Guide to Medical Alert Bracelets

 Guide to Medical Alert Bracelets

(And Other Medical ID Jewelry)

More than 95 percent of emergency medical responders look for a medical ID; more than 75 percent check for a medical ID immediately upon assessing a patient.  Should you be wearing one?

 

A medical ID provides information that could save your life in an emergency. With medical conditions, drug and food allergies, prescribed medicines and emergency contacts engraved onto its surface, a medical ID bracelet or necklace guides paramedics and doctors in giving you appropriate, timely treatment when you are unable to communicate.  Image above:  VNOX Men’s Medical ID Bracelet with Free Engraving.

 

 

Why Wear a Medical ID?

 

In an emergency, when you might be unable to speak for yourself, a medical ID bracelet or necklace protects you by speaking for you.

Lack of information can be dangerous –

  • Symptoms of common ailments can be misdiagnosed easily.
  • Prompt diagnosis critical to effective treatment may be delayed.
  • Half of all medical errors occur because of mistakes made upon admission to or discharge from the hospital according to a study conducted in the US.

 

 

Paramedics Look for Medical ID

 

According to a recent U.S. survey of emergency medical professionals, including EMTs and paramedics –

  • More that 95 percent of repondents look for a medical ID during emergencies.
  • More that 75 percent look for a medical ID immediately upon assessing a patient.
  • 95 percent look at the patient’s wrist to find a medical ID and 68 percent look for an ID on the patient’s neck.

 

 This is what the paramedics will (and won’t do):

• First they feel around both wrists for a medical bracelet
• If no bracelet, they look around your neck
• Last place they look is around your ankles
• They’ll read all information on both sides of the tag
• They’re especially concerned about blood thinners
• They don’t have time to make phone calls
• They’re reluctant to go into wallets without police observers

 

 

Doctors and Healthcare Organizations Recommend Medical IDs

 

Doctors and healthcare organizations throughout the world recommend medical IDs.  The following organizations are only a few who have formally recommended the wearing of medical IDs.

 

  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
  • American Academy of Nurse Practitioners
  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Heart Association
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Columbia University Medical Center
  • Epilepsy Foundation
  • Johns Hopkins Medicine
  • Mayo Clinic
  • National Institutes of Health
  • The Merck Manual
  • The National Association of EMS Educators
  • World Health Organization

 

 

Examples of Medical Conditions That Warrant Wearing a Medical ID:

 

  • Abnormal ECG/EKG
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Alchoholism
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Angina
  • Asthma
  • Bleeding disorder
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Cataracts
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes (insulin dependent)
  • Diabetes (non-insulin dependent)
  • Emphysema
  • Glaucoma
  • Hearing impairment
  • Heart valve replacement
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Hypertension
  • Laryngectomy
  • Leukemia
  • Lupus
  • Lymphoma
  • Malignant hyperthermia
  • Mental retardation
  • Myasthenia gravis
  • Pacemaker or ICD implant
  • Renal failure
  • Seizure disorder
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Situs inversus
  • Stroke
  • Visual impairment

 

 

Listing Medication on Your Medical ID

 

As a rule and if space permits it is wise to list prescription medicines taken on a long-term or maintenance basis. This will give medical personnel better guidance for initiating treatment and will lessen the chance of a drug interaction.

 

Some classes of medicines that are appropriate for an ID are:

 

  • Analgesics: including many narcotics
  • Cardiac medicines: including ones for angina or atrial fibrillation
  • Anticoagulants: Blood Thinners
  • Anticonvulsants: for seizure disorders (Epilepsy)
  • Antihistamines, Decongestants: prescription or over-the-counter medicines for allergies
  • Antihypertensives: blood pressure medicines
  • Beta Blockers: drugs that can slow the heart rate
  • Chemotherapy agents: medicines for treating cancer or serious infectious diseases
  • Steroids

 

 

Listing Your Allergies

 

Allergic reactions to drugs, foods and insects can cause serious medical problems. A medical ID informs medics of an allergy, allowing for rapid response to a serious allergic reaction.

Allergens are numerous. Some common examples include:

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Analgesics: aspirin
  • Antibiotics: cephalosporins, erythromycins
  • Narcotics
  • Foods: nuts, wheat, dairy products, soy
  • Other: horse serum, insect stings, latex, x-ray dye

 

 

Other Information You Can Add on Your Medical ID

 

With space permitting, anything can be engraved on your medical ID,including:

 

  • Advance directive
  • Living will
  • DNR
  • Blood type
  • Contact lenses
  • Difficult intubation
  • Emergency contacts (next of kin, doctor, etc.)
  • Faith
  • Implant (e.g., pacemaker)
  • Organ donor
  • Transplanted organ
  • Stent
  • See wallet card

 

 

Tips For Engraving Your Medical ID

 

Start With Your Doctor

To begin with, ask your doctor to explain your illness so you understand what to say and how to abbreviate your conditions and medications, as well as what critical issues need to be listed, and in what order of importance.

List only medical conditions that should be known in an emergency. For example, a minor surgery that took place several years ago may no longer be relevant to your medical care.

 

Organize Your Medical Information

Each medical ID style allows a different amount of information to be engraved. If you know you will need a lot of information engraved, select a style that can accommodate this, such as our two-sided IDs. You can also engrave “See wallet card” and list more information there than can fit on your ID. You should list frequently changing medicines only on a wallet card.

Summarize your information with short, descriptive words. Any information that will not fit on your medical ID bracelet or necklace can be written on a wallet or handbag ID card.

Only medicines taken on a long-term basis should be engraved on a medical ID. You may wish to list the most important medicines first.

If you need help deciding what to engrave, you can always ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Learn Your Cellular Age

 

What to List on Your Medical ID (And How to List It)

 

Remember that first responders and doctors are trained to know the shorthand abbreviations.

 

Use “ON” and “NO”

Paramedics and doctors need to know quickly if you are taking meds, or can’t take them. That’s why “ON” tells them that you must take a medication that is critical to your health.  For example: ON COUMADIN.

On the other hand, the word “NO” tells them that you’re allergic to specific meds, foods or even anaphylactic. For example: NO MORPHINE or NO SHELLFISH.

Make sure you tell them if you’re taking or can’t take meds to avoid any confusion.

 

Blood thinners are usually best to be listed on the top since you could be bleeding internally due to trauma: ON XARELTO, ON PLAVIX, ON COUMADIN or ON BLOOD THINNER.

 

List all allergies to medications, foods and anything else that might cause an emergency, or what needs to be said to get you through a crisis such as NO NUTS, NO PCN, NO MORPHINE, NO BEES-USE EPIPEN.

 

Diabetes patients need to communicate DIABETIC 2-MEDS, DM1-INSULIN DEP, DM1-INSULIN PUMP, etc. Diabetes orgs. recommend using Arabic numbers and not Roman numerals to avoid confusion.

 

No MRI for most pacemakers, defibrillators and stimulators: NO MRI: PACEMAKER, NO MRI: ICD (implantable cardiac defibrillator). List ferrous metal implants such as plates, pins, cerebral & heart aneurysm clips, screws, stents and meshes: NO MRI: PIN L-LEG, NO MRI: PLATE-HEAD, NO MRI: BRAIN CLIP.

 

Alzheimer’s or Dementia can be described as FORGETFUL, MEMORY LOSS, or ALZ.

 

Artificial Knees, Hips & Spine Injuries—specify where located:  R-KNEE: TKR (total knee replacement), L-HIP: THR (total hip replacement), SPINE MESH-SCI (spinal cord injury).

 

Lymphedema patients cannot have blood pressure taken or needle punctures such as R-ARM: NO BP/IV, NO NEEDLES/LABS.

 

Artificial heart valves & heart conditions: List CHF (chronic heart failure) or CABG (coronary artery bypass graft). 

 

Bariatric Bypass Surgery: Tell not to insert a blind gastric tube to avoid stomach punctures such as: GASTRIC BYPASS, NO BLIND NGT. 

 

Transplant Patients need to specify the type of transplant and anti-rejection meds such as heart, kidney or lung transplants: KIDNEY TX, HEART TX, ON CELLCEPT, ON PROGRAF.

 

Allergies to Med Classes: NO OPIOIDS, NO SULFA, NO CILLINS, NO MYCINS.

 

Space is At A Premium on a Medical ID

Be sure to shorten the information. For example, instead of saying “TAKING PENICILLIN”, you can say ON PCN. And it’s too long to say “DIABETIC TYPE 2 TAKING INSULIN” when you could say DM2-INSULIN or DIABETIC 2-INSULIN.

And medical conditions don’t have to be long to be clear to medical people.
“KIDNEY TRANSPLANT” can be written as KIDNEY TX. “ATRIAL FIBRILLATION” is AFIB. “AORTIC VALVE REPLACEMENT” is AVR.

 

Listing Emergency Phone Numbers

Emergency phone numbers are stated as “ICE” which stands for “In Case of Emergency”. This would precede the number: ICE 888-234-5678.

It’s best to have a cell number of a family member or close friend who knows your medical issues.  However, don’t count on any phone number to be called by paramedics or doctors as they are usually too busy saving your life, so make sure all critical information is stated on your ID Tag.

   

Should You Engrave Your Name?

Engraving your name on your medical ID is a matter of personal preference. However, listing at least a first name is recommended. In an emergency, EMRs and doctors will say a person’s name in an effort to get his or her attention if the person is, for example, in a daze, a diabetic coma or unconscious.

Alzheimer’s patients should include his or her name and address or the address of a caregiver or family member.

 

Please visit Lauren’s Hope Medical ID Jewelry. It’s more than a piece of jewelry.  It’s peace of mind.

Lauren's Hope Medical ID

 

 

Why Other Medical Information Sources  Aren’t as Good as Medical ID’s

 

Your Wallet and Cell Phone

Lost wallets and broken phones may prevent retrieving your medical information in emergencies such as car accidents. Just because you have a medical card in your wallet does not guarantee that your wallet will be found or searched.
Even your cell phone may be broken or lost in the weeds.  That’s why you can only count on a medical ID that’s securely attached. 

 

Cellular Rescue Services 

Cellular Rescue Services with buttons or fall detection are great for people at severe risk, but may not be enough in every medical emergency.  Pressing a button and having your fall detected gets medical services to you quickly. However, once the emergency people get there, will they be completely informed about your pre-existing conditions? 
   
Paramedics are usually too busy to make phone calls if that’s required.  And, if the service can speak through the speaker, the information must be given quickly without delay otherwise they can’t wait.
   
What if you’re in a no-service cell zone—where is the information then?
     

