Being Santa for Seniors

It’s a bit surreal to think we are already bracing for another Black Friday!  Now some of us might be scouring the Internet for the best cyber deals or some are still pinning DIYs to our Pinterest boards.  But when it comes to being Santa to the seniors in our life, we have a gift giving guide to help save the day!

Picture This!

When I visit the rooms of most residents, the things that they typically want tophotoalbum-elderly share aren’t THINGS…they are photos or mementos from loved ones.  So, take a little time and put together that scrapbook.  Or for those that are more computer savvy, an online photobook that you design and print is always a hit!  Even a picture book that gives a family tree type storyline is a great idea!  Another way to share snapshots is through the calendars that feature family members for every month of the year.  You can find great sites to create these items online.  These are treasures that residents love to receive and share.

Warm and Soothing

fuzzy-socksAs you probably already know, most elderly people like to stay warm.  So, any type of crocheted blanket or even store bought throw is always well received.  Other items that seniors love to have are those cozy socks with rubber gripped soles.  Those are both warm and help protect against falls!  You do want to stay away from electric blankets and personal heaters as these items can be unsafe and/or violate state regulations.

 

A Group Effort

One thing that I have seen a trend in recently is when families/groups decide they want to
do something for the entire community.  Many assisted living communities are relatively santa-kisssmall and they become a very tight knit group.  So, families, volunteers or church groups will ask what is something they can do for everyone.  I say talk to your Administrator.  They can talk to the residents and let them decide.  The residents may want seasonal plants for the porch, a new set of puzzles, large print books or even a pizza party!  I even know of one group that got a Karaoke Machine!  I think that is great!  If you decide to do a group approach and want to do food or treats, remember that you need to remember there may be diabetics so you may want to go for sugar-free items.

Wrapping It Up

In a season of giving it is always more of a blessing to give than receive.  Time can be the most precious and hard to find commodity.  But when you can…stop by.  Bring the young ones when they are out of school.  Join us for an activity.  The residents are so appreciative of everything.  I have seen it live and in living color.  In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, stop in and say hello.  The gift you will receive in return will be priceless.

 

Advertisements

Thankful

November is typically the month where we stop and give thanks.  This year in our community we have a Thankful Tree.  Thanks to the talent and creativity of my staff members, this beautiful notion has come to life.  But the real beauty that you will find are the comments that are attached to the branches of this tree.  Residents and staff have given thanks for everything from health and happiness to family and friendship.  So, as our hearts and minds turn to the holiday season, here are some suggestions to help you prepare for those times we treasure the most.  Thinking ahead will make you thankful you did when it comes to sharing the holidays with your loved one that lives in an assisted living.

Stick to the Schedule

I have had families tell me time and time again that they were amazed that their parent was ready to go back home (to their ALF community) almost immediately after Thanksgiving or Christmas lunch or supper was over.  While they were surprised, in many ways it was comforting for them.  They realize that their loved one had made their community their home.  I am reminded of my own Granddaddy.  He was a man of routine.  He didn’t vary much from his schedule.  That is what I remind the families of our residents.  They have the tendency in some cases to become creatures of habit.  Trust me…they like a decent dose of predictability.  Don’t believe me?  Try canceling bingo!  But just try and be as flexible as possible with their expectations.  Plan ahead when it comes to medications and other necessities.  If you are prepared in advance it will be more Norman Rockwell and less National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.

Don’t forget to Include Me!

Does Mom have a recipe for everyone’s favorite Caramel Cake?  Does Grandpa have a story that he loves to tell?  If you have ever had to suffer the loss of a loved one, you know that things like this will one day become a treasured memory.  If Mom is able, include her in some of the preparation process for the meal.  Or even just ask her advice.  Everyone likes to feel included.  Maybe you have heard Grandpa Pete’s story about his days in the war a hundred times.  Maybe this year is the time to write it down.  In our culture, we get so caught up in being in a hurry.  Heaven knows we all can be glued to electronics.  Take time to turn off and tune in to loved ones.  Your conversations will be priceless to you one day.

