‘Alzheimer’s & Dementia’ Posts

Parkinson’s Disease: Symptoms and getting the right treatment underway

November 29th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Dementia CareParkinson’s is a progressive disease that affects the central nervous system. In the beginning, the patient experiences mild tremors and rigidity in their limbs. As the disease progresses, the physical problems intensify.  Automatic movements like blinking, gesturing and even smiling are no longer controlled. Apart from stiffness in walking, patients begin to move slower and they must drag their feet to take a step. Speech patterns slow down as well, and in time the patient will become unable to communicate.

Unfortunately, Parkinson’s disease doesn’t have a cure. However, patients can delay the onset of the disease with the right medication. People who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s don’t have enough dopamine in the brain, which means medication to substitute or increase dopamine levels are required to delay the materialization of the disease. In some cases, medication doesn’t work. The solution can be surgery to boost symptoms through regulating specific regions inside the brain.

Getting the right treatment

Parkinson’s disease manifests differently from patient to patient. Mild symptoms are not treated, and a specialist may just recommend monitoring the process of the disease. Drugs may be recommended when the patient start shaking; your physician may also recommend physiotherapy, speech and occupational therapy. As far as medicine is concerned, the most common type is Levodopa.

Levodopa has been used for several years, and in nearly all patients with PD the drug has rendered results. When taking this medicine, the body transforms it into dopamine. At first, the patient is given a small dose and as the disease progresses, the amount is increased. In most cases, Levodopa is combined with another drug called carbidopa (or benserazide). These are meant to prevent levodopa from converting into dopamine the moment is reaches the bloodstream. The goal is to reduce side-effects and boost the amount that the brain need to function properly.

Dopamine agonists

With a similar role as dopamine, dopamine agonists act on the brain receptors. Basically, the medicine is a dopamine substitute. But unlike levodopa, they don’t have to go through a conversion process as soon as they reach the body. Several of the most common types are rotigotine, ropinirole, and pramipexole. Less used alternatives are bromocriptine, pergolide, and cabergoline; these are alternative because they may have some side-effects (even though it doesn’t happen often), such as heart valve thickening and lung tissue scarring.

Caring for a patient with Parkinson’s disease

 People who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease depend on professional caregivers for many different activities – from helping them move around the house and get dressed, to taking them to the doctor, cooking, and eating. The disease is a progressive one, and in time the need for a caregiver becomes substantial. Caregivers have the expertise to help a patient accept and understand the disease. If you have a parent of loved one diagnosed with Parkinson’s, the best thing that you can do is become their caregiver, or hire someone to assist you. The job is a challenging one, so whatever you choose to do just remember that the experience will be emotionally and physically demanding.

Get involved

Physicians advise caregivers to attend regular appointments. It is the best way for a doctor to understand the needs of your patient, as well as monitor the onset of the disease and recommend treatment. Keep in mind that Parkinson’s may trigger dementia. The patient may experience memory loss and difficulty understanding what happens around them.

  • Reach out for help and connect with family and friends face to face
  • Stay active and find the strength to be there for your loved one
  • Get informed and know as much as possible about the materialization of the disease
  • Compel your loved one to rest and include more foods based onomega-3 fats (these have a key role in brain health)
  • Consider putting your parent in a adequate nursing home. This is always a difficult task, shopping around for the best place. In UK care homes London are very well sought after, and they provide excellent services. In USA, you can check Caregiving.com to find facilities and their qualifications depending in your geographic area.

Parkinson’s is a nerve-racking progressive disease. Both sufferers and caregivers must learn to accept it. Rather than think about the worst-case scenario, it’s best to stay positive. Consider proper treatment and have a conversation with your parent about professional help, either at home or in an assisted care facility.

Health And Safety Tips For Seniors Living With Dementia

October 24th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Managing DementiaDementia can affect a person in any number of ways, so it’s important to take care of the mind, body, and spirit in equal measure after a diagnosis of the disease. Although it is associated most closely with memory loss, there are physical and emotional tolls as well. It is most commonly caused by changes in the brain brought on by Alzheimer’s disease or more than one stroke and can bring on violent behavior, problems with language skills, and trouble with day-to-day activities.

For individuals who have not been placed in assisted living but need help in their day-to-day, there are many things for loved ones to think about concerning their safety and wellbeing. It’s helpful to go around their living space and assess any possible dangers or hazards; upgrades may need to be made in order to keep them comfortable, happy, and safe. Jim Vogel, offers here few of the best tips on how to do just that.

Encourage cognition: It’s important for sufferers of dementia to keep their minds active, so encourage them to play word games or simply tell stories about their life. Remembrance is a good thing, even when it involves a sad memory, because it keeps the individual in the present and helps them focus.

Keep them social: Loneliness can quickly lead to depression, so it’s important to make sure your loved one stays active and social. Help them find a group activity or club to join, such as a book group that meets once a week. Finding something they love and can stay active in will help immensely with mood and cognition, and it will give them a goal as well as something to look forward to.

