Books related to Alzheimer’s Disease

Books!

I suppose it is fine to read about things in email, as many of us do all the time these days!

But, some of us prefer to hold a book, and to that end, I thought it might be good to tell you about some books I have liked or that look relevant which deal with real stories about people with Alzheimer’s or dementia, or even stories about life and death. Yes, they are probably also on Kindle!

I have read some of these, not all.

Alzheimer’s books

Mom, Are You There? Finding a Path to Peace Through Alzheimer’s by Kathleen A. Negri Insights and lessons that can aid any caregiver in embracing the person with dementia in positive, healthy ways and in developing self-understanding.

Dementia: Living in the Memories of God, by Professor John Swinton. Professor Swinton uses his background in nursing, ministry, and healthcare chaplaincy to conduct research on the relationship between spirituality and disease. In Dementia: Living in the Memories of God, Swinton explores two main questions for people living with the disease: Who am I when I’ve forgotten who I am? and What does it mean to love God and be loved by Him when I have forgotten who God is? The book puts forth Swinton’s practical theology of dementia for caregivers, dementia patients, and others who offer them love, support, and guidance.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova Still Alice is a fictional story about the descent of a 50-year-old university professor diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The Association assisted author Lisa Genova with her research, which included interviews with several members of past Early Stage Advisory Groups. The Association is also featured prominently in the book’s plot. In addition, the Association worked with Genova to create the Still Alice discussion guide, specifically for people living with Alzheimer’s. The guide, the first of its kind, is intended to help people with the disease use Alice’s story to connect with their experience and explain it to others.

Learning to Speak Alzheimer’by Joanne Koenig Coste and Robert Butler Joanne Koenig Coste offers a practical approach to the emotional well-being of both patients and caregivers that emphasizes relating to patients in their own reality. Her accessible and comprehensive method, which she calls habilitation, works to enhance communication between care partners and patients and has proven successful with thousands of people living with dementia. Learning to Speak Alzheimer’s also offers hundreds of practical tips, including how to · cope with the diagnosis and adjust to the disease’s progression · help the patient talk about the illness · face the issue of driving · make meals and bath times as pleasant as possible · adjust room design for the patient’s comfort · deal with wandering, paranoia, and aggression.

Chicken Soup for the Soul Living with Alzheimer’s & Other Dementias by Amy Newmark With 101 encouraging and inspiring stories by others like you, this book is a source of support and encouragement throughout your caregiving journey.

The Forgetting By David Shenk. David Shenk’s prize-winning book is a scientific and literary description of Alzheimer’s and the research that is being done to find a cure. The Forgetting, Alzheimer’s: Portrait of an Epidemic is never boring, one feels in the hands of a caring expert. The British psychoanalyst and author Adam Phillips writes in his foreword: “This remarkable book will radically change our notions of looking after people and our assumptions about independence. Out of fear of mortality we have idealized health and youth and competence. The Forgetting reminds us, among many other things, that there is more to life than that.”

When It Gets Dark By Thomas DeBaggio. When it Gets Dark is essentially DeBaggio’s swan song. Although he lived eight years after the publication of this book, one can only imagine how painful the last years must have been for DeBaggio and his family as even in 2003 he was describing the terror, frustration, sadness and sometimes anger at his rapidly deteriorating mind. Although When it Gets Dark was written after DeBaggio’s Losing my Mind, it is more structured, and in chronological order, which is not the case with first book. DeBaggio expands on Losing my Mind, but also turns back to his past, recounting the early 1960s and 70s and his beginnings as an herb grower. DeBaggio was also a fisherman, and often used the language of fishing and horticulture to describe his daily battle: “My long-term memory is left battered; trying to find moments of the past is like fishing with a dull, rusting hook without bait.”

The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss. Written by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabbins, The 36-Hour Day now is in its sixth edition. Completely revised and updated, this book has sold more than 3 million copies around the world and continues to be a top resource for those caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. The 36-Hour Day guides family members and caregivers through coping with the challenges of dementia while addressing their personal needs and emotions.