Conversation Starters

While the holidays can be a time for sadness for some, it is best to keep conversation light.  But many forget that while seniors may be older, they still like to engage.  We all love looking at pictures on our social media accounts, right?  Share with your elderly loved one the photos from the high school playoffs or the trip to the pumpkin patch.  The pictures can be made large enough for their viewing on most devices.  You may even want to let everyone in your family go around the room and tell what they are thankful for.  You may find as we did with our Thankful Tree that what you hear will bless you more than you ever imagined.

Great Oaks Management communities will observe holiday meals during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  If you would like to join your loved one for a meal, call and make your reservation today. 

Eyes (and Ears) on the Prize

School bells are ringing and many children are headed back to class.  But before they break out those new No. 2 pencils, they probably had to have some health checkups.   You are one smart cookie if you know that this is also a good time to get those checkups done for your senior!   No not your son or daughter who plays Varsity sports!  Rather your elderly parent who is planning a move to an assisted living community.

Now you may already know that part of the process to gain admission to an ALF is to have a physical examination completed by your primary care physician.   During this visit the doctor (among other things) will complete the facility paperwork with the potential resident moving to assisted living and in most cases coordinate with the family member to discuss the best care plan to have put into place.   This ensures that the assisted living staff knows the diagnoses, that the resident is free from communicable diseases, etc.  However, I have seen several family members go a step further to make sure that their loved one is set up for success for the transition to assisted living.  And going that extra mile makes a huge difference in most cases.

So what are those extra steps?  It’s as simple as ensuring that your loved ones can see and hear as best as possible.  It is very important thing to talk with them about the importance of their eyesight and their hearing during this time.  As studies show, one half of people age 85 or older have hearing loss.  Also when compared to Americans 18 to 44 years of age, Americans 75 years of age and over are nearly three times as likely to report vision loss.   Therefore it is of utmost importance that they are regularly checked out.  However…you would be surprised how many residents come into assisted living with the same pair of old glasses they were prescribed years ago.  And what did you say???  Their hearing hasn’t been checked in ages.   Say what??  I said THEIR HEARING HASN’T BEEN CHECKED IN AGES!!!  Whew…you get the point.  I have seen residents that shy away from the dinner table because they can’t hear well.  Why you ask?  Well,  if your table mates are trying to talk to you and you are having trouble hearing… this can be cause for confusion and (sadly as I have seen this happen before) embarrassment.  And the reality is in some cases, hearing can be helped by hearing aids or simple wax removal.

Eyesight is super important in the transition as well.  Moving to a new place means maneuvering around a new area.  If you can’t see this can be scary and the recipe for a fall!  So be sure to have Mom’s eyes checked out to be sure her glasses are still the right prescription.  The ALF should care plan any vision issues as to ensure the safest environment as possible.

Sure you are still going to have sight impaired and hearing impaired individuals in assisted living communities.  That’s a no brainer!  Sometimes there is absolutely nothing that can be done for hearing or sight issues and that is okay!  Assisted living staff members are trained on caring for folks with these issues and have ongoing in-services to cater to their needs.  But just as you wouldn’t send Johnny off to school without his supplies…be sure your loved one is ready for the transition to their new community and get their eyes and ears checked out!  That way they can keep their eyes (and ears) on the prize.

Getting There – Renting in Retirement

So you find yourself in the unfamiliar waters of helping your aging loved one find a new space to call home.  Before you feel the need to jump ship-take heart!  There are many PROVEN benefits to charting the course towards the move to an assisted living community.

The first step in helping your family member tip their toe into the water is reminding them of the commitment.  Based on the reality of the service that is being provided in assisted living, it doesn’t make sense for communities to require long term commitments.  This is miles apart from sending the kids off to college.  So that means you are not talking six month or year long leases.  Don’t get me wrong it’s not uncommon for someone to live in a community for a long time.   We have had residents live in our properties for 10-15 years.  But the beauty of our assisted living contracts is that they offer the option of a 30 day notice.  Now that’s enough to make everyone breathe a sigh of relief. Taking away the anxiety of “buyers remorse” helps you and your loved one feel much easier about the reality of making the transition to an assisted living community and sets the course for smoother sailing.  It also opens the door to the discussion of the possibility of what day to day life can look like for Mom or Dad in a community.   Setting the course towards the goal of getting there now becomes more approachable and less daunting.

