The link between Alzheimer’s and mad cow disease

April 16, 2009 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

laboratory2Could there be a link between Alzheimer’s disease and mad cow disease? Most likely, according to researchers at Yale University. And the link seems to be in the proteins called prions that are associated with mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE in medical speak) and its human equivalent Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. BSE is a neurodegenerative disease in cattle that has caused fatalities in Europe, especially in the UK. Furthermore, it is feared that those who consume the brain of the infected animals may also develop the disease in the form of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is characterized by amyloid aggregrates or plaques that accumulate in the brain. These aggregates are formed by a misfolded protein β-amyloid (Aβ)

However, the mechanism with which Aβ triggers neuron damage and death in AD patients has always been a mystery.

According to Stephen Strittmatter, professor of neurology at Yale School of Medicine and lead study researcher

The mechanism by which the production of Aβ makes neurons sick has been a black box. In this study we set out to understand how a certain form of Aβ associated with disease, the oligomeric form, can interact with neurons and trigger the toxic cascade of the disease process. We identified PrP [prion protein] as the surface protein needed for Aβ to disrupt functions of neurons in a dish.”

The prion protein (PrP) is the protein that forms aggregates in mad cow disease and CJD. The Yale researchers have also identified it to be one of the main cellular receptors for Aβ. The study findings suggest that these two proteins PrP and Aβ activate a neurodegenerative disease signaling pathway that is common to both AD and CJD. The results have been published in the journal Nature. Many researchers in the field of neurodegenerative disorders are surprised by the findings because PrP has never been linked to memory function and dysfunction before.

The Yale researchers made their observations on the behavior of the said proteins in vitro, e.g. in cell cultures in the lab. The study has opened new avenues in AD research. The next step would be to check whether the Aβ-PrP link has any functional significance in vivo. It is expected that more studies will now focus on the exploring this protein connections in animal models.

In addition, the study findings also suggest the possibility of a new therapeutic angle for AD. Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) that target PrP, for example, could potentially be useful in treating AD. PrP antibodies which have been developed by veterinary diagnostics companies for animal use may also be explored for potential therapeutic use in the treatment of AD.

Finding the Right Alzheimer’s Care Facility for Your Loved One

July 23, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

No one likes to think that they will put their loved one in a nursing home one day. Unfortunately, most Alzheimers patients eventually will need to be placed in an Alzheimers care facility. Because Alzheimer’s disease robs a person of his or her ability to handle everyday activities, often families will find they cannot care for their loved one at home. It is usually during the later stages of the disease when patients lose their ability to dress themselves, feed themselves and need help going to the bathroom that an Alzheimer’s care facility is considered by families.

Once your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, you should begin considering your options for the future. Include long term care in your planning even if you don’t feel as if you want to go in that direction. It is better to have planned and not need than to need and not plan.

There are several things to know when looking at an Alzheimer’s care facility. You should know how they care for Alzheimers patients and how much experience they have had in dealing with patients suffering from the disease. Do they separate Alzheimer’s patients from the rest of the population? What safety measures are in place? Do they have a restraint policy? What is their end of life policy? Do they provide/encourage hospice care?

Some long term care facilities specialize in treating Alzheimer’s patients. What are the advantages of this type of Alzheimer’s care facility over a more traditional nursing home or assisted living facility?

You should anticipate how you will pay for the Alzheimer’s care facility. Some long-term insurance polices will cover a stay in an Alzheimer’s care facility. Some private insurance companies may cover this expense as well. Many people have set aside funds should they need long-term care and that money is available for the family‘s to pay for the Alzheimer‘s care facility.

There are several types of Alzheimer’s care facilities. You and your loved one’s physician can discuss which Alzheimer’s care facility will best suit the needs of your loved one.

Assisted living facilities provide housing, meals, health care and support for Alzheimer’s patients. This type of Alzheimer’s care facility is also called board and care, adult living and supported care. Many Alzheimer’s patients live in this type of Alzheimer’s care facility after moving out of their homes. This type of Alzheimer’s care facility is often a suitable alternative to a nursing home for Alzheimer’s patients who can still perform some day to day activities. An assisted living facility is not regulated by the federal government.

Some patients want an Alzheimer’s care facility that is targeted to their needs. An Alzheimer’s special care unit may be found in a nursing home or hospital setting where Alzheimer’s patients live within a unit. Treatment at these Alzheimer’s care facilities focuses on the needs of Alzheimer’s patients.

If you are unsure as to what kind of Alzheimer’s care facility your loved one needs, the Alzheimers Association has an online guide. CareFinder ( helps families chose the best Alzheimer’s care facility. CareFinder teaches families how to seek local support. It also guides families as to how to pay for the Alzheimer’s care facility

This article was adapted from an article at www.helpwithalzheimer’
Additional sources include:, and the article, Where Should Alzheimer’s Patients Live

Alzheimer’s Disease Information for Patients and Families

July 22, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

With millions of people around the world caught in its grasp, Alzheimers is a disease whose implications are still being felt. Sneaking in and slowing removing a person’s ability to recall, function and even remember their own family and friends, this condition is a nasty one that can impact not only the affected patients, but also everyone around them. With this in mind, it is very important for people faced with this condition to arm themselves with solid Alzheimers disease information.

Despite or in spite of its widespread reach, there are a lot of myths that surround Alzheimers. While having correct Alzheimers disease information won’t likely provide a family with the solace it might need following a diagnosis, it can help them better understand the condition and what to expect. Separating the fact from the fiction is very important for those who need to make decisions about future care and potential treatments.

Let’s look at some of the myths that sometimes prevent the real Alzheimers disease information from getting out:

* Memory loss is normal. While it might be normal to become a little forgetful as we age, serious memory loss is not normal. Any severe loss of memory, such as that associated with Alzheimers or other forms of dementia, is not normal under any circumstance.

* Aluminum causes Alzheimers. The real Alzheimers disease information to be had out of this one is that there is no known cause for this condition. There are some potential links, but confirmation has not been made. In regard to aluminum specifically, studies have not been able to determine a real link between drinking out of cans and contracting Alzheimers. The flu shot rumor also doesn’t seem to be true.

* The condition is not fatal. This is a false piece of Alzheimers disease information. While it is more likely that other conditions will arise that can be fatal before the deterioration progresses to the parts of the brain that control major bodily functions, the disease is considered fatal in and of itself by many experts.

* Diet sodas cause Alzheimers. This is another fallacy. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been studying this claim since some scientists raises concerns about Nutrasweet and Equal, but no connection has been found as of yet.

