I have an elderly neighbor that we’ve lived next to for over twenty years. She doesn’t have any family left and seems to have outlived most of her friends. My children think of her as a bonus grandmother, and we are all very attached to her.
My husband and I have noticed changes in her over the last year or so. She’s a little forgetful and seems to be misplacing things a lot. While I know these are small changes, I’m concerned they might be signs of a bigger problem. I lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s disease many years ago, and I’m worried this might be the issue with my neighbor.
Are these early signs of Alzheimer’s disease? I’m trying to decide if I should convince her to let me bring her to a doctor. It might be a tough topic to tackle with her, so I’m not sure how to proceed.
Any advice would be appreciated.
Rory in Williamsburg, MI
Is It Alzheimer’s Disease?
We all misplace things from time to time. The car keys. Our favorite pair of shoes. The television remote. It’s usually not anything to worry about. When memory loss begins to impact daily life, however, it can be a sign of something more serious.
While many people associate Alzheimer’s disease with memory loss and forgetfulness, other symptoms of the disease aren’t as well known.
- Mismanaging finances: This common early warning sign is often missed. Someone with undiagnosed Alzheimer’s may pay one bill multiple times while neglecting to pay others. The disease also puts a senior at increased risk for scams and identity theft.
- Difficulty communicating: Another change early Alzheimer’s can cause is difficulty communicating. A loss of verbal skills or problems with written communication are two examples. Seniors might also call objects by the wrong name or have problems maintaining a conversation.
- Loss of abstract thought: Another red flag is when a senior begins struggling with routine multi-step tasks or errands that require abstract thought. These include writing out checks, creating a grocery list, or preparing meals.
- Change in disposition: A sudden change in personality is another sign to take seriously. For example, a gregarious senior becoming ill-tempered or suspicious. They may be struggling with a difficult personal issue, but it can also be an early sign of Alzheimer’s.
- Withdrawing from friends: When someone first suspects they have a problem, it might be hard to admit. Embarrassment or the fear of being “discovered” can cause them to isolate from friends. They may even stop attending religious services and withdraw from favorite hobbies.
- Getting lost: An older driver who has Alzheimer’s disease might get lost going to or from familiar places. If you notice that your next-door neighbor’s errands seem to be taking longer than they should or if she seems flustered after an outing, you might want to have a gentle discussion about it.
I hope this information is helpful to you, Rory! Please call the Heritage community nearest you if you have any questions!
Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care at Heritage Senior Communities
Finding care for a loved one with a memory impairment requires thoughtful research and planning. If your search for dementia care includes Michigan, we encourage you to consider Heritage Senior Communities. From specialty caregivers to unique meals, The Terrace memory care is designed to help older adults live their best quality of life despite their disease.
Call the Heritage dementia care community nearest you to schedule a private tour today!
Winter weather can do more than make your teeth chatter. Windy days and freezing temperatures can also be tough on the skin, especially for seniors. Older adults are prone to age-related skin conditions, such as eczema and dermatitis. Both can leave skin feeling itchy and irritated year-round.
With frigid outdoor elements and drier air in the house caused by the furnace, it’s easy to see why winter can further exacerbate skin problems. While most people have their own skin care regimen, there are other steps older adults can take to protect their skin during the frostiest months of the year. Here are some to explore this winter.
Winter Skin Care Tips for Seniors
- Add humidity to the house: Unless the furnace in your house has a built-in humidifier, you’ll probably need to add moisture back into the air. One way is by setting the thermostat lower, especially overnight. It may also help to place humidifiers in the rooms you spend the most time in. A word of caution: make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions for care, which usually include using distilled water and cleaning the unit frequently.
- Stay hydrated: Many people know to drink extra water when it’s hot and humid outside, but hydration is important in the winter, too. In addition to drying out skin, dehydration contributes to sagging skin, which makes you appear older. The general recommendation is to consume 8 to 10 glasses of water every day, but check with your physician to be sure.
- Don’t forget sunscreen: We generally think about layering on sunscreen on sunny summer days. It’s an essential step for guarding against skin cancers, like melanoma. Winter can be equally risky. The sun reflecting off of the snow can leave you with a painful “snow burn.” Make a habit of applying sunscreen every morning, but especially when you will be spending time outside or riding in a car.
- Change your moisturizer: Heavy moisturizers might leave your skin feeling greasy when it’s warm outside, but they are perfect for winter. Rich moisturizers for the face and body can protect your skin. This list of recommendations might help you find one you like.
- Take shorter showers: While a long, hot shower might sound inviting when you are cold, it can dry out your skin. Keeping the water lukewarm instead of hot and making showers brief is kinder on older skin. Apply a good quality moisturizer afterward, too.
- Bundle up outdoors: When the mercury falls below freezing, frostbite can occur fairly quickly. It is especially dangerous when it’s both cold and windy outside. Prevent skin damage by bundling up before you head outside. A hat, mittens or gloves, and a scarf to shield your face will help. Try to keep any area of your skin from being exposed.
Despite your best efforts, you might still experience dry and cracked skin this winter. It might be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. The doctor can determine if there is an underlying health issue or allergy that might be causing your skin challenges.
