Anne Grey, Executive Director of Orange County’s Alzheimer’s Association shares important messages with BlueSea Care during this week’s podcast of Coping to Care. We speak about detection, prevention and care of seniors Alzheimer’s and getting involved to curve the issues with this cognitive disease.
Worldwide, 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementia, including more than 5 million in the US, and, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number is expected to triple by 2050.
Along with causing issues with cognitive decline, memory, and behavior, Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
Anne Grey, Executive Director of the Alzheimer’s Association in Orange County highlights the realities of this particular disease. She states that the tripling of numbers is related to more individuals aging in the U.S. However, she also notes that senior Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging. While one in three individuals dies with some sort of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and accounts for 60 – 70% of cases, while the other types of dementia are based on environment and lifestyle.
As we become more sedentary, isolated, and obese, it leads to the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease.
As a result, a large number who reaches the age of 85 will be diagnosed with some type of dementia.
10 Early Detections of Senior Alzheimer’s
There are ways you can detect Alzheimer’s and dementia early. Doing this can save you from extraneous circumstances while finding ways to deal with the surrounding environment and changing patterns from a loved one. The following are the 10 signs to look for.
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life. This means you can no longer remember your recipes or find your way to the grocery store.
- Challenges in planning and problem-solving. If you need to figure out how to navigate something with several steps and it is a struggle, this may showcase an issue with senior Alzheimer’s or dementia.
- Difficulty completing familiar tasks. This includes normal, day to day activities that seem difficult as well as not being able to remember daily activities.
- Confusing time and place. Not knowing the day, night, summer, winter, and other significant time is a sign that a form of dementia may be progressing.
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships. Dementia based patterns create instability because of depth and spatial perception issues. These show in things like driving where there isn’t the ability to anticipate something quickly enough.
- Words or speaking. Not coming up with the right words, issues with speaking, or not remembering words for something is a sign which you should be aware of.
- Misplacing things and not retracing. Think your loved one stole something? It may be a sign that someone is accidentally misplacing something. Look in an unlikely place first and see if there is a change in cognitive behavior.
- Decreased or poor judgment. Taking risky behaviors or unusual patterns that don’t follow regular judgment is common with those who are experiencing a form of dementia.
- Withdrawal from work or social activities. If you can’t follow conversations, it may cause retreat and isolation. If you notice that a loved one no longer participates in activities like the past, it’s important to understand why.
- Changes in mood and personality. Pay attention to the mood someone is in. They may go from being nice to mean and back again, creating a roller coaster of emotions as they deal with Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia.
Blood Tests and Early Detection of Senior Alzheimer’s
A new blood test is now being looked at for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease.
Because of technology, scientists can detect someone who is at risk for Alzheimer’s or dementia 20 years before symptoms appear. This is related to pathology that shows signs and changes in the mind which would cause the disease later on in life.
The blood test is a part of a routine physical to see if there is a specific protein that makes part of the biology of Alzheimer’s disease pathology in the brain. When this protein is identified, it shows a 98% accuracy rate in leading to Alzheimer’s disease.
While this is not ready for the doctor’s office yet, it is the progression of work that is expected to save the unreliable and long, drawn out processes of an accurate process of Alzheimer’s disease.
If this blood test gets approved, it will become a “game-changer” for diagnosis as well as early detection through indication, as opposed to finding the disease too late.
How Does Early Detection Help with Alzheimer’s?
While there isn’t a cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia, Anne states that early detection significantly changes how the disease plays out in a person’s life.
With early detection, plans can be made to arrange finances and care to ensure thoughtful and careful planning and to ensure well-being.
Anne has also found that it helps with families, relationships, communication, and understanding with someone who is experiencing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia.
Ultimately, early detection could lead to a medication that can reverse or stop Alzheimer’s or dementia before it interferes with daily living.
The Current State of Alzheimer’s Drugs and Medications
Currently, there are no drugs that are approved for senior Alzheimer’s. However, there are many that are in clinical trials with one that is at the FDA for review.
The drug now in review is for a specific group that has early stage Alzheimer’s. The drug shows that it is able to reverse the pathology of the disease while improving cognition.
If it is approved, Anne states that it is a baby step to finding a way to stop Alzheimer’s. If it is detected early enough or is a specific type of Alzheimer’s, it can be effective in helping those with the disease.
No other therapy has been approved to reverse the disease.
Other drugs that are available are designed to slow down or stop symptoms, usually relating to mood, anxiety, sleep issues, etc. There are also some drugs for hallucinations and more severe associations with the disease that is now in the works to be approved.
Supporting Your Brain Health
There isn’t scientific evidence relating to brain health, such as food or alternative therapies such as oils.
Too much of one thing could be problematic and counteract other medications you may be on. This is especially important if you are looking at taking supplements, which she does not endorse or recommend.
If you think supplements or dietary options could help, discuss it with a physician.
What Anne points out is that a healthy, balanced diet can help. Heart health and brain health are linked together. Looking at options such as the Mediterranean diet, healthy fats, low inflammation, wide varieties, and moderation of food can all help.
Activity that helps more blood and oxygen to your brain, as well as focusing on getting enough sleep is also important.
Sleep allows the brain to become clean and recharge. There are many studies that show that sleep deprivation is one of the main contributions to Alzheimer’s and dementia, especially when it is quality sleep.
