Is Alzheimer’s Really Type 3 Diabetes?

September 25, 2017

Glasses on Alzheimer's Disease paper

There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, but scientists are making headway on a number of theories about its cause, one being a link to diabetes.

Though scientists have presented many theories about Alzheimer’s disease, the true cause of the condition remains elusive. One by one, theories have failed to earn a consensus. But a promising new hypothesis has emerged in recent years: a link to diabetes. It’s one that seems to be supported by a growing amount of clinical evidence.

A New Theory About Alzheimer’s and Type 3 Diabetes

This new and promising theory suggests there is a connection between a third type of diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Though the link to diabetes remains a bit tenuous, experimental evidence does seem to connect Type 2 Diabetes to the progressive cognitive impairment associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

We hope to give you a better idea of what this connection might be and to remind the families affected by Alzheimer’s that scientists are inching ever closer to understanding this terrible disease. Even if this theory doesn’t prove to be definitive, it still suggests progress.

Understanding the Potential Link between Diabetes and Alzheimer’s

The role insulin plays in the body is the key to understanding the relationship between Alzheimer’s and diabetes. Produced in the pancreas, insulin signals the cells in your body to absorb glucose from the bloodstream.

In a non-diabetic person, proper amounts of glucose are absorbed into the cells. But both Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes interfere with this absorption of glucose, resulting in a variety of uncomfortable and dangerous symptoms.

Type 1 Diabetes is congenital and destroys insulin producing cells in the pancreas, while Type 2 is acquired and prevents cells from absorbing glucose out of the bloodstream. This inability to absorb glucose is called “insulin resistance.” It is this insulin resistance that may be the possible link to diabetes for Alzheimer’s disease.

Once someone develops insulin resistance, the glucose left in the bloodstream wreaks havoc on bodily tissues. And it can lead to the symptoms associated with diabetes in general.

The Alzheimer’s connection is established if insulin resistance begins to affect brain cells. Once this starts to happen, people can begin to lose memory and elements of their personality. In other words, the person begins to display symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Understanding Insulin Resistance and Alzheimer’s Disease

Insulin resistance can lead to the creation of the beta amyloid plaques that are believed to play a large role in the development of Alzheimer’s.  As you can see, there is reason to suspect a connection between the insulin resistance caused by Type 2 Diabetes and the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

In fact, there is enough evidence to suggest insulin resistance reduces cognitive function that some doctors and scientists have taken to calling Alzheimer’s “Type 3 Diabetes.”  Although explanatory gaps do exist in the relationship between insulin resistance and the beta amyloid plaques that are involved in Alzheimer’s, research still indicates at least a vague connection between Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

More research is needed to establish a solid connection between insulin resistance and Alzheimer’s. But the very possibility that the connection exists suggests that by reducing the occurrence of Type 2 Diabetes, we might very well reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s as well.

Two Things We Know Amidst All this Uncertainty

No matter what medical science eventually decides about the status and causes of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, we already know two important things with absolute certainty.

First, if you have an older loved who is experiencing symptoms of Alzheimer’s or dementia, they need and deserve the finest care possible.

Second, you and your family deserve the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your loved one is in compassionate and knowledgeable hands.

Call us today for information or to schedule a visit or tour of a Legacy Senior Living Memory Care program. This is the best way to see the expert and compassionate care we provide to our residents on a daily basis.

How To Use Non-Medicated Therapies To Calm People Suffering From Dementia

August 28, 2017

The Michigan State fight song has become a symbol of hope at tech giant IBM, but not for reasons you might think.

IBM is the developer of SimpleC, a virtual caregiver application used for treating memory loss. Where does the fight song come in? You’d have to ask Jason, a SimpleC clinician who works with people who have dementia. We’ll highlight Jason’s experience later in this story.

Jason’s tale illustrates that we can sometimes treat the symptoms of dementia in ways that don’t involve drugs.

This is how Jason and his colleagues at IBM are using technology that’s available right now to deliver personalized therapy to people with dementia. And it seems like it might be working.

