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I want you to know about a courageous woman from Great Britain, Wendy Mitchell, who has written a book about her experiences living with early onset dementia.

Wendy Mitchell had a busy job with the British National Health Service, raised two daughters alone, and spent her weekends running and climbing mountains. Then, slowly, a mist settled deep inside the mind she once knew so well, blurring the world around her.

She didn’t know it then, but dementia was starting to take hold. In 2014 at age 58 she was diagnosed with early onset dementia. What lay ahead of her after the diagnosis was scary and unknowable, but Wendy was determined and resourceful, and she vowed to outwit the disease for as long as possible.

As she learned to embrace her new life, Wendy began to see her condition as a gift, a chance to experience the world with fresh eyes and to find her own way to make a difference. Even now, her sunny outlook persists: She devotes her time to educating doctors, caregivers, and other people living with dementia, helping to reduce the stigma surrounding this insidious disease.

Still living independently, Mitchell now uses Post-it notes and technology to remind her of her routines, and has created a ‘memory room’ where she displays photos – with labels – of her daughters, friends, and special places. It is a room where she feels calm and happy, especially on days when the mist descends.

This is what Wendy says about her writing:

“That it will hopefully convey the helplessness of those diagnosed with dementia, as there is no cure — the end is inevitable. However, I’m also hoping I can convey that, although we’ve been diagnosed, people like me still have a substantial contribution to make; we still have a sense of humor; we still have feelings. I’m hoping to show the reality of trying to cope on a day-to-day basis with the ever-changing environment that dementia throws at those diagnosed with the condition. Living as well as you can with dementia is all about adapting. Adapting to new ways to enable us to live better for longer with dementia.

What I want is not sympathy; what I want is simply to raise awareness.

I’m the proud author of the Sunday Times Best Seller, “Somebody I Used to Know”, which just goes to show, you should never give up on yourself.

Wendy Mitchell’s book is a chronicle of one woman’s struggle to make sense of her shifting world and her mortality. “Somebody I Used to Know” is philosophical, poetic, intensely personal, and ultimately hopeful. It is both a tribute to the woman Wendy Mitchell used to be and a brave affirmation of the woman she has become.

Ballentine will publish this memoir in June to tie in with Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness month. “Somebody I Used to Know” was chosen as Amazon’s Pick Of The Month.

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Brain health Is in Your Hands! That happens to be the message of neurologists Team Sherzai, Co-Directors of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Program at Loma Linda University Medical Center, Loma Linda, California, where they are working at the cutting edge of brain science.
Through their research and extensive collective medical backgrounds, Drs. Dean and Ayesha Sherzai are proving that Alzheimer’s disease does not have to advance and that whole-body health is key to brain health.

Their article written expressly for Memories from My Life follows:

When we think about what real love is – the type that sustains a relationship beyond transient romance and Hallmark moments, we look no further than the numerous people we see in our clinics. These are the most dedicated, loving people who nurture their spouses, parents, or other loved ones under the most difficult of circumstances. They are caregivers, and their loved ones have dementia.
Marianne has been taking care of her husband Chet since he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago. Her life has completely changed along with Chet’s. She manages almost every aspect of his life, from daily living skills to finances, from social engagements to meals. “He was always such an independent man; now he depends on me for almost everything. It’s not easy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. He needs me now more than ever,” says Marianne with a stoic smile.

Watching a loved one lose shared experiences and memory is tough. One of the great values of memories, after all, is that they are shared. And when they are just yours, they lose some of their meaning. Typically a caregiver has to take on added responsibilities to the point where, like Marianne, they are managing every aspect of that loved one’s life. Caregivers can get overwhelmed to the point of losing their own identities, like the patients they are caring for lose theirs. Time for self-care, hobbies, and activities gets consumed with caregiving responsibilities. People with cognitive decline and dementia tend to withdraw socially, and this can lead to isolation and depression in both the patient and the caregiver.

The emotional toll is enormous. Not only is watching the decline of someone you love difficult in its own right, but there are other subconscious mechanisms at work. We are programmed to unconsciously imitate others in our environment. That doesn’t necessarily mean that caregivers copy the behavior of their failing patient, but it is likely that being around amnesia, incapacity, and disorientation will have an effect.

All these massive, competing demands are incredibly stressful, especially in the case of caregiver and spouse. It’s no surprise, therefore, that being a caretaker increases the risk of being diagnosed with dementia. One of the best studies on this topic was published in 2010. That longitudinal study, conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins, Utah, and Duke Universities followed more than 2,000 seniors and found that caregivers of spouses with dementia were 60 percent more likely to themselves be later diagnosed with dementia than those with spouses who had no such diagnosis.

Does stress account for these findings? Do the spouses share a common characteristic that might account for an increased risk of dementia for both of them? However you try to interpret the data, one thing is for sure. It’s hard to reconcile the evidence with a strictly genetic interpretation of the dementias.

