HelloAgain Challenge: Improve Mobile Tech for Seniors and Caregivers

Mobile technology is widely seen as the future, connecting us not just to each other but to the world through the web. Some would dispute the “future” label, saying mobile is already here. That may be true for some applications, but we’ve hardly scratched the surface when it comes to mobile meeting the needs of seniors and their family caregivers.

Regular visitors to Senior Care Corner know technology is a major focus area of ours because we know what it can mean to the quality of care and life of seniors, especially those aging in place, both directly and by enabling those family members who provide care.

We mention frequently that one of the hurdles in the development of the technology we need is that those on the forefront simply don’t understand the needs of aging adults and their caregivers. While we see that starting to change, influence is still strongly weighted toward the younger end of the spectrum.

Mobile has the greatest penetration of all digital technologies; after all, it seems almost everyone is willing to carry and use a phone. Smartphone technology simply doesn’t seem to be clicking with large numbers of seniors, which means much of the potential benefit may be bypassing them.

We mentioned before the example of one of our senior loved ones, who upgraded to an iPhone because he needed a new phone and that’s what his provider offered when he went to the store. It probably didn’t hurt that he heard us rave about – and saw us using (maybe a little too much) our own. To him it is not much more than a phone, though, as he shares in some of the many issues that keep seniors from benefiting from the full potential of their mobile devices.

Enter the HelloAgain Challenge, a fantastic idea from Blindsight and emporia Telecom, USA to encourage ideas to make mobile more useful to seniors, their families and other caregivers. The Challenge bills itself as a co-opetition rather than a competition, not just allowing but encouraging participants to view and build on the ideas submitted by others.

The HelloAgain Challenge is specifically targeting ideas from older adults and their caregivers, those whose voices are not traditionally part of the technology development process but have the closest perspective of their own needs. Ideas are being sought from anyone and everyone.

How Would YOU Improve Mobile for Seniors & Caregivers?

How many of us have had one of those “I wish my device could ___” moments – an idea that would give our mobile device a key piece of functionality that we just know would help us help our senior loved ones? You might just find one of those moments being selecting as a winner.

Submissions are encouraged that address anything relating to the application of mobile technology to increase the independence or quality of life of seniors. Six categories have been established for participants.

  1. Virtual Companionship
  2. Caring from afar
  3. Connecting Friends and Family
  4. Health Management
  5. Emergency Aid
  6. Other

The Challenge is seeking our ideas, in the form of an identified problem and a conceptual solution, not developed products. It’s tailor made for those of us who know what’s needed but aren’t technical experts who can make it happen.

What You Can Win

The Challenge will have winners, selected by a judging panel assembled by the sponsors from companies such as AARP, UC CITRIS, GreatCall and Verizon Wireless. Three winning ideas will be chosen, with those presenting the ideas offered a choice of $1000 cash or an all expenses paid trip to New Orleans for the AARP Life@50+ Expo in September 2012.

A chance to make a positive difference in the lives of millions of seniors and their family caregivers AND a prize?

We can’t wait to see all the ideas and to see some of them put to work so the potential benefits of mobile technology reach seniors and caregivers!

Family Caregivers Are Not Alone – But Are Online

Family caregivers of senior adults can become so focused on providing care they can feel they’re alone on an island. They may be focused but are certainly not alone, as more than 50 million adults in the US care for adult family members. 7 million of those also care for a minor child, putting them in the middle of the Triple Decker Sandwich.

Findings in “Family Caregivers Online”, a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, provide insight into the lives and online information-gathering activities of these caregivers and are the subject for the feature segment of this episode of the Senior Care Corner Podcast.

Our overall takeaways from the report:

  • Family caregivers are certainly not alone in the role they fill;
  • Caregivers need to focus on their own needs in addition to those of the seniors for whom they care; and,
  • Seniors should continue to be urged to become active online and in social media for the potential benefits.

We often discuss the need for family caregivers to focus more on their own health and other needs in order to be at their best when providing care. That is reflected in the responses to the Pew survey, which found caregivers twice as likely as non-caregivers to have faced their own health crisis or emergency in the most recent year. They are also more likely to suffer from health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart conditions and other chronic health issues.

Seniors, as we reported, only recently achieved 50% online activity and still lag far behind all other adult age groups. That means it is often up to their family caregivers to effectively provide their access to the web. One indication is the 71% of online caregivers who reported that their latest web search for health information was conducted to meet the needs of others rather than for themselves.