Always having a medical ID bracelet is usually the quickest, surest way to convey your pre-existing conditions, your allergies, and what meds you are taking—right there on the spot—when every second counts!  It only makes common sense to protect yourself in every way possible—a cellular service and a bracelet!
    

Medical USB’s and QR Codes

98% of medical USB’s and QR Codes are useless in America. In a middle of an emergency, paramedics, hospitals and doctors have no time to access the equipment needed to read personal USB’s and QR Codes on medical bracelets.  As a matter of policy, most hospitals and first responders are forbidden to insert any private media into official computers for fear of viruses.

Also in emergencies, USB’s take too much time to load and read.  Most paramedics are not allowed to use their personal or hospital phones to read QR codes because of policy and HIPAA compliance. In most cases, there are “no universal standards” and scanners to permit reading these codes.

Also, be aware that most QR codes require a cellular connection to the internet to retrieve your medical information. Mountains, valleys and heavily forested areas can block this service. At this time, there is no nationwide Federal hospital standards to coordinate and read these devices. If you intend to use one of these devices or codes, make sure your area hospitals and EMT’s can read and accept your data before investing in this technology.

 

800-Number Medical Data Services    
    
Any service providing important medical information is helpful.  However, paramedics are usually too busy saving lives and unfortunately have no time to make calls to any phone service. Doctors in emergency rooms are also too busy to call. It’s only when an unconscious person comes out of the ER when nurses usually call for more information. Having a number for a medical data service on your ID tag can help—after the emergency is over!
  
It’s always better to have all “critical information” firmly attached to you.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

Medical IDs are not just for emergencies. They can forestall problems eliminating trips to hospital, reducing unnecessary hospital admissions and preventing minor emergencies from becoming major ones. Medical IDs save time and trouble as well as lives!

 

Thanks for visiting and reading …

I hope this article provided you some helpful ideas.  I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

Please visit Lauren’s Hope Medical ID Jewelry.

 

Lauren's Hope Medical ID Jewelry

 

 

You May Also Be Interested In:

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Best Air Purifiers for COPD – Full Reviews

Detailed Review of the SoClean CPAP Cleaner

 

The Solution to Dementia Wandering

The Solution to Dementia Wandering

 

 

 

Are You Worried About Someone You Care About Getting Lost?

 

The most important part of a caregiver’s job is to keep an elderly loved one safe. Some caregivers have elderly loved ones who are prone to wandering, especially those with dementia or other diseases. For example, a diabetic’s low blood sugars may cause episodes of confusion causing the person to wander. Whatever the cause, wandering is dangerous for the elderly and worrisome for caregivers.

 

 

There’s a New, Unobtrusive Option (Finally!)

Now there is finally a new option for monitoring loved ones’ locations, even from a any distance.  This system works really well for caregivers of seniors who could benefit from monitoring but who do not want or need round-the-clock supervision.  I am really excited about what I think is the ideal solution to relieve the stress of worrying about someone wandering off and getting lost or hurt:   Smartsole, a GPS tracking system, includes all the necessary equipment to provide state-of-the-art monitoring for caregivers.

 

 

New Monitoring Device

For some caregivers, being present round-the-clock simply is not possible. In addition to this, even caregivers who are present 24/7 cannot be by the side of a wander-prone senior at all times; it’s just impossible.

Electronic monitoring systems can help prevent wandering and also immediately locate seniors who meander off the beaten track.

You’ve probably already seen the most familiar types of consumers would be a wrist watch-type device and one that looks similar to a mobile phone, or the ankle strap devices that some wanderers wear; but these can be obtrusive and even embarrassing, and someone has to remember to put them on each day (which can obviously be a problem with dementia).

The newest and most unique device is the GPS “SmartSole,” which is placed inside a shoe insert and carried with the person being tracked (so they’ll always be wearing it when they have shoes on).  

 

With SmartSole, as long as your loved one is wearing their shoes, you won’t have to worry about them getting lost.

The SmartSoles have a battery that lasts for three days before needing a charge – so it’s ideal for caregivers who cannot visit every day.

 

 

Using Technology to Enhance Freedom and Safety of Dementia Sufferers

Smartsole is designed to provide caregivers with a safe way to monitor their loved ones in case of an emergency. As caregivers of seniors with dementia often know firsthand, the dangers of a loved one wandering and becoming lost are real. The consequences can be deadly.

Smartsole responds to this need with technology that pairs with smartphones and global positioning system (GPS) technology to find those who might have wandered.

With SmartSoles, caregivers also can set up “invisible” fences that notify them if an elderly loved one leaves the house or ventures beyond a certain distance.

Such a notification can prompt the caregiver to check on the person. All might be well. The elderly person may just be making a trip to the corner and back for exercise. Yet Smartsole keeps caregivers informed, in case a trip to the corner results in a missing person.

 

With SmartSoles, caregivers also can set up “invisible” fences that notify them if an elderly loved one leaves the house or ventures beyond a certain distance.

 

Voice connections are available too, which can help establish where the elderly loved one is and whether or not the person is safe. There is no need to guess at a location or purpose for going out. Certain triggers in the technology will also notify emergency personnel. 

You can  find more details on the SmartSole website.

The GPS SmartSole Hidden Wearable Tracker is also available at Amazon.

 

 

Getting Started With a Monitoring Device – Some Considerations

The first step toward establishing successful and safe caregiving practices is meeting with the patient and his or her doctor(s). Asking for safety recommendations, taking diligent notes, and then discussing, at length, what the elderly loved one needs and prefers all lay the groundwork for safety.

Some seniors value their privacy and would like electronic monitoring because it allows them to be safe but also alone. Others might want an additional level of security even if they live in a facility. Yet others might not enjoy the physical presence of an electronic monitoring device. The latter is an important consideration, as people have privacy rights when it comes to being monitored.

Overall, it is all about what works for the elderly loved one and his or her caregivers, taking into account all health risks assessments by physicians.

After everyone agrees with the idea of an electronic monitoring system, it pays to do research. Not every system, despite great gadgets or a high price, is the right one. Price, longevity, and reviews, both online and through word-of-mouth, are important considerations.

Company representatives should be able to provide research and proof of their products’ track records. They should also provide information on customer support or warranties in case device breaks. The Better Business Bureau or equivalent organization is a good guide to a company’s viability. Knowing the facts before investing in a product can help keep an elderly loved one safer and happier for longer.

 

 

Re-Evaluate Monitoring Requirements Periodically

Some electronic monitoring systems come with monthly or yearly fees for use. Periodic re-evaluation may show that there is no reason to continue paying for a system that is unsatisfactory or not useful. Upgrades to more intense monitoring or a more precise device is one solution, as is overtime for paid caregivers. There are many options.

Monitoring an elderly patient is a process rather than a one-off product purchase. Peace of mind for caregivers as well as the patient’s safety and happiness are the most important commodities such devices offer.

 

 

Final Thoughts

 

 

If someone you love might potentially wander off and get lost, I highly recommend looking into the patented GPS enabled “Smart” insoles.  They fit easily into most adult shoes and let you monitor the whereabouts of loved ones in an unobtrusive way;  no need for them to remember to carry a separate tracking device they just slip on their shoes and go – like they normally would.

This Smart Sole system capitalizes on procedural memory, which means even those with advanced memory disorders typically remember to wear shoes!

This is a wearable technology that not only provides peace of mind, but can also save lives, while preserving the privacy and dignity of the wearer.

You can find full details and FAQ’s at the GPS SmartSole website

The SmartSole is also available at Amazon.

 

 

 

Suggested Reading:

Surviving Alzheimer’s: Practical tips and soul-saving wisdom for caregivers by Paula Spencer Scott

 

 

Please Visit Lauren’s Hope Medical ID Jewelry.  It’s more than a piece of jewelry.  It’s peace of mind.

Rose Gold Tone Medical ID Jewelry

 

Thanks for visiting and reading …

I hope this article provided you some helpful ideas.  I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

 

 

Have You Heard of Weighted Blanket Therapy?

Have You Heard of Weighted Blanket Therapy?

 

 

 

 

The drug-free therapeutic blanket known as weighted blankets have become the at-home treatment for insomnia, anxiety, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention-deficit hyperactive disorders (ADHD), Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), Asperger’s and sensory disorders.

 

Many seniors, adults, teenagers and children face psychiatric issues that cause insomnia and severe anxiety. Patients with autism and other psychiatric disorders also face extreme anxiousness and the inability to induce calmness within themselves without the use of sedatives or drugs.

 

The combination of behavioral aberrations, and the lack of sleep among these people, have been known to lead to loss of productivity in their daily lives, irrational emotional behavior and out – of – character actions. It isn’t just the problem of not being able to keep their emotions under control, but the issue of lashing out aggressively due to psychological dysfunctions.

 

The root causes of such behavioral issues are anxiety and insomnia, which is usually treated with pharmacological (drugs) and psychological (therapy) methods. However, now with a breakthrough in the study of sleep medicine and psychiatric disorders, we know that the trick to soothing consternation and inducing sleep is much simpler than once thought.

 

The drug-free therapeutic blanket known as weighted blankets have become the at-home treatment for insomnia, anxiety, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention-deficit hyperactive disorders (ADHD), Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), Asperger’s and sensory disorders.

 

Weighted blankets use deep pressure touch simulation (DPTS) to relax the body and make the patient feel safe, guarded and secure, which calms their unease and helps their body go to sleep. The sensory compression methodology facilitates a positive change with the comfort the blanket brings to its user. The weight of the blanket stimulates the receptors on your body which then activates the neurotransmitters in your brain to bring a sense of happiness to the person.

 

 

The Poly plastic (Polypropylene) pellets that have been used to fill the compartments of the blanket provide the weightage of the blanket. A quality weighted blanket is quilted, made of either cotton or fleece and weighs about 10% of the user’s body. Using the proper blanket according to the size and the weight of the user will give the optimum calming results.

 

This blanket has shown to be very effective in calming hyperactive children during bedtime, anxious patients in therapy and even adults undergoing chemotherapy. It has also proven to be efficacious in calming people down during anxiety inducing situations.

 

 

Studies Prove the Benefits of Weighted Blankets

 

– A 2008 study showed that weighted blankets are beneficial for anxiety. The study used a 30 lb. blankets on adults. In total, 63% reported a decrease in anxiety, and 78% found it calming.

– A 2015 study used 30 pound blanket on adults during an inpatient mental health hospitalization. 60% of them reported significant decrease in anxiety after use.

– Research on DPTS started as early as the 1950s. One article from 1992 found great benefits of this therapy for patients with autism. It reduces self-harming behaviors in autistic children, as well as produced better sleep. It also relaxes the muscles.

