Is Alzheimer’s Disease Hereditary?

Is Alzheimer’s Disease Hereditary?

Dear Donna,

I am the primary caregiver for my mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease. As her disease progresses, I can’t help but worry that I am eventually going to get it.  

Is Alzheimer’s disease hereditary? Is there a test I can take to find out if I’ll get it, too?


Alisha in Holland, MI


Do Genes Cause Alzheimer’s Disease?


Dear Alisha,

After a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it is common to wonder if you too will inevitably get the disease.

For the majority of cases, the answer is no.

Only a small percentage of Alzheimer’s cases develop from one of the three genetic mutations known to cause the disease. Alzheimer’s is guaranteed to occur if any one of the following genetic mutations occurs:

  • The gene from the amyloid precursor protein
  • Genes for the presenilin 1 proteins
  • Genes from presenilin 2 proteins

This form of the disease is referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s because its symptoms usually develop before the age of 65. Not only does this form of the disease develop early, but it progresses rapidly. Thankfully, early-onset Alzheimer’s accounts for less than one percent of cases, making your chances of developing it extremely low.


What You Should Know About Genetics and Late-Onset Alzheimer’s


Most cases of the disease are late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Late-onset Alzheimer’s presents itself much differently; symptoms begin after 65 years old and progress gradually.

  1. Genes can affect the risk of Alzheimer’s, but they are not the cause.

Current research doesn’t show a sizeable hereditary risk associated with this disease. Late-onset Alzheimer’s has a genetic component, but the genes themselves rarely cause the disease. Instead, the genes are considered genetic risk factors, and they slightly increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.

  1. Having the APOE e4 gene doesn’t mean you will get Alzheimer’s.

The genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s is having apolipoprotein E e4 (APOE e4). The presence of APOE e4 does not mean you will get Alzheimer’s. Many people have the gene yet never develop any symptoms of the disease.

Some people don’t have the APOE e4 gene yet develop Alzheimer’s anyway. This means that although APOE e4 affects your risk of developing the disease, it isn’t the cause.

  1. The number of APOE e4 genes you inherit affects your risk.

Your risk is also determined by the number of APOE genes you inherit. If you inherit one from only one of your parents, you have a higher risk of developing the disease than someone without the APOE e5 gene. If you inherit one from each of your parents, meaning you have two APOE e4 genes, your chance increases.


Should You Get Tested?


Many factors can affect your likelihood of getting the disease. However, genes are only a small part of the equation. Lifestyle is the greatest.

Because the link between having the genes and developing Alzheimer’s is so low, it is not recommended that you get tested. It would be nearly impossible to get an accurate prediction as to whether or not you will get Alzheimer’s.

Instead, adopting a healthier lifestyle will have a more significant impact on lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Here are a few steps to reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.


Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities


If the care you are providing your mother is preventing you from being able to care for yourself properly, it may be time to consider an assisted living community that specializes in dementia care. The Heritage Senior Communities Appledorn Assisted Living Center is one.

Contact us to learn more about specialized dementia care at Appledorn Assisted Living.



Planning Holiday Travel With a Senior Loved One?

Planning Holiday Travel With a Senior Loved One?

Planning a trip with a senior loved one can be challenging. You want them to enjoy their experience and feel included. At same time, you want them to be safe.

While planning holiday travel, you may find yourself asking…

  • Will it be fun for the entire family?
  • Is it going to be difficult to get there?
  • It is safe?

All of these questions can be daunting, especially if you’ve never planned a trip with an older adult. Here are a few things to consider when planning holiday travel with your senior loved one.

  1. Be Considerate of Normal Age-Related Changes

When planning your trip, be mindful of the changes that occur with age. Your loved one may walk a little slower, tire faster, and require more breaks than the rest of your family.

You can be considerate by doing the following:

  • Choose a hotel where everything is nearby to reduce the amount of walking.
  • Book a non-stop flight for simplicity.
  • Avoid traveling to places where the terrain is rough.
  • Schedule lots of free time between activities to allow your loved one time to take breaks without feeling like they are missing out.
  1. Be Proactive About Accommodations

Disabilities and mobility issues are common deterrents for planning a trip with older adults, but they don’t have to be. There are plenty of accommodations you can request to make your loved one’s experience safer and more comfortable. The trick is to request them early. Here are a few you may want to consider:

  • Reserve an accessible hotel room. They fill up quick, so do this as soon as you know where you are staying.
  • If you’re flying, notify the airline about your needs in advance. Will your loved one need a wheelchair or boarding assistance? Do they need to borrow a wheelchair from the airport, or will they bring their own?
  • Inform the airline or cruise line of any dietary restrictions your loved one has. This will give them time to prepare and make sure they have food your loved one can eat.
  1. Get Travel Arrangements Cleared With the Doctor

Once you figure out the logistics, get your travel plans cleared with your loved one’s doctor. You may want to ask about the following:

  • If your loved one is okay to travel. If you are flying, let the doctor know. If you are going a cruise, tell them.
  • Discuss medications. Are you traveling to a new time zone? Ask if they should modify the times they take their medication.
  • Talk about vaccines. Are there any vaccinations they should get?
  • Get a list of all medications and dosages. This will be extremely helpful if your loved one needs to refill a prescription while on vacation.


What to Do if Your Loved One Can’t Travel


  • Consider bringing the family to them. If your loved one is not cleared to travel, consider bringing your family to them. They will appreciate you making the extra effort to include them.
  • Schedule respite care. If travel is not possible or your loved one doesn’t feel comfortable traveling, you may want to consider respite care for the duration of the trip.