One interesting statistic from the report is that ten times as many reported benefits resulting from online health information as did harm. While any harm is bad, of course, it was good to learn it was overwhelmed by the positive.

Pew also inquired into the sources caregivers find most helpful for health information. Not surprisingly, they overwhelming turn to health professionals for accurate diagnoses and prescription drug information. However, a majority turn to friends, family and other patients when seeking emotional support in dealing with health issues or their needs regarding everyday health situations.

News Items in this Episode

  • Elderly Medicare beneficiaries most satisfied with their health insurance
  • Home-based care teams offer help for those with dementia
  • Statins shown to cause fatigue
  • Alzheimer’s treatment shows promise in small 3-year trial

Links Mentioned in this Episode

One thing many family caregivers mentioned in the Pew survey was reaching out online for the experiences of others who have faced similar issues. Do you have a story to share with others? We’d love to have you share it here in a comment!

Podcast Transcript – so you can follow along or read at your convenience

Will You Be Responsible for Repaying Medicaid for Your Parents’ Bills?

Caregivers, especially those who have been responsible for aging parents for a long time, have typically spent some of their own money to help provide care. While some seniors may have put aside money for their golden years or have purchased long term care insurance, many have few resources and those they were counting on to see them through have failed to sustain them through their aging years.

Many seniors and family caregivers put their faith in the Medicare and Medicaid system to pay healthcare costs, especially once staying at home is no longer an option. Medicare generally covers health care costs and rehabilitation to get our seniors back to their prior level of functioning. It doesn’t pay for custodial care that your senior loved one might require on a day to day basis and does not pay for long term care. Medicaid can pick up the costs of long term care once your senior becomes eligible.

So the time has come, your senior is now living in a long term care facility where all her needs are being managed. Time marches on and your senior has passed on. To your surprise, you receive a notice from the state Medicaid Recovery Unit asking, well more like demanding, you pay for your senior’s bill incurred while she was receiving care under the Medicaid program in a facility.

WHAT??!!

Filial Support Laws and Repayment of Unpaid LTC Bills

Twenty nine US states have filial support laws that can be used to charge adult children who are caregivers for the unpaid long term care bills of their parents. Pennsylvania is a leader in applying this law, South Dakota has filed a few claims and other states, who find themselves needing to fund state Medicaid programs, may look to adult children for re-payment of bills not paid because Medicaid applications were not made by the adult children for whatever reason, such as lack of awareness, lack of access to financial records, inattention/refusal or urgent nature of care required.

In Pennsylvania, this law forces adult children to either apply for Medicaid for their parent or pay the bills. Under the filial support law, parents are required to be considered indigent and the child deemed able to pay. These terms are undefined, which gives ample leeway for the state courts to jump in.

In addition to the state, many healthcare providers in Pennsylvania are using the law to force the hand of adult children to apply for Medicaid and provide the necessary paperwork to get their parent approved for eligibility, especially when parents are unable to complete the application process themselves. This is a way to make families fully disclose assets which were potentially transferred to children and thus fair game for Medicaid. If adult children are considered responsible parties, then they are also deemed responsible for compiling and filing the necessary paperwork for state Medicaid eligibilty and reimbursement.

What Happens to the Senior’s Estate?

Under the 1993 US Budget Reconciliation Act, each state was mandated to seek estate recovery for every Medicaid recipient receiving long term care benefits after their deaths. Essentially, Medicaid coverage for long term care placement is looked upon as a loan and any assets the elder person might have can be recovered by the state Medicaid department. For those seniors who qualify for Medicaid, they are usually without assets but some have a probate estate with assets that transfer on death that are desired by Medicaid.  This can often be avoided by advance planning by ensuring that your senior loved one has no probate estate at death through a variety of means such as joint ownership with right of survivorship. Beware that transfers of these types are subject to time frames limiting your senior’s ability to apply for Medicaid. It is recommended that you contact an elder care or other knowledgeable attorney to help with restrictions and plans for any assets before an emergency occurs.

What About the Senior’s Home?

For the most part, at the time of the Medicaid application the elder’s home is exempt from being seized by Medicaid for payment of long term care bills if the value is below $500,000 (this may be higher in some states, so check your own state’s rules). If the elder’s spouse is still living in the home, it should be exempt regardless of its value.  In all states upon the death of a senior, Medicaid will seek ways to be repaid and may even file a claim against his/her estate and will desire re-payment when the house is sold.