One adult autistic patient has stated, “I need heavy blankets on me to sleep well, or else my muscles won’t calm down.” 

– Weighted blanket were also found to be very calming for babies.

 

 

Therapeutic Benefits of Weighted Blankets

 

 

 

 

1. Weighted Blankets Promote Sleep

 

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes habitual sleeplessness. The lack of sleep leads to the over exhaustion of the human body and hampers the psychological well-being of the person. When a person is not able to function well, both physically and mentally, their social well being is affected and they begin to lose productivity in their lives. This leads to depression and other behavioral problems.

An easy solution to this problem is the weighted blanket. The pressure of the weighted blanket reaches deep within the body of the user to provide a comfortable environment for a person to fall asleep in. The sense of being swaddled and the physical connection that the user feels with the blanket makes them feel warm and safe. This helps their mind be at ease and they can be able to relax their body. The state of tranquility will help clear their mind and ensure a good night’s sleep.

According to the ‘Positive effects of a weighted blanket on insomnia’ by the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders 2015 of the SciMed Central, the weighted blankets had improved the sleep quality of people with severe insomnia.

 

 

2. Weighted Blankets Imitate a Warm Hug

 

Research shows that hugs can actually make a person feel at ease. Hugging a person releases the hormone Oxytocin into the blood stream. This chemical reduces your blood pressure, calms your heart rate and provides and overall feeling of relaxation.

Although the blanket does not provide a human connection, your body may perceive the warmth and security the imitation that a hug provides. Both the hug and the blanket use a gentle yet firm pressure that goes deep within the person’s body tissues. This gives the user a sense of repose and allows your body to relax.

 

 

3. Weighted Blankets Provide a Sense of Security

 

Being covered by a weighted and warm blanket will ensure the feeling of calmness in the user. The ‘blanket therapy’ stimulates the receptors present throughout our body, which lessens a person’s discomfort. Once the user feels more comfortable in the blanket, they begin to feel secure as their body begins to relax. The body can only relax when your mind is soothed and your heart rate is calmed. This change in the body will ensure that both your body and mind believes that you are secure and safe.

 

 

4. Weighted Blankets Increase the Production of Serotonin

 

Serotonin is a chemical messenger, also known as a neurotransmitter that your brain and intestines produce for the smooth functioning of your nervous system, which includes the brain and the nerves. This hormone is secreted to promote happiness and the mood of the people. Known as the ‘happy hormone’, this chemical does not only affect a person’s mood but it affects their behavior. The lack of serotonin in the body leads to depression, insomnia and anxiety. That is why the sensory stimulating weighted blankets increase the production of serotonin in the body. The hormone relaxes your body and makes you feel calmer. That sense of calmness leads to pacifying one’s anxiety, which results to inducing sleep in the user.

 

 

5. Weighted Blankets Increase the Production of Melatonin

 

Melatonin, also known as the ‘sleep hormone’ is a chemical that affects a person’s sleep. The hormone is produced with the production of serotonin, as well as the pineal gland in the brain. This chemical is known to ease insomnia and induce sleep, which is possible through the therapeutic benefits of the weighted blankets that provide a gentle yet firm pressure on your body by stimulating your receptors.

 

 

 

6. Weighted Blankets Calm Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder

 

Autism spectrum disorder includes Asperger’s, Autism, Rhett Syndrome and other unspecified Pervasive Development Disorders. Such disorders include behavioral problems that do not necessarily bode well with the norms of society. The patients suffering from such disorders feel aggression and irritation due to the inability to express or convey their thoughts clearly. Such slow cognitive development makes the patient unable to process information quickly and the change in their surroundings.

 

Patients with such disorders are not able to communicate properly, so they use erratic speech, repetitive actions and turbulent behaviors. During a frustrated outburst, the patient’s heart rate increases, their breath becomes shallow and their blood pressure rises – which further increases their irritability.

 

When the patient is going through such tempestuous emotions and tantrums, it is best to drape the weighted blanket around them or have them lay down with the blanket covering them. This will make them feel more relaxed and comfortable. Once they are no longer acting in a hysterical manner, they will be able to think with a clearer mind and a calmer body. Although communicating with their caretakers might still be difficult, there will at least be an opportunity for the patient to gather more patience and attempt to convey their thoughts in a more serene manner.

 

 

7. Weighted Blankets Help Overcome the Oversensitivity to Touch

 

Some psychiatric disorders make people oversensitive to touch. Patients with Autism Spectrum Disorders usually face such discomfort with the touch of other people but this can be overcome by introducing the weight of the blanket regularly to the affected patient.

 

The pressure of the blanket provides a similar feeling of human touch at a larger scale without actual connection – which can be a stepping stone in helping patients overcome their fear of touch.

 

During the 1990s, a squeeze machine was used to help patients overcome their oversensitivity to touch. Today, with the inception of the ‘therapy blankets’, patients can use the more accessible and less controversial mechanism to help people become more at ease with touch.

 

 

8. Weighted Blankets Pacify Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

 

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD drives a person to think repetitively about a certain incident or an object. Such thoughts constantly play across a person’s mind and lead them to neglect their duties and their personal lives. The patient becomes anxious about a particular event and conducts a certain action over and over again. Their thoughts are occupied and their bodies refuse to break out of an obsessive reverie.

A very effective way to ease an OCD patient’s anxiety, and to treat the inability to calm them down from a mind consuming thought is to use a weighted blanket. This blanket allows the patient to feel safe and secure without worrying about the numerous issues that may be present in their lives. The blanket provides a warm environment for the user by helping to relive stress and allow their mind to release the captivating thoughts.

 

 

9. Weighted Blankets Mimic a Massage

 

Draping the weighted blanket over the user’s body distributes pressure evenly throughout their body. This has similar effects of a deep tissue massage. The pressure of the blanket goes deep within your tissues while you use it to fall asleep. A massage is supposed to help our body and mind relax – which can be easily done at home by using a weighted blanket. The physical factor of a massage might provide it’s own intimate yet soothing aspect, but the weighted blanket is proven to give you similar results to an actual massage in the long run.

 

 

10. Weighted Blankets Improve Cognitive Function

 

Taking a look at the overall therapeutic benefits of weighted blankets, we can see that it relieves stress, reduces tension, induces sleep, calms your mind and relaxes your body. These components are very important if you want to live a healthy and happy life.

 

Raised blood pressure, anxiety and lack of sleep are truly killers of productivity and normal behavior. Sleeping with the weighted blanket promotes the users overall well-being by ensuring that they tackle their daily issues with a clear head and a well-rested body.

 

With a clear mind, a person’s cognitive functions are improved. They are able to perform efficiently and effectively without being burdened by psychological issues and behavioral changes.

 

 

 

Weighted blankets can potentially solve sleep issues, panic attacks, anxiety related disorders, lack of concentration and even aggressive behavioral problems that affect the smooth proceedings of one’s daily life.

Successful results of the weighted blanket  can be had without the high costs of therapy sessions, drugs and sedatives that are traditionally used to pacify more tremulous patients. I recommend giving this effective and inexpensive blanket a try.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Use a Weighted Blanket

 

The blanket can be used at night, during naps, or used casually quick calming effect. Studies have used it for as little as 10 minutes and up to 2 hours, but it can stay on as long as you would like. It is the most beneficial to have your whole body covered, but do do not place the blanket on top of the head or face as it can create a suffocating sensation.

 

 

Choosing Your Weighted Blanket’s Weight

 

Use the formula 10% of your weight plus one pound. For example, a 160 lb person should  choose a 16 or 18 lb weighted blanket.

 

 

 

Thoughts, questions, tips?  Feel free to comment below.

 

 

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Melatonin Helps Sundowning and Other Sleep Disorders

Gifts for Nursing Home Residents

Practical Shoes for the Elderly

Top Pillows to Relieve Neck Pain

Why You Should Use an Infrared Sauna (Often!)

Preparing For Your Elderly Parent to Move In

About Me

Create Your Own Blog

 

 

Are Therapy Dolls and Fidget Blankets Good for Dementia Patients?

Are Therapy Dolls Good for Dementia Patients?

 

 

 

 

Therapeutic Baby Dolls for Alzheimer’s Patients

 

A helpful, non-drug way to calm and soothe seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia is to give them a soft, lifelike baby doll to cuddle. These therapy dolls can even be effective in calming older adults with severe agitation or other significant behavioral issues. (Image above is of  Paradise Galleries Lifelike Realistic Baby Doll, Cuddle Bear Bella.)

 

Why Use Therapy Dolls for Dementia?

 

Therapy dolls help seniors feel useful and needed and give them something positive to focus on. Similar to the effect of soft toys like stuffed animals, hugging something soft helps someone with dementia soothe themselves.

 

 

Another reason therapy dolls are helpful is that they bring back happy memories of early parenthood for both women and men.

 

 

A video is worth a thousand words on this topic:  

Video: Baby Doll Interaction with Dementia

 

 

 

Having a child to care for can also ease feelings of isolation and sadness. After all, most of us have seen or experienced the way that interacting with real babies can quickly lift spirits and calm nerves.

Many older adults will enjoy rocking and cuddling their doll. Some even adopt the baby as their own and make caring for it part of their daily routine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tips for Introducing Doll Therapy to Your Senior

 

The best approach is to casually introduce the doll to your senior and let them decide if they like it or not.

If they have no interest in the doll, don’t make an issue out of it. They may change their minds in the future so you could always give it another try in a few weeks or months.

 

A few tips:

 

  • Don’t act like the doll is a doll, refer to it as a baby and treat it like a real child.
  • Get a lifelike doll, but one that doesn’t cry – that could be upsetting.
  • Don’t force it, allow your senior to get to know the doll slowly.

 

 

 

 

Try it out, see how your older adult responds, and be flexible.

 

 

Fidget Products for Alzheimer’s

 

Seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia may show anxiety or agitation through fidgety hands.

Signs include pulling or rubbing at clothes or bedding, rubbing hands together, twisting fingers, wringing hands, and generally keeping hands in motion.

Sensory therapy or fidget toys are an effective way to reduce anxiety, calm nerves, and provide comfort.

These are simple touch-based activities that help someone with Alzheimer’s keep hands busy in safe, soothing ways.

 

 

 

 

 

Make A Fidget Box or Basket

 

It’s also easy to make your own fidget box or basket. Pull out the box when your older adult needs something to do and throw everything back into the box when they’re done.

Get a container and fill it with some inexpensive odds and ends you can find in your house, make quickly, or buy at the dollar store.

