What I've learned through my research or from my colleagues about the prevention and management of dementia is this: Even if we face a family history of Alzheimer's disease and are therefore more vulnerable to dementia, we can prevent the onset of its symptoms, like memory loss and confusion, or its progression.
Kay asks: My husband has dementia and the symptoms are getting so bad that I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I am embarrassed to take him to our daughter's house for fear of what he might do or say. I don't want our kids or grandkids to see him act this way. I am not prepared for these changes and I don't know if I can manage for much longer.
It may come as a shock to you, but I always skip breakfast. Instead of rushing to prepare a large breakfast every morning, I practice intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting consists of fasting for a minimum of 16 hours per day. It is a simple dietary approach to achieve longevity, better health, and fitness performance.
Rebecca asks: My grandmother is getting older and was recently diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's Disease. She is still very healthy and independently living on her own. We have talked about her desire to remain at home and independent for as long as she can. How can we keep her safe in her home?
Back when I was young and saw an old couple in a restaurant, sitting throughout a meal without apparently offering a word to each other, I used to think, "How awful." Now, many of those who know about my husband's Alzheimer's (AD) will ask me, "Do you have any conversation at all with him?" Well, that depends on how you define conversation.
Yes, when I write about how a caregiver should take care of him or herself, I am talking to myself as well as to others. I know how hard it is. For two years, I did not leave my husband. Like so many others, I postponed my own doctor's appointments telling myself I didn't have the time, and turning down invitations from friends. But firm words from two doctor friends helped me decide to take the occasional afternoon for myself.
It seems to me that Alzheimer patients have quite a lot to be angry about. It is tempting to take it personally, to be hurt, to even get angry ourselves. But that accomplishes nothing. We know that, in the end, this is a battle that Alzheimer's will win. But the disease doesn't have to win every round. I try to think of myself and my husband as partners in the fight. If I can calm his anger with a hug or a smile or a word of understanding, we have won at least one round.
I have found online support groups to be a tremendous help. I can turn to them any time, in the middle of the night if necessary, skim through the various postings to find the ones that have situations similar to mine. Those postings have provided me with a great learning lifeline. So, I will offer no advice. Each caregiver must find his or her own way. But over the next few postings I will share some things that have worked for me.
Memory is not just our past -- it is also our present. Memory tells us how to send an email, how to get from here to there, to put on our underpants before our outerwear, how to use a knife and fork, even how to swallow. Memory is the ON button for every function we take for granted. That is the mystery that surrounds every Alzheimer's patient. How much are they aware of what they are losing?
I don't think of myself as a caregiver -- I am a wife, honoring the vows I took so many years ago. I have had the better, and the richer -- ( speaking of experiences and not money). Now I am living through their opposites: the sickness, and the poorer -- (in this case both experiences and money: Alzheimer's is expensive).
Given that we are in the neurologist's office at my request, I should not have been surprised -- no, not surprised, floored or shocked -- by the diagnosis. But I was. The doctor's visit was prompted by a cluster of seemingly small incidents. And so, my beloved husband became one of the five million Americans diagnosed with this thief of a disease. What's more for every human being diagnosed, there is a circle of others -- partners, family, friends, employers, employees -- who are also victims, robbed of memory and relationships.
It's frightening to learn that almost 70 per cent of new Alzheimer's sufferers will be women, but research today still focuses on men. Even today, at the grass roots level of research, it is the male rat that's studied because the hormones in the female rat make it too complex.That really got me thinking: if this is something Canadian women think about then obviously so do women all over the world. So the Women's Brain Health Initiative was born.
Thirty years ago a scientist named Stan Prusiner coined a new word -- prion -- which turns out to be a protein molecule that's misfolded. In many neurodegenerative conditions, something triggers misfolding. If you can interrupt that, then you stop the formation of plaques. If you stop plaque formation in a human brain, you could prevent Alzheimer's, or at least delay it.