Reducing the risks of developing dementia with home care

For many adult children, watching their parents advance into their senior years raises the concern of one or both parents developing dementia. Whilst some will be in regular contact on a weekly or even daily basis, others living further away or unable to be in regular face to face contact may worry that they might not spot the early signs.

That’s why a new study by the University of Cambridge in the UK is so interesting in terms of early signs. Researchers suggest that at-risk patients could be screened for specific signs of dementia risk up to nine years before a diagnosis would be possible.

Published in “Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association”, the study’s authors noted that by looking back at their medical records, it became clear that many current dementia patients were showing signs of some cognitive impairment “several years” before their symptoms prompted a diagnosis..

“The impairments were often subtle, but across a number of aspects of cognition. This is a step towards us being able to screen people who are at greatest risk – for example, people over 50 or those who have high blood pressure or do not do enough exercise – and intervene at an earlier stage to help them reduce their risk.”

The early signs of cognitive impairment

By using data from the UK Biobank, the study showed that patients who went on to develop Alzheimers score poorly in certain tasks compared to others who didn’t, including:

  • Problem solving
  • Reaction times
  • Number recall
  • Prospective memory (remembering to do something later on)
  • Pair matching

The researchers were keen to stress that most people have problems recalling numbers, and that only those who have noticed this getting worse should seek help from their physician.

Prevention and delay

The key focus of the study’s findings was that if there was increased awareness early on, the risks can be reduced by targeted interventions. According to David Thomas of Alzheimer’s Research UK:

“It is increasingly clear that the best chance to affect the course of the diseases which cause dementia lies in intervening at their earliest stages.”

According to a leading Alzheimer’s charity, our age and genetics play a significant role in our risk of developing dementia. However, up to 40% of dementia cases are linked to things we can change, including what we eat and how we challenge our brains.

Test your brain

In an initiative to promote the importance of brain health in reducing or slowing cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s Research UK created an online “brain health check”. This focusses on what the charity calls “simple rules for better brain health”:

  1. Stay sharp
  2. Keep connected
  3. Love your heart

Staying sharp includes stretching your brain almost every day, getting good quality sleep, and reducing stress and anxiety by doing activities you love.

Keep connected advocates the importance of speaking and/or meeting with friends, colleagues or family, and being aware of hearing loss that might lead to isolation.

Loving your heart includes keeping an eye on your:

  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood sugar level
  • How much alcohol you drink
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • How often you exercise

How home care can help

Home care services can help seniors keep on track with these key elements of reducing their dementia risk. Our extended 2 hours visits from our caregivers can provide regular opportunities for seniors to boos their brain health, including:

  • Cognitive stimulation by playing brain games, solving puzzles, or helping with a crossword
  • Helping seniors do the hobbies they love, from laying out paints for a new picture to outings to watch birds, for example.
  • Regular social interaction, conversations. chatting, laughing, and outings with someone they know and trust.
  • “Informal” yet professional monitoring of health and welfare including diet, mobility, mental alertness, and more. Our caregivers make notes at all visits, and will voice any concerns to us, so in turn we can inform family to potential concerns.
  • Helping with more regular health checks including weight, pulse, and blood pressure as required.

If you’d like to discuss home care in Calgary for a loved one or for yourself, do get in contact.

539, 5940 Macleod Trail SWCalgary, AB