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June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month. This month, take time to discuss the importance of brain health with your friends, relatives, and elderly adults in your life—especially those who may be at risk for dementia and cognitive impairment. Taking steps to improve brain health early on can often reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.
Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 6.5 million Americans. As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder that destroys brain cells and causes the brain to shrink. It is most common among adults over the age of 65.
Memory loss is the primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s can also affect a person’s concentration, judgement, and decision-making ability, leading to problems with carrying out essential daily tasks like bathing, getting dressed, and cooking. Many people with Alzheimer’s often require hospice care so they can get help with performing these activities.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that develops gradually over time. There is no designated screening test for Alzheimer’s, though your doctor can review your medical history and perform an evaluation to determine your risk.
Maintaining optimal brain health is key to reducing your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. If you are caring for Alzheimer’s patients, you can work with them to improve their brain health and reduce the severity of certain symptoms.
Leafy greens, fatty fish, and almonds are some of the many foods that contribute to good brain health. Foods like these are loaded with nutrients, including vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, that are shown to boost brain health and delay the progression of Alzheimer’s. Eat a higher amount of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, and nuts to improve your cognition.
Socializing with others on a regular basis can stimulate your memory and attention, strengthening neural networks to improve overall brain function. Being social can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, boosting the quality of life in people with Alzheimer’s. Go dancing, join book clubs, and attend social events at community centers. Many hospice care providers can help you find social activities geared toward older adults and seniors.
Physical activity offers a wide range of benefits for cognition and brain health. It improves your circulation and blood flow, boosting your memory and problem-solving ability. It can even help ward off anxiety and mood disorders, including depression. Schedule exercise into your daily schedule, even if it’s only a 10- to 15-minute walk. Better yet, join exercise classes for seniors, such as water aerobics and yoga.
Learning new skills and challenging your brain can lead to the formation of new connections between brain cells, which reduces your risk for cognitive problems, including Alzheimer’s. Play board games with your relatives and other seniors in the community, or take classes that teach you a new language or how to cook a certain cuisine. You can even download and play brain games on your smartphone, such as Wordle, Lumosity, and Candy Crush.
Hospice of the Midwest is a leading provider of hospice services throughout the Midwest—including hospice services for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Fill out our online form today to learn more about our services.
By: Dr. Margarita David Ph.D., RN
November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disorder that cannot be reversed. This disease declines the person’s ability to think, remember, and carry out familiar tasks.
The progressive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s is due to the loss of communication between neurons. The neurons are responsible for sending messages from the brain to all parts of your body.
The frontal lobe is responsible for your social and emotional skills, motor functions, language, and cognitive functions. When the frontal lobe is damaged, you may experience:
The parietal lobe is located at the back of the skull. It is responsible for your senses such as touch, taste, sight, smell, and temperature. Damage to the parietal lobe can affect any of these functions.
The temporal lobe’s primary function is to keep your memories. Damage to this lobe will make it hard to retain new information.
Commonly, individuals that develop Alzheimer’s are usually over the age of 65, but people under this age may develop it as well, which is considered early-onset.
The early signs of Alzheimer’s may begin with memory problems and difficulty learning new things or information due to damage in the brain’s hippocampus.
Other degenerative brain diseases include:
Vascular dementia is caused when you have had multiple strokes, which can cause brain damage which leads to the loss of memory in older adults.
Parkinson’s is a disorder that affects the central nervous system, which affects your movement and will often include tremors in certain parts of your body.
Frontotemporal dementia affects both the frontal and temporal lobes. As this type of dementia progresses, the nerve cells in these lobes are lost causing them to shrink, ultimately affecting behavior, movement, and ability to communicate.
A rare genetic disease that causes damage to nerve cells in the brain and eventually breaks them down progressively.
During the early stage, you may still function independently and continue your normal activities of daily living, such as driving, working, and participating in social events. However, you may experience lapses in your memory, such as forgetting words that are familiar to you.
The middle stage of Alzheimer’s is also known as the longest stage as it can last for years. During this stage, you may experience more pronounced Alzheimer’s symptoms, including confusing words in a conversation, refusing to do self-care such as bathing, and mood changes.
In the late stage of Alzheimer’s disease, the symptoms become more severe as you lose the ability to hold a conversation or control your movements. Worsening memory and significant changes to your personality also occur.
As Alzheimer’s symptoms progress and get worse, hospice care includes symptom management and providing emotional and spiritual support to you and your family.
If you have a loved one living with Alzheimer’s disease and would like to discuss hospice care, please contact us.