Call Us Today! (239) 362-2376|


About Stuart

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Stuart has created 17 entries.

Who can you Trust?

My friend Suzanne came to me one day in tears to talk over the situation with her mother. She knew that I had dealt with my own mother’s dementia care and eventual movement to an assisted living dementia care facility. In fact, back then she had been the one to dry my tears, talk me down from my emotional meltdowns and make me a cup of tea (I am English and we believe that a cup of tea is the answer to everything) After lovingly acting as the main caregiver to her mom for many years who was diagnosed with Lewy Bodies dementia, it had come to that difficult place where her mother’s dementia was quickly progressing. It was clear that she could no longer be cared for at home and needed an assisted living memory care facility.

But how can I know what assisted living dementia care home I should trust with her care? They all look good on their websites, they all say the right things but I often hear horror stories. I don’t know where to start she said.

I also have heard of many difficult situations families have faced with their choice of homes, here are just a few…

  • Arriving for an assessment only to have no one expect you.
  • Trying to communicate with a staff that clearly does not want to hear your concerns.
  • Situations where you feel the home is not telling you the whole truth.
  • Having the home commit to something and then not follow through.
  • Caregivers not listening and showing no follow through.
  • No sense of urgency to finding the “Why” of a change of behaviors.

Albert Einstein recognized the importance of trust when he said, “Every kind of peaceful cooperation among men is primarily based on mutual trust.” Yet often these days our trust may be broken, abused, misplaced, or violated.

Trust is intuitive confidence and a sense of comfort that comes from the belief that we can rely on the assisted living memory care home to perform competently, responsibly, and in a manner considerate of our interests. It is dynamic, it is fragile, and it is vulnerable. Yet it is very difficult to define and quantify.

Trust is easier to understand than to measure. Yet, trust is essential when dealing with people with dementia in an assisted living situation. Their families are looking for help at a time that is most vulnerable for themselves and their loved one with Alzheimers Lewy Bodies Parkinsons or Frontotemporal dementia. Lack of trust creates cynicism, doubt, and anxiety

Assisted living Dementia Care Homes need to be able to provide much needed emotional support to families as well as the person with dementia. Families need to know that their loved one’s care is tailored to their individual needs and challenges; they need to know that their thoughts and information will be respected.


These are points to look out for when choosing an Assisted Living Dementia Care facility

  • Is the staff proactive, do they show they care for you; do they listen to you, the caregiver and probe for unspoken fears and concerns?
  • Do they provide sensible solutions that work?
  • Are they honest and truthful?
  • Do they demonstrate respect –Do they ask you what you consider the best ways of dealing with your loved one?
  • Do they answer your questions with straight talk?
  • Do they clarify expectations?
  • Do they listen first?
  • Do they keep commitments?

There are “best practices” – approaches and techniques that are most likely to get the desired response from the person with dementia. Frequently these best practices maintain a familiar routine and recreate a familiar environment. Many family caregivers have learned a lot about the patient’s disease but their special expertise lies in their long history with their loved one. Many feel that only they understand this person and know how to meet his or her needs. They see themselves as the patient’s advocate and protector, and they may be afraid that the assisted living memory facility won’t be able to provide good care.

So when choosing a home that you want to know you can trust run them first through the ABCD checklist.

abcdA = Able, do they demonstrate competence. Are they qualified and experienced in the dementia and  memory care field

B = Believable, are they acting with integrity, are they honest with their dealings with you?

C = Connected, are they demonstrating care and concern for your loved one and other residents and staff and are they communicating effectively.

D = Dependable, are they reliably following through on what they say they are going to do, this means being accountable for their actions and being organized and predictable.


In an Assisted Living Dementia Care home trust must be treated as precious, highly valued, and treasured by the home. It must be viewed as if it were an egg that when treated roughly could shatter. Remember actions can speak more loudly than words, don’t be fooled by fancy sales presentations and pretty pictures.

The main question to ask when choosing and Assisted Living Dementia Facility is

“Do you TRUST them?”

By |June 12th, 2015|Senior Care|Comments Off on Who can you Trust?

