Letter: All should be aware of Alzheimer’s toll

We have to wake up.

James Carville, political commentator and media personality, spoke at the Alzheimer’s Services 30th Anniversary Gala earlier this year and remarked Alzheimer’s disease is “contagious.” Carville, along with his other siblings, cared for their mother, “Nippy,” with the disease, and was simply expressing that the disease was contagious in the sense that the whole family suffers on its own terms when one family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

So true. Caregivers and a network of family and friends are all affect ed by this debilitating brain disorder which affects 5.2 million Americans of all ages annually.

The disease is reaching epidemic proportions with mounting costs. In 2013, the direct costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s to American society will total an estimated $203 billion, including $142 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid.

Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area serves a 10-parish area, and recent numbers revealed more than 21,000 individuals in these areas alone have developed Alzheimer’s, with a calculated 100,000-plus individuals statewide.

Full story of waking up to Alzheimer’s at The Advocate


After being diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (EOAD) at age 57, Rick Phelps was given an Exelon patch and a directive to make a follow-up appointment with his neurologist in six months.

That’s it-that’s all modern medicine could offer a man whose world had been unceremoniously upended by a terminal diagnosis.

Alzheimer’s disease has no cure, no effective treatment, and there are few resources to help families deal with the crushing effects of increasing cognitive impairment.

Fortunately for Rick, unconventional intervention would come a few months after his devastating diagnosis; in the form of a furry, four-legged savior named Sam. The spry German Shepard is a member of an elite squad of service dogs specially-trained to assist people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Unlike therapy dogs that assist blind or physically disabled individuals, these so-called “psychiatric service dogs” are patterned after police K9s-conditioned to analyze a situation and make decisions on how best to protect their human handlers.

Full story of dogs helping dementia at Paw Nation

11 new gene variants linked to Alzheimer’s disease

In the largest genetic analysis of Alzheimer’s ever completed, scientists have discovered 11 new genes that may be tied to the late-onset form of the dementia disease.

Scientists scanned the brains of 74,076 older volunteers with Alzheimer’s and others who did not have the disease in 15 countries to come up with their findings. The study was published in Nature Genetics on Oct. 27.

Prior to this study, only 11 gene variants had been linked to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, including one called Apolipoprotein E-e4 (APOE-e4) which appeared to have the strongest impact on risk.

Now, with the latest research, scientists have doubled the known gene variants linked to the disease.

These genes may play a role in how cells function, including how microglial cells (cells that form the support structure of the central nervous system) react to areas of inflammation. Other gene variants were shown to affect brain cell function and synaptic function in the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

In particular, researchers say the link to one newly-discovered gene variant known as HLA-DRB5/DRB1 is a landmark finding. It plays a large role in the major histocompatibility complex region of the brain, which is an area of cell surface molecules that control how white blood cells — which are involved in the immune system — interact. This area of the brain has also been connected with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. It could mean that the immune system has something to do with Alzheimer’s.

Full story of Alzheimer’s and genes variants at CBS News

Blood Pressure Drugs Tied to Decreased Dementia Risk

A new study suggests that taking certain blood pressure medications may reduce the risk of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease.

When researchers at Johns Hopkins analyzed data on more than 3,000 elderly Americans, they found that people over the age of 75 with normal cognition who used diuretics, angiotensin-1 receptor blockers (ARBs) and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors showed a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s-related dementia by at least 50 percent.

Additionally, diuretics were associated with a 50 percent reduced risk in those with mild cognitive impairment.

Beta blockers and calcium channel blockers did not show a link to reduced risk, the scientists reported in the study, published in the journal Neurology.

“Identifying new pharmacological treatments to prevent or delay the onset of AD dementia is critical, given the dearth of effective interventions to date,” said Sevil Yasar, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine in the Department of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Our study was able to replicate previous findings, however, we were also able to show that the beneficial effect of these blood pressure medications are maybe in addition to blood pressure control, and could help clinicians in selecting an antihypertensive medication based not only on blood pressure control, but also on additional benefits.”

Full story of blood pressure drugs and dementia at PsychCentral

Helping change the world’s view of Alzheimer’s

AgingCare.com, the online community of more than 6 million people caring for elderly loved ones, has released Fade to Blank: Life Inside Alzheimer’s—a compelling and unprecedented account that explores the human side of Alzheimer’s, as told by three families whose lives have been forever altered by this disease.

“We spent a great deal of time analyzing thousands of questions, answers and comments about Alzheimer’s on AgingCare.com,” said Joe Buckheit, Founder and President. “It became clear that even with all the information available, people wanted to know more about how this disease impacts real life.”

To answer their questions and provide further insights, Fade to Blank takes you inside the lives of three courageous families living with Alzheimer’s—from their views, in their words. It demonstrates that there is so much more to this devastating disease than its finality: more love, more hope, more humanity.

“No one has ever presented the ‘human’ side of Alzheimer’s in this way before,” said Anne-Marie Botek, author of Fade to Blank and editor-in-chief of AgingCare.com. “The unfiltered sentiments expressed by these incredible men and women have the power to truly transform the way Alzheimer’s is perceived.”

