Delicious Bit of Good News

Two unrelated news publishers today served up research showing blueberries and maple syrup may contain the ingredients to fight Alzheimer’s Disease.  But before you run over to IHOP, you may want to get a brief taste of the findings in these studies.

First, Medical News Today published another article demonstrating the rich nutritional value of blueberries.  Nature’s rare blue gem is widely known to be full of antioxidants, but new research from the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center found that blueberries may also improve memory.

Meanwhile, as reported by the New York Post, researchers in (where else?) Canada claim that maple syrup could have positive effects on brain cells.  Studies have yet to be completed, but one hopes these scientists’ hypotheses stick.

Brain research is constant, and consumers are fed a steady diet of information regarding healthy brain foods and activities.  Perhaps one of the healthiest activities would be to order a bowl of fresh blueberries with a side of pure maple syrup.

Happy Alzheimer’s Day

Exactly 105 years ago today, German psychiatrist Emil Kraepelin published Volume 2 of General Psychiatry.  While the book certainly did not receive the attention of other notable books that year, there was one name from Kraepelin’s book that remains unforgettable to this day: Dr. Alois Alzheimer.

Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915) psychiatre, neurologue et neuropathologiste allemand il identifia la maladie qui porte son nom en 1907 --- Alois Alzheimer (1864-1915) german psychiatrist, neurologist who identified illness who had his name

Not a villain in the story, but rather a man responsible for associating brain death with dementia, Dr. Alzheimer was credited in this book for his work in brain science.   It was from this book that the disease affecting a new American every 67 seconds was designated “Alzheimer’s Disease”.

In the last century major developments in brain research have contributed greatly to our well-being, but Alzheimer’s Disease remains incurable and unpreventable.  Perhaps in the next few years (maybe even from a child), we will finally be able to be joyful on this “Alzheimer’s Day.”

The Mind of a Child

The human brain is probably one of the most complex single objects on the face of the earth – Bill Viola, contemporary artist

If you were asked to name a genius, you’d likely think of someone like Stephen Hawking or Albert Einstein.  Most likely you would not consider any teenagers you’ve known.  However, 15-year old Krtin Nithiyanandam of England is working for your attention.  A finalist in the Google Science Fair, young Krtin may have developed the first test to diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease before its symptoms have progressed.

Not only has the boy discovered an antibody that penetrates the cagey blood-brain barrier, he may have found a cure for the most infamous incurable disease on earth.  Wouldn’t it be a great irony if a disease of the elderly was cured by a child?  And wouldn’t it be ingenious for the brain of a child to solve the problem that has destroyed the brains of millions?

We wish Krtin and the youth that will follow in his footsteps all the best!

Gluten’s Sticky Situation

gfTheories about gluten’s harmful effects to the gut and brain are viral these days.  Not very long ago most people had never heard of gluten.  Thanks to the power of social media, word of mouth, and clever marketing, nearly everyone now knows what gluten is.  Most of those probably even have a strong opinion about the elastic substance most associated with wheat.  Unfortunately, the last word on gluten, whether harmful or benign, is nowhere in sight.

For example, FiveThirtyEight.com, a highly respected research team, released an article today suggesting that the mass movement to gluten-free diets may be misinformed and unsubstantiated.  However, highly respected researchers would contend with that research.  For example, Dr. David Perlmutter, author of Grain Brain, cites research linking gluten to diabetes and Alzheimer’s Disease.  His thesis is essentially that gluten is an addictive substance that poisons the brain, even in small quantities.

If the truth is closer to Dr. Perlmutter’s claims, then the millions of Americans who will or currently suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease will likely need to make swift and major changes to their diets.  This would include replacing most baked and packaged foods with unappetizing, expensive or difficult to obtain substitutes.

On the other hand, if FiveThirtyEight is right about gluten being a red herring, our fate is still uncertain.  There is no scientifically accepted cure or prevention for Alzheimer’s Disease, and it’s fatality rate is 100%.