The Alzheimer’s Action Plan: What You Need to Know – and What You Can Do – About Memory Problems, from Prevention to Early Intervention and Care by Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy. Dr. Doraiswamy is a psychiatrist in the Duke Health system who serves as a brain health adviser for Men’s Health magazine and a health care expert panelist for The Wall Street Journal. He also co-authored The Alzheimer’s Action Plan with Lisa P. Gwyther and Tina Adler. This dementia book combines Dr. Doraiswamy’s medical insights with social worker Lisa P. Gwyther’s experience in working with families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease. Readers will understand how to determine whether their loved one’s memory loss is a symptom of Alzheimer’s and how to help her receive effective medical treatments as the disease progresses.

Dementia

What If It’s Not Alzheimer’s, A Guide to Dementia by John Trojanowski This book is the first comprehensive guide dealing with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), one of the largest groups of non-Alzheimer’s dementias. The contributors are either specialists in their fields or have exceptional hands-on experience with FTD.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias by Nataly Rubinstein Written by a licensed clinical social worker with twenty-five years of experience, this easy-to-read book will give you the resources to make informed decisions regarding the best possible care for you and your loved one.

A Caregiver’s Guide to Lewy Body Dementia by Helen Buell Whitworth MS BSN This is the ideal resource for caregivers, family members, and friends of individuals seeking to understand Lewy Body Dementia.

For caregivers

Activities to do with Your Parent who has Alzheimer’s Dementia by Judith A. Levy. She is an occupational therapist who became the daughter of an Alzheimer’s patient. In Activities to Do with Your Parent Who Has Alzheimer’s Dementia, Levy uses her personal and professional experiences to support readers who are in a similar situation. She shares activities that promote patients’ abilities to care for themselves, remain mobile, and continue to socialize. She also describes how to create an environment that supports parents with dementia. The book contains more than 50 activities, activity assessment forms, ideas for preventing caregiver burnout, and much more.

Ahead of Dementia: A Real-World, Upfront, Straightforward, Step-by-Step Guide for Family Caregivers by Luciana Mitzkun’s. This guide for families caring for dementia patients provides an authentic look into managing symptoms, securing future care, and avoiding common mistakes as the disease progresses. Caregivers also will learn how to care for themselves while caring for their loved one, thanks to the concise information and meaningful anecdote included in the book. Busy caregivers appreciate the straightforward nature of Mitzkun’s writing.

Alzheimer’s Care: The Caregiver’s Guide to Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease & Best Practices to Care for People with Alzheimer’s & Dementia by Nancy J. Wiles. Alzheimer’s Care is a dementia book by Nancy J. Wiles that provides a look into Alzheimer’s for caregivers who want to know more about the signs and symptoms of the disease, how to help patients keep their memories for as long as possible, and much more. The book provides a comprehensive overview into dementia and Alzheimer’s and answers the questions caregivers have but aren’t sure how to ask when faced with caring for a loved one with the disease.

Intelligence

In Pursuit of Memory by Joseph Jebelli. It has become the salient fact of 21st-century life that, with an aging world population, Alzheimer’s will overtake cancer as the second leading cause of death after heart disease. We’re at a point, writes Joseph Jebelli, at which “almost everyone knows someone – a family member or friend – who has been affected.” Jebelli, a young British neuroscientist, has greater cause than many to make this claim. As a boy, he watched his grandfather acting strangely, before descending into the abyss of dementia in which he could no longer recognize his family. Jebelli’s testament, In Pursuit of Memory, is a moving, sober and forensic study of the past, present and future of Alzheimer’s from the point of view of a neurologist who has lived with the disease, at home and in the lab, from a very young age.

Curse of the High IQ by Aaron Clarey. Society, by statistical necessity, needs to focus on the majority. It needs to be built and designed for “the average.” Society, by moral necessity, also needs to focus on the disadvantaged and disabled. Helping those who cannot help themselves. But while the majority of society’s resources, attention, and infrastructure is dedicated to average or below-average intelligent people, little-to-none of it is paid to the abnormally intelligent. And while having a high IQ is an overall net benefit in life, being a statistical intellectual freak is not without its drawbacks. Welcome to the “Curse of the High IQ.”

