Want to live longer? Take care of someone

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Seniors who take care of others live longer than those who do not.

This observation comes from an international research project in which scientists analyzed data from the Berlin Aging Study that followed 500 adults over the age of 69 from 1990 to 2009. About half of the subjects took care of friends, children, or grandchildren; these caregivers were still alive 10 years after their first interview in 1990.

For those who took care of non-family members, half were still alive seven years after the first interview. For those seniors who did not take care of anyone, 50 percent had died within four years of the first interview.

However, moderation in caregiving is essential. Other studies have shown that too much caregiving responsibility is stressful and can endanger one’s health.

Long term care insurance can help pay for needed care at home or in an institution. Some companies offer a cash benefit that can be used to pay a friend or family member for care. Get more information here: GuideToLongTermCare.com

 

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Dancing Benefits The Aging Brain

Doctors have long recommended physical exercise to reduce or delay the onset of dementia as people age. But a new study indicates that dancing may give even greater benefits than other forms of exercise.

Dr. Kathrin Rehfeld compared the effects of different kinds of exercise on volunteers with an average age of 68. Over 18 months, participants took part in either traditional fitness training with repetitive exercises like cycling or Nordic walking, or dance lessons which featured something new each week.

The study measured changes in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that is connected with learning, memory, and balance, and is affected by Alzheimer’s and similar diseases. In both groups, the hippocampus region of the brain increased. The dancers had a noticeable improvement in balance.

The dance routines varied and included jazz, square dance, line dance, and Latin. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Other studies have found similar benefits to dancing:

A study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that brain-stimulating activities such as reading, writing, and doing puzzles lowered the risk of dementia by 47 percent. This study did not find that regular bicycling, swimming, or team sports lowered the risk of dementia significantly. But ballroom dancing reduced the risk of developing dementia by 67 percent!

A study from Korea found that seniors who learned to dance the Cha Cha improved their memory and cognitive function over six months when compared to controls. A study from Canada found that seniors who danced the tango twice a week improved their cognitive scores.

The challenge of constantly learning a variety of new things may be one of the keys to the success of dance in improving mental ability. Dance requires a combination of mental and physical activity – dancers must remember the steps and executive them in rhythm. Also, dance is usually accompanied by music, and music has also been found to benefit people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Music stimulates memories and positive emotions, and body response to rhythms; music can also have the effect of making people more outgoing and sociable.

For more information on Alzheimer’s and dementia, see the Alzheimer’s Section of Guide To Long Term Care.

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Eye Scan for Alzheimer’s

Scanning the eyes is a new way to detect Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in California say Alzheimer’s affects the retina, in the back of the eye, in a similar way to how it affects the brain. A high-definition eye scan can show the buildup of toxic proteins that indicate Alzheimer’s.

The plaque showing in the retina matches the plaque in a corresponding part of the brain. Through repeated scans of the retina over time, doctors will be able monitor the progression of the disease.

At one time, the only way to diagnose Alzheimer’s was by examining the brain after a person died. Now doctors can use brain scans to diagnose the disease in living patients, but these scans are expensive and invasive. The non-invasive eye scans will help doctors to detect the disease earlier, making it possible to intervene with medications and lifestyle changes before more symptoms appear.

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If you do not plan for your long term care who will? See the Guide To Long Term Care for more information on Alzheimer’s and how to prepare for long term care needs.

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Nine lifestyle changes can reduce dementia risk

Nine factors that contribute to the risk of dementia

  • Mid-life hearing loss – responsible for 9% of the risk
  • Failing to complete secondary education – 8%
  • Smoking – 5%
  • Failing to seek early treatment for depression – 4%
  • Physical inactivity – 3%
  • Social isolation – 2%
  • High blood pressure – 2%
  • Obesity – 1%
  • Type 2 diabetes – 1%

These risk factors – which are described as potentially modifiable – add up to 35%. The other 65% of dementia risk is thought to be potentially non-modifiable.
READ  ARTICLE HERE

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Note: Insure before the diagnosis. Once diagnosed insurance is no longer available.

 

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Listening to their favorite music may help people with dementia

Nursing home residents with dementia had fewer behavior problems and were able to cut back on antipsychotic and antianxiety drugs when they listened often to their favorite music, according to a recent study.

