Identity and Dementia: Where Do I Go?

March 23rd, 2015 by Doris Bersing
Frankly I do not give a damn...

Frankly I do not give a damn…

Most of us spend a big part of our life searching for meaning, trying to find our identity, and although Thomas Szasz said in The Second Sin (1973) said “…the self is not something one finds, it is something one creates…” we set ourselves for the pursuit of that elusive identity and our meaning as human beings. What is life all about and overall what is our role in life? What do we really live for? Who are we?

We pass many of our prime years looking for our identity, fighting for one, trying to assert one if we are ever given a glimpse of it, wrestling to have our needs met and to have our dreams come true. That search for identity comes sometimes in a puzzle of circumstances, challenges and exploits, and like the overprotected Nemo, we need to swim the oceans of uncertainty and grow until finding ourselves

Through the journey in search of our identity, we attempt to unfold our potential, our desires, and to adjust at the best of our abilities to the challenges of daily life. We build our life upon joys, shadows, and sorrows and fill that life with the mementos and the facts we carve in our memory, those we gathered throughout our journey but one-day, zas! You are diagnosed with dementia. There you are, all of the sudden lost, confused and soon to be stripped, if not of your identity, at least, officially, of your mind.

I know, hopefully, we all have been lost in our minds out of excitement, passion, or love and yet, after the diagnoses you will not be lost in your mind, anymore, since now, your are losing yours. Of course, we could discuss what really mind is, there is so much more to the mind than the cognitive aspect of it and yet for any purpose is THAT mind the one holding your memories, mementos, treasures, pains, and joys that is ready to go with the wind. Well in reality, with the plaques and tangles created in your brain, in a certain time you will not even remember the time of diagnosis. Just as Clark Gable stated while playing Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, stated, you may well say: Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn….” But he clock is ticking.

Professionals will offer all what they have. They talk and teach how to calm you down, how to deal with your mood swings and your challenging behaviors but do they really know what we are going through, what you are going through? Do they know that you are going through the tunnel, in and out of the darkness, the uncertainty with the challenge of living an existential tale of the here and now, for which, you did not sign up and for which, effectively you have never practiced. Then come the drugs, the optimism, the clinical trials, the walking to fund more research, hopefully before it is too late for you. Looking now for a different meaning. There is so much that is done, said, so much still to do and yet nobody really knows what you are going through.

We try and theorize about the phenomenon, the neurological, psychological, emotional, and practical side of it, even the spiritual side of it. Needless to say, we appreciate all the nice legitimate attempts people make writing new books about breakthrough treatments and findings; they present lectures, write articles about you but what if you could really explain how it is to know that your life is slipping away, fading away? What if you had a voice? What if they found a cure?

I wish I could be more helpful, but I really do not know how it is, all is in my best efforts to explain a phenomenon, I can only observe and witness with powerlessness, compassion and horror. I do not have dementia and I wonder if I had it how I would feel? What would it be like? Again, I do not know but if I could, if I were you, I would not like to go there. That said, I hope I would react calmly and with patience for myself, although I doubt it but let the journey continue and keep on swimming.

For now, I find some solace and motivation to keep ‘on swimming in Thoreau’s wisdom:

“…I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~Henry David Thoreau, 1854

Can your diet reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease?

March 15th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Diet and Alzheimer's disease


Alzheimer’s is an incurable health condition that is directly linked to the brain. It materializes in older people, and it manifests in different ways from person to person. One of the most common symptoms is loss of memory and difficulty remembering facts, actions, names of people, etc.

Scientifically speaking, Alzheimer’s disease  (AD) is the result of dying brain cells, as well as the disparity between brain cell connectors. Even though there’s no cure for this ailment, there are ways to lower the odds and even delay the manifestation of AD.