* Alzheimers can be stopped in its progression. Sadly, this is not true. While there are some treatments that might slow the steady pace of progression, stopping it is not possible at this time. It might even be possible to stabilize a patient for a while, but no treatments have proven effective over the long haul.

Alzheimers disease information available to date doesn’t provide a lot of answers for patients and their families that might be struggling to come to grips with a diagnosis. The reality is there is still much to learn about this condition and with how little is actually known, many myths seem to thrive.

Patients and families with questions and concerns should seek medical advice. There are even some very good support groups for those impacted by this mysterious and devastating condition.

For more information on Alzheimers, try visiting – a website that specializes in providing Alzheimers related tips, advice and resources to include information on Alzheimers disease information.

Article Source:

Alzheimer’s Mirrors and Anxiety

July 21, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

A disturbing phenomenon sometimes occurs in a person in mid-stage Alzheimer’s. It is totally frustrating to the caregiver who doesn’t understand what’s happening, and it is terrifying to the person with Alzheimer’s. Often, the patient or loved one will seem to get upset or even hysterical for no reason at all, but there is always a reason, and in many cases, the culprit is the mirror. Yes, the mirror.

To fully explain how a mirror can alarm your loved one, let’s go back to the basics. By now, you already know that Alzheimer’s disease attacks the short-term memory and gradually erodes every memory, one memory at a time. So what happens when an 85 year old woman (who doesn’t remember ever being 85) looks into the mirror and sees an image of a woman who is not the 25 year old she thinks she is? She is virtually looking at a stranger, and she is terrified. She may even think there is a stranger in the house. Could this be happening in your house?

Observe where your loved one is when the behavior begins. Is there a mirror nearby? There are so many situations over which you, the caregiver, have no control. However, you can control how many mirrors are available in the house. Just imagine how you would feel if you looked into the mirror and discovered that you had aged 60 years overnight. This could be happening to your loved one every day.

Sometimes, your loved one may make friends with the person in the mirror. This is not as disturbing; however, you might discover missing food in the most unusual places because they are saving food for their friend in the mirror.

As a side note, the mirror could play a major role in a loved one’s refusal to shower. After all, who wants to undress in front of a stranger?

If you find that the mirror is, indeed, causing the behavior, then limit, or better yet, eliminate access to mirrors. Alzheimer’s disease is a cruel, insidious disease that can make life unbearable for both the one who has it, and for the caregiver. Remember, for every behavior, there is a trigger. If the mirror is the trigger, and you remove the mirror, then you’ve not only eliminated the behavior, you have done a great service for your loved one.

More information about []Alzheimer’s Caregiver Help can be found at []

Brenda Dapkus Co Owner of Alzheimer’s Family Help. We provide caregivers with tips and solutions to behaviors common to Alzheimer’s.

Article Source:,-Mirrors-and-Anxiety&id=1219871

Alzheimer’s, Dementia and Sex (part 2)

June 30, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Okay, so let’s finish this conversation.

Like I said the other day, if you want to see anyone on the caregiving spectrum from a teenager to an adult child blush-talk about their loved one’s sex life.

I mean, I am grown, have children of my own and have literally written the book on teen sexuality (Straight Talk, How Teens Make Wise decisions About Love and Sex, Review and Herald, 2000). Yet, I just can’t imagine my mom and dad uh……….. well, you know…having (whisper) sex. And furthermore, I really wouldn’t want to have to make decisions about their sex lives, especially when they were in their golden years and one of them had already died – because that would mean that one of my parents was having sex with someone other than my other parent.

However, putting your head in the sand, and ignoring the issue isn’t going to make it go away. I’ll never have to consider such things, as both of my parents are now deceased. But YOU may and again, like other care concerns, it’s better to give the issue consideration now, before it becomes a major problem.

Honestly, when I first read the story of Dorothy and Bob in Slate, I was amused. However, as I read and considered the depth of Dorothy and Bob’s relationship and the obvious furor of Bob’s son, I realized that this is no laughing matter. Most importantly, when I read of Dorothy’s depression and despondency after the relationship was abruptly forced to an end by Bob’s son, It made me realize that this issue of seniors, dementia and sexuality is an area that must be given serious consideration.

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. Can someone with dementia give consent?
  2. What if the current behavior violates grandma’s long standing moral principles?
  3. What if the relationship violates the primary caregiver’s morals or principals?
  4. Do facility employees have a right to get involved?

In this situation, there may be more questions than answers. Personally, I’d want my family to make decisions for me based upon my life’s principles, morals and values up to that point. The problem is that if I had dementia, I wouldn’t be logical enough to understand my family’s possible “restrictions” on my desires.

It’s something to think about and seriously consider. My advice. Think about it now. Consider it before it becomes an emergency. Talk about it with potential long term care providers and be prepared. As baby boomers age and the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia increases as well. This won’t be interesting or amusing. It will just be another issue that caregivers consider as they battle, the monster, Alzheimer’s disease.

What do you think? Have you been forced to think about and consider your loved one’s sex life?

Why Get Organized?

June 2, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Have you ever wanted everything around you to stop for a period of time, say a day, week month or longer, just so that you could get a handle on all that you have to do?

Wouldn’t that be the best thing? I mean, we could catch up on everything from giving some attention to the junk drawer to the weighter matters like making that eye doctor’s appointment, calling the adult day care center to see if it’s a fit for your loved one or rallying some family and friends to give you some much needed help. Maybe we could take the time to consider the future beyond dinner tonight and tomorrow’s doctor’s appointment.

Unfortunately, time keeps going and we seem to get further and further behind. AND new things keep coming up. So, what’s an already stretched to the hilt caregiver to do?

Get organized. The very thought of it gives me a headache. Yet, I know that it is very important. Being organized would help as you battle Alzheimer’s disease. Check out the following stats from McMillan and Company Professional Organizers and the National Association of Professional Organizers:

The average American spends one year of his life looking for lost or misplaced items at home and in the office. US News and World Report

According to the American Demographic Society, Americans waste more than 9 million hours each day looking for lost and misplaced articles.

For every hour of planning, 3-4 hours are saved from redundancy, waiting for information, not being prepared and poorly managed tasks.

About 80% of the clutter in your home or office is a result of disorganization, not lack of space.

Cleaning professionals say that getting rid of excess clutter would eliminate 40% of the housework in an average home.

Given the above stats, we have good reason to get organized. We’d have less housework (my personal favorite) and more time because we wouldn’t lose precious time looking for things.

