The Risk Factors of Stroke That You Should Know

So, What Is A Stroke?

 

Before we take a deep dive into the risk factors behind a stroke that you need to watch for, let’s discuss what a stroke is. A stroke occurs when the blood flow to your brain is stopped for any length of time. This is a medical emergency and it’s urgent to seek medical care.

What Causes a Stroke?

 

The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen, blood, and nutrients in order to function. If blood supply stops- even for a short time, brain cells begin to die. When you lose brain cells, brain function is lost. When you have a stroke, you may lose the ability to do things that are controlled by the affected part of your brain. A stroke may impact your ability to:

 

  • Move
  • Speak
  • Eat
  • Think and Remember
  • Control your bowels and bladder
  • Control your emotions
  • Control other bodily functions

 

Types of Stroke

 

There are two kinds of stroke:

 

 

  • Ischemic stroke. This is the stroke that afflicts the majority of people who have a stroke. It occurs when a major blood vessel in the brain is blocked by either a blood clot or a buildup of fatty deposits and cholesterol.  
  • Hemorrhagic stroke. This is when a blood vessel in your brain bursts and spills blood into nearby tissues. When you have a hemorrhagic stroke, pressure builds up in surrounding brain tissue, causing even more damage and irritation.

 

 

Risk Factors For Stroke

 

Strokes can happen to anyone at any time but your chances of having a stroke increases when you have certain risk factors. You can manage some of the risk factors for stroke through lifestyle, but others are genetic. Here are risk factors that can be managed through intervention:

 

 

  • High Blood Pressure. Having a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher can damage the blood vessels and arteries that supply blood to the brain. 
  • Heart Disease. Heart disease is the second most important risk factor for stroke and is ultimately the major cause of death among stroke survivors. Heart disease and stroke share many of the same risk factors 
  • Diabetes. People suffering from diabetes are at greater risk for stroke than someone who isn’t diabetic. 
  • Smoking. Smoking will almost double your risk for ischemic stroke. 
  • Birth Control Pills.
  • History of Transient Ischemic Attacks. These are often called mini-strokes and share the same symptomatology as stroke but symptoms don’t last. If you’ve had one or more of these TIAs, you are almost 10 times more likely to have a stroke than someone of the same demographics that hasn’t experienced a transient ischemic attack. 
  • High Red Blood Cell Count. Significant increases in the number of red blood cells causes the blood to thicken and makes clots more likely, raising the risk for stroke. 
  • High Blood Cholesterol and Lipids. High cholesterol levels can help to contribute to the thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by a buildup of plaque. This plaque is deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, and calcium. Plaque buildup on the inside of the artery walls can decrease the amount of blood flow to your brain. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off.
     
  • Lack of Physical Activity.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption. Consuming more than 2 drinks a day raises your blood pressure. Binge drinking can lead to a stroke. 
  • Illegal Drugs. IV drug abuse carries a high risk of stroke from blood clots (cerebral embolisms). Cocaine and other stimulants have been closely linked to strokes, heart attacks, and other severe cardiovascular problems. 
  • Abnormal Heart Rhythm. Some forms of heart disease can raise your risk for stroke. Having an irregular heartbeat is both the most powerful and the most treatable heart risk factor of stroke.

 

 

Risk Factors for Stroke That You Can’t Change

 

 

  • Aging. For each decade of life after the age of 55, your chances for having a stroke more than doubles. 
  • Race. African Americans are at a much higher risk for death and disability from a stroke than caucasians. This is partially tied to the increased chances of high blood pressure in the African-American population. 
  • Gender. Men are most likely to have a stroke, but women are more likely to die from stroke. 
  • History of Prior Stroke. You carry a much higher stroke for having a second stroke after you’ve had one. 
  • Heredity or Genetics. Your chances of stroke are greater when you have a family history of stroke. 

 

 

Stroke: The Key Points To Remember

 

  • Strokes occur when the blood flow to your brain is stopped and are a medical emergency. 
  • Stroke can be caused by a narrowed blood vessel, bleeding, or a blood clot that restricts or blocks blood flow. 
  • Symptoms can onset suddenly. If someone is showing any of the signs of having a stroke, call 911 immediately. 
  • Stroke victims have better chances of recovery when emergency treatment is started right away. 
  • How stroke affects you depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much damage occurs during the event.

