Reasons Why Women Are at Higher Risk for Alzheimer’s Disease

Researchers are finally beginning to get a grip on the imbalance between Alzheimer’s diagnoses in women and men. Currently, as many as 2/3 of those with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. are female, and as scientists begin to understand the particular nuances behind this trend, we can begin to address them.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Director of Scientific Engagement, Rebecca Edelmayer, “Women are at the epicenter of Alzheimer’s disease as both persons living with the disease and as caregivers of those with dementia. Over the last three years, the Alzheimer’s Association has invested $3.2 million into 14 projects looking at sex differences for the disease and some of the findings today may explain risk, prevalence, and rate of decline for women.”

The longstanding belief has been that women simply have a longer expected lifespan, and we know that Alzheimer’s becomes more prevalent as age increases. Yet the theory has shifted to include the following additional determinants:

  • Biology. Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers discovered that women with mild cognitive impairment had a more accelerated spread of tau (the protein in the brain linked to death of brain cells), as well as a greater extent of tau network connectivity, than that of men.
  • Memory. A study conducted by the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine revealed higher scores on verbal memory tests in women than men, which may contribute to the ability of women’s brains to compensate for cognitive impairments and to the delay of a diagnosis and subsequent treatment.
  • Employment. Memory decline in women ages 60 – 70 who never worked was greater than in women with consistent employment, per the findings of a study conducted by the University of California Los Angeles – indicating that “consistent cognitive stimulation from work helps increase cognitive reserve in women.”
  • Lifestyle. Because a healthy lifestyle, including a lower incidence of stress, helps reduce Alzheimer’s risk, women are particularly vulnerable – as they are most often in the role of family caregiver, a known inducer of stress.

All of these findings highlight the need for women to take good care of their own health and wellbeing, and Generations at Home is here to help. We provide the trusted St. Petersburg senior care that enables family caregivers to take much needed breaks from caring for their loved ones and focus on self-care. Our caregivers are specially trained and experienced in meeting the unique needs of those with Alzheimer’s disease, giving family members the peace of mind in knowing their loved ones are receiving the very best care. Call us at 727-940-3414 to learn more about our Alzheimer’s care services.

Common Medication Prescriptions Linked to Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s

Senior citizen female holding bottles of prescription medicine sitting in a wheelchair.

Generations at Home’s medication reminder services ensure seniors take the right medications at the right time.

They’re already known to cause a number of short-term side effects, such as memory loss and confusion, but new research links some of the stronger anticholinergic drugs (such as those prescribed for Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, depression, and overactive bladder) to a markedly increased risk for dementia.

The study involved two groups of seniors: 59,000 patients with dementia, and 225,000 without. About 57% of those with dementia, and 51% without, were given at least one (and up to six) strong anticholinergic medication. Taking into account other known dementia risk factors, the results were an astonishing 50% increased risk of dementia in those who were taking strong anticholinergics daily for three or more years, with the greatest risk to those who received a dementia diagnosis before age 80.

It’s important to note that there was no correlation discovered between dementia and other forms of anticholinergics (such as antihistamines like Benadryl and GI medications).

While these findings do not prove anticholinergics as a cause for dementia, at the very least, “This study provides further evidence that doctors should be careful when prescribing certain drugs that have anticholinergic properties,” according to Tom Dening, study co-author and head of Nottingham’s Center for Dementia. Dening also stressed that those currently prescribed these medications should never cease taking them abruptly, which can cause even more harm.

If it’s determined that these medications do in fact lead to dementia, an estimated 10% of all seniors currently struggling with dementia may be able to attribute the condition to anticholinergics.

The recommendation is for anyone concerned about this potential link to talk with his or her physicians to weigh the benefits against any potential risks, and to explore alternative means of treatment when possible. For example, those taking medications for help with sleeping – something that has become increasingly common in older adults – can consider behavioral changes and a more therapeutic approach over insomnia medications.

And regardless of the medications a senior takes, proper medication management is key – something that’s easier said than done with many older adults taking multiple medications in various doses at varying times of the day. Generations at Home’s medication reminder services are perfect to ensure seniors take the right medications at the right time – every time.

Our specially trained and experienced dementia care team is also on hand to provide creative, compassionate, effective care strategies to help minimize the challenging aspects of the disease, leading to a higher quality of life for both seniors and their families. Contact us at 727-940-3414 any time to learn more.

Help for This Common Alzheimer’s Care Concern: Resistance to Personal Hygiene

Towel LifestyleOf the many challenges related to providing care for a loved one with dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association reveals that the most prevalent difficulty is with personal hygiene, for a variety of reasons: Read more

Wandering and Alzheimer’s: Why It Happens and How to Help

dementia care experts

Wandering is a common side effect of Alzheimer’s disease.

