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Does Prevagen Do Anything?

A concern of many of us family members who have a parent or blood relative with dementia is our own futures – whether we are more susceptible to contracting dementia through inheritance. I had begun paying more attention to the TV ads for Prevagen.

However, I have reconsidered after reading the following article, well documented, by Dr. Cheryl Achterberg who is a caregiver. With Dr. Achterberg’s permission I am sharing it with you today:

Does Prevagen Do Anything?

Does Prevagen do anything? According to the company, it is the #1 brain health or memory supplement on the market today. You can’t miss the advertising for it if you watch the evening news. Prevagen is made by Quincy Biosci in Wisconsin. It has been on the market for about ten years. Consumers have spent over $165 million dollars on it according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

Locally, it costs $59.99 for a 30-day supply of “Extra Strength.”

Prevagen is unique on the market. It is made of a protein extracted from jellyfish called apoaequorin. Jellyfish are not known as big-brained creatures, nor highly functioning creatures. There isn’t any science to suggest that this protein will hurt you, but there isn’t any good science that it will benefit you either, brain or otherwise.

What happens when you take Prevagen? The body does the job it always does when confronted with content in the stomach. It breaks down the stuff into its constituent parts. Simply put in this case, protein is broken into amino acids and some waste. That’s what digestion does. The body reassembles the amino acids it needs into human proteins for use when and where needed. So, you don’t have any beef, quinoa, or rhino protein anywhere in your body. You wouldn’t have any jellyfish protein either if you took Prevagen.

Magic!

Nootropics

Prevagen is sold as a supplement, not a drug. The company gets away with their marketing claims because they do not mention any specific disease in their advertising.  This practice skirts the Food and Drug Agency (FDA) rules. In plain language, Quincy Biosci is not regulated. They say it helps with “mild memory loss,” thereby distancing themselves from any form of dementia. You suffer mild memory loss after a bad night’s sleep for instance. But that’s temporary! If you check out the official website below, the company lists an important caveat in fine print at the bottom: “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.”  

Brain and memory health supplements, like Prevagen, have become such a lucrative market that a new category and name has been given to them. They are called nootropics.

There are two types of nootropics. One group is pharmaceutical. These are manufactured substances, usually combinations of different vitamins and stimulants. Some have a fatty acid thrown in. The other type is herbal. These are “natural” substances which are supposed to increase blood flow to the brain and/or decrease inflammation. Both types tend to be over-hyped with little science behind them.

For A Healthy Brain

The bottom line for a healthy brain is what is good for the heart, is good for the head too. Increasing blood flow to the brain is good. You can do that with a good cup of coffee. Decreasing blood flow to the brain is bad. You do that over time with a poor diet and lack of exercise. Certain nutrients, such as Vitamin D or Vitamin B12 will enhance brain function and brain health if you are deficient in them. Both vitamins are often low in older Americans. Ask your doctor; they are easy to check on a routine blood panel. You might also consider a fish oil supplement (for omega 3 fatty acids) and turmeric (as an anti-inflammatory). One caution: Too much of anything is bad.

Wrap-Up

If you are bound and determined to waste your money, there are literally hundreds of nootropic supplements on the market that are purported to enhance brain health or memory. I hope you don’t buy them. Each will take you for hundreds of dollars per year.

References

https://www.brainreference.com/prevagen-review/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK552157/

https://cspinet.org/news/prevagen-how-can-memory-supplement-flunk-its-one-trial-and-still-be-advertised-effective

www.buyprevagen.com/shop/?gclid=CjwKCAjwkJj6BRA-EiwA0ZVPVmzRXhwXM8-IQNS3HMm9D725f2yoJ8tYq4kWmobqfNnU-zZt5pQj9RoCYY4QAvD_BwE   

Dr. Achterberg is the dean of The Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology.


Identify Your Team

I have had the special privilege of sitting in with an Alzheimer’s caregiver support group for their past two monthly meetings. I thought I knew most everything there is to know about caregiving – – – well, almost everything!

Last night I was blown away by a point made by one of the caregivers in our intimate group of eight: Making the best use of offers to help involves knowing your team!

