Friday, May 7, 2021

Finding Joy During Tough Times

Savoring beauty will help you feel happy!
According to research, the Covid-19 pandemic sharply increased the number of people who are self-reporting their loneliness, sadness, depression, alcoholism, drug addiction and other difficulties.  Even as businesses begin to open, and many people are feeling more optimistic than they have in a year, millions of other people are still feeling overwhelmed after spending more time alone than ever before.  An unknown number of people spent much of the past year with family members who were abusive, angry or depressed.  After months of dealing with this situation, the stress had a damaging effect. Job losses, financial concerns, and the death or illness of loved ones also contributed to the pain many people have experienced.

How can we remain resilient when we feel as though there is no hope for a brighter future? How can we find joy when the evening news is full of depressing stories?  How can we find some peace and serenity in turbulent times, when we may feel helpless, with no way out? 

Give Yourself Permission to Feel Happiness in Dark Times

Decades ago, when my husband and I stayed for a short time in a very poor community in Mexico early in our marriage, we noticed that the people around us were singing, laughing, eating communal meals, and enjoying their lives, despite the fact that they lived in small homes with dirt floors and no plumbing or electricity.  We marveled that they could be so happy, even though most of them would never significantly improve their standard of living.  They were not waiting until some special event occurred to make them happy.  They gave themselves permission to be happy now.

Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, my husband and I found we enjoyed sitting on our patio, barbecuing our dinner, watching the birds and chatting with a few neighbors who were also enjoying time outdoors.  Our evenings became more peaceful.  Although we were no longer going out to eat, or seeing movies in theaters, or enjoying other forms of entertainment, we found joy in just a simple meal and some quiet time together.  We gave ourselves permission to be happy, no matter how long the virus lasted.

It is important you give yourself permission to be happy, too, despite what is going on around you.  Find simple activities which bring you joy, and allow yourself to indulge in them.

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

You may know people who have a lavish beach house where they are quarantining, or friends who are home-schooling their children with the aid of a live-in nanny.  You may have friends who never lost their job during the pandemic, managed to stay healthy, and seemed to sail through the year unscathed.

It is so easy to compare yourself to other people and feel as though your life is not as good.  Comparing yourself to others is likely to only make you unhappy.  If you want to compare yourself to others, focus on how fortunate you are.  Do you have a comfortable place to live, compared to people who became homeless during this pandemic?  Do you have plenty of food and toilet paper?  Do you have someone you care about who is in quarantine with you, or someone you can call and talk to regularly?  Do you have things you enjoy doing at home such as working in your garden, reading, knitting, writing or painting?  Take advantage of having all the time you now have to finish your projects and nurture yourself.

Read Books Which Uplift You

You can learn to be happier by carefully choosing your reading material.  Many people love Reader's Digest, because of their cute jokes and uplifting stories.  Some uplifting, encouraging books which you may find helpful are listed below: (Ad)

The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

10% Happier by Dan Harris

Practicing Mindfulness by Matthew Sockolov

Reading daily meditations or religious books may also bring you peace and comfort.  Take the time to really contemplate them.

Play Your Favorite Music

People enjoy a wide variety of music choices, but nearly everyone has some type of music which brings them joy, whether it is a symphony, Reggae, rock 'n roll, or gospel music.  Personally, I love to ask "Alexa" on my Echo Dot to play spa music. (Ad)  It is so relaxing and I have noticed that my blood pressure is even lower after listening to it.  On the other hand, my daughter, who has three young children, often tells Alexa to play songs her children enjoy and love to dance to.  It is a fun way to get them moving, and she dances right along with them.  Music seems to touch us all in a way which is hard to explain, but frequently stirs our emotions.

Connect with Others

Even if you are living alone, it does not mean you have to feel alone.  Reach out to others.  Drop notes in the mail to old friends.  Don't wait for your annual Christmas card to send them a letter.  Send emails, too.  Pick up the phone and call someone.  Participate in classes and reunions on Zoom.  Have a virtual cocktail party with other friends, using Zoom to connect you all. The more you connect with other people, the better you will feel.  