Technology can be Personal

Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia cause memory loss that progresses over time, leaving a person disoriented, confused, and frustrated. That often leads to agitation and, in some cases, aggression.

One of the main tenants of dementia care is providing a safe, familiar environment that soothes and calms. People with dementia benefit from hearing voices they trust and seeing things they love. This helps them feel validated, which is a major goal of cognitive therapy.

SimpleC is a virtual, cloud-based application that helps deliver these familiar touch points of a person’s life. By providing personalized support and reassurance throughout the day, the technology keeps the user engaged and therefore calm.

How SimpleC Helps the User Throughout the Day

Imagine a tablet loaded with the SimpleC program. Caregivers and other family members work with staff at a senior living community and with health care professionals to load the program with personalized memories and helpful reminders. Together, they create a virtual caregiver that helps the user maintain independence and stay engaged.

They load family pictures and videos, plus other media that can help trigger memories of the user’s life. Staff loads helpful alerts, like medication times, reminders to hydrate, and times for upcoming events like meals, outings, and therapy appointments.

Health care professionals can participate too, by contributing medical data. In essence, they’re creating a virtual companion for the user, which can be incredibly comforting for many people with dementia.

Jason’s Story is Really the Story of Another Man’s Journey

Back to Jason, one of the IBM employees who works on the SimpleC team. His job is to take SimpleC out into the world and help real users understand the therapy. His experience with one man, in particular, illustrates the power of this non-medicated therapy to help calm someone who suffers from dementia.

When Jason first met the man, he saw before him an isolated person who had trouble talking. Occasionally, the man would utter broken phrases but not much else. The man sat alone and was not engaging with his surroundings.

Jason learned that the man had once played football for Michigan State, and used that information to build a visual story on SimpleC. He collected team photos and other memories, including a recording of the fight song used by that team.

This is how a therapy is built in SimpleC.

After using the SimpleC app, the man began to come out of his shell: speaking in sentences, engaging with his surroundings, and more. One day, when Jason arrived, he was met with a surprise nobody saw coming.

The man watched Jason walk into the room, looked into his eyes, and stood up. He opened his mouth… and sang the Michigan State fight song. For everyone there that day, for Jason, and for IBM, that song became a symbol of hope for people with dementia and for non-medicated therapies.

SimpleC is One Way We Help Residents at Legacy Senior Living

Legacy Senior Living is proud to partner with IBM by using the SimpleC therapy in our memory care communities. Collectively known as The Harbor, these communities are nationally recognized and acclaimed. To find out more about memory care at Legacy Senior Living, including SimpleC and The Purposeful Day program, please call or visit a Legacy Senior Living community near you.

Using Scent to Manage Mood Changes in a Senior with Alzheimer’s

July 24, 2017

managing mood changes

Our sense of smell is more powerful than we know. One way of managing mood changes for people with Alzheimer’s is to make use of different scents.

If you’ve ever felt transported by the scent of pumpkin pie or fall leaves, then you know the power of scent. Or if you’ve ever lit a lavender candle and felt almost instantly relaxed, you also know how different scents can alter your mood.

The close connection between scent and mood could make a difference in how the symptoms of Alzheimer’s are managed.

If you’re caring for a senior loved one who has Alzheimer’s, you may have already witnessed the mood changes that this disease can bring. Whether it’s unexpected and seemingly unwarranted changes in demeanor or a trend toward aggressive behavior (often paired with cursing), mood changes can be unsettling for caregivers.

What Causes Mood Swings in People with Alzheimer’s?

Mood swings in older adults who have Alzheimer’s disease can be caused by a number of factors.

Possible Causes of Mood Swings:

  • Frustration with their inability to understand something
  • Feeling overwhelmed with too many requests or questions
  • Undiagnosed health problems
  • Hectic and/or loud environment
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Constipation

Scientists know that scents actually do affect people’s moods. This knowledge could make a difference for caregivers. Specifically, it could help them better manage difficult moods of someone they’re caring for.