Each of us as caregivers, over time, have been overcome by the generosity of some friends and family. And at other times when we have been let down when others did not or could not come through has been rather devastating.

After that revelation from the caregiver at the support group meeting last evening, I began reflecting back over 50 years to when my dad’s dementia set in and remembering the mixed feedback our family received from his minister friends. (My dad was a United Methodist minister.)

The majority of his friends, perhaps not knowing what or how to respond to the word that my dad was very mentally ill, avoided our family and my dad.

But two minister friends stand out in my mind to this day as I recall how they reacted. The one, when he found out our family would have nowhere to live after my dad’s forced medical retirement from his church appointment, set about finding us at least temporary housing.

He also knew that I was entering college in the fall. Through a foundation of which he was a board member, he engineered a most generous educational stipend for me that covered all expenses after the initial scholarship I had been awarded by my university. My parents then had no financial worries about me.

The second minister friend extended his friendship to my dad by calling him and sending him regular, personal, handwritten letters over my dad’s remaining lifetime. I believe that close friendship helped him make it through many hospitalizations and times of deep loneliness caused by the frontal temporal dementia. That minister’s daughter remains my friend to this day.

So here, we had friends of two types: 1) those who helped us through by physical actions; and, 2) those who provided emotional support.

Looking back over the 40 years of my dad’s extended illness, my family could have saved ourselves much disappointment by identifying those friends and family members who we could count on, whether it be through loving, helpful acts of kindness or through emotional support through letters, phone calls, or visits.

A fortunate few caregivers may be blessed with a family member or friend who is able to provide both as a doer and as a listener. And those folks are a kind to angels!

Wanting to respond to our loved ones in a helpful way when they are looking for our understanding and affirmation of their thinking can be very challenging at times for us as caregivers.

I am glad to share this article written by Annie Tobey for Seniors Guide for their readership in Central Ohio. Click here to view the article.

My friend and colleague Dennis Stack, Co-Founder of LegacyStories.org, recently shared this poem with me.  And I am passing it along to you.   The poem is introduced as follows: 

When an old lady died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near Dundee, Scotland, it was felt that she had nothing left of any value. Later, when the nurses were going through her meager possessions, they found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. One nurse took her copy to Ireland. The old lady’s sole bequest to posterity gradually found its way to a number of Irish publications.

… And now this little old Scottish lady, with nothing left to give to the world, is the author of this simple, yet eloquent, poem traveling the world by Internet.   We all leave “SOME footprints in time”…..

An Old Lady’s Poem

What do you see, nurses, what do you see?
What are you thinking when you’re looking at me?
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, “I do wish you’d try!”
Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe…..
Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill….
Is that what you’re thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse; you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of ten …with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters, who love one another.
A young girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet.
A bride soon at twenty — my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At twenty-five now, I have young of my own,
Who need me to guide and a secure happy home.
A woman of thirty, my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.

At forty, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At fifty once more, babies play round my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead;
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known.

I’m now an old woman …and nature is cruel;
‘Tis jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living life over again.
I think of the years ….all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, nurses, open and see,
…Not a crabby old woman; look closer …see ME!!

May we recognize that young soul within our loved one!


Dear readers,

A good half year has passed since I have written. We are all painfully aware that much has changed in our world since December 2019.

For those of you who are actively care giving, I cannot imagine what the past five months have been like for you and your loved one with the stay-at-home-orders and the no visits inside care facilities.  Video calls, social media and window visits do help of course, but we know that they cannot replace the benefits that come with in-person communication – – especially touch.

For your loved one who is dealing with dementia, the situation has probably been complicated by their not being able to understand why you cannot be with them.

The bottom line is, loneliness directly impacts health and can intensify cognitive decline, depression, and anxiety, said Dan Blazer, a longtime psychiatry professor at Duke University. The question becomes what can we do to help our loved one feel more more secure and connected to us as a family in a time like this.

I am remembering my experiences with my own mother, remembering how she quietly packed a few framed pictures in her suitcase each time when she would be traveling from Ohio back to Virginia to visit my brother. It took a while for me to realize that those pictures were helping her remember the person she had been and the people who were special in her life.

