Where Do I Go for an Early Alzheimer’s Check

by francy Dickinson                           www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My husband is in the final stages of prostate cancer and I’m afraid I am getting Alzheimer’s. I’m forgetting treatment times, medication details and all sorts of other things. I have to write everything down and then I forget where I put my notebook. I am so worried, I need to be together in my mind to help my husband. How can I get tested for Alzheimer’s and get on one of the pills they advertise on TV?

I am so pleased you came to me to ask this question. I am going to list all the basics of Alzheimer’s Testing and early onset information for you so you can look it over and see what you need from the list. But before you read that list, I want to hover for a moment. Spouse care-giving is one of the hardest jobs on earth. I am not making that up, it’s a 24/7  job that requires every ounce of your mind and body to give loving care. Your husband is now entering a hard time of treatment and that means you are too, so your body needs rest, good food and maybe a good blood testing to check your hormones and thyroid. Memory is very stress related, so please give yourself a good check up and see what your own body says as well as what your mind is doing. My Georgie has Alzheimer’s and I can get so tired and confused with his meds and his care that I often feel that my own mind is slipping. It’s a normal way to react to stress, so please get your general doctor to take a look at you and tell the Doctor what you are going through so they can help. OK, that said, here we go with Memory Testing 101

Here is a review of Memory and Early Alzheimer’s Testing Information:

