by Tammera J. Karr, PhD, BCHN, CDSP, CNW, CGP
Over the years, clients have asked many questions, but the questions on cookware safety seldom come up. It is generally the clinician interviewing the client that most frequently asks the question about what kind of cookware was in use. Now with the internet and social media, questions like – “Are nonstick pans toxic?” “Can aluminum cookware cause dementia?” “Are my dishes full of lead?” and “Are my scratched pans still safe?” seem to be everywhere. Frequently, the responses and answers are based on outdated information. So if you are shopping for new kitchenware and are uncertain, begin by reading the chapter Gizmos and Gadgets for the Kitchen page 51, in Our Journey with Food Cookery Book 2nd edition, you’ll find there’s a wide range of choices in cookware material; such as cast iron, stainless steel, copper, glass, and ceramic. By and large, they are all safe when purchased in a mindful manner. Keep in mind when it comes to cookware, your experience, comfort, and enjoyment of “all things cooking” is determined by the quality of the tools you use.
What tools are selected will depend on the type of cook you are, your kitchen area, and your level of experience. Not on the health risks from the tools used. As someone who cooks inside, outside, on an electric range, gas stove, barbeque, and wood fire, I can assure you the heat-producing surface determines what pot or pan is used as much as the quality. World over, individuals prepair meals each day in cookware Americans would refuse to use – yet America and other western cultures have skyrocketing dementia numbers.
In 1965, scientists discovered that feeding rabbits very high levels of aluminum produced changes in the rabbits’ brains resembling Alzheimer’s. This was later proven to be incorrect. Aluminum is a naturally occurring mineral found in water, plants, fish, and animals. Aluminum plays a role in cell formation, especially skin cells. Broccoli, a proven health food, also contains aluminum. So what about the argument over organic and inorganic aluminum? To be honest, most of us are guessing and relying on theory and interpretation. Aluminum cookware has been in use since 1807. Just like cast iron; aluminum is released from pans when acidic foods are cooked. The acidic properties of food interact with the metal affecting the protective coating or finish on the cookware. Lightweight aluminum is an excellent heat conductor and highly reactive with acidic foods like tomatoes, vinegar, and citrus juice. Such items can cause aluminum to leach into food, imparting a metallic taste and leaving the cookware with a pitted surface. These are the same foods that leach iron from cast iron and can damage poor-quality stainless steel.
There have also been reports aluminum is present in the brains of people with dementia and Alzheimers. This can be found in the early work done on Alzheimer’s when an autopsy was the sole avenue of determining Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Now with the availability of CAT and MRI scans, the location, development, and the “cause” is far more complex than one thing. Overall health plays a role, including diet, diabetes, the microbiome of the mouth, the environment and genetics. A groundbreaking text by Russell L. Blaylock, MD, in 1997 called Excitotoxins, revealed the damage to brain cells when MSG and Aspartame, along with naturally occurring glutamates in high levels, are present in the diet. These chemicals affect the cell’s ability to regulate fluid, resulting in the cells bursting and leaving behind trace minerals like aluminum. While this research has been pushed to the shadows in favor of designer therapies, it still has value. Over the last 3 decades, research on Alzheimer’s has linked a wide range of causes, only to be disproved and only looking at the brain as a single organ, not part of an amazingly complex life form. Today we face a new paradigm in Alzheimer’s research linking oral bacteria and its effect on tao proteins. Now the question has changed to a different “what if”.
Lifestyle may be your biggest protector.
The tools we use for the preparation of food are important, but they are only one element of our lifestyle that supports well-being and longevity. When we narrow our focus to one thing as a cause, we also miss dozens, if not thousands, of other elements contributing to health. A narrow point of view assumes everyone is affected by a potential toxin or gene expression in the same way. Yet, as our technology opens the window to more information, research finds our bodies are capable of achieving homeostasis even under extreme challenges. Our bodies have been living with heavy metals and naturally occurring toxins from the beginning. When an individual cultivates well-being from a broader perspective, incorporating all aspects of nourishment- risks diminish along with the burden, confusion, and fear over what kind of food, cookware, water, air, or medicine to use.
In our book Empty Plate: Food~Sustainability~Mindfulness; Kathleen Bell and I share volumes of science supporting how our daily lifestyle choices make the difference in disease rates and longevity. A literature review expands the concept of nourishment and how more than food is necessary for health.
