Is Your Loved One Taking a Medication That Mimics Dementia-Like Symptoms?

senior-couple-reviewing-medicationsConfusion. Disorientation. Memory loss. While these are definitely hallmark warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, they may also arise from taking specific medications. Rather than immediately assuming an inevitable diagnosis of dementia, review the following list of prescription medications that mimic dementia-like symptoms.

Pain Medications

Opioids in particular are reported to affect short-term memory. The good news is that the problem is typically remedied once pain medications are no longer being taken.

Acetylcholine Blockers

Prescribed to treat IBS, insomnia, bladder control problems, depression, heart problems, vertigo, Parkinson’s, along with other conditions, drugs with anticholinergic effects that block acetylcholine’s effects in the brain can cause memory disturbance, agitation, confusion, and delirium, among other significant health problems. An example is tolteridine.

Benzodiazepines

These prescription medications help treat both insomnia and anxiety, with sedative qualities that may also cause cognitive problems. Long-term usage of benzodiazepines may also be a risk factor for developing dementia. Examples include lorazepam (Ativan) and temazepam (Restoril).

Corticosteroids

Mood and cognitive changes, delirium, and psychotic symptoms are just some of the complications associated with corticosteroid use. One of the most common examples is prednisone.

Chemo Medications

Known as “chemo brain,” chemotherapy drugs impact some individuals in the areas of memory, focus and attention, and executive functioning. These changes might persist, even after ending chemo treatment.

Statins

Prescribed to reduce cholesterol, statins have a suspected link to memory and mental slowing and decline. While there are conflicting results from a variety of scientific studies, it is important to be aware of the possibility for cognitive complications.

It’s also essential to keep in mind that many prescription medications impact seniors differently than those who are younger. This is due to some extent to the decreased efficiency in an older person’s kidneys and liver, in addition to interactions with other medications being taken and a decreased cognitive reserve in the brain. Alcohol use can further exacerbate complications.

Be sure to speak with the physician before starting, stopping, or changing any medication, and about whether any cognitive complications you’re seeing in a senior could be the reaction to a medicine.

Generations at Home is also readily available to assist older adults in a variety of ways – medication reminders to make sure meds are taken just as prescribed, picking up prescriptions, transportation to doctors’ appointments, and keeping an eye out for any changes in condition and reporting them immediately, just to name a few. Contact us at 727-940-3414 for help and support any time throughout Pinellas County.

Study Reveals a Distinctive Progression of Dementia in Latinos

senior with dementia hugging caregiverA new study sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association is revealing some surprising results in the progression of dementia in Hispanic people. While further exploration is needed to fully understand whether these differences are the consequence of social/cultural nuances or the dementia itself, it’s worthwhile information for Latino families to know.

Daily Activities

One highlight of the study was the significantly faster decline in the ability to perform everyday activities, such as getting dressed, walking, and taking a shower, in comparison to other ethnicities. Andrea Ochoa Lopez, the University of Houston doctoral student who carried out the research, explained that the cultural dedication to caring for elderly loved ones could be a contributing factor.

“Some families want to start doing everything for their older members to try and remove some of the burdens and make their lives easier,” she mentioned. “But there is research showing that when cognition is declining, older people actually do better when they stay active. And there is also still stigma. They may not want their elder family member to be seen as ill or mentally unstable.”

Anxiety and Depression

While we realize that anxiety and depression are risk factors for dementia, a separate research study of 5,000 individuals showed a noticeably higher percentage of Hispanic people reporting these concerns: more than 25%, when compared with almost 16% and 11% in black and non-Hispanic white participants, respectively. Concentrating on the mental health of those with dementia is essential. Clinical psychologist Michael Cuccaro explains, “We have lots of great evidence that medications and talk therapy help, but minorities have the lowest rate of getting this help.”

Although more extensive research is required to better comprehend these ethnic differences in dementia, finding minorities to take part in studies has been an issue. Latinos currently make up less than 8% of present dementia scientific research studies – in spite of the reality that the prevalence of dementia in Latinos is as much as 50% higher than it is in non-Hispanic whites.

Families who want to learn about current Latino dementia research opportunities can go to the Alzheimer’s Association’s TrialMatch page to find out more.

At Generations at Home, our professional caregivers are extensively trained and experienced in helping seniors with whatever their particular challenges are, making life the best it can be. We achieve this by meeting with each older adult in his or her home before the beginning of services, enabling us to generate a customized care plan. We then diligently monitor the care plan ongoing to ensure that needs are always met thoroughly, both now and as needs change with time.