Now, as caregivers, the issue sometimes causes us to see double. I remember when my mom was caring for her aunt who eventually moved in with us. Auntie got rid of her furniture, but the rest of the “stuff” found its way to our home, which, by the way, already had plenty of “stuff.” There is also the issue of helping someone who may be moving into your home or into a care facility to de-clutter and pare down.

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about specific ways to get organized. Yes, it takes some time, but in the end it SAVES time and frustration. In the meantime, share your tips. Are you organized? What are your space and time saving ideas?

Share your photos! I’m looking for pictures of caregivers and/or your loved ones. Send the photo and a short (1-3 line bio about the people in the photo).

See you tomorrow with some time and space saving tips!

Diabetes and Alzheimer’s Partners in Crime

May 27, 2008 by  

Initially, it was chalked up to age. It was almost expected that a person with Alzheimer’s disease also suffered from diabetes or some other illness. The thought was that the person was aging and the other disorders were a function of an aging body and not necessarily related per se to Alzheimer’s disease.

Then the researchers started to consider the fact that people with Alzheimer’s disease were often battling other health issues such as: heart disease, stroke and especially diabetes.

Have you ever noticed that “a diet low in fat, and high in fiber, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables” is good for just about every sickness?

The point here is that good nutrition is good for the body AND the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is sometimes not detected until the person is in the third or fourth stage of the disease. By that time some damage has been done and changes have started to take place. Also, by that time other diseases have already manifested. Specifically, diabetes.

Research has shown that there is a connection between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. So, as you shield yourself against diabetes by eating a high fiber, low fat diet rich in complex carbs and whole grains you are doing “double duty” moreover, protecting yourself against Alzheimer’s disease and vice versa.

In some cases, Alzheimer’s is even being called type 3 diabetes.

You can get detailed information about the types of diabetes from Battling Diabetes. Click the links for information regarding type 1 diabetes, often diagnosed in children, teens and young adults, where the body ceases insulin production, and type 2 diabetes, where the body produces insulin, but not an adequate supply. In 2007, Time and USA Today ran stories about the link between Alzheimer’s and diabetes. even characterized Alzheimer’s disease as a form of diabetes. Suggesting that,

“Insulin disappears early and dramatically in Alzheimer’s disease,” In addition, “Many of the unexplained features of Alzheimer’s, such as cell death and tangles in the brain, appear to be linked to abnormalities in insulin signaling. This demonstrates that the disease is most likely a neuroendocrine disorder, or another type of diabetes,” said senior researcher Suzanne M. de la Monte, a neuropathologist at Rhode Island Hospital and a professor of pathology at Brown University Medical School.

In the end, it is more important to eat a balanced, nutritious diet that is low in fat and cholesterol; get plenty of exercise and address total health needs than to get all stressed about potentially getting Alzheimer’s disease. The research seems to suggest that a healthy body leads to a healthy brain.

What’s your experience? Are you providing care for someone who has Alzheimer’s AND another illness?

Advantages and Disadvantages of Hospice Care

May 14, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

This week, I am discussing hospice care. I’ve talked about what it is and isn’t and what it does and does not do. In addition, yesterday, I discussed some of the myths and misconceptions of hospice care. Today, I’ll discuss some of the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing hospice care.

First the advantages:

Advantage One
I think one of the biggest advantages of utilizing hospice is that it means that the patient and family are coming to grips with the reality that they are dealing with a “terminal illness.” As stated in another post, it doesn’t mean that life will end tomorrow or the next day, but choosing to enter hospice means that there is a realization that you are no longer actively attempting to cure the disease. Instead you are attempting to provide quality unconditional comfort and support to the patient and his or her family. Which leads me to the second advantage.

Advantage Two
Hospice is one of the only insurance benefits that specifically addresses the needs of the patient AND the patient’s family.

Advantage Three
Hospice care addresses the needs of the whole person. It responds to the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs of the individual. Hospice personnel have been known to help mend broken relationships and listen to a myriad of secrets and “confessions.”

Advantage Four
Hospice utilizes the team approach to care. Every hospice patient and family has a doctor, nurse, social worker, chaplain and possibly a volunteer as well. So, there is a constant evaluation of the patient and his or her needs at any given time.

Advantage Five

Hospice employees and volunteers are specialists. They understand the issues related to providing the best quality of life possible. They may understand various stages such as refusing food, withdrawing, etc. a little more than other medical professionals.

Advantage six
In many cases, the patient can remain at home surrounded by family and friends.

Advantage Seven
ospice is a much less alternative to staying in a hospital or long term care facility.

And now for the disadvantages:

Disadvantage One
The first disadvantage goes along with the first advantage. The realization of the inevitable. Sometimes patients are just not ready to accept the fact that they are “eligible” for hospice care. In some cases, admittance into hospice prior to the patient being “ready” may lead to down spirits, depression and a defeated attitude.

Disadvantage Two
Because of the complete nature of hospice care, the home is “invaded” as it were by caring specialists. If a patient or a family is extremely private, it can take some getting used to to have consistent visits from the hospice team.

Disadvantage Three
“Outsiders” who are not educated regarding hospice may believe that the end is closer than it really is because of the myths and misconceptions surrounding hospice.

Disadvantage Four
Depending on the configuration of your home, it may be difficult/cumbersome to have a set up that is comfortable. So, you’ll have to consider if you have space (if needed) for a hospital bed and other equipment.

In my humble opinion, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. More than anything, it’s a mindset. Again, it is a personal decision and one that will have impact long after your loved one is gone. I chose hospice for my mom. However, because I had not PLANNED or thought about it in advance, it was very difficult because I was not informed and I was afraid of the myths and misconceptions. I even had well-meaning medical personnel attempting to provide “comfort” that, as we discussed yesterday could have actually made my mother more uncomfortable.

That’s why, it is so important to read, research and even talk with patients who are utilizing hospice care and their families prior to making a decision. Maybe, the question isn’t whether or not you go with hospice (although, I think its a good choice), but whether or not you have carefully considered it as an option.

So, friend, as you battle Alzheimer’s disease, consider an option that will provide support and comfort for yourself and your loved one.

(Thanks again to the crew at Trinity Hospice – Pittsburgh. Not only did they provide awesome care for my mom, they continue to support me!)

Tomorrow – A Recipe For Life!

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To Tell or Not to Tell

May 8, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

This post discusses the merits of telling (or not telling) the affected person that he or she has Alzheimer’s disease.

Once Alzheimer’s disease is officially diagnosed, the primary caregiver and close family members have a decision to make.

