FYI Daily

The best caregiving news, all in one place

The Surprising Reason Aging Eyes Need Bright Sunlight

blue eye - close-up view
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Nearly everyone knows that aging eyes need brighter light to read or even see. Now it turns out that bright indoor light, or better yet, bright sunlight, helps the body regulate all kinds of internal mechanisms influencing overall health. Older adults' eyes have a role in things as seemingly-unrelated to them as memory and depression, reports Laurie Tarkan in The New York Times.

Here's why: As we get older, the eye's lens gradually yellows and the pupil narrows. So less sunlight reaches key cells in the retina that regulate the circadian rhythm system, the body's exquisite internal clock.

Circadian rhythms, Tarkan explains, are the cyclical hormonal and physiological processes that start up in the morning and wind down at night. They regulate the release of hormones like melatonin and cortisol. Disturbed circadian rhythms are thought to have a role in conditions ranging from memory los

Dementia Care Costs

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From the Department of Tell Me Something I Didn't Already Know: Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease can be stupendously expensive, says a new report in The New England Journal of Medicine. That's not news for the millions of caregiving families emptying their pocketbooks over the long haul of Alzheimer's care.

But the scale of the costs may be: Alzheimer's is the most expensive disease to treat, more expensive than cancer or heart disease, according to the research. How expensive? Try to the tune of $157 billion to $215 billion -- a year. That breaks down to roughly $41,000 to $56,000 per case, exclusive of costs for other chronic illnesses the person may have.

The research comes from Rand Corporation economists and was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging.

Where does the money go? The report doesn't offer breakdowns, but ask any caregiver and he or she can easily

Exercise and Longevity

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If exercising to reduce stress or ward off diseases feels a little abstract to you, how about this incentive: Exercise can make you live longer.

Adults who do some moderate to vigorous physical exercise for at least 150 minutes a week live longer than couch potatoes, says a study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

That's just half an hour a day, five days a week.

The researchers, at Queens University in Ontario, Canada, say this finding adds to other research showing that people are more likely to make behavior changes when they hear about the positive benefits. That apparently beats just hearing about the negative consequences if they don't exercise or eat right.

To that end, here are a few more exercise benefits that caregivers will appreciate:

  • An I-can-cope mood.
    Dieting can make you cranky. But physical movement releases feel-good hormones and gives you more ener

Bed Rail Safety

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Worried about a loved one falling out of bed? Don't rely on bed rails to keep him or her safe, says a new report in Biomedical Safety & Standards, a newsletter for medical-device safety professionals.

Though portable bed rails are often marketed as safe, they can increase the risk of injury and death.

That's not news in eldercare. After almost 1,000 cases of entrapment of frail seniors, and 484 deaths, were reported to the FDA between 1985 and 2010, long-term care facilities have been phasing out use of bed rails. But many caregivers rent them from hospital-supply stores for use at home.

Some stay-safe guidelines:

  • Don't believe everything you hear.
    The BS&S report specifically calls out products advertised as being able to make "any bed a safer bed" because it's an unproven claim. Safety standards exist for bed rails for children, but not adults.

  • Be sure of the big picture of why be

Aging Well and Boomers

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Will you age better than an older loved one you care for -- or worse?

Baby Boomers (born 1946 to 1964) have plenty to learn from their elders about the experience of aging, says a fascinating piece in The Atlantic.

Caregivers, this means us: The average caregiver, at age 48, is at the tail end of the Baby Boom. Among those caring for someone over 65, the average caregiver age is 63, near the front end of the Boomer generation.

Here are some of the nuggets unearthed by psychologist Ellen Cole, 71, when she studied those among her peers -- the so-called "Silent Generation" born between the Depression and World War II -- who are aging well:

  1. Accept age.
    This may be tough for a generation dependent on Botox, hair dye, and plastic surgery. But content 70-somethings know to see the virtues getting older bestows, like patience, perspective, and wisdom.