Daily exercise is a must: Daily exercise is great for the body, but it’s good for the mind and mood, too. Activity can boost brain function and help stimulate positive feelings, so help your loved one get out and get moving. Daily walks in sturdy shoes are perfect, as is swimming, golfing, gardening, and anything else they might enjoy that won’t put a strain on them physically.

Safety measures: It’s important to know what your loved one’s specific needs are before assessing their living space. If dementia has progressed to a certain point, you might consider implementing safety measures such as door alarms and personal emergency alarms. Look around every room and check for properly installed smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, adequate lighting, and trip hazards such as slippery rugs, clutter, or furniture. Bathrooms will need to be checked for safety hazards as well; non-slip rubber mats should be placed on the floor and in the tub, and handrails or shower seats are always advisable. And if you’re loved one takes any medication, take control of their daily doses. Doing so will help them avoid becoming addicted to medications, such as opioids, and dangerous side effects from incorrect dosage.

If the dementia diagnosis is linked to Alzheimer’s, it’s important to understand the side effects of both, as they may differ from person to person. Alzheimer’s can cause physical issues such as vision loss and balance problems, so it’s imperative to make sure your loved one’s home can accommodate them safely. Stairs may be a problem to navigate; make sure the handrails are in good shape and the stairwell is well lit.

Lastly, keep up good communication with your loved one and make sure they know you’re there for them. Help them keep in touch with other family members and friends and offer to assist them with doctor appointments; every little thing helps.

 

Feeling forgetful? Tips for seniors to preserve their mental abilities

March 10th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Our associate Edward FrancisBrain Changes explains here few important tips for seniors to preserve their mental abilities when feeling forgetful. He says, “….If you’ve recently noticed that you’re going through some thinking issues, it could mean that your mental abilities are decreasing. Are you having issues remembering where you put your house keys? Do you struggle remembering what you did yesterday? These are common changes that the brain may be experiencing as you age…” But we could ask: how can seniors distinguish common thinking issues from severe health conditions linked to mental stability such as Alzheimer’s or dementia?

Understanding the brain and its functions

As you age, your brain’s volume begins to shrink. As soon as this happens, the nerve cells inside your brain may lose connections with your other nerve cells and just shrink. The blood flowing through the brain loses intensity as we age. This is an age-related change that is believed to be the root cause of cognitive decline. It is perfectly normal to experience memory lapses every now and then; however significant memory loss is not part of the aging process. It is important to make an appointment with a physician and know for sure whether or not your memory loss is a sign of cognitive decline or not. Cognitive symptoms that get in the way of your daily activities must not be overlooked as these will interfere with your daily activities.

Changes in the brain that might trigger dementia

Dementia is a form of cognitive decline in mental abilities, including language skills, reasoning, memory, perception and judgment. The causes are different from patient to patient. Alzheimer’s in particular, is one of the most common forms of dementia. It materializes when the brain’s nerve cells deteriorate and die. Vascular dementia on the other hand, happens when the brain’s nerve fibers are damaged by cardiovascular or cerebrovascular problems, most commonly strokes.

Tips for seniors to prevent cognitive decline

Promising medical research shows that taking into consideration the following steps might help preserve your mental abilities as you get older.

  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control – adhere to a healthier lifestyle. Exclude unhealthy carbohydrates, sugar and salt from your diet, and focus your attention on eating more vegetables and fruits. Drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly. Daily walking for 30 minutes or swimming should keep your blood pumping and your cholesterol levels under control.
  • Quit smoking & alcohol consumption – both smoking and alcohol consumption may increase your chances of developing dementia as you age. It’s ok to have a glass of wine in the evening, but make sure to drink in moderation.
  • Work out – regular physical activity is believed to help preserve adequate blood flow into the brain; daily activities that keep the blood pumping may reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, an ailment directly linked to developing dementia.
  • Keep your brain stimulated – mental stimulation is vital for your brain health. Stay active by boosting your degree of social interaction. Play challenging games (chess, solve puzzles) and engage in daily activities to keep your brain engaged.

Poor concentration can be a major cause for memory loss. Seniors can start forgetting things when their brains are not properly stimulated. Boredom and lack of stimulation may be a trigger for developing severe anxiety and depression. That’s why it is fundamental for seniors to find activities that can sustain mental stability. Reading books, solving puzzles, and playing chess should definitely be checked out.

Home care and professional healthcare

Many seniors don’t want to admit that they can’t manage on their own anymore, and they would do anything to preserve their independence for as long as possible. That’s not always the smartest thing you can do. If you’re becoming forgetful it’s best to ask for help. Turn to your family and friends, and consider home care. Hiring a caregiver to help you with your grocery shopping, daily home maintenance and cleaning might also be a great idea.

