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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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JAN 5 2021

When is it more than forgetting? Recognizing the early warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease

Utica Observer-Dispatch

Recognizing and taking steps to address the warning signs of Alzheimer’s and other dementias can be extremely challenging - especially in the early stages. It’s easy and common to dismiss cognitive changes in oneself or a family member as “normal aging.” “Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging,” says Katrina VanFleet, LMSW, chief program officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, Central New York Chapter. “With normal aging, you may forget where you parked your car - that happens to all of us. But if you get in your car and get lost coming home - that’s not normal.” 

DEC 24 2020

Researchers aim to advance understanding of Alzheimer's disease progression

Medical Xpress

University of Maryland (UMD) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) researchers are working together to develop a new X-ray based technique that has the potential to advance understanding of Alzheimer's disease in a preclinical stage. The group's immediate aim is to develop a noninvasive way to quickly measure the amount of amyloid plaque in the brain, which has been found to correspond with Alzheimer's disease progression. The researchers' work was recently published in Scientific Reports.

DEC 15, 2020

Picturing the ‘patience, love, and devotion’ of Alzheimer’s care

STAT

Shamsazaran’s photographs depict grief and loss, but also show the strength and love in his family. In the photo above, Shamsazaran’s mother, Aliyeh, tightly embraces her husband during the late stage of his illness. In another, a portrait drawn by a young grandchild is placed by the elder Shamsazaran’s sleeping face — a reminder of the passage of time that a diagnosis like Alzheimer’s makes all the more apparent.