Expanding the definition of nourishment to include lifestyle and environmental sources beyond diet.
Tammera Karr, PhD, BCHN™, CNW®, and Kathleen Bell, RN, MSN, CNM, AHN-BC™
National Association of Nutrition Professionals and American Holistic Nurses Association
Published February 13, 2022
The purpose of this literature review is to expand the limitations of the common scientific definition of Nourishment to a broader holistic understanding relating to health. Is Nourishment limited to nutrients extracted through digestion? Or does Nourishment also include elements ingested from exposures to environment, culture, beliefs, social, connections, wavelengths, and smells as well as calories? To Nourish is to provide food or other substances necessary for growth, health and well-being. Well-being is a positive outcome that is meaningful for people and society. The authors demonstrate evidence that food alone is not sufficient to sustain human health and vitality.
Nutrients in food become information and control aspects of human biology and physiology, but Nourishment is not derived solely from food, Nourishment enters the body through multiple pathways. For example: Research shows that taste develops in the womb before birth as the fetus is introduced to foods the mother consumes. Fetal growth and development proceeds without the physical ingestion of foodstuffs; Nourishment is provided through the mother. Additional research illustrates health of both mother and child are affected by multi-faceted environmental, cultural, and biochemical factors.
Wellness can be viewed as an active process of becoming aware of (mindfulness) and making choices that support the dynamism required to maintain homeostasis. Holistic health and well-being are outcomes of constant interaction between and among many dimensions of human life. Balance is achieved via devoting significant attention to each of the interrelated elements that comprise Nourishment. Lack of attention to one or more of these elements results in imbalances that may lead to deterioration and disease. By redefining the concept of Nourishment the reviewers’ intention is to illuminate the deficiencies of remaining within the confines of a reductionist paradigm, and to highlight possibilities available in the quantum era for persons to develop and regenerate health.
From this abstract, we have now written a full paper due to be published in the Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Newspaper through Pacific College of Health and Science.
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Over the two weeks, I have heard countless clients complain over the time change. The following days have been the land of zombies in some folks minds. Additionally, spring is upon us and with that; tree, grass and flower pollen. Spring is a time of rebirth, and rebounding energy, or at least the energy is supposed to bounce back into our lives. But what if it doesn’t? Some individuals may feel like spring energy has passed them by and they are permanent members of the zombie community.
Spring is a perfect time to fast. Countless faith communities practice fasting during the days preceding Easter, other cultures practice fasting as a regular part of their diet. Today we have research on the benefits of fasting for brain and neurological health. Spring is also a perfect time to clean house in the o’l liver. Traditionally Spring brings with it bitter greens that help with detoxing and purifying the liver and blood. Along with fasting, we have foods designed by the creator to restore energy and health while improving brain function; clearing the fog, fatigue, and depression of zombie land away.
Brain food is a terrific example of what we can do every day and with every meal to change not only how smart we are but how likely we are to develop age-related brain dysfunction. Cultures throughout the world incorporate food into their “health care plan” since most of these countries have socialized medicine it is in the governments best interest to encourage “wellness care” versus “disease management.”
Spring Greens – dark bitter greens such as dandelion, kale, mustard, collard, endive, chickory, and spinach are all considered “bitter greens” and provide nutrients that improve liver and gallbladder function – even when you do not have a gall bladder, bitter greens improve pancreas function and bile production for improved digestion.
Blueberries—Research has found blueberries can reverse age-related declines in motor function, balance, and coordination. Blueberries have compounds that boost neuron signals and help turn back on systems in the brain that can lead to using other proteins to help with memory or other cognitive skills.
Wild Caught Fish— Researchers in 2011, reported people who eat baked or broiled fish at least once a week may be protecting their brains from Alzheimer’s and other brain degenerative conditions.
Coffee—Regular coffee drinking has been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and other mental disorders. Coffee appears to increase blood levels of a factor associated with improved cognitive function in Alzheimer’s.
Caffeinated coffee has also been associated with protection against Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alzheimer’s. A study of 29,000 individuals found one to four cups daily decreased the risk of Parkinson’s by 47% and 5 or more cups reduced the risk by 60%.