Of the many effects of Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps one of the most concerning is the individual’s tendency for wandering as well as the potential dangers that may occur if the senior becomes disoriented or lost. Wandering can take place when the older adult is:

  • Scared, confused or overwhelmed
  • Trying to find someone or something
  • Bored
  • Seeking to keep a familiar past routine (such as going to a job or shopping)
  • Taking care of a basic necessity (such as getting a drink of water or going to the bathroom)

The objective is twofold; to help keep the senior safe, and to make certain his / her needs are fulfilled to attempt to prevent the need to wander to begin with. Try the following safety measures in case your senior loved one is likely to wander:

  • Be certain that the residence is equipped with a security system and locks that the senior is unable to master, such as a sliding bolt lock above his or her range of vision. An assortment of alarms can be bought, from something as simple as placing a bell over door knobs, to highly-sensitive pressure mats that will sound an alarm when stepped upon, to GPS devices which can be worn, and more. It’s also a great idea to register for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Safe Return Program.
  • Conceal exits by covering up doors with curtains, setting temporary folding barriers strategically around doorways, or by wallpapering or painting doors to match the surrounding walls. You could also try placing “NO EXIT” signs on doors, which can sometimes dissuade people in the earlier stages of dementia from trying to exit.
  • Another danger for individuals who wander is the additional risk of falling. Look over each room of the house and address any tripping concerns, such as removing throw rugs, extension cords, and any obstacles that may be obstructing walkways, adding extra lighting, and placing gates at the top and bottom of stairways.

It is important to keep in mind that with supervision and direction, wandering is not necessarily an issue. Go for a walk together outside anytime weather permits and the senior is in the mood to be mobile, providing the extra advantage of fresh air, physical exercise, and quality time together.

While often tricky to manage, the dementia care team at Generations at Home has been specially trained to be equally watchful and proactive in deterring wandering and to utilize creative strategies to help seniors with dementia stay calm and happy. Email or call us at 727-940-3414 for more information!

 

Important Facts and Figures to Know from the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2019 Report

Closeup of various reminders attached with magnetic thumbtacks on metal

Learn about the newest and most important information regarding Alzheimer’s Disease

The Alzheimer’s Association has released its 2019 Facts and Figures Report, and with a full 5.8 million Americans currently diagnosed with the disease – including one out of every ten seniors – it’s important for all of us to understand the latest developments in research and treatment options.

According to the report, the number of Americans diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is expected to explode from 5.8 million in 2019 to an estimated 13.8 million in 2050. And while the impact is greatest on older adults, the disease begins to create changes in the brain a full 20 years or more before symptoms are evident.

If you’re one of the millions of family members providing care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you’re well aware of the investment in time required: combined with other family caregivers, totaling 18.5 billion hours in 2018 alone. In fact, 83% of dementia care is provided by family and friends. And the impact on a caregiver’s health is significant, with nearly 60% reporting emotional stress and nearly 40% suffering from physical stress.

Risk factors have also been updated in this year’s report, and include:

  • Age: Not surprisingly, risk increases dramatically with age, from as little as 3% in the 65 – 74 age group, to 17% in those ages 75 – 84, to a whopping 32% for those age 85 and older.
  • APOE gene: Of the 3 forms of the APOE gene (e2, e3, and e4), which transports cholesterol in the bloodstream, the e4 form is linked to the highest prevalence of the disease.
  • Family history: Individuals with at least one first-degree relative (parents, siblings) are at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer’s, and the risk increases when shared lifestyle and environmental factors are at play (i.e. unhealthy eating or obesity).

Of significant importance is the finding that although healthcare providers are advised to regularly assess cognitive functioning for all seniors, only 16% of those over age 65 report receiving a routine assessment, and more than half have never received an assessment at all – in spite of the fact that 94% of physicians noted the importance of such an evaluation.

Per Joanne Pike, Dr.P.H., chief program officer for the Alzheimer’s Association, “Early detection of cognitive decline offers numerous medical, social, emotional, financial and planning benefits, but these can only be achieved by having a conversation with doctors about any thinking or memory concerns and through routine cognitive assessments.” Generations at Home remains committed to following the latest developments in Alzheimer’s disease, and to providing the exceptional, highly skilled care that allows for the highest possible quality of life at all times for those with dementia. Contact us online [KW3] or call us at 727-940-3414 for more educational resources related to Alzheimer’s, or to learn more about our specialized in-home dementia care services.