Mortality

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande. Like poet William Carlos Williams or The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat author Oliver Sacks, Gawande is that rare soul who is as talented a writer as he is a doctor. In this call for a reevaluation of end-of-life care, he meditates on how to navigate age-related frailty and mortal illness so that not just the living, but the dying, can be comfortable.

On Death & Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. Ten years after her 2004 death, this new edition of Dr. Kübler-Ross’s definitive work was released, and it’s filled with her original insights about the psychological processes of dying as well as new resources for the ailing and their loved ones.

Enjoy!

When is it time to stop driving?

When is it time to stop driving or take the keys away?

At some time you will feel concern or even fear that your parents should no longer drive an automobile. AgingCare.com points out that in a recent year, over 14 million Americans were involved in accidents with elderly drivers. But is age the only issue in deciding if it is time to stop driving? Or, is it the risk of accidents?

Of course, it isn’t really just either of those!

If that were true, then, statistically, young adults should not drive! When driving, you are in control of a 4000-lb machine that can easily hurt you or someone else. And, we see people, young and old, who concern us while driving.

Physical and mental condition and abilities are probably the key area to consider. Even the airlines ask if you are “capable” of doing the things it takes to sit in the exit row. Why not ask this of other tasks, including driving?

What are some of the areas of concern?

  • Vision: Can the driver see well enough to drive? Can they see signs? Can they judge distances? Can they see at night? Can they physically see over the dashboard? Personally, as my cataracts get worse, I have less light entering my eyes. This will eventually reduce my focus ability and night vision. It isn’t a demonstrable problem yet, but I “keep an eye on it”.
  • Hearing: The driver must be able to hear sirens or RR-Crossing warnings.
  • Strength: Can the driver manage the vehicle? Turning the car at a slow speed can require a lot of arm strength. Have you ever tried to drive with your arm in pain? Or hit the brakes if your leg is weak from an injury? It is hard! And, risky.
  • Medications: Is the driver on any medications that could affect speed of thought? Or one that would make them sleepy? Both situations can spell disaster. Medications and their interactions can have serious effects.

Is there anything specific to dementia?

For the topic at hand, Alzheimer’s and dementia, there might be unique issues that cause changes to the abilities that can affect driving.

  • Forgetfulness can be an important consideration. Not just about destinations, or how to return home. That happens, of course. But, look for confusion about stop signs, forgetting to use blinkers, or making that left turn into the retirement home without regard for oncoming traffic (one of my clients had two car-totaling accidents this way before his license was revoked).
  • Judgments: When an emergency happens, can the driver make decisions fast enough to avoid an accident? Sometimes, that ability to judge what is coming up avoids the emergency in the first place. Alzheimer’s and other dementias can rob a person of the ability to process information fast enough to drive.  To compensate, some drivers with slow reactions may turn too late, stomp on the brakes after they pass their destination, or just drive slowly.

How can you evaluate the driving?

Ride with them. Watch how they drive. Observe without comments, but record what you see for later reference. Some of the warning signs showing that the ability to drive safely is beginning to decline include:

  • Difficulty changing lanes.
  • Suddenly drifting into other lanes.
  • Problems judging distance when braking.
  • Forgetting to use turn signals.

Check the vehicle. Look for dents on the car, especially at the corners. Ask about the missing mirror. Check the sides of the garage door for damage.

Again, a personal note … seeing how my mother-in-law drove even years before symptoms of Alzheimer’s appeared should have alerted us to impending problems. She had dents and dings on all four corners of the car and had some trouble being attentive to traffic. I didn’t want to ride with her anymore! We didn’t stop her from driving for a few more years, and fortunately, nothing serious happened.

How to actually take the keys, if you must…

Have a plan. If you take the keys, says the Huff Post website, you should be able to provide an alternative. You can drive, you can sign the driver up with a local transportation option, such as Durham Access, or even teach the driver how to use Uber.  But, don’t leave them with no options.

Have a conversation. This is a shared decision, and your loved ones should be a part of the process. Elizabeth Dugan, author of the book, “The Driving Dilemma: The Complete Resource Guide for Older Drivers and Their Families,” suggests that you ask them what to do and share your concerns (“I don’t want to lose you in an accident”). Use open-ended questions and focus on what you are worried about, not what they should do.

