My mom has Alzheimer’s and watching her slowly slip away is so awful.
It also makes me worry that I will develop this awful disease. I’ve read some researchers think there may be genetic links to some forms of the disease.
While I know there is nothing I can do about my family history, I wonder if there are any steps I can take that may help me prevent Alzheimer’s?
I would appreciate any insight!
Stacey in Grand Blanc, Michigan
Can Alzheimer’s Disease be Prevented?
Alzheimer’s is definitely a devastating disease a senior and those who love them. It is understandable that you would be concerned about developing the disease yourself.
Researchers are still struggling to learn more about Alzheimer’s. Although there is no proven method of preventing the disease, there are steps you can do that may help reduce your risk
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
Research has shown that seniors following the MIND diet have lowered their risk for reduced brain functioning by 35 percent. Even people who were so-so about maintaining the diet were 18 percent less likely to have reduced brain function.
The MIND diet is a combination of the Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet with a few tweaks. The diet is pretty simple: eat lots of green vegetables and fruit, particularly berries. Include whole grains, nuts, poultry, and fish.
Salmon, mackerel, herring, sardines, and albacore tuna are especially good for preventing Alzheimer’s because they contain omega-3 fats.
Dairy products, in moderation, are OK if they are low in fat. Olive oil is on the diet, but red meat, sugar and salt should be limited. Also, limit alcohol intake.
Smoking cigarettes is not recommended on this diet.
Anyone who puts effort into following the MIND diet will likely see a payoff. It can include a better functioning heart, healthy blood vessels, and optimal blood pressure—all of which are factors that decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Exercise For Your Life
For years, studies have shown that exercise can benefit the brain and delay the start of Alzheimer’s. People who are less active have a higher risk of developing this disease.
Exercise helps to keep the blood flowing and increases the chemicals that protect the brain. The key is to exercise several times a week for 30 minutes or an hour. In a relatively short time you will feel the benefits of exercise: sharper thinking, improved memory, and better decision making.
Reduce Stress Daily For Your Memory And Mood
In a study looking at how stress impacted the brains of mice, researchers found that stressed mice had high amounts of a protein called beta-amyloids in their brains. These proteins cause memory problems.
Other research has linked these beta-amyloids to Alzheimer’s. Avoiding stress may be one way to keep your brain healthy.
But, let’s face it, stress in life is unavoidable. So it’s especially important when you are a caregiver for a parent with Alzheimer’s that you find ways to de-stress.
- Take advantage of community support through online resources or phone help lines.
- Use relaxation techniques: breathing exercises, visualization and muscle relaxation.
- Take time to express yourself. Self-expression through music, art, writing, private dance or movement can all help.
- Find ways to leave your problems behind for a little while. That might be by taking a walk, going to a movie or watching funny videos of babies or pets. There are days when just a long shower or an early bedtime can be a big help.
- Use positive affirmations and self-encouragement to reduce stress.
- If you have faith, use it to find peace and comfort while you are caring for your loved one and taking steps to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
When The Stress Gets Too Much
Finally, it might help you to consider using respite care at the Heritage Senior Communities. Short-term breaks can do a lot to restore balance, energy, joy and hope.
My very best wishes to you and your family, Stacey.
Alzheimer’s Action Day on September 21st provides a chance for early stage patients, caregivers, and others to share stories that help to increase awareness and end the stigma of Alzheimer’s disease. It can also be a turning point for people who choose to become a community advocate.
Advocating for Adults with Alzheimer’s
Why should I advocate for the disease that I dislike and prefer not to think about?
A number of benefits can result from advocating for Alzheimer’s disease—whether you’re an early stage patient, a family member or friend.
- Establishing connections with other people, resources, and support systems
- Reducing the loneliness factor that is so common with the disease
- Providing opportunities to share your insights, experience and hope
- Enabling you to contribute to medical research
How can I fit community advocacy into my schedule?
- Start simple and set small goals. Caring for a loved one can take a huge amount of time and emotional energy, so set small goals. Even one hour a week might help you feel as if you are contributing.
- Reframe your viewpoint. Change your it’s-a-drain attitude to it’s-a-gain Your support and advocacy may actually recharge your batteries because you will be having meaningful conversations with other adults who have similar concerns and problems.
How can I start advocating in my community?
There are several steps you can take to become an advocate.
- Begin by talking about Alzheimer’s with coworkers, friends, church members, and others. That may provide a sense of satisfaction and social purpose.