  1. The type of doctor that treats Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s is called a neurologist and you will find them by asking your own primary doctor for a referral. Both of those conditions intertwine and need a specialist to really diagnosis properly. You want to go directly to a neurologist for the Alzheimer’s Memory Testing because the testing changes and updates and the specialist keeps up to date with the new additions to the testing and treatments.
  2. You want to have what is called a Memory Test. This is a test that is designed for different memory conditions and consists of word reviews and small memory tests. What is nice about getting this test done is that is gives you a baseline. Just like when you go and get a glaucoma test, diabetes sugar level, or a prostate test and they use the pressure or count of the blood for the “baseline” for those conditions. Then as time goes on they can see how fast you are moving through and beyond the baseline in the months or years to come. My Georgie felt his memory was bad and we did a memory test for two years before the doctor felt he was within range of treating with medication. The doctor was able to see if Georgie was moving fast or slow on his decline in memory function. We are very lucky to have the Seattle Veteran’s Hospital Memory Clinic treating us with the latest information and medications.
  3. You will find Memory Testing Clinics in your area, you can look it up on Google for your home area or just go through your own primary doctor to find one or use the neurologist that he suggests as a testing site.
  4. Poor memory, fuzzy thinking, or a senior moment (as we say) can all be related to many different situations. Like you, a person can be under a great deal of personal stress and it’s causing your brain to simply overload. It can be physical due to hormonal, thyroid, low blood sugar, or other medical conditions. So you want to really talk to your primary doctor about it. So do not get overly worried about Alzheimer’s – that is not the only reason for memory loss.
  5. Never let any doctor talk you out of your own feeling about your body. You are now an adult, you have lived in your body for years, you know what you can and can not do. A temporary problem has a reason and may just relieve itself when the pressure or current situation lessens. But all in all – YOU are the one that feels your body. If you feel like your mind is not responding then ask for a Memory Test. There is no harm done to get one. If you feel your memory gets worse in six months then make an appointment with the specialist.
  6. If your doctor gives you tests and you are fine and you pass the Memory Test with flying colors then think about taking some of the mind testing puzzles and exercises that they have now to keep your mind growing. The cells in your brain do grow back and you can keep them growing by expanding your knowledge and your skills. Its time to take up that knitting class, or get back to doing woodworking, or needlework, or doing puzzles. There is travel and lectures and fun movies and the History Channel on TV. Keep your brain working outside of what you do on a daily basis. Even if your job is very detailed, or high powered, do something different to build new brain connections.
  7. Many experts believe strongly in exercise for help with the brain functions. Yes, a daily walk does it all, good for the heart, the brain and the body…so force yourself to walk with a dog, a friend or take a simple senior exercise class 2-3 times a week. (By the way…senior is over 50 not 75 it is just a change of time and body not the end of life)The difference may shock you. You do not exercise just for weight reduction, you move to keep everything moving!
  8. Do not be afraid to take time to read about supplements that help with senior aging and Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and such. You will find chat rooms on the Internet that are filled with seniors that have different conditions and just want good long life and they discuss different supplements that work for them. Remember good nutrition does not cost an arm and a leg. Good food and good supplements can be price shopped just like anything else you buy.
  9. Breathing and sleeping. They are killers if you ignore them. Starting your day with a get out of bed- big cat stretch and then taking three deep, really deep breaths and letting the oxygen get into your brain- can change your life. That’s why so many folks are doing Yoga and Tai Chi, they are easy to learn and specially designed for seniors and people with back and other problems. So do not say NO to something new. You can check out a Yoga for Seniors CD at the library for FREE to see what it’s like and then join a group at your local Y or senior center to get moving.
  10. Sleeping is simply a must your brain needs five hours of continual sleep to repair itself each night. That really is not a lot of sleep. So if you are just laying in bed or watching TV for hours during the middle of the night go to your doctor and talk to him about it. Being stressed, lonely, or having physical pain can cause lots of us to sleep less, that is why they have medications to help us out. Don’t be so stubborn that you ruin your health – go to a doctor and talk about your changing body, because your body will change you know.
  11. Eating what you want or what your body wants? It is always hard to talk about what goes in you and what comes out. But the truth is food has to feed your body not just your whims and it has to come out of your body to remove the toxins. So if you are having a few too many chips and to few poops…talk about it to your doctor. So many people are embarrassed about their bowel movements or their urinary problems, or their late night eating…and that embarrassment causes colon, prostate and diabetes conditions. Funny how your memory could be related to your bowel movements, but toxins do awful things to our bodies, so getting your body checked out is what an adult person does. It has nothing to do with you it has to do with your body function and your medical history and your family history, too.
  12. Hormones are for guys and gals and having a panel run when you see your doctor is really smart. So is the check up of your allergies. As we age our allergies can change and they make a difference in how our body works, how we should be eating and just the quality of life issues.
  13. So, all of this just for memory? Yes, because the secret to Alzheimer’s is it is not just a memory problem. It was my Georgie’s emotional changes that tipped me off that something was really wrong. After all we had been married for years and friends for years and suddenly he was arguing with me over nothing, debating any topic, short-tempered, angry at his own lack of abilities that come with age, treating me totally differently then he had for all our years of marriage. That was my clue that something had to be checked and when the neurologist checked him out for the third memory test and then I told him of Georgie’s emotional upsets…the doctor gave him a medication for stress. Not a medication for memory. The doctor told me in early stages of Alzheimer’s stress and upset about the loss of memory and abilities is the greatest change, so Zoloft came first. Then he moved on to treat with memory medication.
  14. Medication for Alzheimer’s is not found in a TV ad. It is not that easy. Those are ads for drugs that may or may not even effect the memory. Our doctor would not even prescribe the well known drug you see on TV, he said he had no response to it at all. What he said was that Alzheimer’s is turning into a condition that has new drugs often and a cocktail of drugs or medications will be used for the next few years until they find a medication that can effect all the different aspects of the condition. For instance Georgie got a shuffle and I was so worried about him falling, the doctor gave him a higher medication level and the shuffle was gone. It is not just memory, Alzheimer’s effects many different parts of the body. The cells change and the communication between the cell changes so the different medications are designed to treat one problem here and one problem there. Each patient has different issues and their bodies display different response to medications. Thats why each patient will have a combination or a cocktail of different medications that can pin point their own problems.  But the sooner the Memory Test is done and the emotional review is revealed the specialist is able to suggest medications that can slow down the pace of Alzheimer’s as well as other related conditions.
  15. Don’t be afraid of memory loss, it hits all of us…but don’t ignore it. If your family has had problems with memory than it is even more important to take a look see and get an Early Memory Check-up.