Involve a trusted third party. Leverage a doctor or therapist (or the DMV) for help.

Be creative. For some drivers, simply “losing the keys” is enough. We disconnected the battery, and the car just would not start.

What if your loved one still refuses to stop driving?

Here are two ideas from dailycaring.com to force the issue:

Contact the DMV. There is a form on the website (ncdot.gov) that allows you to report the driver and ask for a driving evalutaion. Failure to pass would limit their driving.

Use forgetfulness to your advantage. When mother-in-law’s car would not start, it wasn’t long before she stopped wanting to drive and accepted rides and help from others. If she asked, we simply suggested that the car could not be fixed. Similarly, you can lose the keys or even disable the car entirely (like we did with the battery cable).

Also, Protect your own car and keys. Some people will take another car in the household to drive. So, protect that car too by controlling your own keys.

If there is really a problem, don’t feel guilty. You are doing what is necessary.

What if you do take the keys?

If you feel that it is time for them to hand over the keys, recognize that you may run into resistance. Taking the car keys removes the parent’s independence, the ability to drive to the market or to meet friends for coffee, to church and the senior center, the library or to visit friends. The experience can be traumatic.

But, be aware that taking away the keys can mean an earlier move to assisted living.  Is that affordable or even a good idea?  Be prepared to step in with meaningful assistance during this transition.

Summary

The bottom line is that this is a hard conversation and will require patience and planning.

If you need help, check out the articles referenced on this blog or contact a geriatric professional care manager.

Does Brain Exercise help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s?

Does Brain Exercise help?

We read in a lot of places that exercising your brain can help prevent dementia.

Is that true? If so, what makes sense to try?

No one can say for certain that exercise can prevent or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Still, some are certain that it helps, and there is a complete industry of brain-related exercises. You can get apps, web pages, games, workbooks, foods, and more. Is it all about the money .. capitalizing on our fear of dementia? or, does it work?

First, if we think it does help, that is itself helpful. So, look at sites like these for apps and games … some of these aim for “wellness”, others for exercises for your brain and thinking skills…

And more! The NIH has a site too.

You can exercise your thinking, and that is always good.

And, here are some really good ideas for brain health from Consumer Health Digest. Also, from Every Day Health.

But, Can it help with Alzheimer’s?

Some researchers think so, based on this general theory … if cognition improves in people without dementia due to brain exercise, then it must be of some benefit to those who do. Here is an article on Brain Exercise from the Alzheimer’s Society in the UK. But, they also point out that there is no evidence that brain exercise delays Alzheimer’s disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association in the US says this: “At this time, there is no treatment to cure, delay or stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.”

My experience

Personally, I know that my ability to “think” diminished over the years. I didn’t notice it, but it was certainly apparent when I went to Law School. Now, I didn’t start until I was 51 … well after most lawyers get their start! But, the key here is that I thought I was in fine shape, mentally.

When I got to class, I realized I would have to read, and remember, hundreds of pages of information … every night! I hadn’t read hundreds of pages in one day for 30 years! It was a struggle to re-learn how to learn. And, it took the whole first semester.

The important point? I turned the corner, and was able to learn, and retain massive amounts of information. Which proves two things to me … one, certain skills I had before atrophied, and two, exercising those skills brought them back.

So, I am a believer that brain exercise helps. I’m not so sure about avoiding Alzheimer’s, but exercising your brain is a very good thing!

What about body exercise?

Oh, yes, one more cool thing … physical exercise can help your brain too!

You know you feel better when you have a little exercise in your daily routine. That has a known reason. But, if you exercise, it turns out that you are also repairing neurons through “neurogenesis”. Since Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia have as one process the destruction of neurons, it is possible that exercise can slow the progression. Active mice show more nerve regeneration than inactive ones. Hopefully, our brains act like the mice brains!

So, be active, both mentally AND physically!

Join a local Alzheimer’s Walk!

Want an easy way to help with the fight against Alzheimer’s?

Held annually in more than 600 communities nationwide, the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s® is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. This inspiring event calls on participants of all ages and abilities to join the fight against the disease!