Nuts— walnuts, almonds, cashews, and pecans, contain properties that help with everything from fighting insomnia to promoting mental clarity and sharp memory. Walnuts are rich in fatty acids while almonds contain natural mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.
Eggs—Yes I know the news told you researchers are back to saying eggs are bad for you – once again we are encountering faulty or bad research modules that lead to bad science. Egg yolks are rich in choline, an essential nutrient to improving memory function. B vitamins are a must for brain health, if you can’t eat eggs or don’t have a good free-range source for them, take a whole food B-complex.
Chocolate—Dark chocolate is magnesium and antioxidant-rich, it also improves focus and concentration. Milk chocolate, on the other hand, enhances memory and reaction time. (for you Marilyn, you can say ha to you know who now…)
Broccoli—Broccoli has been shown to improve memory function as well as slow the aging process. Broccoli is one of the most protective foods known to researchers today, it has been shown to activate more cell receptor sites – protecting your health, than any other single food next to pomegranates, and turmeric.
So there you have it the cure for zombie land and the time change is at your local farmers market or produce section. The more nutrient-dense foods incorporated into your diet, the better your energy and your allergies will be, then spring will have you bouncing like the lambs in the field.
“I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people
under the pretense of taking care of them.” — Thomas Jefferson
To learn More about Traditional Foods for Health Download your Copy Today!
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
Cultures throughout the ages have celebrated the return of spring after a long, harsh winter by eating the first new greens they can find. Native Americans took advantage of fresh, wild plants to supplement their winter diets of dried foods; foraging in woodlands or near streams could bring in an entire meal in some cases.
Mushrooms often sprouted with the renewed moisture of spring; experts had to hunt for this very nutritious, but dangerous food. Women hunted dandelions, wild onions and leeks, ramps, chickweed, poke, and wild mustard (or a related plant called “creasy greens”) as soon as possible since many of these plants get more bitter as they grow older. Even young, tender leaves and shoots can be bitter, but these wild plants are very nutritious and have long been considered a tonic to wake up the liver and kidneys after a long winter diet of dried starches (like beans and pumpkin) and meat.
Traditional (Algonquin) Green Salad: One-part wild onions or leeks, chopped, and one and a half parts dandelion leaves, to four parts watercress. Add a small amount of sheep or wood sorrel, and then flavor to taste. Add a bit of maple syrup for sweetness, or use other traditional flavorings like salt, along with enough oil to coat the leaves.
Spring Food locally available
Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Broccoli, Cabbages, Curly Kale, Rhubarb, Leeks, Spring Greens, rabbit, lamb, Wild Salmon, steelhead, Crab, Oysters, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Chicory, Cockles, Cod, Hake, Parsley, Mint, Spring Onions. Lettuces, Radishes, Spring Greens, Sea Kale, Watercress, Morel Mushrooms, Wild Garlic, Sorrel, Rhubarb, New Potatoes, Halibut, Sea Bass, Lemon Sole, Spinach.
All and many more of the foods listed here are available in our local farmers markets. Eating seasonally provides us with a opportunity to rebalance our immune systems, restore vital nutrients, control blood sugars and weight, reduce heart disease and cancer risks and improve digestion and cognition.
Here are a few reasons to spend your food dollars at local Farmers Markets or CSA’s when it comes to your health.
The Science for Seasonally Eating
According to research studies, nutrient content changes in foods depending on which seasons they were produced in. For example, in a study conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in London, England researchers found that nutrient content was different in milk harvested in the summer versus winter. Because of the change in the cow’s diet to less fresh plants in the summer, these cows produced nutritionally different milks. Japanese researchers also found tremendous differences in the nutritional content of spinach harvested in summer versus winter. , 
A Stanford study backs seasonal eating for healthy Microbiome; published in the Science journal; researchers found that the microbes in the members of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania change dramatically with each season, in sync with seasonal changes made to their diet.
The study showed that certain gut microbes that reside within the gut in one season may almost disappear in the next – suggesting there are dramatic changes taking place in the microbiome from one season to the next. The researchers concluded that the Hadza tribe’s gut microbes and their digestion is cyclical, and in sync with the precise bio-rhythm of nature. , , 
A study published by the University of Missouri confirmed availability of local food as key to improving food security. This is so very important for the low income of every community which are made up in large part by elderly and children. Most strategies to assist the hungry, including food banks and providing food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, are short-term, emergency solutions. Those who rely on these programs face daily shortages of fresh and healthy foods, which lead to poor diet choices, nutritional deficiencies, and health problems. An expert at the University of Missouri says the production of sustainable, locally grown foods is key to providing long-term food security for communities.
