7 Signs Santa Has Alzheimer’s

Home Helpers has served the home care needs of hundreds of older adults in Little Rock and surrounding communities.  Many of the people we serve are living with Alzheimer’s or other related dementia.  We couldn’t help but get a chuckle out of this humorous but poignant article by Paula Spencer Scott of Caring.com, so we had to share…

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By Paula Spencer Scott, Caring.com senior editor

Last updated: December 09, 2011
Santa-1

Doctors know well that the holidays bring an upturn in families noticing worrisome signs of memory loss in older adults. No disrespect to Santa intended, but Jolly Old St. Nick also shows a worrisome number of not-so-jolly potential symptoms of dementia.

Only a doctor, of course, can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease. But Mrs. Claus would do well to take a closer look at the following warning signs, which warrant a cognitive evaluation and medical exam in order to rule out other possible causes of dementia or — though it seems impossible to imagine in someone known for his ho, ho, hodepression.

1. Santa keeps making that list and checking it twice.

People with early memory loss are often aware that they’re slipping, and they struggle to employ strategies to help them keep track. Writing notes to themselves is one way they do this. Eventually, though, the person with cognitive trouble forgets ever having written a list in the first place and then never consults it later.

Why does Santa check his list twice? Maybe he’s just careful — after all, it’s a long list. But obsessively checking and rechecking a note or the clock — often because you literally can’t remember just having done so — is a common sign of memory loss. The ability to record these new memories is impaired.

2. He wears the same clothes over and over.

Have you ever seen Santa wearing anything besides that fur-trimmed red suit? Wearing the same clothes repeatedly is another hallmark of advancing cognitive difficulty.

It’s possible, of course, that the red suit is just Santa’s chosen uniform, a la Steve Jobs — but even Jobs ditched his signature black turtleneck and jeans for sleeping or sports. If Mrs. Claus has to sneak the suit out of the room at night in order to wash it every now and again, or if there are blue and yellow suits hanging in the closet that never get selected, she might consider this a red flag.

3. He needs a red-nosed reindeer to direct him on the same route he’s driven for years.

You’d think Santa would know his worldwide sky routes like the back of his hand by now, instead of having to seek out a bright-nosed reindeer to lead the way.

But getting lost on familiar routes is often one of the earliest memory symptoms families notice. One classic clue: driving the same way for years but suddenly having moments of confusion during which he or she isn’t certain of the location or destination. Both memory loss and “motion blindness” — the ability to perceive motion well and navigate the environment — are to blame.

If kids in Tokyo or Toledo wake up without any toys this Christmas, it just might be because Santa got lost in Tibet.

4. He’s getting up there in years.

Alzheimer’s disease isn’t an inevitable side effect of aging. But the odds of developing it do increase with age. As many as one in two people over age 85 have signs of dementia. And Santa is how old? Multiple centuries?

5. He asks the same questions over and over. (“What do you want for Christmas?” “Have you been a good little girl?”)

Spend a few minutes with someone with mild dementia, and repetition — of questions, comments, and even word-for-word long anecdotes — is often apparent. The person may seem to get stuck on just a few phrases with certain people or in certain situations. Always asking a grandchild, “How’s school?” or an adult child, “How’s the family?” for example, are helpful crutches that the person with mild dementia may use to mask an underlying uncertainty.

Makes you wonder what Santa has ever said to a child around the globe besides, “What do you want for Christmas?” and “Have you been good?” You’d think he’d have plenty of stories and advice to share, but we just don’t hear it.

6. He’s obese.

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s is unknown. But scientists have uncovered plenty of risk factors. High on the list: obesity. Santa’s exact weight is unknown, but nobody looking at that bowl full of shaking jelly would place him inside the “normal” columns of the body-mass-index chart.

Belly fat (weight centered in the midsection) is clearly associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, especially when it accumulates in midlife. People who are obese also tend to develop diabetes and heart disease, which are themselves linked to a higher risk of dementia.

7. He’s prone to mistaking the chimney for a door, and to calling musical instruments “rooty-toot-toots and rummy-tum-tums.”

It’s hard to understand why Santa chooses to use the chimney over the door, given that everyone’s supposed to be asleep anyway and given how often he flops into fires and ashes. But cognitive difficulties often cause confusion in behavior and language.

Misusing words, a part of a general condition of language problems called aphasia, is another common development with dementia. Some people with dementia call a toothbrush a “mouth scraper” or a “thingamajig,” for example. Songs about Santa refer to “rooty-toot-toots” and rummy-tum-tums” for musical instruments. Hmmm. . . .

Here’s hoping those hardworking toymaker elves are also good at caregiving, since — as far as we know — Mr. and Mrs. Claus have no children of their own up at the Pole to step up to the demands of the job.

10 Myths About Home Care (Part 2 of 10) – Home Care versus Nursing Home Care Costs

10 Myths About Home Care (Part 2 of 10)

Home Care is More Expensive than a Nursing Home

Sam Sellers

Decisions about home care – sometimes referred to as senior care or elder care – for a loved-one can be overwhelming.  What is the best care setting?  Who do I turn to for advice?  Can I afford the services?  Added to the complexity of navigating the long term care system is often a great urgency due to sudden or unexpected changes in situations.  Compound these considerations with the fact that most informal family caregivers also have their own work and family responsibilities. 

 

Having reliable, unbiased and timely information is critical as decisions about long term care are made.  Sadly, there are many “myths” associated with in-home care.  While some are partially true, others are just simply not true.  When considering care options for a loved one, it is important that you know the facts about in-home care. 

Is care at home more expensive than a nursing home?  Perhaps, but not necessarily.