Lawyers advise that in order to prevent potentially being responsible for the bill or losing a home to Medicaid, adult children need to seek advice about their parents finances and coverage for aging as early as when their parents turn 65 years old. Waiting until they are 80 and tragedy strikes is probably too late to protect you from this law. Getting long term care insurance, building in-law suites well in advance of their need, and planning for healthcare costs should be done early to avoid future problems. An elder law attorney can help assist you and your aging parents make the essential decisions for the family.

Do you have experience with this you would like to share with our community? We would love to hear from you!

Family Caregivers – Care Tips for Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease afflicts someone in the United States every 68 seconds.

Many aging adults who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease are being cared for at home by someone in the family. That someone may be you.

Caring for a senior loved one whose loss of cognition and functional abilities is rapidly progressing can be a challenging task and some days feels overwhelming.

Help for Caregivers and Senior Loved Ones

Dementia is a progressive disease which can affect our senior loved ones for many years. Caregivers who care for someone with dementia often will need help keeping their senior safe, engaged and also keeping themselves healthy enough to continue to be caregivers.

We know how difficult caregiving can be and want to give you a few tips to help make your job a little easier:

  1. Care for yourself to keep yourself able to give your best to others. Give yourself time to rest and remember that you are doing your best!
  2. Ask for help from other family members, friends or service agencies when things get too difficult for you – if not before. Get advice from your senior’s doctor.
  3. Find a support group to get information, coping strategies and more tips on what might work in a particular situation. When needed, seek out respite care so you can take a break and recharge your battery.
  4. When talking with someone with Alzheimer’s disease, use a calm tone of voice, use short phrases and simple words. Call them by name and get their attention before speaking to avoid repeating yourself every time you talk (and raising your own frustration level).
  5. Reduce distractions to help the senior focus on the task at hand, whether that is dressing, eating, or just conversing.
  6. Plan time in your day to accomplish specific tasks, such as bathing or outings, at the time when your senior is the most calm. Going for a bath before dinner may not be the best idea if they “sundown” and their behaviors escalate with the setting sun.
  7. Be prepared before you try to do any task such as dressing or bathing or eating. Lay out the clothes, shampoos, towels, brush, toothpaste on the tube, dinner plate, utensils and napkins at hand and food ready to eat before you begin any activity. Attention spans become shortened and agitation may occur if you are not ready to go.
  8. Whenever you try to engage your senior in a task, give clear instructions that are simple, such as raise your arm now or zip up your zipper to keep them on track.
  9. Stick to a routine. Eating at the same time of day, toileting at the same time, watching tv programs at a specific time, taking a walk at the same time will help keep your senior focused and calm. Be prepared to adapt the schedule however if his or her needs or desires change.
  10. As your senior’s disease gets progressively worse, be aware that many tasks that were able to be performed will no longer. Be alert to choking when she eats or drinks. Realize that behaviors and mood can change quickly.
  11. Distract your senior if they start to become unfocused or agitated with whatever task is at hand. Ask them to help with chores that you are doing to keep them focused and occupied. Boredom quickly leads to agitation.
  12. Be realistic in their abilities. Don’t expect them to brush their teeth if they can’t remember the steps to accomplish this or take a walk around the block if they fatigue easily.
  13. If your senior is prone to wandering, have them wear an ID bracelet or medical alert bracelet. Keep their name and address in their shoe. There are GPS clothing items available, which you may find helpful if you need to locate a wandering senior. Keep a recent photo handy if needed to search for them. Keep the exterior doors secured so that they can’t unknowingly exit.
  14. Keep the home environment as safe as possible. Store medications out of their reach and use latches to secure any unsafe substance or chemicals.  Remove clutter and fall hazards in the home.

These are just a few ideas to help you keep your senior safe – – and you healthy too!

Do you have some tips for others of things that work well for you and your senior? We would love to hear them!

Seniors and Driving: When is it Time to Give Up the Keys?

Driving is a right of passage when we’re young and becomes one again, though often not one we want, when we are older.

Older drivers enjoy the freedom and sense of independence it gives them. However, for many family caregivers driving is a major source of concern about senior loved ones.

When is it time for caregivers to step in and put a stop to mom or dad from driving? Will our senior’s doctor tell us when it is unsafe for mom to keep driving?

Having open conversations between seniors and their adult children over time will help make the transition from driver to passenger less difficult. The best question to ask is not how old should a person be before they stop driving but how safe are they driving – it’s about ability not age.

