Emergency Room Safety Tips for a Senior With Alzheimer’s

Emergency Room Safety Tips for a Senior With Alzheimer’s

An emergency room visit can be stressful for anyone, but especially for older adults with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Research even shows that hospital stays can be hazardous for adults with dementia.

Caregivers can make the experience easier on themselves and their loved ones by following a few helpful tips.


How to Navigate Emergency Room Visits for a Senior With Alzheimer’s


  1. Ask someone to come along.

Even if they have mild dementia, seniors should always bring another person with them to help explain symptoms to hospital staff and remember instructions. If you are the caregiver of a senior with more advanced Alzheimer’s, bring a second caregiver to divide up the responsibilities. Even if only one caregiver can be present, contact other family members to inform them of the situation.

  1. Be patient and comfort your loved one.

Hospitals can be confusing, frightening, and stressful. A familiar and comforting item from home, such as a pillow, photograph, or music player with headphones can help your loved one relax. Calmly and simply explain to them what is going on. Stay positive and reassuring.

  1. Tell providers your loved one has Alzheimer’s.

Let hospital staff know that your loved one has Alzheimer’s. Explain to them how your loved one prefers to communicate. This will help them better provide for their needs and reach a diagnosis.

  1. Know the symptoms.

Make sure you understand your loved one’s symptoms and can explain them to the hospital staff. Be prepared to explain them to different people multiple times. Let them know of any unusual behaviors or if symptoms start getting worse.

  1. Bring the right items.

The right paperwork can help an emergency room visit go more smoothly. Be sure you have the following:

  • Health insurance cards
  • List of current medications, allergies, medical conditions, and providers’ contact information
  • Copies of healthcare advance directives
  • Personal information sheet with your loved one’s preferred name and language, emergency contacts, need for assistance devices such as glasses or hearing aids, and living situation
  • Snacks and bottled water
  • Incontinence briefs, if needed, along with moist towelettes and plastic bags
  • A change of clothing and toiletries for any caregivers
  • Paper and pen for writing down information from hospital staff
  • Cell phone and charger

If possible, keep these items packed at home and easily accessible in case of additional emergencies.

  1. Ask questions.

Don’t be afraid to bring up any issues or concerns with hospital staff. Ask for clarification when needed. Write down all of the information each of their physicians and health care professionals share. Make sure you fully understand follow-up care.


Compassionate Memory Care


Seniors with memory loss, such as those with Alzheimer’s disease, often require special levels of care. At Heritage Senior Communities, we have several assisted living communities with dedicated memory care programs. Each one is focused on reducing stress and enhancing quality of life for residents. Contact us today to schedule a private tour.

Is There a Link Between High Cholesterol and Alzheimer’s Disease?

Is There a Link Between High Cholesterol and Alzheimer’s Disease?

For senior loved ones and their families, an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis can be devastating. There are many ways to help manage this disease, which affects memory and other parts of cognitive function. Because there is not yet a cure, it is understandable that older adults want to do what they can to reduce their Alzheimer’s risk.

Researchers are still learning about the disease. There is no single, definite cause, but scientists have uncovered several risk factors associated with the disease. This may include cholesterol levels.

Is There a Connection Between Cholesterol and Alzheimer’s Disease?

While some studies suggest a link between Alzheimer’s disease and high cholesterol, it is not a certainty. For example, the research has not yet shown whether high cholesterol leads to Alzheimer’s, or if this form of dementia can actually cause higher cholesterol. Other research has found no connection at all between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s.

One 2011 study published in the academic journal Neurology found that people with high cholesterol levels had more brain plaques compared to people with normal or lower cholesterol levels. Brain plaques, or accumulation of the protein amyloid, are considered a trademark sign of Alzheimer’s.

Another study published in 2017, however, found no connection between high cholesterol and increased risk of Alzheimer’s. The research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also found no association in people who carry the APOE4 gene variant. This variant has been connected to cholesterol metabolism and a risk of memory disorders.

What to Do About Cholesterol

The mere presence of cholesterol is not a health threat. In fact, people cannot live without cholesterol. It is important for the development of cell membranes, hormones like testosterone and estrogen, and the bile acids used for digestion.

However, high levels of a certain type of cholesterol (LDL cholesterol) can be harmful. LDL cholesterol has been linked to health risks like heart attack and stroke.

Many lifestyle factors can help reduce LDL cholesterol:

Genetics may make some people more likely to develop high cholesterol. If diet and exercise do not resolve high LDL cholesterol, your doctor may prescribe medication.

How to Reduce Alzheimer’s Disease Risk

A lot of advice for healthy cholesterol also applies to Alzheimer’s risk, including physical activity and consuming a diet full of lean protein, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. Here are some other ways you can reduce Alzheimer’s risk factors:

  • Quit smoking
  • Get your blood pressure under control
  • Reduce risks of falling in the home
  • Get enough sleep at night
  • Engage in mental activities by taking classes, reading, or learning a new hobby or skill
  • Nurture friendships and stay socially connected

Heritage Encourages Both Mental and Physical Health

The caring staff at Heritage Senior Communities provides enriching experiences for residents, including wellness programs and optional dining services. We also offer specialized dementia care for residents with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Contact us today for questions or a tour.