Either way, we face a scary future until we learn the truth behind gluten.  If you have any questions about how diet relates to memory loss and dementia, feel free to call one of CRH Northwest’s memory care communities:

Chandler House, Yakima, WA  509-248-1007

Peters Creek Retirement Center, Redmond, WA  425-869-2273

Alzheimer’s and Sleep Deprivation

Not being able to sleep at night can be torturous.  Many healthy people experience the pain of tossing and turning for hours through the night, forcing the eyes to shut in a fight against the urge to get out of bed and forego a night’s sleep.  We know a good night’s sleep is not only healthy but helpful in preventing Alzheimer’s later.

Yet Alzheimer’s sufferers constantly experience this assault against normal sleep patterns.  One theory (source: Mayo Clinic) why sleep problems are more common in those with Alzheimer’s is that the brain’s sleep patterns get reversed under the conditions of the disease.  Very little else is known, but some researches are using fruit flies to help understand these patterns better.  Watch the embedded video below for more on this subject.

Currently, drugs can be used to help promote sleep at night, but long term treatments are in the works.  If you’re having trouble sleeping, there are many ways to promote healthy sleep patterns: exercise, diet, routine, etc.  But if you are caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease, you will likely need additional help.  For more information, please call one of our communities.  Our staff will be able to offer insights that may help you and your loved one sleep better at night.

New Alzheimer’s Movie Uncovers Shocking Truths

This year’s Sundance Film Festival features a movie, Alive Inside, intended to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease and how it is treated in various settings.  From the clips available on the web, this movie will obviously tug on the heart strings of its observers.

One thing this blog intends to do is relate the daily realities we face to its readers who share the experience of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient.  Although words can be powerful, the images and sounds in a movie can do wonders for communicating a message in a fresh, memorable way.  Hopefully this movie will not only raise awareness of the disease, but highlight the creative, effective treatments such as art and music therapy that reduce dependence on psychological drugs.

More than a blog or a move, though, visiting a home specifically dedicated to treating Alzheimer’s and dementia will bring insights one without this experience could not even imagine. If you are in Yakima, feel free to visit Chandler House.  If you are in the Seattle area, please visit Peters Creek.  Your heart will be tugged, but you will leave enlightened and more knowledgeable of the daily realities of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Unsung Heroes in the Fight to End Alzheimer’s

There are many true heroes in the fight to end Alzheimer’s Disease.  The caregivers and family members who sacrifice their own health for the sake of those suffering with Alzheimer’s are the first among many to deserve recognition.  But this article is dedicated to the large, face-less, profit-centered corporations that are toiling every day to find the cure.

“Big Pharma” gets a bad rap.  They have lobbyists in Washington, they fight for patents and make billions of dollars at the expense of those who suffer from pain and disease.  But without the brilliant scientists working for these companies, the suffering would continue without hope for better treatments.  Each day, women and men at these corporations don their white lab-coats and experiment, test and fail until they find something that works.  They don’t receive much public attention (Who really reads medical journals?), but they are among the brightest minds in the world.

For example, Swiss drugmaker Roche thinks they may have found a method of sending medicine directly to the brain by tricking its receptors.  Neurological drugs aren’t as easy to create because the brain is so complex, but Roche may have found a successful path.  For more information, read today’s article in Reuter’s.

So thank you Dr. Santarelli and all the others out there who take their calling seriously and stand on the front lines of this conflict.  The millions of us who are affected one way or another by Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementia rely on you to invent the next great treatment.

How to Afford Retirement During Retirement

Finding information about how to prepare for retirement is as easy as picking up a magazine or a newspaper.  It boils down to investing money in a diverse portfolio, IRAs, 401ks, SEPs, etc.  But once you hit retirement age, finding good financial advise is a little trickier.  The AARP and similar organizations aimed specifically to the needs of seniors are more helpful in this regard.  It is the aim of this article to provide a simple, bullet-point outline to help readers understand how to pay for retirement once retirement is upon them.