Anne noted a current study based on lifestyle interventions to take steps to decrease your chances of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The study was a cardiovascular disease study which found that controlling blood pressure before it went below 126, it led to a lower chance of developing mild cognitive impairment. This is the first step to the road to Alzheimer’s, and dementias as an early sign.
Adopting blood pressure control, would indicate 2.5 million fewer individuals having no dementia or Alzheimers by 2050.
What was also noted is that teens and those in their 20s that are overweight, obese, or have high cholesterol, have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia later in life.
Socialization, Activities, and Therapies for Cognitive Health
The Alzheimer’s Association emphasizes that continuous activities, socialization, and programs such as the arts with therapeutic benefits are able to play a key role in the maintenance of senior Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Connecting individuals who are starting to progress to others, creating confidants and connections is an important part of those who have Alzheimer’s or dementia.
More important, activities and the arts are able to provide a sense of hope and the ability to remain creative and active within the community.
This philosophy is one that has been adapted by BlueSea Care’s Art to Wellness® program to support those who require more cognitive care and who are facing senior Alzheimer’s or a form of dementia.
Tips for Caregivers and Family Members
Anne notes that there is more you can do than you think if someone has Alzheimer’s or dementia. This can help someone who is having this experience and needs support.
She highlights that there are courses available at the Alzheimer’s Association to assist with caregivers in communication and ways to bring the family together, even if there are gaps in being able to work with others.
The course to start with is free, known as Compassionate Communications. Click here to visit the course.
The important part of communication is that those who are living with Alzheimer’s or dementia is that their latest memories fade first and their most deep-seated memories will fade last.
Directing the conversation to something earlier in someone’s life is something that those who have the disease can remember. This takes them back to earlier times in their lives and can help to create stronger connections while learning more about seniors.
There are also ways to redirect, work with agitation, and to enjoy the time you have with your loved ones.
It’s also important to make sure that those you are with are outside, getting sunshine, taking walks, and being active. Getting rid of distractions, such as patterned rugs or issues with safety in the home are also important.
There are ways to become dementia friendly, specifically with issues that may be dangerous to someone.
Anne also pointed out that caregivers need to take breaks and focus on self-care. If not, it can cause the caregivers to go into other issues from stress.
The Pandemic and Alzheimer’s
The Alzheimer’s Association has used Covid-19 and the changes in the pandemic for both internal changes as well as recognition in what they need to do to continue to support the community.
All the programs, courses, fundraising, and even the office has become virtual. They have moved to online platforms with everything that is needed. They have also used 1-1 conversations to make sure everyone is okay as well.
Research has also been re-looked, specifically because all the labs are unable to operate until there is more progress with alleviating Covid-19.
To complement this, a database of statistics has been made to assist with samples, analysis, and to help leap from the lab that they are interested in. More mining of data and writing articles to show findings while collaborating online is all building as those in the Alzheimers Association are working from home.
What was pointed out because of the pandemic was that most local and state governments were not prepared to deal with vulnerable populations and issues which have arisen. The Alzheimer’s Association has responded, specifically by providing resources, recommendations, and ways to work through the pandemic in a seamless manner that doesn’t damper specific populations.
How Close Is a Cure for Alzheimer’s?
The Alzheimer’s Association is passionate about finding a cure and is always on a trajectory to reduce or completely alleviate senior Alzheimer’s or forms of dementia.
Lifestyle interventions to social interaction are known as the best ways to assist those who are at risk with Alzheimer’s and which require assistance. Advocating for a healthy lifestyle first is one of the best ways to start working towards a cure at this point.
Anne noted that there are more medications and drugs on the horizon, all of which are designed to assist with the prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s. The clinical trials that are taking place are all working towards a cure and most come from the past 40 years of research and intervention.
The ability to define the pathology of the disease, the FDA review that is currently available and the recent clinical trials are all signs that there is a possibility of finding a cure.
The last 5 years has been a significant increase, specifically to look for ways that can take place to stop Alzheimer’s so it can be prevented and reversed.
The Walk Is Everywhere
Each year, the Alzheimer’s Association hosts a walk to end Alzheimer’s. This year, the walk has changed to be everywhere. It is in everyone’s local community and is one which Anne states is a gift because of the different approach.
Instead of one large walk, the environment will be transferred to smaller communities and neighborhood walks. She states that even going to the beach or hiking a trail for a walk with your loved ones is also a great way to participate.
The walk dates all remain the same. For Irvine, this is September 26th, Huntington Beach is October 3rd and San Clemente is October 11th.
On each of these dates, you will sign into an app for the walk. Log in on the morning to see the opening ceremony and participate as an individual or group as well as virtually. The app then tracks your steps, cheers you on, shares sponsor booths and creates an interactive experience similar to the large walk.
There is also a drive-by promise garden that you can view, all of which includes a special flower that is attributed to your loved one who has the disease and which is planted in a special location during the walk.
You will also receive your mail kit with your own flag, yard sign, and if you raise $100, you will also receive a t-shirt.
The advantage of this is that many loved ones who may have not been able to participate because of difficulties with walking can participate, even just by walking around in their backyard and having a beautiful day together.
To learn more about the walk, click here.