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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Can Antidepressants Prevent Alzheimer's ? May 15, 2014

For the past two months articles have been appearing showing that, in healthy human volunteers, the antidepressant Celexa, was able to reduce the amount of amyloid in the bloodstream.

Previously, a 50 mg dose equivalent of celexa administered to mice was able to reduce the amount of amyloid significantly.

Don't run out and get yourselves prescriptions however. The researchers don't know yet if indeed reducing amyloid will prevent Alzheimer's disease.They do know that celexa doesn't remove the plaques in the brain. Once they are there, it's too late and that can be 20 years before any symptoms appear!

But wouldn't it be nice to imagine that all the depressives who have been taking meds for years would be spared this awful disease? Just like the professor from Ohio State whose research showed the benefit of cannabis in preventing Alzheimer's disease. We'll get some clue as the youngest of the baby boomers age and the incidence of Alzheimer's disease does not increase as it is predicted.

When my husband was first showing signs of dementia, the doctor thought he was depressed and prescribed antidepressants but he felt less clear-headed and more agitated while taking them and stopped. One man I know from the nursing home-he visits a resident there frequently while I am also visiting-- has had symptoms and a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease for the past two years. He takes coconut oil, herbs and supplements without any prescription medications and has maintained both a positive attitude and basic self care skills for this time. His wife manages his life, drives the car, prepares his food, pays the bills, etc. and feels the burden of his illness more than he.

The one good thing about this finding about antidepressants is that it may encourage folks who are at risk for developing Alzheimer's disease to get themselves tested and perhaps to volunteer for a clinical trial. If otherwise healthy adults can reduce the amount of amyloid in their bloodstream before plaques appear in their brains, they may reduce their incidence of the disease. If many people volunteer, we will get the results sooner.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day Review May 12, 2014

Not to brag, but as an idea to ponder, this was the 55th year since I became a mother and the most enjoyable, fun, special-feeling Mother's Day since my children were young.

I loved Mother's Day when I was a child; we made breakfast in bed for our mother and as eldest, I got to be in charge of something I really wanted to do. I always loved being in charge, still do, and most folks don't mind after they all realize that everyone has to do whatever it is -my way. 

After I turned eight and our grandparents arrived from Germany after successfully having survived the Holocaust, we celebrated Mother's Day in the afternoon by inviting first two, then three grandparents after my grandmother arrived the following year from Switzerland where she survived the atrocities.

These were joyful affairs where the children were always more vocally and affectionately celebrated than the elders, but there was always good food and plenty of home-baked goodies.

When my own children were small, I basked in their hand-made cards and projects lovingly created in school or at home, hand prints, silhouettes, flowers of paper or seeds which they sprouted.

I guess Mother's Day changed for me when my grandmothers passed, my sisters married and I became a single parent. No one took charge, including me, of making my day special any longer as we continued to celebrate with dinner for everyone, appreciating the next generation of children and watching the talent shows they devised for our enjoyment.

Now I am the grandmother generation. I moved to Arizona to live near my children so they could help me care for my second husband who has Alzheimer's disease and my grandsons are old enough to take charge of the day to make it memorable for their mother and for me. Were it not for my husband's illness, we would still be in New York and yesterday could not have happened. Good things can happen even when all looks barren and bleak; we carved out a time for a visit to the nursing home in the afternoon where he was in a good mood, wandering the halls as usual, but ready to play catch, look at pictorial magazines and enjoy eating an apple.

Monday, May 5, 2014

"You're Not Helping" May 5, 2014

Happy Cinquo de Mayo everyone. It is surely a huge holiday here in Arizona. Even in the nursing home they had a celebratory luncheon  featuring Mexican rice and beans and an enchilada!
Of course the traditonal fiestas include cervesa, which is beer to all you non-Hispanics.

I am continuing to learn new lessons and to re-learn old lessons I thought I had mastered when it comes to caring for a loved one who has dementia. 

Whenever as adults we are in a caregiver mode, we cannot expect anytning from the care receiver to meet our emotional needs. We need to rely on equal partners for our needs to be met--lovers, spouses,friends--or  when we are lucky enough or young enough--our healthy parents, siblings or other relatives.
This is a lesson that needs repeating all the time because we trick ourselves into believing a dependent person can be there for us. They may love us, be grateful to us, make us rise to a level of caring we never knew we were capable of achieving. We may be proud of them "chip off the old block" and all of that- but the caregiver is always in that dominant unequal position vis-a-vis the person or persons receiving care.It is very hard to switch into that role and equally difficult to switch out of it when the children are grown for example or when a person who is ill, recovers.

When a spouse or a parent develops dementia and more specifically Alzheimer's disease or fronto-temporal lobe dementia the balance shifts and it is no longer about the caregiver--it is only about the care receiver. It becomes the caregiver's responsiblity to make life as pleasant as possible for their loved one while also finding other sources of emotional sustenance for themselves. That's the main reason why support groups are so important.

Being angry when a care receiver refuses a request is about you, not the person you are caring for. Feeling abandoned when the care receiver no longer can say your name is also not about the care receiver. Their forgetfulness has an effect on us, but it is the disease not the person that causes those feelings and the loved one cannot be made to feel responsible for his or her forgetfulness.

Also when we visit or spend time with a care receiver they want our full attention. A toddler who acts up when we are on the phone is a perfect example from child-parent relationships. And with my husband this week, a care worker asked innocently what he was like before he became ill. I spent a few minutes standing next to my husband tellling her all good things about my husband when he stopped me and said, "You're not helping."

At first I thought he didn't like the topic of conversation, that he was chastising me for reminding him of his past life, but no, he wanted to walk and I was standing still. His immediate needs were not being met and he let us know it.