5 Statistics About Men and Dementia

5 Statistics About Men and Dementia

Age-related dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease, consists of a group of symptoms related to memory and thought. Common symptoms include difficulty with short-term memory, mood changes, aggression, and confusion.

While both men and women can develop dementia, the condition appears to affect women more often. However, research continues to uncover new information about how dementia affects older men.

Here are 5 statistics that provide important insight about dementia in men.

  1. Dementia risk actually may be equal between men and women.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, many studies have found no significant difference in the proportion of women and men who develop some form of dementia at any given age. Dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s disease, appears to be more prevalent among women. However, this may be due to a variety of factors, including life expectancy and overall health later in life.

  1. Men tend to have different dementia symptoms.

Each individual with dementia may demonstrate varying degrees of different symptoms. One study of 1,600 individuals found that men with dementia tended to have less common symptoms, possibly leading to fewer men being diagnosed with dementia.

The study found that men were less likely to show damage to the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory. However, men were more likely to demonstrate aphasia, a condition related to language problems. They also showed more corticobasal degeneration, which can cause movement problems.

  1. Men with better cardiovascular health may be less likely to develop dementia.

One study points out that middle-aged men have a higher risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to middle-aged women. Because of this, men who live to be older than 65 may be more heart healthy overall, lowering their risk of dementia compared to similarly aged women.

Because of this “survival bias,” the men who are included in studies of older adults tend to be healthier. Therefore, they may be at lower risk of developing dementia than the men who had already died of cardiovascular disease at an earlier age.

  1. Dementia symptoms progress more slowly in men.

In a Duke University Medical Center study, cognitive abilities of females with dementia declined twice as fast as those of males over an eight-year study.

The slower decline may lead to fewer men being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia until much later in life.

  1. Some genetic risk factors may be less harmful for men.

The same Duke University study noted that the difference in dementia progression among men and women was even stronger among participants who had the APOE-e4 genotype.

Studies have already connected this particular genetic variation to Alzheimer’s risk. Scientists are not yet sure why it may be a stronger risk factor for women, but it may be because of how the genotype interacts with estrogen.

Caring for a Loved One with Dementia?

Heritage Senior Communities offer specialized dementia care to provide for the needs of individuals with memory impairments. Contact us with any questions about dementia care or to schedule a tour.

Do Food Choices Impact Your Alzheimer’s Risk?

Do Food Choices Impact Your Alzheimer’s Risk?

Researchers have already found links between diet and health problems like cardiovascular disease and cancer. Now, evidence suggests that some food choices can influence a person’s risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

The American Academy of Neurology and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine estimate that there could be 13.8 million people with Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2050.

How could dietary changes help efforts to prevent the growth of Alzheimer’s disease?

How Diet Might Impact Your Alzheimer’s Risk

The MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet may help reduce Alzheimer’s risk, researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found. This diet combines Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and the heart-friendly Mediterranean diet. Study results indicate that this combined diet may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

In the study, more than 900 people aged 58 to 98 filled out food questionnaires and received neurological testing. The volunteers who most closely followed the MIND diet had cognitive function similar to a person 7.5 years younger than themselves.

What Foods Make Up the MIND Diet?

Here are the major foods that this diet includes:

  • Plenty of whole grains (brown rice, whole wheat, or oatmeal) daily
  • Green leafy vegetables nearly every day
  • Other vegetables every day
  • Two servings of berries weekly
  • Limited red meat intake
  • Fish and poultry as the main source of meat
  • At least three servings of beans weekly
  • Five servings of nuts weekly
  • Olive oil as the primary cooking oil

The MIND diet encourages moderate alcohol consumption, limited to one glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage daily.

Foods that should be consumed only rarely include sweets, pastries, cheese, red meat, butter, and anything fried.

Small, Incremental Dietary Changes to Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk

The study found that even moderately following the MIND diet could have a positive impact on the risk of Alzheimer’s.

This means that the MIND diet does not require an “all or nothing” approach, or making many big changes all at once.

Instead, you might start by gradually making a few small changes to your eating habits.

  • If you tend to consume a lot of sweets, start cutting back.
  • Snack on fruit, nuts, and vegetables instead of chips or cookies. This will help increase consumption of healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
  • Use brown rice instead of white, and whole-wheat bread in sandwiches.
  • Exchange butter for olive oil.
  • Have salads for lunch, including a wide variety of vegetables.
  • Try turkey or veggie burgers instead of hamburgers.
  • Choose foods stir-fried in olive oil instead of fried foods.

Help Senior Loved Ones Follow a Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

Although diet is an important part of good health, it is not a guarantee against Alzheimer’s. Keep your brain healthy with a combination of clean eating, physical exercise, social support, regular checkups, and learning.

Heritage Senior Communities provide healthy, balanced meal options that help seniors stay healthy. Contact us to learn more about our residences, including new locations in Saline and Holland, Michigan.