Ways to Have “The Talk” With Your Loved One

Are you currently trying to figure out the best way to have a difficult conversation with your parent or loved one?  Is it about giving up driving, selling the house, moving to an assisted living, or maybe hiring a nurse/help?  Whatever the conversation is, our friends over at Caring.com have come up with some great “best practices” for opening up a dialogue concerning difficult topics with an aging parent or loved one.

“Start by realizing that there are fundamentally two different types of parents,” says Caring.com senior medical editor Ken Robbins, a geriatric psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Those with whom you have a relationship in which you can be straightforward and they welcome your ideas and feedback, and those who tend to be more self-conscious or private and don’t welcome this kind of discussion — and may even find it somewhat insulting.”

Even if, in the past, your parent was sharing and receptive, this can change due to aging-related issues such as depression, creeping dementia, lowered self-esteem, or other frustrations. On the other hand, a close-lipped parent may be relieved to talk because he or she is worried, too.

What to say about sensitive subjects can also be tricky because you have different goals. Geriatric communication expert David Solie, author of How to Say It to Seniors, notes that adult children want to solve the problem and move on. Their parents, however, want foremost to maintain a sense of control and dignity in a season marked by many losses. Your goal in how to have “the talk”: Balance both sides’ needs by moving forward slowly and with care.

Do some homework

Before you say a word, take time to collect some information and research possible solutions, Robbins says. Ultimately, the goal is to problem-solve together through a dialogue with your parent (not to dictate the solution or to convince through arguments). But if you gather facts first, you’ll be able to help in a way that’s better informed and less stressful for everyone.

  • Moving/Assisted Living
    Check out a few places on your own so you have concrete examples to talk about. “In general, most people have more difficulty with abstract conversations about assisted living,” Robbins notes. If you live in a different city, you can read reviews about options and make appointments to check them out when you’re there, or consult a local geriatric care managerto get recommendations. Don’t think of it as being “sneaky” — it can be less anxiety-provoking for your parent if you present winnowed options. You can always go through the whole list of choices together if he or she prefers.
  • In-home care
    Closely observe what activities your parent is having trouble with. Look around the house for concrete signs he or she may not be faring well independently. Start to research sources of in-home care help and costs.
  • Driving
    Watch your parent drive, looking for signs of an unsafe driver. Research the alternatetransportation services in your parent’s area or explore other ways he or she might get aroundif there’s no personal car.
  • Health issues
    Observe what specific kinds of limitations you’re seeing: Trouble climbing stairs? Cooking? Managing finances? Grooming? Thinking in terms of specifics helps you figure out the best solutions, as well as be able to describe the problem accurately to your doctor (and your parent).

 

Test the waters

Also before you start the conversation, take time to get a sense of whether your parent is open to it. You can do this by first introducing an unthreatening related topic — by phone before a visit or, if you see your parent often, in a separate visit. This isn’t yet the time for hot-button topics, criticism, or anything contentious.

Stick to the positive and general. Does he or she respond openly? Defensively? Evasively? This will give you important insight into how to proceed.

Say something like:

  • “How’s the house? It must be hard to keep this place in good shape.”
  • “How’s your health? What’s the doctor saying these days?”
  • “How’s the car? Still driving to the city every weekend?”

If your parent sounds interested, say something like:

  • “Is there some way I can be helpful?”
  • “Yes, I can see why that would bother you. Let’s talk about it more when I see you.”

Even if, in a test-the-waters chat, your parent sounds receptive to discussing a tough issue, it’s usually best not to plunge in yet, Robbins says. In this first talk, you just want to float the issue, not problem-solve. You want to show in a respectful way that you can be a helpful, nonjudgmental resource.