“We have to recognize that access to food is a human right,” says Michelle Kaiser, researcher in the School of Social Work in the College of Human Environmental Sciences.
So Let’s head out to a local Farmers Market, or CSA – our health will be better for it.
By Tammera J. Karr, PhD
All of us know someone affected by cognitive impairment, the words Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s seem to be synonymous with the ever-growing aging population in America today. The unfortunate part is the belief nothing can be done to prevent cognitive decline.
Maybe more than any other disease, severe cognitive impairments have the potential to unravel families. They drag on for years, and cognitive decline illnesses are not “lethal” in the ordinary sense. People with Alzheimer’s can lead long lives, the latter halves of which can get very difficult for everyone involved. There’s an entire body of literature devoted to studying the effects of Alzheimer’s on families and caregivers and discovering practical methods for mitigating the damage done. You do not get that so much with other diseases.
Most other diseases affect what we consider to be the peripheral tissues. Heart disease is about the heart. Kidney disease affects the kidneys. Cancer can strike anywhere, but it is usually in an organ or bone. Most diseases leave our person-hood intact. We are still us, even when we are riddled with tumors or on dialysis. However, with cognitive declines like Alzheimer’s, dementia and Parkinsons, we disappear. We lose who we are, where we live, how old we are, and the name family and friends.
People define themselves by their intellect; our superior mind is what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. When that goes, what’s left?
Well, there is a growing body of research supporting change – the earlier in life we make those changes, the healthier, including mental acuity we will have in the last decades of our life.
Here’s what researchers are showing makes the difference:
Take vitamin D and vitamin K2.
Quality DHA to support synaptic health (fish oil, fish)
Optimize mitochondrial function (CoQ10, zinc, selenium, other nutrients).
Use medium chain triglycerides (coconut oil, MCT oil).
A 2014 study reported nine of the ten patients showed subjective or objective improvements in cognitive function and performance within 3-6 months. The one failure was a person with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Of the six patients who’d had to stop working due to their cognitive decline, all six were able to return to work. In a 2.5 year follow-up, the patients had sustained and even improved on their results.
Neither the researchers or the study subjects worried about the dreaded boogyman “saturated fat” or “butter.” Only one subject stopped eating “meat.” others switched to grass-fed beef over conventional beef. The study did not require sodium restriction or statin medications – however, we know from additional research a whole fresh food diet is essential. You will not see results like this eating from cans, boxes, bottles or bags, neither will fast food restaurants do anything other then propel the decline in your health.
The researcher confirmed the protocol worked in ApoE4 subjects, the genetic variant with the highest likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s. Even the cynics are cautiously optimistic about the research findings.
Today we have affordable DNA testing to alert us to many health challenges, providing time to make positive changes in our lifestyles primarily diet, which reduce the likelihood of genes becoming active and expressing unwanted illnesses.
The truth is all of us need to take better care of our brains and the bodies that go along with it. Researchers are shining the light brighter each day on the role of food and the prevention of chronic illnesses. Gone are the days when we must just give in to the wear and tear of time. With new health insights and return to the traditional use of foods as medicine, we can fight back against cognitive decline.
So now I ask you the more important question – Why wouldn’t you want to make changes that improve the quality of your health?
Here is to eating real food for the future – memories are worth keeping.
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD
An effective detoxification program will not ask you to make any dramatic lifestyle and dietary changes. Healthier food and lifestyle choices are generally made on a subconscious level. Once the body begins to eliminate toxins, it will naturally start craving foods that will nourish it at an optimum level. That said, there are undoubtedly many things you can do to maximize the benefits of the cleanse you’re on from day one, and certain foods will help maintain the benefits of the detox for much longer.
