Alzheimer's Disease New Treatment

Alzheimer's disease progresses at various paces and presents an ongoing challenge for senior caregivers.  The Alzheimer's Association International Conference met in Vancouver this week and announced the first medication that is showing positive results in clinical trials for slowing or halting the progression of the disease.  The treatment is an immune therapy called IVIG/Gammagard that has been given intravenously for 3 years to a small group of participants. 

The medication, made by Baxter International, follows 9 years of no new drug therapies being announced for the disease.  The participants in this therapy did not show improvement in most of the symptoms of Alzheimer's that they already had, but they also did not show any further decline on measures of cognition, memory or daily functioning or mood over the three years.

The U.S. government has announced a plan to prevent Alzheimer's disease by 2025.  As the cost of senior care can in a nursing home or in the home with a full-time caregiver be as much as $80,000 per year, this is good news.

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Daily Activities Can Help Stave Off Alzheimer's and Dementia

Exercise for seniors is a good idea. It promotes healthy aging, improves health and increases longevity. Now a recent study published in the journal Neurology, shows that exercise can help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, even in those over 80 years old.

We’re not talking about lifting weights or running for miles. Simple daily chores such as cooking, cleaning, washing dishes — even moving around more, showed that active seniors are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than their less active counterparts.

According to Dr. Aron S. Buchman, lead author of the study and associate professor of neurological sciences at Rush, “These results provide support for efforts to encourage all types of physical activity even in very old adults who might not be able to participate in formal exercise, but can still benefit from a more active lifestyle.”

Doctors at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center monitored the daily activity of 716 people without dementia by use of a device called an actigraph, on their nondominant wrist for 10 days. All activity was recorded and subjects were given annual cognitive tests for the next 3.5 years.

Results showed that those test subjects in the bottom 10 percent of daily physical activity were more than twice as likely (2.3 times) to develop Alzheimer’s disease as people in the top 10 percent of daily activity.

So much of the fear associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia comes from the feeling that one has no control over the disease. This study gives the hope that there is something we can do to prevent the onset of those devastating conditions. My 82-year-old mother still washes her kitchen floor every other day, sometimes on her hands and knees. She refuses my help, insisting that it’s her activity that has kept “Old Timer’s disease” at bay. It looks like once again, mom may be right.

The Study on Frailty in Aging (SOFIA) is a sub-study of the ongoing Rush Memory and Aging Project. Rush is still actively recruiting participants for the SOFIA study. Those interested in becoming part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project and SOFIA can contact study coordinator Tracey Nowakowski at (312) 942-2214. Participants must be 65 years of age or older with no previous diagnosis of dementia.

If you are already caring for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, Caregiverlist has partnered with the leading producer of training videos for the caregiving industry, Terra Nova Films, to assist our caregiving community with understanding how to care for the physical, emotional and psychosocial needs of older adults.

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Glen Campbell, Diagnosed with Alzheimer's, Performs at Grammy Awards

Glen Campbell sang country music tunes back in the 60's and 70's and many will remember his hit song "Rhinestone Cowboy" which he also belted out last night during the Grammy Awards.  He has joined the millions of other seniors who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and is talking about his condition publicly.  He currently is finishing a final year of performing as he deals with what he refers to as his "forgetfulness".

As a veteran musician and performer, Campbell found himself suddenly forgetting lyrics in the middle of a song he had played a gazillion times.  He is surrounded by family members on stage now whow are able to notice when he may become confused and coach hiim forward.  He also keeps 3 teleprompters at his feet to refer to when he may forget a lyric. 

Music, it turns out, has been therapeutic for Campbell and his wife, Kim, says he is actually doing better than he was a year ago partly due to medications and partly because she believes he is performing and has the therapy of music by his side.  While Campbell is performing on his Farewell Tour, if he hits a moment where he forgets, his fans fill in the gap.  His music is allowing him to cope with Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer's Foundation of America provides music therapy education and suggests these techniques for connecting with those with Alzheimer's disease through music.

Music Therapy for Seniors with Memory Loss

Music Associations:  most of us associate music with important events in our lives and will have a wide range of emotions sparked by a song we remember from a certain event or time in our lives.  Hearing the tune evokes a memory and this is why some with memory loss may be able to suddenly step up and sing a song from their childhood or young adult years.  Caregivers can search their itunes for songs from the time period of when the senior was a teenager or sometimes church hymns also can be very memorable.

Top Ten Picks:  our young adult years are when most of us are the most engaged with music and finding the Top 10 hits from a seniors earlier days may stimulate memories.  As an individual progresses through late-stage dementia, lullabyes and music from their childhood will usually spark involvement by them and can be used to stimulate relaxation.

Music for Agitation Management:  non-verbal individuals in later stage dementia often become agitated because they cannot effectively process all of the environmental stimuli.  Engaging the senior in singing, tapping, dancing and physical exercise connected with music gives them a structured activity to process their emotions and redirect their attention.  Observe the individuals daily patterns to introduce music therapy at the time of day just prior to when they may become more disruptive and disoriented.