If he or she asks you, “What should I do?” say something like:

  • “I’ll be there soon; let’s work on it together then.”
  • “What are you thinking? Give me some time to think about that, too.”

What not to say:

  • “Yup, that’s a problem. I’m going to do X and Y to take care of that for you.”
  • “Sounds like it’s finally time to move to an assisted living place.”
  • “You sound mixed up; I’m going to call your doctor.”

 

Choose the best messenger

What if your parent resists any talk about his or her future? Pause to consider whether this conversation is best had by another party. Robbins says that a neutral third party — a doctor, a family friend, a cleric — is often better suited to bring up tricky topics like driving or whether to live independently.

These people can lay the same groundwork, explaining what seems to be wrong and suggesting options for fixing it, without risking a strained relationship in the way an adult child does when a parent is especially resistant or feels manipulated.

Set the right tone

So you’ve done some homework and gotten a sense of how ready (or indifferent) your parent is. How do you take the plunge? Plan to start the conversation on a different day from your test-the-waters chat, in person if possible. This feels less threatening and overbearing, and more natural.

“Don’t get critical the minute you walk in the door. Focus on connecting and having fun,” Robbins says, “while also using this time to observe.” You may be on a mission to resolve the problem, but you’ll have a more ready audience if you first take the time to enjoy one another’s company before diving in.

Try opening with compliments — say something like:

  • “I like how you’ve . . . “
  • “Wow, looks like . . . “

 

Look for an opening

The best time to segue into a serious conversation is when your parent brings it up first and asks for your help. Failing that, look for an opportunity when everyone is relaxed. Then take the plunge. Describe what you’re seeing.

If a direct approach feels welcome, say something like:

  • “I see the steps are a problem for you and you almost fell this morning. Is that happening a lot?”
  • “It looks like you’re having trouble getting off the couch, and you seem a little lonely and mixed up when you’re tired. You know they say that people do a lot better where there’s a lot of activity going on, and things to enjoy.”
  • “Mom said you got another ticket, and I noticed the rear fender of the car is bent again. What do you think is going on?”

If an indirect approach feels better, say something like:

  • “I read about this man in the paper who lost control of his car and killed some kids on the sidewalk. He was about your age. It made me think we should consider what’s in your best interests with the car now.”
  • “Lauren’s parents just sold their house on Elm Street and moved to a retirement community — you should have heard her mom rave about not having to do any more yard work.”
  • “Remember Jack, my friend who became a doctor? He told me that his whole family has living wills and I’m thinking we should all do that, too.”

What not to say:

  • “The house was a mess last time I was there. You need a housekeeper.”
  • “Mom, Dad looks awful! We need to go to the doctor when I get there, because you obviously are having trouble looking after him.”
  • “When are you going to give up driving? I heard you had another accident.”

 

Listen and Follow Your Parent’s Cues

Use reflexive listening, an effective communication technique for difficult conversations. Rephrase what your parent says, as a way of playing back that you understand — making your parent feel supported — and then move the conversation forward.

Say something like:

  • “I hear you saying . . . but it’s also worth thinking about this. . . .”
  • “Yes, I agree that . . . on the other hand. . . .”
  • “I know you’re really worried about. . . . Me, too — but if X doesn’t happen. . . .”
  • “That sounds upsetting for you. . . . Have you thought about. . . ?”

Realize that some older adults can’t articulate the real issue. They may shy from change, perhaps because they fear what it would be like or they lack the energy to deal with it. Often they avoid making a change not because of their own preferences but because they worry about upsetting someone else.

If she’s anxious, say something like:

  • “You’re right that moving is a huge hassle. But we’ll help you sort and pack and you won’t have to do much. We’ll set up your new bedroom to look just like this one.”
  • “I know we’ve always spent the holidays in this house, but we’d love to have Thanksgiving at our house this year. You can still make your special pies there without having to worry about all the getting ready or cleaning up.”
  • “You may call them ugly old grab bars, and that’s what they used to be. But I was reading howuniversal design is really trendy, attractive home design right now.”

