6 Things You Need to Know About Parkinson’s Disease

Things You Need to Know About Parkinson’s DiseaseA diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is always scary, but it can be even more intimidating if you don’t know what the diagnosis really means. You might have heard of Parkinson’s causing tremors and mobility issues, but if that’s all you know about it, you probably have a lot of questions, especially if you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. While we can’t tell you everything about the disease in a blog post, we can give you an idea of some of the things you can expect from a Parkinson’s diagnosis.

  • Early Warning Signs

While tremors and mobility issues are probably the most well-known symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, they’re not the only indications that something might be wrong. Before the disease reaches that stage, many patients experience loss of smell, constipation, vivid dreaming, and their handwriting might become very small.

  • Brain Cell Death

Cells in the substantia nigra section of the brain are responsible for producing dopamine, which helps the brain control movement of the body. When these brain cells start to die, Parkinson’s disease develops, and it is the reduced levels of dopamine in the brain that lead to the tremors and loss of motor control that tend to characterize Parkinson’s disease.

  • Unknown Causes

No one knows what causes Parkinson’s disease. Based on what we know so far, the best guess scientists can make is that it’s a combination of environmental factors and genetic predisposition, but so far the exact causes of Parkinson’s disease remain a medical mystery that has yet to be solved.

  • How Is Parkinson’s Diagnosed?

Because Parkinson’s develops when certain brain cells start to die, it’s difficult to diagnose when the patient is still living. In order to diagnose a patient with Parkinson’s disease, a doctor would need to conduct a physical exam, as well as a variety of tests to determine whether two of the four main symptoms are present: tremors/shaking, slow movements, rigid limbs and/or torso, and difficulty balancing.

  • When Is Parkinson’s Disease Diagnosed?

The average age of patients who experience the onset of Parkinson’s disease is 62. If the patient is less than 50 years old at the time of their Parkinson’s diagnosis, it’s known as young-onset or early-onset Parkinson’s disease.

  • Treatment

As with Alzheimer’s and dementia, there is no cure for Parkinson’s, although the progression of the disease can be slowed down with the help of drugs that can mimic, or even replace dopamine. Exercise is also a critical factor for managing the disease and mitigating the effects of the loss of mobility and balance caused by the disease. In some cases, deep brain stimulation surgery has also proven effective in combatting the disease.

Whether you or your loved one is suffering from reduced mobility, cognitive decline, or both, we can come up with a plan to help them here at Stillwater Senior Living. Everything from our Senior Messages to our new Lakeside Memory Care Neighborhood is designed to help our residents age in comfort and with dignity.

Who Benefits from Assisted Living?

benefits of assisted living

There are a lot of misconceptions about assisted living, and while many of those misconceptions tend to focus on the perceived drawbacks of assisted living, the benefits of assisted living also tend to get overlooked. Specifically, people don’t always talk about who can benefit from assisted living, which is too bad because the answer is much more specific than just “old people.”

We’re going to clear up some of those misconceptions in this article, not only by going over the benefits assisted living provides, but by explaining who benefits from assisted living.

People with Arthritis Can Benefit from Assisted Living

Arthritis is much more than a mild annoyance that comes with getting older. Not only can it become extremely painful, but it can be debilitating, preventing range of movement, which inhibits those affected from being able to perform all sorts of daily tasks.

Assisted living helps those with arthritis by taking care of those daily tasks for them so they can still have food, clean clothes, and clean living quarters, no matter how their range of motion is affected by their arthritis.

People Who Are Isolated Can Benefit from Assisted Living

One of the most important benefits of assisted living that gets overlooked is the social aspect. As we age, our friends and peers die off and our children move out and build lives of their own. As many as 35% of adults aged 45 and older report feeling lonely, and their risk of loneliness and social isolation only increases as they age. Those feelings of being cut off from society and loved ones lead to an increased risk of depression and associated mental disorders, as well as chronic illness.

By contrast, not only are people in assisted living checked up on by staff and nurses, they are also surrounded by their peers, many of whom have been through and are going through similar life events. Assisted living communities also tend to organize social events for their residents to encourage them to get out of their rooms and mingle with other residents, thereby fostering their personal relationships and mental wellbeing.

Family Can Benefit from Assisted Living

While there are certainly many benefits to being a caregiver, especially to a loved one, there’s no denying that it can also be stressful and overwhelming. For those already juggling kids and a career, taking on the responsibility of caring for an aging loved one isn’t always an option, and that’s where assisted living can help.

