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Posts Tagged Alzheimer’s

Is it Alzheimer’s or Age-Related Memory Loss?

Monday , January 27 , 2020

Is it Alzheimer’s or Age-Related Memory Loss?

Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten what you went there to get? Stopped mid-sentence because you forgot what you were saying?

I’ve personally walked around my house looking for my cell phone while I was already holding it in my hand (on more than one occasion).

On occasions like that, I sometimes worry that my mind is slipping. You probably do, too. But most of the time, these incidents are simply a sign of normal age-related memory loss, lack of sleep, or even stress.

When should you worry? Experts say that if you still can’t remember what you were looking for later in the day, or if you seem to forget entire chunks of time, it’s time to see a doctor.

Here are five differences between normal aging and Alzheimer’s that you should be aware of:

  1. Retrieving Memories

In normal age-related memory loss, you may have trouble retrieving memories from long-term storage. This can lead to problems such as forgetting names or not recalling where you met someone. These issues can usually be overcome with cuing and context.

With Alzheimer’s Disease, there is a problem with retrieving recent memories that simply can’t be overcome. For example, you may have a guest in the morning and then by afternoon you can’t remember who stopped by – even if someone gives you a prompt such as, “It was a friend from grade school.”

  1. Chronological Memory

If you have dementia, you may have trouble recalling items or events in the order in which they occurred – whether events from your memories or the order of different parts of a sentence. For example, you may know that you went on vacations to Europe and to Hawaii, but you can’t remember which one came first (even though the trips were ten years apart).

Researchers have found that most people can recall recent memories in order (especially with audio prompts) but recall significantly decreases in those suffering from dementia.

  1. Planning and Problem-Solving

Normal aging typically means that it takes more time to think things through, reactions are slower, and multitasking becomes difficult. On occasion, you may forget to pay a bill or leave a pot on the stove a bit too long.

With dementia, things are a lot more difficult. You may become very confused when planning things out – even something as simple as what to have for breakfast. Concentration is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain and poor judgement is a frequent concern.

  1. Language

As you age, you may have a bit of trouble finding the right word sometimes. You might find yourself needing to concentrate more to keep up with a conversation or becoming distracted if too many people are speaking at once.

For those with dementia, however, finding the right word is a frequent problem and they often refer to objects as “that thing” or people as “that woman/man.” They regularly lose their train of thought and can’t keep up with conversation, and may even have trouble initiating communication with others.

  1. Orientation

Orientation problems can happen to any person at any age. Most of us have forgotten what day of the week it is or even what year, and we’ve all walked into a room and forgotten why we’re there.

These problems naturally increase as we age, but those with dementia may completely lose their ability to track the passage of time. In addition, dementia patients frequently have no sense of location and can get lost in places that were once very familiar (even their own back yard).

When to See a Doctor

When memory problems start to look like this, it’s time to seek medical help:

 

  • When memory problems don’t improve with cuing and context
  • Day-to-day functioning begins to decline with memory
  • You have difficulty with familiar tasks, such as operating the microwave
  • Bills are often missed or late
  • Others tell you that you’re forgetting things, but you are personally unaware that a memory problem exists

Final Thoughts

Many seniors panic at the first sign of memory problems, terrified that they signify dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s important to understand that minor memory problems are often just a normal sign of aging. If you’re unsure of the severity of changes you’re experiencing, ask a loved one what they observe, or set up an appointment with your physician.

Posted in: Dementia

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Celebrating the Holidays When Your Loved One Has Dementia

Monday , December 16 , 2019

Celebrating the Holidays When Your Loved One Has Dementia

For many people, the holidays are a joyful time to celebrate with friends and loved ones.

But no matter how much you love the holiday season it can be stressful – even under the best of circumstances. There is the pressure to buy perfect, thoughtful gifts. Planning a holiday meal. Remembering to mail out the cards on time. Keeping the house clean enough for guests.

Add in a family member with dementia, and the stress factor can multiply by a million – for both you and them.

The key, then, to successfully celebrating the holidays with a dementia patient starts with careful planning and ends with thoughtfulness and understanding.