Learn More About the Two Primary Types of Alzheimer’s Medications

Senior woman checking label on medication

The medical world currently has two main types of medications to help patients with Alzheimer’s. Learn more about each here.

The latest Alzheimer’s data is worrying. The disease is currently the sixth leading cause of death, rising above both breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. And even though deaths from other chronic conditions, including cardiovascular illnesses, are decreasing, those from Alzheimer’s have escalated upwards of 100%. The toll the illness takes on family caregivers is equally shocking, with more than 16 million Americans delivering over 18 billion hours of care for a family member with Alzheimer’s disease.

Though we have yet to uncover relief from Alzheimer’s disease, there are a couple of distinct types of treatment options that may help decrease several of the more predominant symptoms. If your senior loved one was identified as having Alzheimer’s, here are a few Alzheimer’s medication options your doctor may suggest:

  • Cholinesterase inhibitors: By hindering the breakdown of acetylcholine, a chemical crucial for memory, attention, learning and muscle activity, these prescription medications can provide some benefits within the mild to moderate phases of Alzheimer’s for many patients. Dr. Zaldy Tan, medical director for the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program, warns, however, to keep in mind that benefits are likely to be limited at best. “The best-case scenario is that the patient’s memory and cognitive function may improve slightly to what it was six months to a year ago – it’s not going to turn back time,” he explains. Included in this class of medications are galantamine (Razadyne), donepezil (Aricept) and rivastigmine (Exelon).
  • Memantine: In the moderate to severe phases of the disease, a doctor may recommend memantine (Namenda) which takes a unique strategy in contrast to cholinesterase inhibitors, preventing the overstimulation of glutamate NMDA receptors which in turn might help improve limited memory function. Doctors will frequently add memantine to a patient’s care plan together with a cholinesterase inhibitor as the disease advances.

Determining the effectiveness of these treatments requires patience, as both take four to six weeks before benefits may be realized. And, it’s important to weigh the benefits versus any adverse side effects, which could include confusion and constipation in memantine, and nausea, vomiting and a low heart rate with cholinesterase inhibitors.

One of the most effective ways to help individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease live life to the fullest is through engaging the services of a specially trained caregiver who understands and can help manage the varied struggles of dementia. Call Generations at Home for more information about our highly trained, compassionate Alzheimer’s care services for older adults.

The Newest Breakthroughs in Curing Alzheimer’s

microscope with lab glassware, science laboratory research and development
Ground breaking research is honing in ever nearer towards the eradication of Alzheimer’s disease

The first, interestingly, is a drug utilized to manage HIV. Scientists have discovered that the genetic blueprint in Alzheimer’s patients is altered as the disease advances, very similar to the genetic shuffling that occurs in individuals with HIV. The idea is that placing a halt on the movement of the specific genes can possibly prevent the progression associated with the disease.

As stated by lead scientist Jerold Chun, “For the first time, we can see what may cause the disease. We also uncovered a potential near-term treatment.”

Subsequently, researchers at Mount Sinai have discovered that medications used to lower blood glucose in diabetics, such as metformin, might have a direct impact in the reduction of the plaques and tangles linked with Alzheimer’s disease. While this may be helpful immediately for diabetics with Alzheimer’s who are already taking this medication, further research is needed before testing on Alzheimer’s patients without diabetes as a result of the potential for dangerously low glucose levels and other negative effects. Encouragingly, the study outcomes add an additional piece to the puzzle of dementia.

These findings “…point us to the biological mechanisms that are being affected by those drugs. Hopefully, now we can find drugs that would have similar effects on the brain without changing the blood sugar levels,” remarked Vahram Haroutunian, professor of psychiatry and neuroscience of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

With as many as 6 million Americans currently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and a predicted increase to 14 million diagnoses over the next 40 years, it is vital for medical scientists to acquire ground on more fully comprehending the root cause, effective treatment options, and eventually a cure for this disease which has certainly become an epidemic.

The Alzheimer’s care experts at Generations at Home continue to track these and other advances, while offering the finest quality home care that enhances general wellbeing while providing family members necessary peace of mind. Our caregivers are fully trained and exceptionally skilled in helping manage many of the more complex facets of Alzheimer’s disease, such as wandering, aggression, sundowning, inappropriate behaviors, and much more. And our aim is always to make certain seniors with dementia have the ability to live life to its fullest potential, while remaining secure and comfortable at home.

Contact us online or call us at 727-940-3414 to find out more or to ask about resources to help you and your family member navigate the journey of Alzheimer’s.