A healthy diet, particularly for the brain, consists of essential foods like:

  • Fresh fruit
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Lean protein

Thus far, there haven’t been any studied performed on Alzheimer’s and dieting, yet physicians strongly believe that there’s a connection between combating/preventing the manifestation of the illness and a healthy eating plan. For the brain to function properly it needs to be fed with adequate foodstuff. Key nutrients are needed for an improved brain functions, and we must admit that a balanced diet can help. Eating healthy automatically keeps the body in better shape. This may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, although there’s no guarantee and these are mere claims based on what the body needs to remain in good health.

Obesity & the brain

Being overweight is bad for your heart, joints, and others organs. The chances of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease later in life are increased in people who are or were obese in their younger years. This claim comes as a result of a study performed back in 2009. There seems to be an increasing connection between Alzheimer’s and obesity; apparently, early-life and environmental elements and genetics may be associated with dementia.

It’s really important to have healthy circulation in order to remain in good health. Brain cells demand a good blood flow in order to deliver oxygen and other nutrients to the brain. When the arteries are clogged with unhealthy fats as a result of bad food, the blood required for the brain may be blocked or restricted. The Alzheimer’s Association emphasizes on the importance of a proper diet, and it warns people that foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol might lead to dementia later in life. Rather than opt for saturated fats, people should opt for monounsaturated fats to strengthen their heart and arteries, such as omega-3s and omega-6s.

Essential nutrients

Omega-3 fatty acids are brain-healthy fats. Excellent food sources of this nutrient can be found in salmon and tuna, but also in vegetarian sources such as leafy greens and avocados. The Alzheimer’s Association advises people to include sources of food rich in vitamin E and antioxidants too into their diet to ward off the materialization of dementia. Some of the best sources are strawberries, blueberries, and oranges.

Challenges in older adults

Adhering to a well-balanced diet plan can often pose a challenge to older people. Seniors in particular, may have difficulty with swallowing and chewing, and these actions may lead to malnutrition. If you find it difficult to consume certain food types that are fundamental for your health, make sure to ask for advice from a nutritionist or physician. He will recommend nutritional supplements, vitamins and shakes you can add into your diet to stay healthy and keep dementia away for as long as possible. For proper brain health, some other vitamins you might want to add to your diet plan are vitamin C, E, B12 and folate.  Look at for some of these products recommended by our author Edward Francis..

Limiting sodium and sugar

Both salt and sugar are common ingredients we use during the food preparation process. However, these are not good for the health and they must be reduced from our diets. An increased amount of sodium may boost the risk of a stroke in people with hypertension. Sugar on the other hand, contributes to increased blood glucose and weight gain, which may lead to diabetes. According to a report found in the Mayo Clinic, diabetes has been linked to Alzheimer’s.

It is fundamental to emphasize that healthy food doesn’t cure Alzheimer’s disease. But it certainly helps delay the developing process. As long as the body is maintained in a healthy condition, the brain feels healthy too; and this certainly helps keep dementia away.

Elderly Care and Gardening

March 10th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Elderly Care and Gardening in Green HousesElderly Gardening

Most elderly people are concerned about being confined to an environment that does not feel like home. As family members age, they often dread the prospect of being taken to an institution that will not cater to their needs and will diminish their happiness. Robert Jones [1] suggests adjusting the house environment to the needs of the elders in a way they still can do their gardening as they please.

Green House Concept

The green house concept has been successfully used to provide elderly care on a long term basis in a nurturing and sustainable environment. Just like with gardening green houses, the elderly are assured of living in an environment that is designed to enable them to thrive and enjoy life.

Green house care ensures that elderly members of society are given the opportunity to lead an active life and participate as much as much as they can in a communally hospitable setting. This has positively transformed how aging residents are cared for and improves the quality of life in their golden years.

The positive effects of green house living are evident in how the elderly are able to thrive in an interactive and vibrant setting. Green houses for gardening purposes give gardeners or farmers access to structures within which they can regulate atmospheric conditions.

Growing Seasonal Plants

The sizes of green houses vary and range from small to extensive structures. They arise from the investment of resources through which gardeners can control conditions and grow different species of plants. When you grow plants in a green house, you are able to extend the season during which they grow.