Thank you for your email and I hope this review helped. I’m always happy to help guide someone to a place for information and there are so many special groups that are supporting Alzheimer’s patients and families. You will find them on Twitter, Facebook, and any browser will guide you to places to review the medications, the test studies, and the support groups. Joining a test study is a great way to help yourself and others move the cure of Alzheimer’s forward. You are never in harm when you join test study groups they are always open with what they do for you and with you when you enter the study. They usually are found at your larger Universities that have Medical or Research programs.

Please join me on Twitter @seniorcaretips and visit my website for more information at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Elders Need Cheer Sessions

by francy Dickinson                      www.seniorcarewithspirit.com

Dear Francy; My mother seems to be going into a deeper depression. She seems to be recovering physically well from her last small stroke, but she is just not herself. She feels down and not involved with everyday life. I am having a problem with her paying attention to what the day is or what food she wants to eat. How can I bring her around?

I am sure you have spoken with the doctor about her depression, that is a part of the brain that is also effected by the stroke and special medications can be prescribed to help her with her mental state. As the brain repairs it has to be exercised just like you are doing with her body. So you will have to make sure you participate in her emotional wellness as well as how well she walks or talks as she recovers. Even if you are talking to her over the phone each day, or in person, you will be doing a few things that will involve her mind and emotions so she gets back into life with her body and mind.

Here are some tips:

  1. Your interaction with a recovering stroke victim is in the morning or in the afternoon after food and a nap. So you get them fresh, it will be up to you to arrange your own schedule around that time frame.
  2. When speaking to the senior, use an up tone in your voice so they can see a difference in an everyday conversation, and an animated conversation. As you would a very young child of two or three, use words and facial expressions that include smiles, laugh, questions, and surprise.
  3. Prepare yourself with a list of things to talk about and always start with the day of the week. Endless days mean losing interest. “Hi Mom how is your Tuesday morning going?” That is a good way to begin, not to challenge her with a question that she can fail at the answer like “What day is today?” – Start with a positive statement that will inform her. Then go over what you know to be her usual Tuesday tasks. “I know you will be doing your wash this morning do you have it in the washer already? NO, well you can do that when we hang up and today is your day to see your friends for cards. What are you going to wear? –who is going to pick you up? OK, good well you’re going to have a busy day. I will let you go so you can finish your washing and getting dressed for the girls. I will call you this afternoon, when do you think you will be back home again?”
  4. Taking information you have and making sure it is restated and then adding questions that are easy for her to answer is how you begin. When you call back in the afternoon, you will ask about her food for that evening and suggest a TV show that is coming on that you want to watch and you will call her just before it begins to remind her so she doesn’t miss it. Ask if her wash is in the dryer and how the card party was with the girls, stretch her mind with asking about what she ate and who won at cards. Ask over anything new with the girls. Get her to talk about things that are up front in her brain. Bring out more than yes or no answers, with an upbeat voice again, ask about what the girls were wearing or where they went for lunch. Push her brain, push it in the direction that she has always had interest in, but know when to be calm and listen.
  5. When she does something more the normal daily tasks, make a big deal out of it. Let her know you are proud of her. “Wow, mom you did the wash this morning, had lunch out with the girls and then you came home and went over the floor in the kitchen? You are really on a roll, good job” – “You have gotten so much done and I have just been here at work all day, I’m impressed.”
  6. When you go over to visit and you see the house in a mess…remember her mind has to learn how to organize again. So roll up your sleeves and get one room done at a time. Find small clear plastic boxes that are easy to carry and fill them up with like items and then use a large print label maker to mark them. Just like you did for your toddlers when they had so many small toys, cars, crayons remember? Now it is your mother’s time to organize, vacuum bags, filters or parts in one box. Candles and matches in another. So when she is missing something and in a huff looking for it, she can open a cupboard and read the box. It helps her mind relearn how to stay organized and find things instead of being stuck inside a swirl of a mess.
  7. When the mind is healing from a stroke or other trauma, or in the middle of dementia the home needs to be clear and clean around the senior. If the front room or kitchen was covered with small items art or otherwise, pack them away for a while. Tell the senior you are clearing it to prepare for the room to be painted and we will go through the box and get things back in place after the painting. Then remove the box to a place  in the garage or storage area. Look around the room and see it with an eye that could get distracted. Look again, what needs to be in the room and what is just extra clutter for the brain?
  8. Example; lots of seniors have a full wall of photos of grandchildren and family members right by their TV chair so they can see it. If you look again at that wall, it becomes a maze of endless photos that have been added to over the years. So, how about picking out three or four pictures that the senior loves. Take down the older pictures, fill the holes in the wall and repaint and then put up the four larger photos in a row…so it is easy on the mind’s eye to focus on the pictures not to just see a jumble of frames. It will calm the senior’s eye and make it easier for them to rest while they are in their favorite chair.
  9. Asking your mom to help you, is a great way to help her recover her old self. What did you two always do together, maybe you cooked together, or sorted clothes in the kids room, played golf, walked, or painted walls, pictures, or worked in the yard together. Plan in your mind a task that is no longer than two hours and ask your senior to help you. Have the task all planned out so the beginning and end can happen in a short time. Together you work and together you get it done. You can stand back and admire the great result together, you can talk to others about how your mother helped you finish the task when you are so short on time. You become her cheer leader over a simple task, but it gives her such a feeling of accomplishment.
  10. Let go anything that no longer brings her pleasure. The brain in trauma, stroke recovery or dementia is simply changing, so if at one time your mother loved to bake cookies and now it is a chore. Let that part of your mother drop away. She will fill the void with a new enjoyment she has changed and changing is what we all do. This change was just more sudden than others.
  11. Anger is an emotion that will come to you and to your mother on her recovery. My husband has his dementia moments and out of those comes so much personal doubt that anger is his way to express the confusion of his brain not responding as he wants. Often stroke patients Even those with TIA’s or baby strokes- can find words are lost to them, actions are lost, rituals are no longer there, lifetimes of interest on certain subjects have faded…it will take your own personal patience to deal with this. You can see if you can easily move them back to the once loved interest or change it into a smaller and less stressful experience. My husband used to love WWII books and would read them endlessly, now he is unable to remember enough to read, so I have gotten him into the Military Channel on the TV. It’s the same information it just comes to him in a way he can absorb and enjoy it easier than reading.
  12. Even in days or times of anger…you have to stay calm. You have to back away and give them time to defuse and then re-enter and change the mood or the thought pattern so the day can go forward with joy, not stuck in anger. It takes a lot of creative thought on your part, but being there to cheer them on, will allow them to heal in a positive way instead of simply retreat on a daily basis.

I know you have had to do a lot to care for your mother. Stokes can happen in clusters, just as your mother gets well, she could be hit again. So make sure her meds, supplements and her food keeps her as protected and even in body chemistry as possible. You are the person that will give her life a guidance to calm and joy…you are giving her a gift of more than care, you are gifting her with true love. Thank you.

Please do go to my website at www.seniorcarewithspirit.com for more ideas. I have a great e-book called Care Giving 101 Workbook that will help you with giving care in your own home or in the senior’s home. It has all the basic home nursing tips and gives you ideas to support yourself as well as your spouse or loved one. These books are very popular with care givers and I encourage you to buy one so you can feel more in power of your situation as the care giver. It can be very lonely out there all alone when you are giving care – I want to make the experience more comforting for you.

I write these blogs to share information that I have gathered in my many years of care giving. I am now tending to my husband with Alzheimer’s and my books and services are how I’m able to stay at home and care for him. Thanks for all you are doing for your own loved one, blessings. francy

PS I am on Twitter @seniorcaretips and I would love to have you listen to my talk radio show on senior care issues just click the radio button on my home page. The show is on demand so you can listen whenever you have time.