Malnutrition: A Hidden Epidemic in Older Adults

Over the years, many older adults have let me into their homes because they have been referred to one of the health programs I work for. Part of my job as a geriatric clinician requires me to assess the person and to ask them information about their private lives, including their appetite. I then ask for their height and weight and if they have gained or lost any weight over the last few months. I am even required to ask if it is okay to open their fridges to see what kind of food they consume (I also check expiry dates to be sure no one is neglecting to dispose of rotten food).

Sometimes I come across older adults who have lost a lot of weight. Most of them live on their own. Many of these people have other conditions such as memory loss, decreased mobility, and serious medical problems such as diabetes or heart disease.

Some of the most remarkable weight loss situations in my experience has been found in people with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia. Someone with dementia may forget to eat, forget how to prepare a meal, or have a decreased appetite. They may simply forget how to get food (arrange transportation, grocery shop, order groceries) or have an inability to problem solve their situation.

Proper nutrition and hydration are very important to help keep a person’s body (and mind) strong and running optimally. Here’s a great video from Alliance for Aging Research that explains the hidden epidemic of malnutrition in older people.

If the video doesn’t work for you, try this YouTube link: https://youtu.be/iPNZKyXqN1U

Check out the YouTube channel for Alliance for Aging Research for more great videos like this.

 

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

 

Caring for a Loved One with Dementia? You Are Not Alone

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Our society is greying. For the first time in Canada, we now have more older people (65+) than younger people (under 16). Although there are many benefits and advantages to getting older, the unfortunate facts are that as we age we become more susceptible to age-related diseases.

Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias (also known as neurocognitive disorders) affect one in 11 Canadians aged 65 or older. For those 80 years of age and over, one in three have some form of dementia. Dementia is a syndrome that is usually of a chronic and progressive nature.The symptoms of dementia may include a loss or impairment of brain functions such as:

  • problems with short-term memory
  • confusion or impaired thinking 
  • disorientation to place or time
  • poor comprehension
  • trouble with calculation
  • decreased or loss of learning capacity
  • problems with language
  • poor reasoning
  • decreased judgement

Dementia can cause problems in everyday functioning and activities. People with dementia may not be able to drive safely, or they may get lost while driving to a doctor’s appointment. It may be more difficult for them to remember to take medications on a regular basis. They may get into more arguments with others.

Dementia can sneak up gradually (as in Alzheimer’s disease) or it can come on suddenly (as in a stroke that affects cognition). It can fluctuate day-to- day. Loved ones often have difficulty spotting the signs, and often mistakenly attribute the changes to aging, or a “stubborn” personality. Personality changes in the person with dementia can cause stress for loved ones.

At times it is difficult for family members to recognize the signs of dementia and to act upon them. Sometimes they are in denial, sometimes they hope the situation will improve. Others may not know what to do or who to talk to.

If a person with dementia requires more help, the main helper becomes the “caregiver.” Often a spouse or adult child (usually a daughter) takes over the primary role. The process of changing or incorporating this new caregiving role into the relationship can cause a variety of challenges. Although the person with dementia may not be aware (or be unable to recognize) he/she requires help, the caregiver can learn how to provide the assistance needed with practice, education and support.

In the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease or vascular dementia, the affected person may be aware of his/her memory problems. He/she may notice changes in frustration levels. He/she may be more open to the idea of accepting help. He/she may look to family members for help answering questions or “filling in the blanks.”

Caregiving for a loved one with dementia can be stressful due to increased demands, roles and responsibilities. A caregiver may worry about Dad’s safety with cooking or worry that Mom may wander off. There is also the issue of grieving. A wife may grieve the “loss” of the husband who no longer remembers who she is. A husband may grieve the loss of the future travel plans he had for himself and his wife.

With education, support, self-compassion and self-care practices, the caregiver can have a positive experience of caring for a loved one amidst all of the strain. Seeking out support and knowledge and knowing he/she is not alone are some of the most beneficial things a caregiver can do.

If you have concerns and think someone you know and care about has memory problems and/or dementia, encourage a thorough medical assessment for diagnosis, support and treatment options.

 

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Angela G. Gentile, M.S.W., R.S.W. is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and two adult children. For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

Blogs and Newsletters I Follow

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I have been following a number of great bloggers over the years. These writers have been posting about issues related to aging and I appreciate their positive and proactive take on growing older. Sometimes they are amusing, sometimes they are educational. Usually they are insightful and entertaining.