Your green house enables you to start planting earlier than you would be able to do if you were growing crops conventionally outdoors. When the season ends, your plants in the green house will be able to last for a longer time than those that are outside.

Your ability to extend the season is based on how you control factors such as light, temperature and humidity inside the green house. You select the amount and quality of natural lighting that you require for your plants along with the materials for your structure.

Wider Variety and Protection

Green houses also enable you to grow more plants than you would typically be able to outside. The environment in a green house can be adjusted for the purpose of growing a variety of plants. Green houses are designed as enclosures that provide plants with protection from pests and predators.

Unlike plants that are exposed to all manner of pests and predators while outside, the green house will ensure that they do not gain entry. During rainy conditions, you can continue to care for plants regardless of how much rainfall there may be.

Gardening All Year Long

Your gardening will not be affected by outdoor conditions because you will be able to carry on with your activities according to the conditions you have set in your green house. Gardeners who grow plants in green houses have much more time each day to work on their gardens.

The installation of green houses gives you the opportunity to supply your own food and grow plants comfortably without any restrictions. Gardeners use their green houses to provide the right environment for growing their plants.

[1] Robert Jones is a professional writer whose work has been featured in various publications. Learn more about potting sheds by visiting his website.


Link between vitamin D and Alzheimer’s disease

March 9th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

AD and Vitamin DMost people are aware of Alzheimer’s disease and may even know someone who has it. It has to be a horrible ailment for all those involved. Sufferers tend to have memory problems and it can affect their thinking. Consequently, it is normal to see behavioral changes. Sufferers can become upset very easily; they are also prone to bouts of paranoia and develop suspicious personalities. This is understandable as the memory loss affects everything in daily life and means reliance on others for the facts in any situation. As the disease progresses poor judgement becomes an increasingly common issue.

Alzheimer’s disease – causes and connection to vitamin D

Unfortunately, despite many studies and research programs it is not yet known what causes Alzheimer’s. Physicians seem to agree that your age, family history and genetics play a large part in the equation. More recent research has also shown that vitamin D is active within your brain. Many receptors have been found in the brain specifically for vitamin D. Receptors are located on a cell’s surface and wait to receive chemical signals. When a signal is attached to a cell, it tells the cell what to do, whether that is how to act or simply to die. It is therefore highly likely that vitamin D has an effect on the way you think, learn and act.

This is borne out by the many studies performed. These indicate that those with lower levels of vitamin D in their blood are more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s. Vitamin D is very important to the body; the brain relies on these receptors of vitamin D to protect it from harm.

Observational studies on Alzheimer’s and Vitamin D

The current problem is that most research has been done via observational studies, these make the link between vitamin D and Alzheimer’s by testing those with Alzheimer’s and confirming that the level of vitamin D is lower in those affected than in those who are not. Mental tests designed to show how well the brain is working have been performed on a broad spectrum of people also show that those with low levels of vitamin D do not do as well as those who have higher levels.

Whilst research has discovered the importance of vitamin D there have not yet been enough studies. It is not yet clear whether vitamin D supplements assist in treatment, prevent the disease from occurring or both. Only more research can provide the answer to this.

Studies performed on the connection of Vitamin D to Alzheimer’s disease

Caution also needs to be applied to these results as it is possible that those with Alzheimer’s to stay inside more and therefore have less exposure to the sun. The sun is an excellent source of vitamin D and a lack of exposure would mean lower vitamin D levels. It is possible that the low vitamin D levels are a result of the disease rather than the other way around.

There have been several important research projects over the last few years and all of them feature vitamin D. One of the largest studies was completed in Denmark over a period of thirty years. It monitored vitamin D levels at the beginning of the study and whether or not they developed Alzheimer’s after 30 years. Australia completed a study in 2011 assessing whether high doses of vitamin D affected sufferers or if low doses made a difference. France has also performed a study; in 2012 they studied the affect on memory and thinking in people with Alzheimer’s when taking vitamin D and memantine. This was compared to just taking vitamin D and just taking memantine. Most improvements were seen by taking both supplements.

