New Ways to Help your Padres with Alzheimers
Taking care of each other as we age isn’t a chore. Statistics demonstrate that it’s a natural part of our culture; our way of life. The percentage of elderly Hispanic men and women living alone is lower than that of the general population. Approximately, 65 percent of older Hispanic men live with their spouse and 17 percent live with other relatives, while 39 percent of older Hispanic women live with their spouse and 33 percent live with other relatives.
But when our padres or abuelitos begin to show consistent signs of forgetfulness, confusion, depression or anxiety, which are signs of dementia and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, we have to rely on outside help for guidance. “As the number of Latinos living with Alzheimers disease continues to grow, it is imperative that we increase awareness about memory loss and dementia among our Spanish-speaking community,” says Yadira Montoya, manager of education and outreach with the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Illinois Chapter.
The Alzheimer’s Association’s “2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures” study states the number of Latinos living with dementia in the United States is expected to steadily rise from 200,000 to 1.3 million by 2050 as our population increases and ages. While it might be shocking to realize that your padre or madre is suffering from Alzheimer’s, there is hope. New research suggests there may be a way of improving their quality of life. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, when dementia patients eat more regularly, their physical health improves and their symptoms of depression lowers.
In the study, some patients were taught a memory-training method that helped them remember proper eating habits, while another group received usual care. The memory-training method called spaced retrieval, requires people to recall a piece of information over increasingly longer time intervals. The patients underwent tests for nutrition, body-mass index, and depression before starting the study and again six months later. The men and women who had the memory training showed improved nutrition and a healthy increase in body-mass index, plus reduced depression scores.
In patients with dementia, poor nutrition or decreased food intake may cause symptoms of depression. “It has been shown that spaced retrieval or Montessori-based activities can improve eating ability,” says Li-Chan Lin, R.N., Ph.D., of the National Yang-Ming University in Taipei, Taiwan, who was one of the researchers of the study. “We expect that this combined intervention can produce greater effects than spaced retrieval or Montessori-based activities can if used alone.” The Montessori Method is an educational technique traditionally used with school age children. When used with Alzheimer’s patients, the goal is to get them to do tasks that feel familiar, along with brain-boosting games, discussion groups and a physical environment that’s designed to both reassure and stimulate.
If you are caring for your parents at home, researchers suggest that you or your elder care provider, consider using these memory training approaches, especially if they’re eating less and are showing signs of depression. Here are a few techniques to try:
- Mnemonics: Use an image to help them recall something that is meaningful. For example, if you want them to remember someone named “Sandy Horsely,” you could show them a sketch of sand being sprinkled on the back of a horse.
- Vanishing Cues: Ask your padre or abuelito to fill in more and more letters of a person’s name until they can recall that name without any help.
- Expanding Rehearsal: Test your madre or abuelita on what she’s learned, over spaced intervals of varying time.
To find out more about how to help your relatives living with Alzheimer’s, contact the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, or call 866-AFA-8484.