From CPA to Dementia Expert

I am often asked how a CPA comes to spend most of his life in the dementia field.
My first exposure to dementia came through caring for my grandmother who was diagnosed with senility, most likely Alzheimer’s disease. I started my career as an auditor but some years later became a healthcare consulting manager, I also served as the CFO of a very large multi-specialty clinic.

As the health care system failed my family and many others, I decided to get involved to address the lack of coordination of services and the lack of adequately trained health care professionals. Teaming up with a geriatric nurse practitioner in the late 1980s, I learned the ropes of aging & care giving. We focused our careers on better meeting the needs of those with dementia by promoting advocacy, quality, compassion, and knowledge. We experimented with care and environmental concepts when we developed and operated 29 dementia care homes in Wisconsin.

In 2006, Bernie Marinelli, RN/BSN, and I formed Satori Pathway, a dementia care consultancy. Bernie received her extensive mental health behavioral training at the Charles River Hospital in Massachusetts and at Alexian Behavioral Health Hospital in Illinois. Our main focus was to provide services to the majority of persons with dementia who wanted to stay at home. There was a need for options other than residential care that would enable persons with dementia to remain in the least restrictive care setting for as long as possible.

Our observation over the past 25 years was that because of economics and market demand, assisted living facilities were getting bigger and bigger and fancier and fancier. This may market well but doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of many persons who have dementia. We define success as social engagement, smiles and maintaining the self-esteem of the person with the disease, i.e., quality of life. In this case, bigger isn’t necessarily better. Our research demonstrated that, as the size of the dementia facility decreased so did the behavioral challenges of the residents while social engagement increased.  It is much easier for a person with dementia to settle in to an actual home than a homelike environment. As much as we endorse the idea of keeping people in their own homes, there usually comes a point where residential care is necessary both for the health and safety of the person with dementia and for the emotional and physical health of the family caregivers. Thus, was born, our concept of the small residential dementia home. The staff at each home cares for just five residents.

Our pilot project was Anam Parc, two 5 bed homes in Jacksonville, Florida. We began Cairn Park development in Ft. Myers a year ago and are now almost ready to open our second home. We bring our hearts to the care of our dementia residents and families, as well as our expertise born out of decades of experience in the dementia field. Our families trust us, and we feel fulfilled and proud to be of service by helping people at their most vulnerable times.

Stu Gaines  Stu Gaines CEO Cairn Park

By |June 11th, 2015|Announcements|Comments Off on From CPA to Dementia Expert

Is there an elephant in the room? Dementia and Mental Illness

Elephant in the Room

We talk about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia but rarely address issues of mental illness. Many of those affected by Alzheimer’s are also dealing with some form of mental illness. An estimated 20% of the adult population has been affected by a range of mental illness including depression, bi-polar conditions or OCD.

Caring for people suffering from dementia must include an understanding of other underlying issues that may be affecting their comfort, wellbeing, behavior and cognitive functioning. Only by addressing these issues can we ensure that the person with dementia is provided with optimum care for their welfare and comfort.

Ms. Marinelli will address issues and approaches required to help improve the quality of life for those affected by both conditions.

Presentation: Tuesday June 16; 10:00 to 11:30am
Program title: Alzheimer’s and Mental Illness, the Elephant in the room
Speaker: Bernie Marinelli, RN/BSN
Ask an expert program hosted by the Alzheimer’s Support Network of Naples,
Location: 660 Tamiami Trail North, Suite 21 Naples, FL 34102;
For more information or to reserve a seat call 239- 362- 2376

Bernie Marinelli, RN/BSN, has focused her attention on helping seniors faced with health challenges remain in their communities. She is the co-founder of Cairn Park, a residential care organizations specializing in serving persons with atypical dementia and providing quality late-stage dementia care. She received her mental health and behavioral training at the Charles River Hospital in Massachusetts and at Alexian Behavioral Health Hospital in Illinois.

By |June 4th, 2015|Events|Comments Off on Is there an elephant in the room? Dementia and Mental Illness

You’re Invited to Advances in the Treatment of Inapproporiate Crying or Laughing

Renato De Los Santos, MD — Psychiatric Perspectives
Hoffman Estates, Illinois

Cairn Park Flyer

Click to Enlarge


By |May 19th, 2015|View All|Comments Off on You’re Invited to Advances in the Treatment of Inapproporiate Crying or Laughing

In praise of small…The benefits of relationship based care

Who is on with her today?