Evaluating memory care for a loved one with dementia

Evaluating memory care for a loved one with dementia

It is never easy to witness the decline of an aging loved one, and when that decline is due to dementia, it becomes significantly more painful for the family to cope. These diseases present an ever-changing landscape that demands constant reevaluation. When you believe you have a game plan down, some new medical or behavioral development can completely upend your strategy. Even the most dedicated family can eventually become emotionally spent or find themselves over their heads in terms of their loved one’s care. For these patients, the process of decline will invariably beg the question, “at what point do I surrender his care to professional help?” This is the most challenging question of all, but in truth, memory care services offer tremendous benefits in preserving the safety and dignity of the mentally impaired.

What’s happening to them?

“Dementia” is an umbrella term for a variety of neurological diseases that share some similar characteristics. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and well-known disorder, but other types of neurological conditions can cause dementia as well, such as chronic strokes, or brain tissue loss. Signs of dementia will be subtle in the beginning and may be either behavioral or cognitive. Mom may suddenly forget the orientation of her home or community or how to use a few common words. Dad may become agitated, paranoid, or fearful over seemingly benign events. As the decline progresses, the cognitive impairments will become more persistent, eventually rendering the person speechless, irrational, or unable to create new memories. The need for care becomes greater, as each stage of the disease removes a little more independence, until ultimately he or she cannot be left alone at all, either because of safety or a complete inability to feed or toilet alone.

What to expect

It is crucial for families to remember that while there are a few medications and therapies available to slow the progression of some types of disorders, the decline will continue. You should not expect that your loved one will ever free themselves from this disease, or that they should “try harder” to get better. Coping with memory disease is a one-way street that requires a coordinated effort of love, understanding, and diligence at every level. There may come a point when in-home care is no longer sustainable or safe, and a specialty facility may be in your loved one’s best interest. As painful as it may be, when Mom can no longer stay home without presenting a danger to herself or you, it is time to consider enlisting the help of a senior care center.

What is a memory care facility?

Memory facilities are often separate units built within an assisted living community or skilled nursing facility. Memory care units are designed entirely to provide a consistent and secure living structure to patients with Alzheimer’s or other cognitive deficits and are staffed with nurses, nursing assistants, and activity directors dedicated to providing a safe, happy, and controlled environment twenty-four hours a day. Unlike what you would typically associate with a nursing home, these are very active living communities designed to allow your loved one to continue to thrive with as much quality as possible while removing the variables of danger that living at home might present.

How to evaluate a memory care facility

Facilities like these hold a great responsibility to a tremendously vulnerable population. Before you consider enrolling your loved one, do your research to be sure that they will be receiving quality care. Visit the facility a few times at different times of day to see how the environment feels. Ask as many questions as you want about safety protocols and resident activities, and make sure you think you are getting consistent and enthusiastic answers. Check with your state’s regulating authority about any violations or complaints against your chosen facility. Last but not least, put an ear out to your local community. Ask for personal recommendations from others who have utilized these facilities for their aged family members.

How To Help Seniors Transition Successfully To Assisted Living

Change is difficult for anyone, but it can be especially hard for seniors to transition to an assisted living community. There are many benefits of assisted living, but there’s no avoiding it in certain cases. Moves involve changes that seniors don’t always like.

 

Senior adults who are moving from their home into assisted living will typically encounter some degree of adjustment disorder. You can limit the effect the transition to assisted living will have on your loved ones by taking a few extra steps and some care:

 

The Challenge Of Transitioning to Assisted Living

 

Folks who are in the middle of transitioning to assisted living may experience:

 

  1. Feelings of abandonment
  2. Frustration around their perceived (or real) loss of independence
  3. Adjusting to a new routine. For example, elders who prefer to eat a late dinner may struggle adjusting to living in a community where dinner service ends at 7 p.m.
  4. Resentment about having to live with folks that are worse off than themselves.
  5. The need to downsize.

 

This being said, there are plenty of seniors who may not have any trouble at all adjusting to their new assisted living community and are great from day one. Elders can adapt quickly and come to recognize that the aspects of assisted living that initially bothered them are actually helpful.

 

Residents may find it relieving to downsize- they no longer have to worry about housekeeping and upkeep. Seniors who were resistant to moving may first experience feelings of abandonment and betrayal may find themselves feeling gratitude based on the realization that their family was acting out of love when they made the arrangements for them to move.

