Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common form of dementia, affecting nearly 5 million Americans. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, AD accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for AD. However, President Obama recently signed into law a plan to study the disease, called the National Alzheimer’s Project. Until medical professionals find a cure for AD, families are left alone cope with the effects of AD. If you or one of your elderly parents have been diagnosed with AD, read below to learn some tips on how to slow its progression.
There is not one “right” way to slow the progression of AD. However, there are several lifestyle changes that individuals can make in order to keep their bodies healthy and minds sharp. The American Medical Association makes a strong argument about the importance of early detection. If you’re concerned about your memory or the memory of a loved one, make an appointment with the doctor. A recent study published in the journal, Neurology, reported that exercise slows the progression of AD. Before you begin exercising, make a plan with your doctor to learn the appropriate exercises for your condition. Another recent study, published in Neurology, reported that engaging in mentally challenging activities such as crossword puzzles might delay the memory loss associated with AD.
“Alzheimer’s can’t wait,” said Harry Johns, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association. “For the first time ever, families grappling with this progressive, degenerative and ultimately fatal disease can have real hope that a national strategy addressing the escalating Alzheimer’s crisis is coming.” If you or a loved one is coping with this disease, reach out for help and support from medical professionals, friends, and family.
The stress isn’t just due to the holiday activities—shopping for gifts, baking, addressing and sending out holiday cards, organizing transportation for holiday expeditions, etc.—that take up additional time and add additional responsibilities to a caregiver’s already packed life. Holiday time is family time and when family members come together there are a lot of challenges to the caregiver about how they are doing
their job;” and to the fact that the weather “is ‘iffy,’ and that makes doing everything more difficult;” and to the fact that the “work and family schedules and care routines that enable caregivers to keep all the balls in the air are disrupted during the holidays.”
“It’s no surprise,” adds the social worker, “that caregivers say they feel overwhelmed, out of control and out of patience during the holidays. They are.”
Nothing can stop the disruptive impact the holidays have on a caregiver’s life, but planning
for the physical, emotional, and fiscal upheaval that comes with them can definitely help caregivers survive them.
The following strategies are for family caregivers to weather whatever the “festive season” throws your way.
1. Make a holiday to-do list/calendar—including family gatherings, parties, kids or grand kids programs, due-dates for getting cards and gifts into the mail, getting holiday goodies baked, etc.—then figure out which activities you should do and which ones you can delegate to the folks in item number 2.
2. Put together a support network Make a list—family, friends, community agencies and service providers— and get comfortable delegating.
3. Learn to say no. This isn’t selfish, it’s self-empowering. If you don’t, you and the person you are caring for will be so exhausted you won’t be able to enjoy things.
4. Don’t aim for perfection. Be flexible and when you need to, change your expectations to fit a situation. That way, you aren’t disappointed or guilt-ridden…[and] you actually gain the time and the energy to participate in things and enjoy them.
5. Maintain your health. Don’t skip medications or medical appointments; exercise; and eat and drink to sustain energy, but avoid rich foods, sugar, and alcohol. All boost energy for a bit, then leave you burned out.
6. Find a de-stressing mechanism. For some people, it’s deep breathing, for some it’s meditating, for others it’s humor, or journaling or scrap booking.
7. Don’t forget immediate family “Neglecting them adds to feelings of guilt, so plan time to be in the moment with them, to celebrate with them, to participate in activities and traditions just with them. This isn’t selfish, it’s life-affirming.
For more information on about Alzheimer Disease visit http://www.alz.org/
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“Total daily physical activity and the risk of AD and cognitive decline in older adults,” Neurology, published online April 18, 2012
“Being physically active may protect the brain from Alzheimer disease,” Neurology, published online April 18, 2012
C. B. Hall, Ph.D., R. B. Lipton, M.D., M. Sliwinski, Ph.D., et al: “Cognitive Activities Delay Onset of Memory Decline in Persons Who Develop Dementia.” Neurology, Volume 73, pages 356-361, August, 2009