It can be so hard to watch your loved one struggle with the effects of memory disorders like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. They can’t always find the right words they need to communicate, fall behind on chores and simple routines, like cooking and hygiene. They might even wander off, which is not only frightening but potentially dangerous. This can be very stressful and frustrating not only for the person whose memory seems just out of reach, but also for the caregivers trying to keep up with ever-evolving symptoms, all while missing certain aspects of their loved one that seem to have disappeared with time.
If this sounds like you or someone you care about, you might feel like you have tried everything to help ease the strain of dementia. However, there might be one seemingly ordinary thing you can try that has been there the whole time: music.
Numerous studies have shown that music therapy for dementia patients fires neurons in the parts of the brain most affected by the disease. Humans of all ages respond to music differently than other noise, such as the sound of traffic or a lawn mower, this is because music is what scientists call, “organized noise.” In other words, there are patterns, rhythms, and an internal logic to music that humans have evolved a response to. There’s a whole part of the brain dedicated to processing the music we hear! When a song comes on, that part of the brain lights up, and in turn signals other areas of the brain to also respond.
It’s part of why you can’t help dancing when something good comes on the radio, even if you’re sitting at a red light. It’s also why you can hear a song from years ago and feel awash in memories and sensations from that time. Both young and old respond this way. Babies react to music long before they have the language skills needed to understand the lyrics. And anyone who has spent time with kids know how much they love the repetition, rhyme, sing-along-song quality of classic children’s songs and even the hooks of pop music. What seems so natural and impetuous, can help seniors that feel isolated and withdrawn, to communicate despite their Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Playing a favorite song, album, or artist for your loved one can get them moving by lighting up areas of the brain most affected by their illness, such as those related to the nervous system. Music can help those with memory issues recall things that are not only harder to access, but might be the sort of memories and information neurotypical people might forget about until a sensory cue reminds them. You know, the kind of things that make talking about music so much fun—like biographical details about the musician, where you were when you last heard the song, or what you liked about the album art. Carefully listen to what your loved one says about their favorite songs or music from their youth, as it can be a wonderful way to reconnect outside the usual topics of medication reminders and daily doings.
Pull out old records or CDs and tailor the songs played to your loved one’s mood—upbeat songs for when they need a little stimulation or conversation, quieter songs for times of rest or when they need help calming down. Afterwards, chat a little about what you heard, or pull out paper and pens and each draw something inspired by the music, even if it’s abstract. You can compare drawings later, too. You might be surprised by what a big effect the right song can have, or if you’re a music lover yourself you might understand completely. Some things are just an inherent part of being human, and getting excited about a great melody or a percussive beat that hits the right spot is one of them.
If you want more tips for how to navigate the complex world of memory care, you can find plenty of resources at the Alzheimer’s Association website. Some of what they offer includes message boards where you can connect with other caregivers, friends, and family who are also struggling with a love one’s early, middle, and late-stage Alzheimer’s journey. There are also plenty of tools to help you find resources in your community. You can find them online at http://www.alz.org/care/.
If you need advice, support lines like the Veterans’ Affairs Caregiver Support Line can help. If you are looking for support or information on what the VA can provide, call 1-855-260-3274 or the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s line at 866-232-8484 (toll-free 9AM to 9PM Monday through Friday).
Written by: Meghan O'Dea
Discussing dementia with a loved one can be a scary and uncomfortable thing to do, especially when you are unsure whether they are having normal, age-related memory lapses or if they are exhibiting signs of something more serious.
As Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80% of all types of dementia cases, it is very important to be aware of early signs and symptoms associated with it. Because Alzheimer’s also causes a slow decline in memory, reasoning, and thinking skills, early signs can be easily confused with normal age-related memory problems in seniors. However, you can distinguish between the two once you know what to look for.
Here are 10 common signs and symptoms associated with early stages of Alzheimer’s, versus age-related memory issues:
If your loved one is showing any of the 10 early signs or symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s, it is very important to contact your physician in order to determine the cause. Before assuming the worst, it is important to understand there are many factors that could contribute to abnormal memory loss. For example, treatable conditions like thyroid problems, drug interactions, substance/alcohol abuse, depression, and even a vitamin deficiency could cause some seniors to experience similar symptoms.
Regency at Pineville's Heritage Memory Care Unit offers the finest elderly care for your loved one. Although memory impairments alter an individual's life in a profound way, this does not mean an end to the quality of life or the ability to experience dignity, meaning, friendship and even joy.
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there is continued research and treatment that is available to slow the progression and worsening of symptoms. Early diagnosis can help improve the quality of life for your loved one, as well as prolong levels their level of independence.
The Alzheimer’s Association offers helpful information regarding symptoms, research, treatment, and support. Visit their website for more information: http://www.alz.org/
To learn more about Regency at Pineville, call us at (844) 425-4254.