A detox diet is a short-term diet, often 3- to 21 days, focused on removing toxins from the body. Although detoxification is ongoing in the body, toxins and stress prevent us from doing it optimally, which eventually affects our health. A detox diet allows our bodies to focus on self-healing, with the goal being to raise energy levels, stimulate digestive health, clear headaches, remove bloating, improve concentration and mood, avoid getting allergies, regain our natural ability to ward off colds and flu and prevent premature aging and disease.
In natural health writings from the 1900’s, it was common to see articles on digestive cleansing with tonics, enemas, fasting, and herbs. Detoxification has been practiced for centuries by many cultures around the world — including Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine.
The sad but undeniable truth is many are living in an environment toxic to their bodies, take a look at the following information:
How does detoxification work?
Basically, detoxification means cleaning the blood. It does this by removing impurities from the blood in the liver, where toxins are processed for elimination. The body also eliminates toxins through the kidneys, intestines, lungs, lymph, and skin. However, when this system is compromised, impurities aren’t properly filtered, and every cell in the body is adversely affected.
Many health ailments–headaches, exhaustion, and muscle cramps–are coming from toxicity. Toxins have been implicated in everything from increased risk of Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular disease to mental retardation and cancer.
A detox program can help the body’s natural cleaning process by:
10 ways to detoxify
Eliminate alcohol, coffee, cigarettes, refined and artificial sugars, fake fats found in margarine, and unfiltered tap water all of which act as toxins in the body and are obstacles to detoxifying. Also, minimize use of chemical-based household cleaners and personal health care products (cleansers, shampoos, deodorants, and toothpastes), and substitute natural alternatives.
Stress triggers your body to release stress hormones into your body affecting every metabolic pathway necessary for detoxification. While these hormones can provide the “adrenaline rush” to win a race or meet a deadline, in large amounts, they create toxins and slow down detoxification enzymes in the liver. Consider cutting out the news at dinner and bedtime add music that is around 60 beats per minute to calm the central nervous system throughout the day, all these are simple and effective ways to relieve stress.
People who are exhausted with low blood pressure may have adrenal weakness or fatigue. A detox diet is usually done after the adrenal glands have been replenished.
By Tammera J Karr, Ph.D., FAAIM, BCIH, BCHN ©2016
Many of you may have childhood stories like my husband and father of baldfaced hornet encounters. When these stories are being told, there is always someone who steps in the nest first who walked away relatively unscathed, while others are repeatedly stung and attacked.
Dealing with difficult family affairs, especially those involving the elderly can hold these moments as well. What is the old proverb – good intentions pave the way to hell. Those dealing with difficult, at best seniors, siblings, spouses, or even live-in care providers, will have moments they question their sanity for agreeing to be the “responsible one.” There are volumes of unknown laws, considerations, and medical pitfalls for the elder person to live with and for the designated family members to navigate – often under extream stress.
This is a perfect storm for migraines, high blood pressure, ulcers, IBS, insomnia, panic attacks, stroke, heart attacks and those are just the family members, not the elders. With seniors, it becomes easy for them to be over medicated, loss of appetite, outbursts of tears or anger, retreating into themselves, incontinence, or personal endangerment with erratic decision making.
The best-laid plans of mice and men, all of a sudden change, rapidly when you decide to bring mom or dad into your home. They actually go out the window if your elders are more than you can handle, and they must be placed in a memory care facility for medication and mental evaluation against their will. These are the times it is important for you to have documentation, be prepared for allegations of elder abuse, neglect or miss appropriations of resources; waged by other family members or even the elder in question.
Now, this certainly isn’t the case for everyone, but trust me there are those out there who have had their lives turned upside down by situations like these. Family caregivers begin reacting not responding to the crisis at hand, later regretting some of the decisions made in the heat of the moment. Relationships can be irreparably damaged. Some of this could be avoided with careful planning before saying yes to our loved one’s requests to care for them, or before asking someone to care for you.
Everyone reading this who has elder family members or spouses should begin with attending classes on planning for the senior years. Classes are often free and offered through churches, senior services, and the veterans administration. Learn how to set up medical information portals to review medical records including medication lists. Ask questions about credit scores and banking liabilities before agreeing to be involved with financial decisions. And if it is a married couple needing simultaneous care investigate conservatorships, powers of attorney, medical guardianship’s, and advanced directives; all carefully before a crisis happens.
