It's one of the most devastating illnesses of our time to impact seniors and their loved ones. Alzheimer's disease can rob older adults of their pasts and futures. But help and hope are available for seniors suffering from Alzheimer's disease as well as their family caregivers.
Q. My 85-year-old mother is in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease and is still at home. We're hoping to keep her in her own house for as long as possible. What's the latest about Alzheimer's disease and what it will mean for my generation?
First the bad news: while many of the diseases that strike senior citizens are declining, the most feared – Alzheimer's Disease—is increasing at an accelerating rate, according to the latest report from the Alzheimer's Association. By 2030, 615,000 new cases of Alzheimer's disease are projected compared with 454,000 cases in 2010.
This new study says the disease is poised to strike one out of eight Baby Boomers. According to the Alzheimer's Association, now is the time to address this looming epidemic that currently has no effective disease-modifying treatments that halt or delay the progression of the disease.
The news is not all grim, however. For instance, a study in the American Journal of Medicine reported that drinking fruit and vegetable juices frequently may significantly cut the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
U.S. researchers followed almost 2,000 people for up to 10 years and found the risk was 76 percent lower for those who drank juice more than three times a week, compared with those who drank it less than once a week.
An overall healthy diet also is a proven preventative, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Research suggests that high cholesterol may contribute to stroke and brain cell damage. And there is growing evidence that a diet rich in dark vegetables and fruits, which contain antioxidants, may help protect brain cells, according to the Alzheimer's Association.
Here are other recommendations from the Alzheimer's Association:
- Stay mentally healthy, since mentally stimulating activities strengthen brain cells and the connections between them, and may even create new nerve cells.
- Stay physically active, as physical exercise is essential for maintaining good blood flow to the brain. It also can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes, and thereby help to protect against those risk factors for Alzheimer's and other dementias.
Remaining socially active also is important, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Social activity can reduce stress levels, which helps maintain healthy connections among brain cells. If you don't have a social network, consider joining a senior organization in your community. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging office or your church for more information.
In addition, more Alzheimer's patients than ever are staying at home, particularly those in the early stages of the disease. As with your family, loved ones often make extra efforts to keep their seniors at home.
It's easy for family to get burned out, though. That's why there is help available for those seniors as well as family caregivers. Local Home Instead Senior Care® offices employ CAREGiversSM who can serve as a respite to adult daughters like you, as well as sons and spouses. CAREGivers perform duties such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands and shopping. Some CAREGivers are even trained to work with Alzheimer's clients. Contact your local Home Instead Senior Care office today for more information.