This was always the first question my sister and I had when discussing our mothers care at her first residential memory care facility.  The degree of peace of mind I felt for each day was determined by who that staff member was, a factor I had no control over.  I still recall that familiar, anxious, dark dread I felt in the pit of my stomach.  It felt as though I were leaving my vulnerable and innocent child in a dangerous situation.

Don’t get me wrong it was a good facility, but, based on the size and number of patients, there were constant changes of staff.  Some cared and others showed only surface- level compliance and to be honest others simply did not care.  We were always cautious about complaining too much for concern that it may be taken out on mom in passive aggressive ways when we were not around.

I have heard this story repeated by so many friends who are dealing with the same issue.

After a number of repeated problems we took the plunge and moved mom to a much smaller home and now I am truly “Sold On Small”.

Home Sweet Home

To provide a dementia sufferer with a home is far different than providing a home like environment in a larger facility.  I relate it to staying in a nice hotel, it’s attractive, and it’s comfortable, it may even be luxurious but it is not home.

What my sister Denise and I found was that the small home environment provided the opportunity for my mom’s caregivers to become like family and allowed for relationship between the caregiver and patient to become one.

Care happens when one human being connects with another.  In order for healing to be maximized, residents and their loved ones must feel safe and cared for. This is only possible when caregivers are encouraged to forge authentic human relationships with those in their care, an environment where there is a regularity of staff allows for these relationships to form.

We also found my mom’s caregivers in this home environment, to be much happier.  They seemed to work with a feeling of purpose and meaning.

Connecting, empathizing and understanding is a process of learning and caring, for a caregiver to be able to do that for a manageable number in a family setting becomes much more achievable than when rotating between large numbers of patients.

See Me as a Person …

Happy SeniorOften when caregiver, family and resident relationships fall short, it’s because of a failure to make an authentic human connection with patients and families.  In a small family setting caregivers have the opportunity to interact with people with dementia right where they are! An atmosphere can be created where the person with dementia has interaction based on who they were in their finest hour…

Relationship Based Care means knowing and understanding who the person with dementia was in his or her finest hour. It includes life-long interests and favorite subjects.

For instance from talking with Moms caregivers we learnt that mom was continually pulling at threads and tearing off buttons from her clothes. As a young mother our mom was constantly sewing, making and repairing clothes for us four kids.  We put our heads together and came up with the idea of a smock which Denise (The seamstress) in our family stitched with dozens of buttons and ribbons and threads.  The caregiver would put this on Mom each day and she would spend many happy hours playing with and attacking each item.

MemoriesWhen you’re caring for residents and their families, knowing how to create therapeutic relationships can mean the difference between a resident and family feeling held in care, or feeling dropped in a time of high vulnerability and fear.

Small home environments enable caregivers to focus on caring for the whole person, body, mind and spirit, allowing everyone in the home to appreciate and honor the uniqueness of each person. This creates an environment where caregivers are able to support patients and families in making decisions about their care and thus allowing the dementia sufferer to “Be seen as a person”

With the help of mom’s caregivers at the home we learnt to connect with mom exactly where she was. We came to understand that this was vital for her because her reality was different from ours.  Her caretakers showed real curiosity and genuine interest in her, they grew to love her and she them (I must point out that mom was not the easiest patient to be around, often demonstrating difficult behaviors. To be honest she had been like this even before her dementia set in) but in some magical way they calmed her down and actually seemed to enjoy the fact that she was so feisty.

To the day she died, peacefully in this, her home, with her family by her side.  I felt that mom was in a safe place where she felt loved, accepted and held in dignity and respect.

Sometimes Small is Simply Superior

By |May 12th, 2015|Senior Care, View All|Comments Off on In praise of small…The benefits of relationship based care


EVERY 67 SECONDS someone in the United States develops the disease.


An estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages have Alzheimer’s disease in 2015.