According to a Harvard Study on Adult Development, "Good relationships keep us happier and healthier."  They claim that a sense of joy will reduce corrosive forces, like inflammation, which can be very damaging to our body.  In other words, nurturing our friendships also nurtures our body.

Get Exercise and Breath Deeply

Being physically active can also improve our mood and release feel-good chemicals.  You can try yoga, which includes deep breathing exercises.  Go for a walk in nature, go swimming, or participate in other activities you enjoy, either alone or as a family.  Make sure you get your heart rate up occasionally while you exercise, and take a few deep breaths every few minutes. Don't forget to stop at times to savor the beauty around you.  In other words, "take the time to smell the roses."  While you're at it, listen to the birds and enjoy the view.  It will increase your happiness even more.

Essentially, we are all going to experience tough times during our lives.  It may be because of a disease like Covid, loneliness, illness, death in our family, or a financial setback.  Regardless of the reason, we can choose to do something to change the way we feel.  We can find a way to improve our mood, ease our anxiety, and give ourselves permission to experience joy again!

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post.
 
If you are interested in learning more about retirement, Medicare, Social Security, common medical issues as we age, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  Pixabay  

Friday, April 30, 2021

Caregiving Tips Can Reduce Stress on Caregivers

Millions of Baby-Boomers, as well as younger adults, are not only trying to take care of their own lives while staying involved with their children, their jobs, and other responsibilities, but they are also caregivers for a spouse, parent, relative, or a friend who has a serious chronic health condition.  Some of the people who are providing this help may not even think of themselves as caregivers. However, you are a caregiver if you drive someone to dialysis, chemo sessions, physical therapy or medical appointments, help an ill relative or friend with their grocery shopping, or care for someone who has dementia, COPD, or is recovering from a stroke, heart attack or surgery.  

When the situation arises, most of us are willing to care for a loved one, even though it can require a huge amount of our time and effort as we strive to meet their physical needs, shop for them, dispense their medicine and, when they do not live with us, visit them and care for them in a separate home. Whether the patient lives with you or lives in their own home, providing this aid can be exhausting, time consuming and, in some cases, even fatal for the caregivers who may die of stress related illnesses. In addition, have you thought about the financial cost of being a caregiver?  While you may not be able to completely relieve yourself of everything involved in caregiving, are you aware of some of the ways you can reduce your stress?

Although you may feel it is your responsibility to "suck it up" and do whatever is necessary to take care of a relative, you may actually be doing more than necessary and putting your own health and financial security at risk. If you are a Baby Boomer caregiver, you are in your 60s and 70s and may have physical or health limitations of your own.  The added stress of caring for another person can feel overwhelming.  

It is important that every caregiver assess the emotional, physical and financial impact of caregiving on themselves and other members of their family.  They also need to come up with a practical plan that will relieve some of the burden, while making sure their relative is not neglected.  It is usually possible to do both.

Common Financial Costs of Being a Caregiver

According to an article in the AARP Bulletin in November 2019, being a caregiver could cost you financially in several ways.  As you read this list, you may begin to realize how important it is to use some of the suggestions listed later in this article.

*  About 78% of caregivers spend an average of $7,000 a year out-of-pocket for the care of a loved one.  This can include money spent on things like adult diapers, over-the-counter medications, special food, and extra gasoline for their car. 

*  The cost can rise to as much as $12,000 a year if the patient or family member you are helping lives at least an hour away.

*  This financial cost often reduces the caregiver's retirement savings by as much as 25%, because this becomes money which does not go into their own retirement savings account and does not grow, as it would have if it had been invested or deposited into a bank or investment account.

*  The caregiver's financial situation may be worsened even more dramatically, because about 23% of caregivers take on additional debt in order to cover their out-of-pocket expenses.  Sometimes they do not even notice their rising credit card bills or other borrowed money until the situation gets out-of-hand.