Bottom line is, we can’t put an end to the aging process; and whether we like it or not at some point in life our brains will deteriorate. Most people are terrified of nursing homes; they don’t want to be left alone in a place filled with stranger. And yet, the idea of care homes is not as scary as it seems. There are comfortable facilities where you can enjoy an active lifestyle, interact with people your age, and live a happy and fulfilling life. All you have to do is take a leap of faith!

Dementia, One Size Does Not Fit All

December 3rd, 2015 by Doris Bersing
Dementia Infographic

Click infographic to enlarge. Infographic provided by Be Independent Home Care

The number of dementia cases is expected to more than triple by 2050. Researchers have found one of the rarest forms of dementia is called Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease. Only one in one million people are diagnosed with it annually. We also know that many diseases can cause dementia at later stages. These include people with Multiple Sclerosis and HIV patients not taking antiviral medication.

 

Pilot Study Tests Drug that Reverses Parkinson’s and Dementia Symptoms

October 20th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

In a pilot study at Georgetown University Medical Center, researchers found that small doses of the cancer drug nilotinib (used in the treatment of leukemia), appear to dramatically reduce symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease with dementia or the related condition, Lewy body dementia. In all eleven patients who completed the six month trial, movement and mental function improved, in some cases the changes were dramatic and ‘life-changing.’

Listen to the story:

Presentation – Dementia: Legal and Medical Aspects

October 15th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Elizabeth Krivatsy, Esq. and Elizabeth Landsverk, MD

Dementias of all kinds are wreaking 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.

Elizabeth Krivatsy, Esq. is an estate planning and elder law attorney, who is passionate about helping people plan for the best possible future, preparing for personal care and financial management during times of incapacity, and choosing their life in retirement. A graduate of the UC Hastings College of the Law, Elizabeth has served clients in the San Francisco Bay Area for 23 years.
www.krivatsylaw.com

Elizabeth Landsverk, MD. Dr. Landsverk has over twenty years of experience in providing medical care to the elderly. She is board-certified in Internal, Geriatric, and Palliative Care Medicine. As a House Calls Geriatrician, she collaborates with local physicians to address the needs of complicated vulnerable elders to alleviate pain, agitation and discomfort. Dr. Landsverk is a graduate of Stanford University and trained at Cambridge Hospital, Harvard University.
www.elderconsult.com

Date/Time
Thursday, November 5, 2015, 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Location
Mill Valley Recreation Center
180 Camino Alto
Mill Valley, CA 94941
RSVP
Limited seating, please call 1-800-805-7104 to reserve a space.

4 Ways to Help a Loved One Adjust After a Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

September 29th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Prepared for Living Well Assisted Living at Home by Patricia Sarmiento (*)

Alzheimer’s disease is a diagnosis that has heartbreaking impact on sufferers and their loved ones. Symptoms increase in severity as the disease progresses, from mild memory loss in the early stages of the illness to extreme confusion and even loss of identity as time goes on. Although Alzheimer’s changes the way those ailing from it live day to day, there are many ways caregivers, family members, and friends can make the transition a little easier. Here are a few ways to help a loved one adjust after receiving this diagnosis:

 

Make necessary home modifications.

Identifying issues that your loved one may have immediately or sometime down the road can prevent stress for everyone by helping to reduce the risk of injury or confusion. The Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation has a list on tweaks you can make around the home to help with safety issues and daily tasks. For example, installing hand rails and eliminating clutter will help prevent falls, while labeling the contents of drawers and cabinets can make daily tasks more manageable.

 

Plan ahead.

There may come a point when Alzheimer’s sufferers can no longer care for themselves, or even make decisions regarding finances or healthcare. Taking care of these details before an individual becomes severely impaired will prevent their loved ones from burden. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests updating legal documents like living wills, trusts and power of attorney documents, as well as having a plan for future living assistance needs.

 

Consider a fuzzy companion.

Most people have heard of service dogs for the blind and deaf, but man’s best friend is now taking on a new role by providing support to those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. These four-legged assistants are trained to prevent patients from wandering off and having panic episodes that result from disorientation and confusion, and even to bring medication in bite-proof packaging at the same time each day.This guide provides information on the many benefits of Alzheimer’s service dogs, as well as resources for bringing one home.

 

Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes.

Alzheimer’s is a complex degenerative cognitive disease, and it’s nearly impossible for those not suffering from it to completely understand what these individuals go through every day. As caregivers, trying our best to empathize with the struggles of Alzheimer’s patients can help us remain calm in frustrating situations. This video from ABC News sheds light on just how much this illness can affect an individual by creating an Alzheimer’s experience for two people without the disease.

 

Alzheimer’s is indeed a disease that impacts not only those with the diagnosis, but also those closest to them. That’s why it’s so important that we do all we can to show our support to our ailing loved ones by helping to simplify daily life as much as possible for them. Making the adjustment to life post-diagnosis benefits everyone, and allows us to focus our time making the most of each day.

 

(*) Patricia Sarmiento loves swimming and running. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their shih tzu in Maryland.