Full story of the world’s view on Alzheimer’s at The Sacramento Bee

FLEX CEUs: Company CE Plans and September CE Courses

Company CEU Plans

We are now offering company CE plans! These plans are for companies or organizations who want to ensure their employees stay current with their credentials and licenses by offering them continuing education hours purchased by the company at greatly reduced rates. Here’s how it works:

  1. A representative from the company sets up a company CE account and purchases a block of hours
  2. The representative can create employee accounts that can log in and use the site
  3. When an employee passes an exam, the CE  hours will pull from the remaining company block of hours

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a major public health problem that many health care providers will encounter in their practice. As providers, it is important to recognize the early signs of the disease as well as safety concerns associated with progression of the disease. This course reviews two articles published by the National Institute on Aging. The first course covers changes to the brain during healthy aging, as well as what happens to the brain in AD. Cutting-edge research in diagnosis and treatments are reviewed, and tips for improving support for families and caregivers are presented. The second article provides tools to identify potential problems in the home and offers solutions to help prevent accidents. It also offers possible solutions for challenges presented by special occasions, natural disasters, and driving.

Hip Strength Assessment in Weight-bearing Tasks

The hip abductors and external rotators are important in maintaining lower extremity alignment during weight-bearing tasks; therefore, the assessment of hip muscle performance in a weight bearing position is valuable. This course evaluates the reliability and consistency of a weight bearing assessment and compares it to the standard, sidelying assessment.

For information on the company CE plans and new CE courses, visit Flex CEUs

Alzheimer’s research at crossroads (VIDEO)

For years, scientists and drug companies zeroed in on clumps of brain plaques as a trigger for Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer's Research at a CrossroadsScientists theorize that these clumps, known as beta amyloid plaques, crowd the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, killing nerve cells and scuttling memory and thinking.

But pharmaceutical companies have come up empty on developing a drug that removes these plaques and slows or halts memory deterioration, despite spending billions of research dollars.

Some scientists now question whether amyloid is the correct target.

“There really hasn’t been any clinical benefit,” said Dr. Richard Caselli, a professor of neurology at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. Tests showed that some drugs could clear amyloid plaques, “but, lo and behold, the dementia continues to progress, and people continue to die.”

Still, amyloid believers, such as Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix and Washington University in St. Louis, aren’t ready to give up the fight for a blockbuster, plaque-clearing drug to beat a disease that is projected to afflict 8 million Americans by 2030.

Full story of Alzheimer’s research problems at USA Today

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For Some With Alzheimer’s, Occupational Therapy Can Bring Welcome Relief

Putting mirrors in unexpected places and keeping old photo albums handy might just make life a bit easier for people with Alzheimer’s and those who live with and care for them.

Occupational Therapy Can Help with Alzheimer's PatientsThey’re among suggestions offered by occupational therapists as ways to modify daily life as the degenerative brain disease takes its course.

“In some cases, occupational therapy has been overlooked for Alzheimer’s disease, but it can make such a difference in keeping people at home when you learn how to set up the environment for success and safety,” said Chad Morton, an occupational therapist who’s managing director of therapy services for Amedisys Home Health Services in Baton Rouge, La.

According to the American Occupational Therapy Association, occupational therapy can help people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers by:

  • Helping the person with Alzheimer’s do things independently,
  • Keeping the person with Alzheimer’s safe,
  • Preventing falls and other injuries,
  • Safeguarding against wandering,
  • Helping families maintain an emotional connection.

“Our primary objective with occupational therapy is to keep people as independent as possible and doing their activities of daily living — like eating, bathing, dressing and grooming,” Morton said. “We can attempt to rehabilitate anything that’s important to a person.

Full story of occupational therapy for Alzheimer’s patients at Health News

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Scientists Find a Clue to Age-Related Memory Loss

Age-related memory loss is a distinct condition from pre-Alzheimer’s, new research shows, offering a hint that what we now consider the normal forgetfulness of old age might eventually be treatable. They discovered that a certain gene in a specific part of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, quits working properly in older people.

Scientists Find Clue to Age Related Memory LossScientists have found a compelling clue in the quest to learn what causes age-related memory problems and to one day be able to tell if those misplaced car keys are just a "senior moment" or an early warning of something worse.

[The recent] report offers evidence that age-related memory loss really is a distinct condition from pre-Alzheimer’s — and offers a hint that what we now consider the normal forgetfulness of old age might eventually be treatable.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center examined brains, young and old, donated from people who died without signs of neurologic disease. They discovered that a certain gene in a specific part of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center, quits working properly in older people. It produces less of a key protein.

That section of the brain, called the dentate gyrus, has long been suspected of being especially vulnerable to aging. Importantly, it’s a different neural neighborhood than where Alzheimer’s begins to form.

Full story of age related memory loss at Sci-Tech Today

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Concussion, TBI, Alzheimer’s: Is There a Link?

Links Between Concussions, TBI, Alzheimer'sMild traumatic brain injury can lead to damage in the white matter of the brain that closely resembles some of the abnormalities found in the brains of patients with early Alzheimer dementia, preliminary research suggested.

Retrospective examination of diffusion tensor images from 64 patients with mild TBI and 15 control patients showed a significant correlation between high symptom scores on neurocognitive tests and reduced fractional anisotropy, or water movement, at the gray-white junction related to auditory processing, Saeed Fakhran, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and colleagues reported in Neurology.

Moreover, patients with sleep-wake disturbances — which are among the most disabling post-concussive symptoms — had significantly reduced fractional anisotropy in the parahippocampal gyri: 0.26 versus 0.37 in patients without such disturbances.

“When we sleep, the brain organizes our experiences into memories, storing them so that we can later find them,” Fakhran said. “The para-hippocampus is important for this process, and involvement of the para-hippocampus may, in part, explain the memory problems that occur in many patients after concussion.”

Full story of brain injury links at Med Page Today

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