*  Caregivers often lose out financially in other ways, too, by causing them to earn a lower income as a result of their responsibilities.  On average, they tend to work at paid jobs about 80 minutes less each day. This not only reduces their income, but it also makes them less likely to get promotions, which in turn lessens the amount of future pensions and Social Security benefits they will receive.  In essence, they are sacrificing their own future retirement in order to care for a beloved family member who may be retired.

*  Nearly one-third of caregivers have left a job or reduced their hours because of the stress of their caregiving responsibilities.  The repercussions of this not only means less income, but often the loss of employer-provided benefits such as health insurance or a 401(k) plan with matching contributions.  If they retire early, that can also reduce their retirement benefits. 

However, the financial sacrifices are not the only reason why caregivers need to learn ways to reduce the burden on themselves and their family.

Caregivers Often Ignore Their Own Needs

In addition to devoting so much of their time and money to the care of another person, caregivers often risk their own health and well-being, and that of their immediate family.   Here are some typical sacrifices caregivers sometimes make.  Most caregivers have cut more than one of the items listed below.

*  About 37 percent say they have reduced their spending on household maintenance.

*  Approximately 11 percent admit they have been forced to spend less on their children's education, which may force their children to take out larger college loans in the future.  This passes the financial burden on to another generation.

*  About 25 percent have had to reduce their spending on groceries for their family.

*  Unsurprisingly, 30 percent say they have spent less than normal on clothing and personal items.

*  Roughly 12 percent have cut back on the money they would normally spend on utilities, including heat and electricity, which could also endanger their own health or that of other family members, if the cuts become too extreme.

*  Caregivers also report sleeping less at night and about one-third admit they have reduced their own dental care, and cut down on routine visits to the doctor, as well as getting medical care when they are sick or injured  Many have neglected to fill a needed prescription for themselves, or get a recommended test or treatment. 

Caregiver Stress Can be Fatal

As a result of the above-mentioned cuts in personal care, a 1999 study found that caregivers have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than non-caregivers, and according to Stanford University, 40 percent of Alzheimer's caregivers die from stress-related disorders before the Alzheimer's patient dies.

We all know that stress can kill us.  In addition to worrying about the health and care of another person, many caregivers become the object of the patient's anger, moodiness, and irritability. While the caregiver may spend hours a day driving, running errands, shopping and helping the patient in many ways, they may feel that their efforts are not only unappreciated, but may cause them to be subjected to continual complaints and hostility. Some caregivers report feeling that, no matter how much they do, it never seems to satisfy the patient.

While we may not be able to change our loved one's health situation, or even their attitude, there are actions nearly any caregiver can take to lessen the burden and help them protect their own health and finances.  

Try Not to Handle the Caregiver Burden Alone

Although many caregivers do not reach out for help, there are a number of resources available to reduce the financial and physical burden on the primary caregiver.  While this assistance may not solve all the problems, any help at all could make a big difference both for the caregiver and their family.  In addition, taking advantage of the help which is available in your community might even improve the quality of care for the patient.  Simple steps such as ordering groceries online, arranging medical transportation so you do not have to do all the driving, asking for assistance with the patient at airports or in medical facilities, and taking time out for yourself can make a big difference.

You may find it helpful to read one of these books on caregiving, to give you fresh ideas and moral support. (Ad)  Some simple changes could improve the situation for both the caregiver and the patient. 

Practical Ways for Caregivers to Get Relief 

Talk to your loved one and ask how much help they actually want and need.  They may be able to do more than you realize.  If they do not live with you, it may be easier for them to be independent if you make a few modifications to their home and help them out once a week by shopping for them, filling their pill containers, paying their bills and handling other issues which may be difficult for them.  In fact, as long as they are mentally competent, the patient may not even want you hovering over them all the time.  Make sure you have a clear understanding of the kind of help they actually want and need.  If they live in your home, they may even be willing and able to perform necessary chores such as dusting, watering the lawn, handling the laundry, helping with meal preparation, or doing the dishes.  This will make them feel needed and reduce the amount of work the caregiver is trying to do every day.  Appreciate whatever they are able to do, and allow them this way of helping to reduce your stress.