Written by Kristen Camden
Families hope that an elderly family member will live a long and healthy retirement, but when dementia is discovered, it brings with it inevitable change. It is, however, change that can be managed with proper planning and accepting what’s ahead.
Those with Alzheimer's live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to 20 years, depending on age and other health conditions, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
It is important to make preparations once a doctor has made the diagnosis so the senior’s care is provided for and important information is not lost. Families should have a list of contact names to be notified in case of serious illness or death, know where important documents are kept, as well as account numbers for pensions, insurance policies, investments, bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, and properties.
“Putting financial and legal plans in place now allows the person with dementia to express wishes for future care and decisions. It also allows time to work through the complex issues involved in long-term care,” the Alzheimer’s Association states on its website, http://www.alz.org/
Legal documents help ensure that the wishes of the person with dementia are followed as the disease progresses and make it possible for others to make decisions on behalf of the person when he or she no longer can.
• Power of attorney
• Power of attorney for health care
• Living will
• Standard will
• Living trust
• Guardianship / conservatorship
Once legal documents are filled out, the individual with dementia, the caregiver or a trusted family member, the attorney and the doctor should all have copies.
There are different care options to consider. Family caregivers may step up to take on the responsibility, but it is not always possible to continue providing the level of care needed in the home, especially if the person with dementia is at risk, has needs beyond the caregiver’s abilities or the structure of a care facility would benefit them.
Regency Retirement Village offers secure memory care from our Renaissance Centre, conveniently located off I-485 next to Carolina Medical Center at Pineville. We believe that although memory impairments alter an individual's life in a profound way, this does not mean an end to the quality of life or the ability to experience dignity, meaning, friendship and even joy.
Regency is proud to offer this resource to Charlotte seniors and their families so we can help to pave an easier road for the future and achieve a better quality of life.
For more information on our Renaissance Centre, call (844) 423-4254.
For information on the Alzheimer’s Association Western Carolina Chapter, visit http://www.alz.org/northcarolina/
There are some common misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease, a condition that kills one in every 3 seniors who dies each year, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
For example, it is possible to get it while young, although most cases do affect persons 60 or older. And everyone knows about the “senior moments”, but it also involves changes in sensitivity to light and depth perception.
Alzheimer’s patients can have good days and bad ones.
When a doctor diagnoses Alzheimer’s, the person living with it often feels a combination of relief to finally have answers, anger at what life has thrown at them, denial about change, fear and depression about what lies ahead, and a sense of isolation in which no one understands what they are going through.
The emotions can feel overwhelming for everyone involved, but it is important to remember that they are not alone. There are a number of support groups, information online (see below) and resources to preserve quality of life while making the necessary adjustments.
It is critical for someone in the early stages of the disease to make legal and financial plans with a person they can trust while they are still able to participate in making decisions to ensure that others know their wishes, and know what to do.
Changes in thinking may reduce one’s ability to make appropriate decisions about self-care and day-to-day needs as the disease progresses. Difficulty managing personal hygiene or household tasks can lead to unsafe living conditions. Someone in that situation needs to plan ahead for how they will address basic needs, including housing, meals and physical care.
One option available to people in Charlotte is Regency Retirement Village’s Heritage Memory Care Unit.
With monthly rent to Heritage, residents take care of several challenges created by Alzheimer’s. They live in spacious studio apartments with private bathrooms, an enclosed courtyard, and numerous amenities, yet it is also a secure unit with a 24-hour emergency response system monitored by on-site staff.
All utilities are paid. There are smoke detectors and a fire sprinkler system. Plus, daily housekeeping service, meals and snacks throughout the day, scheduled transportation to medical appointment and activities, and assistance with the activities of daily living, including bathing, dressing, walking, grooming and medication management.
Additionally, Heritage is conveniently located off I-485 next to Carolina Medical Center at Pineville and close to physician's offices. Regency even has a beauty and barber shop.
Regency works hand-in-hand with the local Alzheimer’s Association to assist in continued education of our staff, hosting support groups for our families, and educating people in the Chattanooga area.
The association is organizing the 2014 Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Charlotte on Sept. 27 at Symphony Park. The event raises money to help advance Alzheimer’s support, care and research. To donate and/or participate, visit http://act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2014/NC-WesternCarolina?fr_id=5251&pg=entry or volunteer with Jacob Wilkins at (765) 544-0631.
To learn more about Memory Care at Regency Senior Living, visit http://regencyretirement.net/charlotte-retirement-living-services/charlotte-memory-care-retirement-facility or call (704) 542-9449.
Alzheimer's Association: http://www.alz.org/
The Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center: http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers
Alzheimer's Reading Room: http://www.alzheimersreadingroom.com/
The New York Times "New Old Age" Blog: http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/