After I got it, what was really going on, I took a few of her pictures to a graphics firm and had them made into a poster with descriptive captions. I will never forget the afternoon I brought that first poster home. At first she just stared at each picture, incredulous. Then came her broad smile of recognition! Ever after, the poster followed her wherever she was staying.

My brother and I got rather used to the back and forth of sharing our mom; and, thankfully, she was a real trooper about making those long trips between Ohio and Central Virginia. But then one night in Virginia, trying to make her way to the bathroom, she fell, fracturing her hip. While she was recovering in the hospital following surgery, I brought that poster to her room, positioning it where she could view it whenever she chose. Amazing things began happening!

Nurses, doctors, and aides began noticing a pretty lady dressed in a red blazer who vaguely resembled their patient. When audible remarks were made, my mother answered with the practiced response of one who knew about whom she spoke. Our mom became more talkative, enjoying being asked questions and telling about her life. And her caregivers began treating her in a different way, seeming to regard her as more than merely a patient but as Christine, a person who had enjoyed a full, active life, someone whose family regarded her.

That poster made a difference for us family members too. Being reminded of how our mom used to look gave us confidence to encourage her recovery, expectant that she was going to heal and regain strength!

When my mother’s dementia had deepened to the point where her caregivers were concerned that she might be having trouble swallowing, the dietary staff suggested to me that my mom needed to have her food pureed.  How I resisted that idea!  I would visit the dining room and purchase foods I thought would be easier for my mom to chew and swallow.  But things did not improve.

I well remember the day when the order went through – CHRISTINE’S FOOD IS TO BE PUREED – it happened to be strawberry shortcake that was the first to be served pureed.  I felt like crying, thinking my mother would probably stop wanting to eat.  So much of her likes and dislikes foodwise were determined by appearances.  In fact she gradually did lose her desire for solid food.

Fast forward 10 years and I am visiting with the daughter of an elder who resides in Memory Care in Northeast Ohio.  This daughter passed along to me how she has encouraged her mom to continue to eat and enjoy her pureed food — She makes the puree into a filler for sandwiches!

This daughter tries to be with her mom for at least one of her daily meals.  The sandwiches are being enjoyed by her mom; and the daughter is encouraged, knowing that her mother is getting some nourishing food — not just peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

 

 

A Grandfather’s Legacy

I recently came across a story about two brothers, Alex and Koby Leff, whose grandfather Mel suffers from Alzheimer’s.  This is a bit of the story told by Alex:

On a crisp spring morning in 1945, two teenagers set off on their rickety bicycles for Philadelphia. For George and Mel, Depression kids born to Jewish immigrants in a Brooklyn ghetto, this bike ride was their escape, a claiming of personal freedom. It was an adventure they would remember for the rest of their lives—until Mel lost his memory to Alzheimer’s.

I grew up hearing this story every chance Grandpa Mel got to tell it. How these youngsters navigated through the farmlands of New Jersey, fixed flat tires, and posed for a picture by the Liberty Bell just a couple days later. And now, to him, it was if it never happened.

So, over seventy years after their bike ride, my brother and I set off on the same 100-mile journey to explore the legacy of our grandfather. It’s the subject of my new film: Now and Again. Mel may have lost his memory—but we are determined to find it. We search forgotten places, interview family, and explore decades of family tapes and film reels to piece together the life of a man who can no longer remember it.”

Now and Again is an upcoming feature documentary weaving together a bicycle quest with one family’s multigenerational history and their struggles with Mel’s Alzheimers, becoming a reflection on time, memory, and family relationships. Now in post-production, Now and Again is almost ready for the world.  Check out Now and Again’s trailer by clicking here.

How can you help?

* You may support the funding campaign for this documentary by clicking here.
* Follow the campaign.  Reaching different milestones (250, 500, etc) releases extra benefits and support for sharing the film.
* Spread the word – share, share, share on social media.

Here is a direct link to the crowdfunding campaign: https://www.seedandspark.com/fund/nowandagain#story

Who Are You?