Get a personal home alarm system for someone with a serious chronic condition, so they can quickly and easily contact you or someone else if they fall, become acutely ill, or need emergency help.  You will worry much less, and they will be safer. You can find a variety of home alert systems (Ad) available here, including some that have wearable devices included. 

They come in a wide variety of brands, with different services available. In general, the person wearing the device only needs to push a button in order to be connected to a trained operator. The operator asks them if they need an ambulance, or if they just want the alert service to call a friend, neighbor or relative to assist them.  Some of the devices have fall indicators.  If the device detects that the person has fallen, and the patient does not respond when called, the operator can automatically call a caregiver or the paramedics.  This removes much of the worry felt by caregivers who are not with the patient 24 hours a day.  These systems are very helpful whether the patient lives in the same home as the caregiver or in a separate home.  It frees the caregiver to go to work, run errands, shop, visit friends, and comfortably spend time away from the patient, and will also lower caregiver stress.  

Install a home camera, such as a Nest Camera, (Ad) which is connected to an app on your cell phone, so you can virtually check on your loved one throughout the day.  This can give you even more peace of mind. One of our daughters even uses her camera to check on her cats!  You can reassure yourself that your loved one is eating, resting, and staying safe, without the need for you to be physically present.  A camera like this has made more than one caregiver feel more comfortable, and they double as security cameras!  You can install one in your own home, if the patient lives with you, or put in in the home of a fragile relative, wherever they may live. 

If you are a caregiver with a paid job, before you quit or cut back on your hours, see if there are any employee benefits designed to help caregivers.  In many places, you could be entitled to family leave or other assistance.  This can be particularly helpful if your loved one becomes particularly ill or needs to be hospitalized.  It would allow you to periodically to take off for a few day when necessary, without losing your job.

Go to the Family Caregiver Alliance at caregiver.org and print out a personal care agreement so that you have a clear agreement with the person who is receiving the care.  In some cases, they may be able to pay you for your caregiving services and a personal care agreement can spell out specifically what you will be doing for them.  If they are on Medicaid, for example, relatives or friends who are caregivers can sometimes be paid through that program, under certain circumstances.  This can also lessen the financial burden on the caregiver.  I know of at least one man who has been able to use this program to hire a young person to drive him to doctor appointments and the grocery store.  This has been very helpful, since driving has become very difficult for him. 

Ask family and friends if they can help with some of the responsibilities.  For example, even if you are doing the grocery shopping and filling their weekly pill containers, ask if there are relatives who can take some of the burden off of you by checking on the patient certain days of the week, preparing their meals, helping them shower or dress, etc.  Even getting help from others a couple of days a week can make it easier for you to remain at your paid job, feel less stressed, and enjoy time with your own family. 

See if there are any state or local services to help you.  Get all the help you can afford or that may be available in your community at little or no cost to you.  Here are some ideas:

*  You may be able to find paid housekeepers or caregivers who can help you a few days of the week;
*  You may be able to locate an adult daycare facility
*  Your loved one may be eligible for Meals on Wheels, which will reduce your responsibility for preparing all their meals.  This will be especially helpful if they do not live with you.
*  If there is a Senior Center in your area, they may be able to put you in touch with meal services and other resources to help you. Some even provide low cost lunches in a group setting.
*  If you need to go out of town, or wish to take a vacation with your family, you may also discover that local assisted living facilities in your area can provide affordable respite care for a loved one for a week or two.

Seek out whatever help is available in order to reduce your burden.  Some of it will be free or very low cost.  Certain local services, such as adult daycare or local senior centers, will give your loved one an opportunity to make friends and socialize with other people their own age.  Many senior centers have fun events such as Bingo, art programs, yoga for seniors, memory classes, health fairs, community lunches and more, which will keep them busy and give them something to do.  Often these programs are free or cost very little.