More Winter Safety Tips for Seniors
If you are the family caregiver for a senior loved one, there are other winter hazards to be aware of. “Creating a Winter Safety Plan for a Senior Loved One” has good information that you might find useful.
The holidays are an eagerly anticipated time of the year in most families. People often decorate their homes with twinkling lights, freshly cut evergreen trees, and brightly colored ornaments. It provides a warm welcome to friends and loved ones throughout the season.
What isn’t welcome, but sometimes happens during the holidays, is home fires. This is the most common time of year for house fires. For seniors, it can be especially troubling. Although people over the age of 65 make up less than 15 percent of the U.S. population, they account for almost 40 percent of all fire deaths.
From overloaded breakers to burning candles left unattended, it’s a good idea to learn more about unique seasonal fire hazards.
Tips for Preventing Holiday Home Fires
- Be cautious combining lights and fresh greenery.
In under 30 seconds, a Christmas tree fire can engulf the whole room. Taking steps to ensure your tree and other holiday greenery isn’t presenting a hazard is important.
- Place fresh greenery at a safe distance from open flames, including candles, fireplaces, and stovetops.
- If you display a real tree or greens, make sure they are fresh when you purchase them. Even greenery that looks fresh might not be. One way to assess freshness is by shaking greenery to see how many needles fall off.
- Water your tree and greenery daily. The lack of humidity indoors during winter months can cause them to dry out quickly. It also helps to mist garlands and greens with a spray bottle to keep them fresh longer.
- Purchase quality holiday lights and follow the instructions.
Lights are a holiday decorating tradition in many families. When not used properly, however, they can be a fire hazard. Here are a few precautions to keep in mind as you deck the halls:
- Use lights that have a UL tag, which indicates they were safety tested by Underwriters Laboratories.
- Check for any fraying on the cords and plugs.
- Use extension cords sparingly to avoid overloading the circuit.
- Follow the manufacturer’s directions to determine how many strands of lights can be safely strung together.
- Make sure to use indoor lights inside the home and only outdoor lights outside.
- Don’t leave the house or go to bed with the lights on. Use timers with your lights to ensure they turn off.
- Use real candles sparingly and with caution.
Candles are a staple for many people during Hannukah and Christmas. But safety experts say candle use causes home fires to spike during the holidays. Here are a few ways to use candles safely:
- Don’t leave a burning candle unattended.
- Be careful where you place a burning candle. Avoid setting them near curtains, towels, and flammable household cleaners.
- Be cautious of candle use if you have a pet. Cats and dogs might knock over a burning candle, resulting in a fire.
One last tip is to make sure you and your senior loved one’s homes have working smoke detectors in key areas. Make a plan for testing them regularly.
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My mom has been my dad’s primary caregiver for almost three years now. Winter is a tough time for her. My dad has mobility issues that make it difficult for him to get around, especially during bad weather. Even though I visit often, they are fairly isolated during the long Michigan winter.
My mom’s case of the blues seems to begin around the holidays and lasts until warmer weather returns. I’d like to prevent that from happening this year and wondered if you had any suggestions.
Luke in Gladwin, MI
Helping a Loved One Prevent Caregiver Depression
Winter can be a difficult season for many people, especially caregivers. Isolation is linked to a variety of health issues ranging from depression to weight gain. The coldest season of the year is also linked to a condition known as seasonal affective disorder. So, there are many reasons to take extra steps to prioritize mental health during the winter.
A few that might help you support your mother this holiday season and winter include:
When you are feeling blue, it is tempting to load up on comfort foods and sugary treats. While it can help in the moment, it actually makes the situation worse in the long run. Researchers have identified a link between diet and depression. People who follow a healthy diet are less likely to suffer from depression than those who consume processed foods and sugar.
The demands on a busy caregiver’s schedule might make exercise feel like a luxury. However, physical fitness is good for the body, mind, and spirit. Encouraging your mom to exercise thirty minutes most days of the week might help protect her mental health. Two fifteen-minute exercise sessions a day will yield the same results as thirty continuous minutes.
Sleep issues are another common challenge for family caregivers. Some people have trouble getting to sleep, while others can’t seem to stay asleep. This can occur for many reasons, most notably stress and fatigue. Regardless of the reason, sleep deprivation can contribute to seasonal depression. Talk with your mom to see if this is a problem for her. She may need to consult with her primary care doctor for advice if it is.
- Encouraging remote check-ins
Socializing is essential to feeling connected. Spending even a few hours a week with friends and family can restore the spirit and make a caregiver feel less alone. If your mom isn’t able to visit with friends and family in person this winter, use a video chat platform to connect virtually. During COVID-19 lockdowns, many people became comfortable using programs like Skype and Zoom for video chats.
- Considering respite care services
Caregivers need a break on a regular basis, including the holidays. Whether it’s a few hours a week or a couple of days a month, encourage your mom to take time for herself. Respite care at a senior living community can help. These short-term programs allow family members to keep a loved one safe while the caregiver takes a break.
I hope these tips are useful to you and your mom this winter!
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Taking a proactive approach to caring for a senior loved one often includes researching local care options. With communities throughout Michigan and one in Indiana, Heritage Senior Communities has a variety of locations from which to choose. Call us today to learn more and schedule a personal tour!