One of Living Well contributors, Edward Francis has found,  research is clearly the answer. More studies and wider research projects will provide better results and assist in isolating the cause and treating or preventing this life destroying disease. Meanwhile we can be certain that vitamin D plays a part and ensuring you get an adequate amount daily will do no harm. On the contrary, the body needs this vitamin to function properly. It is important to expose yourself to the sun more, although stay away from damaging UV rays because you don’t want to do damage to your skin. Another related issue is the quality of the supplements or the quality of Vitamin D you take. In regards to this aspect, Edward Francis  and European Nuique.recommend doing your own research.

Home Safety for an Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Relative Aging-in-Place

February 4th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

age in placeWhoever said there is no place like home really nailed it. Whether you are visiting Hawaii or you are on top of Everest, you will always have a tingling pricking of nostalgia for sweet home. If a relative is suffering from debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, this is a poignant fact to always remember.

Averting Strain to Family Relationships

Most families suffer restrained relations once the advanced effects of the disease start emerging. Dementia is the most traumatizing effect due to possible hazards if your aging relative is at your place.

Forgetfulness and mobility problems require specialized attention but if your elderly dad refuses to go to a nursing home, you should not force him. Instead, take cautionary steps to ensure they age in place surrounded by love and comfort; isn’t that what you would also love if in the same situation?

Creating the Ideal Aging-in-Place Residence

Indeed, you are in luck because there are experts who can help you make any complex renovations depending on your home’s design. Take a look at how you can easily accommodate your ailing relative:

  • Increase lighting: Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s eventually affect vision judgement and according to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is crucial to ensure all areas in the house have adequate illumination to help your loved one move around. Before implementing this, you should compare Texas electric rates in order to get the cheapest plan to offset the increase in lighting fixtures.
  • Enhance quality of lighting: While you need more lighting in the house, you should also minimize glares, shadows and reflections that cause distraction and curtail mobility. Moreover, you must avoid sudden changes in light in all rooms and instead apply uniform lighting to help your loved one adapt with time.
  • Age-in-place structural adjustment: According to the National Association of Builders (NAB), this is the fastest growing new segment in home remodelling. You can hire a contractor to create structures such as ramps to enable wheelchair movements, secure steps and handrails across the building, and install grab bars in your toilet and bathrooms among other features.
  • Safety devices: Modern technology has birthed amazing gadgetry that you can use to keep your loved one safe even when away. For instance, touch and voice applications in lamps, TV, interior door among other appliances will help make life easy and safer. They will not have to attempt tinkering with electric appliances, as it is dangerous in their state.
  • Monitoring technology: Motion detectors are important around the house in case your loved one wanders outside without your knowledge. Video cameras can also monitor their movements and in turn ensure they are safe all the time.
  • Automatic switch off in appliances: Home electric appliances should also have automatic sensors in case your relative forgets all about the sandwich he left in the oven. This will give you peace of mind knowing nothing will go wrong.

Other simple techniques include removal of cluttering and old rugs in the house that can lead to tripping. More importantly make sure your loved one has assistance at all times lest he try to carry out risky tasks.

—In collaboration with Mark Harrison. Mark is a construction consultant in Texas who has previously worked in both government and private sector as an energy auditor. If in Texas, he urges homeowners to compare Texas electric rates to enjoy cost-saving.

Common initial signs of dementia that might shock you

February 1st, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Dementia SignsDementia is a health condition that leads to a severe loss of emotional and cognitive (intellectual) function. It is a syndrome linked to the constant decline of the brain’s abilities. Patients suffering from dementia experience memory loss, decreased thinking speed, lack of judgment, confusion, lack of mental agility, and severe anxiety. The risk of developing the illness increases as people age, and dementia usually manifests in seniors over 65 years old.

