101 Things To Do With Someone with Dementia

101 Things To Do With Someone with Dementia

Activities help to give purpose and meaning. Make each activity success-oriented, failure-free. Here are 101 ideas:

  1. Make collage from magazine
  2. Put together nuts and bolts
  3. Bake cookies
  4. Read paper
  5. Invite children to visit
  6. Read a letter out loud
  7. Listen to music
  8. Parachute game
  9. Color/Paint
  10. Make lemonade
  11. Wipe off table
  12. Talk about gardening
  13. Make Pigs-in-a-Blanket
  14. Spelling bee
  15. Readers Digest
  16. Fold clothes, sort socks
  17. Pet visit
  18. Cut out cards
  19. Wash silverware
  20. Bake bread
  21. Sort objects
  22. Sing Christmas songs
  23. Life Review
  24. Put silver away
  25. Make a Valentine’s collage
  26. Sing songs
  27. Look out window, what do you see?
  28. Make a pie
  29. Read a poem
  30. Dye Easter eggs
  31. Sort socks
  32. Take a walk
  33. String fruit loops
  34. String cranberries
  36. Look at photos
  37. Reminisce
  38. Clip coupons
  39. Sort poker chips
  40. Count things
  41. Fold towels
  42. Afternoon Tea
  43. Reminisce/Inventions
  44. Play a game
  45. Paint
  46. Cut out paper dolls
  47. Identify states and capitols
  48. Make a family tree
  49. Color American Flag
  50. Cook hot dogs
  51. Grow magic rocks
  52. Water house plants
  53. Reminisce – first kiss
  54. Play horseshoes
  55. Dance
  56. Sing a hymn
  57. Make ice cream
  58. Plant bulbs
  59. Make cards
  60. Sort cards by suit
  61. Write a letter
  62. Dress in team colors-talk sports
  63. Pop popcorn
  64. Name the U.S. Presidents
  65. Give a manicure, hand massage with scented lotion
  66. Music, Movement & Props
  67. Plant or weed
  68. Make a May basket
  69. Watch a favorite old movie
  70. Finish a famous saying
  71. Feed the ducks
  72. Mold dough
  73. Picture books
  74. Put a simple puzzle together
  75. Sand wood
  76. Rub on hand lotion
  77. Decorate place mats
  78. Arrange fresh flowers in a vase
  79. Remember famous people
  80. Rake leaves
  81. Make a fruit salad
  82. Sweep the patio or room
  83. Talk about famous events
  84. Nursery Rhymes. You start
  85. Make sandwiches
  86. Dust furniture
  87. Cut up paper/ Tear paper
  88. Take care of bird cage/fish tank.
  89. Trace/cut leaves
  90. Simple trivia questions
  91. Finish Bible quotes
  92. Paint with string
  93. Cut out pictures
  94. Read/listen to a short story
  95. Put coins in a jar
  96. Sew sewing cards
  97. Put seed in bird feeder
  98. Clean out pumpkin
  99. Roll yarn
  100. Reminisce about vacation
  101. Make a cake
Getting Educated About Alzheimer’s Disease

Getting Educated About Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, irreversible disorder of the brain and the most common form of dementia. The disease affects the cognitive parts of the brain that are involved in thinking, remembering, and using language. It can severely impair a person’s ability to carry out day-to-day activities.

The Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s
Dementia isn’t a specific disease, but rather a general term to describe any loss or decline in brain function that affects memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior, and is serious enough to interfere with daily functions. There are numerous types of dementia, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases.

Alzheimer’s Disease Causes and Risk Factors
Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the excessive shrinking of certain brain tissues, which occurs when neurons stop functioning, lose connections with other neurons, and eventually die. It’s not known how this process begins, but the brains of people with Alzheimer’s contain amyloid plaques (which are abnormal protein deposits between neurons) and neurofibrillary tangles (twisted strands of a protein called tau) that likely affect neurons. Research suggests that the genes you inherit may play a role in the development of Alzheimer’s. Other possible risk factors for Alzheimer’s include heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

Preventing Alzheimer’s
Making healthy life choices may help prevent or slow the onset of Alzheimer’s. These preventive measures include eating a healthy diet, drinking alcohol moderately, maintaining an active lifestyle, getting adequate sleep, keeping your mind active and engaged and forming lasting and healthy social connections.

The Alzheimer’s Association has developed a checklist of common symptoms to help you recognize the difference between normal age-related memory changes and possible warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s always a good idea to check with a doctor if a person’s level of function seems to be changing. The Alzheimer’s Association stresses that it is critical for people diagnosed with dementia and their families to receive information, care and support as early as possible.