Talking but not heard, may be the case for both the elder family member and for those caring for them. This was brought more fully to my attention by Therese Johnson, Gerontologist, and Senior Care Consultant. Therese stressed the importance of validation communication with older family members. She directed my attentions to the work of Naomi Feil and her book the Validation Breakthrough ; Validation is a way of communicating with older adults with Alzheimer’s-type dementia. This approach reduces stress, enhance dignity, and increase the happiness of the elder family member and those caring for them.
Since its inception in 1989, Validation has helped thousands improve their relationships with loved ones with dementia. Caregivers who use these techniques validate older adults’, rather than focusing on disorientation and confusion.
Research in the United States and Europe show trying to make older family members deal with the realities of what is happening, which can push them farther into disorientation and confusion, isn’t the best approach; it is better to talk to older folks in a different fashion, which allows them to come back to reality through validating their frustration, anger, fear and sense of loss. Many individuals in their seventies are then able to resume their lives with modest supervision.
Now I’m not known for my patience, which may mean my personality is not well suited as a caregiver. All the more reason to do homework before saying yes to that special older person.
When caregivers are under the hornets-nest-stress, they often look to foods to sooth, which in turn can create health problems for the care provider. Muddying ones ability to think clearly, support energy and healing ability of the body. Here is when others can be so invaluable to the struggling caregiver. Friends and family can provide nourishing food, and provide opportunities for caregivers to have safe conversations to detox from the problems of the day. Nothing can refuel the exhausted caregiver as efficiently as a nourishing meal with laughter .
Here is to transition without the sting.
We have had numerous road trips to central California since March 2016 to help elder family members. But in May, we brought the Aunt and Uncle home with us. During this time, our focus has been on their needs and helping them regain some of their mental and physical strength. The care of elder family members was not new to us, but, and that is a big but, everyone is different, and the experience was vastly different from our time with the Mother-in-Law.
I caught myself wondering if there was an owner’s manual to cover real life challenges for both parties of this story. Anne, a friend of ours in Texas said to me – “girl, you need to write a book on this.” Anne is now approaching her 50’s, and lives with her aging mother; she has lived through a multitude of life changes with family and clients. “No one has written about what it is like in the trenches,” she said to me…. “It is easy to see why family just dumps their older parents in care facilities, that way they don’t have to deal with the messy parts of aging.”
Some of the messy parts of aging involve adult diedies (diapers) as my Uncle calls them, then there is the other favorite “nose papers.” I learned the importance of providing my Uncle with a masculine carrier for his emergency needs – no man of his generation is comfortable carrying a flowery bag or shopping bag into a public restroom. It is hard for them to maintain their dignity when they are faced with incontinence, especially when they are slower moving and unstable. The length of time required for them to navigate to the bathroom, clean, change and straighten themselves is exhausting. The need to remain independent runs deep in many elder family members and the barging-in of an inpatient caregiver, to help them hurry up, in the bathroom is mortifying.
I selected a small easy to carry backpack in black for my uncle with a larger area for the diedies and flushable wipes. The outer smaller pocket was perfect for the medication or test kit he would also need, and the mesh side pockets kept water and smoothy bottles easy to access. Now he can walk into a public area prepared without embarrassment. Oh and I also stocked it with pocket-sized nose paper (kleenex) for the weepie dry eye or blueberry stain on his nose.
We learned the importance of having a trash can large enough to handle unmentionables with a lid in the home bathroom. This allowed for odor control, privacy, and convenience.
Change is never easy; it is especially hard for the elderly who have cognitive elasticity challenges (memory and anxiety), the change of purses, wallets, coats, shoes or suitcases may place your elder family members in a tailspin. The Aunt has used a black leather purse for decades, a well-meaning family member gave her and insisted she uses a bright flowery summer bag. For two weeks the Aunt searched each day for her purse where she knew all her valuable information and stuff was kept. Each day we would retrieve her new bag for her and remind her this was hers now. The anxiety was evident and potentially unnecessary. One day she couldn’t remember where her little Yorkies leash was (it was in her belly bag), it took until the next day for her to recover. For the first two weeks, the Aunt believed she didn’t have any clothes to change into because the suitcase in her room was green. Her suitcase was red, once we learned this, we quickly changed her clothes into a red suitcase we had on hand– she was fine after that.
