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Small Behavioral Changes Could be an Early Sign of Alzheimer’s (Dementia)

Looking back, there is little doubt in my mind that if I had had the proper education or information I would have realized my mother was suffering from dementia sooner. Most people like me tend to ignore the symptoms at first believing they are simply signs of “old age”. Anyone who ends up in my shoes knows and understands that a person in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s can function with some normality–even drive a car. It is not until they deteriorate or until some “event” takes place that we wake up to reality.


The basic underlying premise of the article on the next page is that behavior changes slowly in the elderly and if they begin to suffer cognitive impairment it will be evidenced in behavioral changes. Sometimes these changes can be quite subtle but if detected could raise a “red flag”.

If my mother had been enrolled in any of these studies I feel certain she would have been diagnosed with dementia sooner. This would have allowed me to get her in an exercise program, get her proper nutrition, and insure that she was taking her medicines as prescribed. I learned in the last five years how important these three factors are in the quality of her life.

The woman in the picture is my mother then 91 years old. She suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. I am her CareGiver.

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Sensors could help catch first signs of dementia
Monitors and online tests track subtle changes in daily mobility, behavior

Source Associated Press and MSNBC

Tiny motion sensors are attached to the walls, doorways and even the refrigerator of Elaine Bloomquist’s home, tracking the seemingly healthy 86-year-old’s daily activity.

It’s like spying in the name of science — with her permission — to see if round-the-clock tracking of elderly people’s movements can provide early clues of impending Alzheimer’s disease.

“Now it takes years to determine if someone’s developing dementia,” laments Dr. Jeffrey Kaye of Oregon Health & Science University, which is placing the monitors in 300 homes of Portland-area octogenarians as part of a $7 million federally funded project.

The goal: Shave off that time by spotting subtle changes in mobility and behavior that Alzheimer’s specialists are convinced precede the disease’s telltale memory loss.

Simple early signs

Early predictors may be as simple as variations in speed while people walk their hallways, or getting slower at dressing or typing. Also under study are in-home interactive “kiosks” that administer monthly memory and cognition tests, computer keyboards bugged to track typing speed, and pill boxes that record when seniors forget to take their medicines.

More than 5 million Americans, and 26 million people worldwide, have Alzheimer’s, and cases are projected to skyrocket as the population ages. Today’s medications only temporarily alleviate symptoms. Researchers are desperately hunting new ones that might at least slow the relentless brain decay if taken very early in the disease, before serious memory problems become obvious.

So dozens of early diagnosis methods also are under study, from tests of blood and spinal fluid to MRI scans of people’s brains. Even if some pan out, they’re expensive tests that would require lots of doctor intervention, when getting someone to visit a physician for suspicion of dementia is a huge hurdle. And during routine checkups, even doctors easily can miss the signs.

Bloomquist, of Milwaukie, Ore., knows the conundrum all too well. She volunteered for Kaye’s research because her husband died of Alzheimer’s, as did his parents and her own mother.

“It’s hard to know when people begin Alzheimer’s,” she reflects. “Alzheimer people do very well socially for short periods of time. If it’s just a casual conversation, they rise to the occasion.”

‘Typical’ days monitored

Measuring how people fare at home — on bad days as well as good ones, not just when they’re doing their best for the doctor — may spot changes that signal someone’s at high risk long before they’re actually demented, Kaye told the Alzheimer’s Association’s international dementia-prevention meeting last week.

“If you only assess them every once-in-a-blue-moon, you really are at a loss to know what they are like on a typical day,” Kaye explains.

High-tech monitors under study:

Researchers at New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine are heading a study that ultimately plans to recruit 600 people over age 75 to help test in-home “kiosks” that turn on automatically to administer monthly cognitive exams. A video of a smiling scientist appears on-screen to talk participants through such classic tests as reading a string of words and then, minutes later, repeating how many they recall, or seeing how quickly they complete connect-the-dot patterns.
An Oregon pilot study of the motion sensors tracked 14 participants in their upper 80s for almost a year. Half had “mild cognitive impairment,” an Alzheimer’s precursor, and half were healthy. Impaired participants showed much greater variation in such day-to-day activities as walking speed, especially in the afternoons.

Why? The theory is that as Alzheimer’s begins destroying brain cells, signals to nerves may become inconsistent — like static on a radio — well before memories become irretrievable. One day, signals to walk fire fine. The next, those signals are fuzzy and people hesitate, creating wildly varying activity patterns.

Study receives unique grant

The pilot study prompted a first-of-its-kind grant from the National Institutes of Health to extend the monitoring study to 300 homes; 112 are being monitored already, mostly in retirement communities like Bloomquist’s. They’re given weekly health questionnaires to make sure an injury or other illness that affects activity doesn’t skew the results.

In addition, participants receive computer training so they can play brain-targeted computer games and take online memory and cognition tests. The keyboards are rigged to let researchers track changes in typing speed and Internet use that could indicate confusion.

Finally, a souped-up pill dispenser called the MedTracker is added to some of the studies, wirelessly recording when drugs are forgotten or taken late.
Electronics giants already sell various medical warning technologies for the elderly, including dementia patients, such as pill boxes that sound reminder alarms at dose time. And the Alzheimer’s Association and Intel Corp. are jointly funding research into how to use television, cell phones and other everyday technology to do such things as guide dementia patients through daily activities.

The next step of companies selling early symptom monitoring isn’t far off, and unbiased data on what really helps will be crucial, Kaye warns.