I also subscribe to a few newsletters related to aging and elder care. This is a great way to keep up with current topics.

I receive their posts and newsletters directly to my email inbox. It’s very convenient.

Please consider signing up to receive these blog posts and newsletters. I am sure they would be thrilled to see new followers. Here are my favourites in no particular order:

Blogs:

Time Goes By: What it’s really like to get old by Ronni Bennett

The Generation Above Me by Karen D. Austin

Lines of Beauty: A blog about aging naturally, one wrinkle at a time by Louise Cady Fernandes

Aging Investors by Dr. Mikol Davis and Carol Rosenblatt, R.N., Attorney

Aging But Dangerous

Points of Life org

Newsletters:

Caregiving Matters

Dementia News and Knowledge by Karen Tyrell, Personalized Dementia Solutions

Comforts Connection by Comforts of Home Care

Senior Living from A Place for Mom

The Caregiver’s Voice by Brenda Avadian

ElderCare Matters

Prime Women

Coming of Age NYC

Help for Dedicated Caregivers by Maria Marley, Ph.D.

My Elder Advocate by Jack Halpern, CEO

AlzLive: For those who care

SMARTLiving365

The Taos Institute – Positive Aging Newsletter

 

Have something to add? Please let me know.

Have a great day!

Angela G. Gentile, MSW RSW

Specialist in Aging

http://www.angelaggentile.com

New Book, App Promotion and Women’s Group Announced

Angela has been very busy these days and she wanted to make sure all her subscribers don’t miss out on the news. Here are some of the projects she’s been working on.

New Book

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Her new book, A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival is now available on Amazon.com. It’s an eBook for Kindle and it’s a personal memoir plus tips on how to recognize and survive job burnout and compassion fatigue.

 

 

FREE APP PROMOTION

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The mobile app, Dementia Caregiver Solutions for iOS 8 and up, is being offered for FREE from September 13 – 26, 2015 in recognition of World Alzheimer’s Day (September 21, 2015). Tell your friends.

 

 

NEW WOMEN’S Group

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Aging Well for Women Group on Facebook

A new members-only, CLOSED, Facebook group has been started, Aging Well for Women Group. Angela’s community Facebook page, Aging Well for Women has reached millions of people and she is excited to announce a more personalized and private experience for women. Request to join!

For more information: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

Men Concerned About Developing Dementia Want Their Partners to Read This Book

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“Caring for a Husband With Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide” has been out for almost two months now. I have been to a few events since my book launch. On Saturday, May 9, 2015, Coles – Kildonan Place (Winnipeg) hosted a book signing event for me. This is my second time doing an event like this, and I couldn’t find any “How To” on the subject. I’ve been learning as I go.

BUY THE BOOK – Caring for a Husband with Dementia

I suited up; packed up my signing pen, rack cards, business cards and candy dish and headed over to Coles with a positive mindset. I was looking forward to the event, hoping to connect with lots of people. Since I only sold one book at my first event (and the author sharing a table with me that day sold two books) I hoped to sell one or two books at my second event.

What I find most memorable from the event are the people who stoped by to chat. I appreciate when people open up and tell me their stories. My sister-in-law even stopped by on her lunch break to see me and I got her to take a picture (see above).

A middle-aged man stopped by to say he wants to buy the book for his wife. I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not. But he went on to explain that he feels his chances of developing dementia are high because both of his parents had Alzheimer’s. He said his wife doesn’t want to talk about it. I encouraged him to take a rack card and wished him all the best.

People seemed to enjoy the candies I was offering. Many children stopped by to take a caramel or a Lifesaver. It was interesting to hear the parents direct them to, “Say thank you.” Some asked for permission to take, others just dove right in.

A younger couple told me about the man’s head injury from years ago and that he has been told he’ll most likely develop dementia when he gets older. He wanted his girlfriend to get the book so that when and if that time comes she’ll be well prepared. They were a sweet couple and she appears to be committed to the relationship and whatever may come down the road.

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A few people took my rack card. It’s a bigger version of a bookmark with information about me and my products including my mobile app for caregivers. One young woman said she couldn’t afford to buy the book ($19.95 CDN) but asked me to sign the rack card for her. I told her I am working on getting the book into the library but that it takes time.

