Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, DCCP, CLL, Director of Dementia Care, Hebrew Health Care
by Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, CLL
Happy Thanksgiving. In case you haven’t noticed ~ the holidays have started. Negative political ads have been replaced by holiday “needs” in a nearly-constant bombardment of commercials, while Facebook-ers debated whether or not to shop on Thanksgiving. I think shopping for me would be much more pleasurable if I had a good sense of what each person on my list really wanted. As I was thinking last Friday of the “deals” I was surely missing as work trumped Black Friday, it struck me that you might like a list of ideas for those on your list who are elderly or living in Assisted Living or Nursing Homes. For a complete list of ideas and resources, visit www.agingcareacademy.org and scroll down to “Your Personal Consultant.”
Hobby & Leisure – there are great resources available for everything from adapted puzzles to games and reading. The puzzles should always be age-appropriate (not childlike), and suitable for the current ability – from 4 or 6 pieces to 50 pieces. Magnetic puzzles with stands are great for those with neck problems. For reading, my newest resource is based in solid research from a physician and speech/language pathologist: Reading2Connect.com. This product has adapted graphics and photos, plus reading content tailored to various abilities — people with advanced dementia may still be able to read! Games which spark memories, use contrast and easy to manipulate materials are available at alzstore.com, best-alzheimers-products.com and memoryjoggingpuzzles.com.
Cognitive Fitness – books, activity cards, games and software are available in all shapes and sizes. Attainmentcompany.com offers the Whole Brain Workout series. Resources throughout the web offer products such as “Connect: Memory Enhancing Game” which can be used in a number of ways to improve neuronal flexibility for all abilities.
Physical Fitness – being confined to a wheel chair does not mean you should quit being active. Some of the best exercise videos are now available at very little cost. Enjoying yoga, aerobics and stretching and strengthening is now possible in your own living room or day room. Check out chairdancing.com, gentlefitness.com and the award winning PBS special sitandbefit.org.
Quality of Life – No one should have to watch garbage television, wonder where the family is or be isolated because of changes in communication. A communication book, talking photo album or alternative TV program would improve quality of life for all. Attainmentcompany.com, Alzstore.com and Best-Alzheimers-Products.com can provide ideas for any gift giving budget.
If you order through Amazon, sign up for AmazonSmile and add Hebrew Health Care as your charity: a % of your total will be donated so your gift is twice as nice. Thank you, and Happy Holidays!
Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, CLL, DCC-T, Director of Dementia Care Services, Hebrew Health Care
Rates of Dementia Decreasing with Simple Steps
The news from the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Copenhagen last week was encouraging. Rates of Americans getting dementia are decreasing, as are rates in other “rich” countries. Why? We are controlling our risk factors.
Last year, Hebrew Health Care published the Dementia Risk Screen: eight of the 11 risk factors are modifiable. The news this week confirms you can minimize your risks!
Research conducted at Boston University has analyzed rates of dementia through several decades. The Framingham Study indicates that an individual’s risk of getting dementia is 44% lower than it was, and that the average age of onset is now 85, compared to 80 in the 1970s.
The primary reason: improved health overall. Smoking rates have dropped. Heart disease rates are improving. Numbers of strokes have declined. The study indicates the following steps will continue to improve the numbers:
o Stop smoking
o Control blood pressure
o Manage weight
o Keep cholesterol levels within normal limits
In other countries, the numbers are improving as well. However, there are new health rates which may limit the excitement. Higher obesity and diabetes rates may further increase the risks of dementia. Quoted in an article by MSN News, Dallas Anderson, Chief of Epidemiology at the US National Institutes of Health said, “It may be what we have now is a sweet-spot (as people with these health issues are still young). They’re not in the dementia range yet, but what is going to happen (with them) in the pipeline?”
Take the Dementia Risk Screen at www.agingcareacademy.org. Listen to the podcasts to learn what you can do to minimize your risks starting today.
New Ways to Diagnose AD Being Developed
Three other breakthroughs were announced this week: a smell test, a blood test and an eye test.
Blood test – Kings College in London reported research conducted over the past decade to develop a test for diagnosis of AD. The studies indicate 87% accuracy. The test detects 10 proteins in the blood, and indicates onset of AD in the following 12 months.
“Why would I want to know?” responded one of my colleagues. “I think most people would NOT want to know,” said a caregiver when we discussed it at a support group meeting.
Most of these tests are being developed FOR research. Many researchers are concerned that drug targets fail because by the time the experimental agents are tried, the disease has taken too much of the brain to be effective.
The target for the blood test is people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), the vast majority of who develop Alzheimer’s in 5 years following diagnosis.
Although this is exciting, there is no blood test for dementia ‘around the corner’, according to published reports. These are small studies. And with more than 10% of people being misdiagnosed, more work, on larger scale studies, is needed.
The other two tests – smell test and eye test – are correlation studies. At the AAIC press briefing, there were lots of discussions about these two studies. The smell test is about people who have MCI, they experience changes in their ability to smell, and that correlates with the transition to Alzheimer’s. For the eye test, proteins detected correlate with amyloid proteins in the brain. However, there are still a significant number of researchers and experts who question the amyloid THEORY as the protein responsible for plaques and tangles. These tests are based on theories of what causes Alzheimer’s. Also it is important to note that just because you have a change in your sense of smell does NOT mean you have AD. Many conditions affect taste and smell.
New Protein Identified in Alzheimer’s Plaque
There were hundreds of studies shared at AAIC. Another interesting one hails from Mayo Clinic in MN. Researchers have identified a new protein which may be another piece of the “plaque” puzzle. The research compared people who died with Alzheimer’s – some who had symptoms, and some had not. Of the 372 people, more than 200 had this new protein, in addition to amyloid protein. One theory is that perhaps the protein is a byproduct of the disease. The protein has been identified as critical in ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease and other neurological conditions. More tests will be conducted.
There is still no known CAUSE of Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, there is still no known cure. However, the research reported at the AAIC last week is encouraging for the ongoing efforts to find the answers which plague us.
Compiled by Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, CLL, Director of Dementia Care Services, Hebrew Health Care
A Welsh research team followed more than 2,200 men ages 45 and 59 for 35 years. They had two key objectives: 1) to see if there really is a relationship between healthy lifestyle, chronic disease and cognitive decline; and 2) to see how much impact changes in health activities (adopting new healthy habits) had on wellness over time. The researchers from Cardiff University were tracking health habits and monitoring for chronic conditions including dementia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke and have authored more than 400 articles in various publications since the end of last year.
So what are the healthiest habits for the men who participated in the study? They probably won’t surprise you.
♥ Exercise regularly.
♥ Don’t smoke.
♥ Maintain a low body weight.
♥ Eat a healthy diet.
♥ Keep alcohol intake low.
While the study found that few people live a fully healthy lifestyle (only 1%), they did see note some interesting findings:
How healthy do you need to be? When should you start?
The study shows that people who consistently followed 4 of the 5 habits reduced their risk of dementia by SIXTY PERCENT (60%). That is very significant. They also reduced their other chronic diseases by 70% (diabetes, heart disease, etc.). Also, start now with JUST ONE NEW HABIT. Researchers found that if the men had been urged to follow just one new healthy habit at the start of the study, the rates of dementia and other diseases would have continued to drop significantly.
What about women?
Although the study participants in this research were all men, there is no reason to think that the results would not be equally impressive for women. We have always said that what is good for the heart is good for the head. There are many research studies on smaller scales which yielded similar findings. And the results of the Welch study are often extrapolated to “people,” not just men.