Alzheimer's and Dementia Counseling and Education:
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Saturday, April 24, 2010



Many people are terrified at the thought of possibly developing Alzheimer's as they age--especially if they now have, or have had, a family member with the disease. With the aging of the baby boomer population in the U.S., the incidence of Alzheimer's is predicted to reach epic levels as the chances of developing a dementia are now almost 1 in 2 after the age of 85.
A small study by a team of researchers at Banner Alzheimer's Institute; TGen; Arizona State University; Mayo Clinic Arizona; Univ. of Arizona; Univ. of California San Diego and the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium "provides support for the relationship between the APOE4 gene and the risk of Alzheimer's Disease in Latinos." This study followed brain imaging with PET scans and was published in the Archives of Neurology.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, Latinos are currently about 1.5 times more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease than Anglos. Of great significance is the projection that by the year 2050, the number of Latinos affected will increase by 600%. What is pushing these numbers up? It's multi-factorial.
I often have clients or guests at conferences ask me if they are at increased risk of inheriting Alzheimer's because their parent has it. I tell them that even if they do "inherit" the gene or genes, it doesn't mean they will ever actually get Alzheimer's. I also tell them their chances of having a stroke and developing multi-infarct dementia because of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and/or hypertension is probably actually greater than their chances of getting Alzheimer's. I believe this helps them put their fear of Alzheimer's into perspective and hopefully motivates them to look at and modify their current lifestyle. Very few of the people asking me these questions look to be at an ideal body weight, vibrant and healthy, so there is usually always room for improvement in those areas.
The study mentioned above notes that Latinos have a higher incidence of all of those diseases which undoubtedly contributes to their increased risk for Alzheimer's. Again, it's that "wholistic" view of the body. Avoid fearfully focusing on any one disease and instead try to make improvements in your entire lifestyle. Your heart and your brain will be much more healthy and happy.

Thursday, April 15, 2010



One of the local guys here at Penn State University, associate professor of psychology, Michael Wenger along with researchers at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine have developed a low-cost method of assessing shrinkage in the hippocampal areas. Currently, the best way to assess the size of the hippocampus (where our short-term memories go to be stored/sorted into long-term memories, and is also important in spatial navigation) is with MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) testing. As you can imagine, using MRI simply to detect changes in the hippocampus is quite cost prohibitive and not easily available to many people. These researchers got together and combined engineering , statistics and psychology to come up with a way to measure how long it takes a subject to recall objects during a test called FCSRT (Free & Cued Selective Reminding Test). This looks at something called "hazard function" which is an engineering term, and gives them probabilities that a task not yet completed will be done in the next interval of time. This study was specifically looking at people who were diagnosed with MCI or mild cognitive impairment and they were able to track progression of the MCI. This could mean a very low-cost method of diagnosing Alzheimer's disease in the earliest stages. The researchers say these results are still preliminary but are very encouraged by the fact that during their testing, the results were confirmed by MRI. They plan to continue with their study of this method looking at mental impairments related to other deficiencies as well. The National Institute on Aging provided funding for this project.
In my opinion, this is exciting news because any time you can give a person with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's (and their families) more time to prepare for the future, the better off they will all be. Education is key and you can't make your wishes known if your don't know your diagnosis.

Friday, April 09, 2010



What a title! I've just learned that Professor Claudio Cuello and his collaborators at McGill University (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) have managed to create rats that can mimic Alzheimer's disease in humans. They have genetically manipulated these rats so that peptides typical of Alzheimer's accumulate in their brains. This will allow researchers to detect and study the evolution of deficits seen in memory and learning in Alzheimer's. While scientists have been able to produce mice with the peptides, apparently rats are smarter than mice and their behaviors are much more predictable, so when the disease progresses in the rats, the progression through the phases can now be measured. This research was published March 29, 2010 in the April edition of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Who would have thought RATS would be helpful to us in our quest to conquer Alzheimer's?

Thursday, April 01, 2010



I know bathing issues are one of the most frustrating aspects of caring for a person with dementia. If you don't subscribe to my free Newsletter (The Journey Through Dementia Newsletter), you didn't see the tips I listed there just recently. This topic is so important, I've decided to copy those tips here for a wider audience:
- Adhere to their long-time routine if possible (showers vs. baths; morning vs. evening, etc.)
- Keep the bath area WARM--more warm than you like it--it's much easier to get their clothes off if they're not cold;
- Have distractions in the tub/shower area such as a rubber duck so you can ask "Now where did this come from?" Hand it to them and keep up a dialog about it;

- Don't get their head wet until the very last minute;

- Hand them a washcloth and allow them to do whatever they can with it--anything in their hands will serve to distract them;

- Don't ask them if they're ready for a bath--simply prepare the room, lead them in and keep talking about something they're interested in;

- If this is your spouse, take a shower with them;

- Have towels or cotton robe warmed by the clothes dryer ready to use immediately after getting out of the water;

- Put music they enjoy on in the bathing area, and encourage singing along;

- Keep up the chatter about topics of interest to them, and ask them questions;
- If they've developed a fear of the water in the bathtub, try a gentle seated shower with the spray directed on their feet;

- A good old-fashioned "wash-up" at the sink can keep them just as clean as long as they're getting their hair done in some other manner.

- Remember--the goal of the talking is to keep their mind off the bathing;

- The more distracting things you can have in the bathroom, the better your chances of keeping them calm;

Remember--what works well today, may not work at all in a few weeks. Just keep trying.
If you would like to sign up for my free Newsletter, please go to my website and click on the "Join my list" button.
Best of luck with the bathing issues!


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Cindy Keith, RN, BS,
Certified Dementia Practitioner

Nationally Known Speaker
On Dementia and Alzheimer's Care

Phone 814-235-0691

Fax 814-235-0695




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