  • Of the 5.3 million Americans with Alzheimer’s, an estimated 5.1 million people are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer’s).
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s are women. Of the 5.1 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s in the United States, 3.2 million are women and 1.9 million are men.
  • Although there are more non-Hispanic whites living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias than people of any other racial or ethnic group in the United States, older African-Americans and Hispanics are more likely than older whites to have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

The number of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will grow each year as the size and proportion of the U.S. population age 65 and older continue to increase. By 2025, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.1 million — a 40 percent increase from the 5.1 million age 65 and older affected in 2015. By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease may nearly triple, from 5.1 million to a projected 13.8 million, barring the development of medical breakthroughs to prevent or cure the disease.


In 2015, an estimated 700,000 people in the United States age 65 and older will die with Alzheimer’s.

As the population of the United States ages, Alzheimer’s is becoming a more common cause of death. Although deaths from other major causes have decreased significantly, official records indicate that deaths from Alzheimer’s disease have increased significantly. Between 2000 and 2013, deaths attributed to Alzheimer’s disease increased 71 percent, while those attributed to the number one cause of death—heart disease—decreased 14 percent.

Alzheimer’s is the only disease among the top 10 causes of death in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed.


In 2014, friends and family of people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care, a contribution to the nation valued at $217.7 billion. This is approximately 46 percent of the net value of Walmart sales in 2013 and nearly eight times the total revenue of McDonald’s in 2013.

  • Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women and 34 percent are age 65 or older.
  • Forty-one percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
  • Over half of primary caregivers of people with dementia take care of parents.
  • It is estimated that 250,000 children and young adults between ages 8 and 18 provide help to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.

Alzheimer’s takes a devastating toll on caregivers. Nearly 60 percent of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high; about 40 percent suffer from depression. Due to the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.7 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2014.


Alzheimer’s disease is one of the costliest chronic diseases to society.

  • In 2015, the direct costs to American society of caring for those with Alzheimer’s will total an estimated $226 billion, with half of the costs borne by Medicare.
  • Average per-person Medicare spending for people age 65 or older with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is three times higher than for seniors without dementia. Medicaid payments are 19 times higher.
  • Nearly one in every five Medicare dollars is spent on people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In 2050, it will be one in every three dollars.

Unless something is done, in 2050, Alzheimer’s is projected to cost over $1.1 trillion (in 2015 dollars). This dramatic rise includes a five-fold increase in government spending under Medicare and Medicaid and a nearly five-fold increase in out-of pocket spending.


Most people living with Alzheimer’s are not aware of their diagnosis.

Despite widespread recognition of the benefits of clear and accurate disclosure, less than half (45 percent) of seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or their caregivers report being told the diagnosis by a health care provider, compared with 90 percent or more of those diagnosed with cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Health care providers routinely encounter the situation of having to deliver a frightening or upsetting diagnosis to patients and perhaps to relatives, friends and loved ones. Yet there is broad agreement among physician organizations that patients have the right to know and understand their diagnosis. Benefits of disclosing a diagnosis include better diagnosis (opportunity for a second opinion), better decision-making about their lives for both the present and the future, and better medical care.

To Download the full report, go to:

Copyright © 2015  Alzheimer’s Association®. All rights reserved.

By |April 15th, 2015|Articles|Comments Off on 2015 ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE FACTS AND FIGURES

Brain Protein Tied to Alzheimer’s Spotted in Young Adults

People as young as 20 have amyloid buildup, but researchers aren’t sure what it means

Brain Protein Tied to Alzheimer's Spotted in Young Adults

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, March 2, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Brain plaque buildup, long linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, has been identified in the brains of men and women as young as 20, researchers say.

“One thing this means is that the resource, the machinery, for making the clumps of plaque we see among Alzheimer’s patients is already available in young individuals,” said study co-author Changiz Geula, a research professor at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“The implication appears to be that if we want to prevent these clumps from forming when a person becomes old, we may need to intervene much earlier than we have thought, to try and get rid of amyloid very early in life,” Geula said.

Geula and his colleagues analyzed brain tissue of 48 deceased people ranging in age from 20 to 99.

At issue is an abnormal protein, or “amyloid,” known to accumulate and surround specialized brain cells called neurons in seniors and those suffering from Alzheimer’s. Amyloid buildup is known as plaque.

