Why I’m Investing in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s

In every part of the world, people are living longer than they used to. Thanks to scientific advancements, fewer people die young from heart disease, cancer, and infectious diseases. It’s no longer unusual for a person to live well into their 80s and beyond. My dad will celebrate his 92nd birthday in a couple weeks, a milestone that was practically unimaginable when he was born.

This fact—that people are living longer than ever before—should always be a wonderful thing. But what happens when it’s not?

The longer you live, the more likely you are to develop a chronic condition. Your risk of getting arthritis, Parkinson’s, or another non-infectious disease that diminishes your quality of life increases with each year. But of all the disorders that plague us late in life, one stands out as a particularly big threat to society: Alzheimer’s disease.

You have a nearly 50 percent chance of developing the disease if you live into your mid-80s. In the United States, it is the only cause of death in the top 10 without any meaningful treatments that becomes more prevalent each year. That trend will likely continue as baby boomers age, which means that more families will watch their loved ones suffer from cognitive decline and slowly disappear. Despite this growing burden, scientists have yet to figure out what exactly causes Alzheimer’s or how to stop the disease from destroying the brain.

I first became interested in Alzheimer’s because of its costs—both emotional and economic—to families and healthcare systems. The financial burden of the disease is much easier to quantify. A person with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia spends five times more every year out-of-pocket on healthcare than a senior without a neurodegenerative condition. Unlike those with many chronic diseases, people with Alzheimer’s incur long-term care costs as well as direct medical expenses. If you get the disease in your 60s or 70s, you might require expensive care for decades.

These costs represent one of the fastest growing burdens on healthcare systems in developed countries. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Americans will spend $259 billion caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias in 2017. Absent a major breakthrough, expenditures will continue to squeeze healthcare budgets in the years and decades to come. This is something that governments all over the world need to be thinking about, including in low- and middle-income countries where life expectancies are catching up to the global average and the number of people with dementia is on the rise.

The human cost of Alzheimer’s is much more difficult to put into numbers. It’s a terrible disease that devastates both those who have it and their loved ones. This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s. I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity, and there is nothing you can do about it. It feels a lot like you’re experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew.

My family history isn’t the sole reason behind my interest in Alzheimer’s. But my personal experience has exposed me to how hopeless it feels when you or a loved one gets the disease. We’ve seen scientific innovation turn once-guaranteed killers like HIV into chronic illnesses that can be held in check with medication. I believe we can do the same (or better) with Alzheimer’s.

I’ve spent considerable time over the last year learning about the disease and the progress made to date. There’s a lot of amazing work being done in this field to delay Alzheimer’s and reduce its cognitive impact. What I’ve heard from researchers, academics, funders, and industry experts makes me hopeful that we can substantially alter the course of Alzheimer’s if we make progress in five areas:

  • We need to better understand how Alzheimer’s unfolds. The brain is a complicated organ. Because it’s so difficult to study while patients are alive, we know very little about how it ages normally and how Alzheimer’s disrupts that process. Our understanding of what happens in the brain is based largely on autopsies, which show only the late stages of the disease and don’t explain many of its lingering mysteries. For example, we don’t fully understand why you are more likely to get Alzheimer’s if you’re African American or Latino than if you’re white. If we’re going to make progress, we need a better grasp on its underlying causes and biology.
  • We need to detect and diagnose Alzheimer’s earlier. Since the only way to diagnose Alzheimer’s definitively is through an autopsy after death, it’s difficult to identify the disease definitively early in its progression. Cognitive tests exist but often have a high variance. If you didn’t sleep well the night before, that might skew your results. A more reliable, affordable, and accessible diagnostic—such as a blood test—would make it easier to see how Alzheimer’s progresses and track how effective new drugs are.
  • We need more approaches to stopping the disease. There are many ways an Alzheimer’s drug might help prevent or slow down the disease. Most drug trials to date have targeted amyloid and tau, two proteins that cause plaques and tangles in the brain. I hope those approaches succeed, but we need to back scientists with different, less mainstream ideas in case they don’t. A more diverse drug pipeline increases our odds of discovering a breakthrough.
  • We need to make it easier to get people enrolled in clinical trials. The pace of innovation is partly determined by how quickly we can do clinical trials. Since we don’t yet have a good understanding of the disease or a reliable diagnostic, it’s difficult to find qualified people early enough in the disease’s progression willing to participate. It can sometimes take years to enroll enough patients. If we could develop a process to pre-qualify participants and create efficient registries, we could start new trials more quickly.
  • We need to use data better. Every time a pharmaceutical company or a research lab does a study, they gather lots of information. We should compile this data in a common form, so that we get a better sense of how the disease progresses, how that progression is determined by gender and age, and how genetics determines your likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s. This would make it easier for researchers to look for patterns and identify new pathways for treatment.