Find ways to be reassuring, talk up the positives, or stress how the solution is good for everyone.

If she’s resistant, say something like:

  • “Bob says he’ll pick you up for Breakfast Club every morning so you won’t have to miss it, and I’ll get your groceries.”
  • “Let’s make a list of pros and cons.”

To help with resistance, focus on the solution. Or, look for the underlying cause. Some people push back for a specific unmentioned reason, which may be emotional, physical, or cognitive. Maybe Dad doesn’t want to talk about moving because he thinks he can’t afford it. Maybe Mom lacks the cognitive ability to realize she can’t live alone. If the person is very resistant, “the most successful person to have the conversation is not usually the adult child,” Robbins says. A family friend or doctor may have better luck.

If she’s interested or agreeable, say something like:

  • “What would it mean to you if you stopped driving/had someone to cook meals/moved?”
  • “What would be the most difficult thing about. . . ?”
  • “Let’s make a list of what you can do about this.”
  • “Let’s think through the pros and cons of each situation.”
  • “Why don’t you try doing X for a couple of months and see how it works for you?”

The goal is to encourage more input and to keep the discussion positive and collaborative.

If you want a parent to consider an assisted living option, Robbins says that with some people, one option is to casually drive by the best place you’ve identified through prior research, and suggest dropping in together to have a look. Better yet if you have a logical pretext — visiting a friend’s parent, stopping to see a “friend” who works there, participating in an activity or meal you’ve prearranged. Make sure it’s a place you’ve prescreened so that you’re pretty sure your parent will find things to like.

Even if there’s not much choice, lay out the options and their pros and cons, strategize solutions to the biggest problems, and let your parent draw his or her own conclusion (assuming dementia is not an issue).

Follow Up

Let it percolate awhile

Whatever you do, don’t launch an aggressive “sell” on your favorite option the minute you get back home or the next time you talk. Don’t push for making a decision right away. Try not even to hint or nag at first.

What not to say:

  • “I hope you’ve been thinking about our idea of bringing in some help.”
  • “So, selling your car — have you done anything about it yet?”
  • “Wasn’t that place we saw nice? We need to get you out of here!”

 

Be ready to continue the conversation at any time

If your parent mentions the conversation at all, use this as a wedge to revisit the matter in a supportive way.

If he or she offers something positive, say something like:

  • “Yes, I could see you being happy there. What do you think it would be like to live there? Let’s think about what we’d have to do to make that happen — I can help.”

If he or she expresses a concern:

Take it as a positive sign that he or she is at least aware of the issue and thinking about it. Go over the facts as well as the solutions again in a nonthreatening way.

If he or she says something negative:

Don’t fall into an argument. Be patient and try to get at the underlying concern. Is it fear of running out of money? Is it a feeling that admitting help is necessary is also admitting failure of some kind? Look for ways to address and support the concern. Maybe you give a weekly cleaning service as a Mother’s Day gift “because I don’t know what else to get you and you deserve to be treated like a queen,” for example.

Test the waters (again)

After some time passes, if your loved one doesn’t give you an opening, you can try bringing up the issue again in a test-the-waters way.

Say something like:

  • “How’s the car?”
  • “What did the doctor say?”

 

Know when to bring in help

Total resistance means it’s time for a third party (not the adult child) to try, Robbins says. “This conversation may need to be more direct,” he says. “It may have to include a discussion of the risks and the possibility that if they don’t voluntarily yield, say, their driver’s license or residence — there is a risk that others will take over because of the dangers involved, and then they may have less say in what comes next. They can be told it’s better to work on it voluntarily with someone who loves them and only wants to help them get what they need.”

If the issue is critical and the person still won’t make a safe choice, it may be time to get a family doctor and lawyer involved to evaluate competency and, if appropriate, activate a power of attorney or appoint a guardian who can make safe choices on the person’s behalf. See How to Make Difficult Decisions When Your Loved One’s Mental Capacity Is Failing.

