My dad is 76 years old and my mother is his primary care taker. He no longer wants to leave the house for any reason. He will go to certain doctor appointments only if forced. Otherwise, he just wants to sit on the couch all day and stay home. Is this common? [ 03/26/12 ]
It is increasingly stressful and challenging for patients with dementia to go out into the world, where they may have to face uncomfortable and overwhelming stimulation. Readiness to go out requires encouragement, regular practice, and activities that are not over-stimulating.
My dad is 78 years old and is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He sleeps most of the day, and says that he has pressure on his head, is unable to think clearly, and cannot pick his head up off the pillow. Are these common symptoms of this disease? [ 03/26/12 ]
Headaches, including migraines, are reported by patients with Alzheimer's disease but whether the rate is greater than among patients who do not have this neurological disorder has not been determined. Although the accepted answer to this question is that there is no established connection between Alzheimer's and headaches, some researchers have found increased headache prevalence among people who have a particular familial Alzheimer's disease gene, called PSEN1.
Possible explanations for headaches in Alzheimer's patients include cerebral inflammation, issues with blood pressure, vision problems, and medication side effects, each of which can be treatable causes of headaches.
I have been reading that new stem cell therapies have been created specifically for Alzheimer’s disease. I was wondering if this was true and if so, which hospitals offer this treatment. [ 03/26/12 ]
Stem cell research holds great promise for learning about the mechanisms of Alzheimer's disease, and scientists have hope that stem cells may help us learn new ways to understand and fight this terrible disease. As of yet, however, there are no stem cell therapies available and patients cannot obtain stem cells as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease. To learn more about stem cell therapies, please visit the website of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.
How can you tell if someone is showing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease? [ 02/13/12 ]
The earliest stages of Alzheimer's disease, according to the National Institute on Aging, are characterized by brain accumulation of beta amyloid without obvious behavioral or cognitive changes. The earliest cognitive changes, detectable only on careful neuropsychological testing, may be subtle changes in memory storage. When Alzheimer's disease produces actual cognitive changes, some of the first ones are non-diagnostic (that is, they could just be signs of normal aging). The affected person feels like he or she is not remembering things as well as as they used to, but nobody else notices. The next stage in progression toward Alzheimer's, is “mild cognitive impairment,” and at that point the memory difficulties start to attract others' attention. The affected person has trouble recalling words or names, performing complex tasks, remembering what he or she has read, or planning and organizing things. This usually, but not always, progresses to Alzheimer's disease, which in its mild phase is noticeable to friends and family and even to people who did not previously know the patient. Early-stage Alzheimer's disease includes more obvious cognitive changes including forgetting significant recent events, and having greater difficulty with complex tasks such as calculating the tip in a restaurant or balancing the checkbook and paying bills. Emotional changes such as those seen in depression may also be more apparent at this stage.
I’m a pastor and deal with parishioners who have diseases, so I wish to be well informed. Also, I do a fair amount of medical study for personal understanding. I've studied blood types and certain characteristics associated with them. Is there any research indicating that any particular blood type is more associated with the Alzheimer’s disease? Researchers and clinicians (as well as patients and their families) have become much more interested in “biomarkers” recently. Biomarkers are biologically demonstrable physical characteristics that are associated with such things as increased disease risk. In Alzheimer’s disease, biomarkers are associated both with amyloid accumulation and with neuronal destruction. At this juncture, however, the ABO system of blood typing has not been found to predict risk for Alzheimer’s disease. [ 02/10/12 ]
Researchers and clinicians (as well as patients and their families) have become much more interested in “biomarkers” recently. Biomarkers are biologically demonstrable physical characteristics that are associated with such things as increased disease risk. In Alzheimer's disease, biomarkers are associated both with amyloid accumulation and with neuronal destruction. At this juncture, however, the ABO system of blood typing has not been found to predict risk for Alzheimer's disease.
Can coconut oil be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease? [ 01/28/12 ]
The interest in coconut oil as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease has arisen from earlier observations about how the brain's ability to use glucose as an energy source is abnormal in Alzheimer's disease and that the brain appears to have the ability to use a different energy source, ketones, as an alternative. One pharmaceutical company explored the development of a drink rich in medium chain triglycerides (the type of fat that is present in coconut oil) and has marketed this as a "medical food." There is a physician who has generated interest among many individuals as a result of her treatment of her husband's Alzheimer's disease with coconut oil that is enriched through mixing it with another oil rich in medium chain triglycerides. However, the data in humans supporting this treatment approach are still too limited for scientific confidence. It is important to note that one should always consult with their physician before taking vitamins, supplements, or “medical foods.”
Four years ago, I had a double mastectomy for cancer. Prior to the surgery, I had chemotherapy for seven months. During this process, I lost my hair, which has since grown back, and I lost all sense of taste and smell, which has never returned. After the surgery I had radiation for two months, and I am now experiencing problems with memory recall. These memory issues are usually regarding social events that took place just a couple of days in the past, but I do remember if them if someone gives me a hint. I have also been told I have amnestic multiple domain mild cognitive impairment (MCI). I have read that loss of smell could be an early sign of dementia, so I was curious if my particular symptoms are just a result of the chemotherapy or are related to dementia. Thank you for your response. [ 12/23/11 ]
Without knowing much more detail, the most important advice I can give you is to follow up with your neurologist and ask what role the chemotherapy may have played in your symptoms. You are not alone in experiencing memory and sensory problems that may be linked to the use of cancer chemotherapy medications, and your neurologist will consider the “bigger picture” that includes your age, past medical history, current medications (and whether you are still getting taking anti-cancer medications), alcohol use, overall symptom picture, family history, and results from blood tests and neuroimaging. Based on those additional pieces of information, your doctor(s) will assess the most important causes of your symptoms and which, if any, of the available treatments might be most valuable.
My mom moves her feet all the time and does crunches when she is just sitting in a chair. She puts her head in her lap and then sits back up. Also, she continuously moves her feet back and forth, and while sitting she will drop her head down to her knees, turn her head from side to side, and then move her head back up again repetitively. She can limit the movements if she tries and the movements decrease when she lies down. Her medications include Synthroid, omeprazole, a multivitamin, amlodipine, salt, vitamin D, docusate, perphenazine, Vesicare, Bystolic, sucralfate, and donepezil. Are these symptoms part of the disease or a side effect of the medications? [ 12/23/11 ]
It would suggest that you talk with your mom's doctor about perphenazine. This is an antipsychotic medication that was probably started to reduce agitation or psychosis, or to relieve anxiety or insomnia. Perphenazine, initially sold under the brand name Trilafon, may have been a reasonable choice at one time; unfortunately, the medication may have outlived its value and may now be contributing to your mother's discomfort. Older adults who take these antipsychotic medications are especially prone to develop uncomfortable restlessness (what clinicians call “akathisia) or even a persistent disturbance of movements called “tardive dyskinesia” after long-term use. Please consult a neurologist, who may wish to find a replacement for the perphenazine and also consider some other possible explanations for her excessive activity.