Whether the need is for a little help with meals and housework, transportation and companionship, or if more specialized dementia care assistance is necessary, Generations at Home has got the perfect solution. Call us at 727-940-3414 to arrange your free in-home consultation to find out more.

Understanding the Different Stages of Dementia

Female home carer hugging senior male patient at care homeOne of the first questions in most people’s minds when a family member is diagnosed with dementia is precisely what can be expected in the weeks, months, and years to come. We realize that the hallmark of Alzheimer’s is the progressive decline in cognitive abilities and also the skills required to manage everyday life. Yet, every person advances through these changes in a different way. There are a number of factors that will impact the rate of decline, such as:

  • Prescriptions the individual is taking
  • Overall health and physical makeup
  • The system of support available
  • The person’s general emotional wellbeing and resilience

There are other determinants to factor in based on the specific type of dementia diagnosed. As an example:

  • MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment): Mild cognitive impairment affects up to 20% of seniors. More than the typical minor cognitive decline experienced in aging, MCI involves difficulties with language, judgment, thinking, and memory which are obvious to the senior individually and frequently to others as well. Researchers found that about 38% of seniors with MCI later developed dementia. The other 62% never progressed further than MCI – and in a number of cases, their condition actually improved, for unknown reasons. Indications of MCI include forgetfulness, impulsiveness, depression, apathy, anxiety, aggression and irritability, and others.
  • Vascular Dementia: Because vascular dementia is caused by a blockage in the flow of blood to the brain, the kind of blockage will affect the progression of the disease. For example, if small blood vessels are blocked, the decline is typically gradual. Major blood vessel blockage may cause a sudden onset of symptoms, accompanied by intense periods of change thereafter.
  • Lewy Body Dementia: Progression of Lewy body dementia can be gradual, but could also include widely differing degrees of alertness and attention during the early stages. One day could find the senior lucid, while the following day – or even several hours later – could bring hallucinations, confusion, and memory loss. In the later stages of the disease, restlessness, agitation, aggression, tremors, and stiffness become more prevalent.
  • Frontotemporal Dementia: Unlike other forms of dementia, short-term memory is usually not impacted in the early stages of frontotemporal dementia. Instead, early symptoms include behavioral changes, such as distraction, rudeness, apathy, and disregard for social norms. As the disease advances, difficulties with language become noticeable as well, in addition to memory loss, vision problems, and other typical symptoms observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

Reach out to the dementia care team at Generations at Home for more informative resources to help you better understand and care for someone you love with Alzheimer’s. We are also always here to assist with creative, compassionate care in order to make life more fulfilling for a senior with dementia, and to help family members achieve an improved life balance. Call us at 727-940-3414 to learn more.

Lessons From Late Stage Dementia: What the Return of Lucidity Is Teaching Us

caregiver comforting senior coupleEven as memory loss and confusion increase during late stage dementia, there’s a fascinating and pleasant reprieve that frequently occurs. Previously termed “terminal lucidity,” it is more frequently referred to now as “paradoxical lucidity.” It signifies an unexpected, short-term regaining of clarity to a nearly pre-dementia state of mind. During this time, the effects can cover anything from nonverbal but emotional connections to significant cognitive recovery.

For loved ones, it is a special gift to be cherished. It provides the chance for meaningful conversations and reminiscing, as well as the mutual sharing of feelings and thoughts, if only for a brief period of time. For researchers, it means a lot more.

Dr. Basil Eldadah, supervisory medical officer in the Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology at the US National Institute on Aging, looks at the opportunities as exceptional. “It gives us some pause with regard to our current theories and understanding about the nature of dementia. We’ve seen enough examples of this to be reassured that dementia can be reversed – albeit temporarily, very transiently – nevertheless, it does reverse. And so the question then is how.”

Currently, there are six studies ongoing to answer that very question, and to gain more extensive insight into the condition and to explore future therapeutic approaches. Based on initial data from the studies, it’s clear that it is a far more frequent phenomenon than previously realized. Dr. Sam Parnia, lead researcher and critical care doctor, pulmonologist, and associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center states, “If you talk to hospice nurses and palliative care doctors, they all know about this. But no one’s ever studied it properly because no one ever thought anyone would take it seriously enough. So what I wanted to do is to help move this into the scientific realm.”

Education for families taking care of a member of the family with Alzheimer’s is also critical. It’s essential to remember that this short-lived clarity may occur, making it possible for the opportunity to reconnect with the senior, while recognizing that it is not indicative of improvement in his/her condition.