By improving in each of these areas, I think we can develop an intervention that drastically reduces the impact of Alzheimer’s. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about our chances: our understanding of the brain and the disease is advancing a great deal. We’re already making progress—but we need to do more.

I want to support the brilliant minds doing this work. As a first step, I’ve invested $50 million in the Dementia Discovery Fund—a private fund working to diversify the clinical pipeline and identify new targets for treatment. Most of the major pharmaceutical companies continue to pursue the amyloid and tau pathways. DDF complements their work by supporting startups as they explore less mainstream approaches to treating dementia.

I’m making this investment on my own, not through the foundation. The first Alzheimer’s treatments might not come to fruition for another decade or more, and they will be very expensive at first. Once that day comes, our foundation might look at how we can expand access in poor countries.

But before we can even begin to think about how we do that, we need lots of scientific breakthroughs. With all of the new tools and theories in development, I believe we are at a turning point in Alzheimer’s R&D. Now is the right time to accelerate that progress before the major costs hit countries that can’t afford high priced therapies and where exposure to the kind of budget implications of an Alzheimer’s epidemic could bankrupt health systems.

This is a frontier where we can dramatically improve human life. It’s a miracle that people are living so much longer, but longer life expectancies alone are not enough. People should be able to enjoy their later years—and we need a breakthrough in Alzheimer’s to fulfill that. I’m excited to join the fight and can’t wait to see what happens next.

This article was published November 13, 2017 in LinkedIn under the group, “Alzheimer’s and Dementia Topics”.

 

When Should Someone Make the Decision to Install Home Modification Products?

Too often this decision is made under duress when one is in a crisis situation, perhaps after a
fall, and either in the hospital or rehab after having surgery. Many of of our clients fall into this category. And although we can often accommodate someone’s needs with relatively short notice, this is certainly not the ideal way to make this decision. Shown below I have listed several examples of “pre-crisis” time frames of when to consider home
modification:

  1. When a “senior” has determined that they want to “age in place” and perhaps are
    having specific challenges, i.e., stepping over a tub, navigating a stairway, or difficulty
    getting their walker through the bathroom door.
  2. When someone with a chronic disease recognizes that they no longer can safely get into
    or out of the tub or shower, or navigate the steps going into their home.
  3. Those who have had minor or major surgery, and realize that their home needs to be
    made safer before they return home.
  4. Those who are currently in rehab after suffering a life threatening injury, and realize
    that for their home to be accessible and “user friendly”, will need to have extensive
    home modification.

These are just a few examples of more “practical” circumstances to consider home
modifications, before a crisis occurs.

Our “ideas” and our home assessments are FREE. Just call 770-939-0747, or email us at
info@homefreemods.com, and a home modification expert will respond to you usually within
24 hours.

 

10 Bathroom Safety Tips for Older Adults

Safety in the bathroom is critical when it comes to the prevention of falls for older adults. The bathroom is one of the most dangerous rooms in the home. According to statistics provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), 80 percent of senior falls that occur in the home happen in the bathroom.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention shares that a staggering 1.6 million seniors seek emergency assistance due to falls each year. The cause of a fall could be lack of balance, an obstacle on the floor that causes tripping, or slippery surfaces.

Injuries due to bathroom falls range from mild injuries to serious injuries. These types of accidents can be avoided by taking steps toward preventing falls. By implementing safety precautions, you can greatly reduce the chances of injury due to slips, trips, and falls.

Preventing Falls and Injuries with these Quick Tips

Here are a few bathroom safety tips for seniors to help avoid injury:

Tip #1 – Install Grab Bars: By installing grab bars in your tub or shower, older adults have something to grasp when entering and exiting the bathtub or shower. This can reduce the chances of a slip and/or fall during bathing. Grab bars can also be installed near the toilet to aid with leverage and balance.