How Scents Can Impact Mood

Scents work on the human brain to affect mood, but not like a drug does. A scent can trigger a memory because it’s associated with something in a person’s past.

Let’s say you grew up smelling pumpkin pie spice every Fall. If you loved Fall, the scent of those spices years later can bring back distant memories, even decades after you’ve smelled them last.

It’s called “associative learning.” That means your brain associates two events because of your past. Do you think of baseball games when you eat hot dogs? That’s associative learning at work in your brain.

Likewise, if you light a scented candle that has a mulled cider fragrance. You may think of winter holidays or ice skating. Again, it’s an association created by your brain.

Scents May Help Calm Your Senior Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease

One study showed that participants in a study reacted more strongly to odor-evoked memories than they did to verbal communication. That speaks to the power of scent in triggering reactions among people.

For caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s, that’s an important realization.

If you could trigger fond memories in your senior loved one with scent, you may be able to mitigate some of the mood swings they experience. You’ll have to experiment with different scents to find the right ones, of course. Not everyone has the same associations in place in their brains.

For example, freshly-mowed grass might trigger happy memories of summertime fun for you, but for someone who grew up in a city, there might be no association at all. Also, associations can be negative, too. When you’re experimenting with different scents, be on the lookout for increased agitation with any particular odor.

Some Scents to Try

  1. Lemon is said to have a calming effect on the mind. It can also be used to help improve concentration.
  2. This spice is also said to improve concentration, which could help your loved one when they’re feeling agitated because of confusion or disorientation.
  3. Essential oils that include rosemary are believed to improve memory and to promote alertness. Added to that is it’s also a wonderful smelling scent!
  4. Lavender is calming and may help quell stress. Any time your senior loved one is agitated, try placing a few drops of lavender essential oil in to a diffuser.

A Final Word

Finally, be patient when you’re trying to manage mood swings in your senior loved one. Keep in mind the behavior is the disease, not the person you love and care for.

At Legacy Senior Living, we recognize the tremendous job that family caregivers do. If you’d like to learn more about how our communities can help you manage a loved one’s Alzheimer’s, whether it’s by offering memory care or respite care, please call the community nearest you to schedule a private tour!

Recognizing the Early Signs of Alzheimer’s in a Family Member

June 19, 2017

Memory loss isn’t the only sign of Alzheimer’s. Nor is it always the first symptom to appear. Here are some early signs of Alzheimer’s you may not know about.

Memory loss is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. However, it’s not always the first symptom to appear, say scientists. Other early signs of Alzheimer’s may appear long before forgetfulness takes hold.

Even before doctors can make a clinical diagnosis, some early changes can be signals to informed family members that something is amiss with their loved one.  Knowing these signs is one way to be proactive about your loved one’s health.

The following are the most common early signs of Alzheimer’s. Take note, and keep them top-of-mind as you interact with your senior loved one.

  1. Personality Changes

Has your senior loved one started acting differently? Is it uncharacteristic for him or her to be irritable but now they seem to be complaining about everything? If so, find out what’s going on. It could just be a case of temporary grumpiness. Or it may also be an early sign of Alzheimer’s.

One way to tell the difference is if personality changes last for more than six months, say Alzheimer’s researchers who have conducted studies on the matter.

Other personality changes to watch out for include:

  • anxiety or tearfulness
  • lack of motivation for activities they used to enjoy
  • suddenly not knowing how to behave appropriately in public or in private
  • being paranoid or overly suspicious of other people
  • becoming agitated or frustrated easily

Again, it’s important to remember that these symptoms don’t necessarily herald the onset of Alzheimer’s. However, if they seem to persist for longer than six months, it may be a sign.

Be sure to have a thorough conversation about your observations with your senior loved one’s doctor.

  1. Trouble Navigating

People often associate getting lost with Alzheimer’s. Everyone has heard a different variation of the story about the senior with Alzheimer’s. He can’t find his way home after shopping for groceries or he needs a map to drive to an old friend’s house that he’s been visiting for decades.