The Walk in Raleigh-Durham is held in September each year. This year, it will be September 15, 2018, at the North Carolina Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh, NC 27607 . The walk begins with registration at 8:30 am and kicks off at 10:00am. Don’t come late! There are activities and vendors, and over a thousand people all carrying flowers in memory or in honor of loved ones with this disease.

Someday, there will be a person carrying a white flower to symbolize survivors.

When you participate in a Walk, your fundraising dollars fuel our mission, and your participation in the event helps to change the level of Alzheimer’s awareness in your community. The Alzheimer’s Association provides free, easy-to-use tools and staff support to help participants reach their fundraising goal. While there is no fee to register, we encourage participants to fundraise in order to contribute to the cause and raise awareness.

Take the first step by finding a Walk near you. Once you register, you will have access to a wide range of tools and support through your customized Participant Center. Join us and lead the way to Alzheimer’s first survivor. Together, we can end Alzheimer’s disease!

What is Sundowning?

What is Sundowning?

And, what should I do about it?

The term “sundowning” refers to a state of confusion that often occurs in the late afternoon and may continue into the evening or night. Sundowning can cause or exaggerate some of the common behaviors associated with dementia. This could include confusion, anxiety, aggression, or ignoring directions. Your loved one might become demanding or suspicious. Sundowning can also lead to pacing or wandering.

Sundowning isn’t a disease, but a group of symptoms that occur at a specific time of the day that may affect people with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

What causes Sundowning?

The exact cause of this behavior is unknown. It might be related to light levels as the day wears on, or it might be related to fatigue if the person has been up and active for a while. They could even pick up on Caregiver fatigue!

There is speculation that the “internal clock” we all have is broken for people with dementia, so the day (and people around them) want them “awake” when their body tells them to “sleep”. Imagine how you would feel all mixed up, time-wise.

A more interesting theory to consider is that activity associated with later afternoon (shift changes, grandkids coming home from school, the dog needing a walk) may create a frustrating anxiety. The person with dementia might “remember” that they have to check on the dog, or pick up kids, or wrap up the day at work, even though this is not the current reality. Then, not being able to do it, or understand why they cannot, is frustrating and leads to behavior issues. That can include the need to “check in at home” which can lead to wandering behaviors.

Can it be prevented? How do we manage it?

The easiest approach to sundowning may be to change the stimuli of the environment. For example, keep lights brighter during the afternoon to “hold off” the shadows of evening. Close the blinds in the afternoon to avoid the changing light. The Alzheimer’s Association suggests the use of brighter lights during the evening.

You can also help the person get more or better sleep. Sometimes this might include little changes to medication or new patterns; talk to your doctor. You can arrange the bigger meal to be lunch rather than dinner/supper.

Schedule outside trips for times during the early part of the day. Go outside for a walk mid-day and limit mid-day naps, if possible. Avoid too much new activity during the time when the person with dementia seems to get agitated. Reduce noise and activity in the evening. Some people note that the TV is too distracting and suggest quiet music instead. Music can work wonders for some people with Alzheimer’s.

Care for the caregiver

Caregivers are stressed too. Take time to recover, sleep well, and relax as much as you can. Get respite help when necessary. There is no shame in asking for help and/or taking time for yourself.

For more information or help, contact a professional care manager, a home care agency, or an attorney familiar with these sorts of issues. Here is a more extensive case-study article.

Symptoms of Dementia

Symptoms of Dementia

In the past couple of emails, I noted that the dementia is progressive. That means it starts without symptoms, and then gradually the symptoms increase. Eventually, they interfere with daily life.

So, what should you look for?

Early signs of forgetfulness is often a key. This is sometimes described as forgetting why I went into a room, or where I left my keys. Of course, such things do not mean you have dementia, but they are possible symptoms. Forgetting directions to a common destination can also happen.

For others, poor decisions might be more apparent first. This can show up as a “lack of filter” in comments. I’ve heard seniors say amazing things they would never have said before the onset of dementia, and you probably have too. Another common example of poor decisions involves financial concerns. For example, a client lost multiple $100,000+ “investments” because he could no longer gauge the risk associated with the choices he was making.