Early Warning Signs
• Memory loss
• Difficulty performing familiar tasks
• New problems with writing or speaking
• Confusion with time and place
• Poor or decreased judgment
• Problems with abstract thinking
• Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
• Changes in mood or behavior
• Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
• Withdrawing from social activities
To view the full checklist, visit http://www.alz.org/10-signs-symptoms-alzheimers-dementia.asp.

Urinary Tract Infections in the Elderly

Urinary Tract Infections in the Elderly

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) aren’t just a nuisance in the elderly—they can cause serious health problems. A UTI happens when bacteria in the urethra, bladder or kidneys multiplies in the urine. If left untreated, a UTI can lead to acute or chronic kidney infections, which could permanently damage these vital organs and even lead to kidney failure. These common infections are also a leading cause of sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection of the bloodstream.

Seniors Are Prone to UTIs

The population most likely to experience UTIs is the elderly. Older individuals are more vulnerable for many reasons, including their overall susceptibility to infections due to a weakened immune system. Elderly men and women also experience a weakening of the muscles of the bladder and pelvic floor, which can lead to increased urine retention (incomplete emptying of the bladder) and incontinence. These things all contribute to infection.

Typical Symptoms of UTIs are as follows: Frequent or urgent need to urinate; pain or burning during urination; urine that appears cloudy or dark; bloody urine; strong or foul-smelling urine; feelings of pressure in the lower pelvis; low-grade fever; night sweats, shaking or chills.

Lesser-Known UTI Symptoms in Seniors

Older individuals with UTIs may not exhibit any of the hallmark signs listed above because their immune systems are unable to mount a significant response to the infection. On top of the lack of noticeable symptoms, many seniors cannot express their discomfort to their caregivers.

Since aging adults’ bodies respond differently to infection, it is important to look for different signs and symptoms. One symptom of UTIs in the elderly is often mistaken for the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, according to National Institutes of Health (NIH). Indicators of infection in seniors include the following: Confusion or delirium; agitation; hallucinations; poor motor skills or loss of coordination; dizziness; falling; and other atypical behavior.

These are often the only symptoms that present in the elderly, so it is crucial to keep an eye out for these sudden changes in behavior and mental state.

Diagnosis & Treatment

In most cases, diagnosing and treating an elderly urinary tract infection is relatively straightforward: a simple urinalysis can confirm the infection’s presence and, for someone in good health, antibiotics are the first choice of treatment. UTIs often clear up in only a few days. But depending on the age and health of the patient—and the severity of the infection—the course of treatment can take weeks and perhaps involve hospitalization for the administration of intravenous antibiotics.

Risk Factors & Prevention

Older adults at greater risk for getting a UTI include: Those who require a catheter in the urethra and bladder; those who are diabetic; anyone with kidney stones; and, women who’ve gone through menopause.

After menopause, women produce less estrogen, which helps protect against UTIs. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or a topical estrogen cream can help protect post-menopausal women from UTIs. However HRT may increase other health risks, so may not be appropriate for all women. About 20 percent of women who’ve had a UTI will experience a second one, and 30 percent of those women will get third.

Other steps to take to reduce the risk of UTIs:

  • Drink plenty of fluids (Older adults should drink four to six 8-ounce glasses of water a day).
  • Drink cranberry juice (without added sugar) or D-Mannose tablets (which is the glucose-like compound in cranberry juice that help reduce the occurrence of UTIs.)
  • Avoid or at least limit caffeine and alcohol intake, which irritates the bladder.
  • Do not douche or use other feminine hygiene products.
  • Always wipe from front to back (for women).
  • Wear breathable cotton underwear and change them at least once a day.
  • Take showers instead of baths.
Your Brain on Books

Your Brain on Books

Diving into a great novel is an immersive experience that can make your brain come alive with imagery and emotions and even turn on your senses. There is hard evidence that supports that while reading, we can actually physically change our brain structure, become more empathetic, and even trick our brains into thinking we’ve experienced what we’ve only read in novels.

We make photos in our minds.

Reading books and other materials with vivid imagery is not only fun, it also allows us to create worlds in our own minds. Researchers have found that visual imagery is simply automatic. Participants were able to identify photos of objects faster if they’d just read a sentence that described the object visually, suggesting that when we read a sentence, we automatically bring up pictures of objects in our minds.

Spoken word can put your brain to work.

Critics are quick to dismiss audiobooks as a sub-par reading experience, but research has shown that the act of listening to a story can light up your brain. When we’re told a story, not only are language processing parts of our brain activated, experiential parts of our brain come alive, too. Hear about food? Your sensory cortex lights up, while motion activates the motor cortex.

Reading about experiences is almost the same as living it.

