Advancements in Alzheimer’s Research Made in 2020

Brain from wooden puzzles. Mental Health and problems with memory.With so much negative news in the forefront of 2020, it is worth reflecting on a number of the wonderful achievements the year brought – most notably the advancements in Alzheimer’s disease research. Katie McDonough, director of programs and services for the Alzheimer’s Association, shares, “There are many things that we’re learning and it’s an exciting time for Alzheimer’s research.”

The following are just a few of the milestones reached that are taking us ever nearer to a cure:

  • Identification of Alzheimer’s risk factors. Understanding the leading risk factors for dementia, such as excessive alcohol consumption, pollution, and traumatic brain injury (among others) is projected to lower cases of Alzheimer’s around the world up to 40%.
  • Falling rates of Alzheimer’s cases. For the past three decades, dementia diagnoses in North America and Europe have declined by 13% per decade – very likely due to changes in lifestyle.
  • Progress towards earlier diagnosis. The Early Detection of Neurodegenerative diseases initiative (EDoN) has been launched, wherein digital devices are now being developed to diagnosis dementia earlier – as early as 10 – 15 years before symptoms begin.
  • Greater focus on MCI. Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, is now being evaluated more closely, making it possible for earlier strategy, diagnosis and treatment.
  • Dementia blood tests. Predictors for the potential risk of Alzheimer’s disease are becoming more sophisticated, and in a recently available study from Sweden, scientists identified blood-based proteins that predict future thinking and memory problems.
  • Review of antipsychotic prescription drugs. A recently available study conducted by the University College London uncovered an elevated rate for the prescription of antipsychotic medicines for those with dementia – likely from the increased need for delirium management along with agitation and anxiety from COVID-19 restrictions. These medications are recommended only when no alternative is available, and the reduction of their use is currently being further explored.
  • Artificial intelligence. At a faster pace and less expensive, a new AI solution is able to determine the form of proteins in the brain, helping medical researchers design medications that can help remove these proteins.
  • Aducanumab. The FDA accepted this promising drug in 2020 for a priority review process, meaning that sometime early in 2021, we should be finding out if it is approved for use within the general population.

At Generations at Home, we are committed to following the current research on dementia, as well as on providing the cutting-edge, highly skilled care that helps those diagnosed with dementia live to their greatest potential. Whether the need is for full-time care, or simply several hours every week for trusted respite services, reach out to us for an in-home assessment for more information on how we can help.

A New Disease That Mimics Alzheimer’s: LATE

An individual who exhibits memory loss, confusion, poor judgment, repetition, and challenges with performing daily activities has the telltale symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, right? As a matter of fact, what seems to be an obvious case of Alzheimer’s may in fact be a recently discovered dementia.

Known as LATE, or limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy, this condition presents with almost the same symptoms, but the root cause is another story. Rather than the buildup of amyloid plaques and tangles inherent in Alzheimer’s, LATE is distinguished by deposits of TDP-43 protein, as reported by Dr. Julie Schneider, associate director for the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.

And TDP-43 protein troubles are in fact quite common in elderly people, with as many as one out of four older people over age 85 affected enough to cause obvious cognitive and/or memory problems. Nevertheless, it remains an under-diagnosed condition, which could lead to misdiagnoses, and consequently, inappropriate treatment plans.

The most up-to-date recommendations call for those who have been diagnosed with LATE to be removed from Alzheimer’s medication research, focusing research alternatively on establishing biomarkers to better detect LATE, to locate therapeutic intervention methods, and to increase testing to include a broader array of diverse populations, in an effort to increase both prevention and treatment.

Understanding the differences between both types of dementia is paramount to the best treatment, and per Dr. James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, “This evidence may also go some way to help us understand why some recent clinical trials testing for Alzheimer’s disease have failed – participants may have had slightly different brain diseases.”

Key aspects of LATE include:

  • Generally affecting older adults over age 80
  • A slower progression than Alzheimer’s
  • Typically only affects memory
  • May be accompanied by Alzheimer’s disease, which leads to a far more rapid decline

Whether Alzheimer’s disease, LATE, or some other form of dementia, Generations at Home offers the highly customized, skilled and creative caregiving that can help seniors live the highest possible quality of life where it is most comfortable: at home. Our care aides are thoroughly trained and experienced in helping those with dementia, along with helping family caregivers, to more fully manage the varying challenges experienced in each stage.

Call us any time at 727-940-3414 to inquire about further dementia care resources, find answers to the questions you have, or to schedule an in-home consultation to learn more about how we can help a family member you love with dementia.

How One Woman Uses Her Sense of Smell to Diagnose Parkinson’s Disease

You may not recognize her by name, but you’ve probably heard her story. Joy Milne has an exceptionally unique talent: recognizing Parkinson’s disease by using her nose. Her gift came to light when she detected what she details as an “overpowering sort of nasty yeast smell” in her husband of ten years. Subsequently observing other differences in her husband, in particular personality and mood shifts, he ultimately went to the doctor for medical help, and was given a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

Upon walking into a Parkinson’s support group meeting, that identical scent permeated the room – although evidently only Joy was able to notice it. Actually, she was even able to pick up on varying levels of the odor – some whose odor was faint, while for other people, it was much stronger. With both her own and her husband’s medical backgrounds (she a nurse and he a physician), this finding was definitely meaningful and required further action.