“Amyloid is bad,” said Geula. “We don’t know the exact mechanism by which it causes damage, or if amyloid buildup is the main trigger for Alzheimer’s, so we can’t say that it actually causes the disease. But for a long time we have known that it causes toxic damage, and it cannot be good for you when it accumulates.”

What is new here, and “very surprising, is that we found an accumulation of this amyloid actually inside the nerve cells of individuals as young as 20,” Geula added.

The findings appear in the March 2 issue of Brain.

Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive brain disorder, is the most common form of dementia among older people. It’s estimated that 5 million Americans have the disease, and that number is growing.

The study team analyzed the brains of 13 people aged 20 to 66 with no mental health issues; 14 dementia-free people between 70 and 99; and 21 Alzheimer’s patients between 60 and 95.

Particular attention was paid to a certain type of neuron — the “basal forebrain cholinergic neuron” — that researchers say is especially vulnerable to cell death among Alzheimer’s patients. Such neurons are key to memory and attention.

Toxic amyloid buildup was seen among such cells across the entire age and health spectrum. Similar signs of buildup were not seen to the same degree among other types of nerve cells in different regions of the brain.

Clumps were usually larger in older brains and those with Alzheimer’s, the study found. The authors said the growing clumps likely damage and kill the neurons.

“But just how much variability there is among the general population remains unclear,” Geula admitted. Some of the old people studied had amounts of amyloid that were closer to levels seen among the young, the study found.

“What we need to do now is look at a large number of elderly to see whether the ones who have more amyloid face a higher risk for Alzheimer’s or poorer [thinking] abilities,” Geula said.

Striking a cautionary note, Dr. Yvette Sheline, a professor of psychiatry, radiology and neurology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, highlighted the “complicated” nature of the findings.

Sheline, who wasn’t involved in the study, stressed the conclusions were based on just a handful of brain samples. They also were confined solely to plaque growth in a specific part of the brain and neuron type, she noted.

“Nonetheless, it is interesting that amyloid accumulation could occur so early in the basal forebrain,” Sheline said.

But in such a small sample and with no mental assessment in life and no follow-up , she said it’s impossible to know if these people would progress to Alzheimer’s disease, or if this is part of normal human physiology.

Still, Dr. Stephen Salloway, director of the neurology and the memory and aging program at Butler Hospital in Providence, R.I., said the findings may ultimately point to “a key step” in the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease.

“This process seems to occur earlier in these cells than other brain regions,” Salloway noted. Determining why these particular basal neurons are more prone to plaque buildup than other types of neurons “will provide important clues for solving the mystery of Alzheimer’s disease,” he said.

More information

There’s more on Alzheimer’s at the Alzheimer’s Association.

SOURCES: Changiz Geula, Ph.D., research professor, Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago; Stephen Salloway, M.D., director, neurology and memory and aging program, Butler Hospital, and professor, neurology and psychiatry, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, R.I.; Yvette Sheline, M.D., professor, psychiatry, radiology and neurology, and director, Center for Neuromodulation in Depression and Stress, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia; March 2, 2015, Brain

Last Updated:

By |March 11th, 2015|View All|Comments Off on Brain Protein Tied to Alzheimer’s Spotted in Young Adults

Providing Thoughtful Care: Tips for Seniors and Their Adult Children

Providing Thoughtful Care: Tips for Seniors and Their Adult Children
From the time you were born your parents kept you safe, warm, clothed, fed. Helped with your homework. Worried when you were sick or broke curfew.
Eventually your parents retired while you raised your kids and similarly fretted about illnesses, curfews and college. They likely still guided you during this time, but at some point older parents may start to have issues with mobility, vision or worse.
You might not believe your teenagers when they promise their room is clean or homework done. But when your mother tells you her dizziness is “nothing”, or dad says his limp is just a muscle strain, you probably take them at their word, at least initially.
Your parents may be experiencing medical problems and safety concerns requiring intervention.
I know. I’ve been there.
My mother’s worst year was in 2004. After she buried her husband of 58 years – my dad – in April followed in December by her son – my older brother – I swooped in to protect her, a behavior she resisted.
From I Will Never Forget:

Gradually I took on a more protective role. Apparently I revved up a little too high and into hover mode, as sometimes she told me I was “bossy” and needed to back off.