Now there’s new scientific evidence to support this. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease has published a study showing a link between navigation problems and the disease. Results suggest that difficulty with maps can signal the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

  1. Vision Problems

Sometimes, early signs of Alzheimer’s can display as vision problems. Maybe your loved one is having a hard time judging distances. That can lead to accidents when steps are misjudged, for example. Or maybe reading is troublesome. Determining color might become difficult, too.

  1. Planning is Too Much to Handle

Another early warning sign to watch out for is when problem-solving and planning becomes overwhelming. For example, if your mother feels anxiety over putting together a family meal, that may be a red flag.

Where to Get Help

Alzheimer’s disease is hard for everyone: you, your family, and those who suffer from the disease itself. Legacy Senior Living can be a resource for families with loved ones who exhibit early signs of the disease early or at any stage along the way. Our Memory Care Programs are nationally recognized, as is our commitment to helping seniors with dementia reach their highest potential every day.

We welcome you to visit, call, or email any time with questions about Alzheimer’s. Our experience caregivers can be a resource to you and the senior you love.

7 Things You Can Do That May Cut Your Risk for Dementia

May 15, 2017

Tips on Cutting Your Risk for DimentiaScience is finding out every day that there are things we can do that may help cut the risk of dementia later in life. Here are 7 changes you can make right now.

 

As the country ages, it’s hard not to think about the looming risk of dementia. Luckily, the scientific community is doing its best to help by conducting research on lifestyle changes that may reduce that risk. Here are seven of them you can start working on today.

1. Hit the Gym (or the sidewalk)

In 2013, a long-term study on the health habits of over 2,200 men published its results after 35 years of data. One of the findings was that regular exercise reduced the risk of dementia in their subjects. Following a healthy lifestyle in general may be a huge determining factor in your risk of dementia, but regular exercise, as this study revealed, is a crucial piece of the puzzle.

2. Hit the Books

Even if you never considered yourself a bookworm, taking up activities that challenge your intellectual side may help ward off mental decline. A study published in JAMA Neurology showed that not only does staying mentally active help in this regard, but the sooner in life you start the better.

Luckily, intellectual enrichment comes in many forms. So most people have no trouble finding something they enjoy that also challenges the mind. Playing music counts, for example. So does socializing, believe it or not. Anything that brings out your creative side is helpful too, like painting or drawing. Reading can really do the trick since it opens up a world of learning that’s hard to replicate by any other means.

3. Fire Up the Keurig

You don’t have to own a Keurig to ward off dementia, but they do say caffeine consumption may reduce the risk of dementia. While experts all have slightly different recommendations, the most common consensus seems to be drinking two cups of coffee a day might help prevent dementia. Talk with your physician for their take on caffeine, especially if you have any type of cardiac disease.

4. Take a Vacation (or a Break or a Short Breather)

We all know that stress does horrible things to the mind and the body, but now there’s evidence that it may also be linked to dementia. A long-term study in Sweden found that, of the women in their study, those who experienced higher levels of stress were more likely to have developed dementia later in life.

So take all the necessary precautions to keep your stress levels down, whether it’s taking big vacations from time to time or allowing for tiny breaks at work to take a few deep breaths.

5. Eat to Please Your Heart

There are several reasons to eat well, and now you have one more to add to the list. Eating to keep your heart in top shape may protect your brain, too. Try a Mediterranean diet consisting of:

  • very little red meat
  • lots of fruits
  • vegetables
  • whole grains
  • fish
  • olive oil nuts
  • low-fat or fat-free dairy products

6. Be Social

Making friends and keeping them might be another good way to ward off mental decline. The stronger your social network, the better off you will be, say researchers. They’re not entirely sure why friends help, though it could be that they help you better manage stress which might allow you avoid depression.

7. Seek Treatment for Depression

Speaking of depression, scientists may have found a link between depression and dementia. So if you or a senior loved one is battling depression, seek treatment now. You may be doing your future self a very big favor.

Learn more about dementia by checking back here often. We will routinely share what we learn about memory-related diseases right here on our blog.