- Read the facts and statistics about the disease. This will help you speak comfortably and knowledgably about the issues.
- Get involved with the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. You’ll meet people, find camaraderie, be inspired, and have an opportunity to participate in activities that increase empathy, self-esteem and self-care. All of this may help to heal some of the emotional wounds caused by Alzheimer’s.
- Use social media to connect with people from the comfort of your home.
- Brainstorm ways to increase attention about Alzheimer’s and other memory problems. Consider arranging a presentation at the local library or organizing regular meetings at a coffee shop.
- Connect with local politicians and learn about their position on medical research funding for Alzheimer’s. Encourage them to back bills and laws that increase financial support for the disease.
- Invite health care providers who specialize in Alzheimer’s to speak at local events and chamber meetings. Broaden the topic of the meeting to include other memory disorders and provide tip sheets, brain-healthy menus, and resource lists.
- Create newsworthy articles for your local media. Include your personal story along with seasonal topics, such as holiday planning or Alzheimer’s-friendly activities.
- Engage the help of business faculty members at a local college or SCORE counselors to solidify or strengthen your community action plans.
- Identify assets and financial resources for your advocacy work.
At Heritage Senior Communities, our staff members receive specialty training to help them provide the best possible care for residents with Alzheimer’s. Each team member in our memory care is an expert and an advocate.
Ask about having one of our dementia care experts speak at your local advocacy meeting or for resources that you can share with the other families.
The early stages of Alzheimer’s disease are known to cause memory problems. However, as the disease progresses, more symptoms develop. Your senior loved one may experience difficulty with routine daily tasks, communication skills, and appropriate social behavior.
A memory care community with specialized caregivers and a supportive environment may be a solution.
Coping with day-to-day living can be frustrating for someone in the intermediary and later stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Living in a nurturing, specialized environment created for people with dementia may help manage your senior loved one’s symptoms.
A safe, controlled environment may also help them to live a more independent lifestyle.
Finding the right memory care program can feel overwhelming. There are many factors to consider, including types of treatment, staff, and the campus itself.
To evaluate memory care, you’ll need a guide. Here are the important criteria to consider when you’re touring the various communities near you.
Memory Care Basics
- First, you’ll want to see the community’s inspection reports. These are based on surveys completed by the state the community is located in. Reviewing it can help alert you to any issues the state regulators found concerning. Or it can put your mind at ease that the community is well run.
- Next, ask about the philosophy of care. Does the community promote independence among people with memory loss? That’s important to ask because some researchers say maintaining a sense of independence for as long as is safely possible may help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
- What specialty programs are offered? Is there a separate life enrichment calendar with activities designed for people with memory loss? What about a supportive dining program?
- Plan to visit a variety of communities at different times of the day. Try to be there for a meal, too. Talk to staff and residents and even families if they are available.
Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a Memory Care Program
People who have dementia require specialized care which often incorporates special programs and techniques based on their needs. Making each day purposeful is a common goal, so ask to see a copy of the activity calendar for the month.
Your senior loved one’s unique needs should be addressed in a comprehensive care plan that includes various activities and therapies. For example, some memory care programs have adopted a person-centered approach to care. This approach focuses on the individual and not just their disease.
You’ll want to follow a full checklist of staff qualifications when it comes time to evaluate memory care programs. The Alzheimer’s Association maintains a very useful checklist on their website. It includes staff to resident ratio, training, and caring philosophy of the community staff.
When you visit, a community should leave you with the sense that staff and residents feel a mutual respect. Personal care should be carried out so that residents maintain their dignity. Residents should appear relaxed, well-kempt, and engaged.
Finally, meals should be held at regular times and offer appetizing food in a pleasant environment. Nutrition is very often an issue for people who have dementia so ask how that is monitored.
Staff should be encouraging during meals. In later stages of the disease, caregivers likely need to provide hands-on assistance with eating.
Help is Available
This is by no means an exhaustive list for evaluating memory care programs. Finding the right community takes time and lots of research. But with patience, you will be able to find a caring environment for your senior loved one.
Heritage Senior Communities can help you with the decision-making process involving your senior loved one. Our communities throughout Michigan and Indiana have memory care programs we call “The Terrace”.
Staff members who work in The Terrace programs are dedicated to serving the special needs of the residents through a philosophy of ‘person-centered care’. Our aim is to provide a safe environment where your senior loved one can thrive and experience increased quality of life.
Call us at your convenience to find out about our Specialized Dementia Care or to schedule a tour of one of our communities near you.