The Benefits of Pet Therapy for Adults with Dementia

The Benefits of Pet Therapy for Adults with Dementia

Animals can help people of all ages reduce stress and improve their overall quality of life, and adults with dementia are no exception.

Whether you’re looking for a pet or a trained service animal for a loved one with dementia, here’s what you should know.

What are the benefits of pet therapy for adults with dementia?

Advantages of Pets for People with Dementia

Playing with or caring for an animal has many advantages:

  • Lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Increased levels of the “feel-good” hormone serotonin
  • Reduced anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure and heart rate
  • Improved social skills
  • Increased mental stimulation, including memory recall in people with dementia

Caring for a pet, and even just an occasional visit with a service animal, also may help prevent feelings of isolation or lack of purpose. Depending on the type of interaction with the animal, pet therapy also could encourage physical activity, such as playing with a cat or throwing a ball for a dog.

Pet therapy can help caregivers as well. Friends and family who join in have also reported feeling better afterward.

How to Start Pet Therapy for an Adult with Dementia

Seniors who live independently or have only mild dementia might keep their own pet, although caregivers should discuss this with their loved one’s doctor. Dogs, cats, and rabbits are some of the most common types of animals used in pet therapy.

Depending on your senior loved one’s needs, a trained service dog may be helpful. The Daily Treat blog offers a list of organizations that provide service dogs based on the person’s needs.

If your loved one cannot keep a pet but you would like to find an organization to help provide pet therapy, the Alzheimer’s Association blog has a list of resources to help you get started.

Introducing Pets to Patients with Dementia

If you are a caregiver with a pet, your senior loved one can gain physical and mental benefits from your own furry friend.

Elder loved ones should only be introduced to calm, well-behaved, healthy animals. Your pet should be up-to-date on all shots and exams and free of parasites. If possible, make sure the pet has had a bathroom break before the visit to avoid unsanitary accidents.

If you want to bring a pet into a senior residence, be sure to check with an administrator regarding any rules about animals.

If meeting a living animal is impossible or impractical, your senior loved one may also get some of the same health benefits from a stuffed animal. While this seems counterintuitive, anecdotal evidence suggests that a stuffed animal can provide comfort to people with dementia, remind them of a former pet, and give them a new way to interact with caregivers.

Pet Therapy Has Many Benefits

If you are caring for an elder loved one with dementia, consider pet therapy to help them improve their memory, stress levels, and general wellbeing.

Heritage Senior Communities are pet friendly too! Contact us to learn more about our pet policies for residents.

Tips for Dining Out When a Loved One has Dementia

Tips for Dining Out When a Loved One has Dementia

Seniors with dementia can benefit from occasional social outings, including dining out at a local restaurant. The right preparation will help you and your loved one have an enjoyable experience.


Dining Out With a Senior Who Has Dementia

 Give the following suggestions a try to help your whole family enjoy dining out together.

Choose someplace familiar and accessible.

Visit a familiar restaurant that serves meals your loved one likes and finds easy to eat.

If your family member requires help in the restroom, choose a restaurant with convenient bathrooms. If your loved one is prone to anxiety and needs to feel sheltered, seek out a restaurant with booths that offer more privacy

Eat at a time that coincides with your loved one’s normal meal schedule, and avoid hours when their dementia symptoms are usually worse.

Create an emergency kit.

It is better to be too prepared than to be caught by surprise, so make a checklist of things to do and bring when going out to eat. Here are a few ideas:

  • Make sure your cell phone is fully charged.
  • Bring insurance papers, emergency contacts, and medication lists. It may sound excessive, but it can be a relief in an emergency.
  • Consider a change of clothes in case your loved one has an accident in the bathroom, spills food, or just gets cold.

Alert the restaurant staff to your loved one’s needs.

If you go out regularly with your loved one, it may help to print up small cards with information that you can give to staff at restaurants and shops you visit. It can be as simple as, “My loved one has dementia and may behave in unexpected ways. Thank you for your understanding.”

Calling the restaurant ahead of time for special accommodations, such as a particular table or dietary needs, is also helpful.

Understand what their behavior means.

If your loved one becomes agitated, your first instinct may be to take them home immediately. This may not be necessary once you understand the behavior.

Many individuals with dementia ask to “go home”–even if they are home. Ask your loved one why they have to go home. They may need the comfort of home, or think they have to do chores. Don’t try to argue; instead, offer them reassurance, and try to redirect their attention.

Seniors with dementia are prone to wandering for many reasons. Your loved one may be confused by the unfamiliar environment. They may be trying to ease pain or discomfort. Stay beside them at all times when you are out of the house.

Need extra help?

If visiting restaurants is no longer an option for your loved one and you are struggling to manage their care on your own, it might be time to consider a memory care program.

Specialized dementia care programs, such as those at Heritage Senior Communities, allow adults with dementia to live their best quality of life. Residents of our dementia care programs participate in guided life enrichment activities and wellness events designed to help them feel independent and empowered.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can provide your loved one with quality care, while giving you peace of mind.