If an older adult you love has dementia, know that our memory care program is nationally acclaimed. We’re proud to serve families whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Call us to learn more today!

Creating a Purposeful Day with Adults with Alzheimer’s

April 24, 2017

Caring for Parents with Alzheimer's

Everyone benefits from a sense of purpose, but for adults with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s especially important. Here’s why, plus some advice for planning a purposeful day.

 

There are times in life when anyone can lose sight of their sense of purpose. It often happens when we encounter especially traumatic hurdles or life transitions, such as unemployment, divorce, loss of someone important, or retirement. Very often, one way out of a state of hopelessness is to find new purpose in life. The key is to discover new activities that make us feel whole and purposeful again.

But for someone who’s suffering from the effects Alzheimer’s disease, that sense of purpose is elusive and fleeting, if it comes at all. Those who care for someone with this disease quickly learn that scheduling daily activities which provide a sense of purpose is vital to the overall well-being of their loved one.

Creating a Sense of Purpose for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease

Everyone, no matter what their health status, benefits from a sense of purpose. There have even been studies showing that purposefulness brings protective health benefits, especially in seniors. And it’s not just that it makes us happy to feel useful- it’s the meaningful work that keeps us healthy longer.

So it stands to reason that purposefulness can benefit someone with Alzheimer’s disease or any other dementia-related condition, for that matter. With this in mind, here’s some guidance on creating a purposeful day for an adult who has Alzheimer’s disease.

It Starts with What You Already Know

Finding purpose can be as simple as drawing upon what your loved has always enjoyed. Did he or she love animals? Magazines with cute pictures of four-legged friends are surprisingly soothing and delightful. Sometimes people enjoy cutting out the pictures and making a collage or simply pinning them onto a bulletin board. This is only an example, though. Use this concept to tailor an activity for your loved one based on his or her interests and lifestyle.

Be Sensitive to Their Cognitive Level

Remember: there are different levels of cognition as the disease progresses. Don’t create activities that are too difficult or rely too heavily on memory skills. On the other hand, it’s equally important not to schedule activities that your loved one might find insulting. If the magazine activity from above is too childish, consider watching funny movies or YouTube videos of cute animals together. Goodness knows, there are enough of them out there!

Dole Out Chores, but Don’t Judge

Helping with basic tasks is an obvious way to bring purpose, but don’t be too harsh if the results are less than optimal. The idea is to promote a sense of purpose, not enlist a household worker.

If the dishes aren’t quite clean after your loved one finishes with them, simply rinse them off later without saying anything. The important thing is that your family member feels useful.

Purposeful Tasks Can Help Minimize Unsafe Wandering

Finally, there’s an added benefit to helping someone with Alzheimer’s disease find purpose in their day. It’s actually a matter of safety, too.

In their recommendations for dementia care practices, the Alzheimer’s Association suggests that engaging your loved one in activities is a way of reducing wandering. If you’re familiar with the disease, you already know that wandering a major safety concern. While it’s nearly impossible to prevent this symptom of dementia, it is possible to prepare for it and to minimize the frequency.

The key point here is that by taking a holistic approach to Alzheimer’s care, caregivers can help maintain a safe, healthy environment for loved ones who are suffering from the disease’s effects. We all need purpose in our lives and finding ways to create meaning in your own life can help guide how you create a purposeful day for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s Care and Support at Legacy Senior Living

Want to learn more about care for someone with Alzheimer’s? We have nationally recognized memory care programs staffed by knowledgeable and compassionate professionals. Our therapy programs, including The Purposeful Day, are nationally acclaimed and can help your loved one live to his or her fullest potential.

Each day, we focus on providing “A Purposeful Day” for our residents.  Our caring staff is trained to value each resident and to recognize the different histories, current desires, and needs.  A Purposeful Day focuses of four types of non-drug therapy – Reminisce Therapy, Trusted Voice Therapy, Time and Place Therapy, and Music Therapy. Call us to learn more today!