Emotional Closeness:  as dementia progresses, individuals typically lose the ability to share thoughts and gestures of affection with their loved ones.  They will, however, maintain an ability to move with the beat of a song until very late in the disease process.  Ambulatory individuals can be easily directed to couple dance, which may evoke hugs, kisses or caresses.  Those who are unable to walk can follow cues to swing with their arms and rock their body and usually enjoy being in the musical environment.  Singing is also associated with safety and security from early life and provides an opportunity to connect with caregivers through singing or humming a melody.

Seniors with memory loss may live for many years while needing caregiving services.  You may find the daily costs of nursing homes nationwide and read about President Ronald Reagan's daily activities with Alzheimer's disease.  Senior caregiving services can cost as much as $80,000 per year for full-time care and a senior may also plan ahead for nursing home care which Medicaid does pay for, if a senior should spend down their assets and qualify for this low-income health insurance instead of Medicare insurance.

 

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National Alzheimer's Project Act Funding on the Horizon

National Alzheimer's Project Act (NAPA) is the country’s first national Alzheimer’s plan.

The Obama administration is seeking to spend more than half a billion dollars on research funding next year, boosting current research spending by $50 million. Early Alzheimer’s detection and diagnosis and discovery of new therapies are two major areas of research.

In a press release, the White House announced that next week, President Barack Obama will ask Congress for $80 million in new money to spend for Alzheimer's research in 2013.

Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) are said to affect roughly 5.6 million people and nearly 40% of the U.S. population aged 85 and older. It is the 6th leading cause of death and approximately 13.2 million older Americans are projected to have ADRD by 2050.

The administration said it will propose spending $26 million for other goals of the still-to-be-finalized plan, including much-needed caregiver support.

Taxing and relentless is how Anne Hodges describes caregiving for her mother who suffers with ADRD. “The hardest part for me is difficulty in communicating with her. I used to be able to see glimmers of my mother once in a while and that's when we would talk. Those times are now fewer and farther between.” It is estimated that 15 million family members and friends are affected by the disease.

President Obama signed NAPA into law last January, the goal of which is to “prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer's by 2025.”

The draft framework is structured around five ambitious goals:
  • Prevent and Effectively Treat Alzheimer's Disease by 2025.
  • Optimize Care Quality and Efficiency.
  • Expand Patient and Family Support.
  • Enhance Public Awareness and Engagement.
  • Track Progress and Drive Improvement.

The current Draft Framework for the National Plan to Address Alzheimer's Disease is available in full HTML Version  and full PDF Version  (12 PDF pages)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be collecting input for consideration in its final draft through February 8, 2012. Please send your comments to NAPA@hhs.gov. All comments will be shared with the Advisory Council on Alzheimer's Research, Care, and Services. The final draft of the plan’s framework is due on the desk of HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius later this month.

The Alzheimer’s Association is also urging everyone to sign a petition calling on President Obama to issue a strong National Alzheimer’s Plan and support his proposed funding in his upcoming Budget Request to Congress.

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Early Alzheimer's Diagnosis Beneficial for Patients, Caregivers

Early Alzheimer's disease detection and diagnosis is the theme of this years’ “Let’s Face It” campaign waged by the Alzheimer Society of Canada. January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in Canada and internationally, Alzheimer’s organizations are urging people to diagnose early.

Although diagnosis in an early or asymptomatic stage is a challenge, researchers are looking at biomarkers to diagnose early, before the disease has a chance to affect the brain. And while there is still no known cure for Alzheimer's disease, experts assert that early detection is helpful in many ways.
  • Helps reduce anxiety on the part of the affected person and his or her family about the cause of symptoms
  • Allows for the person with the disease to partake in planning for the future
  • Allows physicians and caregivers to be aware of patients who may have difficulty managing their own health care, such as when and how to take other prescription medications
  • Allows potential management of symptoms with medication or other interventions that maintain the best possible level of health and functioning for the person with the disease
  • Allows for coordination of primary and specialty care which may help prevent prescription of medications for coexisting conditions that worsen cognitive function
  • Aids the management of possible behavioral symptoms for the benefit of both the person with the disease and their caregiver
  • Allows caregivers and family members to access training, education and support services to help them with caregiver tasks and reduce negative effects of caregiving, such as stress and depression
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the following are 10 signs & symptoms of early Alzheimer’s and may signal the need to seek medical attention:
  1. Memory changes that disrupt daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationship
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality.
Of course, skeptics question the value of early detection and wonder if it is just an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to target a new group of customers. Also, they raise concern about the stigma associated with the disease. However, because of other chronic medical conditions associated with the disease such as diabetes and vascular disorders (hypertension), many physicians urge screening and tout the many benefits of early detection.