Researchers at Brown University in Providence, RI studied over 25,000 residents in 196 nursing homes around the country. They used a program called Music & Memory which provides Alzheimer’s and dementia patients with individualized music playlists.

In a national campaign led by Medicare, gerontology experts and patient advocates are seeking non-pharmacologic interventions to reduce the use of antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications.

In nursing homes that used the program, residents with dementia were more likely to discontinue antipsychotic and anti-anxiety medications, and engaged in fewer disruptive behaviors, than in homes where the music was not used. However, the study did not show a significant improvement in mood.06_ALIVE-INSIDE_Photo-Courtesy-of-BOND360

Caregivers and family members in a documentary called “Alive Inside,” say that personalized music helps even patients with highly advanced dementia. They observe that patients look more at ease after listening to their favorite music.

The researchers studied residents who had dementia and cognitive impairment, but were not in hospice care or comatose.

The rate of discontinuation of antipsychotics rose to 20.1 percent in 2013 compared to 17.6 percent in a similar period before. The discontinuation rate of anti-anxiety meds rose to 24.4 percent compared to 23.5 percent before. In the studied nursing homes that did not use the music program, the rates did not improve.

Behavioral improvement increased to 56.5 percent in program homes from 50.9 percent before the program. Improvement in the behavior of residents helps the treated patients, but also enhances the quality of life for residents around them. Also, improvement in patients’ behavior raises the morale of nursing home staff, and may reduce staff turnover.

The study was published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. To improve their evaluation, Baier, Thomas and their colleagues plan to conduct a second study. 

Nursing home or memory care can be costly. Long term care insurance provides not only money for care but a support system for both those needing care and their families. For more about long term care and insurance visit GuideToLongTermCare

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U.S. Congress increases money for Alzheimer’s research

Congress just increased the budget for Alzheimer’s research by $400 million for fiscal year 2017. In 2016 the budget for Alzheimer’s at the National Institutes of Health was about $910 million.

The number of people living with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to reach 14 million by 2050. It is estimated that for every $100 that goes into research, around $16,000 is spent in caring for people with the disease.

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Money for research has greatly improved the outlook for heart disease and cancer patients. In 2017, health and long term care costs for Alzheimer’s came to around $259 billion in the United States. That number is expected to rise to $511 billion by 2020. Since not finding a cure is expensive, more funding for Alzheimer’s research is obviously needed.

For more information on Alzheimer’s and long term care, see the Guide To Long Term Care.

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Alzheimer’s drug: another take on Solanezumab

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The Alzheimer’s drug Solanezumab turned out to be a disappointment when clinical trials showed patients with long-established Alzheimer’s did not benefit from it. But a new study aims to find out if Solanezumab will help people who have high levels of amyloid in their brains but have not yet developed symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Some people develop amyloid plaques in their brains years before Alzheimer’s disease symptoms appear. Amyloid plaques are a sticky buildup which accumulates outside nerve cells. These plaque formations can interfere with how the brain works, causing problems with memory and thinking. Research has shown that people with high levels of amyloid in their brains are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, though some do not. The drug Solanezumab provides an antibody that binds to the amyloid proteins, and may slow the progression of the disease.

Dr. Brian Ott of Rhode Island Hospital is leading a study on the antibody drug. The vaccine is supposed to attach to the protein that makes neurofibrillary tangles in the brain, and block it from causing degeneration of other cells. This is the first study to find out whether Solanezumab can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease through early intervention.

The trial will examine healthy people ages 65 to 85, with normal memory. The subjects will undergo a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan to measure the amyloid in their brains. Participants must pass a general health screening and have normal brain function and memory, but an elevated amyloid level. The participants will be randomly assigned to get either the investigative antibody drug or a placebo by intravenous infusion every month. Three out of four participants will receive the drug, and the rest will get the placebo.

The study will last three years, and the results will show whether the drug can change the course of Alzheimer’s disease when given before symptoms start.

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Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in America. It is the leading reason that people need long term care. For information on Alzheimer’s and long term care insurance, see the Guide To Long Term Care.

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