In Arkansas, a semi-private nursing home room costs somewhere between $52,000 and $55,000 annually, with the daily range falling between $100 and $151 per day.  If around the clock care is essential for your well-being and your personal values and preferences are such that institutional care is preferred, these are the costs associated with it.

The cost for home care in Arkansas generally falls somewhere between $12 and $18 per hour, with an average of $15 per hour.  A quick note here – individual “private contractors” can charge far below these rates, but the person arranging the service is the employer responsible for all required taxes and other withholdings (bringing the cost back up to these averages).

When a loved one lives with a spouse or relative, services are typically not required 24/7, but rather for a period of 24-40 hours each week, based largely on family participation in and involvement with caregiving duties.  With this frequency of paid in-home care, the average cost would fall between $360 and $600 per week, or $18,720 and $31,200 annually.

If is possible that other supportive strategies can be implemented to manage costs.  These might include medical alerts or medication management, Meals on Wheels, or other supportive services.

In-home care can be a more affordable long term care option that allows your loved one to remain where most people want to age – in their home.  Care at home does not have to be more expensive.  With careful planning and the right person managing care, expenses can be kept to a manageable level, far below that of skilled nursing facility care.

Contact Sam Sellers at Home Helpers – Home Care Little Rock – for information on how we can determine whether home care is the most affordable and appropriate option for your loved one.

Home Helpers – Home Care Little Rock – Celebrates National Home Care Month

Home Helpers – Home Care Little Rock – Celebrates National Home Care Month

Sam Sellers

Home Care – also sometimes referred to as senior care or elder care – is received by approximately 12 million Americans through home care agencies every year.  Often the term home care is used in contrast to “home health” to describe non-medical or custodial care provided at home.  Home Health refers to skilled care provided by a licensed medical professional such as a Registered Nurse, physical or occupational therapist or physician.

Home Helpers – Home Care Little Rock – join the National Association of Home Care & Hospice in celebrating November as the National Home Care Month.  And, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, we agree that “there’s no place like home.”

With over a decade working with and serving older adults, I’ve found that those of us who agree with Dorothy are in the clear majority.  Quite simply, if at all possible, older adults choose by overwhelming numbers to receive care at home.

Unlike Dorothy, older adults do not require magical ruby slippers.  Instead, often the need to make staying at home a reality is simply a little extra help around the house.  Whether those needs involve a caregiver a few hours each week or 24 hours a day, home care can be the magic that keeps people safe and as independent as possible in their own homes.

We’ve also found that something as simple as a medical alert or proper medication management can lead to greater independence.  When coupled with the aid of a home care assistant, there is often little reason to consider being anywhere but the comfort of your own home.

As baby-boomers age, the real value of home care is becoming more and more apparent.  In Arkansas, AARP found that 98% of older adults want to receive care in their own home versus a nursing home.  And there’s little wonder as to why – we want to maintain independence and freedom of action and remain closer to family and friends.  Maybe that’s why relocating to a nursing home is one of the greatest fears older adults face.

Home care can empower older adults to age with dignity and grace in a familiar setting surrounded by family and friends.

If you would like more information or would simply like to visit about home care as an option for an aging loved one, we are always open to sharing our experience and expertise.  Home Helpers – Home Care Little Rock – will gladly schedule a time to meet with you at your convenience.  Contact Sam Sellers to start that conversation at (501) 663-3900.

10 Myths About Home Care (Part 1 of 10) – LTC Insurance

10 Myths About Home Care (Part 1 of 10)

Long Term Care Insurance Will Not Pay for Home Care

By Sam Sellers

Decisions about home care – sometimes referred to as senior care or elder care – for a loved-one can be overwhelming.  What is the best care setting?  Who do I turn to for advice?  Can I afford the services?  Added to the complexity of navigating the long term care system is often a great urgency due to sudden or unexpected changes in situations.  Compound these considerations with the fact that most informal family caregivers also have their own work and family responsibilities. 

Having reliable, unbiased and timely information is critical as decisions about long term care are made.  Sadly, there are many “myths” associated with in-home care.  While some are partially true, others are just simply not true.  When considering care options for a loved one, it is important that you know the facts about in-home care. 

It is both true and false that Long Term Care Insurance will not pay for home care. 

Long Term Care insurance can be confusing.  “Deductibles” are measured in time and called “elimination periods.”  Premiums can seem exorbitant until you look at the costs of long term care services; often a whole year’s worth of premiums can be paid in only one month of service once a qualifying claim has been filed.  It is essential to have a experienced agent guide you through selection of an appropriate policy.  We can make referrals in that area, but that is not what this article is about…

Some of the earlier policies were designed to exclusively pay for nursing home care and there are some policies still sold that only offer nursing home benefits.  As demand increased and popularity grew, many insurance companies adjusted and even created new policies that provide for in-home care.

Typically, the same criteria must be met to trigger benefits, that is, the need for assistance with two Activities of Daily Living, such as bathing, dressing, feeding, transferring, walking, or toileting.  There is also usually a cognitive trigger that includes those with Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementia.  These benefit triggers are typically the same whether the person is receiving care in a skilled nursing facility or at home.

There are cases where the daily benefit for someone receiving care at home is less than the rate paid to a skilled nursing facility.

Talk to your insurance agent and contact the claims department of your insurance carrier.  They will assist through the claims process and be able to provide you with information regarding benefits.  You can also contact Sam Sellers to discuss the policy benefits and desires and values of the person to receive care.  Home Helpers – Home Care Little Rock – has served scores of individuals with Long Term Care insurance, and Sam is always more than happy to help you navigate through this process.