While it is popular to believe that genetics are the major contributor to cognitive decline and dementias like Alzheimer’s, evidence is rapidly accumulating that lifestyle variables are very significantly related to the onset of the disease. One possibility for the increased risk for caregivers, therefore, is that spouses share lifestyle behaviors that encourage the development of Alzheimer’s and other dementias in both partners.

Our own work, as well as that of other researchers, which is summarized in our book, The Alzheimer’s Solution, strongly suggests that various lifestyle factors are clearly associated with dementia. It should be no surprise that the variables known to influence vascular health also impact brain health. The brain needs a good blood supply as much as, if not more than, every other part of the body.

The current nutrition data, for example, show a very strong tendency for the typical western diet consisting of high fats, fried foods, high dairy content, and especially high intake of sugar, to be associated with a greatly increased risk of dementia. Conversely, a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, and a very low to non-existent intake of meat, dairy and sugars, is associated with a very significant reduction of dementia risk. The Mediterranean diet, as well as vegetarian and vegan diets, are those that seem to be related to a significantly decreased dementia risk.

There is also a mass of evidence suggesting that aerobic exercise confers significant protection against dementia and cognitive decline. Evidence is accumulating that resistance exercise can also provide protection. Regular exercise is associated with greater interconnectivity within the brain as well as an increase in brain-derived neurotropic factors (BDNF) that are associated with brain health.

Poor quality sleep is another variable associated with an increase in dementia. Apnea and other sleep-depriving conditions are also related to cognitive decline. We spend almost a third of our lives doing it, so sleep is important in many ways and critical to brain function. Sleep deprivation is bad for brain health, especially when it lends to the use, even overuse, of a variety of medications whose long-term use is itself likely to be detrimental.

Relaxation, enjoyment, and especially positive social engagement and activity are all related to better brain health. However, with failing mental capacities, people tend to withdraw from the very thing they need — social stimulation. Mental stimulation done in isolation, like doing crosswords or Sudoku puzzles, is probably less valuable than multi-domain integrated activities like social activities that also challenge the mind.

The demands of caregiving can lead to poor nutrition, less time and inclination to exercise, decreased quality sleep, stress, depression and social withdrawal, any of which are likely to enhance the risk of cognitive decline in caretakers.

The answer, of course, is not to abandon these brain-healthy behaviors. A caretaker ideally practices these behaviors and encourages and enables their loved one to do the same, despite their difficulties. There is some evidence that adopting brain-healthy behaviors even later in life might slow down the progression of the disease, something we have seen in our clinic.

Caretakers might then be the very definition of love, even though such nurturing puts themselves at greater risk for the disease. These people aren’t just caregivers; they are love givers.

* * *

Team Sherzai’s Summer Brain & Body Challenge starts on June 5th! The Challenge, based on their NEURO (Nutrition, Exercise, Unwind, Restore and Optimize) Plan, will show you how to transform your brain and body health, have more energy, less brain fog, and feel empowered to solve your own health issues. For more information and to join The Challenge, go to http://teamsherzai.com/25-day-join/

* * *

Drs. Sherzai are authors of the much acclaimed book, The Alzheimer’s Solution: A Breakthrough Program to Prevent and Reverse the Symptoms of Cognitive Decline at Every Age (October 2017). For more information, visit http://www.TeamSherzai.com.

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Wake-up Call

I had gone for some time (years) without a wellness checkup with my family physician, only making an appointment when I had a specific problem. Then six months ago I was informed that this physician was not going to be seeing general patients any longer but would be restricting her practice to skin care and plastic surgery.
That prompted my move to another practice, to a physician whose focus was more on family medicine. That meant getting caught up on a number of tests that are part of a workup, among them blood work.
I have always regarded myself as rather healthy, mostly running on good luck, and not really thinking about what constituted a healthy lifestyle. Pretty good for a 76-year-old, right?
Well, when I was recently told I was prediabetic and my kidney function left a lot to be desired, I decided I’d better get serious about paying attention to my health.
And when I then ran across a research study linking diabetes and dementia, that really scared me. My information comes from Professor Stephen Wharton through his research grant at University of Sheffield, England.
According to Professor Wharton, “Diabetes and obesity are two ticking time bombs. Understanding their contribution to dementia is of immense importance.”
The following information is taken from Professor Wharton’s article, “Investigating the Relationship Between Diabetes and Dementia.”

WHAT IS ALREADY KNOWN: Diabetes can increase the risk of developing both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. This is thought to be because the mechanisms behind diabetes development can damage small blood vessels in the brain, which is likely to contribute toward vascular dementia. It is also thought that diabetes-related blood vessel damage could lead to a reduced blood flow to the brain, which may be a factor in Alzheimer’s disease development.