Her story led her to assist Tilo Kunath, a Parkinson’s disease researcher at the University of Edinburgh, with the aim of developing a tool to offer earlier detection – and ultimately, treatment – of Parkinson’s.

While initially skeptical of the probability of Parkinson’s being found through odor, he was open to additional exploration after finding out about the success dogs were having in identifying the odor of cancer in individuals. He then designed a way to assess her skills, by giving her a random assortment of t-shirts – half which had been worn by someone clinically determined to have Parkinson’s, and the other half by those without the disease – and, her accuracy rate was astonishing. As a matter of fact, she missed the mark on only one of the t-shirts, worn by someone without Parkinson’s, but who in fact was later identified as having the disease as well.

Kunath explains, “Imagine a society where you could detect such a devastating condition before it’s causing problems and then prevent the problems from even occurring.” Dr. Thomas Hummel of the Technical University of Dresden’s Smell & Taste Clinic, said that while the idea is interesting, there are still an assortment of questions to first sort out.

Parkinson’s disease, in addition to a variety of other chronic health issues, can be more effectively managed with the help of an in-home care provider like Generations at Home. Call us at 727-940-3414 for additional information.

Researchers Are Taking a Second Look at This Promising Alzheimer’s Treatment

people looking in brainAfter sixteen long years without having any truly viable treatment options for Alzheimer’s, there is some hope on the horizon, in a stunning reversal regarding the previously-rejected antibody therapy, aducanumab. The most recent research shows that large quantities of the medication do, actually, lessen cognitive decline at the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s.

As stated by Rebecca Edelmayer, director of scientific engagement at the Alzheimer’s Association, “It could be a game-changer for the field. It could be one of the first disease-modifying therapies approved for Alzheimer’s disease.”

Biogen, the maker of aducanumab, has discovered noticeable benefits for dementia patients in a number of areas: activities of daily living, memory, language, and orientation. Biogen stated its plans to pursue regulatory approval in the United States, with a long range aim of releasing the medication internationally.

With a forecasted request for approval by the FDA as soon as early 2020, the medication is slated to potentially become the first treatment method to actually reduce the clinical decline of Alzheimer’s. Likewise, it will open doors to other treatment options that impact amyloid beta plaques, connecting other trials that target the immune system, inflammation, blood vessels, and synaptic cell health. As discovering the most effective treatment of the disease is a challenging endeavor, it’s expected that a mixture of these treatments will be essential, according to Edelmayer.

The next challenge? Convincing the FDA to approve the medication after earlier failed trials. If approved, aducanumab will first be provided to individuals who had signed up for previous clinical trials, and hopefully, soon offered to other individuals dealing with the problems of Alzheimer’s as well.

For the nearly six million senior Americans battling Alzheimer’s (and that figure is expected to more than double in the next 30 years), and the loved ones who take care of them, these current findings could very well be life-changing, as there are currently only minimally effective symptom-management medications available. Even as we wait for a cure, we at Generations at Home are ready to help dementia patients through highly skilled, trained, and qualified caregivers who utilize creative, therapeutic approaches that focus on each person’s distinct strengths and making sure that each individual is living to the fullest.

For more information regarding highly effective Alzheimer’s care that helps strengthen quality of life in the comfort of home, reach out to the dementia care professionals at Generations at Home at 727-940-3414 and ask for an in-home assessment or additional useful resources.

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:

  • Reduced sense of vision and smell
  • Comfort found in familiarity (i.e., wanting to wear the same clothes over and over again)
  • The complexities of bathing, compounded by cognitive impairment and confusion
  • Fear of falling, the sounds and sensations of the water, and more

Cajoling, arguing, and reasoning are rarely effective tactics with those impacted by Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. Instead, try these creative approaches if your loved one resists maintaining proper hygiene:

  • Prepare the bathroom in advance so the room will be comfortable and you won’t need to juggle gathering up supplies in conjunction with assisting the senior. Warm the room with a space heater, and place soap, shampoo, towels, washcloth, etc. within easy reach, as well as remove any throw rugs or other tripping hazards.
  • A shower chair and hand-held sprayer often make a more comfortable bathing experience for those with dementia. Face the chair away from the faucet, and use towels to cover parts of the body before and after they are cleaned to keep the senior warm and to avoid feelings of exposure.
  • Have the senior assist with bathing tasks as much as possible to promote independence. It may be as simple as offering a washcloth or the shampoo bottle for the senior to hold.
  • If hair washing is difficult for either of you, forego that task during bath time, and arrange for weekly trips to the salon.
  • Plan a special outing with the senior, such as a lunch date with a friend, and center bath time around getting ready for the event.
  • Bring in the recommendation of a medical professional, who can advise the senior about the increased risk of infection or skin problems without proper hygiene. Sometimes hearing from a trusted third party carries more weight than from a family member.
  • Engage the services of a caregiver, allowing the senior the dignity of having personal care needs tended to by a professional, rather than a family member.

At Generations at Home, each of our caregivers is adept in safe hygiene procedures for older adults, with specialized training to help those with Alzheimer’s disease feel comfortable with personal hygiene tasks, including creative approaches to safe bathing, skin, hair, and oral care, restroom assistance, and much more. Call us at 727-940-3414 or contact us online to discover effective solutions to the concerns you and your loved one are facing!

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.