Can colors improve the mood of an Alzheimer’s disease patient? What paintings or colors would most improve their mood? [ 03/15/11 ]
Researchers believe that Alzheimer's disease (AD) patients respond to colors the same as anyone else. Therefore, in the design of a room the goal should be to create a calm peaceful atmosphere to reduce anxiety and agitation. Accordingly, bright colors and vivid patterns should typically be avoided. Instead, soothing pastel shades, light blues, peaches, pinks, greens, and beige are usually recommended colors for use in homes for patients with AD. AD patients may have difficulty discriminating between similar color intensities, such as light blue or light green. Therefore, if you want to want to highlight a particular feature, such as the door to the bathroom, stairs or other obstacles, make sure you use a contrasting color.
As for paintings, one study found that AD patients who were taken to visit an art museum had better recall of paintings that could tell a story, because the patients could remember the story more than the actual picture itself. So it is possible that such “storytelling” paintings may be more interesting and, hopefully, more cheerful than a painting with abstract shapes or designs. That being said, however, because art can be so subjective, you may have to tailor the paintings to fit the patient. For example, if the patient used to be an avid fisherman or hunter, then woodland scenes or scenic rivers might be to his taste, whereas a patient who loved to garden might find pictures of flower gardens and meadows more to her liking. Stick to easily recognizable subject matter in the pictures. Basically, any painting that would make you and most other people smile would be a good choice for an AD patient as well.
My mother, who lives in a care facility, is 95 years old and needs a wheelchair. She has, until recently, had full control of her faculties and a sharp mind. Now, I wonder if she has Alzheimer’s disease. Her memory is good, she is surprisingly alert to her surroundings and seems to understand the world news. However, she seems to be going through some form of mental torture and believes that she cannot trust anyone. She is very depressed, sleeps poorly, believes there are bugs in the bed, and believes that her family is “stabbing her in the back.” How can we help her? It is so distressing for us to see this progressing. [ 03/15/11 ]
Hallucinations, paranoia and depression seem to be your mother's chief symptoms, and can be caused by a number of different illnesses in the elderly, not just by Alzheimer's disease. In some instances these types of symptoms can be treated quite effectively. For example, sometimes certain vitamin deficiencies, drug interactions, or thyroid hormone imbalances can cause dementia-like symptoms in older patients, and are largely correctable. Therefore, it is important that your mother get evaluated by her physician to determine the cause of these symptoms so that any necessary treatment appropriate for her condition can be started. Alzheimer's disease is typically associated with memory impairments and cognitive problems, and because your mother's memory and cognition seem fairly intact, if your mother is indeed determined to have dementia, it is unlikely that it would be of the Alzheimer's type.
My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease around 3 years ago. During the past several months, his talk of suicide has increased. How long do these tendencies usually last? Will he likely continue to have these suicidal thoughts? [ 03/15/11 ]
Depression is a fairly common problem in Alzheimer's disease patients, particularly those in the early stages of the disease who are aware of their own cognitive decline. One study found that a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease by itself increases the risk of both depression and suicide in elderly patients. This study reported that people who had a higher level of daily functioning (that is, they generally had mild symptoms or were in the early stages of the disease) and had previous suicide attempts were at an elevated suicidal risk. Similarly, another recent study indicated that early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or other dementia may actually increase the risk of suicidal thoughts.
If your father is still in the early stages of the disease, he may be aware of his own deteriorating memory and cognition, which may have prompted this talk of suicide. If you have not done so already, please contact your father's physician so that your father can be professionally examined for signs of depression. If formally diagnosed, antidepressant medication may be useful. As the disease progresses and your father becomes less aware of his own cognitive decline, then talk of suicide will likely decrease.
Recently I have noticed that my husband will try to mimic a hand motion (i.e. if someone on TV moves their hand in an awkward way or makes a gesture) he will automatically try to do the same. He is immediate in this action, and not like he has thought about it. Has anyone else ever experienced this, and is it a symptom of his dementia condition? [ 03/14/11 ]
Imitating behavior is not unusual in dementia patients, though its clinical significance is not clear. It may reflect reduced power of the normal control we exert on our behavior through our frontal lobes, keeping us from engaging in actions that we would want to normally inhibit.