How do you know things may be getting unsafe? Look for warning signs to help you and your family decide when the time is right for senior loved ones to give up the keys.

Warning Signs of Unsafe Driving

  1. Distracted when driving.
  2. Scrapes or dents in the car, mailbox or garage. Hitting the curb while driving. Frequent “near misses” with other cars or objects.
  3. Can’t turn around to take a look or when backing up. Aging can cause impairments in vision, strength, and flexibility, making some tasks while driving more difficult.
  4. Failing to notice or obey traffic signs or lights.
  5. Riding on the brake.
  6. Turning corners with difficulty.
  7. Everyone else is honking their horns at your senior.
  8. Difficulty parking the car.
  9. Driving in the wrong lane or not staying in their own lane.
  10. Getting lost and unable to easily find the way home.
  11. Getting the gas and brake pedal confused.
  12. Getting a ticket or getting into an accident.
  13. Not stopping at one or more stop lights.
  14. Stopping in traffic for no reason.
  15. Driving makes your senior agitated.
  16. They can’t drive without a co-pilot.

Some of these points (from The Hartford insurance company) in isolation may not reflect a problem requiring action but high frequency and/or severity of incidents may be a call to action by loved ones.

We all want to help our seniors maintain their independence as long as possible. If seniors are able to stay physically healthy, learn to adjust to age related changes and use a car that is safe, they may be able to drive longer. Defensive driver classes are available to help your senior be reminded of safe practices. But remember, the presence of these warning signs could result in harm to your seniors and others on the road. Difficulty driving can occur quickly so be alert to these warning signs to help your family decide if mom and pop should still be behind the wheel.

Helping Seniors Avoid Becoming Crime Victims While Aging in Place

Seniors who choose to age in place – as many are doing – may be at elevated risk for becoming victims of crime.

Older adults are often seen as more vulnerable targets than those who are younger.

This is not a reason to avoid aging in place, rather reason for taking some precautions when doing so.

Seniors oftentimes live in the neighborhoods where they have lived throughout their lifetimes – where they raised their children and welcomed their grandchildren. Unfortunately, many of these neighborhoods have turned over, with long time friends and neighbors gone. Stable areas may become targets for crime by those who live elsewhere.

Seniors are often targeted at higher than average rates by criminals for robbery, purse snatching, pick pocketing, home repair fraud, scams and even car theft. The consequences of these crimes often include injury to the seniors in addition to financial loss.

Here are some tips to share with your senior loved ones to help keep them from becoming victims of crime, whether in their own homes or out in the community.

Tips to Stay Safe At Home

  1. Be sure all window and door locks are functioning. If necessary, update them today to newer, stronger locks.
  2. Remind seniors to keep their doors, screen doors and windows locked when away and at home. Many grew up not needing to do this so it may be a new habit.
  3. Suggest they never open the door until checking to see who is there – and then only if the person is known. Look through the peephole. Don’t have one? It is time to get one installed; they are usually fairly easy to add to an existing door. Strangers shouldn’t be allowed into the home even if they look “nice” or seem friendly.
  4. Large amounts of cash should not be kept on hand or in plain sight as it may attract attention and put your senior in danger.
  5. Arrange for any checks to be deposited directly into the bank instead of mailed to your senior’s home to take away the opportunity for theft from the mail.
  6. As a caregiver, make friends with the neighbors and get their phone numbers so you can check in via them as needed. Form a partnership to help them and let them help your senior.
  7. Keep the bushes trimmed around the house so criminals can’t hide out and be unnoticed while waiting to break in.
  8. Vital information, such as social security numbers or credit card numbers, shouldn’t be given to strangers over the phone. Keep in mind that thieves may identify themselves as being from a trusted company. Suggest loved ones call a known number for the company before giving any information.
  9. Someone simply showing up at the door should typically not be hired to do repair work. If they are, payment shouldn’t be made up front as too often neither the money nor the workers are seen again.
  10. Warn your senior not to transfer or withdraw money from their bank account for a stranger. Bank employees will not ask call asking for this and family members are not likely overseas needing a money order (often callers will identify themselves as a grandchild in a jam).
  11. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t fall victim to a scam.
  12. To keep loved ones from falling victim to “fundraisers” for bogus charitable organizations that may come calling at the door or on the phone, suggest not giving money to unknown entities during that meeting. Those from legitimate charities will gladly provide written information for review and possible contributions later.