  • Social Security:  At some point Uncle Sam will start sending you checks every month, and it is up to you when that begins.  The longer you wait, the higher your checks will be.  Contact the SSA for help getting started.
  • Pensions:  Although less common than they used to be, monthly pension checks from years of working with a company can help pay for much of your retirement.
  • Retirement Accounts:  If you invested in an IRA, a 401k, or a SEP for a long period of time, there may be a large chunk of money in those accounts.  You can begin withdrawing from these accounts when you’re as young as 59 1/2, but you can wait until you’re 70 1/2 until you have to start taking money out.  Receiving checks begins with contacting your account holder or plan administrator.
  • Home Equity: A common way to pay for retirement is to use the value of a home to receive income.  You can sell your home and have a large chunk of cash in the bank or take out a home equity loan to borrow against the value of the home.
  • Investing: If you are retired but still want to make money, smart investing can bring more income.  Some investments, like real estate, can provide steady income (albeit with risk).  Investment advice, good and bad, abounds, and you should always look for an experienced advisor who shares your philosophy of investing.
  • Medicaid: When you run out of money, Medicaid is there to make sure you can afford housing.  Be aware that not all properties accept Medicaid residents, and the application process is time-consuming, but there is money available from the state if you need it.
  • Work: Some people get bored in retirement and are still able to work, even part time.  Part time jobs available to seniors aren’t just retail jobs.  Consider marketing, consulting, or taking commissions for helping place your retired friends into an assisted living home.

If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact Peters Creek in Redmond, WA at 425-869-2273 or Chandler House in Yakima, WA at 509-248-1007.  We’re happy to share our retirement expertise.

Alzheimer’s Gets Spotlight on CBS

Did you see CBS This Morning last Saturday? There was a round-table discussion devoted to Alzheimer’s Disease, and for those unaware of the impact the disease has on our culture, as well as across the globe. There were several questions asked, but most answers remain elusive to researchers. We know how the disease progresses and destroys the brain. We even know some of the genes involved with Alzheimer’s Disease. However, we are still “at square one” when it comes to a cure.

The video is worth watching, and it is always good when awareness increases. Great Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, is shown speaking to the need for more attention to be paid to Alzheimer’s. Hopefully the mainstream media continues to promote the need for Alzheimer’s research and ways to prevent dementia.

The Senior Housing Spectrum

A nice chat with a neighbor yesterday reminded me how confusing senior housing is for those who don’t devote their lives to the profession.  Once upon a time, this author did not know the difference between AL, IL, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing, and so on.  There are many places on the internet to learn about these differences, but the goal here is to be the most informative, easy to read blog about such things.  Therefore, I’ve provided a list with a short description for each level of senior care:

  1. Senior Apartments (55+) and Adult Communities – these are identical to conventional apartment buildings or neighborhoods, except no kids allowed!
  2. Independent Living (IL) – expect room and board to be included, along with activities and service.  Think all-inclusive hotel vacation.
  3. Assisted Living (AL) – all the luxuries of Independent Living, plus caretakers who help administer medication, bathing, dressing and feeding.
  4. Memory Care – a type of assisted living dedicated specifically to dementia and Alzheimer’s.  These buildings should look more like a home with simple, familiar surroundings so as not to create confusion for the resident.  A nurse will usually be on-site.
  5. Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) – also called a nursing home, these are more like hospitals with 24 hour doctor or nurse availability.  They are much more expensive than assisted living, but Medicare can cover your stay here for up to 90 days.
  6. Transitional Care – these are facilities designed to replace hospital beds for those needing constant care.  It is less expensive and more comfortable than a hospital bed.  Transitional homes are very similar to nursing homes.
  7. Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) – These are usually large facilities that contain components of all of the above.  They are designed for long periods of stay and easy transition between fully independent living to high level of care.

It is often very difficult for an untrained eye to tell the difference between several of these categories.  Marketing materials and advertisements only make the distinctions more fuzzy.  It is important for families to understand the level of need and the options available for senior care.  Hopefully the above list will answer your questions.  If not, please call the experts at one of our communities:

We have provided specialized memory care for over 15 years in Central Washington and are happy to share our expertise with you!