Gather things in a variety of colors and textures, like:

 

  • Things with zippers or velcro closures

 

 

 

  • Brightly colored plastic springs (like a Slinky)
  • A row of buttons sewn firmly onto a ribbon
  • A piece of soft fleece or faux fur
  • Old keys on a key ring 

 

Some seniors are comforted by keeping a familiar item with them, like a purse or wallet. Try filling an old purse or wallet with a few dollars, coins, play money, or faux credit cards so your older adult can rummage through whenever they like.

 

Are Dolls and Fidget Blankets Controversial?

 

You may have heard from caregivers who say their older adults are much calmer and happier now that they have their own baby doll. They’re relieved to have found a non-drug solution that eases their senior’s dementia symptoms.

Some people, however, are concerned that giving their older adult a doll or a “toy” would be demeaning or patronizing. But when someone has dementia, helping them feel safe and happy in their current reality is the top priority. That’s why we sometimes need to consider unconventional approaches like baby dolls, fidget blankets, and other simple activities and toys.

 

Another Idea:  Coloring Books For Seniors

 

Boredom in older adults can cause problems, including difficult behavior and depression. And, seniors who have moved in with relatives or into assisted living are more likely to be bored because their lives have changed so much.

Coloring may sound like a simple activity to ward off boredom, but a great coloring book and a set of coloring pencils can actually improve health!

A research study found that adults 65 or older who engaged in creative activities had better overall health, made fewer visits to the doctor, used less medication, and had fewer health problems. Wow!

It’s also an excellent mood booster and de-stresser – making it a perfect activity for caregivers too!

Coloring is great activity for seniors to explore their artistic side. These fine art coloring books are lots of fun, even for people who don’t enjoy painting or free-hand drawing.

They’ll get the joy of creating a beautiful work of art with no artistic skills required!

I found some inexpensive, non-childish coloring books seniors will love, with subjects which will interest many older adults.

 

Colored pencils, crayons, or watercolor paint can be used on the high-quality paper. And don’t forget a good quality pencil sharpener!

The pages in adult coloring books are perforated so they’re easy to remove for display.

Also, the lines in the adult coloring books are gray, so they’ll basically disappear after the pictures are colored in, making it look even better.

Your senior will be proud to display their finished artwork.

 

 

Of course, the decision is entirely up to you since you know your older adult best.

 

If you think a therapy doll, a fidget blanket or activity, or coloring might help them feel better and enjoy life more, why not give it a try?

It’s an inexpensive “treatment” with no side effects.

No matter what the activity or toy, just remember that the goal is to engage your older adult in something fun and keep their hands happily occupied.

There’s no right or wrong way to do it and no specific goal to achieve – whatever feels good to them is perfect!

 

 

Thanks for visiting and reading … I hope this article provided you some helpful ideas.  I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may also be interested in:

How to Keep a Dementia Patient Busy and Happy

Gifts for Nursing Home Residents

Coloring For Adults is a Healthy Hobby

Help for Painkiller Induced Constipation – OIC

Does Prevagen Actually Help Your Memory?

Do Prescription Discount Cards Actually Save You Money?

Best Foot Bath Massagers – Full Reviews

Do Prescription Cards Actually Save You Money?

Shower Chairs and Bath Benches

Safety Grab Bars and Hand Rails for the Bathroom

Risks of Bed Rails – Should You Install Them?

How To Buy Adult Diapers

Would a Power Lift Chair Help in Your Home?

Caregivers Must Prepare for Emergencies – Here’s How

10 Simple Products to Help With Getting Dressed

Adjustable Beds – Benefits and Reviews

Choosing a Transport Chair

About Me

Create Your Own Blog

 

The Angry Dementia Patient

The Angry Dementia Patient

 

 

Seniors With Dementia are Easily Frustrated and Stressed

 

Sometimes it seems like seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia get angry at the drop of a hat. What’s most likely happening is that they suddenly reach a breaking point because of frustrations that build up.  Here are some ways to make everyday life easier and less stressful for seniors with dementia.

 

Why Dementia Patients Get Angry

 

When someone has dementia, their ability to function well in the world declines.

Tasks that we consider simple, like brushing teeth, are actually quite complex. To a person with dementia, it can be difficult to remember all the steps and sequence them properly.

 

 

For example, these are the major steps they need to take to brush their teeth:

 

  1. Enter the correct bathroom (the one with their toothbrush)
  2. Find switch and turn on light
  3. Locate correct toothbrush (theirs)
  4. Locate toothpaste
  5. Take cap off toothpaste
  6. Put an appropriate amount of toothpaste on toothbrush
  7. Put toothbrush (with toothpaste still on) in mouth and gently brush every tooth surface
  8. Spit out toothpaste
  9. Rinse mouth thoroughly with water – spit, don’t swallow

 

Once we break it down, brushing our teeth is far less simple than we might think. And, someone with dementia may also have trouble with the smaller steps that make up many of these major steps.

 

 

When even the most basic parts of the day are so difficult and overwhelming, it’s easy for the frustration to build up. When they’re expected to do yet another “simple” thing, they may erupt in anger.

For example, when you’ve had an extremely stressful day, someone coming to you with even a simple request can cause you to lose your temper – it’s the last straw, right?

That’s often what’s happening to seniors with dementia. Because their world is becoming more confusing and difficult to navigate, it doesn’t take much for them to reach that “last straw” feeling and react with anger.

 

 

Taking Steps to Reduce Anger in Dementia Patients

 

 

Accept Their Limitations

Avoid pushing seniors with dementia beyond their limits by expecting them to do things they’ve been struggling with. They aren’t refusing to do things because they’re lazy or refuse to remember.

Their brains are failing and they’re losing the knowledge and abilities they need to accomplish those once-easy tasks. Accept where they are now and work with the skills they have today.

 

 

Reduce Complex Decisions

Making choices about every part of their day isn’t necessary, but there are some decisions your older adult may still want to make.

The goal isn’t to take away their right to choose, but to simplify so making choices is easier – too many options are confusing and overwhelming.

For example, when changing, lay out all the clothes they need, but offer a choice between two shirts – the red shirt or the blue shirt? That way, they are still participating in the process. But they won’t have to find and select all the other clothing items they need.

Similarly, for lunch you could offer a choice between two entrees you know they enjoy – a ham sandwich or split pea soup? That decision is much easier to deal with than a broad question like “What do you want for lunch?”

 

 

Slow Down

We’re used to moving at a “normal” pace, but that’s because our brains are fully functional and can quickly process information and thoughts.

When someone has dementia, those cognitive processes slow down significantly. That’s why your older adult needs more time when thinking, speaking, or taking action.

To reduce stress and allow them to feel successful, don’t rush them through daily life. Take the pressure off and let them move at their own pace – even if it seems really slow.

 

 

Keep the Environment Calm and Quiet

Being in a noisy, bustling environment can overwhelm the senses and make it hard to think, especially when someone has dementia.

Have you noticed that we all need calm and quiet when we’re trying to think? For example, if you’re driving to an unfamiliar location, you automatically turn down the radio so you can concentrate. And, most students seek out quiet places like libraries when they need to learn complex new concepts.

For someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, everyday tasks have become difficult and require extra thought and concentration. When you add loud noise or lots of people, it’s natural for them to feel frustrated and stressed.

 

 

Treat Them With Respect

Everyone, no matter their age or abilities, wants to be treated with respect. Seniors with dementia are no different. Even if they struggle with decisions or everyday tasks, there are many ways to make things easier while still showing respect.

A good way to do this is to offer simplified choices, like with the red or blue shirt mentioned above. That way, you’re not giving orders and expecting them to follow. You’re helping your older adult make decisions in a way that suits their current abilities.

 

 

Rely on Routine

Routines reduce the amount of thinking and number of decisions that need to be made on a daily basis. We don’t have to remember what time to eat breakfast because we always eat around 9am, after getting up and brushing our teeth.

Routines are especially helpful for seniors with dementia because they reduce the number of things they need to remember or think about.

Having a steady, constant routine is comforting and far less stressful than if each day was unpredictable and they had to go hunting for their toothbrush every time they needed it. Putting objects in the same places and doing the same activities at the same time of day means they know where things are and what will be happening.

 

 

Speak Simply

Alzheimer’s and dementia affect the brain’s ability to process and retrieve information. Short, direct sentences with only one thought per sentence are easier for your senior to understand.

The goal is to give your older adult less to think about and less to remember. If you’re giving instructions, make it one step. If you’re sharing information, keep it to one thought.

Using fewer words and a warm and positive tone will be far less frustrating for your senior.

 

Recommended:

The Validation Breakthrough – Simple Techniques for Communicating with People with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias

 

 

 

Avoid Fatigue

 

 

Getting overtired isn’t good for anyone’s mood, but it can put even more pressure on an already frazzled senior with dementia.

Just like you’re more likely to snap when you’re exhausted, someone with dementia is more likely to have an angry outburst when they’re fatigued.

 

 

Modify Tasks to Help Them be Successful

When a task is too difficult, it’s frustrating and stressful. The answer isn’t to have your older adult stop doing things for themselves. That will only make them feel worse. Instead, find ways to modify activities so they will be successful.

For example, if they’re having trouble cutting meat at dinner, consider serving more foods where the meat is already in smaller pieces or getting a specialized knife that’s easier to use (like this one).

Or, if your older adult struggles to zip their pants, consider switching to elastic waist athletic-style pants or specialized pants with velcro fastening in place of a zipper (like these). Another idea is to switch to easy, slip-on shoes if they have trouble tying their shoes.

 

For further information, see

 

Bathing is another good example. Similar to brushing teeth, there are many steps involved in taking a bath or shower. It’s much easier to be successful if you help by laying out a towel, comb, and fresh clothes. Then, turn on a heater in the bathroom and start the water running at a comfortable temperature. Now there are less steps for your older adult to manage and bathing will be easier.

 

 

Recommended: The 36-Hour Day, 5th Edition

by Nancy L. Mace, M.A. and Peter V. Rabins, M.D., M.P.H.

 

 

 

Thoughts, questions, tips?  Feel free to comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Preparing For Your Elderly Parent to Move In

Elderly Dental Care Tip to Prevent Heart Attacks and Stroke

Preserving Alzheimer’s Patients’ Dignity

Hands Free Shoes That Make Dressing Easier

10 Simple Products to Help With Getting Dressed

10 Simply Fabulous Arthritis Aids

Practical Shoes for the Elderly

Shoes and Slippers for Swollen Feet

Easy Home Improvements for Mobility Issues

Detailed Guide to Shower Chairs and Bath Benches

How to Buy an Elevated Toilet Seat

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The Right Lighting Prevents Falls

Melatonin Helps Sundowning and Other Sleep Disorders

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Minimize Your Senior’s Falling Risk Now!  Here’s How …

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How to Reduce the Risks of Heavy Lifting for Caregivers

Choosing the Best Transport Chair

Choosing a Medical Walker

Choosing a Walking Cane

Find the Right Power Wheelchair

About Me

Create Your Own Blog

 

 

New Spoon for Hand Tremors

New Spoon for Hand Tremors Makes Mealtime Easier

 

 

 

 

Picking up a utensil to feed one’s self is a luxury that people take for granted. For others with neurological conditions causing tremors, this basic activity can be a source of frustration and embarrassment.