Understanding dementia

People struggling with dementia may start feeling uninterested in daily activities, and even apathetic. They won’t be able to control their emotions, which could lead to difficulties in socializing with the people around them. As the condition advances, the person fighting it may also lose their sense of compassion. As the condition affects a patient’s mental abilities, in time organizational and planning skills will fade away. This means it’s impossible for a patient suffering from dementia to have an independent lifestyle. Professional assistance and caregiving is required.

Is dementia that common?

Believe it or not, yes. There are many forms available, and some are more aggressive than others. Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, vascular dementia, and Huntington’s disease are some of the main types. About 1 in 100 seniors over the age of 65 have dementia. As the patient gets older, the number increases to 6 in 100. By age 80, 20 people of 100 are at high risk of developing one or more forms of dementia.

Dementia is not a sole disease but an assortment of various symptoms caused by brain damage. All sorts of conditions can cause the symptoms; however Alzheimer’s is the most common. The patient starts experiencing memory loss (at first, on a short term basis). He won’t be able to be able to perform daily activities that demand planning and concentration, and his mood and personality will change, too. Confusion will eventually kick in, as well as depression. As the condition advances, the symptoms get worse because dementia is progressive. Basically, the brains start suffering increasingly more damage.

Unusual symptoms

Dementia doesn’t just steal people’s memories – studies continue to show that the condition is a lot more complicated than meets the eye, particularly in the early stages. Some of the signs are not that easy to spot, so it may be tough to notice the subtle changes. Some people appreciate sarcasm; others just don’t have a sense of humor. Regardless, sarcasm is an essential part of our lives that we often use to criticize someone or to showcase our fun side.

  • Lack of sarcasm

Research shows that patients suffering from Alzheimer’s and FTD (fronto-temporal dementia) don’t notice sarcasm, or may take longer to keep up. Patients with FTD in particular, can’t tell when others are lying to them, which is another odd sign of dementia.

  • Illegal behavior

This symptom sounds a bit extreme, but those in the early stages of dementia may lose their social sense. Breaking into other people’s homes, shoplifting, and inappropriate interpersonal conduct are all surprising symptoms, which might trigger problems with the law. Early-onset dementia hits early, when people are in their 30s and 40s; this means it will be particularly difficult for those around them to realize that their erratic behavior is in fact dementia.

  • Staring

In patients with symptoms of dementia, the clinical term for staring is “reduced gaze”. The eyes lose their ability to move properly. Normal people use their eyes frequently to asses, observe and analyze without appearing weird. Those with dementia appear like they stare; that’s because they struggle to understand what’s happening around them, but can’t. In the early stages of the condition, this may also be a sign of dementia that the patient may not be aware of just yet.

  • Eating objects

This is probably one of the most unusual sign of dementia. Eating foods that are spoiled or rancid, and even nonfood objects happens because the person may forget the purpose of the things lying in front of them. For instance, a patient suffering from dementia may want to eat the flower sitting across the table in a restaurant. They know they’re there to eat, so they assume everything is edible.

Dementia manifests is different ways, and some are difficult to understand. People with relatives that received the diagnosis should remain calm. There are treatments available to ease the symptoms, although they’re no cure.

By Edward Francis and!

A Conversation about Dementia and Competency

January 29th, 2015 by Doris Bersing


Elizabeth Krivatsy, Esq. and Elizabeth Landsverk, MD
In A Conversation about Dementia and Competency

Dementias of all kinds are wrecking havoc with the lives of individuals and families today. The more you know about the medical and legal repercussions involving the diagnoses of Dementia, and the sooner planning begins, the stronger the safety net we can create for our loved one, ourselves and our families.

Tuesday February 24, 2015, 4:30pm – 6:30 pm
Westminster Presbyterian Church, 4240 Tiburon Blvd, Tiburon, CA 94920

Limited seating, please RSVP by phone or email below
1.800.805.7104 or

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