Tips to Stay Safe When Away From Home

  1. When your senior is out running errands, taking a walk or enjoying a neighborhood park, encourage them to be aware of the environment and people around them. Stay alert to strangers or suspicious people.
  2. Suggest that loved ones only go out when they can be joined by a friend or family member – especially at night. Avoiding driving at night, especially alone. If your senior does go out, remind them to park in well lit areas.
  3. When in the car, don’t open the door or even roll down the window to a stranger.
  4. Have your senior keep his wallet in the front pocket or carry her purse with the strap over the shoulder close to the body.
  5. Urge your senior loved ones not to fight back if someone does try to snatch their purse, wallet or packages to avoid being injured. Let them know nothing they are carrying is worth it!

Remembering some of these tips and reminding your senior’s from time to time about them may help keep them safe as they age in place.

Positive Impacts for Senior Love Ones Under the Affordable Care Act

There has been a great deal of buzz – and many strong feelings – recently with the Supreme Court upholding the bulk of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Putting aside the politics and looking to the implementation, do you know how the ACA impacts your senior loved ones and ultimately you as a family member or caregiver?

The ACA is widely viewed as a victory for America’s senior population because it has the potential to strengthen Medicare, improve healthcare services provided to our seniors and protect seniors from elder abuse, but many are still unsure what it means for their aging family members.

Affordable Care Act and Seniors

What changes will seniors and caregivers find in the Affordable Care Act to help them stay well?

  1. Medicare and Medicaid benefits providing access to healthcare will continue for our seniors aged 65 and older.
  2. Prescription drug costs will continue to be covered up to a certain amount under the Part D benefit and the gap known as the donut hole will be lessened for those under Part D. Drug companies are required to reduce prices for Medicare beneficiaries who fall into the donut hole providing a 50% discount on their brand name drugs. By 2020, Part D beneficiaries will only pay 25% once they enter the donut hole.
  3. Increased access to preventive healthcare services will continue under the ACA. Currently more than 12 million Medicare users received at least one free preventive service so far in 2012.  A deductible and copay are no longer required for many preventive visits and tests including mammography, diabetes screenings and a multitude of other health and wellness visits/screenings.
  4. The ACA will also protect seniors from unnecessary higher rates for healthcare based on their age and chronic health conditions.
  5. The plan will also improve the delivery of healthcare and the coordination of care for seniors among various providers.
  6. Medicare Advantage plans are prohibited from charging higher cost-sharing fees for seniors receiving chemotherapy and dialysis.
  7. Grants are being funded to help hospital systems work with seniors who are at high risk for frequent hospital readmissions.
  8. The Elder Justice Act protecting seniors from crimes and abuse including physical and mental abuse and financial exploitation was enacted under the ACA.

Seniors and their family caregivers need help negotiating the maze of healthcare and peace of mind that their loved ones are receiving all the benefits and care for which they are entitled. We hope that through the enactment and implementation of the Affordable Care Act – or through its replacement should that occur – our seniors will get just that.

Successful Aging in Place and Technology to Make it Reality

Aging in place is a major topic for us at Senior Care Corner as is it for many seniors and boomers who are looking ahead to their senior years.

With a majority of those surveyed expressing a preference to live in their own homes and many more for whom it may be the only option, we know it is important to family members who want to see their senior loved ones live safely and comfortably as they age.

It is important for family members to keep in mind that aging in place isn’t for everyone, even for some who think it is what they want.  Those who feel more comfortable in the community setting offered by a senior living facility, who have no support network in a home setting or need more can than can be provided – or they can afford – at home may not find themselves comfortable aging in place.

Successful Aging in Place

This episode of the Senior Care Corner podcast starts our discussion of achieving “successful” aging in place for senior family members, which starts with helping loved ones define success. What do they really want from their home as they age?

Because aging in place is one area where planning ahead can make the process better for both seniors and family members in the long run, defining objectives for the aging years and planning to meet those objectives can truly pay off in the long run.

One important factor for many in determining the success of their aging in place is where they live. Some of the factors we discuss in “where” include:

  • Geography – not just specific locations but proximity to – or distance from – family members;
  • Community type – whether a senior-oriented or one with a more diverse population would best fit needs and interests;
  • Residence type – current home or a different type from the standpoint of size, required maintenance, compatibility new the physical constraints of aging; and,
  • Closeness to other people – from down the street to on the same hallway with shared living facilities.