Make it clear that you’re comfortable with any decision

If your parent is of sound mind but just making decisions that you disagree with (not endangering ones), all you can do is continue the conversation in a positive way. Any choices are ultimately his or hers. You may not like the choice, or you may end up needing to revisit the matter later, but you can’t make the decisions for him or her in that case.

What you can do, Robbins says, is to remain upbeat and supportive, even if you’re frustrated or worried. This keeps you a welcome sounding board as your parent moves, however slowly, toward resolution.

Remember that transitions involve an ongoing dialogue. Difficult as that first conversation about a sensitive topic is, it’s only the first of many you’re likely to have as you strategize your way toward a solution that everyone can feel better about.

For more useful information like this and more, visit us at GreatOaksManagement.com and check out our “Education” tab!

Celebrating Mothers

Mother’s Day is a celebration honoring our mothers, the special bonds we have with our mothers and the influence that mothers have in our society.  The celebration of Mother’s Day began in the United States in the early 20th century and has grown over time.  In 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation creating Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers.

We celebrate our mothers with cards, flowers and perhaps a trip out to lunch. This year, take make some extra effort to make the day special for your mom.  Here are some ideas to make this year’s celebration one to remember:

  • Make it a whole day event. Plan out the day with several fun activities that are things that your mom loves to do, but wouldn’t make the time to do herself.
  • Gather the generations together to celebrate. If you love in close proximity to your mom and other female relatives, get everyone together to celebrate.  If you don’t live nearby, do an online group video call or group telephone call with all the special women in your family.
  • Take pictures and share them. In today’s world of social media and cell phone cameras, we don’t take the time to share all those pictures we snap on our cell phone.  Make a collage of all the great pictures taken this day and share with everyone.
  • Make a point to tell your mom how she has influenced your life. We all tell our moms we love them, but letting your mom know how she has positively influenced your life and the person you have become is a priceless gift.

So start planning now put your thinking cap on and come up with special ideas of your own.  Make Mother’s Day 2016 one to remember for both your mom and you.

Healthy Aging: What can I control?

As we look to the future and think about getting older, one of the common concerns is that we all want to be healthy as we enter our senior years.  Some of us come from a long line of ancestors who live a long time and have very few health problems.  Others have ancestors who tend to have chronic health issues and while they live a long time, are challenged with maintaining good health later in life.  What can I do if I didn’t hit the genetic lottery?  How can I take action today to improve my chances of being healthy and active as I age?

Take a good look at the lifestyles of your ancestors.  Some of us think we inherited a strong history of heart disease, but when we look closely we see a strong history of lifestyle behaviors that contributed to the heart disease like smoking, obesity, and an inactive life style.  Lifestyle is a big factor in accounting for our likelihood of having chronic health issues as we get older.  Taking some basic steps today can help you overcome some of your genetic history.  Below is a list of ideas to help you control what you can to increase your chances for an active healthy life as you age:

  1. Don’t smoke, if you do smoke, quit.
  2. Exercise, even walking 3 or more times per week helps improve y our overall health.
  3. Eat a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
  4. Drink water; try to limit sodas and soft drinks.
  5. If you drink, do so in moderation.
  6. Stay active and engaged with friends, social support helps our mental health.
  7. Keep your mind active and challenged. Read, do puzzles, take up a new hobby, play cards or games.

While we can’t change our genetic makeup, how we live our lives can have a big impact on how we age and whether we develop chronic diseases.  Get busy and take control of your future!

For more information, visit GreatOaksManagement.com!

Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor’s Appointment: How to Prepare for Your Visit

In today’s healthcare climate, we often find the time that our physicians are able to spend with us during our visits are short and can feel rushed.  There are things we can do to make the most of our time with our physician and that will help our physician in working with us to plan our care.  Below is a list of 5 things to do to prepare for next physician appointment:

  1. In preparing for our visit, gather any information from visits to other healthcare providers since our last visit with our primary care physician. Any test results, reports or other paperwork is important to share with your primary care physician.
  2. All prescription medications, in their original bottle should be brought to each physician visit. Point out any new medications that may have been prescribed by another healthcare provider so your physician can add it to your record.
  3. A list of all over the counter medications, vitamins, herbs or other supplements you are taking.
  4. A list of any new health problems you are having or questions. We often get into the physician office and completely forget to tell our provider about new health problems.
  5. Ask questions. If your physician discusses something that isn’t clear or sounds confusing, ask questions or ask for more information.