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New Book and Review: The Alzheimer’s Action Plan

“Most of us will either get Alzheimer’s or care for a loved one who has”


Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for The Alzheimer’s Action Plan:
“Evidence-based content, conversational writing, and a good dose of humor make this an outstanding addition to collections on aging and caregiving and an excellent companion to Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins’s The 36-Hour Day. Highly recommended.”
–Library Journal

“Dr. Doraiswamy has done a masterful job of communicating what the layman should know on the treatment, the care giving and, most important, the prevention of Alzheimer’s. It was gratifying to learn about the mountain of evidence that what is good for your heart is also good for your brain.”
–Arthur Agatston, M.D., cardiologist and #1 New York Times bestselling author of The South Beach Diet

“Memory does matter. Adults across the life cycle are asking questions, many questions! The authors answer these questions for the educated public, family members who encounter memory loss in a loved one, and even adults who believe they are experiencing early memory loss. The answers are comprehensive and understandable, no small accomplishment given the plethora of new information available—information that at times is not only confusing but also conflicting.”
–Dan G. Blazer, M.D., Ph.D., former Dean of Medical Education, Duke University School of Medicine; past President of the American Geriatrics Society

“If you and your family face the specter of Alzheimer’s disease, run – don’t walk – to get Lisa Gwyther’s help. She combines many years of experience with empathy and respect for the patient. That results in the most sensible, compassionate, and practical advice….She is my hero.”
–Naomi S. Boak, Executive Producer, Emmy Award-winning PBS special, “The Forgetting: A Portrait of Alzheimer’s”

“This book is the most comprehensive and up-to-date guide for the diagnosis and management of Alzheimer’s disease. Whether you are a health care professional or have Alzheimer’s in your family or are simply interested to living to an old age, this book is a must read.”
–Deepak Chopra, M.D., New York Times bestselling author of Perfect Health: The Complete Mind/Body Guide

“I love this book! A powerful and vital resource for people who need it the most. Dr. Doraiswamy is that unique blend of medical expertise mixed in with warmth and compassion topped off with humility that makes him rare and wonderful.”
–Leeza Gibbons, Emmy award-winning TV host and founder of Leeza’s Place and the Memory Foundation

“Lisa Gwyther is a national treasure. She has been a pioneer in providing innovative care and education for Alzheimer’s patients and their families for many years. Lisa’s long experience helping families cope with the challenges of memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease makes her uniquely qualified to co-author this book. Families experiencing the new world of memory loss and Alzheimer’s couldn’t ask for a better companion for the journey. Her warmth, compassion, and wisdom shine through, and will help light the way.”
–Pat Lynch, Director of Communications, Alzheimer’s Center Program, National Institute on Aging

“The Alzheimer’s Action Plan provides a clear and compelling message that there is something we can all do about Alzheimer’s disease. The book presents accurate, up-to-date information and step-by-step recommendations that people with the disease, their families, and friends can use now to reduce the potentially devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease.”
–Katie Maslow, M.S.W., Associate Director of Quality Care Advocacy for the Alzheimer’s Association and winner of the 2003 ASA Award from the American Society on Aging

“Most of us will either get Alzheimer’s or care for a loved one who has. This action plan can empower you to make a difference.”
–Mehmet C. Oz, M.D., co-author of the #1 New York Times bestseller, You: The Owner’s Manual

“A readable, informative, and thorough guide to the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. I highly recommend it.”
–Peter Rabins, M.D., co-author of The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring For Persons with Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementing Illnesses, and Memory Loss in Later Life
“Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, one of America’s top memory and Alzheimer’s specialists, has packed this book with expert advice and compassionate wisdom, creating an indispensable guide for anyone concerned about their own memory or that of a loved one. Both accessible and comprehensive, this is a must-read not just for families, but for their doctors as well.”
–Gary Small, M.D., Director, UCLA Center on Aging, and author of The Memory Bible and The Longevity Bible

“The authors speak authoritatively, providing sound evidence for the points they make that is based on current understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, but the language they use and the tone of the book will make their advice and guidelines for Alzheimer’s care and treatment readily accessible to the public….Bravo on a job so well done!”
–John Q. Trojanowski, M.D., Ph.D., William Maul Measey-Truman G. Schnabel, Jr., M.D. Professor of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, Center Co-Director and Director, Institute on Aging, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center

Product Description

Is it really Alzheimer’s? How to find out and intervene early to maintain the highest quality of life

“Most of us will either get Alzheimer’s or care for a loved one who has. This action plan can empower you to make a difference.”—Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.

What would you do if your mother was having memory problems?

Five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, with a new diagnosis being made every seventy-two seconds. Millions more are worried or at risk due to mild memory loss or family history. Although experts agree that early diagnosis and treatment are essential, many people with memory loss and their families—and even their doctors—don’t know where to turn for authoritative, state-of-the-art advice and answers to all of their questions.

Now, combining the insights of a world-class physician and an award-winning social worker, this groundbreaking book tells you everything you need to know, including:

· The best tests to determine if this is—or is not—Alzheimer’s disease

· The most (and least) effective medical treatments

· Coping with behavioral and emotional changes through the early and middle stages

· Gaining access to the latest clinical trials

· Understanding the future of Alzheimer’s

Clear, compassionate, and empowering, The Alzheimer’s Action Plan is the first book that anyone dealing with mild memory loss or early Alzheimer’s must-read in order to preserve the highest possible quality of life for as long as possible.

 
 
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