Tip #2 – Nonslip Strips: In addition to the installation of grab bars, an affordable way to increase and improve bathroom safety is by putting nonslip strips in the bottom of the tub or shower. You could also consider a non-slip bathmat or non-slip tiles. You can find non-slip strips in many different home and department stores. Not only are these safe, but they can also make a fun and decorative addition to the bathroom.

Tip #3 – Avoid Throw Rugs: Eliminate throw rugs in the bathroom to avoid trips and falls, or consider installing rugs with grips on the bottom. However, to be extra safe, remove bathroom rugs all together as they are a tripping hazard.

Tip #4 – Lighting: Make sure the bathroom has ample lighting is key for preventing falls or other injuries. By keeping the room well lit, it’s easier to see if there’s anything on the floor that could become a hazard. Lighting is particularly important for seniors with vision problems or balance issues.

Tip #5 – Bath Seating: Bath seating in a shower or tub is a great bathroom safety tactic – and they can be easy to install. For extra safety, consider adding bath seating as well as a grab-bar, making it easy to enjoy a shower without the fear of falling. Bath seating is available in various styles to meet the needs of all seniors.

Tip #6 – Hand-Held Shower Handle: Consider investing in a hand-held shower handle in addition to bath seating for a shower that’s stress-free and safe. Shower handles improve bathroom safety, and also come with various settings for optimum relaxation and enjoyment in the shower or tub.

Tip #7 – Toilet Seat Riser: Toilet seat risers are great for toilets with low seating. By raising the seat with a toilet seat riser, you may prevent falling when using the restroom. These make wonderful additions to grab bars near the toilet area.

Tip #8 – Keep the Floor Clear: Make sure that the floor is kept clear and free of any debris or clothing that could become a hazard or cause a fall.

Tip #9 – Keep the Floor Dry: Keeping the floor dry in the bathroom is one of the simplest and most important things that you can do to maintain bathroom safety for older adults. If the floors are wet or damp, this becomes a hazard that could create a very dangerous situation.

Tip #10 – Don’t Rush: What’s the hurry? When we rush in life, we put ourselves at greater risk for falls or injury. Take your time in the bathroom.

If you don’t own your home or apartment, always refer to your tenant guide or landlord before installing equipment in your bathroom.

Anneliese Peterson wrote this blog. She is with Walker Methodist is a faith-based, non-profit senior living organization that’s been serving older adults since 1945.

For more information about living life to the fullest and transitioning to life as an older adult, visit our website at www.homefreemods.com . We can help to make your bathroom safer. For a FREE bathroom evaluation, call us at 770-939-0747, or email us at info@homefreemods.com .

 

Baby Boomers Remodeling to Age in Place Will be the Trend: Harvard Study

With a national housing recovery under way, a distinct trend has emerged among baby

boomers in the wake of the housing crisis: remodeling to age in place. The finding is

according to a new report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard

University.

“As baby boomers move into retirement, they are increasing demand for aging-in-place

retrofits,” says Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Joint

Center. “A decade ago, homeowners over 55 accounted for less than one third of all

home improvement spending. By 2011, this share had already grown to over 45

percent. And generations behind the baby boomers will help fuel future spending growth

since echo boomers are projected to outnumber baby boomers by more than twelve

million as they begin to enter their peak remodeling years over the next decade.”

Further bolstering remodeling potential is the buildup of distressed properties that will

come back to the market as home values climb back toward their pre-crisis levels.

“With about three million more foreclosures and short sales in the pipeline, there is

even more such spending ahead of us,” says Eric S. Belsky, managing director of the

Joint Center.

The implications are “immense,” the Joint Center for Housing Studies notes, with the

trend by older homeowners toward remodeling being followed only by the next

population surge in the echo boom generation.

HomeFree Home Modification can assist you with your desire to “age in place” at home. By offering a FREE home assessment, we can help you determine the things that need to be done to your home that will allow you to have more safety & independence. You can reach us at 770-939-0747, or info@homefreemods.com .

 

Is there a company or organization that can inspect my 85-year-old mother-in-law’s home and advise us about how it can be made safer, especially the bathroom?

While almost all of us want to stay in our homes for as long as we can, it’s important to consider home safety when making that decision. Fortunately, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in conjunction with AARP, has developed the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) training designation for remodelers and contractors. These specialists have been trained in design modifications that can make homes safe for a lifetime. They can do a room-by-room assessment of the home and make recommendations for modifications. To find a CAPS certified contractor near you, go to NAHB’s website.

