Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month

Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month

It’s Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month!

The Alzheimer’s Association recently posted an article detailing some common misperceptions about the condition as described by individuals with early-stage Alzhiemer’s Disease (AD).

AD affects over 6 million people in the US alone and is the most common form of dementia, which is characterized by:

  • memory loss
  • language problems
  • changes in mood
  • and deficits in thinking and reasoning that interfere with daily life activities.

AD is a disease that progresses over time. AD sufferers in the early stages can still function independently but generally need caregivers as the disease progresses. With increased testing, people are becoming diagnosis earlier than before.

Individuals with a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease may have a difficult time coping with their diagnosis and need support. Although friends and family members often have the desire to be supportive, they may avoid interacting with the individual with AD due to the fear of negatively impacting their mood.

Avoiding engagement with individuals with AD promotes a sense of isolation and stigma, and can harm their feeling of self-worth. The goal of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month is to help discuss common misperceptions about AD:

1. Identify Goals Early

Individuals still capable of living independently can benefit from setting goals to accomplish. Friends, family and caregivers can help with planning for their future and maintaining quality of life as their disease progresses.

2. Focus on the Person, Not the Disease

Alzheimer’s patients retain their sense of self until the final stages of dementia and the disease doesn’t affect the person’s choice of daily life pursuits or the relationships they enjoy. Unfortunately, sometimes a diagnosis can change the way they are treated or perceived even those individuals with AD continue to enjoy their usual activities and being social until the later stages of the illness. Listening patiently and avoiding patronization or “elderspeak” is key.

“At every stage of the disease, it is more important that a person interacts with others and less important exactly what is said,” explains Dr. Peter Rabins, professor emeritus at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD in Medical News Today article. “People sometimes worry that they will say the ‘wrong thing.’ The key, though, is to talk with the person at whatever level they are able to interact. Talk about old times, good memories, and how their favorite sports team is doing. Go on walks, bring the grandchildren over, or perhaps just sit and hold hands. Even at the end stage of the disease communication through touch can be powerful and rewarding.”

3. Symptom Fluctuation

Depending on the day, individuals with AD may demonstrate improved cognitive function or mood, or they may exhibit more severe symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, irritability, and increased word repetition. Understanding that these behaviors may be beyond the control of AD sufferers can help loved ones and caregivers to me more patient.

4. Early-onset AD

The perception that AD only affects older people may cause younger individual to ignore symptoms or delay getting the help they need. Although the majority of AD cases involve people over the age of 65, younger people account for 5-10% of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Early detection can aid in delaying the progression of the disease and fining treatment sooner.

5. Direct Communication

Talking about the person with AD to others (such as a spouse or caregiver) while they are present in the room can be patronizing and isolating. It is difficult sometimes to know how to react after a loved one’s diagnosis, but conversing directly with the person about their health is more likely to be received as being caring and thoughtful.

6. Avoid Making Judgements

Denial is a common reaction among friends and family members after a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and that can lead to dismissive comments such as “you’re too young” or “you don’t seem to be any different.”  These kinds of statements disregard both the psychological impact of diagnosis experienced by the patient and the mental and physical challenges caused by the disease itself.

Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month: Increasing Awareness and Acceptance

Dismantling the stigmatization of dementia through public awareness campaigns can improve how people seek and receive services and support. Encouraging communities to become more ‘dementia friendly’ is an important step:

“We too often view Alzheimer’s through the biomedical lens of disease, but as people living with dementia emphasize, they are still ‘here’ and have dreams and preferences that we must honor, ” states Dr. Joseph Gaugler, the director of the Center for Healthy Aging and Innovation at the University of Minnesota.

Learn more about our Memory Care program at Cadbury Commons.

Nasal Alzheimer's Vaccine Study

Alzheimer’s Vaccine: Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital nasal spray trials underway

Could an Alzheimer’s Vaccine Prevent the Disease?

An Alzheimer’s vaccine in nasal spray form has been in development for almost two decades by Dr. Howard Weiner, co-director of the Ann Romney Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Now that novel treatment is in a clinical trial.

How It Works

Weiner explained that the novel treatment triggers the body’s immune system, spurring self-healing.

“What we’re doing, it’s never been done before,” said Dr. Howard Weiner. In five years, he hopes to be able to FDA approval for the vaccine.

Currently, in Phase 1 trials, the study comprises 16 participants with early-stage symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The wife of one of the study subjects, Cindy Goldberg noticed changes in her husband, Jeff, five years ago when he became confused and was no longer able to “do the checkbook.”

The Goldbergs found out about the drug study in December 2021, and Jeff felt he had “nothing to lose except everything to gain” by joining the trial.

After monitoring participants for six months to evaluate dosage and safety, researchers then hope to launch a larger vaccine trial. The principal investigator, Dr. Tanuja Chitnis, believes that they are “making good progress so far” and they are “not seeing any major issues.”

To Weiner, who lost his own mother to the disease, the vaccine is a personal mission.

The Goldbergs are just as committed. One of their grandchildren – an eight year old – recently told them he wants to become a doctor and find a cure for Alzheimer’s as well,  so his “Grampy won’t forget who [he is].”

This new Alzeimer’s vaccine trial has only recruited patients who already show early signs of the disease, but Weiner hopes to make the nasal spray available to at-risk populations before they are symptomatic.

To learn more about the study, visit the BWH Press Release page.

If you or a love one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, find out about Cadbury Commons’ Memory Care Program >

Honoring Grandmothers on Mother’s Day

This Mother’s Day, let grandmothers know how much you care! Whether she lives close by or visits when she can, grandmothers play a special role in families. Grandmothers can be friends, impart wisdom, provide childcare, or be a loving support even from a distance. Sometimes through necessity, grandmothers actually become ‘moms’ to their grandchildren. A positive relationship between a grandmother and grandchild often brings more happiness and stability to the entire family.