We can make sure a staff of professionals are caring for your loved one around the clock so you can continue to show up in all the other aspects of your life. By letting us take the burden of caregiving off your shoulders, you’ll also be better able to enjoy the time you spend visiting your loved one because it can be spent on quality time, rather than trying to make sure you’re providing the care they need.

If you’ve been considering assisted living, but you’re not sure if it’s right for you or your loved one, reach out now so we can start a conversation about the benefits we provide to our residents and their families at Stillwater Senior Living.

What Is Elder Law and How Can It Help You?

elder lawAs if all the complications of aging weren’t confusing enough on their own, now there’s another thing to deal with: elder law. What is it? How can you tell if you need it?

Rather than making things more confusing, the goal of elder law is actually to simplify the process by guiding people through many of the most complicated aspects of aging. Elder law is not a specific brand of the law by itself. Instead, it covers a broad range of topics generally faced by older Americans, including healthcare, Medicare/Medicaid, estate planning, probate, power of attorney, etc. In this article, we’ll go over some of the most important aspects of the law covered by elder law and how you can use it to your advantage as you and your loved ones age.

Elder Law Can Help You Navigate Healthcare

The American healthcare system is confusing even when you’re in your prime and require little or no medical attention. As we age, not only do we need more care, but the process of getting that care gets increasingly complicated. Instead of just dealing with one health insurance provider, you might have to navigate Medicare and/or Medicaid, as well as any health insurance company providing supplemental insurance.

Then there’s long-term care insurance, which can help pay for things like in-home healthcare or assisted living.

The simplest way to cover these costs is simply to pay out of pocket, but that option is too pricey for many people, in which case a qualified elder law attorney can help them navigate all the steps required to get the coverage they need.

Elder Law Can Help You with Your Estate Planning

Our estate planning needs also tend to change as we age. While a qualified financial planner can help protect your assets from taxes so your dependents and beneficiaries aren’t left with a tax burden when you’re gone, as we get older, we’re more likely to need long-term care and/or assisted living, and that’s where elder law comes in. Elder law takes a more holistic approach to your finances by helping you set aside funds and assets for your loved ones while making sure your healthcare needs are not neglected.

Too many people make the mistake of assuming they’ll never need long-term care or assisted living, and they fail to account for it in their financial planning. Elder law can help prevent you from making that mistake to ensure both you and your loved ones are covered.

Elder Law Can Help You Navigate Power of Attorney

Your power of attorney is the person capable of making financial and medical decisions for you when you are no longer capable of making them yourself, but there are different kinds of power of attorney. In addition to helping you make sure only someone you trust is granted your power of attorney, elder law can also help you protect your ability to make decisions for yourself as much as possible. For example, a “springing” power of attorney means the rights of your durable power of attorney don’t lock down until certain requirements have been met, such as a specific medical diagnosis.

If you have questions about elder law and/or assisted living, we’re happy to help. Reach out now to start a conversation.

The Benefits of Meditation for Seniors

Meditation for SeniorsWhat started out as a fringe practice used by a few to maintain a sense of calm has become widely adopted, with scientific evidence to support the idea that it provides many more benefits than just helping you calm down when you’re stressed. While meditating regularly provides benefits to people of all ages, it can be particularly beneficial to seniors. So, whether you’re an older American and/or you have loved ones who are older Americans, consider these benefits when thinking about adding meditation to your daily routine … or convincing them to add meditation to their routine.

Delays the Onset of Dementia

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, or any other form of dementia, but studies show that, by meditating regularly, we can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. Because meditation is a way of clearing the mind of distracting thoughts, it’s also a way to increase focus, which requires an increase in brain activity. By “exercising” the brain with meditation, we can delay some of the brain cell death that results from of a condition such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s similar to the way other mentally stimulating activities, such as gardening and crossword puzzles, also help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Helps Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a common symptom of aging, and a dangerous precursor to things like stroke and heart attack. By actively meditating for a few minutes every day, seniors can keep their blood pressure under control. It’s not a replacement for blood pressure medication, but it’s a great addition to any routine prescribed by a doctor to get and keep your blood pressure down to a healthy level. As with Alzheimer’s/dementia, meditation might not cure you of your high blood pressure, but with regular practice, it might be able to delay the need for medication for a while.

Reduces Your Risk of Contracting a Stress-Related Illness

Many of the most common chronic illnesses are at least partially due to stress. We mentioned high blood pressure (a.k.a. hypertension), but other illnesses, such as high cholesterol and diabetes also seem to have roots in stress, at least to an extent. Meditation can’t necessarily cure you, but when practiced regularly, it can delay the onset of stress-related illnesses, and help mitigate the effects of a stress-related illness after you’ve already started showing symptoms.