*  Websites which provide helpful information for caregivers are:

eldercare.acl.gov
caregiver.org
hhs.gov/aging/state-resources
shiptacenter.org
AARP.org/caregiving

Essentially, it is important to realize that you do not need to take on the full responsibility for caring for another person.  You do not need to sacrifice your own life, health and financial security.  There are programs available to help you, while making sure your loved one receives the care they need, and enabling them to get the most enjoyment possible out of their lives.  Make sure you explore all your options and take advantage of every resource you can find.  
 
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If you are interested in learning more about common health issues as we age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo credit:  morguefile

Friday, April 23, 2021

Risks of Retiring in Mexico and other Countries

Retiring in another country can be an exciting adventure, but it can also present some unique challenges.  Americans have been retiring in other countries for decades, and hundreds of thousands of Social Security checks are currently deposited monthly in foreign bank accounts.  Millions of  Americans live in foreign countries for a few months of the year, while keeping their money and accounts in the United States.  There are numerous reasons people live all or part of the year outside the United States. They might do it for the novelty, for the opportunity to experience new things, as part of a charitable organization, to teach, or in order to save money, especially if they are retiring on a tight budget.  

While the cost of living may be lower in other countries, and the idea of living in a tropical climate sounds appealing, there are risks which everyone needs to consider.  Of course, you will want to investigate the healthcare system, the cost of obtaining medical care in a foreign country, and the actual cost of living, especially if you want to live the equivalent of an American lifestyle in another country.  You also need to take into consideration expenses such as traveling back to the United States to visit or get specialized medical care.  

If there are certain products you feel are necessities, you may discover that they are more expensive than you expect, and it may be difficult to get your favorite foods or brand name items.  For example, planning a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, yams, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie may be next to impossible in some countries. You will need to adapt and eat at least some of the local cuisine. 

However, if you are the adventurous type, all these issues will probably be minor problems which you are happy to deal with.  In fact, they may not be a problem at all if you choose a location which is conveniently located near a major international airport or near the U.S. border, so you can quickly hop back to the U.S. whenever you want.  You could also discover that shopping in local markets and eating locally grown foods is part of the fun and adventure!  

You may be able to find solutions to many minor problems by researching your move before you go. Try reading a book such as "Retirement Without Borders," (Ad) which I highly recommend. It has practical advice for retiring to a number of different countries including Mexico, France, Italy, Spain, Costa Rica and several others. It could help you decide which country might be a good choice for you!

One thing which may turn your dream retirement into a nightmare could be your lack of legal standing in another country. Take, for example, an issue which a number of Americans are facing in the lovely American enclave of Cantamar along the coast of Baja, Mexico.

Locked Out of Their Retirement Village

In early 2021, a number of residents of the beachside community of Cantamar, Mexico, located about 15 miles south of Rosarito Beach, have had to climb over a barbed wire fence in order to get in and out of their community.  Their property manager has blocked the entrance, cut off the residents' water and gas, and refused to allow guests and maintenance workers to enter the community.  

Many of the residents of this community are U.S. citizens who originally moved to Cantamar from Arizona, California, and other states. Most of these Americans have invested a substantial part of their life savings into their homes in Mexico, and they looked forward to spending the last few decades of their lives living in this affordable beachfront community.

What went wrong in Cantamar?

The problem stems from the property ownership laws in Mexico.  Foreign residents cannot officially own Mexican land which is located within 65 miles of the U.S. border, or within 35 miles of the Mexican coastline. However, foreigners are allowed to lease the land and build a home on it.  They can legally own the home for up to 10 years.

Foreign nationals can also purchase land through a Mexican bank trust, called a fideicomiso.  In this case, the bank is the trustee and holds the title, and the foreign buyer is the beneficiary of the trust and is able to buy, sell, and build on the property.