Do you tell the affected person or not? There are valid arguments on both sides.  Let’s explore some of them.

Yes, tell the affected person what the diagnosis is and what it means.

Advantages of sharing the diagnosis

Knowing sometimes brings relief.  Although the person may not be able to articulate all that is going on, they know that something is awry.

Knowing takes away all need to lie and hide.  Often people in the earlier stages of Alzheimer’s disease make up excuses for their behavior and attempt to cover up mistakes.

Knowing may encourage the affected person to plan for the future.  Unfortunately, the prognosis for Alzheimer’s disease is quite certain.  The patient will know what is coming down the pike and can participate in long-term planning.

Knowing provides opportunity for cooperation on the affected person’s part–Eating a balanced diet, taking medications (which we’ll talk about in detail in an upcoming post), exercising the body and brain can possibly retard the progression of the disease.

Advantages of not sharing the diagnosis

Not knowing allows a sense of “normalcy.”  Denial is a coping mechanism that helps some people to make it through difficult times.

Not knowing may avoid some of the grief associated with reality of facing a terminal illness.

Not knowing may keep anxiety levels low.  For years, even doctors have advocated not causing further stress on already stressed individuals by not disclosing the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Not knowing may enable the affected person to keep fighting instead of giving up.  Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease.  Sometimes knowing the future is just too much information for some individuals to handle.

What do the experts say?

According to an article in the March 2008 edition of the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, there may actually be many benefits to telling patients that they  have Alzheimer’s disease.  In addition, the study indicates, that at least in the short run, knowing brings a level of relief.

“Overall, patients told of their diagnosis did not experience an uncontrollable surge in depression or anxiety. Rather, most were relieved to have an explanation for their symptoms. They were also glad to have the opportunity to participate in planning for their futures, and relieved that help was at hand.”

“One reason an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be comforting to both family members and patients, Dr. Carpenter suggests, is that it provides an explanation for what’s been going on with the patient. Caregivers, he notes, are often quick to attribute symptoms of dementia to the person, rather than the disease, and patients wonder if they are going “crazy.” This study confirms that most patients, regardless of their degree of impairment, tend to experience a sense of relief after getting their diagnosis.”  (see below)

In the end, to tell or not to tell is a very personal decision.  I did tell my mom she had Alzheimer’s disease, but it was long after we received the diagnosis.  I doubt that she understood.  She just looked at me with a blank stare.  I do wish that I had told  her earlier, like when I packed up her belongings and moved her 500 miles.  Maybe, it would have made the transition a little easier, but hindsight is always 20/20.

What’s do you think?  Did you tell?  Would you make the same decision again?

Note:  Kudos to the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation and their great site, for access to this research.  Click here to read more of the article.

Source: Brian D. Carpenter, PhD, Chengjie Xiong, PhD, Emily K. Porensky, MA, et al: “Reaction to a Dementia Diagnosis in Individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment,” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, March 2008, pages 405–412.

Caregivers Corner – An Open Letter to Caregivers

April 18, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Dear Caregiver,

Thank you for the sacrifice that you make to care of me.  Thank you for preparing my meals, driving me to doctor’s appointments and keeping me safe.  Thank you for keeping me clean and for handling my financial affairs.  Thank you for trying to make me a part of family activities and thank you for the gifts you give me, even though you are not sure that I know it’s a special day.

This disease has taken much from me.  So, I can’t explain things like I used to. But just because I can’t talk doesn’t mean I am not grateful.  Often when you look at me there is a distant look in my eyes.  It’s those time that I am most afraid.  I fear that caring for me will wear you out.  I fear that I am a burden to  you.  I fear you’ll throw up  your hands and give up.  I fear this prison in which I am trapped.  And yes, I fear death.

No one has talked to me about what is wrong with me, but I see the looks and hear the whispers.  I know it’s the “A” word.  Alzheimer’s.  I don’t know a lot about it, but I’ve never heard about remission or anyone being cured of it.  So, I know that these prison walls will just get more and more confining.  Maybe I’ll get to the point that I dont even recognize that I am in prison, but for now, I know and it’s hard.  It’s really hard.  I used to be the one giving the orders, running things and being in charge.  Now, I am here.  Sitting.  I am here.  Wandering.  I am here.  Wondering.  I am just here.

To you, my special caregiver.  Thanks so much for your care.  I know it’s not easy.  Sometimes I get angry and I lash out at you because you are closest to me.  I want you to make it all better, but I know you can’t.  I don’t mean to hurt you. 

And if it happens like I’ve heard, there may come a day that it I don’t remember you.  I may not know you at a given moment, but I will always love and appreciate you.  Hold on to that.  This disease may take my memory, but it won’t take my heart.

I love you more now than before my illness. 

 You are all I have. 

With Love,  The (grateful) Alzheimer’s patient

Brain Games and Other Activities

April 15, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

This post discusses brain games and other activities that may delay the onset and reduce the impact of Alzheimer’s disease and dementias

I want to say off the bat that I am quite familiar with Alzheimer’s disease and I am fully aware that there is not a game around that will prevent it from running its course.  So, my intent is not to provide snake oil or false hope.  Brain activities such as video games, crossword puzzles, sudoku checkers and chess to name few do have thier place though.  They provide activity and exercise for the brain, they require hand eye coordination and they require more complex thought than does say listening to the radio or watching TV.  In addition, in all honesty, they might keep your loved one busy enough to provide you as a caregiver a few moments while you attend to dinner or take care of other responsibilities.

As a person who suffers with Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia, these games can provide a great escape.  doing theme related crossword puzzles or word-finds is a great way to relax and remember a time that was much more carefree and much less confusing than these days are.  Sudoku and chess are great games for those who are still able handle the complexities associated with those activities.

Although alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia, such as vascular dementia initially present similarily with symptoms such as confusion, short term memory loss and difficulty handling day to day activities such as balancing a checkbook.  They differ widely in their progression and end result.  I will save the details for another post.  My point for today is that activity is good for all types of dementia.

Why activity is important:

Physical activity-Physical activity is as good for the brain as it is for the body. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and creates an overall feeling of well being.  From a physical perspective, it strengthens the heart, muscles and combats extra pounds piling on.

Here are some things you can do to keep moving:


Take the stairs

Join an exercise class

Mental Activity-The brain needs exercise too. The Alzheimer’s Association of Canada endorses brain games.  You can click here for the entire article, but some of the activities they recommend are:

Crossword Puzzles

Reading and keeping up with current affairs

Computer games

So, no matter what you do, as you battle the monster, Alzheimer’s disease know that activity, whether physical or mental is a good thing!