Dementia in the general sense is different from the case of Alzheimer’s in the specific. Here is a list of Alzheimer’s symptoms you can read if you want more information.

What if I see a change?

People with memory loss or other possible signs of Alzheimer’s may find it hard to recognize they have a problem. Signs of dementia may be more obvious to family members or friends than it is to the person. Anyone experiencing dementia-like symptoms should see a doctor as soon as possible. If you see these kinds of changes in yourself or a loved one, don’t panic. It does not mean that dementia is starting! But, it is a good idea to check things out for yourself, and pay attention.

Keep an eye on changes, and consider planning ahead. You should look into legal documents, and be certain that IF there is a significant change in capacity, the family will be able to adapt and assist.

Help is available

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, you are not alone. The Alzheimer’s Association is the trusted resource for reliable information, education, referral and support to millions of people affected by the disease.

Call the 24/7 Helpline: 800.272.3900
Locate a chapter in your community
Use the Virtual Library

You are gaining knowledge by reading about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, so use that knowledge to help your loved ones or yourself.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Yesterday I discussed dementia in general. Today, let’s look at Alzheimer’s in more detail.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. While it is a form of dementia, it may represent 60-80% of all the cases. And, remember that “dementia” is a condition in which memory loss and a decline in other cognitive abilities is serious enough to interfere with daily life.

What characterizes Alzheimer’s specifically?

Essentially in my layman’s terms, your brain works through the activity of neurons, the connections between which create memory and hold all the details you use to think and reason. I explain it as the neuron connections that you need to think are getting interrupted. But, that isn’t all that happens. The damage spreads … and it is permanent. Eventually, the symptoms start to show up as forgetfulness and confusion.

Can you make it easy to understand?

I can try … in your brain are many complex processes. One of those goes haywire and accidentally starts to destroy neurons. Then, the brain’s response just makes it worse. Eventually, the disease actually shrinks your brain as tissue is affected. As that happens your memories, and your capability to think and reason, are lost.

There is a lot going on at a very deep level inside the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s.

When do symptoms start?

As you might tell from the description, Alzheimer’s begins without showing symptoms, and it might take years, but it is relentless and ultimately fatal.

This initial part is called the pre-clinical stage, which isn’t even part of the official stages of Alzheimer’s. Some estimates are that people are “asymptomatic” for 10-20 years! That means that their brains are changing, and no one can tell early enough for treatments to start. In fact, this makes medical research studies difficult because we really do not know if a person without symptoms has the disease or not.

Planning is important

Does this worry you? It probably shouldn’t!

Sure, you, or I, could be living with a disease that stays hidden for years, but that can be true with other diseases as well. My advice is not to worry … each day has worries enough. Knowledge and planning will make a difference for you and your loved ones, no matter what the eventual troubles really become.

If you already have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or any other dementia, you have had to process that knowledge personally and for many people it is discouraging, disappointing, and even terrifying. But, there is a ton of research going on, and we still work toward a cure.

Meanwhile, learning how the disease affects people and their families and caregivers is important. Talking with your loved ones, diagnosed or not, is important for a healthy response to any medical condition.

That is the point of my emails … to help you understand the issues and to develop new ways of thinking or relating to people with and without the disease. Working together, we make a difference in lives around us.

Tomorrow, I’ll look deeper into the symptoms and later into the stages of the disease.

See you then!

P.S. Here is another slightly more accurate description of the process

This description is written by Kathleen Ellen Foley. You can find her article here.

For some reason, Alzheimer’s patients had unusual buildups of proteins called amyloids in their brains. These proteins are a normal part of everyday function in healthy people, but instead of breaking down as they should, they form plaques that eventually destroy neurons.

Simultaneously—although it’s unclear if this is because of the amyloid buildups or in addition to them—proteins called tau, which form connections within and between neurons, become dense with extra phosphorus atoms. Eventually, the tau proteins become knotted, and end up destroying affected neurons, which also impairs the connection between other neurons. Worse, the tau then starts spreading. The destruction starts in the hippocampus, the tiny, seahorse-shaped memory hub at the base of the center of the brain, and extends outward, eventually overwhelming the entire organ.