Increases Energy and Boosts Your Immune System

By helping you stay calm, meditation can help keep your cortisol levels low. Cortisol is the hormone produced and released by your body when you’re under stress. It’s also known as the “fight-or-flight” hormone, but with many of us feeling stressed in ways that involve neither fighting nor fleeing, we end up in a near-constant state of stress, which means our body is pumping out cortisol continuously. Since cortisol inhibits the immune system’s ability to respond to threats to the body, those of us who constantly feel stressed are significantly more likely to get sick than those who meditate on a regular basis.

Meditating is just one brain exercise that provides health benefits to seniors, and as experts in assisted living, we don’t stop at meditating. Our new memory care wing has a host of mental activities to help mitigate the effects of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. If you want to know what else we do to keep our residents safe and healthy, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Creative Alzheimer’s Care Tips

alzheimer's care tipsCaring for an aging loved one is always challenging, but it can be especially challenging if they have Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. They forget things and get confused, and that can be frustrating for everyone. But getting frustrated only makes the situation worse, so get creative with ways to alleviate, or even avoid that frustration. Doing so can require some creativity, so we’ve come up with a few ideas we hope will help and might even inspire you to come up with some other creative ideas for caring for a loved one with dementia.

Display Old Photos

Patients in the later stages of dementia tend to lose both the power of speech and the ability to process language (although those two things are separate and don’t necessarily happen at the same time). To try and compensate for it, using pictures whenever possible is a great way to keep your loved one happy and engaged. You can load hundreds of photos onto a digital picture frame and have it display them on a loop. Some digital picture frames even play music alongside the photos, which is another great way to keep your loved one calm.

Use Photos Instead of Names When Possible

Smartphones are great for their ability to pair pictures with names in our contact list, making it that much easier to identify the people we’re trying to reach. If your loved one doesn’t have a smartphone, see if you can find a phone that has space for pictures instead of names on the speed dial list so your loved one doesn’t have to struggle with names they can’t remember when they need to reach someone.

Don’t Fight Their Reality

Things tend to be most frustrating when you try to convince them something they know is not the case, or tell them they can’t do something. Rather than fight it, accept their reality and come up with reasons not to do something that fits their reality. For example, if they want to reach someone who is long dead, just tell them the person is unavailable. If they want to drive, tell them the car is in the shop instead of arguing with them. It will make things so much easier and more pleasant for everyone.

Get a “Dementia Clock”

A “dementia clock” is a clock that displays the date and day of the week, in addition to the time, and can be seen from across the room. This way your loved one doesn’t have to constantly ask what time it is or what day it is, they can just look up and act like they knew the answer all along.

Eliminate Tripping Hazards

We did a whole blog post on how to avoid falling hazards, but lighting is also key to avoiding falls and injuries, so get lights with motion sensors that light up when someone enters the room. This avoids fumbling for switches and makes it less likely your loved one will try to make do in the dark when they can’t find the switch.

Get them a cane and/or a walker, too. Even if they’re steady on their feet now, that can change quickly, so make sure you’re prepared now.

We have a lot more tips for caregivers responsible for a loved one at home, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you need some more pointers, or if you think it might be time for assisted living.

Watch this video to get a sneak peak of our Memory Care Neighborhood!


Sundown Syndrome: Dealing with Alzheimer’s

Sundown SyndromeSundown syndrome, also called “sundowning”, is characterized by increased restlessness and/or agitation beginning in the late afternoon or evening and often continuing throughout night. It can affect all kinds of people, and even animals, but it is especially prevalent in older people with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

What Causes Sundown Syndrome?

No one is entirely sure what causes sundown syndrome, but experts believe that the degeneration of brain cells associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s might disrupt the production and/or reception of hormones in our body telling us when we should be awake and when we should sleep. Other possible causes include fatigue, hunger and/or thirst, pain, depression, or even boredom.

Symptoms of Sundown Syndrome

If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, you might want to keep a lookout for symptoms of sundown syndrome later in the day, especially as the sun starts to set and make the transition from day into night. Symptoms include increased agitation, pacing, and even yelling.

While it can be difficult to bear the brunt of what feels like personal attacks from your loved one, it’s important to understand the reasons behind why they might be acting that way. In many cases, people with dementia or Alzheimer’s tend to lash out when they are especially confused. Realizing you don’t remember where you are or what’s going on is a terrifying sensation, and it’s possible that your loved one might lash out verbally, or even physically, when feeling confused.

How to Cope with Sundown Syndrome

As difficult as it can be, especially when family members are involved, it’s important not to take it personally when your loved one with dementia lashes out at you. Remember that it’s less likely to be about you and more likely to be about something else they find confusing or upsetting and you just happened to be a convenient target for their agitation.