Have your ever felt so connected to a story that it’s as if you experienced it in real life? There’s a good reason why: your brain actually believes that you have experienced it. When we read, the brain does not make a real distinction between reading about an experience and actually living it; the same neurological regions are stimulated. Novels are able to enter into our thoughts and feelings.

Different styles of reading create different patterns in the brain.

Any kind of reading provides stimulation for your brain, but different types of reading give different experiences with varying benefits. Stanford University researchers have found that close literary reading in particular gives your brain a workout in multiple complex cognitive functions, while pleasure reading increases blood flow to different areas of the brain. They concluded that reading a novel closely for literary study and thinking about its value is an effective brain exercise, more effective than simple pleasure reading alone.

Your brain adapts to reading e-books in seven days.

If you’re used to reading paper books, picking up an e-reader can feel very awkward at first. But experts insist that your brain can adopt the new technology quickly, no matter your age or how long you’ve been reading on paper. In fact, the human brain adapts to new technology, including e-reading, within seven days.

Story structure encourages our brains to think in sequence, expanding our attention spans.

Stories have a beginning, middle, and end, and that’s a good thing for your brain. With this structure, our brains are encouraged to think in sequence, linking cause and effect. The more you read, the more your brain is able to adapt to this line of thinking. Neuroscientists encourage parents to take this knowledge and use it for children, reading to kids as much as possible. In doing so, you’ll be instilling story structure in young minds while the brain has more plasticity, and the capacity to expand their attention span.

Reading changes your brain structure (in a good way)

Not everyone is a natural reader. Poor readers may not truly understand the joy of literature, but they can be trained to become better readers. And in this training, their brains actually change. In a six-month daily reading program from Carnegie Mellon, scientists discovered that the volume of white matter in the language area of the brain actually increased. Further, they showed that brain structure can be improved with this training, making it more important than ever to adopt a healthy love of reading.

Deep reading makes us more empathetic:

It feels great to lose yourself in a book and doing so can even physically change your brain. As we let go of the emotional and mental chatter found in the real world, we enjoy deep reading that allows us to feel what the characters in a story feel. And this in turn makes us more empathetic to people in real life, becoming more aware and alert to the lives of others.
Hospitalizing a Loved One with Dementia

Hospitalizing a Loved One with Dementia

Be aware of the following common pitfalls during hospitalization, so you can take steps to prevent them:

  1. Delirium. Delirium is a state of acute mental confusion. People with dementia develop delirium at much higher rates than typical hospital patients. It’s often missed by hospital staff, however, because they don’t know what’s normal for that person. There are many possible causes of delirium. In a hospital setting, common triggers are a hospital-acquired infection or complications from surgery. Many hospital techniques meant to manage a confused patient may worsen confusion, including the use of restraints, tranquilizers, and sleep aids.

What you can do: Know the signs of delirium, and make sure the hospital staff is aware of a sudden change in mental status as soon as possible. Make sure that pain is being adequately treated. Pain can trigger delirium. Work to keep your loved one oriented and calm. Gently orient your loved one with reminders: “Here we are, still in the hospital for that operation, Dad.” “You’re in a hospital bed to have your heart checked.” A familiar blanket or favorite picture from home and a cheerful plant can also be calming.

  1. Accidental falls. Someone with dementia may already be unsteady due to coordination problems. Disorientation can also cause the person to forget where he or she is and get out of bed the wrong way or bump into unfamiliar furniture or walls on the way to the bathroom and take a tumble.

What you can do: Have someone by the person’s side as much as possible so that they can be there to assist when he or she moves about. Issue reminders every time the person gets up: “Here, let me help you because you have those stitches on your side.” Bring hospital slippers that fit securely on the feet, rather than easy-on (and, unfortunately, easy-off) scuffs that can contribute to tripping.

  1. Undertreated pain. Although families often worry about their loved ones being overtreated with pain medication in the hospital, the opposite is more likely to be true in older adults with dementia. This is because it can be hard to gauge pain levels in someone who’s confused or can’t communicate well. Many people worry that by asking for relief, their loved one could become addicted to painkillers; this is almost never true for people with no history of substance abuse.

What you can do: Stay close to your loved one during the hospitalization so that you can monitor for symptoms of pain, including moaning during sleep, frowning or other expressions of discomfort, wincing when moving a certain way, favoring certain positions, or complaining of pain (even if it’s later forgotten by the person). Report pain to hospital staff on your loved one’s behalf. You know what’s normal for your loved one better than anyone else, and what looks like discomfort.

  1. Overused urinary catheters. Bladder catheters are often needed at the start of a hospitalization to drain the bladder, but they’re often left in for longer than is necessary. This raises the risk of infection. Because the catheter is attached to a drainage bag, having one reduces the patient’s mobility, which can make hospitalization less comfortable and can slow recovery. Someone with dementia may forget the catheter is in place, adding to confusion and discomfort.