 

GYENNO’s ‘Smart Spoon’ tries to eliminate that problem. It’s a stabilization utensil gadget that offsets 85 percent of unwanted tremors for users affected by diseases like Parkinson’s.

The spoon has been in production for almost a year, and was revealed at the Consumer Electronics Showcase in Las Vegas in early January 2017.

 

 

While GYENNO’s product is still new to the North American consumer’s market, the technology has been employed in China for a while.

 

The utensil uses sophisticated stabilization control algorithms and motion learning technology to adjust to the user’s tremors, helping the person eat regularly.

 

This video is produced by the manufacturer, and demonstrates how the GYENNO Smart Spoon helps people with hand tremors eat independently:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Smart Spoon is similar to another stabilization utensil from Lift Labs called Liftware, a Google purchase back in 2014.

GYENNO holds a patent for their own spoon’s tech, which they’ve called the best on the market.

 

“The GYENNO uses special PID [proportional–integral–derivative controller] control technology and attitude stabilization technology to make a better performance, higher frequency response and more accurate position control,” said Dehuai Li, marketing officer at GYENNO, in an interview with Motherboard.

 

“That makes [the GYENNO Spoon] 85 percent tremor canceling while Liftware just 75 percent.”

 

 

The GYENNO Package Contains:

 

1 Spoon Head

1  Fork Head

1  Intelligent

Hand Shank

1 Power Cable (the fully-charged battery can run for 180 minutes).

 

 

 

 

 

The GYENNO Spoon already has hundreds of users who have raved about being able to feed themselves once again, Li said.

 

  • Read Amazon consumer reviews of the GYENNO Spoon.

 

“You want to feed yourself, you don’t want someone else to feed you,” he said. “It improves your confidence and dignity. Many of these diseases have no cure, so we want to improve the quality of life.”

 

Through its cloud-based data collection, GYENNO has created its Medical Chronic Disease Management program to provide physicians and scientists with valuable information and statistics on the progression of symptoms and the disease in general.

 

For example, GYENNO Medical synchs the real-time symptoms of hand movements recorded by the GYENNO Spoon to study how the hand movements and tremors are expressed (frequency and amplitude, speed, accelerated speed and rotation of hand tremor). GYENNO collects data from users to assist scientists and physicians with research on disease progression, utilizing data-mining technology to explore data characteristics to help with early Parkinson’s Disease screening.

 

 

This video discusses everything that comes in the GYENNO Smart Spoon box, and provides a brief review:

 

 

 

 

Thoughts, questions, tips?  Feel free to comment below.

 

Thanks for visiting and reading … I hope this article provided you some helpful ideas.  I welcome your comments below.

-Laurie

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Anytime Gifts That Seniors Will Actually Use

Caregiving for Parkinson’s Disease

Best Exercises for Parkinson’s Disease – A Complete Physical Activity Guide

Parkinson’s Disease Myths

Parkinson’s Swallowing and Dental Problems

Parkinson’s Disease and Low Blood Pressure

Getting the Right Testing for Dementia

About Me

Create Your Own Blog

 

 

Ideas for Keeping Your Dementia Patient Busy and Happy

 Ideas for Keeping Your Dementia Patient Busy and Happy

 

 

 

 

Activities are crucial to well-being. In the past ten years, research has shown that activities play a large part in preventing the progression of dementia.

 

 

We also know that socializing prevents loneliness, despair and suicidal thoughts.

 

 

For several years I led recreational activities on weekends at a geri-psych hospital. The activities that took place on any particular weekend greatly depended on the patients in the unit at that time.

 

All of the patients there had dementia and behavior disorders that precluded their being able to remain at home until the behavior had been extinguished. Most patients were on the unit between three to four weeks, while the doctors changed their drugs or the dosages. Some were more alert; others were more physically functional. Some returned home; others returned to a nursing home or entered a long-term care facility for the first time after discharge.

 

There are many activities that are appropriate for people with dementia. The only guideline is to not degrade them by having them do children’s activities. Instead, show your respect by engaging them in pastimes that are similar to children’s activities but suitable for an adult, retaining whatever qualities that make the activity fun.

 

Here are some suggestions for caregivers who have a dementia patient at home.

 

 

Puzzles & Games

 

 

 

 

  • Easy, large print crosswords and word searches that use large type.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Jigsaw puzzles with very large pieces. The images shouldn’t be child-oriented; try scenery or pictures of animals instead. Floor puzzles are good because they typically have large pieces, and there aren’t too many, which can be discouraging. Work on these on a table so you don’t have to struggle getting off the floor!

 

 

 

 

 

  • Reminiscing, a board game which prompts memories of assorted events and fads from 1939 on.

 

 

Photo & Scrapbooking Activities

 

 

  • Sort photos by topic, subject, type or date. Mix them up after you finish so they can be sorted in a different way next time.
  • Assemble a photo collage. Pasting can be fun.
  • Make a scrapbook, pasting photos onto the pages and writing notes about the memory beside the photo. You can also use a photo album with plastic sleeves.

 

 

 

 

  • Label old family photos so you’ll have that information later on.
  • Reminisce about the focus of the photo.

 

       Honoring The Past Scrapbook Page Kit

 

 

 

 

 

Reading Activities

 

Read out loud or simply look through books and magazines that can lead to discussions.

Suggestions:

 

 

  • Old copies of Look or Life magazines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I really like the Good Old Days books.  In Hometown Memories, your loved one can remember when hometowns were a great place to be a kid. 

 

Some people say, “You can’t go home again.” But you can! … You can wave to the iceman as you head off to the general store. You can go to the Saturday matinee, and then stop off at the drugstore for a soda.

 

 

Take a stroll down those sidewalks again, and relive those warm Hometown Memories from the Good Old Days.  

 

 

 

 

 

Reminiscing with Memory Books

 

You can find blank memory books in the baby section of a bookstore. These usually pose questions that will prompt discussion. Here are a few suggestions:

 

 

 

Activities Involving Humor

 

The Long, Long Trailer

 

  • Start a humor notebook or scrapbook.
  • Laugh over funny family memories (like the time Mom put frozen rolls on the Thanksgiving table).

 

The Abbott and Costello Show: Who's On First? by Entertainment One

 

 

Housework

 

  • Rake leaves.
  • Fold towels.
  • Clean windows.
  • Cut coupons.

 

 

Gardening Activities

 

  • Pull weeds.
  • Plant annuals in spring and bulbs in the fall.
  • Transplant small plants into larger pots. Have the patient paint pots ahead of time and use these for gifts.

 

 

Seasonal Decorating

 

  • String cranberries or popcorn.
  • Make door wreaths and window decorations.
  • Put up decorations and take them down.

 

 

Sorting & Organizing Activities

 

Sort or organize:

 

  • Nails, screws and other hardware.
  • Nail polish and lipsticks, sorting by color, brand or on a scale of 1–10, in order of preference.
  • Buttons, using muffin tins to sort by color, size or style.
  • Coins, according to date, value or place of origin.
  • The pantry, arranging cans and jars by size, brand or contents.
  • The silverware drawer, rearranging the order of the forks, spoons and knives.
  • Playing cards into decks that match, or into suits within a deck, or by numbers. Tupperware by size or color.
  • M&Ms, using muffin tins to sort them by color. Choose one color to eat!

 

 

Cooking & Activities in the Kitchen

 

  • Make salads, ice cream, Jell-O, pudding (try a hand mixer), no-bake cookies and pies, popcorn balls and other simple recipes
  • Wash fresh produce and put it into bags
  • Grind nuts to use for baking
  • Peel vegetables
  • Copy recipes from magazines onto cards 
  • Make a grocery list of items needed for recipes
  • Sort recipes and find pictures to illustrate them
  • Set the table
  • Fold or roll silverware into napkins
  • Assemble shish-kabobs with fruit or vegetables (use wooden ones with blunt ends)
  • Shell nuts or peas

 

 

The list above is not all-inclusive. Hopefully it will give you some ideas for getting started. Think about the kind of activities the patient has always enjoyed. Those are probably the best ones to start with. I’ll close with a few more ideas.

If the care recipient enjoys building things, try assembling model kits of airplanes or cars. A simpler activity could be making strings of paper clips, using different colors and sizes.

Patients who have an artistic side may enjoy painting or coloring in one of Dover’s many stained glass coloring books.

 

 

 

Musically inclined patients might enjoy singing along to patriotic songs, hymns and old favorites, or playing rhythm band instruments.

 

 

           Big Bands Music From the War Years

 

 

Did the patient used to enjoy sewing or mending? Offer some pants that need hemming or items of clothing that need buttons sewn on. Remember: people with dementia can still derive enjoyment from activities they have always enjoyed. Give it a try!

 

 

Based on an article by Kay Paggi

 

 

Please help our readers by sharing your experience with and suggestions for activities for those with dementia.

 

 

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Are Therapy Dolls and Fidget Blankets Good for Dementia Patients?

Coloring For Adults is a Healthy Hobby

Gifts for Nursing Home Residents

Help for Painkiller Induced Constipation – OIC

Does Prevagen Actually Help Your Memory?

Do Prescription Discount Cards Actually Save You Money?

Best Foot Bath Massagers – Full Reviews

Do Prescription Cards Actually Save You Money?

Shower Chairs and Bath Benches

Safety Grab Bars and Hand Rails for the Bathroom

Risks of Bed Rails – Should You Install Them?

How To Buy Adult Diapers

Would a Power Lift Chair Help in Your Home?

Caregivers Must Prepare for Emergencies – Here’s How

10 Simple Products to Help With Getting Dressed

Adjustable Beds – Benefits and Reviews

Choosing a Transport Chair

About Me

Create Your Own Blog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review of “Our Dementia Diary”

 

Book Review of

“Our Dementia Diary”

 

 

 

Rachael and Irene were supposed to live a long and happy life, retire and travel the world. But a thief called Alzheimer’s visited in 2004 and began tearing apart the lives they had carefully built for a quarter century.

This is a remarkably honest story of the enduring love between two people coping with uncertainty and the eventual loneliness of losing a spouse.

The author, Rachael Dixey, professor at Leeds Beckett University copes by keeping a journal—a way to release her feelings. She ties these entries with “interpolations” to make sense of it all. She wonders if a more appropriate title might be Fifty Shades of Dementia.

 

 

Dixey manages to find strength amidst the tears to take care of herself and find the humor. She hires in-home caregivers for Irene while she works (for sanity). When Irene is hospitalized and then placed in a care home, she visits almost every day and soon realizes the toll it takes when Irene recognizes her and says, “I love you” and the next day, forgets and walks past her in the corridor.

During the nine-years, from Irene’s diagnosis to her passing, Rachael writes of the full range of emotions—from the love she and Irene shared to missing Irene, feeling lonely as a singleton, dating (nothing lasts but gives her strength to be stronger for Irene), and even contemplating Irene’s death. Through it all, she visits Irene regularly, cares for her, feeds her, and feels Irene in every room of their house.

She recounts with humor the folly of dealing with social services. Irene attends adult day services in a county that only covers healthcare and receives healthcare in a county that covers social services such as adult day care. After almost a year, they work it out where she feels assured of not losing their home. Meanwhile, she takes time off periodically. The time away gives her greater appreciation for what she and Irene had despite some funny (in hindsight) foibles during her travels.

She recounts the good times they had going on “epic walks,” camping, exploring the mountains, trees, and sunsets. She misses those quiet mornings together. She struggles to remember the bad unusual behaviors for five years before Irene’s diagnosis at age 57. Home movies help her see the beginnings of Irene’s inexplicable behaviors. She’s able to piece together those embarrassing outbursts when Irene would storm out of restaurants after finding something wrong with her meal. She recalls the desperate cries at home when Irene couldn’t find a piece of clothing she had worn for several days in a row (likely because Rachael removed it for washing). And yet, Irene’s heart-wrenching cry early on returns to her from time to time, “I don’t know who I am anymore. Please help me.”

Written by an author based in the UK gives us Americans a refreshing expression of care between partners. Her writing is characterized as informed humility. We gain greater awareness and knowledge of what it’s like to live with Alzheimer’s while feeling the angst and pain of losing her soulmate. Written by one of a gay couple gives us an endearing portrait of how love among LGBTs is no different than love among (dare I say, traditional?) male-female partners. Oftentimes, because of ongoing discrimination, the bond of their love seems stronger.

I’m glad she chose to write, Our Dementia Diary – Irene, Alzheimer’s and Me and that her and Irene’s story is being shared. The LGBT caregiver’s voice is one that needs to be heard.

 

Based on a review by Brenda Avadian, MA,  who serves as President of The Caregiver’s Voice.

 

 

More information from Amazon:

 

This is a love story from start to finish, Irene and Rachael’s. Based on the diaries of Rachael Dixey who looked after her civil partner Irene after she developed early onset Alzheimer’s disease, the book opens with the lines: Irene, Alzheimer’s and me – Alzheimer’s came between us. It does that, drives you and the love of your life apart, going your separate ways because you cannot follow.

That’s the story really, that’s it. The end. But it is also the beginning of the story, which shows how life can still be lived despite losing a life partner to dementia, and how to cope emotionally and practically with a disease that robs you of your loved one a thousand times before they die.

 

 

The story charts the daily decline and inexorable loss of Irene to dementia. With the dramatic deterioration in Irene’s health Rachael turns from lover and soul mate to career and, finally, single woman. Eventually, no longer able to cope with Irene at home, she makes the agonizing decision to allow Irene to be put in a care home. There she spent her last six years. When she died aged 66, the couple had spent half their life together.

This book is a powerful and moving account of the progression of dementia, and raises serious questions about how our society cares for those who develop the disease, especially at a young age and in the gay, lesbian community. It also deals with loss and grief, during the illness and afterwards. Their memoir will be invaluable for anyone affected by dementia, those working in mental health and those caring for a loved one with a life-changing and incurable illness.

Our Dementia Diary tells with brutal honesty of love, loss and life with Alzheimer’s and opens up discussion of how dementia can be handled better.

 

 

 

Also Recommended:

The 36-Hour Day, 5th Edition A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss

This best seller is the definitive guide for people caring for someone with dementia. Now in a new and updated edition, this best-selling book features thoroughly revised chapters on the causes of dementia, managing the early stages of dementia, the prevention of dementia, and finding appropriate living arrangements for the person who has dementia when home care is no longer an option.

 

 

 

The author, Nancy L. Mace, M.A., is currently teaching dementia care internationally. She has been a consultant to the Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress, and to the Alzheimer’s Association, and she was an assistant in psychiatry and coordinator of the T. Rowe and Eleanor Price Teaching Service at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.  

 

 

 

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Book Review of “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?”

A Hospice Reflection

Preparing For Your Elderly Parent to Move In

Avoid or Slow Dementia By Building Cognitive Reserve

The MIND Diet for Fighting Dementia

First Signs of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s, Elevated Cortisol and Your Genes

The #1 Alzheimer’s Care Tip

Preserving Alzheimer’s Patients’ Dignity

Stop Alzheimer’s Wandering

Amazon Echo Great Help for Dementia Patients

Caregivers Can Help With Aphasia

Dementia-Proof Cooking with Fire Avert

Convincing Your Parents to Transition to Assisted Living

FBI Warning: Seniors Getting Scammed!

Should You Get a Medical Alert System?

Jitterbug Touch3 Smartphone Review

Dealing With Caregiver Anxiety

Managing Dementia Related Incontinence

About Me

Create Your Own Blog

 

Managing Dementia Related Incontinence

 

Managing Dementia Related Incontinence

 

Dementia is a devastating disease that affects approximately 24 million people worldwide; its most common form, Alzheimer’s disease, affects more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The disease slowly robs individuals of their memory, cognitive functioning, and eventually renders the person almost completely dependent upon others for their daily care. Though the causes are not completely understood, caregivers feel the strain of the disease daily as they help those affected with dementia to navigate the simplest of tasks such as getting dressed or eating meals.

 

 

 

Urinary and fecal incontinence can also be present in those who are affected with dementia. Though this loss in bodily functioning may be inevitable, it can be uncomfortable and embarrassing to the patient and the caregiver.

 

 

Incontinence can be caused by a variety of issues, and it may help to understand some of those causes to help the household cope with it.

The National Association for Continence (nafc.org) relates that most people wait an average of seven years before seeking treatment. This delay in seeking help often exacerbates an already stressful situation for both patients and caregivers.

In its simplest form, urinary incontinence is when someone does not have complete control over when he or she urinates. It may appear due to several reasons, and to make certain which one it is, the patient should be examined by a physician as soon as possible.

 

Stress Incontinence

Women who have had a baby or two may understand this type of incontinence the best. A forceful sneeze or cough may cause urine leakage since the muscles in the pelvic region can be loosened by childbirth. Normally Kegel exercises (tightening and releasing the pelvic muscles several times per day) can provide some strengthening, although it may not work for all women.

 

Urge Incontinence 

The urge to urinate may develop suddenly, resulting in urine leakage. Many people who have this type of incontinence are not given ample warning to get to the bathroom in time before leakage occurs. It is fairly common in the elderly, although it can be a sign of a bladder or kidney infection. If an infection is causing the incontinence, antibiotics can generally clear up the condition within a short period of time.

 

Overflow Incontinence

This type of incontinence is more common in men than women and results from an overfull bladder that does not empty effectively. It results in urine leaking on almost a continual basis. A blockage in the urinary tract system is generally the cause, like an enlarged prostate or other obstruction. A physical exam is a must for this type of incontinence in order to accurately diagnose and treat the condition.

 

Functional Incontinence 

In this type of incontinence loss of bladder control is caused by other conditions. For example, the person who is arthritic and does not move well may develop incontinence due to their inability to get to the bathroom in time. As dementia develops over time, this type of incontinence may be more prevalent and possibly more frustrating to treat since the cause is a symptom of the underlying disease and not easily attributed to an infection or other issue.

 

Bowel Incontinence

This type of incontinence causes a great deal of distress for many persons with dementia and their caregivers. Bowel incontinence can be partial when only a small amount of liquid waste leaks before toileting. Complete incontinence results when the person is unable to control any aspect of the bowel movement.

 

 

 

Dementia Related Incontinence

 

A person with dementia is more likely to have accidents, problems with the toilet or incontinence than a person of the same age who doesn’t have dementia.

 

 

 

 

 

The reasons for this can include:

 

  • not being able to react quickly enough to the sensation of needing to use the toilet
  • failing to get to the toilet in time – for example, because of mobility problems
  • not being able to tell someone that they need to go to the toilet because of problems communicating
  • not being able to find, recognize, or use the toilet. If someone becomes confused about their surroundings, they may urinate in an inappropriate place (such as a wastepaper basket) because they have mistaken it for a toilet
  • not understanding a prompt from someone to use the toilet
  • not being able to, or forgetting how to, perform the activities of using the toilet, such as undoing clothing and personal hygiene
  • not letting others help with going to the toilet, perhaps due to embarrassment or not understanding an offer of help
  • not making any attempt to find the toilet – this could be due to depression or lack of motivation, or because the person is distracted
  • embarrassment after an accident, which the person unsuccessfully tries to deal with. This may lead to wet or soiled clothes or feces being put out of sight. For example, they may be wrapped up and put at the back of a drawer to be dealt with later, only to be forgotten about.

 

For some people, incontinence develops because messages between the brain and the bladder or bowel don’t work properly. This may mean people don’t recognize that they have a full bladder or bowel, or have the control needed to empty them. However, this is not a common cause of toilet problems and incontinence in people with dementia. It usually only occurs when the person’s dementia is more advanced.

 

 

http://mychaoticbliss.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/ID-100240967.jpg

 

Things to Try

 

If you can find a reason for the accidents, it becomes easier to find an approach that will help prevent them in the future. If, despite your best efforts, you are not able to determine a specific reason, try the following strategies:

 

 

 

 

Toilet Decal – Comes With Glow-in-the-Dark Switchplate Decal)

 

Around the house

 

  • Make the toilet easy to find. Clearly mark the path on walls and/or floors; ensure that there are no obstacles; label bathroom doors with words or pictures or both. Use nightlights in dark areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Colored masking tape around the perimeter of a toilet or colored water may prevent accidental misses due to perceptual or visual losses.
  • See if the mirrors in the bathroom are a problem: she may feel like someone else is in the room.
  • Remove any obstacles in the way in the bathroom, for example, plants or wastepaper baskets, so he can get straight to the toilet.
  • Leave the door open to the bathroom when not in use.