Early detection also affords the ability to put one’s financial house in order. It would be prudent to understand the ways to pay for senior care if you are facing many years of care as a result of living with memory loss.

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Alzheimer's Progression Slowed in Mice with New Vaccine

Alzheimer's disease is diagnosed in more than 1,200 people each day.  Currently there is no cure of the disease although a few medications do slow the progression.  The University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI) has announced they have developed a vaccine that is proving to slow progression of memory loss for mice with Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia. The Australian university is already working with pharmaceutical companies in the U.S.A. to develop this new vaccine for humans.

This vaccine targets a protein known as tau and prevents the ongoing formation of neurofibrillary tangles in the brain of a mouse with Alzheimer's disease.  It is the first study to show that the vaccine targeting the tau protein can be effective once the disease has already set in.

Be sure to ask your medical doctor about any clinical trials for medications that you or a senior you are caring for may qualify for, as every medication on the market was first part of a clinical trial study.  Clinical trials also give you access to doctors who are experienced in caring for seniors with diseases in their medical practice's area of specialty.  You may also obtain caregiver training for seniors with memory loss to understand how to best communicate with them as Alzheimer's disease progresses.  You may also enjoy our story about meeting former President Ronald Reagan after he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

Senior's with memory loss may need senior care services for ten years or more and by planning ahead to learn about the senior care options in your area, you can better prepare for the financial and care needs.

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Chicago Memory Walk: Remembering President Reagan

Chicago hosts the Alzheimer's Memory Walk today, raising money and awareness for the disease.  The Alzheimer's Association's Walk to End Alzheimer's began in 1989 and is the nation's largest event to bring attention to Alzheimer's care, support and research initiatives.

The nation's 6th leading cause of death, Alzheimer's disease also can take a financial toll on families.  Read about "My Breakfast with President Ronald Reagan" to learn more about the impact of memory loss and the caregiving support that is needed.

Both planning for care services and the ability to pay for care services are important steps when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.  Learn about nursing home ratings and costs and the costs of care.

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Alzheimer's Clinical Trial Studies Benefit both Caregivers and Seniors

By participating in a clinical drug trial, you will receive valuable medical information at no charge, along with access to medical care which may improve your medical condition.  Remember that all medications we currently take first had to be tested in a clinical trial study - and many of these medications work very well.  The U.S. government's Food and Drug Administration requires medications to show positive performance in clinical trials before being approved.

How can you learn about clinical trials in your area?
  • Ask your doctor
  • Ask your pharmacist
  • Check with the local association for your disease (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, etc.) 
You may receive a monetary stipend for your participation along with travel and telephone expense reimbursement.  Be sure to first learn about the requirements for participants, as these are usually very specific.  Sometimes caregivers are also provided with reimbursement as their feedback is considered valuable.

This Alzheimer's Disease research study requires participation in 14 meetings and 3 telephone calls and will span 14 months.  The medical evaluations alone can be worth participating in a study, as you will be working with a leading team of doctors and researchers.

You may also contact the department of aging in your area to find out about age-related programs which may be helpful, and sometimes they also know about clinical trials. , ,

Early Warning Signs for Alzheimer's Disease

Senior caregivers know the difficulties of caring for someone with memory loss.  But sometimes when you see someone daily, you do not as easily notice some of the early warning signs for memory loss in the form of Alzheimer's Disease.  The Alzheimer's Association has been promoting their new "Know the 10 Signs" for early detection and early diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease.

 These 10 signs include:

 

1) Memory changes that disrupt daily life

 

2) Challenges in planning or solving problems

 

3) Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure

 

4) Confusion with time or place

 

5) Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

 

6) New problems with words in speaking or writing

 

7) Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

 

8) Decreased or poor judgment

 

9) Withdrawal from work or social activities

 

10) Changes in mood and personality


As soon as you notice signs of memory loss, it is a good time to make sure the senior has an estate plan in place and to understand the ways to pay for senior care as many years of caregiving are often necessary for those living with memory loss.


 

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HBO's The Alzheimer's Project:: May 10 - 12

Caregivers and family members of those with Alzheimer's Disease will find this upcoming documentary informative and supportive of the challenges of caring for seniors with memory loss.  HBO reports Alzheimer's Disease is the second most feared disease after cancer and more than 5 million Americans are affected by it.  As there is currently no cure for the disease, it is also predicted that this number will more than double in the next 30 years.

This 4-part documentary, The Alzheimer's Project, will air on May 10 - 12 on HBO and includes 15 short films highlighting the latest research for a cure, profiles community programs and looks at 7 individuals who are living with Alzheimer's Disease, including a focus on their caregivers who must cope with the progression of the disease. 

HBO has also launched a website to provide educational information on The Alzheimer's Project. Check it out and spread the word.

Caregivers and seniors can also learn more about caring for those with memory loss by reading the stories caregivers share on Caregiverlist (and you may also share your own story).

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