My mother is in a nursing home and has recently been passing out. She was taken to the hospital, where they performed blood work and performed a CAT scan. All of the tests came back negative. They don't know why she is passing out. Is it possible that her blood pressure is too low? [ 03/10/11 ]
Passing out, or "syncope", can result from any of a number of medical causes, and low blood pressure is certainly one of the possibilities. Passing out occurs typically when brain activity is interrupted, which can occur through oxygen deprivation (from low blood pressure, transient ischemic attacks, or cardiac arrhythmias, for example) or through electrical disorganization that occurs during a seizure. Low blood pressure itself has many causes, some of which (like dehydration) are easy to fix. A comprehensive medical work up would be necessary in order to determine the exact cause of these distressing episodes.
I recently read about a new drug used in Germany that has shown to be effective in either slowing down or possibly reversing Alzheimer’s disease. I can't remember the name of the drug and was hoping that you could help. Also, are there any new medications and is a cure in the future? [ 03/10/11 ]
You may be thinking of metformin. It's an anti-diabetic drug that received some attention for its ability to affect Alzheimer's disease; however, an apparently credible report has suggested that metformin alone actually increases beta amyloid generation, while in the presence of insulin the effect on Alzheimer's disease (AD) may be more positive.
Concerning your second question, an absolute cure for AD may still be a long way in the future; however, there are several promising therapeutic strategies currently being developed and tested that could effectively treat the disease in AD patients. Many of these potential therapies are at the human clinical testing stage, so it may not be long before one or more of them receives FDA approval and can be used by the general public. However, despite the diligent efforts of scores of scientists and doctors, there is really no way of telling when any one such therapy will become available.
Medicare is telling me that I need to switch to the generic form of Aricept. I truly believe that the generic is different from the original, and I don’t want to change. Is the generic version of Aricept different from the brand? [ 03/09/11 ]
Aricept is the brand name for donepezil, and there are no studies that indicate the brand name is superior. Some patients feel that they notice a difference, however, and your prescribing physician should be able to contact your insurer to request that you get access to Aricept, which might involve a larger expense on your part. I assume that you are dealing with a "Medicare Part D" plan concerning this issue, so you may also want to consider asking for help from SHINE (Serving Health Information Needs of Elders) at 1-800-AGE-INFO in reviewing your insurance and the other available options.
My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Her speech sometimes is not understandable and she cannot walk on her own because she loses her balance and falls. She also does not want to eat much and prefers only certain foods. Also, she leans sideways when she sits in a car or on the couch. Recently, it has become difficult to give her medicine. She sucks on it like candy. It's also hard to check her mouth to see if she has swallowed the pill because she does like us to do that. We were crushing the medicine up and putting it in certain foods like peanut butter or mashed potatoes, but that isn't working well now because she is not eating very much. Are these symptoms are normal. Is there anything that can help her to eat more? Does the winter season make her symptoms worse? [ 02/25/11 ]
Of course it is terribly difficult to witness a loved one succumb to this disease, but you can take some comfort in knowing that you are providing her with very good care. Regarding your mother's loss of balance and sideways leaning, it is possible that she is suffering from vertigo, which can affect elderly individuals regardless of whether or not they have Alzheimer's disease. Your mother's physician can test for vertigo and possibly even correct it depending on its cause.
It is fairly common for AD patients to have decreased appetites and lose weight as a result. A decreased appetite may be due to a loss of interest in food, decreased or altered sense of taste, decreased energy expenditure (therefore requiring a lower caloric intake), or a loss of the feeling of pleasure or satisfaction normally derived from eating (referred to as anhedonia). Because she is eating less, what she does eat therefore matters more. Your job is thus to make sure her food is nutrient rich so that every bite counts. If nothing else, you can try using liquid meal supplements to provide her with additional calories and essential nutrients. Some additional caregiver tips for encouraging AD patients to eat are provided by the Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR) through the National Institute on Aging (NIA).
Finally, the long and often sunless winter months experienced in more northerly climates can sometimes lead to a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Although no study has formally tested this, since Alzheimer's patients are more prone to develop apathy or depression than non-AD persons, dreary winters might affect the mood of these patients and increase the risk for depression. Regular exposure to sunlight can help to improve an Alzheimer's patient's overall mood and—when combined with calming, dim lighting in the evening—can help to keep a patient's circadian clock on track. This internal clock frequently becomes disrupted in Alzheimer's patients, such that they end up being awake at night and sleeping during the day.