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.
I am searching for an assisted living community for my mother and I know it’s important to visit and take tours. However, I don’t just want to see the building and grounds. I want to be sure I come away from the tour having learned what I need to know.
The problem is I’m not sure what that is! How should I prepare? What questions should I ask? Help!!
-Sheila in Saginaw
Questions Families Must Ask on an Assisted Living Tour
You are definitely on the right track in wanting to ask good questions during your assisted living tour! Sounds like you just need a few questions to get going.
Assisted living tours are the best way for caregivers and their senior loved ones to get a feel for a particular community. Seeing the living spaces in person is important. But the real insight you’ll gain from your visit comes from the people you will meet.
Only from talking to the people who live and work at an assisted living community can you get a true sense of whether or not it is a good fit for a senior.
Questions to Ask When You’re On an Assisted Living Tour
You’re there to get a true picture of what it’s like to live in an assisted living community, so here are the three of the most important questions to ask.
- What services are available?
Some assisted living centers are stand-alone communities while others are part of a continuum of care. The additional levels of care at the community might include memory care, respite care, and independent living. Some families prefer this continuum of services so if their senior loved one’s needs change down the road, they won’t have to move again.
- What programs and activities are available?
Assisted living isn’t just about getting help with the tasks of daily living. It’s also about living a healthy lifestyle filled with enriching activities, programs, and events. So it is important to ask what sort of life enrichment activities and wellness programs there are each day. Also ask about special events and outings to local restaurants, parks and other attractions.
Another dimension to wellness is whether staff encourages residents to participate in programs and activities. You’ll want to talk to staff directly to learn more about the community’s wellness model and whether it includes personalized attention to case management.
- What staff members are on-site throughout the day (and night)?
The staff-to-resident ratio can vary from community to community, so this is an important area to investigate. Also, you’ll want to ask how many nurses are on hand at any given moment, and how often a doctor visits the community.
Don’t forget to ask about staff training and turnover, too. It’s usually a very strong indicator of the quality of care and services residents receive. If the staff is always coming and going, it’s going to be hard for them to get to know your senior loved one and their needs.
More Questions and a Checklist for Your Assisted Living Tour
The AARP maintains a comprehensive checklist for caregivers and their senior loved ones to use when they’re visiting assisted living communities. I’d recommend printing it out and using it before and during your tour.
Visit and Experience Heritage Senior Communities
At Heritage Senior Communities, we love visitors! We always encourage families to come for a tour, meet our staff and stay for lunch if you can.
There are Heritage Senior Communities located across the state of Michigan and in northern Indiana. Each offers a range of services, including assisted living care, independent senior living, dementia care, and short-term respite stays. Visit us online to find a Heritage community near you and schedule a tour.
I hope this helps, Sheila!
My father passed away about six months ago, and my mother seems to be struggling with loneliness. My parents always did everything together, from cooking meals to weekly yard work. Now that my dad is gone, my mom isn’t adjusting to single life as well as I’d hoped.
I know she’s still grieving for my dad, and that she misses him a lot. We all do. But I hate to see her spending more time in front of the TV, and less time out doing fun things that would make her happy. I’ve tried suggest that she get out and make new friends, but I don’t want to be pushy.
Do you have any suggestions for things I could try? I would love to get mom back into the social swing of things.
Kimberly in Lansing, Michigan
Thank you for your question. This is a dilemma that many older adults face when they lose a spouse or life partner. For many it feels like they’re starting their social lives over, which can be very daunting. Thankfully, there are lots of options available for jump starting a social life again.
Here are a few things you can suggest that may help your mother.
Helping a Parent Rebuild Their Social Circle
Reconnect with Old Friends
The internet offers wonderful opportunities for reconnecting with childhood friends and staying in town with loved ones near and far. There are several social media sites that would provide your mother with an easy way to find people she may have lost touch with years ago. Facebook is an especially popular social media channel for older adults to connect (and reconnect!) with friends and loved ones.
AARP notes that for adults who didn’t grow up in the ‘digital age,” technology can sometimes be frustrating. For aging loved ones who are hesitant to embrace the digital world, reconnecting with long-lost friends may be a great incentive to get started. If your mother seems reluctant, it may be that she’s not comfortable with her computer. Spending a little time showing her the ropes —including Facebook’s security and privacy settings — could help her get started.
Follow your Passions
Finding others who enjoy the same interests and hobbies is a great way to make new friends. You mentioned that your parents used to cook and do yard work together. Perhaps finding a local gardening club or a baking group would give her a chance to meet others with similar interests.
Ask your Mom if there’s something she’s always wanted to try, like wine tasting, photography or ceramics. Finding new things to try will provide opportunities to meet new people. Sometimes all a new friendship needs to blossom is a shared hobby.
Fitness with Friends
Exercise is critical to staying healthy, particularly as we age. The Mayo Clinic says that we naturally lose both muscle and strength as we age, which is why regular exercise is so important. But exercise is always more fun when you do it with friends!
If your mom doesn’t already have a regular exercise routine, you could suggest that she join a gym. If a gym membership isn’t in the budget, look into local walking clubs or classes offered at your local community center. Many offer a variety of inexpensive exercise classes, like:
- Water aerobics
- Tai Chi
- Gentle yoga
This would offer your mother the double benefit of both regular exercise, and a chance to meet new people.
Keep Other Needs in Mind
Be aware that your mom may still be coping with grief or even depression that can require more than just new friendships to move forward. Losing a beloved spouse is tough, and some seniors need more than just time to heal. If your mom is really struggling to find happiness in daily life, encourage her to talk to her doctor.
Also, daily home maintenance gets harder as we age. With the recent loss of your dad, your mom may be facing new challenges around the house. This could mean more work for her, and less time to socialize. I know it can be a very hard subject to discuss, but if your mom is having a hard time managing alone, it may be time to talk about senior living options in Michigan.
I wish you the best, and hope your mom is able to find fulfilling ways to meet people and make new friends.