Sundowners syndrome: making changes later in the day can be the hardest. For most of us, sunset isn’t a problem; it is a time to unwind and relax. For family members with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it can be a time of increased memory loss, confusion, agitation and even anger. Witnessing this increase in symptoms of disorientation at sunset can be troubling, painful, frightening and exhausting for family and caregivers.
Common Sundowning Triggers:
Too Much End-of-day Activity: Some researchers believe the flurry of activity toward the end of the day may lead to anxiety and confusion. We personally saw this to be true.
Fatigue: End-of-day exhaustion or suddenly the lack of activity was also a contributor.
Low Light: As the sun goes down, the quality of available light may diminish, and shadows may increase, making vision even more challenging.
Internal Imbalances: Hormone imbalances or possible disruptions in the internal biological clock that regulate cognition between waking and sleeping hours is also a principle cause.
Winter: The onset of shorter days exacerbates sundowning, we also saw the changes in weather from sunny to stormy increased symptoms. Depression is a major challenge for those with memory issues.
Grace and Grit: Insights to Real-Life Challenges of Aging for Adult Children and Their Parents By Fritzi Gros-Daillon
How Hard Could It Be?: A Caregiver’s Story By Margaret Sheehan
How To Fold Superman’s Cape: A Woman’s Guide To Elder Care by James Burns Jr.
The complete elder care planner: For caregivers of aging parents or other family members by Joy Loverde
To a grace-filled elder life transition.
by Tammera J. Karr, PhD, BCHN, BCIH
Two years ago, we said yes to an elderly family member when they asked if we would help them when the time came. We knew from past experience that this could mean trying times for both our elder family members and us, some of you like us may say – “what was I thinking?” There may be days when you repeat yourself twenty times or days you hear the same stories over and over, deal with tears and anger. These are the days when Gods grace and peace will be your closest friend – that is once you can take a moment to recognize it’s presence.
These are the times sleep may be the most elusive for both you as a caregiver and for your elder family members. The change in environment can bring about increases in insomnia, pain, listlessness, confusion and short tempers. When sleep is in short supply it has an effect on cognitive functions; words may escape you, forgetfulness and spaciness may be your daily or weekly companions. Along with this may come an increase in headaches, blood pressure and cravings for sugar, salt and even alcohol. These are all ways of self-medicating in an effort to relax. The downside is food just like drugs never actually provides the relief hoped for.
There is research available today showing the benefits of L-theanine for the support of sleep architecture. L-theanine comes from green tea; Theanine is a constituent believed to counter-balance the stimulatory effects of the caffeine content in tea. Theanine comprises approximately 1% to 2% of the dry weight of tea leaves; theanine is also present in Xerocomus badius (a type of mushroom).
Theanine lowers blood pressure in hypertension patients, prevent ischemic stroke and minimize memory impairment after the occurrence of stroke. Theanine increases alertness, is used in the prevention and treatment Alzheimer’s and various subgroups of dementia; L-theanine has been found to be useful in the treatment of anxiety; due to its ability to generate (relaxing) alpha waves in the brain and increase attention span.
We can’t overlook the food component of elder care. Food doesn’t have to be bland, but it has to be something our seniors are willing and able to eat. I like spicy food, my Aunts and Uncle do not. For them, simple peasant foods that are flavorful but not spicy are the better choices along with healthy protein sources and vegetables. Most seniors do not require three full meals a day, but rather small snacks and two meals. For those who are diabetic or concerned about memory challenges, selecting low glycemic foods and following a paleo dietary plan reduces inflammation and erratic blood sugar spikes. Don’t overlook the need for healthy fat; the diet should contain 15% saturated fats from real butter, animal and plant sources. With the remaining 15% coming from avocados, olive, nuts, seeds, and fish. Fat is crucial to blood sugar regulation and in maintaining weight for an elder who are borderline sarcopenia. Both fat and protein play key roles in the utilization of neurotransmitters necessary for cognition and memory.
As daytime temperatures increase, pay close attention to water consumption and sodium, low sodium levels and dehydration are common causes of memory loss and confusion. The standard of care is to restrict water for those with low sodium. However, this may be counter-productive and should be discussed with healthcare providers to be sure it is the best option for your senior and their health.
