Risk Factors For Alzheimer’s Disease

Risk Factors For Alzheimer’s Disease

illustration of the brainAlzheimer’s Disease is a degenerative brain disorder that is characterized by a loss of memory and cognitive function. While Alzheimer’s disease can affect people of any age, it is most prevalent in the elderly. Identifying the factors that increase the risk of this disease is key to early detection and prevention.

Heart Disease

There is a strong link between heart disease and Alzheimer’s. High blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol are also contributing factors to Alzheimer’s disease. Keeping your weight down, your cholesterol under control and your blood pressure at normal levels is key to staving off the effects of this debilitating disease.

Poor Diet and Sedentary Lifestyle

Staying active and eating a diet packed with nutrient-rich foods is one of the best ways to avoid developing Alzheimer’s. Exercising just 30 minutes a day, three days a week will help you to keep your weight under control and keep new plaques from forming on the brain. These plaques block neural pathways that allow you to retain your memory and cognitive function.

Lack of Social Connections

Studies have shown that retaining social connections helps to keep the brain active and prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. To prevent the onset and progression of the disease, engage in regular social activity like attending classes, visiting friends or attending worship services.

Genetics

Alzheimer’s disease has a strong genetic link. You are more likely to develop the disease if one of your parents had it. In addition, genetics can also determine when you will start developing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s as well. Early onset Alzheimers, which starts in the mid-40s and early 50s, is strongly linked to family history. If you have a relative who developed Alzheimer’s, see a specialist early so that you can prevent the onset of symptoms.

Substance Abuse

There is a strong link between substance abuse and Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown that heavy alcohol consumption can lessen cognitive function over time, leading to memory loss before age 65. People who use illicit drugs are also more likely to develop the disease. Conversely, drinking one glass of red wine daily has been shown to decrease the likelihood that you will suffer the effects of Alzheimer’s.

Age

The most common risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s starts at around age 65 and doubles every five years afterward. By the time you are 85, your chances of developing the disease are one in three. Enjoying a healthy diet, regular exercise and strong social connections can help avoid this risk or stave it off for as long as possible.

While there have been many studies that have delved into the causes and possible treatment for Alzheimer’s, there is still a large degree of medical mystery surrounding the disease. Doctors know that certain risk factors can lead to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, while others escape the symptoms and stay sharp well into their 90’s. Identifying the risk factors and working to avoid them is the best way to fight off this debilitating disease.

Taking Control of an Elderly Relative’s Finances

Taking Control of an Elderly Relative’s Finances

Unfortunately, difficult conversations about finances, relationships, and our inevitable death are simply a part of life. However, having these somewhat troubling discussions in times of good health and happiness usually make them infinitely easier. The same goes for creating a plan to take control of an elderly relative’s finances.

With all the incredible advancements of modern technology and healthcare, in general people are living much longer lives. As parents continue to age, their children are facing the fact that they may need to step in and help with paying bills, making investments, or even arranging for long-term care services.

It’s important to remember that for a senior citizen, planning for the future involves so much more than simply dealing with finances. It’s also vital to take the time to understand your relative’s priorities when it comes to lifestyle, independence, and emergency care options in the event that their health fails. It may seem morbid, but clarifying all of these details ahead of time will prevent as much conflict and stress possible for everyone. In many cases, you may also be able to virtually eliminate the need to concern yourself with issues like guardianship proceedings or incompetency declarations.

The best and most important item to begin with is setting up a HIPAA authorization form and a Health Care Power of Attorney. The HIPAA form gives the designee permission to access important medical information, but does not grant decision making power. However, a Health Care Power of Attorney allows someone to make critical medical decisions on your loved one’s behalf in the event that they are unable to make those decisions themselves.

Next, it’s vital to begin the asset protection planning process by creating a comprehensive estate plan. An estate plan should also designate a Property Power of Attorney, which grants the chosen person the legal authority to act on your relative’s behalf when deciding what to do with homes, businesses, and other assets.

After these basic steps are taken care of, it’s a good idea to try to automate as many financial transactions as possible. Set up direct deposits and automated payments for utilities, rent, and other expenses. Compile and securely store any important documents like benefit plans, bank accounts, and insurance policies. Also, make sure to double check that there are no supplemental benefit plans or long-term care insurance that may have been forgotten.

Finally, your loved one may even qualify for several federal and state benefit programs. Explore the variety of options on benefitscheckup.org and eldercare.gov for discounts on taxes and utility bills, as well as information on local health care and social services providers.

As an estate planning lawyer that specializes in elder law, I can tell you although these conversations can be difficult, initiating them as soon as possible is always the best course of action. The plans you create will help your relative live a life that runs smoothly and is free of worry, and as time passes you will both be more confident and prepared to face any difficult situations that may arise.

Head of Veteran’s Affairs Rules out Privatization

Head of Veteran’s Affairs Rules out Privatization

image of American flagDavid Shulkin, who is now the Under Secretary of Health for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, has been nominated by President Donald Trump to head the second largest federal department in the United States. If confirmed, the 57 year old physician would be the first non-veteran to lead the agency, and the only remaining ex-Obama administration official serving in Trump’s cabinet.

In prepared remarks he recently made to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Shulkin said, “VA is a unique national resource that is worth saving, and I am committed to doing just that. There will be far greater accountability, dramatically improved access, responsiveness and expanded care options, but the Department of Veterans Affairs will not be privatized under my watch.”

Despite clearly ruling out privatization, Shulkin promised to push for a major overhaul of the “broken process” that has led to the massive backlog of veteran’s benefits claims and appeals currently weighing down the department. He doubled down on his promise by saying, “If confirmed, I intend to build a system that puts veterans first and allows them to get the best possible health care, wherever it may be.”

Shulkin is currently responsible for managing a system that oversees 9 million veterans in over 1,700 facilities, and was also given the daunting task of improving wait times for medical care after a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. In his prepared testimony, Shulkin acknowledged that the scandal had drastically decreased veterans’ confidence in the department, as veterans waited months for care or even passed away while some VA employees falsified internal documentation to cover up the delays.

Shulkin also did not rule out closing underused VA facilities in an attempt to reign in the budget, and said he may explore new partnerships to avoid building new medical centers that were too expensive or slow to become established.

In response to the estimated 20 veterans who commit suicide each day, Shulkin also cited Obama administration efforts to combat these statistics by hiring more mental health professionals to work in the department. In fact, the VA currently has over 45,000 job openings, most of which are within the department’s health care system. However, due to the current federal hiring freeze, he could not specify what staffing plans he intends to make for the department.

Overall, Shulkin is supported by several of the largest veterans’ organizations, as many of them also oppose greater privatization of the department. Shulkin has repeatedly testified on his unwavering commitment to making necessary changes to the department in order to regain the trust of veterans and their families, and even encouraged the panel to hold him accountable and replace him if he was not successful in fulfilling his promises.

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee has advanced the nomination of David Shulkin to be VA secretary with overwhelming support and a vote of 15 to 0. Since Shulkin’s nomination has yet to draw any significant opposition, many lawyers, veteran’s groups, and congressional lawmakers believe that the Senate will easily be able to confirm him sometime in the next week.