For additional dementia educational materials and care resources, connect with Generations at Home. We’re also always here to provide customized in-home dementia care to help make life the best it can be for people with Alzheimer’s disease as well as the families who love them, through services such as:

  • Memory-stimulating games, activities, conversations, and reminiscing
  • Knowledgeable, compassionate help with the distinctive challenges of dementia, such as aggression, wandering, sundowning, and more
  • Help with safe bathing as well as other personal care needs
  • Household chores and meals to allow members of the family to savor more quality time with the senior they love
  • And so much more

Reach out to Generations at Home, the experts in elder care in Belleair Beach and surrounding communities, at 727-940-3414 to discover the best possible quality of life for a senior you love with Alzheimer’s.

Fun Activities for Seniors with Dementia and Low Vision

two ladies dancingFinding activities which can be engaging and fun for a family member with dementia tends to be a challenge. Add in vision impairment, and it might seem extremely daunting. Yet it is very important to ensure every day holds opportunities for joy, purpose, and meaning – minimizing the level of frustration, agitation, and other difficult emotions and behaviors in dementia.

The first step is to think through the senior’s current and past hobbies, interests and lifestyle. Then brainstorm approaches to tap into those preferences. We’ve collected a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Put together a playlist of the older adult’s favorite songs or genre of music, and then sing along, dance, keep the beat with a tambourine or a sealed container of uncooked rice or dried beans. Reminisce about memories the music raises.
  • Read aloud, choosing stories or articles that are simple to follow and on topics that are interesting for the older adult. For example, a sports fan may enjoy hearing an update on his/her favorite teams and players, and then talking about highlights from the past as well.
  • Get up and moving for increased muscle tone and circulation, as well as to help encourage daytime wakefulness and better nighttime sleeping. If weather permits, exercising outdoors is an excellent option to add in fresh air and vitamin D. Try walks in nature, pointing out the specific trees, birds, flowers, etc. that you pass on the way.
  • Try out a variety of tactile art mediums that can be manipulated without the use of vision, such as sculpting sand or clay. Or try creating a 3-D work of art by gluing shells, buttons, dried pasta, etc. into a shape or pattern.
  • Include the senior in ability-appropriate tasks around the home. Food preparation offers many different options, such as washing and tearing lettuce for a salad, peeling and breaking apart bananas or oranges, and mixing ingredients for a dessert. Or ask the senior to help with folding laundry or sorting nuts and bolts in a toolbox.
  • Try pet therapy. Specially trained pet therapists can provide a safe, trusted cat or dog for the senior to hold or pet. Even though this might seem simplistic, the joy and relaxing effects of spending time with an animal can be significant.

Our care professionals are skilled in creative tips to engage seniors of any ability level to help make daily life more fulfilling. Call us at 727-940-3414 for a trusted care partner today!

How Creating a Memory Book Can Help a Senior with Dementia

memory book

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” – Dr. Seuss

Memories are the glue that binds together our past with who we are today; and for a senior with Alzheimer’s disease, confusion around these memories may have a deep impact. One of our goals in caring for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is to help them store and share memories in order to make sense of daily life.

Creating a memory book can help a senior with dementia, with photos and short descriptions to refer back to when the older adult has questions relating to his or her identity, loved ones, etc. Memory books are great for responding to repetitive questions and for helping to clear any muddied waters. For instance, if an older adult asks who his brother is, whether she’s married (and to whom), where he used to live, etc., an easy response of, “Let’s go through the memory book,” can be extremely effective – and, can help with redirection as well for a senior experiencing difficult behaviors or emotions.

The book can (and should) be basic and straightforward. Simply pick out a sturdy binder, scrapbook, or photo album and place 1 to 2 photos on each page, with a short description underneath. Include such details as:

  • Close family and friends, including those from the senior’s childhood, if possible
  • The senior’s place of work
  • Milestones and special events
  • Hobbies/interests
  • Pets
  • Previous homes
  • And more

You may also create individual sections for every category, so it will be easier to find a certain image when wanted. For a more elaborate or extensive book, you can make use of the template, identifying which pages you wish to include that’ll be most helpful for your loved one.

For additional creative dementia care tips and resources, call Clearwater home care provider Generations at Home at 727-940-3414. We are also pleased to offer a free in-home assessment to share how we can help with the particular challenges your loved one is facing. Our highly trained, compassionate dementia caregivers can:

  • Encourage socialization
  • Offer creative approaches to manage challenging behaviors
  • Ensure safety in bathing/showering, dressing, etc. in addition to reducing fall risk
  • Provide trusted respite care for family caregivers to take some time for self-care
  • Engage seniors in enjoyable, meaningful activities
  • Assist with preparing meals and clean-up
  • Run errands, such as picking up prescriptions and groceries
  • And so much more

Reach out to our Alzheimer’s care specialists today to discover a higher quality of life for a senior you love.