More aspects to consider in successful aging in place will be discussed in a future episode.

Technology for Successful Aging in Place

Also in this episode we start a conversation about the technology that will be key to making aging in place successful for many seniors. That starts with communications, from telephone to smartphone to the web.

As we discuss, much of the current tech application for aging in place builds new applications on existing platforms but we see some real innovation in the near future that will help make aging in place a safer, healthier and more comfortable future for many seniors and their families.

News Items in This Episode

  • Many surgeons do not discuss advance directives with their patients before surgery
  • Attorney General (WA) warns against senior health care scams
  • Choosing home caregivers for aging parents
  • Phobic anxiety may lead to premature aging

Link Mentioned in this Episode

We hope you enjoy this episode and find it informative. Any comments or suggestions you have to offer would be most appreciated!

Podcast Transcript – so you can follow along or read at your convenience

Dementia Knowledge To Empower Family Caregivers of Seniors

As the population ages, we are faced with an increase in cognitive impairment diagnoses. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not a normal part of aging; therefore caregivers should be alert to symptoms that can be treated.

Unfortunately, statistics reveal virtually all of us will eventually be affected, either directly or indirectly.

Learning more about the various types of dementia, risk factors and prevention tips will help you face the fear of Alzheimer’s and other dementias so you and your senior loved will seek treatment if needed.

The statistics of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are staggering:

  • Every 69 seconds in America someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease
  • There are 24 million people living with some form of dementia worldwide
  • 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s currently
  • Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US
  • There are as many as 50 types of dementia in addition to Alzheimer’s
  • The aging population of those 65 years or older in the US exceeded 40 million in 2010
  • Half of those over 85 years and older will develop dementia
  • One of the world’s fastest growing diseases

Many who have not yet been personally affected by one of these diagnoses may be unsure about the terms, what they all mean and what is the difference between the different types of dementia. So we decided that the time is right to help explain the differences because KNOWLEDGE IS POWER!

What is dementia?

It is a group of symptoms and not actually a disease itself. Dementia is the loss of memory, critical thinking patterns, intellectual ability and reasoning skills which impairs the ability of a person to complete daily activities. If dementia is caused by trauma or disease, it is not reversible. If however, it is caused by medications, depression, vitamin or hormone imbalance or alcohol it can be reversed with proper treatment. This is why it is important to have any suspicions you may have of new symptoms checked out by a doctor in case treatment can improve the situation and outcome.

Types of dementia

  1. Alzheimer’s disease which accounts for approximately 50-70% of all dementia is an age related memory loss disease that affects the brain. It is a progressive disease which worsens over time. People with Alzheimer’s are unable to follow written or spoken directions, forget experiences and eventually are unable to care for themselves.
  2. Mixed dementia is one that combines more than one type of dementia simultaneously and may be more common than previously thought.
  3. Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB) disease is marked by memory loss and thinking impairments but may include visual hallucinations, sleep disturbances and rigidity with  Parkinson’s disease movement features.
  4. Parkinson’s disease as it progresses often includes progressive dementia. Symptoms of this type mimic Lewy Bodies.
  5. Vascular dementia, also known as multi-infarct dementia, is the second most common cause of dementia. The first sign may be impaired judgement or inability to plan steps needed to complete a task, unlike Alzheimer’s where memory loss is usually the first sign. It often progresses more quickly after diagnosis.
  6. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease is the most common human form of a rare fatal brain disorder. Variant “mad cow disease” occurs in cattle and has been transmitted to people.
  7. Huntington’s Disease is also a progressive brain disorder with a defective gene on chromosome 4. It includes involuntary movements with a decline in brain and thinking skills, mood changes and depression.
  8. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome is a chronic memory disorder caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1 or thiamine usually associated with alcohol abuse.

Risk factors for dementia:

  1. Aging
  2. Genetics and family history
  3. Vascular impairments affecting the heart or blood vessels such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and diabetes
  4. Serious head trauma

There is no current cure for dementia or proven way to delay its progression but only disease modifying treatments. However, there are things you can do to prolong the onset including: staying engaged and active both physically and mentally, healthy diet (especially heart healthy meal plans), maintaining strong social  connections, avoiding excessive alcohol intake, avoiding smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.

Research is underway and advocacy for the disease grows daily. Together we will end Alzheimer’s! In the meantime, we need to prepare to care for loved ones who have it.