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Aspects of Aging

Dementia and Alzheimer's

PBS Newshour
March 20, 2014


There is a common theme about the need for new solutions to help seniors “age in place” in their own homes, to provide support for the caregivers (often family members), and to keep costs down. Many of the entrepreneurs working with the San Francisco based start-up incubator Aging 2.0 are trying to do just that, and some like BrainAid are specifically focused on developing apps geared toward those with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s. But clearly there is a lot of need out there for some fresh thinking about aging with dementia.  That need inspired faculty at Stanford University’s Center on Longevity — whose mission is to “redesign long life” — to launch a design challenge last fall. Partnering with the Aging 2.0 team, they invited students around the world to submit ideas for new products that can maximize independence for those with cognitive impairment.

Effects of Music and Memory on Dementia
AlbuquerqueJournal/Associated Press 
November 3, 2014
A study being led by the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee is the largest yet on the impact of the Music and Memory program, which is in hundreds of nursing homes across the U.S. and Canada. Similar studies will be conducted in Utah and Ohio. Researchers are monitoring the responses of 1,500 Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who were given iPods at Wisconsin nursing homes through the program, which was highlighted in a documentary honored at the Sundance Film Festival this year. Their mental state will then be compared to the same number of people in 100 other nursing homes who haven’t received iPods.

As We Age, Keys to Remembering Where the Keys Are
New York Times
May 4, 2015

Have you heard about “retrieval disorder,” our shared problem with remembering names and dates, what we had just read and where, even what we had for dinner last night? Or maybe we should call it "delayed retrieval disorder". It’s not that we can’t remember, it just takes us longer, sometimes a lot longer, than it used to. Is it really a disorder, or does it happen to all of us, a part of normal aging? Indeed it is, say recent reports, including one released last month by the Institute of Medicine. And it doesn’t mean we’re all headed down the road to dementia, although unchecked, cognitive changes with age can make it increasingly difficult to meet the demands of daily life, like shopping, driving, cooking and socializing.
New York Times
May 18, 2015 
Fears about memory issues, commonplace among those of us who often misplace our cellphones and mix up the names of our children, are likely to skyrocket as baby boomers move into their 70s, 80s and beyond. Many may be unwilling to wait to have their memories tested until symptoms develop that could herald encroaching dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, like finding one’s glasses in the refrigerator, getting lost on a familiar route or being unable to follow directions or normal conversation. But simple tests done in eight to 12 minutes in a doctor’s office can determine whether memory issues are normal for one’s age or are problematic and warrant a more thorough evaluation. The tests can be administered annually, if necessary, to detect worrisome changes. However, according to researchers at the University of Michigan, more than half of older adults with signs of memory loss never see a doctor about it. Although there is still no certain way to prevent or forestall age-related cognitive disease, knowing that someone has serious memory problems can alert family members and friends to a need for changes in the person’s living arrangements that can be health- or even lifesaving.

Could Alzheimer's Stem From Infections? It Makes Sense, Experts Say
New York Times
May 25, 2016

New research at Harvard leads to a startling new hypothesis which could explain the origins of plaque, the mysterious hard little balls that pockmark the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

Parade Magazine
June 21, 2015
Lacking a cure or even meaningful treatments, those who bear the brunt of care are taking things into their own hands—and sharing their inspired solutions. Some reach hundreds or thousands at once. Others improve a handful of lives at a time.  This kind of grassroots movement is key to helping patients and caregivers cope with a disease on the rise. Every 67 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association; an estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages already have the disease in 2015. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or other dementia, it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and it’s the only cause of death in the top 10 in America that can’t be prevented, cured or slowed, the association says.

Albuquerque Journal
August 6, 2015
Researchers at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center say they are getting closer to a vaccine that could someday rescue people from Alzheimer’s.  The initial pilot grant from Clinical Translational Science Centers, funded through the National Institutes of Health, would support a study to examine the blood of people with Alzheimer’s and those without it to measure and compare the presence of the biomarker, an abnormal tau protein.  Tau is a protein in neurons that becomes tangled and toxic in people with Alzheimer’s. It results in progressive, debilitating loss, beginning with activities of everyday life and ending with death.  Toxic tau is one of two proteins that accumulate in brains of those with Alzheimer’s. The other, beta-amyloid,causes an accumulation called plaques. 

Albuquerque Journal/Philadelphia Enquirer
February 16, 2016
There was a time when caregivers tried orienting people with dementia to reality. That often feels like the natural thing to do. “No, Mom, I actually did tell you that. Like, five times.”  Times are changing.

New York Times
July 24, 2016

Dr. Zahinoor Ismail, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of Calgary and a member of a group proposing a new diagnosis of Minimal Brain Disorder said studies and anecdotes suggested that emotional and behavioral changes were “a stealth symptom,” part of the dementia disease process, not separate from it.

Preparing Your Home for a Loved One with Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's Guide
September 25, 2016

Practical advice on what kinds of alterations may be needed for keeping someone with Alzheimer's in the home.

Prolonged Sleep May Be Early Warning Sign of Dementia
New York Times 
February 22, 2017

Researchers report that older adults who started sleeping more than nine hours a night - but had not previously done so - were at more than double the risk of developing dementia a decade later.

More Than Memory: Coping with the Other Ills of Alzheimer's
All Things Considered/NPR
June 24, 2017

Besides memory loss, Alzheimer's can bring many other physical and mental problems. [Includes transcript and link to the broadcast story]

In "Memory's Last Breath," Remembering Life, Before It's Too Late (Book Review)
New York Times
June 22, 2017

Review of a memoir by Gerda Saunders, who was diagnosed with microvascular disease and decided to record both her past life and her present as her memory slipped away. 

An Ancient Cure for Alzheimer's?
New York Times
July 14, 2017

Very preliminary research indicates that exposure to certain parasites may protect the brain from Alzheimer's.

Nine Lifestyle Changes Can Reduce Dementia Risk, Study Says
BBC News
July 20, 2017

Research indicates that changes like not smoking, increasing social and intellectual activities, and losing weight may reduce the risk of developing dementia later in life.

Scientists Endorse These Three Strategies to Delay Dementia
PBS NewsHour
July 20, 2017

A growing body of research indicates that there are things you can do to delay, but not prevent, dementia. Others don't work at all. And not everything will work for all people. The important thing is to start early and try several things. 

Tapping the Creative Brain for People With Alzheimer's and Related Diseases
August 11, 2017

Music, poetry, improv, special museum programs.... There are lots of things being done to use the arts to help dementia patients live better lives.

What If You Knew Alzheimer's Was Coming for You?
New York Times
November 17, 2017

In the near future, there may be a test to identify those who are most likely to develop Alzheimers, or who are in the very earliest stages of the disease. But there is still no treatment or cure. Would you have the test? What about making sure the results don't affect your ability to get insurance or otherwise hurt you.

Older Adults' Forgetfulness Tied to Faulty Brain Rhythms in Sleep
National Public Radio
December 18, 2017

Research indicates that some forgetfulness in older adults may not be dementia. It may be problems with sleep patterns that affect the brain and how memories are stored during sleep.

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