How to Manage Rummaging Behaviors for Seniors with Dementia

Forgetful Senior Man With Dementia Looking In Cupboard At HomeDigging through boxes, cabinets, and closets, pulling out odds and ends from drawers, and sorting repetitively through a variety of items can be frustrating for those providing care for a loved one with dementia, but actually these behaviors are fulfilling a purpose. Rummaging can provide a measure of comfort for those with dementia, with the reassurance of recognizing familiar objects and finding purpose and meaning.

The key then is not to discourage rummaging, which can cause agitation, but to better manage this behavior if it becomes disruptive. These tips can help:

  • Keep rummaging to a controlled area. Put together boxes of items the senior seems particularly drawn to, such as keys, paperwork, a wallet, tools, gardening equipment, sewing implements, sports memorabilia, etc. When your loved one begins to rummage in other areas, pull out one of the boxes and direct his or her attention there.
  • Create an activity centered on rummaging behaviors. Let the senior know you could really use his or her help with a particular activity that utilizes these behaviors, such as folding towels or socks, sorting nuts/bolts in a toolbox, or placing paperwork into folders.
  • Find other stimulating activities to alleviate boredom. Rummaging may be the result of feelings of restlessness, loneliness, or boredom. Experiment with different activities you can suggest and do together with the senior, such as arts and crafts, puzzles, taking a walk, listening to music, etc.
  • Keep valuables out of reach. Knowing that your loved one has the propensity to rummage, be sure that any important documents, jewelry, keys, credit cards, etc. are all stored securely away. It’s also a good idea to tuck away the mail when it arrives, to ensure bills and other items aren’t getting tossed or misplaced.
  • Step up safety precautions. Now is a good time to assess how dangerous items are that are stored in the home could be to your loved one, such as sharp knives, cleaning products, even certain types of foods such as raw meat that the senior may accidentally mistake for another food product and ingest. Keep all items that may cause the senior harm in secure locations, preferably locked away.

Generations at Home can help with the professional in-home care services that provide companionship and engagement in creative, enjoyable, and fulfilling activities for those with dementia that lead to fewer challenging behaviors. Contact us at 727-940-3414 for additional dementia care resources or to schedule an in-home assessment to learn more about our services.

A New Disease That Mimics Alzheimer’s: LATE

An individual who exhibits memory loss, confusion, poor judgment, repetition, and challenges with performing daily activities has the telltale symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, right? As a matter of fact, what seems to be an obvious case of Alzheimer’s may in fact be a recently discovered dementia.

Known as LATE, or limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy, this condition presents with almost the same symptoms, but the root cause is another story. Rather than the buildup of amyloid plaques and tangles inherent in Alzheimer’s, LATE is distinguished by deposits of TDP-43 protein, as reported by Dr. Julie Schneider, associate director for the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

And TDP-43 protein troubles are in fact quite common in elderly people, with as many as one out of four older people over age 85 affected enough to cause obvious cognitive and/or memory problems. Nevertheless, it remains an under-diagnosed condition, which could lead to misdiagnoses, and consequently, inappropriate treatment plans.

The most up-to-date recommendations call for those who have been diagnosed with LATE to be removed from Alzheimer’s medication research, focusing research alternatively on establishing biomarkers to better detect LATE, to locate therapeutic intervention methods, and to increase testing to include a broader array of diverse populations, in an effort to increase both prevention and treatment.

Understanding the differences between both types of dementia is paramount to the best treatment, and per Dr. James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, “This evidence may also go some way to help us understand why some recent clinical trials testing for Alzheimer’s disease have failed – participants may have had slightly different brain diseases.”

Key aspects of LATE include:

  • Generally affecting older adults over age 80
  • A slower progression than Alzheimer’s
  • Typically only affects memory
  • May be accompanied by Alzheimer’s disease, which leads to a far more rapid decline

Whether Alzheimer’s disease, LATE, or some other form of dementia, Generations at Home offers the highly customized, skilled and creative caregiving that can help seniors live the highest possible quality of life where it is most comfortable: at home. Our care aides are thoroughly trained and experienced in helping those with dementia, along with helping family caregivers, to more fully manage the varying challenges experienced in each stage.

Call us any time at 727-940-3414 to inquire about further dementia care resources, find answers to the questions you have, or to schedule an in-home consultation to learn more about how we can help a family member you love with dementia.