This article was written for the AARP magazine by Elinor Ginzler, a member of the AARP Caregiving Advisory Panel, and is senior director of the Center for Supportive Services at the Jewish Council for the Aging. She is also coauthor of Caring for Your Parents: The Complete Family Guide.

Dennis Lippy and Rick Thaxton with HomeFree Home Modification both have the  CAPS designation, and would be delighted to assist you in answering any questions you may have in making your home more safe, and giving you a greater degree of independence. As we like to say “our ideas are FREE”, as we will come out to your home and provide a NO COST home assessment, to help you determine if your home is “safe for a lifetime”. You can reach us at 770-939-0747, or info@homefreemods.com

Drink Coffee, Live Longer

As many as four cups a day could provide a health boost

by Austin O’Connor, AARP, July 11, 2017

A pair of new studies show drinking more coffee offers life-extending benefits.

Good news (in a venti cup!) for those who love coffee: Two new studies show that drinking more java could help you live a longer life.

The health effects of drinking coffee have been a point of debate over the years, with some studies showing negative effects and others positive. These just-released studies should calm the jitters for those who rely on their daily jolt — or jolts — of caffeine to get through the day. The first study, conducted by researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the Imperial College London, surveyed more than 520,000 people in 10 European countries, making it the largest study on the correlation between coffee and mortality ever conducted in a European population. Its finding: Drinking more coffee significantly reduces the risk of death.

A second, separate study funded by the National Cancer Institute included a diverse set of subjects, surveying more than 185,000 adults from a range of  ethnicities, including African Americans, Native Americans, Hawaiians, Japanese Americans, Latinos and whites. It found that the mortality boost provided by coffee extended across all races included.

Both studies were published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. The European study found that drinking coffee lowered people’s risk of liver, digestive and circulatory disease, and also lessened the rate of suicide in men and cancer in women. The survey also found that the more coffee you drink, the bigger the health boost. Subjects who drank three cups had a lower risk of all-cause death than those who did not drink coffee.

By focusing on various European countries, where coffee is prepared in many different ways, the study aimed to prove that positive health effects of coffee endure, regardless of preparation and serving style.

“The fact that we saw the same relationships in different countries is kind of the implication that it’s something about coffee, rather than something about the way that coffee is prepared or the way it’s drunk,” said Marc Gunter, a principal investigator with the international research agency.

The second study echoed those findings, revealing that those who drank two to four cups a day had an 18 percent lower risk of death than those who did not drink coffee.

“Given these very diverse populations, all these people have different lifestyles. They have very different dietary habits and different susceptibilities — and we still find similar patterns,” said study leader Veronica Wendy Setiawan, associate professor of preventative medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine.

Not to drop a cloud in your coffee, but doctors caution that people should still practice moderation when it comes to their daily indulgence, and nutritionists warn that adding flavorings such as heavy cream and sugar can increase your caloric intake and nullify many of the health benefits of black coffee.

*This article was taken from the July issue of AARP magazine.

HomeFree Home Modification can help you live longer in your home by providing things like #grab bars, #wider doors, #ramps, & #walk in showers, etc., just to name a few. These things will also make your home safer and give you more #independence. To get a FREE home assessment, you can reach us at 770-939-0747, or info@homefreemods.com

 

Aimee Copeland Foundation Event

Aimee Copeland Foundation Event

This past Saturday we had the privilege of participating in the #Aimee Copeland Foundation Event held at Candler Park. There were numerous other vendors in attendance, including live entertainment. It was a great opportunity for us to meet potential clients who were in need of #home modification, as well as network with the other vendors.
Amy’s fall as a result from a zip line accident in May of 2012, set the stage for the development of necrotizing fasciitis which led to amputations and the failure of her five major organs. It was an honor to support her cause, and we look forward to working with her again at future events.

My mom is going to be moving in with me. How can I make my house safe for her?

 

It’s so important to think about safety and comfort when having your parent join your household. Everything you do for her will make your home better for everyone in the family. You can go room by room to determine how safe it is using the AARP home safety checklist.

