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Help With Alzheimer's Disease

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative condition. It is one of the most common forms of dementia, a group of symptoms that lead to a decline in mental function severe enough to disrupt daily life. Alzheimer’s causes problems with a person’s memory and ability to learn, reason, make judgments, communicate and carry out daily activities. First identified in 1907 by the German physician Alois Alzheimer, the illness afflicts about 5 million Americans. An estimated one in nine adults aged 65 and older lives with the disease.

People with Alzheimer's disease first develop subtle memory loss and personality changes that differs from normal age-related memory problems. They seem to tire or become upset or anxious more easily. They do not cope well with change. For example, they can follow familiar routes but traveling to a new place confuses them and they can easily become lost. In the early stages of the illness, people with Alzheimer's disease are particularly susceptible to depression

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  • Mar 11, 2021
New Report Examines Disparities in Dementia Care

A new report from the Alzheimer’s Association finds that non-white racial/ethnic populations expect and experience more barriers when accessing dementia care and report having less trust in medical research than white Americans. “Race, Ethnicity and Alzheimer’s in America,” is a companion report to the Association’s annual Facts and Figures report.

  • Apr 27, 2020
“Nowhere to Turn”: COVID-19 and Caregiver Stress

“I need help, and I have nowhere to turn.” I find this a frighteningly common refrain among my patients who are also caregivers for people with dementia, autism, or children with a panoply of mental health conditions who need consistency and structure. As an individual psychiatrist, there seems to be no option, and I simply listen. Clearly, all caregivers are encountering difficulties—including parents of typical children who need to both work and parent their children through online learning and increased anxiety. For both personal and professional reasons, however, I find the situation of our older adult caregivers to be among the most fraught

  • Mar 24, 2020
Online Support for People with Mental Health Conditions

While these unprecedented times are stressful for everyone, people with mental health conditions may face particular challenges. As much as possible, try to keep up your overall health, try to follow your treatment plan, and try to manage your stress. Engage in activities that help manage your stress, such as exercise, relaxation techniques and creative activities. It is even more important to stay connected with friends, family and your support network. Many organizations offer ways to connect and find support online or by phone for general mental health and for specific conditions.

I understand there are medications that can help with Alzheimer’s. Are there medications that actually help slow memory loss? Are they appropriate for everyone with Alzheimer’s?

There are no medications available today which slow memory loss over an extended period of time. The medications approved for Alzheimer’s have been shown in controlled studies to slow memory loss over a few months, but after 6-12 months, memory decline in those who take the medications is similar to those who do not take the medications. New drugs are being studied, and hopefully one or more will demonstrate a clear ability to reduce or stop the decline in memory impairment (we should not expect any of the drugs to restore memory loss). More

My father-in-law is experiencing some memory problems. At what point should he seek help?

It is always a good plan to have your father-in-law examined by an experienced geriatrician or geriatric psychiatrist when signs of memory loss emerge. The reason is that memory loss may not be due to Alzheimer’s or another irreversible dementia. Medications, an acute illness, or even a brain tumor may be causing the problem. Nevertheless, over the long run for the vast majority of persons with memory loss, it is important to monitor function carefully. Occasional forgetfulness, such as forgetting names, is not a major problem. Yet when the older adult begins to leave the stove on, repeatedly loses his car keys and cannot locate them, cannot keep up with usual personal business (such as banking) or cannot find his way home driving from a familiar place, then help (often from a social worker) is most important to maintain independent living as long as possible. Alzheimer’s support groups are found in most communities and they can be of great assistance to people with Alzheimer’s and their families. You can start with your state or local office on aging or a local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. More

My mom has memory problems that are really impacting her life, but she’s refusing to seek evaluation or help. What can we do?

In such situations, I will revert to the “family conference.” In such a setting, all significant members of the family (spouse if living, children, siblings) meet alone first and agree on the significance of the problem and what needs to be done with the assistance of a social worker who is skilled in the day-to-day management of memory problems. A plan is devised. Then the family meets with the older adult and as a group virtually insists that the older adult seek help, if not for her sake, then for the sake of the family. Have an appointment already set up. Have at least two family members go with the older adult to the evaluation and make certain that the family (in the presence of the older adult) express to the clinician the problems that have been noticed. This approach works most of the time IF the family is in agreement and speaks as one voice. More

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About the Expert:

Dan G. Blazer, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
Professor in Community and Family Medicine
Duke University School of Medicine

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May 10, 2021

Following this diet could help prevent Alzheimer's, new study suggests
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A healthy diet full of fish, vegetables and healthy fats could help to preserve cognition. A Mediterranean diet — one that is rich in fish, vegetables and olive oil — may help ward off Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests. An analysis of brain scans from more than 500 older adults revealed that seniors who consumed a Mediterranean diet were less likely to display brain shrinkage and high levels of the abnormal proteins that have been found to gunk up the brains of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, researchers reported in the medical journal Neurology.

MAY 10 2021
Study finds racial disparities in health care extend to dementia, Alzheimer's treatment

WCPO - ABC Cincinnati

An Alzheimer’s Association report said 66% of Black Americans believe it is harder for them to get excellent care for Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias while 40% of Native Americans, 39% of Hispanic Americans and 34% of Asian Americans believe their race or ethnicity makes it hard to get care.

MAY 10 2021

Untangling the brain: New research offers hope for Alzheimer's disease

Medical Xpress

Since the discovery of Alzheimer's disease over a century ago, two hallmarks of the devastating illness have taken center stage. The first, known as amyloid plaques, are dense accumulations of misfolded amyloid protein, occurring in the spaces between nerve cells. Most efforts to halt the advance of Alzheimer's disease have targeted amyloid protein plaques. To date, all have met dispiriting failure. The second classic trait consists of string-like formations within the bodies of neurons, produced by another crucial protein—tau. These are known as neurofibrillary tangles. In a new study, researchers investigate these tangles in the brain—pathologies not only characteristic of Alzheimer's but other neurodegenerative conditions as well.