What you can do: Ask the doctor and nursing staff every day if the catheter is still needed. For men who need a urinary catheter, ask if a condom catheter can be used. They also may reduce the chance of bladder infections, provided the patient doesn’t pick at the catheter too much.

  1. Constipation. Constipation can develop in the hospital for several reasons. It’s a side effect of many painkilling medications, which may be given during hospitalization. Also, the person’s normal routines for eating and drinking, moving around, and yes, voiding, are all thrown off during a hospital stay.

What you can do: Let the nurses and doctors know if your loved one isn’t having a bowel movement at least every other day, or if you see any other signs of constipation, such as abdominal pain, nausea, bloating, cramping, or a loss of appetite, along with poor stool production. Know that there is a range of safe laxative options for treating constipation.

Second of an 8-part series by Leslie Kernisan, M.D. and Paula Spencer Scott, Caring.com.

Our Brains Need Exercise, Too

Our Brains Need Exercise, Too

Although life expectancy has more than doubled since 1900, our “mindspan”—how long we stay cognitively healthy—hasn’t kept pace. Forgetfulness, slower processing and feeling less sharp plague most of us as we age. One in five people develops mild cognitive impairment, a decline in thinking skills beyond normal aging, which may or may not advance to dementia. After 65, your odds of developing Alzheimer’s disease are one in 10. It doesn’t have to be that way, mounting research suggests.

“The very term ‘age-related memory loss’ may be a misnomer,” says neurologist Dr. Richard Isaacson, an Alzheimer’s specialist at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. Time and genetics alone don’t erode brain functions. How we spend our lives managing the modifiable risk factors that affect our genes is highly significant for our brain health, researchers say.

Brain health: Stop thinking there’s nothing you can do. “Awareness of the steps to improve cognitive brain function is at least a generation behind that of heart health,” says cognitive neuroscientist Sandra Bond Chapman, director of the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas.

In a review of public awareness studies by PLOS One, a nonprofit, peer-reviewed, online scientific journal, nearly half of the respondents mistakenly believed Alzheimer’s disease is a normal process of aging that you can’t do anything about. In reality, a third or more of dementia cases can be delayed or prevented by lifestyle factors, according to a 2017 report sponsored by the Lancet Commission on Dementia Prevention, Intervention and Care.

Use brain health to motivate your health habits. Advances in neuroimaging kicked off this new era of brain health by allowing scientists to see inside the brain. What’s become clear: All aspects of physical and emotional health affect cognitive ability. That’s powerful motivation the next time you’re tempted to skip a workout or not opt for a healthy meal, do nothing about stress or loneliness, or avoid treatment for conditions like depression, anxiety, diabetes and sleep apnea. Effects of all of these choices, and many others, travel north.

Resist too much habit and routine. Hallmarks of brain-stimulating activities that improve cognitive abilities, according to a 2017 report by the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) are novelty, high engagement, mental challenge and enjoyableness. If you like crosswords, fine, but push beyond to new games and challenges. Good examples from the GCBH: Tai chi, researching genealogy, picking up an old hobby you dropped, making art and community volunteering. When activities include a social component, so much the better.

Be aggressive about blood pressure. In 2018 researchers at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., showed for the first time that lowering blood pressure to below 120 can significantly reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Work your brain harder, but not by multitasking. Your brain grooves on doing— but only one thing at a time. Multitasking stresses it. Researchers say one better alternative is a cognitive exercise called “strategic attention.” The Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training program at the University of Texas at Dallas, advises this: Every day, pick two substantial tasks requiring fairly deep thinking. They might be tracking and analyzing your household budget, planning a vacation, writing a memo or following a complex new recipe. Then carve out two 30-minute sessions to focus without interruption.

Turn off email alerts. Shut the door. No quick scrolls through your news feed that will take you off your task. It takes up to 20 minutes to refocus after a disruption. Over time, you’ll find that you’ll achieve much more, and much more quickly, with improved attention.

Do (the right kind of) nothing. It’s not all about activity. The brain needs two kinds of downtime to function optimally: Rest and sleep. Rest means taking breaks from active thinking. Try taking five minutes, five times a day, to sit still and do nothing. Other routes to mental R&R include mindfulness, meditation and yoga nidra (also known as iRest and sleep yoga). Not least, there’s sleep itself. Our awareness of how important it is to the brain grew with the discovery of the body’s glymphatic system—a kind of internal trash-hauling system—less than a decade ago. The system’s pace increases by over 60 percent during sleep, a possible link to why getting more sleep is linked with a reduced dementia risk. Alzheimer’s prevention experts recommend eight to nine hours a night.

By Paula Spencer Scott, for Nextavenue