I chuckled to myself when a man in his late 70’s flirted with me. He told me how good I looked as he gave me a little wink and whistle. About a half-hour later he came back my way and he said I had nice legs. Both times I smiled and said, “Thank you.”

At the end of my two-hour event, a woman came to me with a smile, and told me I looked lonely. She went on to tell me about her experience of looking after her husband who had dementia. He eventually became quite aggressive and had to be moved to a nursing home. He died about a year ago. Now her neighbour is going through the same thing. She bought a book and asked me to sign it in memory of her late husband. She planned on sharing it with her neighbour or anyone else who may benefit from it.

I ended up reaching my goal for sales. Selling two books in two hours doesn’t seem like a lot, but I was told that some authors don’t sell any books. It has been the bookstore’s experience sometimes the customers come back during the week to purchase the book. Some of them don’t buy when the author is there, but choose to come back at a different time. I have also read that sometimes a person needs to hear about, read about, or see a book seven times before they buy it. So, any exposure is good exposure.

Overall, I really enjoyed my book signing event and I would say it went well. I especially enjoyed talking to people about their experiences. I learned that men want their partners to read this book. I also learned that men in their late 70’s like to flirt with middle-aged authors. 😉

Have a great day!

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker who specializes in aging. She has helped hundreds of people who are struggling with the challenges aging can bring. Angela is passionate about challenging ageist myths and stereotypes and exploring what it means to age well. She considers herself a realistic optimist but she still can’t tell her left from her right. Find out more at http://www.angelaggentile.com.

Book Launch Highlights and Video

 Caring for a Husband with Dementia:

The Ultimate Survival Guide

On Thursday, April 16, 2015, a book launch celebration for Caring for a Husband with Dementia was held at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg. There were approximately 55-60 people attending the event, and there was wine and other refreshments. The event was sponsored by Comforts of Home – Care. Click on the arrow above to watch the 26-minute video or go to this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyjUQcmnc14

Find out how to get the book: http://www.angelaggentile.com/book

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Pictured above is my husband Agapito (who doesn’t have dementia) and I. He made brownies and they were very yummy.

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I started out mixing with the crowd and I was pleased to see so many friendly and familiar faces. I handed out the books that I had gifted to some of the guests. I then moved on to do my presentation. It lasted about 25 minutes.

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One of the wife caregivers (Merrilee) also presented and she did a great job. She presented with warmth, humour and honest emotion.

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After the presentation, I signed books. It was a bit of a challenge to figure out what to say. I goofed up a couple of times, but I guess that’s to be expected. Not sure if it was the excitement or the wine, LOL. 🙂

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I had a designated photographer and videographer, and I got some great shots and video. It went from 7:30 – 9:00pm. I received a dozen beautiful white roses and a gift of David’s Tea from some special friends.

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All in all, it was a fantastic event, and I found the whole evening surreal. Thank you to all who made the event a memorable one.

Sincerely,

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile, M.S.W., R.S.W. is a clinical social worker who specializes in aging. She has helped hundreds of people who are struggling with the challenges aging can bring. Angela is passionate about challenging ageist myths and stereotypes and exploring what it means to age well. She considers herself a realistic optimist but she still can’t tell her left from her right. Find out more at http://www.angelaggentile.com.

Dementia Caregiver Solutions App on the Radio

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I had the awesome opportunity to be interviewed by Faisal Karmali of News Talk 770 regarding our new app, “Dementia Caregiver Solutions”, March 27, 2015, for a program called “More Than Money” for News Talk 770 in Calgary, Alberta. Check out the 10 minute YouTube video I made:

 DCS App Interview on News Talk 770 

The program is produced by Peter Watts. It’s a finance and lifestyle program, aimed primarily at a 50+ demographic which is transitioning to, or is already into retirement. It is co-hosted by Dave Popowich and Fasial Karmali, who run a financial advisory practice catering to this same demographic, under the CIBC Wood Gundy banner.

I was flying by the seat of my pants, and I also got a chance to promote my new book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide.” The segment will be aired on Sat. April 25, 2015 on News Talk 770 in Calgary.

Have a great day!

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile, M.S.W., R.S.W. is a clinical social worker who specializes in aging. She has helped hundreds of people who are struggling with the challenges aging can bring. Angela is passionate about challenging ageist myths and stereotypes and exploring what it means to age well. She considers herself a realistic optimist but she still can’t tell her left from her right.