Holiday Hints for Alzheimer's Caregivers

Holidays can be meaningful, enriching times for both the person with Alzheimer’s disease and his or her family. Maintaining or adapting family rituals and traditions helps all family members feel a sense of belonging and family identity. For a person with Alzheimer’s, this link with a familiar past is reassuring.

However, when celebrations, special events, or holidays include many people, this can cause confusion and anxiety for a person with Alzheimer’s. He or she may find some situations easier and more pleasurable than others. The tips below can help you and the person with Alzheimer’s visit and reconnect with family, friends, and neighbors during holidays. 

Finding the Right Balance

Many caregivers have mixed feelings about holidays. They may have happy memories of the past, but they also may worry about the extra demands that holidays make on their time and energy.

Here are some ways to balance doing many holiday-related activities while taking care of your own needs and those of the person with Alzheimer’s disease:

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  1. Celebrate holidays that are important to you. Include the person with Alzheimer’s as much as possible.
  2. Set your own limits, and be clear about them with others. You do not have to live up to the expectations of friends or relatives. Your situation is different now.
  3. Involve the person with Alzheimer’s in simple holiday preparations, or have him or her observe your preparations. Observing you will familiarize him or her with the upcoming festivities. Participating with you may give the person the pleasure of helping and the fun of anticipating and reminiscing.
  4. Consider simplifying your holidays around the home. For example, rather than cooking an elaborate dinner, invite family and friends for a potluck. Instead of elaborate decorations, consider choosing a few select items.
  5. Encourage friends and family to visit even if it’s difficult. Limit the number of visitors at any one time, or have a few people visit quietly with the person in a separate room. Plan visits when the person usually is at his or her best.
  6. Prepare quiet distractions to use, such as a family photo album, if the person with Alzheimer’s becomes upset or overstimulated.
  7. Make sure there is a space where the person can rest when he or she goes to larger gatherings.
  8. Try to avoid situations that may confuse or frustrate the person with Alzheimer’s, such as crowds, changes in routine, and strange places. Also try to stay away from noise, loud conversations, loud music, lighting that is too bright or too dark, and having too much rich food or drink (especially alcohol).
  9. Find time for holiday activities you like to do. If you receive invitations to celebrations that the person with Alzheimer’s cannot attend, go yourself. Ask a friend or family member to spend time with the person while you’re out.

Read more: Holiday Hints for Alzheimer's Caregivers

A Serving a Day of Leafy Greens Can Help Slow Cognitive Decline

A 2018 report in the journal Neurology found that a diet containing approximately one serving of green leafy vegetables per day is associated with slower age-related cognitive decline, according to the National Institute of Health.

Researchers from Rush University in Chicago and the Tufts Human Nutrition Research Center in Boston followed 960 older adults enrolled in the Rush Memory and Aging Project.  The research team focused on the level of consumption of green leafy vegetables, like spinach, kale, collards, and lettuce, which have been suggested in previous research to have protective factors against cognitive decline (Kang et al., 2005; Morris et al., 2006), and looked at the association with performance on cognitive tests.

The average age of the participants was 81 years and all were dementia-free at the beginning of the study. Over an average of nearly 5 years, participants underwent an annual battery of tests that assessed cognition in five domains (episodic memory, working memory, semantic memory, visuospatial ability, and perceptual speed). Data from food frequency questionnaires administered at the beginning of the study were used to assess how frequently people ate some 144 items over the previous 12 months. Dietary intake levels of the nutrients of interest were estimated from responses to all food items. The three green leafy vegetable items and their serving sizes included in the questionnaire were: spinach (1/2 cup cooked), kale/collards/greens (1/2 cup cooked), and lettuce salad (1 cup raw).

Read more: A Serving a Day of Leafy Greens Can Help Slow Cognitive Decline

7 Surprising Benefits of Doing Jigsaw Puzzles for All Ages

There's a quiet movement going on in this country, and it doesn't involve apps, data or the latest fad. Following the lead of vinyl record albums, coloring books and traditional board games, jigsaw puzzles are seeing a resurgence in popularity. Perhaps, because it's an opportunity to unplug and give yourself and family an escape from the information overload that is buzzing through the very fabric of our lives 24/7.

Wrestling yourself away from screens, devices, even the television can be a nearly impossible task, but it's vital to our mental and even physical health. A jigsaw puzzle requires your full attention and therein lies the magic. Everyone from tweens and teens to millennials and over-worked parents to seniors are returning to this quiet pastime of childhood. Call it a retro revolution.

Here are some benefits of puzzling that might surprise you.

Read more: 7 Surprising Benefits of Doing Jigsaw Puzzles for All Ages

Grant Awarded to Help Lehigh Valley Families with Dementia

On July 27, 2018 it was anounced that Project Lifesaver was to receive a $100,000 grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Project Lifesaver provides training and technology for local families as well as emergency personnel and law enforcement to locate an individual who may have wandered off. Read the full article here.

Mixed Dementia May Be the Most Common Cause of Dementia

mixed dementiaIt is common for people with dementia to have mixed dementia—a combination of two or more types of dementia. A number of combinations are possible. For example, some people have both Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia.

Some studies indicate that mixed dementia is the most common cause of dementia in the elderly. For example, autopsy studies looking at the brains of people who had dementia indicate that most people age 80 and older probably had mixed dementia caused by a combination of brain changes related to Alzheimer's disease, vascular disease-related processes, or another neurodegenerative condition. Some studies suggest that mixed vascular-degenerative dementia is the most common cause of dementia in older adults.

In a person with mixed dementia, it may not be clear exactly how many of a person's symptoms are due to Alzheimer's or another disease. In one study, researchers who examined older adults' brains after death found that 78 percent had two or more pathologies (disease characteristics in the brain) related to neurodegeneration or vascular damage. Alzheimer's was the most common pathology but rarely occurred alone.

Researchers are trying to better understand how underlying disease processes in mixed dementia influence each other. In the study described above, the researchers found that the degree to which Alzheimer's pathology contributed to cognitive decline varied greatly from person to person. In other words, the impact of any given brain pathology differed dramatically depending on which other pathologies were present.

For More Information About Mixed Dementia

NIA Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
1-800-438-4380 (toll-free)
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www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers

The National Institute on Aging’s ADEAR Center offers information and free print publications about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias for families, caregivers, and health professionals. ADEAR Center staff answer telephone, email, and written requests and make referrals to local and national resources.