 

 

What the caregiver can do

 

  • Watch for visible cues that the person needs to use the bathroom. For example, the person may get restless, make unusual sounds or faces, or pace around the room.
  • Give her simple instructions.
  • Give reminders to go to the toilet regularly, e.g., every two hours, in the morning upon getting out of bed, at bedtime or before going out.
  • Choose easy-to-remove clothing, such as Velcro closings or elastic waists.
  • Direct him to the front of the toilet before removing clothes.
  • For men, try putting a decal inside the toilet bowl to have something to “aim at.”
  • Give a cue to get started, such as running water or certain words. Try to ensure that the bladder is completely emptied.
  • Leave her alone if she prefers, but stay nearby. You can tell her that you are “just outside the door if she needs anything.”
  • If staying seated is a problem, distract him with favorite items to look at or hold.
  • If incontinence during the night is a problem, make sure she doesn’t drink too much just before going to bed. But do not withhold fluids during the day.
  • Make sure he uses the toilet before going to bed.

 

 

For safety’s sake

 

If Accidents Continue

Once you’ve determined that there are no medical or medication problems causing the accidents, some of the above ideas might keep her dry and clean. If accidents continue to occur, products such as disposable underwear, incontinence pads, panty liners (for women) or protective bedding might be helpful. These may be useful at certain times or in specific situations. Use them only if necessary. Even when wearing pads, take him to the bathroom on a regular basis.

 

 

Hygiene

Incontinence can lead to skin irritation and make him feel uncomfortable. If clothing becomes wet or soiled, help him to change right away, wash with mild soap and warm water and dry afterward. Then provide dry clothes.

 

Day to Day

In the event of an accident, it is important not to get angry or draw attention to what has happened. This can cause embarrassment or more upset. Cleaning up after a parent or spouse is not pleasant.

 

Remember that accidents are caused by the disease; they are not his fault. He may be as distressed as you. Try to maintain his dignity with encouragement. Remain calm. It is important to remember that you are doing the best you can.

 

 

Seeking Treatment

 

In order to understand why someone has developed incontinence, a medical exam is definitely in order. Since there may be special complications due to dementia, it is best to start with the patient’s primary physician since he or she is most familiar with the patient and their health history. He may order a visit to a urologist, a specialist in urinary conditions for men and women. It is important to remember, however, that a urologist is a surgeon and may not focus on non-surgical solutions, like the ones that will be discussed later.

 

When visiting the doctor, bring a description of how incontinence is affecting the patient’s life, including an overview of their daily routine. Some doctors recommend keeping a continence diary to provide a four or five day “snapshot” of what is happening at home. Be prepared to answer questions like the ones suggested by the National Association for Continence.

 

The questions below are only a few from their suggestions.

 

  • How much water does the patient drink every day?
  • What foods is the patient eating?
  • Does the patient have any control over urination?
  • Is the problem better or worse during the daytime or at night?
  • Is it linked to a physical condition (inability to move quickly, for example)?
  • When did the incontinence first appear?
  • Is the patient upset by their incontinence?
  • How many episodes does the patient have and in what time period?
  • Does the patient understand the signal or urge to urinate or are they unaware of the need?
  • Is there a burning or painful sensation when the patient needs to urinate?

 

 

Treatment Options

 

If the incontinence is due to an underlying medical condition, such as a urinary tract infection or a bowel obstruction, treatment can range from antibiotics to surgical intervention. The decision, of course, will be based on the severity of the condition and the best course of action for the patient. It is important to remember that incontinence is not a disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying issue that has developed with the patient.

 

If a medical condition is readily ruled out, the doctor may move on to other options like medications that treat the bladder’s urge to urinate or the frequency with which the bladder sends the “alarm” to the body that urination is about to occur. These medications are generally anticholinergics and have the effect of reducing frequent urges to urinate when the patient is unable to make it to a toilet fast enough. These urges may be made worse by the dementia since the signal that urination is about to occur may be misunderstood or misinterpreted by the patient.

 

Recently, however, researchers with the Wake Forest University School of Medicine uncovered a serious problem with older anticholinergic medications and medicines that are used to lessen the mental decline in cognitive functioning in some dementia patients. In many patients, the anticholinergic medications that treat incontinence interfere or counteract the medications that are also treating dementia. In other words, patients with dementia may experience a more rapid decline in mental functioning while taking anticholinergic medications. For these patients, treating the incontinence with medication is worse than finding alternative solutions for working with the issue. There are newer anticholinergic medications that were developed since the study’s original test results in 2003 and 2004 which may or may not have this effect. This is perhaps the best reason to discuss any medications that a dementia patient takes with their primary doctor before starting a new treatment course.

 

There are other non-medication or surgical methods that can be used to treat incontinence at home. Adaptive clothing may be able to help if functional incontinence is an issue.

 

Replacing hard-to-manipulate buttons and snaps with Velcro and zippers may be a quick fix if it appears that the patient is aware of the incontinence and wants to correct it without too much intervention on the part of the caregiver. This approach gives the patient more control over their environment and encourages independence. It also affords the patient the most privacy which is often a serious source of angst for many patients.

 

There are also incontinence products for all ages and sizes that may be helpful, although the patient may have difficulty understanding their use and disposal. Communicating the need for these products may be a challenge, and the caregiver may need to explain their use more than one time in order for the patient to understand.

 

Other methods may be home modifications or adding a portable toilet chair (commode) to the room(s) where the patient spends most of his or her time.

 

This method is relatively easy to implement, although it may need some additional explanation since patients with dementia wonder why the caregiver is altering the living situation or the layout of a particular room. Any approach that changes the daily routine of a dementia patient drastically should be undertaken thoughtfully and with as much input from the patient as possible.

 

 

The doctor may also recommend changes in diet, both fluid and foods, that can help treat incontinence. If bowel movements are not regular or consistent, then changing foods in the diet may make a significant improvement within a relatively short period of time. The patient may or may not resist such changes, especially if he or she has developed a resistance or affinity to particular foods due to dementia. It is important to discuss dietary changes with a physician or dietician so the patient is still eating balanced meals and snacks. Fluid intake should also be closely monitored.

Caregivers of dementia patients should understand that incontinence may be an inevitable part of the overall cognitive decline. As a person loses awareness of their surroundings, lifestyle, and loved ones, it is not surprising that loss of bodily functioning will also occur. It may be a tremendous source of frustration for both the caregiver and the patient.

Communicating the incontinence issues early with the patient’s healthcare team can help reduce some of the frustration that the household may have with the issue. Even though it can be an uncomfortable subject, it is important that the full needs of the patient be addressed. The sooner incontinence is addressed, the quicker the patient and the caregiver can begin to work with options that may reduce the frustration or embarrassment that is involved.

 

If you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease, there are two terrific books available on Amazon which I think you’ll find extremely helpful:  Surviving Alzheimer’s by Paula Spencer Scott and The 36-Hour Day by Nancy Mace and Peter Rabins.

 

Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical tips and soul-saving wisdom for caregivers by [Scott, Paula Spencer]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Caregiver’s Guide to Coping With Incontinence

How To Buy Adult Diapers

Top Adult Diaper Products Reviewed

Incontinence Protection Products for Home, Car and Bed

How to Buy an Elevated Toilet Seat

Your Guide to Shower Chairs and Bath Benches

Guide to Bathroom Grab Bars and Hand Rails

Help Your Older Adult Move From the Wheelchair to the Toilet

Modifying Your Bathroom For Safety

The Right Lighting Prevents Falls

How to Reduce the Risks of Heavy Lifting for Caregivers

Choosing a Medical Walker

Choosing the Best Transport Chair

Caregivers Need Sleep!

The Drunk Caregiver

How to Give a Sponge Bath in Bed

Natural Depression Remedies – What Works?

About Me

Create Your Own Blog

 

 

 

 

Melatonin Helps Sundowning and Other Sleep Disorders

 

 

Melatonin Helps Sundowning and Other Sleep Disorders

 

 

For many elderly people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, sunset can be a time of increased memory loss, confusion, agitation and even anger. 

 

Sundowning is a dementia-related symptom that refers to increased agitation, confusion and hyperactivity that begins in the late afternoon and builds throughout the evening.

 

For family members who care for those with dementia, witnessing an increase in their loved one’s symptoms of disorientation at sunset can be nothing short of troubling, if not also painful, frightening and exhausting.

 

 

 

Scientists don’t completely understand why sleep disturbances occur with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. As with changes in memory and behavior, sleep changes somehow result from the impact of Alzheimer’s on the brain.

 

Some studies indicate as many as 20 percent of persons with Alzheimer’s will experience increased confusion, anxiety and agitation beginning late in the day. Others may experience changes in their sleep schedule and restlessness during the night. This disruption in the body’s sleep-wake cycle can lead to more behavioral problems.

 

 

Factors that may contribute to sundowning and sleep disturbances include:

 

  • End-of-day exhaustion (both mental and physical)
  • An upset in the “internal body clock,” causing a biological mix-up between day and night
  • Reduced lighting and increased shadows causing people with Alzheimer’s to misinterpret what they see, and become confused and afraid
  • Reactions to nonverbal cues of frustration from caregivers who are exhausted from their day
  • Disorientation due to the inability to separate dreams from reality when sleeping
  • Less need for sleep, which is common among older adults

 

 

 

Circadian Rhythms and the Biological Clock

 

Although most people tend to think that manifestations of body function such as temperature and blood pressure are constant throughout the day, the fact is that many functions change in cyclic patterns—especially those that are affected by hormones, such as cortisol.

These daily fluctuations, or circadian rhythms (from Latin: “about one day”), are fundamental to all organisms, from bacteria to human beings. Circadian rhythms help coordinate and synchronize our internal body functions, as well as our interactions with the external world.

 

 

 

Scientists are still learning about how the body maintains this synchronicity with its environment. Here is some of what they’ve found.

 

 

 

Deep within the brain, in the anterior hypothalamus, lies the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), a dual cluster of thousands of nerve cells. This is the body’s circadian pacemaker, popularly known as the biological clock, which is powered, in a sense, by light.

 

 

 

The SCN receives signals from the outside world via the retina of the eye (the back inside lining of the eyeball, analogous to the film in a camera). When light strikes the retina, bioelectric signals are generated and sent to the SCN via a neural pathway called the retinohypothalamic tract. Signals are also sent, of course (via the optic nerve), to the visual cortex, where the sensation of vision is produced.