Because of these loopholes, approximately 1.5 million Americans have moved to Mexico, and tens of thousands of them are in Baja, California.  This makes it easy for them to cross the border and shop or obtain medical care the the U.S.   Many of them have seen this arrangement as the best of both worlds ... an affordable beach home for retirement, with relatively easy access to American goods and services.   Cantamar is a prime example of this lifestyle.  It is a gated community just 35 miles from the U.S. border, with home lots near the ocean ranging in price from $40,000 to $300,000, significantly more affordable than similar properties in San Diego County, across the border.

The current landowner of Cantamar is Ivonne Cortez Avendano.  It was awarded to her in the Mexican courts after her husband died without a will in 2007.  However, some of the residents of the community are legal, naturalized Mexican citizens, who are entitled to own property in Mexico, and they believe their homes were awarded to Ivonne Cortez Avendano illegally.

Since the entire community has become the property of Ivonne Cortez Avendano, she and her property manager, Zarella Garcia, have made it increasingly difficult for the residents to enjoy their former lives in the community. One of the current residents told a writer for the San Diego Tribune that they have not had running water for years and, when they leave home, they are not sure they will be allowed to re-enter. 

The dispute is over a new maintenance fee of $130 month which the owner wishes to collect retroactively for every month residents have been there since 2007. This is a substantial expense for many retirees who have already invested nearly all their life savings in order to afford their homes.  Other retirees believe that it is simply unfair for the new owner to force this new charge on them.

The current residents point out that the current owner's deceased husband did not require a maintenance fee, it is not mentioned in their property titles, nor was there a separate contract requiring this fee when they originally committed to leasing the property and building their homes on it. 

What Legal Rights do Americans Have in Mexico?

Unfortunately, Americans are limited in what they can do to protest their treatment, no matter how unfair it may seem.  The U.S. government says they are powerless to intervene in property disputes in Mexico.  The chances of an American winning a dispute in the Mexican legal system are slim, and the legal battle could take decades. 

In 2000, after a 27 year legal fight over their retirement homes in Punta Banda, Mexico, 200 Americans were evicted and told that the group which sold the land to them was not the true owner.  These types of land disputes could happen again in the future.  Americans living in Mexico have little legal recourse when it does, and Mexico is not the only place where Americans could find themselves legally vulnerable.

What can Retirees Learn from these Stories?

Retirees should be very careful before putting their life savings into a home in a foreign country.  During the recession in 2009, some British retirees who had settled in Spain were alarmed to discover that the value of the British pound had dropped in value to the point where their "affordable" retirement was no longer a financial reality.  The same thing could happen when retirees from any country settle in another country.  Monetary values fluctuate, and the change is not always in favor of retirees who are living on a very tight pension.

There are also strict rules regarding retiring in other countries, including desirable places such as Italy, Monte Carlo, and Switzerland.  You may be required to prove you have enough assets and income to live there. You may have difficulty buying property, or may not be allowed to work, if that was your intent.  There may be complications regarding becoming part of their national healthcare system.  Laws regarding all these issues and more vary from country to country.  

Doing your research can prevent some of the problems involved in living overseas.  After all, millions of Americans are doing it right now without a problem.  Another book which will help you make realistic, smart plans is "How to Retire Overseas." (Ad) The more you study your choices in advance, the more likely you will be to make the best decisions for your retirement.

Before moving to another country, it is very important that Americans check on the U.S. State Department website for travel advisories and warnings.  They should also discuss the immigration and property laws with an attorney in the country where they are considering retiring, and meet with an attorney in the U.S. who specializes in international law.  Speak with as many experts as possible, including tax accountants, realtors, bankers, and others.  

Finally, they should take a serious look at their own financial picture and their risk tolerance.  What would happen if they lose all of the property and money they have invested in another country?  Would they be able to survive financially?  Would they be able to comfortably relocate or return to the United States?  If they are not sure, it might be wise not to make the move.  At the very least, retirees looking for an adventure in another country may consider renting a home there, and keeping the bulk of their assets in the United States.

Read more about the Cantamar case at:  https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/border-baja-california/story/2021-04-10/americans-baja-resort-homes

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post. 
 