According to Professor Wharton, diabetes mechanisms may also directly cause damage to brain cells. He intends to use this research project to further investigate the molecular reasons behind the apparent link between diabetes and dementia. The project will also determine whether a common condition called metabolic syndrome can influence dementia development. Metabolic syndrome encompasses a group of symptoms including obesity, high blood pressure, impaired blood glucose processing and impaired metabolic processes in cells.

The research project will look at several aspects of diabetes and metabolic syndrome and how these could link to dementia development. This includes investigating the potentially harmful effect of raised glucose levels in the body, a hallmark of diabetes. The project will also investigate the levels of other nutrients known to be altered in diabetes and determine whether this has an effect on dementia risk.

The research will also focus on the effect of the hormone insulin, which does not function correctly in diabetes. There is a growing amount of research that indicates that brain cells cannot use insulin properly in Alzheimer’s disease and this project will add to that understanding.
While diabetes is currently understood to be an important risk factor for dementia, not much is known about why this is the case. Understanding the relationship between diabetes and dementia will be important to tease apart the risks and causes that lie behind these two conditions. The study may help to define potential new mechanisms in disease development, including the role of diabetes in relation to brain cell damage.

The study has the potential to give insights into dementia prevention and to identify those at a higher risk of dementia due to diabetes-related mechanisms. This extra understanding will allow those affected to access the information that they need to manage their condition and reduce dementia risk.

WHAT ALL THIS HAS MEANT FOR ME: I am taking my prediabetic diagnosis seriously by making diet changes. Over this past weekend I met with a friend who turned his prediabetic reading around. Here are some diet suggestions he gave me:

Don’ts:
1) Avoid bread and white potatoes.
2) Desserts, alcohol, candy
3) Artificial sweeteners
4) Anything with more than 5 grams of sugar

Do’s:
1) Flatbread buns or for a sandwich use one slice of bread instead of two
2) Cereals:
a) Quaker oats
b) Grape Nuts Flakes
c) Cheerios
d) Shredded wheat
3) Veggies and fruits (except white potatoes)
4) Honey
5) Salty crackers
6) Yogurt plain or Carb Master Yogurt/Zero yogurt

AND: Walk 30 minutes a day.

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Recommended Reads

For caregivers the luxury of personal time for reading comes at a premium. However, I want you to know about two reads I found worthy of recommending: Dancing Around the Chaos by Tracie Bevers and Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia by John Dunlop, MD.

Dancing Around the Chaos:

Since more than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, most of us know someone whose world it has invaded. Alzheimer’s is a rough journey with many unexpected twists and turns, and it’s nothing like what most of us imagined for our future.

Dancing Around the Chaosseeks to bring the experiences surrounding Alzheimer’s out into the open so that we can learn from one another, instead of struggling to figure it out alone, dreading what the next day will bring but too exhausted and afraid to think beyond the present. This book chronicles a sweet and tender love story, a story that really happened, whose characters are real people. Passionate and deeply moving, it shares lessons learned, hope, and inspiration for others on the same long road.

When Reta was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, her husband Joe became her caregiver, giving tender care to his bride of 50 years. He lived the marriage vows that so many of us recite, without imagining what they truly mean…until death do us part. He cared for her until the end of her earthly life, even as he himself began to lose the battle with the same disease. He grieved deeply for her when she was gone, continued the battle alone, not remembering or understanding many things, but never forgetting his true love. Others who witnessed this journey longed for a love like theirs…rare and precious.

To obtain a copy of Dancing Around the Chaos, go to https://traciebevers.com.

Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia by John Dunlop, MD:

Experienced geriatrician Dr. John Dunlop wants to transform the way we view dementia — showing us how God can be honored through such a tragedy as we respect the inherent dignity of all humans made in the image of God.

Sharing stories from decades of experience working with dementia patients, Dunlop provides readers, particularly caregivers, with a biblical lens through which to understand the experience and challenge of this life-altering condition. Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia will help us see the purposes of God as we love and care for those with this disease.

About John Dunlop<strong: (MD, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) has practiced medicine in Zion, Illinois for 37 years and currently works with the geriatrics group associated with Yale Medical School. He is board certified in geriatrics and has a masters degree in bioethics from Trinity International University, where he serves on the adjunct faculty. He is the author of Finishing Well to the Glory of God and Wellness for the Glory of God.
Go to Amazon.com to order a copy of
Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia.

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Since 2015 Memories from My Life has been rated a top Alzheimer’s blog by Healthline!

Beginning with the first blog post back in 2009, my desire has been to make a difference for Alzheimer’s caregivers. During my mom’s lifetime the posts were written from personal experience. In more recent years the posts have focused more on new technology, healthcare, and research supporting Alzheimer’s treatment and advances.

Healthline.com happens to be a go-to online site for health information. I am told that over 85 million people turn to Healthline every month.