I have a friend who has been a caregiver to his colleague and good friend for several years.  She has dementia with Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Yesterday while having lunch with my friend, I was inquiring about his friend’s family.  She has two elderly sisters who live in another part of the state, but visit their sister whenever they can.

I was told his friend does not recognize her sisters anymore.  Then the thought hit me that his friend might recognize her sisters with a frame of reference, such as a few photos of them perhaps playing together during childhood years.

The significance of photos, I discovered while assisting elders in a Memory Care unit as we were reminiscing with photos.  I found that elders experiencing memory issues much prefer to see themselves as they used to look when young.

This was my suggestion to the friend at lunch:  send me four or five photos with a simple description of each picture, and I will visit http://www.MemoriesfromMyLife.com to build a photo poster using the photos from her childhood that include each of the sisters.

My hope is that through the connection with the poster photo, perhaps the visitng sisters on their next visit may more easily connect with their sister and have some good back-and-forth conversation about their growing up years.

Surely hope my friend takes me up on the idea!

After so many years – 14 to be exact – of being a caregiver and now an advocate for friends living in custodial care, I gained a tip from a nurse recently that I want to share with you —

When visiting with a loved one who may be dealing with memory issues, sit on their right side to better relate to them.  This tip has been much appreciated as we volunteers sit with our singing partners in the Silver Songbirds Chorus each Monday evening.  To witness the easier flow of conversation has been amazing!

If you haven’t been with your loved one for a while, you may be a bit uneasy about what to talk about.  Actually, your loved one may just love having you step back in time a bit with them as you imagine summer days and what they might have enjoyed.

You might ask if they ever went swimming in the summers and where did they like to swim.  As for me, I grew up in a very small hamlet in the South where the nearest spot to cool off was a creek.  And once each summer my family met for a picnic at a state park that had a lake swimming area.  Perhaps your loved one may have grown up in the city near a YMCA with a pool.

If your loved one is unable to speak, find a photo in their room or bring one from your home showing him or her as a child.  And just imagine where they were and what they were doing as you enjoy the photo together.  As you verbally describe the photo, your loved one may respond with a nod, a shake of the head or a big smile!

Your loved one may better identify with photos of themselves from childhood.  Suggestion:  pull together some photos from your loved one’s childhood to bring with you on that next visit.  Those pictures can also be of your loved one’s parents and/or family members.  You might even get entertained with an interesting story you had never heard before!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 99th birthday of a dear relative was celebrated a few days ago.  At her party I noticed she was not wearing any jewelry whatsoever.  At the time it distressed me, as I had always been accustomed to seeing her wearing some jewelry that complemented her attire.  The piece I remember she always wore was a small, elegant diamond pendant given to her years ago by her husband.

This relative began residing in a retirement community assisted living about a year ago.  She is very much with it as far as her thinking and caring for herself, and she only uses a rolling walker for added support following hip surgery a few months back.

I then learned from family that when she visited her home briefly, going to the drawer where she had kept her jewelry, it was empty.  Evidently, her close family were concerned that expensive pieces might disappear in the retirement facility, and they had removed all for safe keeping.

All this causes me to remember how much dressing every morning with makeup applied by her aide meant for my mother.  She did not have fine jewelry, but we made sure she had jewelry she could enjoy safely at the nursing home where she resided.  How much her aide’s care must have meant, beginning each day clean and freshly dressed, and how much better she must have felt about herself in those days of being dependent on others.

So for my relative, I believe having some jewelry to wear would mean much for her now, in keeping with how she always dressed.  I am hoping her family will rethink their good intentions and replace some pieces for my aunt to enjoy.

I am also thinking about the members of the Memory Care chorus with whom I enjoy volunteering.  Whenever I meet them for a rehearsal, I find each of them clean and neatly dressed and often for the women, wearing a piece of jewelry.  For our concerts the facility makes to happen that each of the ladies has her hair set by the hairdresser.

So no matter what age or stage in life we are, facing the day clean and neatly dressed with a piece of jewelry here and there can help the spirit!