CareNotes: The Home Care Newsletter Vol 5. Issue 5
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CareNotes: The Home Care Newsletter Vol 5. Issue 5
Letter From the Editor:
Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, affects over six million people in the United States and Canada. touching the lives of friends, family and other loved ones. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, early detection and tailored care can help to delay the onset of symptoms. Being educated about the disease and best practices for communication and care are also important for the over 15 million family members currently caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia. Without the necessary resources and support, these caregivers often report depression or burnout, which adversely impacts the quality of their own lives and those of their loved ones. In observance of Alzheimer’s month in September and as a part of a larger initiative to provide education to the community on topics relating to health and aging, we are hosting a free webinar
in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association on Wednesday, September 12th at 11 am Pacific, 2 PM Eastern.
The webinar, Support for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Caregivers: The Unsung Heroes
, will be presented by renowned dementia expert and author Dr. Judith London. This valuable webinar is designed to help educate family caregivers on effective communication techniques and practical tips for managing the evolving needs of a loved one with dementia.
Additionally, to thank the many senior care professionals and trusted advisors across North America with whom we work and who go above and beyond to support older adults in their communities, we have partnered with the American Society on Aging (ASA) to present a series of three web seminars that will provide continuing education units (CEUs). The web-based seminars will cover best practices in working with clients who have Alzheimer’s and other dementias. To register for any of the three CEU webinars, visit: http://asaging.org/healthy-longevity-series
A recurring theme in much of the research around dementia and other diseases and disorders more common in aging populations is that early detection and intervention are integral to optimizing quality of life. In this issue, I will discuss a possible link between changes in walking pattern and the development of Alzheimer’s and dementia that some researchers are hoping will serve as an early detection indicator. I will also present six declining vision warning signs to watch for in order to ensure healthy vision. We will also explore the health benefits of vitamin D and consider who should be taking daily supplements to prevent complications from deficiency. Lastly, I would like to congratulate Gloria Soloman Aggrey from Home Care Assistance of Washington, DC for being selected for this month’s Caregiver Spotlight. Thank you, Gloria, for your commitment to excellence in providing care!
Altered Walking May Be First Sign of Dementia
Once considered a normal aspect of the aging process, a slow or irregular gait (or walking pattern) has now been identified by three studies as an early sign of dementia. Data was compiled from 4,000 participants measuring pace, rhythm and size of step. The results, presented recently at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, indicate that each of these parameters changes in an identifiable manner when a person develops a neurological disorder.
William Thies, chief medical officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, believes this new information will be useful in early detection of dementia. Older adults suffering from dementia are more likely to have a serious fall resulting in an injury, so being vigilant of symptoms sooner can help prevent such incidents from occurring.
One of the studies found that throughout the progression of Alzheimer’s, a slow and irregular walking pattern becomes more and more apparent compared to those without dementia. Interestingly, individuals with a pre-Alzheimer’s condition called mild cognitive impairment also showed distinct changes in gait compared to their healthy peers.
Another study analyzing a younger group of subjects found that the rhythm of a person’s step was correlated with his or her informational processing speed. While memory was not found to be linked to any aspect of walking, executive function (the ability to control and regulate behavior), another important marker of cognitive health, was found to vary with stride length.
According to Mohammed Ikram, researcher at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, future studies should further investigate the link between walking patterns and the development of dementia. Increased information around indicators of dementia and signs of potential Alzheimer’s disease can lead to better early detection rates. As this research gets disseminated to the public, it also adds to community awareness around the disease.
While primary care physicians will not have access to the same equipment used to analyze the subjects in the studies presented here, they can perform simple tests, such as walking exercises to make preliminary assessments of their patients. Because early detection is key in promoting optimal quality of life for those affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia, it is important that both the medical community and the general public be educated on the link between distinct changes in walking patterns and cognitive health.