Whether you want to learn more about a health condition, research a medication, tap into one of their communities, or get some tips for a healthier lifestyle, Healthline is your answer. I have found the content informative, easy to understand, and engaging.

You’ll also find a compassionate team of professionals who genuinely care about people.

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You may have read recent articles related to the long-distance caregiving of my aunt.  The uncharted waters of frustration about the care she has been receiving — and also not receiving has been very stressful, and I have not known really how to deal with it.

At a networking meeting of healthcare administrators I met Dr. Annette Ticoras, M.D., who founded Guided Patient Services – Patient Advocacy & Navigation in Columbus, Ohio. As I learned a bit about her services, I felt I had finally connected with a service that might be a resource in caring for my aunt.

Here is what GPS does:

Guided Patient Services provides patient advocacy and navigation to clients of all ages who are facing new or challenging healthcare issues.

 

We are your “Doctor in the Family”

GPS-Compass

Guided Patient Services supports you through your healthcare crisis at whatever level you need us. Whether you’re looking for full support, a one-time consult or anything in between, Guided Patient Services provides direction and understanding to confusing, time-sensitive healthcare decisions.
It’s our honor and privilege to be entrusted with the care of our patients and families. When you choose us, you can depend on us to be:

​• Your translator. We understand medical language, and we have experience with complicated diagnoses, procedures, and treatment plans. As your patient advocate, our job is to explain these concepts to you using layman’s terms, as many times as you need us to, so you can make informed decisions.

• Your coordinator. We know that arranging healthcare appointments, surgery, or hospitalizations is time consuming and overwhelming. We will help get your appointments scheduled and make sure you are prepared when the day arrives. If you are unfamiliar with where to go or where to park, we can accompany you there, making sure you are at the right place at the right time, and that all your questions are answered. We’ll stay by your side as long as you need us.​

• Your liaison. We provide coordination of care with multiple health care providers, which is especially common if you require surgery or a hospitalization. We ensure your whole health care team is on the same page and working together for your best possible outcome.

• Your representative. We attend inpatient and outpatient medical team conferences on your behalf. We listen, ask questions and relay your input to everyone involved with your care. Then we’ll explain to you what was discussed during the conference, and answer any questions you have. If you desire, we can serve as the communications contact for other family members, so everyone is up to date on your healthcare journey.

Service Disclaimer

The services provided by Guided Patient Services, Inc are currently not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or any other insurance plans. Payment for agreed upon services will be billed and provided as detailed in the Client Services Contract.

Services provided by Guided Patient Services do not include medical, financial, legal advice or recommendations. Guided Patient Services does not provide medical diagnosis or any form of medical treatment. All clients must continue under the care and supervision of their licensed healthcare providers.

 

The directory of advocates nationwide is:  http://www.advoconnection.com.

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You may feel as I used to feel after each visit with my mom.   I always wanted more for her – that she be able to continue enjoying her life and that she have refreshing new experiences.  My way of achieving that was taking her out for walks in her wheelchair and excursions in the car.

But ten years ago in that day and time, few elders were comfortable using computer technology.  Thankfully times have changed!!

I am pleased to introduce the Birdsong Tablet, pre-loaded with hundreds of hours of music, videos, games, travel and even therapeutic content – all easily accessible by your loved one with one push of a button.   And here’s the source:

Built on an award-winning research study about the impact of personalized computers upon the daily life of seniors and adults with dementia, Westminster Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia Beach, Virginia is teaming with the French-based company TMM Groupe in the launch of the Birdsong Tablet.

The Birdsong research study conducted in 2015 at Westminster-Canterbury showed that simplified in-room digital technology and curated content can improve life and brain health for older adults.  The study was conducted among residents of Westminster-Canterbury’s Hoy Nursing Care Center with Eastern Virginia Medical School and Virginia Wesleyan University.  The project received the 2016 Excellence in Research and Education Award from LeadingAge, a Washington, D.C.-based association representing 6,000 non-profit aging services organizations.

I had a question about the learning curve for seniors, especially seniors with dementia.  I was told that the Birdsong Tablet is so designed to serve all cognitive levels.  Icons in the first row on the screen are appropriate for everyone, while icons in the bottom row are more appropriate for residents with higher cognitive functioning.

BirdsongTabletphoto2

The photo attached is of Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia Beach, Virginia resident Ken Scott using his tablet.  This photo is courtesy of Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay.

Along with the pre-loaded content, the device also provides a user-friendly family app that makes it easy for residents and their loved ones to connect with video chat and messaging. The tablets are available through senior living communities.  A cloud-based home version will be available in coming months. Please see below for complete details.

Contact Scott McCaskey, 757-625-2518, ext. 3 or scott@goldmanandassociates.com  for more information or to set up interviews with all parties.

 

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