Remain calm and try to get to the root of what’s causing their confusion. Try to reassure them that everything is OK and to distract them from whatever it is that might be upsetting them. Keeping their favorite snack handy can be a great way to distract them, and if hunger is a trigger of their sundown syndrome, then you could be killing two birds with one stone by feeding them.

Other tips for coping with sundown syndrome include removing other triggers of anxiety and agitation. You’ll get a feel for what these triggers are for your loved one as their disease progresses, but some common ways to avoid or reduce the symptoms of sundown syndrome include reducing noise and/or clutter, and/or reducing the number of people in the room. While it might sound like fun to bring the whole family for a visit, the reality can be overwhelming for someone who doesn’t always recognize the people surrounding them, so working with other members of the family to make sure you all get a chance to visit with your loved one at different times can often prove most beneficial to everyone involved.

While caring for aging loved ones can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be stressful and overwhelming. That’s why our goal at Stillwater Senior Living is to provide your loved one with the best care possible so you can go about your life without having to worry about them, which means your visits can be spent on more quality time with your loved one. Reach out now if you have any other questions about how we can help your loved one age in place.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family. We are also excited to open our Memory Care Neighborhood in the Spring of 2020.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.

Could We See a Cure for Alzheimer’s in 2020? An Update on the Latest Research

Cure for Alzheimer’s in 2020?A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is one of the scariest scenarios imaginable, not just because there are few things more frightening than losing our mental faculties, but also because there is currently no cure for the disease. But researchers have been hard at work for decades trying to find a cure, and recent discoveries could bring us a cure sooner than you might think.

Our Genes

The first factor that determines your likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s in the first place is your genes. Most people know that if they have a relative with Alzheimer’s, they’re significantly more likely to develop the disease themselves, so we know genes play a large role in determining who comes down with Alzheimer’s and when.

On the one hand, we have the presenillin 1 gene, and we know that people with a mutation in that gene are significantly more likely to develop early-onset Alzheimer’s, meaning they start to show early symptoms in their mid to late forties and have full-blown Alzheimer’s in their fifties.

On the other hand, we have the APOE gene, which is linked to regular, late-onset Alzheimer’s and has three different forms that are most commonly seen. Roughly three in four people have APOE3, about one in five people have APOE4, and only about one in ten have APOE2.

We already knew that people with an APOE4 gene were 3x to 4x more likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to people who only have the APOE3 gene. On the other hand, if you have on APOE2 gene, you’re slightly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s compared to people with only APOE3 genes. But a mutation of the APOE4 gene has recently been discovered and it could change everything.

Harvard researchers have been studying a very large family in New Zealand with the presenillin 1 genetic mutation that predisposes them to early-onset Alzheimer’s. Many of them have, in fact, developed early-onset Alzheimer’s, but one woman didn’t show symptoms of Alzheimer’s until she was in her 70s. Although she had the presenillin 1 genetic mutation, she also had an unusual mutation in her APOE gene, which has been named APOE3Christchurch (APOE3ch) after the New Zealand city in which the mutation was discovered. Furthermore, this woman had two versions of this same mutation, meaning she inherited it from both her mother and her father, and researchers think it could be the key to her resistance to Alzheimer’s.

Our Proteins

In addition to our genes, another factor in developing Alzheimer’s has to do with a protein in the brain, called tau, which is responsible for destroying brain cells. Researchers think that tau builds up in the brain after amyloid protein forms plaque in the brain, but this woman in New Zealand has a relatively small amount of tau in her brain, despite the fact that her brain was full of abnormal amyloid plaques (even more so than most people with Alzheimer’s).

Researchers suspect that this woman’s APOE3ch mutation could be the key to the relatively small amounts of tau built up in her brain. This research is still in the preliminary stages, but so far, they have been able to create a special protein in the lab that mimics the effects of the APOE3ch mutation and reduce the uptake of tau in the brain.

We probably won’t see a definitive cure for Alzheimer’s in 2020, since researchers have to conduct experiments to make sure they can reproduce the results before they can put anything on the market, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family. We are also excited to open our Memory Care Neighborhood in the Spring of 2020.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.

How to Relocate Your Aging Parents

relocate your aging parentsMoving is a stressful process even for the young and able bodied. No one likes to pick up their whole lives and move from a well-known home to a strange place, but those feelings of fear and discomfort tend to increase as we age, and can be compounded by confusion when suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Although declining mental faculties are probably the reason you need to relocate your aging parents into assisted living, it can also make the move itself much more challenging for you and your parents. Here are some things you can do to make the process go more smoothly.