Six Tips to Save Your Sight
A common misconception is that vision loss is sudden and unexpected rather than a gradual process with opportunities for intervention. Here, we present six warning signs that may help you catch declining eyesight so that you can take the appropriate steps to delay or even eliminate the onset of vision loss.
1. Fluctuating Vision Clarity
Noticeable fluctuations between fine and blurry vision may hint at serious underlying conditions including uncontrolled high blood pressure or type 2 Diabetes. If these two chronic conditions go unchecked, they can cause damage to the fine blood vessels of the retina resulting in vision impairment, or worse, vision loss. Regular eye exams are crucial for those suffering from the aforementioned conditions and for those who notice these changes in vision clarity.
2. An Inexplicable Traffic Accident
Although traffic accidents can have many causes, one very prevalent vision related cause is Glaucoma. A loss of peripheral vision is a telltale warning sign that you might have Glaucoma. A recent study revealed that Glaucoma patients who were paired with a driving instructor required six times as many interventions as the age-matched control group. Because the loss of peripheral vision associated with Glaucoma is rather gradual, those who experienced this impairment didn’t notice until their routine eye exam, which is why these visits are particularly important. If you experience trouble driving or notice changes in peripheral vision, consult with your eye doctor immediately.
3. There is a Confusing Dark Patch in the Center of Your Vision
If you are experiencing a permanent dark patch in the center of your vision, it could be a sign of age-related macular degeneration. According to the American Optometric Association, age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 50. In addition to a perpetual dark patch, another possible sign of condition is experiencing difficulty doing activities that require strong near-sighted vision, such as reading or sewing.
4. Eyelid Irregularities
The eyelid, according to optometrists, is one of the most common places on the body for squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas. Skin cancer of the eyelid can lead to serious vision impairment or loss. It’s important to look for any abnormalities, such as a bump on the eyelid or excessive bleeding or irritation, that persist for an extended period of time.
5. Vision With a Brownish Tint
Vision that has a slight brownish tint could be an early sign of Cataract development. Cataracts are extremely common; according to the National Eye Institute, by age 80 more than half of all older adults will either have Cataracts or have had corrective Cataract surgery. Pay a visit to the eye doctor if you notice any color distortion or experience cloudy vision; both are common signs of Cataracts.
6. Flurries of “Flashes and Floaters”
If you suddenly experience an increased number of little spots in your field of vision, you could be facing retinal detachment. While this is generally a rapid and unexpected event that requires immediate care, sometimes people notice an increase in either the frequency or the severity of flurries before the retina fully tears. If you notice these symptoms it’s essential that you see an optometrist immediately.
While knowing these six helpful warning signs is important, staying up-to-date with your routine check-ups is the best way to avoid vision impairment so that you can continue to experience the wonders of the world with healthy eyes!
What You Need to Know About Vitamin D
Over the past ten years, few supplements have been marketed as effectively as vitamin D. Between 2002 and 2011, over-the-counter sales of vitamin D supplements increased more than ten-fold. Just this year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a study that suggests fewer than eight percent of older adults are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. While these statistics are promising for the overall health of individuals, it is important to keep in mind that there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing”; while it would require an excessively large dosage, ingesting too much vitamin D can lead to kidney damage. In light of this information, we would like to share the benefits of vitamin D, the recommended dosage and the populations who benefit the most from taking these supplements.
Recent studies have confirmed the conventional wisdom about vitamin D: it helps build stronger bones. The vitamin has also been linked to lower rates of certain types of cancer, dementia, diabetes and other widespread diseases. While sunlight is the main, natural source of vitamin D, certain staple foods such as dairy products, cereals and orange juice are often also fortified with this important vitamin.
There is no general consensus about how much vitamin D is necessary to avoid complications associated with deficiency. However, people are spending less time in the sun and are ingesting less foods that contain vitamin D, for example many people are cutting back dairy products given reports of the health risks associated with the added hormones.