Depending on the specifics of your situation, consider the strategies below. The first set is intended for the adult offspring of aging parents. The second list is for the senior parents.
Tips For Helping Your Parent
Most parents resist intervention from their adult children. I had to tread carefully to balance the respect my mother deserved with the supervision she needed.
What worked best for me was to identify her specific needs and “offer” to help.
From I Will Never Forget:

I noticed Mom’s sweater was uncharacteristically dirty. As I scratched my finger over the discolored streak, I realized something brownish was sloughing off in my hand—chocolate.

“Mom,” I said gently, “this is a little dirty. Maybe I can wash it for you?”

“Sure. You can do my laundry anytime,” she answered. Steadily I took over her car keys, finances and more.

When her Alzheimer’s advanced creating serious safety concerns, mom had to be moved into an assisted living facility! The only technique that worked during those tumultuous months was continuing to remind her that I loved her and that I was doing “what was best for her.”
If you’re an adult child, tying to keep your parents safe without stepping all over their autonomy, consider these suggestions:

  • Validate. Tell your parents you understand and appreciate that they don’t want to overburden you with their care.
  • Be Honest. Is your help genuine? Do your parents really need physical assistance? Are you letting them do the things they can and want to do for themselves?
  • Identify. Offer a few areas where you can help and have your parents select one or two (e.g., drive them to appointments, do their laundry, or do the shopping either for them or with them).
  • Delegate. If distance and/or time doesn’t logistically allow for you to help in these direct ways, then hire a house cleaner for them, someone to shovel snow or a professional caregiver to assist them with daily activities.
Tips For Letting Your Adult Children Help
Conversely, adult children may start to make decisions for their parents possibly to the point of interfering. My mother felt I was being “bossy” and resisted.

  • Validate. Tell your children you know they want to help.
  • Be Honest. Acknowledge that there are some things you really can’t do safely anymore (e.g., changing chandelier light bulbs, shoveling snow, climbing or descending the stairs).
  • Identify. Offer some areas in which your children can help you. These can be activities that you honestly need help with or simply dislike doing (e.g., driving over 20 miles or handling insurance issues).
  • Delegate. If you have a child that doesn’t live close enough to take over a physical chore, he or she can help in other ways. Let him or her handle the finances long distance or pay for a housekeeper or caregiver.
Health issues and family dynamics are too complex and varied for one-size fits all solutions. The point is to be honest, genuine and to discuss the options.
If you’re the aging senior, you legitimately need help with some things. If you’re the adult child, help out but don’t take over.
Elaine C. Pereira, MA, OTR/L, CDC, CDP, national speaker and award-winning author of the memoir, I Will Never Forget: A Daughter’s Story of Her Mother’s Arduous and Humorous Journey Through Dementia, on Home Care Assistance’s sister site, Elaine’s memoir chronicles her journey of caring for her mother who had Alzheimer’s; the heartwarming, honest and deeply moving story will speak to anyone who has a loved one with dementia.
By: Home Care Assistance 1/26/15
By |January 28th, 2015|Articles|Comments Off on Providing Thoughtful Care: Tips for Seniors and Their Adult Children

Depression, Anxiety Can Precede Memory Loss in Alzheimer’s, Study Finds

Depression, sleep problems and behavioral changes can show up before signs of memory loss in people who go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.

“I wouldn’t worry at this point if you’re feeling anxious, depressed or tired that you have underlying Alzheimer’s, because in most cases it has nothing to do with an underlying Alzheimer’s process,” said study author Catherine Roe, an assistant professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

 “We’re just trying to get a better idea of what Alzheimer’s looks like before people are even diagnosed with dementia,” Roe added. “We’re becoming more interested in symptoms occurring with Alzheimer’s, but not what people typically think of.”
Tracking more than 2,400 middle-aged people for up to seven years, the researchers found that those who developed dementia were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression sooner than those without dementia.

