Author Archives: Christian Elliott

About Christian Elliott

This is a test of ultimate plugin

Alzheimer’s Caregivers: 5 Helpful Strategies

Being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s is challenging. Many caregivers report high levels of stress like anxiety, exhaustion, irritability, and lack of concentration. There are over 12 million Americans providing care for loved ones living with Alzheimer’s, so we gathered advice from others who are dealing with the challenges themselves.

Our list of the Top 5 Strategy Tips is outlined below. Remember, you won’t be able to care for someone if you don’t take care of yourself:

1. Connect With Others, Ask For Help

Alzheimer’s caregiving can be isolating. As many others are dealing with similar experiences, it can be helpful to connect with others. Kathy, an Alzheimer’s caregiver shared that “advice from those who have been dealing with this is helpful.” Friends and family often want to help but do not necessarily know how you are feeling or what you need. Spread the responsibility as much as possible. Assign specific tasks to those willing to help. Accept help when offered and let others feel good about supporting you.

2. Organize A Care Plan

Caring for someone living with Alzheimer’s can also be overwhelming at times. One other common piece of advice from other caregivers is to start taking action early. It can be difficult to get started though so simple steps like documenting any behaviors you observe and having a dedicated care calendar can be easy ways to start. Taking time to organize what is coming can be something you can take control of, especially when there is so much that is outside of your control.

3. Document Care Needs

Someone living with Alzheimer’s may not be able to express their feelings as the disease progresses. Taking time to document personal care and comfort wishes can be a tremendously beneficial use of time. There are lovely topics to discuss, like preferences in music, that can be very helpful to help manage symptoms and bring smiles to future days.

4. Know Your Resources

As the number of people living with Alzheimer’s has grown, there are more resources available now than ever before. Many are local community organizations and some are available 24/7. From non-profits to government entities, there is likely more support than you even realize. A good starting point is this free eldercare locator service.

5. Express Your Thoughts

As Alzheimer’s progresses, people living with the disease can lose their ability to remember conversations and their symptoms can make daily life a lot different. The New York Times wrote this about journaling: “one of the more effective acts of self-care is also, happily, one of the cheapest.” Take a few moments when it strikes you to express your thoughts through writing. Studies show benefits like boosts in memory, communication skills, better sleep, and a strong immune system. Sounds like this cheapest path to self-care is worth the time, right?

Even though Alzheimer’s can be stressful, isolating, and overwhelming, there are some small steps that can help make a better life for Alzheimer’s families.

Don’t know where to start? You can reach out to the CareVirtue team to get advice from others who are going through a similar challenge.

Driving with Alzheimer’s Disease

Today more than 6 million people in the U.S. live with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, and this total is project to increase to 13.9 million by 2060. For the family of a loved one diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it is common to be faced with the all-important question of Alzheimer’s driver safety.

It’s difficult to decide when someone with dementia should stop driving, since you need to balance safety considerations with the person’s sense of independence, pride and control. Most information about dementia warns against driving, but doesn’t help determine *when* it should stop.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, many people usually are still socially engaged and able to manage daily activities – including safe driving. However, all people living with Alzheimer’s will eventually become unsafe to drive because of the degenerative, progressive nature of the brain disease. The question is: at what point is someone unable to continue to drive safely?

Top Considerations for Family and Friends

Consider the frequency and severity of the following warning signs. Several minor incidents or an unusual, major incident may warrant action. Look for patterns of change over time.

Alzheimer's Driver Warning Signs

Top Warning Signs 
1. Easily distracted while driving7. Increased agitation when driving
2. Hitting curbs8. New scrapes or dents on the car
3. Failure to notice traffic signs9. Drifting out of lane
4. Trouble navigating turns, esp. left turns10. Moving violations/tickets
5. Stopping in traffic for no apparent reason11. Getting lost in familiar places
6. Driving at inappropriate (much too slow or fast) speeds12. Confusing the gas and brake pedals

Advice from Experienced Caregivers

Caregivers who have wrestled with Alzheimer’s driving and transportation issues offer the following tips:

  1. Every situation is unique. Consider the personality and the abilities of the person with dementia when making decisions throughout the course of the disease.
  2. Begin discussions early, and include the person living with Alzheimer’s.
  3. Base decisions on driving behavior observed over a period of time.
  4. Get support when making decisions and implementing changes.

Health care professionals, attorneys, case managers, financial planners and local Alzheimer’s support groups can provide information and perspective to reinforce the family’s efforts – helping to ensure that the person with dementia gets the best support.

Curious about your brain? Take the Healthy Brain Test and receive your personal report.