Don’t get too overwhelmed by all the suggestions. Pay special attention to the bathroom, where, unfortunately, most falls occur. Some of the ideas are pretty easy to do, such as having lever door handles instead of doorknobs. If you decide you need to do some more substantial changes that require a professional, find a contractor who is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS). The National Association of Home Builders lists builders and contractors with this certification on its website.

  • This article was written by Elinor Ginzler, a member of the AARP Caregiving Advisory Panel, is senior director of the Center for Supportive Services at the Jewish Council for the Aging. She is also coauthor of Caring for Your Parents: The Complete Family Guide.

Dennis Lippy with HomeFree Home Modification, has had his Certified Aging in Place Specialist designation since 2003, and will come out to your home to provide a NO COST home assessment to help you determine the best modifications to make to your home to accommodate your mother’s needs. You can reach Dennis by calling 770-939-0747, or at info@homefreemods.com.

Why bother with home modification?

Why make home modifications? Because they improve your life at home.

Home modifications are small or large changes to a home that improve a home to meet the needs of the person or family who lives there. The changes are customized to the individual needs.  They improve living at home by making daily activities and routines easier and safer.

There are many different groups of people interested in learning about home modifications, each with their own motivation to increase their knowledge and skills.

Read more about Who Benefits from Home Modifications.

  • Contractors– Home modifications means better business by increasing knowledge and skills to meet the demands of a growing market.
  • Home-owners- It means being able to stay living in your home longer and safer. Easier living at home through using ideas that are specific to your health conditions or concerns.
  • People with Activity Limitations (and disabilities)- Many people experience a limitation in daily activities related to a health condition or even “just getting older.”  Home modifications are great for people with “disabilities,” but also for people with any level of limitation in daily activities.
  • Parents of Children with Disabilities– It means creating the best environment for your children to thrive while the grow.  Making smart changes to benefit your family now and in the future.

Research confirms that home modifications can…

  1. Increase safety, such as decrease falls at home
  2. Improve independence and decrease need for caregiver assistance
  3. Prevent decline in functioning related to aging and delay the need to move to higher levels of care

References:

Aplin, T. (2013). Understanding the dimensions of home that impact on home modification decision making. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 60, 101-109.
Stark, S. et al. (2009). Client-centered home modifications improve daily activity performance of older adults.  Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 76, 235-245.
Stark, S. et al. (2017).  Effects of home modification interventions on the participation of community dwelling adults with health conditions: A systematic review.  The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71 (2).
Tse, T. (2005).  The environment and falls prevention: Do environmental modification make a difference?  Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 52, 271-281.
Wilson, D. J. et al. (2009).  Effects of assistive technology on functional decline in people aging with a disability.  Journal of Assistive Technology, 21, 208-217.

*This article was taken from www.beyondaccessibility.com posted on February 28, 2017

Whatever your home modification needs are, we can provide them. We have been doing just that for over ten years, and would be happy to give you a FREE home assessment. You can reach us by calling 770-939-0747, or emailing us at info@homefreemods.com . We look forward to serving you.

 

5 ways to reduce bathroom falls

More than 230,000 people are sent to the ER each year because of an injury sustained while bathing, showering, or using the bathroom facilities. To reduce bathroom falls, follow these simple steps:

  1. Install grab bars. Installing grab bars in easy-to-reach places provide support and balance for entering and exiting the shower or tub. Also consider adding grab bars near the toilet for additional support and safety.
  2. Add shower seats. A shower seat can provide stability and a place to rest for those who have difficulty standing for long periods of time.
  3. Add an adjustable (and hand-held) shower head. An adjustable hand held shower head, allows the person to direct the water where it’s most needed without having to contort their body into awkward positions.
  4. Fix slippery surfaces. A non-slip mat (or decals) on the floor of the shower or tub — along with a non-slip rug on the floor — provides additional stability and can reduce slipping. A non-slip rug in front of the toilet and by the sink area also helps to prevent slipping.
  5. Install taller toilets. Over time, one may experience increased difficulty lowering themselves onto a low toilet seat and returning to a standing position. A raised toilet (typically 3 to 4 inches) reduces the amount of squatting and the distance covered to sit on the toilet.

*Adapted from November 2016 Best Bath Newsletter at www.bestbath.com

We can help with making your bathroom safer. Keeping you safe and giving you more independence in the bath is our specialty. We would be happy to give you a FREE home assessment. You can reach us by calling 770-939-0747, or emailing us at info@homefreemods.com . We look forward to serving you.