Minimizing inflammation is a huge part of dietary concerns for elder family members. While meat and potatoes may be the foods they want most, they can also be what is causing increases in pain for them. Gout is caused by sugar, processed flour, red meat and some fish like salmon high in purines. Here is when tart cherries come to the rescue for many. Cherries are highly beneficial for those with inflammatory illnesses, in side by side studies with prescription anti-inflammatory medications the cherries outperformed the prescription drugs and had no side effects to cause additional challenges.
While some may have a passionate relationship with the divine, others may be agnostic, or atheist. Often religious beliefs are varied within a family and can be a source of conflict. For me it isn’t about what church you go to but whether you have faith. During my mother-in-law’s final days, we knew she was set in her agnostic beliefs, instead of brow beating her or asking her to change her thoughts we prayed in quiet for a peaceful passing, which she had. A relationship with our maker is a private one; his grace is there for the asking, and you as the caregiver may be in the greatest need.
To a grace-filled elder life transition.
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by Tammera J. Karr, PhD, BCHN, BCIH
Life is ever changing, and with it are unexpected surprises and challenges. This spring has reminded me of this, as an elderly Aunt and Uncle have moved back to the west coast and have been needing help getting settled. This event has reminded me of the changes and challenges we went through when my mother-in-law moved in with us. The trials are never one-sided; they affect everyone in the caregiver/elder relationship. No matter how much you may love your family, no one can push your buttons like that of a parent or sibling.
Not everyone is well suited to being a caregiver, and often times those who are caregiver’s burnout or collapse from the “stress” of always being alert or vigilant to the needs of their charge. New parents go through this, then as time passes a balance – new normal settles in. This process isn’t quite so easy when it comes to our elder loved ones.
Our parents or older charges have lived life, been independent, functioning, and in charge for years, unlike children. They have moved and shaken business’, communities and shaped the world we live in. For them, the loss of independence is heartbreaking, frustrating and depressing. The realization they are in the final portion of their journey through life makes for anger, fear and confusion. As their bodies fail to answer their commands, their minds rebel – you see they mentally do not feel like an “old man or woman.” I distinctly remember my mother-in-law saying to me; “ it makes me so damn mad, my brain isn’t any different than when I was in my forties, but my body has betrayed me.”
When older family members move in with you, they have given up a big chunk of themselves in order to have your help and safety. They balk at “your rules” just like any normal adult would do, and while some may thrive on being “cared for” like a child others begin to resist and respond with anger. This creates confrontation and stress for everyone. The older family members have to change their schedule to suit whomever it is they are living with, and this is not always easy – years or decades of habits may be in conflict with what you as the caregiver feels is correct.
Equally, the caregiver has their privacy, independence, work schedule and life altered. Often times the caregiver is a family member in their early fifties, they were planning for retirement and all the things they have always wanted to do; or they are at the peak of their career and soon feel overwhelmed by the addition of care responsibilities – these responsibilities often come hand-in-hand with those already involving college-age children. As modern adults, we have a lot going on, sometimes too much, and it is impossible for us to wish for the good ol’ days because we don’t really have the same history as a different generation like that of our parents. My Aunt Linda shared with us the following – “Your memories are not the memories of those you are caring for”. If they are not correct by your recollection, it is ok; you can still enjoy them”. Frustration is not just reserved for the caregiver. However, there are times you will want to pull your hair out or wring a neck.
No matter how much you may love those in need, there are times the situation or person may be “toxic” to you; not everyone can be a care provider, and it is important to know and be willing to ask for help. My Aunt and Uncle have always been very independent and in charge of their life journey. Today may be a good day, or it may be a bad day, but it is their day just the same. It isn’t one I have to fix; it is one I am willing to share with them and help them through. As appointed caregivers we help family members find a compromise – whether it is in regards to the amount of support they need or finding the right place for them as individuals to live were full-time care is available. They need to feel they can trust, just as much as you need to feel you are doing the best for them. Be willing to allow your elder family to settle be involved with making the decisions in regards to their care and personal routine; don’t assume you know best and forced them to your will.
Our own fears over our family members wellbeing and safety will cloud our thought process and as care providers if we are not careful; irreparable damage to our relationship with our family may occur. I tell my clients; Consider carefully how you want to be remembered and remember your loved ones. The choice is all in your hands.
To a peaceful life transition.