Mild Cognitive Impairment Tests

Testing for Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild Cognitive Impairment, or MCI, is an intermediate stage condition between normal cognitive functioning and Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia:

Signs of MCI include a “change in cognition” — this typically means memory problems, but it can also include planning and reasoning skills that could negatively affect higher function tasks like managing personal finances. Most people with MCI are able to continue to live independently.

Some (but not all) people diagnosed with MCI later decline into Alzheimer’s. Current research puts the probability of a person with MCI converting to Alzheimer’s at around 10% to 15% per year. Amnestic MCI, a subtype characterized by subtle but noticeable memory loss, is the most common type of MCI that can lead to Alzheimer’s.

Mild Cognitive Impairment Tests

Continue reading

Common Drugs & Memory Loss

Several types of common over-the-counter drugs can cause cognitive impairment. People with a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s disease face a 250% increased risk of cognitive impairment from these drugs.

New research published in the medical journal from the American Academy of Neurology highlights several common medications that can cause memory loss and cognitive impairment. These types of medications, called anticholinergic drugs, are taken for allergies, common colds, stomach discomfort, and motion sickness.

This table shows the generic and brand names for common anticholinergic drugs:

Common Anticholinergic Drugs That Can Cause Memory Loss

Generic NameBrand Name(s)
ChlorpheniramineAlka-Seltzer Plus Cold & Cough Liquid Gels
DimenhydrinateDraminate, Dramamine, Gravol
DiphenhydramineBenadryl, Sominex, Tylenol PM, Advil PM, Aleve PM, others
RantidineZantac, Deprezine

The study involved 688 people with an average age of 74 who had no problems with thinking and memory skills at the start of the study. The participants reported if they were taking any anticholinergic drugs within three months of the start of the study at least once a week for more than six months.

The study found that people with biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease in their cerebrospinal fluid who were taking anticholinergic drugs were four times more likely to later develop mild cognitive impairment than people who were not taking the drugs and did not have the biomarkers.

Similarly, people who had genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and took anticholinergic drugs were about 2.5 times as likely to later develop mild cognitive impairment than people without the genetic risk factors and who were not taking the drugs.

People who take anticholinergic medications are encouraged to discuss options with their doctors or pharmacists before making changes to their medications, since some of these medications may cause adverse effects if stopped suddenly.

Six Ways to Boost Mental Health and Immune Function

As the world experiences a wave of mandatory social distancing measures, we thought it would be useful to list a few ways to boost both your immune system and mental health:

1. Eat Healthy Foods

Eating a healthy diet is common sense for overall well-being. While no single food will magically fend off illness, certain nutrients can help protect your body from billions of bacteria, viruses, and other germs. Some nutrients and foods that support healthy immunity include:

  • Garlic, turmeric root, ginger root
  • Mushrooms – shiitake, maitake, reishi, lion’s mane
  • Active omega-3 fatty acids (EPA + DHA), found in salmon, tuna, and other cold-water fish
  • Zinc-rich foods, like oysters, crab, grass-fed lean meats and poultry, and chickpeas
  • Selenium-rich foods, such as broccoli, sardines, tuna, Brazil nuts, and barley
  • Vitamin C-rich foods, like guavas, kiwis, bell peppers, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, oranges, papaya, broccoli, pineapple, cantaloupe, mango, tomato, kale, and snow peas
  • Vitamin E-rich foods, including sunflower seeds, almonds, avocados, hazelnuts, spinach, Swiss chard, butternut squash, kiwis, broccoli, and rainbow trout

2. Get Quality Sleep

Quality sleep stimulates the immune system, while sleep deprivation can raise the stress hormone cortisol. Required levels of sleep do vary among people, but most studies indicate adults should try to get an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Those with a compromised immune system should get even more sleep.

3. Increase Vitamin D

Vitamin D is crucial for healthy immune regulation and inflammatory response. Failure to get enough vitamin D can lead to health problems and other mental and physical difficulties. If you aren’t getting 10 to 30 minutes of direct sunlight each day, supplementing with at least 2000 IU of vitamin D3 is a good idea.

4. Be Physically Active Each Day

Getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity daily will increase your blood circulation and can help strengthen your immune system. The increase in circulation improves delivery of nutrients to your bone marrow, spleen and other organs of immunity. Better circulation also helps clear waste products from the body and transport hormones that keep the immune system alert and active.

5. Stay Hydrated

Hydration is key to the functioning of all our organs including those of the immune system. Every organ system in the body needs adequate hydration to function properly. Water helps cleanse the body and remove toxins. By keeping your body systems well-hydrated, you allow them to work optimally so they can maintain healthy immunity.

6. Practice Stress Reduction Daily

Take a 5 minute break when you can.  This short guided videos can help:

Guard your self-care time. It keeps you healthy.