Our physicians are our partner in helping us improve or maintain our health.  It is important that we share information that our physician needs to have a full picture of our needs and any medications or supplements we are taking.  Writing down our questions before the visit will help us remember the things we are concerned about and will make sure our physician has a chance to address our questions.  Preparing in advance will help make the most of our time with our physician.

 

For more information, visit GreatOaksManagement.com!

Mom Is Forgetting Things, Could She Have Dementia?

328c1ff132e191b0e442004c2a1f79f9-cover

Everyone is forgetful from time to time especially when it comes to things like remembering where we put the car keys or forgetting to pick up something at the grocery store.  Adults over 65 say they are more forgetful than when they were younger, sometimes having a “senior moment” when they forget something.

Occasional forgetfulness is different than dementia and as our parents age, sometimes we wonderful is the forgetfulness we see is a part of the natural aging process or the beginning of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  As the child of a senior adult, how will I know the difference?

Research has shown that the early warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may begin to occur years before our parents get the diagnosis, sometimes as much as 10-15 years before the diagnosis.  That’s why it is important to pay attention to early signs of forgetfulness and consider a trip to the physician for a medical work up if we are concerned about the possibility that our parents may be developing dementia.  Forgetting a friends name or missing a lunch date is something that people without dementia do from time to time. Someone with early dementia, though, might repeatedly forget names or plans, and forget all about the incident soon afterward. It may seem strange but while someone with early dementia may forget something that happened the previous evening, they may recall in detail events that happened in the more distant past, last year, say, or during their childhood.

The Alzheimer’s Association has published a list of 10 warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  They are:

  1. Forgetfulness and memory loss
  2. Lack of concentration and confusion
  3. Losing things
  4. Difficulty doing familiar tasks
  5. Language and speaking problems
  6. Problems with simple math
  7. Poor judgment
  8. Personality changes and mood swings
  9. Changes in grooming and personal hygiene
  10. Withdrawing from friends and family

If you are concerned about your parent, make an appointment to see their primary care physician.  There are medications available which slow the progression of some forms of dementia, but they work better if they start early in the disease.

Mom’s Doctor Says She Has Dementia. Are There Medications To Help?

Dementia 75

Getting that initial diagnosis of Dementia is often such a shock, it may take some time to begin to gather information and formulate a plan with your physician.  While the medications available today don’t cure dementia, they can help lessen the symptoms like memory loss or confusion.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications cholinesterase inhibitors like Aricept, Exelon and Razadyne and memantine (Namenda) to treat cognitive symptoms of dementia like memory loss, confusion and problems thinking and reasoning.  While these medications can’t stop the damage done by dementia, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages in the brain’s nerve cells.

Cholinesterase Inhibitors: Prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine a chemical messenger important for learning and memory.  There are three medications in this category:

  • Aricept: Approved to treat all stages of Dementia, delays worsening of symptoms for 6-12 months on average.
  • Razadyne: Approved to treat mild to moderate Dementia.
  • Exelon: Approved to treat mild to moderate stages of dementia. Same type of drug, but comes in a patch.

Memantine: Regulates the activity of glutamate, a different messenger chemical involved in learning and memory.  There is one medication in this category.

  • Namenda: Approved to treat moderate to severe dementia.

A New combination drug: Namzaric has just become available in 2015This medication is a combination of Aricept and Namenda for moderate to severe Dementia.

If you or a loved one has gotten a diagnosis of dementia, talk to your doctor about which medication would be the best fit to help lessen the symptoms of the disease.  If the doctor prescribes one of these medications, make sure the medication is taken as directed by the doctor and make sure to let the doctor know how the medication is working.