  2. Don't retire.
    Live by the Japanese co

Help for Hoarding

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On holiday visits, families often realize that an aging loved one is drowning in junk. Or maybe you dread moving day to an assisted living community because it means dealing with decades of unsorted stuff.

Coping with someone else's clutter can be as hard emotionally as it is practically. Some help:

  • Realize that you may be dealing with more than "stuff."
    You may already have been aware of a packrat, "saver," or collector, whose love of gathering goods has piled up over the decades. Sometimes an older adult becomes to frail to keep up with stuff. But then there are the hoarders, cases that are either a sudden change or an old habit that's taken a turn for the worse. Hoarding can have many causes, ranging from obsessive compulsive disorder to dementia. Loneliness is another surprising trigger.

  • Draw the line at safety.
    Whatever the reason, piles of papers and mail are a fire hazard that

Alzheimer's Drug Researcher Becomes a Patient

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When pharmaceutical developer Rae Lyn Burke began consulting for Elan Pharmaceuticals on ways to improve the potency of the Alzheimer's drug bapineuzumab, no one on the team imagined she'd soon become an Alzheimer's patient herself.

But during the vaccine drug's development, Burke began to notice symptoms of memory loss and an inability to do math in her head as well as she once did, reports The Atlantic. She was in her late 50s. More than a year earlier, she'd lost her sense of smell, which she says is frequently an early sign of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. Her grandmother and an aunt suffered with Alzheimer's but at later ages.

Adding these factors up gave her a bad gut feeling about the diagnosis -- so for a year, she put off a visit to a neurologist for a clinical assessment. After younger-onset Alzheimer's was confirmed, her boss, while supportive, expressed concern about

Are "Well-Spouse Affairs" Different From Others?

Psalm 34:18 (Clouded Heart)
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Would you? Could you? Should you? Long-term caregiving situations sometimes cause spouses to stray into extramarital relationships, reports Next Avenue. Known as "well-spouse affairs," they're said to be more prevalent than many people might imagine, even among devoted mates.

"This is a very special set of circumstances," says New York City psychotherapist Michael Batshaw. "People who would never have an affair might have one in this situation because what often pulls people back from the affair is the hope that things will change. But this is a situation where your needs are not going to get met. Period."

How many caregivers do this? Nobody tracks such numbers. As Next Avenue says, "who's going to fess up [to a pollster] to pulling a John Edwards or a Newt Gingrich, tumbling in the sheets with someone else while his or her spouse is seriously ill or dying?" Lawrence Bocchiere III, pre

The Long, Long (Too Long?) Goodbye

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It's happening to millions, maybe you. It's happening to New York Magazine writer Michael Wolff, 58: witnessing a loved one's inexorably slow, modern-medicine-propped decline and suffering that endlessly stops short of death.

In a moving, angry, don't-miss read, Wolff chronicles how his mother, 86, survives medical crisis after crisis, each time with less and less of her mental faculties and physical abilities. Her misery mounts, her family's stress skyrockets about where she'll live and how she'll be cared for, and the costs to everyone involved -- including the American people, thanks to Medicare -- defy the imagination.

"Human carnage," he calls it.

"The traditional exits, of a sudden heart attack, of dying in one's sleep, of unreasonably dropping dead in the street, of even a terminal illness, are now exotic ways of going. The longer you live, the longer it will take to die," he w

Guide Dogs for Dementia Care

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You've heard of guide dogs for the blind and the disabled. How about a trusty Golden Retriever or lab to guide your loved one with dementia? That's the premise being tested in Scotland.

Alzheimer's Scotland and Dogs for the Disabled are working together on a "guide dogs for the mind" experiment, which was conceived by design students at the Glasgow School of Art. The first dogs will be assigned to four couples in Scotland this September. In each couple, one of the pair has mild dementia.

"People in the early stages of dementia are still able to live a relatively normal life, and dogs help to maintain routine," Joyce Gray of Alzheimer's Scotland told The Independent.

The dogs are trained to respond to sound triggers. The sounds prompt them to perform care tasks. For example, a dementia guide dog might wake the person with dementia up in the morning, deliver a bite-proof bag of medicine

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