Cold Sore Virus Linked to Alzheimer's Disease

Last week, Science Daily reported that University of Manchester researchers have discovered the cold sore virus is a major cause of the insoluble protein plaques found in the brains of those diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.

This discovery could lead to new medications and vaccinations for treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease.  This is welcome news for seniors suffering from memory loss.

The researchers believe the herpes simplex virus is a significant factor in developing Alzheimer’s Disease and could be treated by antiviral agents such as acyclovir, which is already used to treat cold sores and other diseases caused by the herpes virus.

Alzheimer's disease causes progressive memory loss and severe cognitive impairment. It affects over 20 million seniors (average age of on-set is in the 50’s) world-wide, and these numbers rise with increasing longevity. 

The underlying causes of Alzheimer’s Disease are still unknown and current treatments only assist in slowing the progression of the disease.

The research found most people with Alzheimer’s Disease are infected with the herpes simplex virus type 1 when they are younger and this virus remains in their peripheral nervous system.  The virus causes cold sores in 20 to 40% of those infected with it.  Evidence of a viral role in Alzheimer’s Disease would point to the use of antiviral agents to stop progression of the disease.

The team had discovered much earlier that the virus is present in brains of many elderly people and that in those people with a specific genetic factor, there is a high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The findings of this research are published in the Journal of Pathology.  Professional and family caregivers assisting a senior with Alzheimer's Disease should discuss the findings of this new research with their medical doctor.

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Mini-Mental Exam Can Detect Memory Loss

In only ten minutes time, a mini-mental exam screens seniors for signs of dementia.  Referred to in the medical community simply as a "mini-mental", the official name is the Mini-mental State Exam and it is copyrighted by Psychological Assessment Resources (PAR).  Geriatric care doctors will give this exam to their senior clients to keep ahead of any signs of memory loss.

The mini-mental test asks questions about the time and place of the test, and incorporates math and language skills to test cognitive and memory abilities.  It asks questions like how many nickels are in $1.25 and if you can spell a certain word backwards.

Many times memory loss in seniors can be connected with an illness or with medications.  If properly addressed, senior memory loss can be slowed or reversed. Because of age-related diseases, seniors are more at risk for memory loss and should be sure their medical doctor is conducting a mini-mental at their annual check-ups.

If you are a caregiver for a senior, you can also find a variety of memory exercises at the Alzheimer's Store.

One of my Aunts suffered a stroke a few years ago and after being air-lifted to a metropolitan hospital,  she received excellent care and made nearly a full recovery.  Now she enjoys telling how in the days following the stroke, the doctor would check on her each day and ask her if she knew who the president of the United States was.  Each day, she would answer "George Bush".  Finally, she told him he needed to ask her something new.  He then asked her if she knew what the Gettysburg Address was, and............she began reciting it.  She had memorized it in grade school.  He told her she indeed knew it better than he did!

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Caregiving Tools for Alzheimer's Disease

If you are caring for a senior with Alzheimer's Disease, check out this website which provides some really clever products to assist you with caregiving for those with memory loss at all stages.

My family has always turned to humor to assist with dealing with the difficult issues, especially when my Grandfather suffered from memory loss.  He more than once offered his own coat to someone who was leaving, thinking it was their coat.  And we would all just laugh.  Definitely in the beginning stages, one must find a way to laugh at the actions, because they really are funny sometimes.

So, if you were wondering where you could find a fake bookcase poster to tape to the sliding glass door or windows, or a confounding door lock or some memory stimulators, this is the place.  They really do have everything you could want for Alzheimer's care:   www.alzstore.com

 

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Planning for care after an Alzheimer's Disease Diagnosis

Alzheimer's Disease is not an easy one for the senior with the diagnosis or their family.

The very best strategy, though, is to talk about the disease and to develop a plan of action for managing the memory loss and the care needs.  This will allow the senior to feel they are still involved in the decision-making and enable the family to implement safety measures from the beginning (i.d. bracelet, medication management, regular caregiving schedule).

And, even more importantly, this will allow the senior's family to talk to prevent misunderstandings which could cause gaps in care because perhaps not everyone has the same strategy.   Usually there is "water under the bridge" with various family members after years of living.  These realities must be addressed.

One Salon columnist very openly shares his desire not to be the caregiver for his Mother-in-law, who has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease.  It is nice to find someone express their honesty - he is definitely not alone.

Often when families hire a Senior Home Care Agency to provide care services, they are able to lessen the stress for family members because a third-party caregiver simply doesn't come with the baggage a family caregiver brings.  Each family must find the right solution for them but the first step is to start the conversation.
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Ronald Reagan: We are All the Same When it Comes to Aging

About ten years ago, I was in Los Angeles attending a trade show for business.  At the end of the trip, I had made plans to meet a former intern for brunch before flying out of town.  We decided she would pick me up at my hotel, we would grab brunch and then she would drive me to the airport so we would have more time to catch-up (she was pursuing an acting career and had some good stories to share).

We decided to go to a hotel restaurant on the beach in Santa Monica since it was on the way to the airport.  We had not made reservations anywhere because we knew we would be so busy talking that any place would do.  The Concierge informed us that their restaurant was booked, but, if we didn't mind, they would seat us in their breezeway section, right off the hotel lobby as their outside patio was closed.  We said that would be fine.

We sat down and proceeded to start talking away.  A little later a few people sat down at the other table near us but we didn't really pay attention to them as we were deep in conversation.

The waitress brought our omelets and then she delivered a bowl of fruit to the table next to us and said, very loud and slowly, "Here you go, here is your fruit".  My friend turned to me and said, "She is talking to them like they are in an old folk's home".  I looked up and then I realized that the person sitting at the other table was former President Ronald Reagan and his nurse and 2 Secret Service officers. 

He had a baseball cap on and took it off and read the name of the team logo on it as if he were seeing it for the first time.  He then looked up at me and waved and then said something to his nurse and pointed at me.  I winked at her to let her know that I knew the situation and that everything was cool.  She then said to me, "he is flirting with you".  We then all laughed and so did he.  He seemed to think that I was someone he knew. 

We continued with our breakfast and they continued with theirs.  One of the Secret Service officers came over to our table to say hello and told us that they had just gone for a walk on the beach and sometimes stopped in for breakfast afterwards (I think he probably really was flirting with us).  President Reagan finished his breakfast at about the same time we finished ours.  We decided we would hit the bathroom and then leave.  The Secret Service officers and the nurse told President Reagan it was time to go but he did not want to get up.  After we finished in the bathroom, he was still sitting at the table, refusing to leave.  The Secret Service officer said goodbye to us and said that this happens sometimes with the President - I told him I understood because we experienced the same thing with my own grandfather when he had Alzheimer's Disease.

It was amazing to me that we were next to a man who had been president of the United States for two terms but no one in this busy restaurant and hotel even knew he was there - he was sitting in the "leftover" section with us.  For all his success, he was just another guy trying to get through another day while dealing with the effects of Alzheimer's Disease.

"Meet them where they are" is the advice given to caregivers.  No matter who you are or what you've done in this lifetime, we are all equals when it comes to aging.

And that's my story about breakfast with the President.

 

 

 

 

 

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