So who should be taking vitamin D supplements? Multiple studies have confirmed that skin color plays a prominent role in this decision. Dark skin acts as a natural sun block, shielding the body from UV exposure; this decreases the amount of vitamin D synthesis that can occur. A CDC report demonstrates that the majority of African-Americans compared to twelve percent of Mexican Americans and three percent of Caucasians, showed insufficient levels of vitamin D in their blood, suggesting that supplements may be an important addition to the diet of African Americans. Supplementation may also be necessary for the elderly and those who are overweight; older age is associated with a decrease in the ability to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight and high levels of fatty tissue tend to sequester the vitamin. In addition, older people face a greater risk of falling than their younger counterparts, so having stronger bones is important in minimizing fall injuries. People who live in the northern parts of the country or who spend the majority of their time indoors should also think about taking vitamin D supplements. People may also consider taking a supplement during the winter months when sunlight is at a minimum to boost overall health and wellbeing.
How much you should supplement depends on whom you ask; recommended supplemental dosages range from 600 IUs (international units) to 5,000 IUs per day. Researchers and nutritionists hope that a study currently being conducted by the National Institutes of Health will shed more light on how much vitamin D supplementation is appropriate for daily consumption. This study is projected to be finished in 2016, but until then, it’s recommended to speak to a physician or registered dietician to find out what is most appropriate for your health.
Research around vitamin D and the benefits it offers is a subject is currently a hot research topic and one that we will certainly be hearing more about in the news. As new findings around this topic develop, you can be sure that we will share them with you!
Caregiver of the Month Spotlight: Gloria Soloman Aggrey
This month’s Caregiver Spotlight honors Gloria Soloman Aggrey from Home Care Assistance of Washington, DC for her dedicated professionalism, client-centered approach and consistent willingness to go above and beyond in order to deliver exceptional and tailored care.
Gloria has spent the last three years serving her current client, Mrs. P, the wife of a prominent Washington, DC corporate executive. While her husband continues to work and travel, Mrs. P is more restricted due to her struggle with Alzheimer’s. Gloria, over the course of her service, has become a key player in the family’s household, helping to balance the needs of both husband and wife in order to keep their day-to-day schedules running smoothly.
What has meant the most to the family, however, has been Gloria’s ability to forge a meaningful friendship with Mrs. P as a close ally and supporter. With a deep understanding of how Alzheimer’s and dementia impact the life of individuals and their loved ones, Gloria is able to keep Mrs. P focused and content on a daily basis, while also ensuring that Mrs. P spends quality time with her husband. Each day brings a new set of experiences for Mrs. P as Gloria schedules activities and routines to promote mental and physical stimulation, from board games to conversations to walks in the park to social visits.
While Gloria’s positive disposition no doubt comes in part from her ability to ensure her own quality of life needs are being met, Gloria has put her own personal schedule aside numerous times for the benefit of her client. More than once, she has delayed or canceled personal plans to spend extra shifts with Mrs. P when deemed necessary.
On one occasion, Mrs. P was having a difficult morning and Gloria sensed that her client was anxious and uneasy. Gloria realized that her shift was coming to an end and Mrs. P would need to transition to another caregiver. Gloria decided that rather than put Mrs. P through the additional stress of adjusting to a new face, she would stay the extra day to help. Not wanting to leave until she was sure Mrs. P was well situated, Gloria stayed an extra three days over her scheduled time. By the end of the third day, Mrs. P was in excellent spirits and the family was awed and touched by the level of dedication Gloria had exhibited.
For Gloria, her clients and their households are considered family. As a trusted member of Mrs. P’s care team, Gloria frequently accompanies Mrs. P to doctors visits and acts as an important liaison between her physicians and her husband. She even provides care to Mrs. P on the family’s annual summer trips to the beach.
Gloria is the model of the professional, dedicated and expertly trained caregiver who serves as inspiration to our entire network of caregivers. Thank you for your hard work and commitment. We are proud to have you as a valued member of our team!