Alzheimer’s Disease and Caregiver Grief

April 7, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

There is no getting away from it, battling the monster, Alzheimer’s disease causes grief on a number of different levels.  It’s extremely complicated, but it’s also necessary to acknowledge and work through.

Alzheimer’s related caregiver grief begins long before the affected person gets near death.  That in and of itself is problematic because you may feel guilty for grieving when your loved one is still alive and maybe not even near death as yet.

The first thing to remember is that grief is not just related to death, it is related to LOSS,  and as the disease progresses it is clear that you are experiencing some significant losses.  You may grieve the loss of the original relationship.  Roles are often reversed or at least revised.  Children and grandchildren take on the role of  parents.  Sometimes spouses, who were once on equal footing- slowly see a metamorphosis whereby one takes on a more protective and “in charge” role.  While the affected one, in the initial stages, may or may not readily accept the change in roles.  This loss of relationship as you know it is reason to grieve.  Yes, your loved on is still alive, but it’s not the same. 

I remember crying on Mother’s day and feeling horribly about it because my mother was still alive.  I’m ashamed to say it, but that’s not the mother I wanted.  I WANTED MY MOTHER.  Yes, I was grateful that she was still alive, but I wanted her alive in her fullness.  I wanted her to be able to laugh with me. I wanted to see that twinkle in her eye and hear one of those quick little quips. I wanted us to cook late into the night and talk later into the night.  So, for years, I grieved the loss of our relationship while she was alive. And honestly, I beat myself up a lot because I didn’t understand it.

Please, give yourself a break. If you can understand that grief is related to loss and not only death, then you can give yourself permission to grieve the losses that you are experiencing.  I would say this though.  Try to strike a balance.  Give yourself permission to grieve, which is normal.  At the same time, be grateful that you do still have your loved one, even if it’s not on your terms. 

How to grieve while your loved one still lives

  1. Take time to explore your feelings.  It’s okay to cry and be angry.
  2. Understand that what you are feeling is normal.
  3. Talk about what you are feeling with a trusted friend or counselor.  Consider keeping a journal.
  4. Know that your grief won’t end per se, it will however change faces as the illness progresses.  Give yourself time.
  5. Celebrate the positive and hold on to your good memories

Most of all be patient with yourself and know that even if your loved one can’t say thank you. Your gift of caregiving is appreciated.

Stages 3 and 4 Alzheimer’s Disease-Caregiver Response

March 31, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Last week I talked about how to know if it’s Alzheimer’s disease and I ended the segment on Thursday with a discussion about stages one and two.  I promised that, for this week, I’d finish up the stages.

I thought it would be most helpful for you if I not only describe the stages, but also provide some information as to how, you as a caregiver, might prepare and respond in a particular stage. After all, as a caregiver, you want to know what is coming and how to deal with it.

Let’s just review quickly.  You can click on the link, Stages of Alzheimer’s-Caregiver’s Response to get more complete information.  But for now, you may remember that Stage one is really not a stage of Alzheimer’s, but rather a stage when no symptoms are present. Stage two there is very mild decline that may not be noticeable, except by the most astute observer.

For today, let’s talk about Stages three and four:

Stage 3-This is the stage where memory issues become much more obvious.  Even the friends and family members begin to notice changes.  The person may find it difficult to remember names, especially of people he or she hasn’t known for a long time.  If your loved one is still working or is involved in social activities like card playing, etc. associates may begin to notice that performance on the job or mental acuity in social settings is slipping.  You may also notice that planning or organizing tasks become more difficult.  Balancing the checkbook or following a recipe may take longer than before and may cause frustration.  Medical evaluation may or may not be able to confirm with a  high percentage of accuracy if the person has Alzheimer’s disease at this juncture.

Stage 4-I mentioned in an earlier post that although there are seven individual stages, the disease is also broken into larger categories.  This stage falls into the mild or early stage Alzheimer’s disease category.  It is characterized by obvious memory loss regarding current events and personal information, such as address, phone number and names of close family members.  By this stage, it’s tough for the affected person to plan a dinner party, pay bills, balance checkbook and keep tabs on person al finances. At this point, decline is obvious enough that friends and family members are sure that something is awry. Often, the disease can be diagnosed with a fairly high level of surety by this point.

Caregiver Response-At this stage in the game, as a caregiver, you need to swing into action.  If your loved one has not yet been evaluated; then make a doctor’s appointment and get that done right away.  You should also consider who will become the primary caregiver(s).  Getting Power of Attorney is very important so that you or someone is able to make important decisions on behalf of your loved one. Be sure to include health care responsibilities as well.  You will also want to have conversations with your loved one about taking over the finances, paying bills, etc.  Depending on the amount of assets your loved one has, you’ll want to see an elder law attorney to see how best to proceed to protect the assets of your loved one.  If your loved one will be on Medicare then you’ll need to complete the paperwork to get that process started.  In short, this is the time you will put systems in place to help you as the disease progresses.  Most of all though, try to understand how scary this is for your family member.  They have been living with the signs and not fully understanding what is happening for a long time now. Let them know that you will be there to help and support in any way you can. Allow them to express frustration and don’t take it personally.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss stages five and six.

Alzheimer’s Disease-Testing and Diagnosis

March 26, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

This is the third post in a series looking at how do you know if its Alzheimer’s disease?  The first two posts, Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease and Alzheimer’s and Dementia-the Differences laid a foundation for the symptomology, characteristics and key definitions.  In this post, I’ll discuss how medical professionals actually get to a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

So, as our story continues, your suspicions have been verified.  Grandpa does indeed have dementia.  As we learned in yesterday’s post, the question now becomes, “what is the cause of the dementia?” Is it Alzheimer’s disease or some imposter?

Here is where it gets a little tricky, as there is no real test for Alzheimer’s disease.  Instead, medical professionals will begin the task of testing for certain conditions that cause dementia and as those conditions are ruled out, they become more and more certain that it is, in fact,  Alzheimer’s disease.  Dr. Eric Tangalos of the Mayo Clinic suggests that elderly with memory problems should be tested thoroughly to confirm, with as much accuracy as possible, that it’s Alzheimer’s disease.

Let’s look at some of the tests and procedures that might take place:

Medical history-The doctor should review past medical history carefully.  She’ll use this information to notice family patterns, prior Alzheimer’s, mini strokes or strokes, etc.  You should make a list of all medications, dosage and approximate time your loved one has been taking them. This will be of tremendous help to your doctor.