For a while, the brain maintains normal function with these malformed proteins and dying neurons, but eventually, it hits a tipping point. The hippocampus starts to shrink and people who could once remember to-do lists, names, and directions start to become more forgetful and confused, which understandably leads to intense anxiety and confusion. The cognitive symptoms only get worse from there, followed by physical decline that is eventually fatal.

The damage caused by the disease is permanent.

P.P.S. – Here is the really technical explanation… continue at your own risk!

According to Dr. Sara Adaes, writing for “Brain Blogger” in 2015, the technical details are this:

There are some pathological features in AD brain tissue that are considered hallmarks of the disease. Specifically, amyloid plaques – extracellular deposits of the amyloid-beta (A-beta) peptide – and neurofibrillary tangles, intracellular accumulations of the hyperphosphorylated tau (p-tau), a microtubule assembly protein. Other characteristic changes include increased microglial reactivity and widespread loss of neurons, white matter and synapses.

Ok, that is a mouthful.

Why does dementia matter to business?

Dementia creates a huge cost for US business.

This comes in the form of a gradual decline in productivity, early retirements, workers leaving to care for their loved ones, and eventually insurance costs for care.  It is a national problem that needs resolution.

Dementia is various things, but one easy descriptionis that it is a progressive diminishing of the brain’s cognitive functions.  That means that practically, if you have dementia, you will gradually lose the ability to make complex judgments or certain kinds of decisions.  You might lose the ability to manage your money, or drive the car.

These changes are gradual, and usually fairly slowly developing.  So, you might have episodes for years that are frustrating but not a problem.  Then, sometimes as a surprise, you can’t function like you used to.

Why does that matter?

If you are a younger worker, you might lose productivity or efficiency.  If you are an older worker, you might need accomodations.  Or, you might need to retire sooner than you had hoped.  This can affect you, your co-workers, your company, and even the community.  We are not talking about the cost of care … that is further down the timeline.  But, studies show that in 2010 distracted workers cost the national industry in the US alone over $650Billion a year.  That was back in 2010, according to a business journal.  Imagine what it is today, and what just a few minutes of confusion or having to repeat things can do.

Early retirements are the next factor.  Workers are retiring earlier than usual when dementia is involved.  And it isn’t just here in the US… it is a global issue.  In the UK, “Early retirement of those diagnosed with dementia is estimated to cost businesses a further £627m a year” (see this article)

Finally, workers often leave to care for their loved ones.  This can reduce the workforce and coast companies in terms of retraining, disruptions, and overall corporate health costs.

How many people are affected?

A poll, “commissioned by Workplace Options in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association, showed that nearly 70% of those who work or worked while providing care had to modify their schedules. They went in late, left early or took time off during the day.

Other findings:

  • 32% had to take a leave of absence.
  • 26% changed jobs for a less demanding role.
  • 23% had to go from working full time to part time.
  • 20% said their work performance suffered to the point of possible dismissal.
  • 24% had to give up working entirely.

Other issues that come up while being a working caretaker are physical exhaustion and psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. For some, it amounts to a second job.”  (See the article)

What can we do?

As business owners, we need to adapt the way we work to accommodate people who need to care for others.  We need to understand what our people need for their own health.  And, we need plans that appropriately and legally adjust our practices and procedures.

It is a big task, and growing every day.

You can help by getting behind initiatives to study dementia, by taking care of yourself, and working to support your co-workers and family.  Together, we can adapt while we wait for the cure.

 

What is dementia?

According to the Alzheimer’s organization, Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. (see alz.org )

They go on to say, “Dementia is not a specific disease. It’s an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.

Do you want to know more about signs of Dementia?  Download this article from Alz.org.

People with dementia may have problems with short-term memory.  This is common, and looks like trouble keeping track of a purse or wallet, paying bills,  remembering appointments or traveling.  Even just out of the neighborhood.  We often see this when a person who used to cook stops, or has trouble planning and preparing meals, or leaving food in the microwave or stove.

Most dementias are progressive and gradual, meaning that your symptoms start out slowly and over time get worse. If you or anyone you know is experiencing memory skills issues, please do not ignore them.  Get an evaluation from a doctor who understands dementia.

 

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