This is what you can do to ensure a pleasant time for all:

Adjust Expectation

Fact: If you have a loved one who suffers from dementia, the holidays are not going to be the same anymore. Period.

Dementia can make it difficult to handle many seemingly easy tasks. For instance, even though grandma used to make an entire dinner from scratch every year, she may now have trouble just microwaving a bag of popcorn. Grandpa may have loved romping around with the grandkids in the past, but now the noise and activity leave him agitated.

It’s important for everyone involved in the celebration to have realistic expectations about what your older loved one can and cannot do. That might mean adjustments to the size of the gathering, the times you meet, and even the food served.

Keep Things Small

Large crowds, loud noises, and increased activity are all things that can create anxiety for a person with dementia.

If you are hosting a gathering that will include a person with dementia: This will not only help limit stress for your loved one, but will allow them the opportunity to spend more quality one-on-one time with everyone there.

Remember: Be aware of what is going on. If your loved one with Alzheimer’s seems to be getting tired or upset, suggest that they lay down for a bit or find another way to remove them from the hubbub.

Prepare Loved Ones

Your guests will certainly arrive at your celebration with the best of intentions: Obviously, no one is looking to upset old Uncle Harry.

Still, it’s important to let guests know exactly what to expect before they arrive. Many times, especially if the dementia patient doesn’t display many obvious outward symptoms, others don’t realize how serious the condition is, or that they may need to adjust their own behavior.

Here are a few tips that might be helpful to share:

  • Remember to speak slowly and in a calm voice
  • Don’t interrupt or correct, and give the person suffering from dementia time to finish their thoughts
  • Don’t discuss the dementia patient in front of them — even if they don’t understand what is being said, they’ll likely know that you’re talking about them
  • If the person has been suffering from dementia for an extended time, there may be serious changes in cognitive ability since the last time your friends or loved ones have seen them – make sure visitors understand those changes in advance
  • Make sure that guests understand that their loved one’s behavior may be erratic

Suggest Appropriate Gifts

People often like to exchange gifts with their friends and loved ones during the holidays. Those who suffer from dementia may still enjoy the tradition, but with some modifications:

  • Common holiday gifts, such as alcoholic beverages or candy, may no longer be appropriate. Make sure guests are prepared by providing them with a list of gift suggestions that are both enjoyable and safe – A fluffy bathrobe and slippers, favorite music and movies, simple crafts or activities, or motion-activated nightlights.
  • Advise people NOT to give gifts which could be dangerous or cause frustration, such as complicated board games, challenging books, unsafe food items, or pets.
  • Involve your older loved one in gift-giving by asking them to offer gift suggestions for young family members, letting them help wrap, or including them in baking and packaging cookies or other treats.
  • Don’t forget the caregivers! Although it’s rewarding, caregiving is also a tiring and stressful task. If your older loved one lives with a family member or friend who takes care of them, make sure that person also feels the love this holiday season! One of the kindest things you can do is to take over caregiving for an afternoon so your friend or loved one can take some time for themselves.

Check-In With Your Loved One

You may love the holidays, but that doesn’t mean your older loved one feels the same way. Even if they loved celebrating in the past, a person living with dementia may not feel comfortable socializing anymore, or they feel too tired to take part.

They key is to check-in in advance and ask them about their preferences. Plan the holidays together, focusing on the things that bring them happiness, and pushing aside other traditions.

Remember: It’s not any particular activity that makes the holidays special. It’s spending time with those you love. If your loved one with dementia doesn’t want a traditional holiday celebration, that’s ok. It can still be magical, even if it’s just the two of you.

 

Posted in: Dementia

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The Surprising Link Between Dementia and Music

Monday , October 21 , 2019

The Surprising Link Between Dementia and Music

Alzheimer’s Disease is a neurological disorder in which the death of brain cells causes memory loss and cognitive decline. Typically, symptoms start out mild and get progressively worse over time. Eventually, Alzheimer’s patients will have difficulty remembering recent events or recognizing people they know, and their ability to reason will fade.

If this sounds stressful to you, it’s because it is. Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s – and other forms of dementia – often experience severe anxiety and disorientation. But new research shows that listening to music may help.