  • Communication

The key to successfully overcoming any challenge that involves working with other people is communication. This doesn’t mean you won’t disagree about what has to happen or how certain things need to be done, but by keeping the lines of communication open, you can avoid surprises and a certain amount of conflict. Even if your parents don’t like the idea of moving, it’s important to keep them involved in the process so they can maintain as much control as possible.

  • Decide on a Place

Keeping Step 1 in mind, it’s important for you and your parents to agree on a place together. Given all the factors that need to be considered, including cost, location, and level of care, it might not be possible for everyone to agree on what the best place for your parents is, but again, it’s important to get their input so you can reach as much of a consensus as possible.

  • Create a Plan

Once you’ve decided on a place and you have a move-in date, you need to plan out everything that needs to get done between now and that move-in date. When are you going to start packing? What are you packing and what are you putting in storage/giving away? If your parents have accumulated a lot of possessions over the years, you might want to give yourself extra time to go through it all and decide what’s worth keeping and what should be tossed. Set a packing date and stick to the plan. Even if your parents are resistant at first, laying out a plan and attacking the moving process one step at a time will make moving day much easier on both you and your parents.

  • Get Everyone Involved

The responsibility of taking care of aging parents often ends up falling on one or two children, even when there are several siblings in the family. In order to make sure you aren’t the only person responsible for moving your parents, get as many family members involved as possible. Not only will this help lighten the load, it’s also a great way to remind your parents how much everyone cares about them. Most people are afraid of getting put in assisted living and being forgotten by their friends and family, so getting everyone involved is one way to assure your parents that’s not going to happen.

  • Help Them Settle In

Once you’ve helped your parents unpack and arrange everything to their liking in their new home, be sure to visit them regularly, but not too often. Again, you want to let them know they won’t be forgotten, but you don’t want to smother them or become overbearing.

If you have any other questions about the move-in process, we’re happy to help.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.

Is Aging in Place Even Possible? Or Desirable?

aging in placeThe term aging in place appears to be everywhere these days. Everyone is telling us how we can “age in place” and giving us tips and tools and technology to help us do so, but what does that really mean? Should we even want to age in place?

The Stats

While a lot of people talk about studies showing as many as 90% of older Americans want to live at home, according to a study conducted by AARP just last year, only about 76% of Americans aged 50 and older want to stay at home. The rest are looking forward to living in a community of people their own age who remember the politics and pop culture from decades ago.

Is the Push to “Age in Place” Ageism?

Our culture has long been obsessed with youth and beauty, and while there are certain advantages to having those things, life has much more to offer. One of the best parts of aging is the wisdom and experience that comes with age, so when people are constantly telling us to “age in place” it can feel a little like they’re telling us to give up all our hard-earned knowledge. Who wants that?

The Importance of Socializing

Everyone enjoys socializing with people their own age. As kids, we tend to congregate with other kids our age, and as we grow into adulthood, we seek out people who are going through the same stages of life we’re experiencing.

The same goes for older adults. As much as we love our kids and grandkids, they just can’t understand us on the same level as our peers. While it’s nice to have a helping hand around the house, and to spend time with our family, we also need to spend time with people who understand what we’re going through and who can reminisce with us about “the good old days”.

Socializing can be tough for older Americans who try to stay at home, especially if they live in an area where they’re largely isolated from other people their own age. There’s a reason assisted living communities talk so much about the activities they host to make sure their residents remain actively engaged in the social life of the community – not only is it healthier for them, it also makes their lives more fulfilling and enjoyable.

Talking to Your Loved One

We talk to people every day who have trouble convincing their loved one it’s time for assisted living because of the stigma surrounding assisted living, but much of that stigma is already starting to dissipate as older Americans and their families recognize the many blessings assisted living can provide. If you think your loved one might need assisted living, but they’re resistant to the idea, try pointing out all the benefits (to them, not just to you as their caregiver). If you haven’t talked to them about it in a while, bring it up again and see what they say because you might find that their attitude on the subject has completely changed, especially if they have friends who are living in an assisted living community and loving it!

If all else fails, bring them in for a tour. Aging in place can be done here! Once you tour our gorgeous community, you will be happy to age in place here! We’d be happy to schedule a visit at your earliest convenience.

Here at Stillwater Senior Living, we treat our residents like family. Our apartments include studio, one bedroom, and two bedroom suites, and we are pet friendly. They are designed with security features, maximum accessibility, and include walk-out patois with a full range of amenities for the entire family.

CONTACT US today for more information and a tour of our beautiful state-of-the-art community.