Mental Status Testing-The doctor will ask simple things like the date and time. Other questions will be asked to determine if the person is aware of his surroundings or recognizes familiar people.  As a part of mental status testing, the doctor will probably do what is called a Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE).   Your loved one may be asked to:

  • Spell “world” backwards
  • Count backwards by 7’s from 100
  • Respond to questions regarding seasons and dates
  • Follow instructions, usually sequential such as sit down, cross your legs and fold your arms.

Physical exam-This one is pretty obvious, but the physician will be checking for causes of dementia such as previous strokes, alcoholism, thyroid problems and a host of conditions that might mimick Alzheimer’s disease. They may do blood tests to rule out things like infection, severe anemia and or vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, diabetes, kidney or liver issues.

Neurological Exam-The doctor is looking for lapses in brain and or nervous system function.  Generally, the physician will test speech, ability of the eyes to move, balance/coordination, muscles and reflexes.

Imaging–This does not happen in all cases, but it is a valuable tool as technology makes it more and more easier to actually see the brain and what is going on.

It is important to note that one or more of these categories of tests may take place at one appointment and may not require a specialist. 

You now know the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, you understand the differences between Alzheimer’s and dementia and you know about testing and diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.

Please be reminded that YOU are your own (and your loved one’s) best advocate.  Trisha Torrey has a great post, “Taking Responsibility For Health Care Decisions,” that is a serious reminder that ultimately, we are responsible for our health care decisions.  So, ask questions until you understand what the doctor is saying, do your own research and then ask more questions.  If you have any doubts, get a second opinion.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

May I give you a virtual penny for your very real thoughts?  Please leave a comment or send a private message to:

Alzheimer’s and Dementia-The Differences

March 25, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

The terms dementia and Alzheimer’s are often used interchangeably.  In fact, dementia is not Alzheimer’s and Alzheimer’s is not dementia, although, they are certainly related.

For example, let’s say you your stomach is bothering you. You can’t eat much and it’s difficult to drink.  At first you shrug it off and hope you’ll lose a few pounds, but then you try to ignore it and finally attempt to soothe it with over the counter medicines, nothing works.  You call your Dr. and make an appointment. A couple of days later, you find yourself in the Dr’s office.  She asks you some questions, examines you and declares, “You have an acute pain in your stomach.”  You think to yourself, “Uh….duh……tell me something I don’t already know.”

Well, if you take your grandfather to the Dr. because he is acting strange, and has a set of symptoms that concern you, and the Dr. says, “He has dementia,” and sends you home.  It is akin to telling you he has a pain, which brings me to my main point.

Dementia is a SYMPTOM.  It is caused by something.  What you know after hearing the word is simply this. The symptomology that caused you to take your grandfather to the doctor is called dementia.  The “pain in the brain,” so to speak, is dementia.  What you need to know now is, what is causing the dementia?  You can click on the link for a detailed definition, but for now, here’s a simple one from Dr. David Roeltgen.

“Dementia is an impairment of thinking and memory that interferes with a person’s ability to do things which he or she previously was able to do.”  Dementia is NOT a part of the normal course of aging.

There are many causes/types of dementia, some of the common ones are:

Parkinson’s disease, Picks disease, brain tumor, alcoholism, Acute B12 defeciency, Hunington’s disease, depression, multi-infarct, and of course, Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease: A progressive neurologic disease of the brain that leads to the irreversible loss of neurons and dementia. The clinical hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease are progressive impairment in memory, judgment, decision making, orientation to physical surroundings, and language. A working diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is usually made on the basis of the neurologic examination. A definitive diagnosis can be made only at autopsy. (Definition adapted from

So, it’s important for you to ask questions, do some research of your own and then ask the doctor to do more tests to discover the CAUSE of the dementia.

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss Alzheimer’s testing and diagnostic measures.

In the meantime, I’ll give you a “virtual” penny for your thoughts. Or if you’d rather comment privately, feel free to contact me at:  

Either way, I’d love to hear from you!

You Gotta Do What You Gotta Do….Dealing With Incontinence

March 17, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Happy Monday!

Did you get some REST over the weekend?  I hope you did, cuz Monday isn’t comin’ it is here.  Which means, if you are in the sandwich generation, it’s time to deal with school, extra curricular activities and caregiving.  If you are not in the sandwich, you are back to the workweek and still have lots to do.

I thought we’d spend the first part of this week talking about an uncomfortable, but almost inevetible part of Alzheimer’s caregiving.  Incontinence. 

Incontinence is the inability of a person to voluntarily control his or her bladder and or bowel functions.  Usually, it doesn’t  happen all at once, it takes place over a period of time.  Often bladder function fades first, followed by a decrease or disappearance of bowel control.  Maybe, granny’s urges are strong and when she says she has to go, she means she has to go NOW.  It could be that grandpa “leaks” a little and starts to have a slight (or not so slight) odor; or it could be that mom, who has become completely incontinent, has little to no control of her urinary and or bowel functions.

Fact:  People with Alzhiemer’s disease will eventually become incontinent.  The disease impacts brain function.  It is important to note that incontinence is NOT forgetting where the bathroom is or forgetting the steps required to locate and properly use the bathroom.  Incontinence in the person affected with Alzheimer’s disease is about the brain not working.  I mentioned in a earlier post that my mom and my son passed each other on the developmental spectrum.  He was growing and she was regressing.  As the brain loses function, they become like babies in almost every sense. Incontinence is part of what I call the “going back” syndrome.

Okay, let me just say it straight.  Urine is urine and poop is poop.  It’s not nuclear waste.  It’s not toxic waste and it won’t kill you!  As a matter of fact, everyone poops! 

We’ll get to the details of handling this issue later in the week, but for now, I need you to just understand that like your toddler teething, teenager driving and the IRS looking to hear from you on April 15, incontinence is coming.  So stay tuned and we’ll talk about what to do about it, how to handle the embarrassment associated with it, and some products and medications to make it more manageable. 

Believe me, if your loved one is NOT excreting then you have a much bigger issue to worry about.  So let’s navigate these murky (no pun intended) waters together as we explore the best ways to handle that which is inevitable for those of us who find ourselves in the honored position of Alzheimer’s caregivers.

Dude, What’s Going On With Grandpa? Talking With Teens About Alzheimer’s Disease

March 13, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Teenage years are already complicated ones.  Toss in a grandparent or close relative with Alzheimer’s disease and the issues of driving, varsity sports, the latest fashions, gadgets, acne, social websites, braces and of course, dating are suddenly not so bad to deal with after all. 