 

Helping Loved Ones Transition To Assisted Living

 

Your loved ones will adjust the best to their new home with support from their family during their early days at the assisted living community. Seniors who are relocating need reassurance that this is just a new chapter of their lives- it’s not the end of the life they’ve always known. 

 

Here’s a few tips to help your loved one adjust to assisted living:

 

 

  • Allow loved ones to be independent.Don’t become too protective or feel as if you have to be with your loved one constantly during the transition. This can be counterproductive. Frequent visits during the first days after they move to assisted living does absolutely help reassure your loved ones that you aren’t abandoning them, but hold back from taking it too far. Excessive hovering and handholding can prevent your family member from successfully adapting to their new home.

     

 

  • Bring Personal Items From Their HomeBringing familiar items to the new assisted living space can help your family member transition successfully. Depending on the living arrangements at the assisted living community, you may even be able to replicate their living arrangements at home. You can even give your parent input about the keepsakes they’d like to bring into their new home.

     

  • Encourage Loved Ones To Participate In ActivitiesSeniors can look down on assisted living and be dismissive of the community and activities available. It’s much more likely that your parent will adjust well if they get involved with the activities offered, opening the door to make friends in the community. Laurel Parc’s assisted living community has a wide variety of activities- not every single one of these will be appealing to everyone, but there will be something here that engages them.

     

  • Encourage Your Parent To Help Out In The CommunityThere are many assisted living communities that allow resident volunteers to take on roles at the community, helping to do things like answer phones, managing the library, or sponsoring a club. When people feel useful and as though they have a purpose, it can improve their outlook while helping them with the transition to their new home.

     

  • Take Your Loved One to Visit The Community As Often As Possible Before They MoveAfter you’ve made the decision as to what senior living community best fits the needs of your loved one, it’s important to take your parent to visit often before they move. Take them to attend meals and events that allow your loved one to learn the layout, become familiar with residents and staff, and get acquainted with the community. This will help them feel like everything is less foreign when your parent makes the transition and moves.

 

 

 

Moving your whole life and transitioning to a completely different routine is stressful and traumatic for anyone. It can be particularly impactful for seniors but if we take the time to lift up our loved ones and support them through the hardest times of their transition, it can be an incredibly rewarding and enriching experience for seniors. Be patient, encourage your loved one to participate, and be there to help validate their emotions and experience.

Poor Sleep Is One of Leading Alzheimer’s Risk Factors

If you or your loved one is struggling with getting a good night’s sleep, it could be extremely detrimental to your health. If you’re older, it doesn’t just mean a rough start to your day. Having trouble getting to sleep and waking up during the night are a reality when you’re aging, but it’s also one of the leading Alzheimer’s risk factors.

 

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MO have released a study that says older people who spend less time in slow-wave REM sleep (the sleep that you need to feel rested and rejuvenated) show higher levels of a brain protein by the name of tau that has been associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

 

This study is the first of its kind to show a correlation between REM sleep and tau in early-on Alzheimer’s. Tau is known for forming tangles in the parts of the brain that are critical in memory function. As Alzheimer’s progresses, tau and another protein by the name of amyloid beta slowly spreads through the rest of the brain of the person suffering from the disease.

 

The research shows that during sleep, our brains can shrink substantially, using this time to clear out the build-up of toxins and proteins like tau and amyloid that cause problems in memory and cognitive function.

 

Further Revelations From The Study

 

In order to establish a link between deep sleep and the presence of Alzheimer’s disease, the study monitored 119 people over the age of 60 who demonstrated little to no cognitive decline while they were in their homes.

 

Participants were given a portable brainwave monitor and a movement tracker similar to a Fitbit for the one week study. Researchers asked participants to keep track of sleeping at night as well as daytime napping.

 

As we sleep, the brain cycles through different stages- slow-wave REM sleep is one of these. It’s critical to our health to have good quality sleep but not only that- it’s thought to be important for preserving memory or cognitive function.

 

Researchers measured the spinal fluid and brains of participants for amyloid beta and tau levels during the study. Once they factored in age, gender and movement while sleeping, the study showed that participants experiencing diminished slow-wave sleep had higher levels of tau proteins in their brain and the ratio of tau to amyloid beta was higher in their spinal fluid.