Most senior living communities offer respite care, including the Heritage Senior Communities locations across Michigan. To learn more about respite care, contact the Heritage community nearest you.

Cholesterol & Aging: How it Changes and How to Manage it

Cholesterol & Aging: How it Changes and How to Manage it

High cholesterol is a common health concern among older adults. As you age, your cholesterol often rises. This puts seniors at risk for serious health complications like, heart disease, angina, and peripheral artery disease.

But why is high cholesterol an issue for older adults, and what can seniors do to protect themselves?


What is Cholesterol?


Before you can understand why cholesterol rises with age, it’s helpful to learn a little about cholesterol and its role in the body.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found throughout your bloodstream. It is crucial for many physiological processes that are necessary for survival, like forming cell membranes, making hormones, creating vitamin D, and producing bile to help digestion.

There are two main types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL)

LDL is the type of cholesterol you don’t want. It can build up in your arteries, causing them to narrow and possibly even become blocked. This is a serious problem because it reduces blood flow, which can result in heart attack, stroke, or a blood clot. When medical professionals use the phrase “high cholesterol,” this is the type of cholesterol they are referring to.

High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL)

HDL is sometimes referred to as the “healthy” cholesterol. HDL protects you from the complications that clogged or narrowed arteries can cause by removing LDL from the bloodstream.


Why is High Cholesterol an Issue for Older Adults?


Once you know the basics about cholesterol, you can begin to understand why it’s a concern for seniors.

  1. More Time to Accumulate

High cholesterol doesn’t occur overnight; it takes years for arteries to become narrowed and clogged. For seniors, build-up has had a longer time to accumulate.

  1. Other Conditions Increase Risk for Complications

Conditions like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure are prevalent among seniors. Each of these can increase the risk for complications associated with high cholesterol.

  1. Unhealthy Diet

Seniors who don’t follow a well-balanced diet are more prone high cholesterol and its associated problems.


How Do You Manage High Cholesterol?


The earlier you adopt a healthy lifestyle, the better your cholesterol levels will be in the long run. Here are a few tips to manage your cholesterol numbers:

  1. Get your cholesterol checked regularly. If you want to manage your cholesterol, it’s important to check your numbers regularly. Adults over 20 should get their numbers measured every five years. Doing so will allow you and your doctor to address issues before they become a serious concern.


  1. Adopt a heart-healthy diet. Avoid foods that can raise your cholesterol like saturated fats, trans fats, and dietary cholesterol. Opt for fresh foods, vegetables, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.


  1. Exercise regularly. Make it a priority to exercise every day. Try to get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week, and strength train at least 2 days a week.


  1. Medications. If high cholesterol is a concern, it may be a good idea to consult with your doctor about taking medications to help you maintain healthy numbers.


Assisted Living Combines Independence with Support


If your senior loved one is struggling to maintain healthy cholesterol levels, it may be time to consider moving to a senior living community. Most communities offer nutrient-dense meals tailored to the specific needs of senior citizens.

How Can I Prepare My Mother for an Easier Transition to Assisted Living?

How Can I Prepare My Mother for an Easier Transition to Assisted Living?

Dear Donna,

My mother and I recently decided it would be best for her to move to an assisted living community. Her mobility has declined considerably, and we feel they will be able to help her with her everyday activities.

This is our first time going through this process. I want it to go as smoothly as possible, but I have no idea where to start.

How can I prepare my mother for an easier transition to assisted living? 

Carly in Saline, M


Making a Smooth Transition to Assisted Living


Dear Carly,

Many family members find it difficult to help their loved ones transition to an assisted living community. For most of them, it’s not something they’ve ever done, which makes it difficult to know where to begin.

Here are 5 things to do to make the transition to assisted living easier for your mother.

  1. Select a Realistic Move-In Date

The first thing you should do is help your mother select an official move-in date. Select a date that gives you plenty of time to pack, clean, and downsize as needed.

Having an official move-in date will give you a timeframe of exactly how long you have to prepare. From there, you can begin to plan when tasks need to be done to keep you on track.

  1. Get the Measurements of Your Mother’s New Space

Finding out how much space she has will help you determine how much she can keep. If possible, try to get a printed copy of the floor plan. This way, you can plan exactly where everything is going to go. On move-in day, you will be thankful you did this when you can tell the movers exactly where to put everything.

  1. Start Organizing Early

Organizing is often the most challenging and time-consuming task. For that reason, you want to start early.

The space your mother will be moving into is most likely going to be smaller than her current space. This will require her to downsize.

Don’t forget to organize important papers and documents. Here are a few documents you will want to gather:

  • Driver’s license
  • Care registration
  • Credit cards
  • Bank, retirement, and investment account information
  • Medicare and Social Security information
  1. Get Estimates From Moving Companies

After you settle on a date for the move to assisted living, start getting quotes from moving companies. Once you find a company you like, schedule your appointment immediately. Reputable moving companies often have pretty busy schedules!

  1. Schedule Dates for Utilities to be Turned Off or Transferred

A few weeks before her move-in date, help her start to tackle her home services. Call and schedule times for utility companies to disconnect her phone, cable, internet, electricity, gas, water, and any other recurring services. Have her mail, newspaper, and magazine subscriptions forwarded to her new home.


The Most Important Thing You Can Do Is Be There


The most important thing you can do to help a senior loved one transition to assisted living is to be there. Physically help them pack belongings, listen to their concerns, and talk them through their hesitations

Moving can be stressful for anyone. After all, it is a major life transition. Heritage Senior Communities, including our Linden Square Assisted Living location, provides support to make the transition to assisted living easier for seniors and their families. Contact us for more information.

Please let me know if I can answer any additional questions!