5.7 Million Americans Live with Alzheimer’s Disease

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million people in the United States live with Alzheimer’s Disease – about one in every six women and one in every ten men over the age of 55. That number is expected to increase to 14 million diagnosed cases by 2050.

The first signs of the disease often include memory loss, poor judgement, taking longer than normal to complete daily tasks, and losing or misplacing things. Alzheimer’s progresses differently for each person, but ultimately everyone will have trouble with day-to-day decision making, self-care, and the use of language. Mood and personality changes are very common, as are anxiety and aggression.

These changes aren’t just difficult for the patient, but for the people around them. Both caregivers and healthcare professionals are constantly trying to come up with strategies to prevent or relieve the emotional distress experienced by their loved ones and patients.

One way of alleviating Alzheimer’s-related anxiety has consistently stood out as a promising: Listening to music.

Can Music Help Someone with Alzheimer’s?

A 2017 study from The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease looked at individuals with subjective cognitive decline – the self-reported experience of worsening or more frequent confusion or memory loss – and found that “music listening can significantly enhance both subjective memory function and objective cognitive performance in adults with SCD, and may offer promise for improving outcomes in this population.”

A more recent study from scientists at the University of Utah Health music can “tap into the salience network of the brain that is still relatively functioning.” 

The brain’s salience network is a collection of regions of the brain that select which stimuli are deserving of our attention. It contributes to a number of different functions, including communication, social behavior, and self-awareness.

According to study co-author Dr. Jeff Anderson, the team was interested in seeing how music might stimulate undamaged regions of this and other brain networks.

Over a period of three weeks, they assisted participants (17 people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease) in finding and selecting songs that were known and meaningful to them.

Using this information, the team created personalized playlists, which they loaded onto portable media players and instructed the participants and their caregivers on how to use. The affects, they say, were astounding.

Music Stimulated Brain Activity

When the scientists performed MRI scans of the participants’ brains while they listened to music from their own playlists, they found that individual brain networks were stimulated. In addition, communication between individual networks was greater.

The effected areas of the brain included the visual network, salience network, and executive network.

“This is objective evidence from brain imaging,” says senior study author Dr. Norman Foster, “that shows personally meaningful music is an alternative route for communicating with patients who have Alzheimer’s disease.”

“Language and visual memory pathways are damaged early as the disease progresses,” he notes, “but personalized music programs can activate the brain, especially for patients who are losing contact with their environment.”

The Future of Music Therapy

Many people believe that music holds the key to stopping – or even reversing – Alzheimer’s-related cognitive decline. Still, despite the encouraging results of the University of Utah study, researchers warn against wishful thinking.

This particular study had a small pool of participants and un-replicated results. In addition, researchers were unable to track how long the positive effects of music listening could last.

Bottom line? More research is needed.

Using Music to Connect with Your Loved Ones

Even if we don’t know if, or how, music will be used to treat Alzheimer’s in the future, we do know that it helps to calm those who suffer. Listening to or singing songs can provide many emotional benefits to Alzheimer’s patients, as well as those with other forms of dementia.

If you’d like to use music to help a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, consider these tips from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Think about your loved one’s preferences.What kind of music does your loved one enjoy? What music evokes memories of happy times in his or her life? Involve family and friends by asking them to suggest songs or make playlists.
  • Set the mood.To calm your loved one during mealtime or a morning hygiene routine, play music or sing a song that’s soothing. When you’d like to boost your loved one’s mood, use more upbeat or faster paced music.
  • Avoid overstimulation.When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV. Shut the door. Set the volume based on your loved one’s hearing ability.
  • Encourage movement.Help your loved one to clap along or tap his or her feet to the beat. If possible, consider dancing with your loved one.
  • Sing along.Singing along to music together with your loved one can boost the mood and enhance your relationship.
  • Pay attention to your loved one’s response.If your loved one seems to enjoy particular songs, play them often. If your loved one reacts negatively to a particular song or type of music, choose something else.

Keep in mind, because each Alzheimer’s patient is different, it is possible that music will have no effect at all. Still, it’s worth it to try!

Posted in: Dementia

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