 

A Lack of Sleep Has An Impact On Health

 

The National Sleep Foundation claims that sleep triggers changes in the brain that work to strengthen memory and losing even a half night’s sleep can impair brain function. This may be directly related to the brain’s ability to clear out toxins, as it’s only active during slow-wave sleep which often happens during the first half of your night.

 

People who are lacking in deep or slow-wave sleep can have elevated levels of both tau and amyloid beta, which is interesting considering that older people suffering from dementia often present a symptom called “sundowning”– where mental processes and awareness diminish as the day proceeds.

 

This could be a direct correlation to the buildup of toxins throughout the day.

 

Poor Sleep Increases Disease Risk

 

Losing sleep not only slows you down during the day, it can increase the risk of developing some pretty serious health problems. We’ve established that sleep is crucial to forming memory and creating new room for learning to occur- sleep deprivation puts a person at risk for worsening depression and a lack of adequate response to treatment for depression.

 

Not only can insufficient sleep allow for a buildup of toxins, but it can also affect mood, memory, metabolism and the immune system. Let’s take a look at some of the risks:

 

  • A lack of sleep is tied to obesity. Sleep deprivation is correlated to lowered levels of a hormone called leptin. This is the hormone that lets the brain know that we’ve eaten enough. Not only that, but it can trigger increased levels of ghrelin, which is the hormone that triggers hunger. Poor sleep patterns can cause food cravings even after a person is full.
  • An increased risk of diabetes. Recent studies show that healthy participants that reduced their sleep to four hours a night processed glucose slower than they did when they were able to sleep up to 12 hours.
  • Sets the stage for high blood pressure or heart disease. Studies also show that less than six hours of sleep can cause high blood pressure- explaining the association between poor sleep and heart disease and stroke.

The Wrap Up

 

Up to 44% of Americans are estimated to get less than the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep every night. Studies have previously shown that poor sleep and brain changes can lead to Alzheimer’s, as it’s one of the leading Alzheimer’s risk factors but this is the first set of research that correlates poor slow-wave sleep to an increase in tau levels during early Alzheimer’s disease.

 

If you’re getting less sleep than you should be, affected memory isn’t the only thing you may experience. Poor sleep can cause serious health problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

When Mom And Dad Have Different Senior Living Needs

When Mom And Dad Have Different Senior Living Needs

It can be a difficult experience when your parents have different senior living needs. Dad may be able to live independently, but mom might need assisted living or memory care services. Living separately not only puts a strain on your parent’s relationship, but it can affect their health and wellbeing.

Of course you want to provide your parents with the care they need as they age, but this can present a number of obstacles. When confronted with these difficult decisions, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and there are options for you to explore.

Explore Your Options

Your options largely depend on the level of care needed by either parent. In some cases, it may be possible to keep the parent needing more care at home and coordinate all necessary care between you, your mother, and other family members that are around to help. This is a time where having an in-home care assistant making regular visits can help ease your workload.

The time may come, however, where you realize your parents need a more permanent situation. This is when it’s time to explore moving your parents to a senior living community together or wrap your brain around the idea of separating them. There are plenty of options at this stage- senior living communities like Laurel Parc would allow your parents to remain together while receiving the individualized care that one parent needs and allowing the other to retain independence. This can also be a financial decision- can you afford to care for both of your parents?

Handling Separation

You may reach the conclusion that separating your parents is a necessary step. This is never easy, but there’s a few things you can do to make it easier on everyone. Be there for both of your parents, arranging regular visits to the care home as well as visits to the parent still living at home. If the independent parent is no longer able to drive offer to drive them to make regular visits. This can be enormously taxing and caregiver burnout is a real concern, so make sure that you set a schedule that everyone is happy with so you don’t burn yourself out too much. Taking care of yourself is important too! Here’s a few ways you can make it easier on yourself:

  1. Arrange transportation.

    As mentioned above, if one parent no longer drives, visiting their beloved in a senior living community can be tricky and you will hit burnout fast if you attempt to be the sole chauffeur. There are senior transportation services available to help you.

  2. Create a schedule that works for everyone.

    You cannot be in two places at once. Create a schedule so that each parent has family or friends visiting on different days. This will lighten your load and relieve some of the burden from the parent still living at home.

  3. Encourage Self-Care.

    After years of caregiving, living apart can be a blessing in disguise for the independent parent. This can provide a much-needed break for the healthier parents, giving them an opportunity for rest and the ability to care for themselves as they are also aging.