Other behavior and mood symptoms such as apathy, anxiety, appetite changes and irritability also arrived sooner in participants who went on to cope with typical dementia symptoms, according to the research, published online Jan. 14 in the journal Neurology.

More than 5 million Americans are currently affected by Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive, fatal illness causing not just memory loss but changes in personality, reasoning and judgment. About 500,000 people die each year from the incurable condition, which accounts for most cases of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Roe and her team examined data from participants aged 50 and older who had no memory or thinking problems at their first visit to one of 34 Alzheimer’s disease centers around the United States.

Over a period of up to seven years, about half remained cognitively normal, while the other half developed memory loss or thinking problems indicative of dementia.

Among the other findings, 30 percent of those who went on to develop dementia had depression after four years in the study, compared to 15 percent of participants who didn’t have dementia.

Roe noted that research hasn’t yet determined whether depression or other mood and behavioral changes result from the same underlying changes in the brain contributing to Alzheimer’s disease, or as a psychological response to dealing with the condition. And while the study showed an association between behavioral changes and Alzheimer’s risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.

Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association, praised the study, saying it offers a “fuller view of what might be happening with people who are developing dementia and people who are not.

“What people need to know about Alzheimer’s is that it’s not just problems with thinking and memory,” he said. “It’s a universally fatal brain disease where you lose the cells in your brain over time and that manifests in many different ways. One way is through dementia, but it can manifest in other ways such as depression, anxiety or trouble sleeping.”

Fargo urged anyone who’s noticing significant behavioral or mood changes in themselves or a loved one to speak to a physician.

“Don’t try to tough it out and don’t try to wait for it to go away,” he said. “Those things are probably manageable through either lifestyle measures or medication, or they may be indicative of something larger going on such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.”

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 14, 2015 (HealthDay News)

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging offers more on Alzheimer’s disease.

Copyright © 2015 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


By |January 22nd, 2015|Articles|Comments Off on Depression, Anxiety Can Precede Memory Loss in Alzheimer’s, Study Finds

Arts and Crafts Projects Thought to Improve Brain Health

Recent research has shown a link between mental well-being and creative activities. They are finding that crafting projects, such as creating complex knitting patterns, may have the same benefits to the mind as cognitive activities, like crossword puzzles. They are also beginning to notice mental health benefits since the calm associated with painting or sculpting is similar to the relaxation one feels when they meditate. Arts and crafts may help protect the brain against aging-related cognitive decline, while also promoting happiness and stress reduction.
Have you ever been so involved in painting a piece of art, or knitting an elaborate pattern, that you don’t notice your thoughts or what was going on around you? This unadulterated focus is called “flow” by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and he describes this state as one of the purest forms of happiness and key to mental health. Csikszentmihalyi states that the human nervous system processes a limited amount of information at a given time. When in “flow”, the body does not have enough processing power to think about physical feelings, such as hunger, or negative emotions. Similar to meditation, flow can alleviate stress by calming anxious thoughts or feelings of agitation.
Crafting leads to the stress-reducing state of “flow” but also has anti-depressant potential since it can stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain’s reward center, giving feelings of pleasure. The British Journal of Occupational Therapy surveyed over 3,500 knitters and 81% of respondents with depression reported feeling happy after knitting, while 50% were very happy. This sense of joy and accomplishment continues further when the finished craft is given as a gift or put on display and admired by others.
In addition to making people happier, arts and crafts could have cognitive health benefits. Crafting can be an intellectually stimulating activity and is unique in that it involves many areas of the brain. For instance, creating a complex quilting pattern would work areas of the brain involved with attention span, creativity, visual-spatial processing and problem solving. The Journal of Neuropsychiatry published a study in 2011 stating that playing games, reading books, and crafting could potentially reduce the chances of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30-50%.
Although further research is needed, crafting is a great non-pharmaceutical way to alleviate anxiety, depression and stress while promoting brain health. To learn about other lifestyle factors that influence brain health, read Home Care Assistance’s latest book in its senior wellness series, The Brain Boost: A Practical Guide to Brain Health.

By |January 5th, 2015|Articles, View All|Comments Off on Arts and Crafts Projects Thought to Improve Brain Health
%d bloggers like this: