703-329-0900

Is it Alzheimer’s disease?

When your father struggles to remember a grandchild’s name, should you be concerned? Older adults typically have some memory loss. People with Alzheimer’s disease, however, experience very specific changes in their thinking that go beyond the normal forgetfulness of aging.

 

You might consider a dementia evaluation if your loved one has begun having difficulty with the following:

  • Remembering new things. Do you have to give the same information over and over again?
  • Dealing with numbers and logical thinking. Is Dad fumbling with the checkbook? Having trouble with a favorite card game?
  • Familiar activities. Is Mom leaving ingredients out of favorite recipes? Skipping steps?
  • Understanding the passage of time. Do you have to remind your loved one of the season or year?
  • Changes in vision. Does Dad have trouble judging distances? Does he get easily lost or disoriented, not recognizing familiar places?
  • Carrying on a conversation. Is Mom repeating herself or seeming to make up words? Do her answers in a conversation not make sense with the topic?
  • Losing things. Are you finding things put in odd places?
  • Poor decision making. Is Dad spending money on unusual purchases? Do you have to convince Mom to bathe?
  • Socializing or doing hobbies. Has Mom given up a favorite hobby or withdrawn from a group of friends?
  • Staying calm. Is your loved one suddenly moody? Perhaps anxious or irritable?

 

Any one of these changes in behavior could signal the beginning of a more serious memory problem, or not. That is why it’s important to have your loved one checked out by a physician.

  • It may not be Alzheimer’s. A number of reversible conditions look like Alzheimer’s. With proper diagnosis and treatment, these symptoms disappear.
  • If it is Alzheimer’s, there are benefits to detecting it as early as possible. Medications are available that slow the progression of Alzheimer’s symptoms. Other medications may help relieve moodiness.

 

For more information about what’s normal and what’s not, check out the Alzheimer’s Association’s in-depth description of the 10 signs of Alzheimer’s.

 

Are you worried?
As the Northern Virginia experts in aging well, we at Senior Care Management Services understand how troubling the thought of Alzheimer’s can be. We can help you get a proper evaluation. Give us a call at 703-329-0900.

Cancer Screening Recommendations for Seniors – From the American Cancer Society

Healthy behaviors like healthy eating and refraining from smoking and too much alcohol, are likely to lessen one’s chances of developing cancer. Additionally, the American Cancer Society wants everyone to also be screened for some cancers on a regular basis. Identifying a cancer early will give one a better chance of eradicating it. The American Cancer Society provides screening guidelines for persons of all ages. Below are their recommendations for those age 65 and above. To see the recommendations for all ages, see https://www.cancer.org/healthy/find-cancer-early/cancer-screening-guidelines/screening-recommendations-by-age.html.

 

MEN

Colon Cancer Testing

The ACS says there are many testing options, so speak to your healthcare professional to understand which options are best for you. Medicare does cover testing.

Prostate Cancer Testing

Age by itself is not the only factor in considering prostate cancer testing. General health and anticipated life span should also be factored into the decision to test. Those considering this test should speak with their physician and the risks and benefits. Medicare does cover prostate cancer testing.

Lung Cancer Testing

For those with a smoking history, it is best to discuss this option with your physician. An annual low dose CT scan is an option for early lung cancer. Screening may benefit a current or former smoker (quit within the last 15 years). There are risks and benefits to testing, so it is recommended you discuss your options for screening with your physician. Lung cancer testing is covered by Medicare.

 

WOMEN

Breast Cancer Testing

For women 65 and older, the American Cancer Society recommends getting a mammogram every two years, but you can certainly choose to do so once a year. Additionally, it is important to know if you are at higher than average risk of developing breast cancer, as well as knowing how your breasts normally feel and look. If you are in the higher than average risk group, be sure to speak with your health practitioner about other tests you may need along with a mammogram.

Cervical Cancer Testing

Women who have a history of serious cervical pre-cancer are advised to continue testing for 20 years following that diagnosis. No testing is recommended for the following:

If you’ve had regular cervical cancer testing with normal results during the previous 10 years;

After a hysterectomy that removed the uterus and cervix – when it was done for reasons not related to cervical cancer.

Medicare does cover testing.

Colon Cancer Testing

Testing is recommended. As there are many testing options, speak with your health practitioner about which tests are appropriate for you and how often tests should be conducted. Medicare does cover testing costs.

Lung Cancer Testing

For those with a smoking history, it is recommended you speak with a health care practitioner to see whether you should get an annual low-does CT scan. This tests for early lung cancer. Screening may benefit you if you are an active smoker, quite within the last 15 years, have no signs of lung cancer, and have a 30 pack a year smoking history. Risks, benefits and limitations should be discussed with your practitioner. Medicare does cover testing.

 

This article was last updated on March 13, 2018.

 

Visiting Mom During the Holidays. Something Not Right?

The holiday season is here, and you may have visited, or will be visiting an elderly loved one. Are things different than the last visit? Are you seeing things that don’t seem right?  How do you know if something is wrong?  Below are some areas to consider (note feminine emphasis for ease of writing, but also applicable to elder males):

Personal Hygiene – Does she shower less frequently, wear dirty clothes, or have neglected teeth? Are there any injuries that you can see? Is there a urine smell? Was she always fastidious about her wardrobe, and now is dressing in a less put together way?

Forgetfulness  – Have you seen stacks of unopened mail or newspapers, unpaid bills, unfilled prescriptions or missed appointment slips? Letters from credit card companies with reminders to pay or late payment charges can be a sign.

Behavior – Does she repeat questions? Can she carry on an extended conversation? Does she refuse any suggestion or does she just agree with everything said? Does she retain what was said? Are there any apparent mood swings? Is she unusually loud or quiet? Is she angry?

Relationships – Do friends call? Have relationships changed in such a way that friends and neighbors have expressed concerns? Has she quit socializing or participating?

Medication and Health Management – Can she take medications without supervision? What are the medications? Who goes to the doctor with her? Is she going to the doctor at all?  Does she refuse to go?

Eating Habits – Does the refrigerator contain adequate food? Is there any spoiled food present? Sour milk? Rotten eggs? Have her eating habits changed? Any unexplained weight loss? Has she missed meals or have a lack of appetite?

Shopping or buying things – Do you see evidence of excessive shopping or ordering? Is the mail full of charitable letters, a sign that she is giving money to anyone who asks?  Is she having difficulty making change or writing checks?

Home Maintenance – Is it in disrepair? Is dust accumulating where (at one time) she was a great housekeeper? Is trash accumulating? Is the kitchen clean and counters wiped down? Are dishes piling up in the sink?

Kathleen S. Allen, LCSW, C-ASWCM, is a Geriatric Care Manager and Elder Care Consultant in Northern Virginia. She works with seniors and their families to help guide them through the challenges of aging and caregiving.

 

This article was first published in December 2011, and was updated in December 2017.

Keeping Older Adults Safe in the Cold Days of Winter

While the snowy scene above can be so inviting to many, it is not to all. As we grow older, the cold of winter can affect us more severely.  Older adults can lose body heat fast – faster than when they were young.  A chill can turn into a dangerous problem before an older person even knows what’s happening. This is what is known as hypothermia.

Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature gets very low.  For an older person, a body temperature colder than 95 degrees can cause many health problems, such as a heart attack, kidney problems, liver damage, or worse.  Being outside in the cold, or even being in a very cold house, can lead to hypothermia. But steps can be taken to lower your chance, or that of an older adult, of getting hypothermia.

The National Institute on Aging has a very thorough article on keeping safe in the winter cold.  Included are examples of older adults who have learned to live safely in cold climates, as well as many recommendations for keeping an older adult safe in the cold of winter.  Among the suggestions are:

  • Set the heat at 68 degrees or higher.
  • Dress warmly on cold days even if staying in the house.
  • Wear loose layers when going outside on chilly days.
  • Wear a hat, scarf, and gloves.
  • Don’t stay out in the cold and wind for a long time.
  • Talk to a doctor about health problems that may make it harder to keep warm.
  • Find safe ways to stay active even when it’s cold outside.
  • Ask a neighbor or friend to check on you if you live alone.

If you think someone has hypothermia, call 911 right away. Cover him or her with a blanket. Do not rub his or her legs or arms.

 

This article was updated in December 2017.

 

What Would You Do?

This is a question I hear fairly frequently. Family caregivers come to me looking for solutions to their caregiving challenges, and often this question surfaces. “If this were you, what would you do?”

Recently, I was reminded of this question after attending a one day conference with Teepa Snow, a national expert in communicating with those with dementia and Alzheimer’s. It was a day I will not soon forget. She was engaging, interesting, entertaining, and so very informative. I could not get over how many notes I took, as she showed the large audience many techniques in having a successful communication with their dementia and Alzheimer’s patients or family members.

So, if someone came to me looking to understand how to communicate with their loved one who has Alzheimer’s, I would share what I know, and I would also recommend they look online for Teepa Snow. She is the most informative expert I know of in this area of Alzheimer’s.

Here is a link to her website. Be sure to check it out.