I was interviewed about how to deal with dementia in the family and how to prepare for the worst on Profit Boss® Radio with Hilary Hendershott. What I failed to mention was that helping your loved one maintain purpose and meaning maybe the most important consideration.
It was posted on the anniversary of my parent’s marriage. I was the primary adult family caregiver to my two parent’s who were nearly simultaneously diagnosed with vascular dementia (mom) and Alzheimer’s (dad).
There are many things to know and consider if you have a parent with dementia. Recent studies continue to promote that:
- Be physically active and enjoy regular physical activity. Cardio helps both mind and body.
- Consider following a mediterranean diet and eat healthily.
- Don’t smoke.
- Drink less alcohol.
I believe the MOST IMPORTANT element is to consider your brain a muscle you need to exercise. Meaning and purpose and working toward a task and goals is a great way to exercise your mind.
You can hear the interview and some simple tips on how to navigate this phase of life if you are facing this situation here. Shared.
For those of us caring (or have cared) for parents with dementia, you should know there are a variety of factors that we can control that will reduce our risk.
The first is good news for those of us that worry that genetic factors have sealed our fate.
Association of Lifestyle and Genetic Risk With Incidence of Dementia (JAMA, July 2019) The study sought to determine if a healthy lifestyle was associated with lower risk of dementia, regardless of genetic risk. They found that a favorable lifestyle was associated with a lower risk of dementia among participants with high genetic risk. There is considerable evidence that individuals who avoid smoking tobacco, are physically active, drink alcohol in moderation, and have a healthy diet have a lower dementia risk.
The next study reports that higher levels of daily physical activity may protect against the cognitive decline and neurodegeneration (brain tissue loss) from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) that alters the lives of many older people. This was from researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Exercise offers protection against Alzheimer’s (JAMA Neurology, July 2019)
I noticed what a difference exercise made for my Dad who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I worked to encourage him to get exercise, but it got to the point that the only way it worked was when I would challenge him to play Racquetball with me. He had a group of friends that he regularly met in the mornings, but after he fell on the Racquetball court and broke his hip, he was just unable to return more because he couldn’t manage to plan ahead and would not allow me to help. When I did get him moving he was just more communicative. I do need to add that he recovered from his hip surgery and was still able to beat me. While I could run, I just couldn’t outsmart his crafty shots.
I have also seen this with the older adults I work with. The more they are engaged with others and active, the better they seem to manage when it comes to working on daily finances and household chores. I have many that really want to stay in their homes but also don’t realize how isolating that can be.
The middle stage is hard to navigate as our loved ones think they are managing but are unable to recognize what they are not able to do or follow up on. If there is anyway to incorporate friends who can help them return to an activity they shared it will give them both a social and a physical boost?
The research has proven that we aren’t predestined to the fate of our parents if we have a favorable lifestyle. The good news for our loved ones is that exercise will help them even after a diagnosis. Let me know if you have had some success getting your loved ones that have been diagnosed moving again. Encouraged.
Have you ever been asked to recite your medical history and been a little fuzzy on a few of the dates? The longer I live, I feel like the harder it is getting to know exactly when I had specific surgeries. Thankfully I have kids so it has been easier to track based on their birth since two of them coincided with their births. However, I know this is going to get harder the longer I live.
I know when I had to help my parents, knowing the familiar history of their families was important. Thankfully, my cousins could help out when we were faced with Dad’s cancer.
In general, having this done in advance will benefit you. So often these questions are asked of us, and most often, we don’t really know of our extended families history.
As we move into the holidays you can find ways to learn more about your extended family. WebMD offers this family health checklist, but I sure hope you can figure out how to better ask these questions. I’ve always gone in a little soft to ask about their lives and their passions and in that, if there were a health issue, it usually gets mentioned and from there you can go a little deeper.
Just having this written down about yourself will help you and may assist a loved one. Seventy percent of us will need someone to be their health advocate — and I want to make sure my loved ones have what they need to help me. Prepared.