 

 

 

Melatonin—The Biological Clock’s Hour Hand

 

The signals that reach the SCN are processed and forwarded to a small number of other hypothalamic nuclei and to the destination of primary importance, the pineal gland. This is an endocrine gland whose pea size proves that, at least in terms of physiological importance, size doesn’t matter. What makes the pineal gland so important is the hormone it secretes: melatonin. This compound is the end product of a biosynthetic pathway that begins with the nutrient amino acid tryptophan.

Through a series of enzyme-catalyzed reactions, tryptophan is partially converted to 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), which is partially converted to serotonin, which is partially converted to melatonin. (How “partial” each of these conversions is depends on many factors governed by prevailing chemical conditions in different parts of the body.)

 

 

 

Lights Out = Melatonin On

 

The relationship between light and melatonin is inverse. When the SCN is stimulated by daylight signals from the retina, it instructs the pineal gland to suppress melatonin production (though not entirely). Then, when daylight fades in the evening, the SCN’s lack of stimulation is signaled to the pineal gland, and melatonin secretion is increased many times over, creating a physiological condition of “biological night” in the person.

The circadian rhythm of melatonin secretion is so tied to the day/night cycle that the daily duration of the secretion (at high levels) is shorter during the summer, when the nights are short, and longer during the winter, when the nights are long.

By directly controlling the pineal gland’s melatonin secretion, the SCN indirectly controls many of the body’s circadian rhythms, including those affected by jet lag. Consequently, many physicians recommend supplemental melatonin for relieving the symptoms of this condition.

Studies have shown that melatonin is effective in phase-shifting human circadian rhythms either forward or backward, giving long-distance travelers welcome relief from both the physical and psychological effects of jet lag.

 

 

Melatonin Is Good for Insomnia

 

Melatonin has also been used successfully for treating insomnia. In a newly published meta-analysis on the effects of supplemental melatonin on sleep, the authors analyzed the data from 17 previously published studies and concluded that melatonin can significantly decrease sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) and increase sleep efficiency and sleep duration.1

The fact that melatonin can be used for treating insomnia is especially relevant to the elderly. As people grow older, sleep problems, including difficulty in falling asleep and staying asleep, become common. This is probably because a general disruption of circadian rhythms associated with declining melatonin production is characteristic of the aging process.

With melatonin levels declining as we age, it makes sense to think that melatonin supplements (taken in the evening, of course) may be able to help us achieve a good night’s sleep.

 

 

Melatonin Deficiency May Cause Sundowning

 

There is evidence that melatonin may also be able to help relieve some of the symptoms of an emerging twenty-first-century epidemic: Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

First described clinically in 1906, AD is the most common cause of dementia in those aged 65 or older. With the rapidly aging population in the United States (it’s estimated that 30% of the population will be 65 or older by the year 2050), projections are that 14 million people will develop this devastating disease during the next four decades.2,3

 

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You may notice big changes in how your loved one with Alzheimer’s act in the late afternoon or early evening.  Fading light seems to be the trigger. The symptoms can get worse as the night goes on and usually get better by morning.

Disruption of the sleep/wake cycle is highly characteristic of AD, and a commonly observed problem in AD patients is a phenomenon called sundowning. This is a worsening (during the evening hours) of a constellation of cognitive and behavioral symptoms associated with the disease.

 

 

When someone is sundowning, they may be:

  • Agitated (upset or anxious)
  • Restless
  • Irritable
  • Confused
  • Disoriented
  • Demanding
  • Suspicious

 

 

They also may:

  • Yell
  • Pace
  • Hear or see things that aren’t there
  • Have mood swings

 

 

Up to 1 out of 5 people with Alzheimer’s get sundown syndrome. But it can also happen to older people who don’t have dementia.

Although there is no clear answer as to why this occurs, many researchers are coming to believe that declining melatonin levels may play a significant role.

 

 

 

A study in Current Neuropharmacology shows that Melatonin secretion decreases in Alzheimer´s disease (AD) and this decrease has been postulated as responsible for the circadian disorganization, decrease in sleep efficiency and impaired cognitive function seen in those patients.

Studies also show that Alzheimer’s patients with disturbed sleep-wake rhythms not only exhibited reduced amounts of melatonin secreted, but also a higher degree of irregularities in the pattern of the melatonin rhythm. 

 

 

According to scientific research, melatonin replacement has been shown effective to treat sundowning and other sleep wake disorders in AD patients.  Numerous controlled trials found improvement in such objective characteristics of sleep quality as total sleep time, sleep efficiency, and wake time during sleep as a result of melatonin treatment, as well as a trend toward decreased sundowning and improved sleep quality.  Several recent studies which reflect use of melatonin specifically in patients with dementia, demonstrated that melatonin reduces sundowning behavior, nocturnal activity, decreases sleep latency, and improves quality of sleep.

 

 

 

Melatonin May Help Alleviate Alzheimer’s Disease

 

A recent review by scientists at the Netherlands Institute for Brain Research in Amsterdam explains that declining melatonin production in the aged can not only affect their circadian rhythms but also play a role in the development and characteristics of Alzheimer’s disease itself.4

The authors cite research showing that aging is characterized by a progressive deterioration of circadian rhythms, due at least in part to degenerative changes in the SCN and the pineal gland, which result in diminished melatonin production.

They go on to cite studies showing that, in AD patients, the biological clock (SCN) is severely impaired, and the resultant degree of impairment of melatonin secretion is related to the severity of the mental impairment caused by the disease.

They state, “AD patients with disturbed sleep-wake cycle possess melatonin secretion rhythm disorders, and the disappearance of daily melatonin rhythm in AD patients is consistent with clinical circadian rhythm disorders, such as delirium, agitation, and sleep-wake disturbance.”

While it’s common in mainstream medical practice to use sedatives such as benzodiazepines, and antipsychotics such as haloperidol, to try to ameliorate the sundowning and sleep disturbances so commonly seen in Alzheimer’s patients, these drugs do little or nothing to help, and in some cases they may even exacerbate the problems.

This makes the use of melatonin supplementation seem all the more attractive by comparison, especially since it’s designed to rectify the very deficiency that caused the problem in the first place. The Dutch authors go on to state,

 

In AD patients, melatonin [supplementation] has been suggested to improve circadian rhythmicity, decreasing agitated behavior, confusion, and ‘sundowning’ in uncontrolled studies. Melatonin has also been suggested to have beneficial effects on memory in AD, possibly through protection against oxidative stress and neuroprotective capabilities.

 

 

Melatonin Is an Antioxidant and Neuroprotector

 

Oxidative damage to the brain caused by free radicals is thought to play a significant role in the cognitive impairments characteristic of Alzheimer’s, a disease in which free radicals are produced in much greater amounts then normal. These excess free radicals are known to cause significant damage to the brain, including the actual death of many neurons.

A review paper in 2000 reported that, in the autopsied brains of Alzheimer’s patients, there were many hallmark pathological changes caused by free radical activity, including oxidative damage to DNA, proteins, and lipids.5

Melatonin has significant antioxidant and neuroprotective properties, and it is believed that they may be important with regard to its role in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. It is intriguing to note that the precursor molecule 5-HTP (which can be taken as a supplement for the purpose of boosting serotonin levels) has recently been found to have a much higher antioxidant activity than melatonin.6

 

If your loved one experiences sundowning, it’s certainly worth trying a nightly dose of melatonin to see if it helps re-set their body clock. 

 

Experts also suggest these lifestyle tips to help minimize sundowning behaviors:

  • Try to maintain a predictable routine for bedtime, waking, meals and activities.
  • Plan for activities and exposure to light during the day to encourage nighttime sleepiness.
  • Limit daytime napping.
  • Limit caffeine and sugar to morning hours.
  • In the evening, try to reduce background noise and stimulating activities, including TV viewing, which can sometimes be upsetting.
  • In a strange or unfamiliar setting, bring familiar items — such as photographs — to create a more relaxed, familiar setting.
  • Play familiar gentle music in the evening or relaxing sounds of nature, such as the sound of waves.
  • Talk with your loved one’s doctor if you suspect an underlying condition, such as a urinary tract infection or sleep apnea, might be worsening sundowning behavior.

 

When sundowning occurs in a care facility, it may be related to the flurry of activity during staff shift changes or the lack of structured activities in the late afternoon and evening. Staff arriving and leaving may cue some people with Alzheimer’s to want to go home or to check on their children — or other behaviors that were appropriate in the late afternoon in their past. It may help to occupy their time with another activity during that period.

 

Do you have any tips to help sundowning?  Please share your thoughts and experience below.

 

References

  1. Brzezinski A, Vangel MG, Wurtman RJ, et al. Effects of exogenous melatonin on sleep: a meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev 2005;9(1):41-50.
  2. Grundman M, Thal L. Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurol Clin 2000;18(4):807-28.
  3. Mayeux R, Sang M. Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. New Engl J Med 1999;341:1670-9.
  4. Wu YH, Swaab DF. The human pineal gland and melatonin in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. J Pineal Res 2004 Dec 21 (online pub date).
  5. Christen Y. Oxidative stress and Alzheimer’s disease. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71(2):621-9.
  6. Keithahn C, Lerchi A. 5-Hydroxytryptophan is a more potent in vitro hydroxyl radical scavenger than melatonin or vitamin C. J Pineal Res 2005;38:62-6.

 

 

 

Recommended: The 36-Hour Day, 5th Edition

Originally published in 1981, The 36-Hour Day was the first book of its kind. Thirty years later, with dozens of other books on the market, it remains the definitive guide for people caring for someone with dementia.

Now in a new and updated edition, this best-selling book features thoroughly revised chapters on the causes of dementia, managing the early stages of dementia, the prevention of dementia, and finding appropriate living arrangements for the person who has dementia when home care is no longer an option.

 

 

 

 

Recommended: Surviving Alzheimer’s

Practical tips and soul-saving wisdom for caregivers

 

 

 

 

 

 

You may also be interested in:

Avoid or Slow Dementia By Building Cognitive Reserve

The MIND Diet for Fighting Dementia

First Signs of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s, Elevated Cortisol and Your Genes

The #1 Alzheimer’s Care Tip

Preserving Alzheimer’s Patients’ Dignity

Stop Alzheimer’s Wandering

Amazon Echo Great Help for Dementia Patients

Caregivers Can Help With Aphasia

Dementia-Proof Cooking with Fire Avert

Should You Get a Medical Alert System?

The Right Lighting Prevents Falls

Practical Shoes for the Elderly

Jitterbug Touch3 Smartphone Review

Help for Low Vision

Does Prevagen Actually Help Your Memory?

Blue Emu and Australian Dream – Which One is Better?

Easy Home First Aid Kit

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Convincing Your Parents to Transition to Assisted Living

Preparing For Your Elderly Parent to Move In

About Me

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