If you are interested in learning more about financial planning for retirement, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire, common medical issues after retirement and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the to of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful retirement articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

You are reading from the blog:  http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com

Photo of Mexican beach:  pixabay.com

Friday, April 16, 2021

Drugs that Induce Dementia - Are Your Meds Causing You to Lose Your Mind?

Most cases of dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's dementia, vascular dementia and others, are caused by various health problems which affect the brain.  One cause of dementia symptoms which is frequently overlooked could be the medications you are taking.  If you begin to think you are "losing you mind," becoming forgetful or confused, and having difficulty dealing with the complexities of life, you should immediately ask your doctor to review your medications.

Anticholinergic Medications are a Serious Risk

Millions of people take anticholinergic medications for a variety of health problems.  However, researchers have discovered that people over the age of 55 who have taken them for three or more years have a 50 percent greater chance of developing dementia.*  That is a high price to pay for what could otherwise be a helpful medication.

These drugs treat a wide variety of health problems including COPD, bladder conditions, allergies, gastrointestinal disorders and the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

When taken for a short period of time, they can cause confusion and memory loss.  When used for a longer time, many of these drugs seem to increase your risk of developing more serious symptoms of dementia, which may or may not be reversible when the drug is discontinued.

According to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine* researchers found that there were "increased risks of dementia for anticholinergic drugs overall and specifically for the anticholinergic antidepressants, antipsychotic drugs, anti-parkinsons drugs, bladder drugs and epilepsy drugs after accounting for other risk factors for dementia.  No increased risks were found for the other types of anticholinergic drug studied such as antihistamines (like Benadryl) and gastrointestinal drugs."

The researchers determined that about 10 percent of dementia cases could be attributed to these drugs.  


List of Anticholinergic Medications You May Want Your Doctor to Review

Common anticholinergic drugs which may be risky for older people include antihistamines, sleeping pills, tricyclic antidepressants, and the drugs which you may be prescribed to treat an overactive bladder. Some of these drugs may be prescribed by your doctor.  Others are available over-the-counter and you may be administering them to yourself, without your doctor's knowledge.  This is especially risky if, for example, you are using over-the-counter Benadryl in combination with one of the other drugs.  The Benadryl, by itself, may not be a problem when taken as an antihistamine for a short period of time.  However, when taken daily for years and combined with one or more of the other drugs, it could make your dementia symptoms worse.

Examples of these drugs are:

Benadryl
Desyrel (trazodone)
Dimetapp
Ditropan (oxybutynin)

Enablex (darifenacin)
Paxil (paroxetine)
Remeron (mirtazapine)
Sinequan (doxepin)

Toviaz (fesoterodine)
Urispas (flavoxate)

What to do if You are Taking one of These Drugs

If you have been taking these drugs, pay attention to your thinking and mental clarity. Ask your family if they have noticed any differences.  You will also want to discuss your dosage and the length of time you have been on the drugs with your doctor. Ask if there are alternatives which might treat your condition just as well, or if you can take a lower dosage for a shorter period of time.

In addition, be aware if a change in any medication causes you to feel as if your thinking is "foggier" or you have reduced mental clarity.  Although the anticholinergic drugs seem to be the ones most commonly associated with bringing on dementia-like symptoms, you should speak to your physician if any drug makes you feel as if you are having trouble functioning properly. 

Take Care of Your Brain

There are a wealth of other articles on this blog to help you take care of your brain and reduce your risk of dementia.  You can find them by clicking on Medical Concerns here, or by using the tab or pull-down menu at the top of the page.  Learn how lifestyle changes such as exercise, a healthy diet, reduced alcohol use and eliminating tobacco can also reduce your dementia risk. 

In addition, you may want to check out  "The MIND Diet Plan and Cookbook: Recipes and Lifestyle Guidelines to Help Prevent Alzheimer's and Dementia."  (Ad)

It is an excellent book and will help you make the best lifestyle choices to protect your brain.
 
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*https://medicalxpress.com/news/2019-06-commonly-drugs-dementia.html