Five Reasons Why Grandparents Are So Important

Grandmothers impact the lives of their grandchildren.

As many as 9 out of 10 adult grandchildren say that grandmothers have shaped their values and beliefs, studies suggest. Grandchildren learn about forming healthy relationships from the bonds they make with grandparents and other relatives and the support and intimacy they receive.

Grandmothers can help to reduce household stress.

“An emotionally close relationship between grandparent and grandchild is associated with fewer symptoms of depression for both generations” finds a 2014 study at Boston College.  A grandmother involved in kids’ lives provide special times of creative fun, exploration and play. From a child’s perspective, grandmothers pass on a unique perspective on the world. In a survey from the American Grandparents Association, nearly three-quarters of grandparents believe being a grandparent is the by far the most important and satisfying role in their lives.

Grandmothers are an experienced and valuable resource.

Through stories and lived experiences, grandmothers can often help shape children’s outlooks in ways their own parent or other adults cannot. They also provide a cultural and historic bridge between the generations. Children can more fully learn about who they are and where they come from through this connection.

Grandmothers provide an extra layer of support.

In challenging times – or even in good times – grandmothers can give a sense of security which positively impacts children’s lives, and especially with teens. Close bonds with a grandmother can help teens avoid social problems or lessen acting out. When a child or teen finds it difficult to speak with a parent, a grandmother can give advice or simply be a neutral and empathetic listener.

Grandmothers are often a reliable and affordable childcare option.

According to the 2010 Census, roughly 2.7 million grandparents provide for the basic needs of a grandchild, while even more take care of their grandchildren on a regular basis. If grandmothers are willing and able to be an occasional babysitter or regular childcare provider, parents are comforted by having them in charge.

Whatever the reason, celebrating grandmothers on Mother’s Day is a wonderful way to let them know how much they are valued and appreciated for all they do!

Best Standard of Memory Care for Alzheimer’s

What is Habilitation Therapy?

Habilitation therapy (HT) is part of Cadbury Commons’ Morningside Memory Care program to help people with Alzheimer’s or dementia improve their functional abilities as the disease progresses.

HT was devised in the 1990s by the Alzheimer’s Association, and is thought to be the best practice in everyday care for people with various types of dementia. As opposed to rehabilitation therapy – which is intended to restore a person level of previous function – habilitation therapy is a comprehensive and holistic approach to memory care that aims to extend current levels of functioning and reduce difficult symptoms.

Five Benefits of Habilitation Therapy in Memory Care

Habilitation therapy benefits not only the person living with memory loss but also their family, friends, and. Five benefits of habilitation therapy include:

  1. Increasing the bond between caregivers and patients as they work together on day-to-day abilities
  2. Emotional support where the person in memory care feels respected
  3. Decreased need for certain medications
  4. More positive moments of comfort, and happiness
  5. Sense of purpose for person with dementia

HT can be employed by caregivers outside of a memory care program to help extend functioning, but sometimes the emotional, financial and physical cost of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia can become too much to manage on a daily basis. For more information on how Cadbury Commons can help your loved one, please contact us or schedule a tour.

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Planning Your Holidays Together Apart

The holidays are near and that means it’s time to plan our celebrations. Unfortunately, with the pandemic in full swing, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s will look a bit different than in times past. Although the CDC has released guidelines on having a safe holiday, even the strongest precautions may not protect the most vulnerable population. If you are looking to celebrate with friends and family without bringing everyone into close contact, the following tips can help you enjoy your holidays together apart.

Decorate Your Home

Get yourself in the holiday spirit by decorating. Seasonal decor may include anything from miniature pumpkins to a homemade centerpiece made of ornaments and tinsel. If you have a fireplace, focus on it, and don’t be afraid to change out your kitchen towels and potholders to reflect the current holiday.

Go Virtual

Once your home is decorated, choose a spot to host a virtual holiday. Zoom is an excellent platform to get everyone together, and, as the host, you’ll have more control when Uncle Jimmy starts regaling you with tall tales from his glory days. Set your webcam up in a spot that showcases the best of your holiday decorations, and send out an invite weeks in advance.

If you are not set up with all of the technology you need, now is about the best time to buy a new laptop or tablet to get the job done. There are countless deals online, so you’re likely to score a great discount on a new device when you search for it. As an added bonus, the kids can use it if and when they go back to virtual school. Don’t forget to get inexpensive computer speakers so that you can hear everyone at your online party.

Two additional pieces of equipment to make your virtual celebration a success are a projector screen and a good long-range microphone. A microphone will ensure everyone in your household can be heard, while a well-reviewed projector will give you lifelike visuals of mom and dad. Before you invest in either, make sure they have the features you want, such as high resolution and the right ports to connect to the rest of your setup.

Other Ideas:

  • Watch movies and TV online together using the Watch Netflix Together
  • Send holiday gift baskets from Harry & David, Russell Stover, or your favorite online retailer.
  • Pack a care package with seasonal/regional flavors from your hometown to send to those who are far away. Do not forget to ship a box to your friends in uniform serving overseas.

If You Decide To Travel

Although most of us will stick closer to home this holiday season, if you do choose to travel, do so safely. Basic guidance from the Centers for Disease Control says to avoid close contacts, wear a mask, and wash your hands often. When running water and soap are not available, use hand sanitizer and — perhaps most importantly — do not touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.

The holidays will undeniably look different this year than in seasons past. But avoiding large gatherings, especially if you have immunocompromised or elderly family members, will help ensure everyone’s health and safety. The above tips can help you have the best holiday possible. The final piece of advice: keep an open mind and a positive attitude, no matter what the holidays bring.

By Emma Grace Brown

Image via Pexels