  4. Help the Healthier Parent Manage Guilt. (And Manage Yours, Too)

    Instead of blaming yourself or anyone else for the separation, focus on the simple fact that you and your family are doing the best they can to navigate a complicated situation. Be gentle and kind to yourself when managing the stressors off having parents in two different situations. Validate your independent parent’s feelings as well and help alleviate their guilt. You need each other right now.

Situations like this are always difficult but if you have a quality support system combined with quality senior living care, you can make it through! If one or both of your parents need assisted living care in Beaverton or the Portland metro area in Oregon, contact Laurel Parc to arrange a tour of the best possible care to suit their needs. Reach out to us today to ask any questions or arrange a visit.

Tips For Managing Relocation Stress Syndrome

Remember the last time you moved? I do. Boxes everywhere, a sense of loss (even in the best circumstances, we are creatures of habit and that loss of familiarity has an impact), and heightened anxiety. Your elderly parents are not exempt from this– in fact, they can even experience greater stress from moves than you or I. Moving elders improperly may even be traumatic to your loved ones and has the potential to lead to relocation stress syndrome.

Relocating a loved one is not only traumatic during sudden moves, so letting your parents know that the move is coming is not necessarily a solution to the problem. There are some fairly simple steps you can take to reduce the chances of relocation stress syndrome while moving elderly parents.

Recognizing Signs of Relocation Stress Syndrome

Relocation stress syndrome (RSS) is what amounts to a psychological failure to adjust to changes that are associated with moving. The days before or after a move can cause a person experiencing relocation stress may be irritable or combative. People struggling with this condition may experience sleeplessness, poor appetite, weight fluctuations, drug-seeking behavior, anxiety, loneliness and confusion.

You may notice that your parents (if they’re experiencing relocation stress syndrome) may begin to withdraw or isolate themselves, refuse medications, or are incapable of focusing. Many of these symptoms mirror dementia symptoms- creating a dangerous situation of a potential misdiagnosis.

Prevent Relocation Stress Syndrome

You can reduce the potential for RSS by utilizing these tips while you’re moving your elderly parents:

  1. Involve parents in the decision-making process. If an assisted living community is necessary, work together to come to an agreement about the community you choose. This can help your parents maintain a sense of autonomy and dignity.

  2. Work to assist your parents in feeling warmly welcomed into their new home. You can create a sense of familiarity by mirroring their previous environment with photos, using the previous furniture layout, or small touches to help things feel more like home.

  3. Encourage them to forget new relationships in their new space. Becoming involved in the community’s activities can be an excellent way of meeting new people. Nothing helps someone feel more at home than having a sense of purpose. At Laurel Parc, our residents reach out to new people joining our community and we strongly encourage this as it limits the amount of distress that new residents experience.

  4. Acknowledge their fears and feelings and validate them as legitimate. If you downplay their fears or concerns, your loved ones could feel marginalized, unheard, or powerless. This contributes to the stress they’re experiencing and makes the transition more difficult for all involved.

If You Suspect Your Loved One Is Experiencing RSS

Despite our best efforts and intentions, parents may still struggle with the transition. Relocation Stress Syndrome typically shows up in those affected right before a move and within the first three months of moving and can manifest as anxiety, depression, and forgetfulness.

This becomes complicated because despite the effects of stress on the mind and body being well known, they also closely mirror the symptoms of age-related problems. When anyone has stress, they can get angry or irritable, have trouble focusing or thinking clearly and struggle making decisions. These are also all symptoms of dementia.

It’s important to avoid a misdiagnosis of dementia when a loved one is experiencing trauma from a move. When moving an elderly loved one, signs to look for include changes in cognition, eating habits, and sleeping patterns. You may see a new sense of insecurity and a lack of trust combined with a decline in self care efforts.

What Not to Do

People experiencing transfer trauma (RSS) will begin to see their symptoms subside within 3-6 months. This is the typical timeframe it takes an elder to adjust to their new surroundings. What you don’t want to do during this time is compound their trauma by moving them again.

If your loved one is still struggling to settle in- they’re constantly sick, very depressed, or some other significant change in their ability to care for themselves, it’s time to seek out the help of your parent’s doctor and caregiving team.

No matter how you approach it, moving can be (and is) a stressful experience. By taking a few simple steps you can greatly minimize relocation stress for your parents and work towards a successful transition with minimal trauma to your loved one.