Holistic care delivered with compassion - supporting families with Dementia

Diabetes and Dementia. Links and Complications

Photo Credit: Oskar Annermarken

Photo Credit: Oskar Annermarken

When it comes to your health, your mind and body are very much connected. For instance, people who suffer from diabetes can be at a higher risk of developing vascular dementia. Studies are also showing a link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes that can cause additional cognitive impairment – and that’s something for which our caregivers are always watchful.

Diabetes is a particularly insidious disease, affecting more than 9 million Canadians either living with the disease or in a borderline ‘pre-diabetes’ phase. Aside from its link to vascular dementia, about 80 percent of people with diabetes die of heart disease or stroke – and it shorten life expectancy by years. Worst of all, about a third of sufferers may not even know that they have the disease. Continue reading

Dementia Caregiving. 10 Activities to Stimulate the Senses

Photo Credit: Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ

Photo Credit: Bro. Jeffrey Pioquinto, SJ

As a caregiver, it can be a real relief to stumble upon an activity that your patient loves. Sometimes, it’s something that they used to love doing – but often, you can introduce new kinds of fun that they just never tried before. If you can overcome that initial resistance to change that can come up more often than we’d like, you may just instill in them a new kind of passion for life. Feel free to take suggestions from family members and friends – but if you’re looking for inspiration, here are some ideas. Continue reading

Diet, Nutrition and Dementia Care

Photo Credit: avilasal

Photo Credit: avilasal

Good nutrition is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, whether you’re in the prime of life or affected by dementia in old age. Caregivers often face a serious challenge in helping their charge enjoy a decent quality of life: the client’s reluctance to eat well, even when their favorite dish is presented to them on a plate! What’s going on, here?

Dementia Challenges. Unexpected Challenges at Mealtime

As a result of dementia, or just the wear and tear of old age – or a combination of both, caregivers often come up against resistance.

  • Sudden Taste Changes. Grilled chicken on a bed of greens and tomatoes was their favorite – until it wasn’t. Now they won’t even deign to look at it – even if they specifically requested it, not an hour ago! There’s not much you can do if they refuse to eat it but pack it up and provide them with their new ‘old-time’ favorite.
  • Trouble Recognizing Food as Food. Someone with advanced dementia may just not make the connection that there’s food in front of them unless it’s presented right. Use colored plates that contrast with the food. Also, consider simplifying the meal to 2 dishes at a time, to avoid confusion.
  • Irritation from Eating. Dentures fitting poorly, tooth pain or a sore jaw can make the simple act of eating an uncomfortable ordeal. There’s no getting around pre-emptive action. Make sure their dental health is clear and if necessary, get them out to the dentist.
  • Unending Complaints. Caregivers can often get discouraged by patients who complain that their food just doesn’t taste right – even if they’re serving up delicious fare that others give 5-star ratings. It could be that the patient isn’t just being mean: the truth is that sense of taste and smell can decline, particularly in cases of dementia. That food you’re serving doesn’t taste as good as it once did – and sadly, all you can do is experiment by adding a little extra spice or sauce. Suddenly, they’re loving your over-seasoned chicken that your own family would reject. You’re not cooking for the Iron Chef – just do what works..

More Tips to Help Caregivers Feed their Patients Right

Mostly, this is about being flexible and adaptable. Your patient may have cultural preferences; rice, instead of bread. Spicy soup for breakfast. Meatloaf, prepared according to an old family recipe. Caregivers are welcome to try introducing new foods, but first plan out according to their preferences. Meal planning is critical for ensuring you provide a balanced diet and don’t wear yourself out trying to improvise whatever dish is requested that day.

Family members may have helpful suggestions about what the client might enjoy, or recommend certain nutrition supplements. Again, be accommodating – but not at the risk of your patient’s health or comfort. If they really do hate the taste of prunes for dessert, there are always plenty of alternatives.

Finally, be there for them when they’re eating! Mealtimes are social times – and this is where fond memories can be sharpened by the tastes and smells of the kitchen.

Eating well is a major part of our quality of life. Succeed on this front and you’ll be one appreciated caregiver!

Bad Sleep as a Risk Factor for Dementia and What You Can Do About It

Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

We’ve known about the link between sleeplessness and aging for a long time now. Those afflicted with dementia in particular can suffer from insomnia, or even a reversal of the normal day-night sleeping cycle. Doctors still don’t know what it happens – but there’s no question that it does happen. However, until recently, no one had been able to detect a causal link between bad sleep and dementia. Recent studies do seem to suggest that link – even when taking into account heart health, medication and other factors.

Dr. Kristine Yaffe of University of California, San Francisco explains this research while in Vancouver: Continue reading