term changes during the sandwich generation caregiver years are necessary.
- Develop a System: Between the two generations, you probably feel like you are drowning in paperwork and deadlines. One of the best ways to feel as if you are in control of everything is to take time out to get organized. It might be by setting up a “Command Center” where everyone’s schedules are written on one large calendar. Or you might feel more efficient setting up a simple calendar online using something like Google Drive. Knowing you are organized and not missing appointments or losing important information can help reduce some of the stress caused by being a sandwich generation caregiver.
- Take Care of You: All too often sandwich caregivers put their own health on the backburner. They fail to schedule an annual physical and skip routine health screenings. Maintaining a healthy diet and exercise also rank low on the priority list. Over time it puts caregivers like you at higher risk for health problems like high blood pressure and diabetes. That’s why it’s essential to take care of you, too. Remind yourself that if you experience a health crisis of your own, you won’t be able to care for everyone who counts on you.
If you have questions about respite care for a Michigan senior you love, please call the Heritage Senior Community nearest you. We’ll be happy to help!
My 80-year old mother has been managing her finances on her own since my father passed three years ago. We often go over and help her with maintenance and housekeeping, but it’s important to her to be in control and independent.
I recently discovered that my mother was the victim of a telephone scam about five months ago. Someone called her pretending to be one of her grandsons who was away at college. The scammer told my mother he was in trouble and needed money wired to him immediately. My mom fell for it and sent him a significant amount of her savings.
After she realized what had happened, she kept it to herself. We only just figured out what happened because she delayed having a new roof put on her house. She said she was a little short of money even though I knew she shouldn’t be.
I called the local police and they came out and filed a report. But because so much time has passed, they aren’t very confident they will be able to track these guys down.
I don’t understand why my mom wouldn’t tell us. And I’m not sure how we can keep this from happening again.
Why Seniors Don’t Report Being a Victim of Fraud
Dear Leigh Ann:
I’m so sorry to hear about your mother’s situation! Our seniors are often targeted for scams and fraud for many reasons.
Sometimes it is because an older adult lives with a chronic health condition that makes it more difficult to keep up with home maintenance and repairs. As a result, they may have to turn to strangers for assistance. Roofing, windows and driveway sealing are three areas where seniors are often the victims of a scam.
Loneliness may also put them at risk. Because an older adult may live alone and feel isolated, they might be more willing to spend time on the phone with someone they don’t know. It puts them at higher risk for becoming the victim of a telemarketing scam.
And the grandparent scam your mother was the victim of is becoming increasingly common. It plays on the very special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.
AARP estimates that as many as 20% of our nation’s seniors have been the victim of some type of fraud. That number is considered to be low since many older adults, like your mother, are just too embarrassed to admit they have fallen victim to a scam.
Seniors also fail to report these crimes because they fear their families will think they are incapable of making their own decisions or that they will cause their children to worry about them.
A few tips we share with older adults near Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan are ones you can use to try to prevent your mother from becoming a victim again including:
- Identify Theft: Help your mom find a safe place to store important identifying information, such as her social security card and Medicare/insurance cards. While many older women keep them in their purse, these cards should actually be kept locked up. Gaining access to one of these cards makes it easy for scammers to steal your mother’s identity and apply for credit cards, car loans and more.
- Door-to-Door Scams: Scammers often target neighborhoods where they know the concentration of older adults is high. Remind your mother not to sign anything or give anyone money before you are able to check them out using online review sites such as Angie’s list and the Better Business Bureau. These fraudulent companies will pressure seniors by offering them too good to be true deals that must be accepted on the spot. Warn your mother that this type of behavior is a red flag that this isn’t a legitimate company.
- Do Not Call Registry: Much of the financial abuse against seniors comes in the form of telemarketing scams. Be sure your mother is on the Do Not Call Registry for both her home and cell phone numbers. While it won’t eliminate all risk for telemarketing fraud, it will likely reduce it.
I hope this helps, Leigh Ann!