Parents tend to go for the extremes when it comes to talking with teens about Alzheimer’s disease. Either they say nothing and almost act like if they don’t mention it, then eventually grandpa will come back to himself.  Or, they burden the teen with all of the information at once AND expect the teen to grasp it and instantly become co-caregivers.  Family dynamics are different and teens are different.  There are also variables such as the teen’s relationship with the affected person; whether or not the affected person lives with or in close proximity to the teen and how the disease is manifesting itself.

Before we get to the suggestions, just a note or four about teenagers in general. 

(1)   Teenage years are charcterized by the need to gain independence.

(2)   Teenagers are smarter than we think they are.

(3)   Teenagers need you much more than you think they do.

(4)   Teenagers tend to think and feel w-a-y more deeply than they appear to.

With those notes tucked into your back pocket, let’s look at some ways that we can talk with teens and help them to navigate the difficult truth:  Grandpa has Alzheimer’s disease.

Your teenager has probably at least heard of Alzheimer’s disease. Explain that it is a disease of the brain.  It is not just getting older or having “senior moments.”  In short, the brain cells die slowly and grandpa will lose various abilities as different parts of his brain are impacted.  Encourage your teen to do her own research and learn about the disease, and possibly present her findings to the family.

Encourage your teen to explore and express his feelings (see #4).  Let him know that it’s okay to be sad, angry and confused.  Your teen may feel jealousy about the amount of time and attention that the affected person is getting. He may feel guilty for getting mad or frustrated. He definitely may feel embarrassed if grandpa is given to strange behaviors.

  • The shared journal is a great idea. Take turns writing your thoughts and feelings about grandpa’s Alzheimer’s disease.  This exercise can open communication in other areas.
  • Penny For Your Thoughts?  When things get rough, and the communication slows down, agree that one of you can give the other a penny. That signals that you will take some time to sit down, regroup and TALK about what you are feeling.

Be available and present for your teen (see #3).  You, no doubt are stretched.  However, it is really important that you take some time just for your teen, just the two of you.  Hit the mall, play a game, watch a movie, talk.  Just be there so that your teen feels supported and loved through the ups, downs and changes.

Ask your teen for help (see #1, #2).  Tell her what needs to be done and solicit her participation and engagement in the caregiving process.  If there is something specific that you need her to do, then ask, but you may also want to provide a list of things that she can do and encourage her to select the one or ones she is willing and able to do. That way, she understands that she needs to pitch in, but is allowed to select how she’ll help out.  You might also leave the question open ended and allow your teen to evaluate the situation and see how she might be able to help.

Help your teen maintain as much normalcy as possible. (this one covers notes 1-4).  Everything is changing – the family dynamics, grandpa, and your teen.  So, it’s important that, when practical, some things stay the same.  Help your teen to continue soccor, cheerleading, after school job, etc. These are good outlets for your teen to just be a teenager.   

There really is no formula.  The most important thing is to keep the lines of communication open and revisit these issues as time progresses.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive With Alzheimer’s

March 10, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

It’s not their fault, but people with Alzheimer’s should not be driving.  I know that is not a popular position, and there are probably a few situations when the disease is still in the early stages, that driving might be okay.  But the question is this, why take the risk?

You see, it’s rare that doctors stumble upon Alzheimer’s Disease as they are doing a routine check up or testing for some other ailment.  So, when patients are diagnosed, it’s because they have already exhibited symtoms that have caused them or someone close to them a level of concern.  Whether it’s getting lost, a lapse in judgement, confusion or extreme forgetfullness, all of these are reasons to take the car keys and make other arrangements.

THAT is much easier said than done.   Driving represents independence and freedom.  It is one of the first “grown up” things we get to do as teenagers.  It is saddening, to say the least, when you have to take the keys away.  But look at it this way, either you take (or pry) the keys away or there might be a serious, even fatal accident.  Research shows that, “Three out of ten people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease had been involved in a serious car accident in the previous few months.” (The Alzheimer’s Sourcebook for Caregivers, Frena Gray-Davidson)

It’s difficult for the caregiver, too.  As you want to allow and encourage as much independence as possible.  You are proud that granny is 75 and still driving, but you have observed enough and perhaps used your passenger side brakes enough to know that its time for granny to stop driving.

First of all, it may help to talk about giving up the keys BEFORE it actually happens, that way there are no surprises. Maybe you could even come up with a timeframe or some parameters for when its time to give up driving.  We’ll look at some specifics regarding giving up the wheel in another post. In the meantime though, keep the lines of communication open.

Make a plan.  What is going to happen once granny gives up her keys?  Who is going to take her to the grocery store? How will she keep her Doctor’s appointments?  Who will get her to the Thursday night card game, etc.  It’s very important that the schedule is interrupted as little as possible.  Enlist family and friends to chip in and make sure she isn’t stuck and in need of a ride.  Consider other options, many cities offer free or very inexpensive transportation for seniors.

Ultimately, you may need help.  If granny won’t voluntarily give up the keys,  you might have to enlist the help of her doctor who can send a letter to the state licensing bureau.  If the doctor indicates that your grandmother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and should not be driving, they should take the proper measures

In the end, its up to you as the caregiver to take the lead and make sure that you, your loved one and other drivers are as safe as possible.  Your family and loved one have to be able to trust you to make the hard decisions as well as the easier ones.

I Wonder as She Wanders

March 7, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

Battling Alzheimer’s Disease and its Compatriot Wandering

By nature, I am a pretty even tempered person. Not much gets under my skin. However, my mother’s wandering really got to me. She’d gather her coat and purse, and head for the door. By the time she had taken 10-15 steps, my normally 96/54 blood pressure had skyrocketed to stroke levels and I was s-t r-e-s-s-e-d.

No matter how much I talked, explained, used logic and my persuasion skills, she remained intent on going. Sometimes, she’d slip out of the door, without my knowing, and my toddler would announce to me that grandma was going, “bye, bye.”

This leads me to the question. What do you do about the wanderer? First of all, you take a long, deep breath. Please understand that you cannot convince your loved one not to wander. What you can do is put a plan in place, so that the frustration levels of all involved don’t go through the roof. After all, YOU are the logical one. There are several probable or possible reasons for wandering, which we’ll discuss in another post.

