Recognizing When Your Parents Need Help

Sometimes it’s obvious when older parents need outside help — like when they’re having difficulty managing numerous chronic illnesses or losing mobility and unable to maneuver well even at home. But mental problems may not be as easy to spot.

For instance, is Dad’s forgetfulness — his misplacing house keys or missing appointments — normal aging or a sign of something more serious, such as dementia?

It can be hard to judge the severity of problems if you live far away and speak infrequently. But even if you live close by, you might not realize the cumulative effects of gradual changes.

Full story at US News

Dementia care program improves mental health of patients, caregivers

UCLA-led research finds that a comprehensive dementia care program staffed by nurse practitioners working within a health system improves the mental and emotional health of patients and their caregivers.

While the program did not slow the progression of dementia, it did reduce patients’ behavioral problems and depression, and lower the distress of caregivers, the researchers found.

The paper is published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The findings, based on data from the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, suggest that such programs are a promising approach toward improving the psychological health of patients and caregivers, said Dr. David Reuben, chief of the UCLA Division of Geriatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and the study’s lead author.

Full story at Science Daily

Normal Brain vs. Brain With Dementia

YOU DON’T NEED TO BE A brain specialist to notice certain differences in images of a healthy older person’s brain compared to that of someone with dementia. Narrowed, depleted folds on the brain’s surface, the presence of blotchy plaques, twisted fibers and significant shrinkage are clearly visible. What you can’t see is how brain changes like these affect how people’s minds work.

In a program from the National Press Foundation and funded by AARP, “Understanding the Latest on Dementia Issues,” journalists heard from a spectrum of dementia experts, including researchers, gerontologists, family caregivers and a brilliant engineer who described her personal journey with early-onset Alzheimer’s. In addition, a leading neuroscientist detailed how normal brain aging is very different than changes arising from dementia and not something to be feared.

Full story at US News

Genes vs. lifestyle: Study ‘undermines fatalistic view of dementia’

A new study investigates the effect of leading a healthful lifestyle on people who have a genetic predisposition to developing dementia.

Elżbieta Kuźma, Ph.D., and David Llewellyn, Ph.D., from the University of Exeter Medical School in the United Kingdom, are the joint lead authors of the new research, which appears in the journal JAMA.

Llewellyn, Kuźma, and colleagues also presented their findings at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2019, which took place in Los Angeles, CA.

In their paper, the authors explain that while scientists know that genes and lifestyle both significantly affect Alzheimer’s risk and the likelihood of other types of dementia, they do not yet know the extent to which making healthful lifestyle choices can offset the genetic risk.

Full story at Medical News Today

Coping strategy therapy for family dementia carers works long-term

A programme of therapy and coping strategies for people who care for family members with dementia successfully improves the carers’ mental health for at least a six-year follow-up, finds a UCL study.

Carers who took part in the programme were five times less likely to have clinically significant depression than carers who were not offered the therapy, according to the findings published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

The intervention has also been shown to be cost-effective in a prior study.

“Taking care of a family member with dementia can be immensely difficult, particularly as their condition deteriorates and they may not appreciate their carer, so close to four in 10 family carers experience depression of anxiety,” said Professor Gill Livingston (UCL Psychiatry), the trial’s principal investigator.

Full story at Science Daily

How having a close relative with Alzheimer’s may affect cognition

New research suggests that having a family history of Alzheimer’s may impair cognition throughout a person’s lifetime, but it also identifies factors that could offset these adverse effects. The findings may enable people at risk to take active measures for delaying or even preventing this form of dementia.

Having a close relative with dementia is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, it is one of the two most significant risk factors, together with age. Having a first-degree relative with Alzheimer’s raises relative risk by 30%, which means that a person’s existing risk goes up by almost a third.

Having a copy of the gene APOE4 that encodes the protein apolipoprotein E raises Alzheimer’s risk by threefold. Having both copies of the gene — which is a rare occurrence — increases the risk by 10 to 15 times.

Full story at Medical News Today

How Aerobic Exercise Benefits the Brain – Especially As You Age

A RECENT COLUMBIA University study builds on previous research linking aerobic exercise to cognitive function and cortical thickness improvement in middle-aged and older adults. Here’s a look at what the findings could mean for you.

Can you imagine living through chronic neurological disease and dysfunction that prevents you from learning, reasoning, behaving appropriately or even remembering basic information? These are examples of cognitive functions, which are the sophisticated mental processes by which we’re able to carry out daily tasks and navigate the world around us. The way we learn things, how we remember them, problem-solving and paying attention to details can deteriorate with mild cognitive impairment and can be destroyed with more aggressive forms of dementia. Our cognitive abilities can also decline with age.

Full story at US News

Cognitive decline: A personalized approach could be key

Researchers have designed a brain aging model to investigate the factors that contribute to cognitive decline, borrowing principles from precision medicine.

Cognitive decline affects a person’s ability to focus, remember, and make decisions.

Its severity can range from mild to severe, and it may lead to dementia, in the most severe cases.

People with dementia may find it difficult to perform everyday tasks and live independently.

Full story at Medical News Today

How frontotemporal dementia affects ‘moral emotions’

Researchers reveal a marker and new testing tool of frontotemporal dementia that may help distinguish this condition from Alzheimer’s disease.

Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a less common form of dementia than Alzheimer’s. Sometimes called Pick’s disease or frontal lobe dementia, this condition occurs when brain cells in the frontal or temporal lobes of the brain, or both, become damaged.

The frontal lobes of a person’s brain are responsible for problem-solving, planning, emotional control, and behavior.

Full story at Medical News Today

For Some, Trouble Tracking Finances Could Be Sign of Dementia

If someone you know is struggling to keep track of their finances as they age, early dementia might be the culprit.

That’s the conclusion of researchers who tested 243 adults, aged 55 to 90, on their financial skills and performed brain scans to assess the buildup of beta-amyloid plaques, which are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Some of the participants had no mental decline, some had mild memory impairment and some had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Specific financial skills declined with age and at the earliest stages of mild memory impairment, with similar declines in men and women, the study authors said.

Full story at US News