For now, let’s put Operation Anti-Wander in place

Operation: Distraction –You logically explaining to dad why he shouldn’t leave won’t most likely won’t work. However, pulling out some old photos, asking him about his favorite hobby, getting him to tell his favorite story (again), or soliciting his help with a chore just might be enough distraction to make him forget his original plan. You might also offer a glass of water or favorite beverage or even a snack.

Operation: Let ‘em go (as long as its safe) – My mom had arthritis in her knees. I am ashamed to say that it took me months of vain explanations, lots of tears and a few (private) temper tantrums to realize that the pain would stop her faster than I ever could. One day, I said, “okay, see you later,” as she walked out of the door. She made it to the end of the driveway, rubbed her knees and turned back towards the house while we hid in the doorway watching. Whew! It worked. A word of caution, as the disease progresses and the brain functions slow down, pain may not register.

Operation: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em – As a caregiver, your days are full. If your grandmother decides that she just must go for a walk another option is to join her. You could probably use the downtime and some fresh air. Get outside and enjoy the walk with her. You can be sure that she is safe, say hello to the neighbors along the way, and see the neighborhood though the eyes of the one you for whom you are caring. It’s so easy to “discount” the perceptions of someone’s whose reality is different from yours. The walk may give you a reality check and help you to realize that there may come a day that you wish, even long to go for a walk with your loved one.

Operation: Alarm – If things get serious and safety becomes a major concern, you might have to consider a chair, door or bed alarm.

Now, given that you may have a wander on your hands, please consider the following:

Join the Medic Alert/ Safe Return Programmedical info as well as family contact information is conveniently store in one location.

Notify your neighbors—Assuming your loved one wanders from home, your neighbors are your first line of defense. Let them know that there may be potential for wandering. They can give you a call or gently escort your loved one home.

Notify local police deptDepending on the size of your town, this might be a good idea. If someone goes missing, you will surely get the police involved, so giving them an advance call to check if they have a registry or procedure in place.

Hide a Key—You may have to run outside quickly or your loved one might lock everyone out. It’s worth it to give a key to a neighbor or hide one in a safe place.

Wandering is often a part of life for those who are battling Alzheimer’s disease. They are not doing it to annoy or stress you. Just imagine this. You get your coat, keys and list and head for the door. Someone stops you to tell you that you don’t need to go to the Dr., pick up the kids or play that round of golf. That is what it is like for the wanderer. In their minds, they have something important to do and you are hindering the process. So, put your plan in place and work your plan.Hey, I gotta run. I hear the door opening. It’s not my mom, but my 2 year old says he’s going, “bye, bye.” (but that’s another story).

Alzheimer’s Disease in the Blogosphere, 2/18/08

February 18, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

We don’t call Alzheimer’s disease “the Monster” for nothing. As recent blog posts suggest, Alzheimer’s terrifies many people. For some, any possible advance in research and treatment is grasped like a straw, or a lifeline. For others, Alzheimer’s disease is a daily, grinding burden as they care for a loved one, or sometimes, face it themselves. For still others, dementia causes them to look at life and their own health in a new way.

We think of Alzheimer’s disease as something that causes people to forget, but for the Memory Bridge project, it’s a call to remember and to bring generations closer. They’ve developed interview questions that are used for the Library of Congress’s Veterans History Project, a school curriculum, and a highly-recommended documentary.

Robert DeMarco at I Am an Alzheimer’s Caregiver regards the value of exercise so highly in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, he’s signed up his 91-year-old mother to join Gold’s Gym. Doesn’t it pump you up just to hear that?

Jeannot at Life lessons coping with Alzheimer says her son has installed door alarms, but her husband took one off and said “the people” did it. Well, if he can’t remember doing something, obviously somebody else did it. You’ve got to make sense of your life somehow.

Filmmaker Gene Burns in Austin is looking for a film crew (including a director) for his short Alzheimer’s disease film called Ruth’s Locket. Having a storyboard would help him get funding for it. Liz at Alzheimer’s Notes mentioned the film on her blog. Production is scheduled for Summer 2008.

David Perlmutter, the Renegade Neurologist, reports that other doctors have treated several women whose inability to concentrate and to find the right words disappeared when they stopped taking the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor. The maker of the drug insists that it’s tested and safe, while the University of California at San Diego is conducted a large study on the effects of statin drugs. After all, one of the building blocks of the brain is cholesterol…

Mike at Fading from Memory has two parents with Alzheimer’s disease. His mother recently entered a nursing home, while his father has left dozens of phone messages asking about her. His family is considering placing his father in the same home. If they do, they’ll have a few weeks to pay a lump sum of $250,000 for his care. But that’s Australian dollars. It would only be $227,000 US or Canadian dollars, according to Well, that’s better, isn’t it?

Most people agree that diet can help prevent the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Whether it’s fish oil or mangosteen, we’re always enthusiastic to try something new (though maybe we have less enthusiasm for the fish oil). According to About Alzheimer’s, researchers at Cornell University have discovered some new foods that may lower your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. And those foods are… apples, oranges, and bananas. Are you eating 5-10 servings of fruit and vegetables every day, like you’re supposed to? Well then, don’t complain if your memory starts to fail.

Deb at The Yellow Wallpaper talks about how her relationship with her mother has changed since she put her into a nursing home. For many of us, we don’t have deep relationships with our parents anymore, which makes a decision like that much harder – or easier. Deb loves her mother, but her mother is mad at her for putting her there. She says that with her mother, she has “to learn her new language, a language that has no past tenses… Her truth is in the present and has to do with what she is losing right now.”

Experts say that when people are first diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, their loved ones recall that their memories were never very good. The Nun Study at the University of Kentucky has also identified factors that can help predict Alzheimer’s disease, such as whether the person could juggle multiple ideas at once when they were young. OurAlzheimer’ quotes the Archives of Neurology as reporting that some people with primary progressive aphasia, a rare language disability, report that they have always had trouble with spelling or foreign languages.

Trisha at Every Patient’s Advocate describes the nocebo effect. The placebo effect causes people to feel better because they’re taking prescriptions, even if they are sugar pills. The nocebo effect causes people to feel worse because the doctor told them they would. Trisha says she never believed them when they told her she had cancer, and it turned out she didn’t. The nocebo effect is described in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

If medical costs have to rise, then why does Dr. Benjamin Brewer say that he can provide primary health care for $20 per month per patient? (Actually, he’s doing it for $2 a month, but that’s under a government “health home” program.) He says, “Primary care is cheap.” What makes health insurance so expensive is its coverage of catastrophic events such as hospitalization. My guess is that fewer people would be in the hospital if they had better preventative care.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.