Study: Good Night’s Sleep Cleans Out Gunk In Brain

When we sleep, our brains get rid of gunk that builds up while we’re awake, suggests a study that may provide new clues to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other disorders.

This cleaning was detected in the brains of sleeping mice, but scientists said there’s reason to think it happens in people too.

If so, the finding may mean that for people with dementia and other mind disorders, “sleep would perhaps be even more important in slowing the progression of further damage,” Dr. Clete Kushida, medical director of the Stanford Sleep Medicine Center, said in an email. More.

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Breakthrough in Eldercare – How to Better Communicate With Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the debilitating, progressive disease that captures and destroys the part of the brain that governs word finding/understanding and speech.

One often overlooked aspect is that AD does not destroy the patient’s ability to derive pleasure and warmth through his or her five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing.

Since verbal communication can be one of the most frustrating parts of caring for a loved one with AD, many caretakers simply surrender to years of constant battling and exasperating erratic conversations.

Judie Rappaport believes there is a better way. She has developed techniques to help AD caregivers appeal to all senses of the AD loved one. Read more of this post

Dementia Redux

A few months ago I wrote about my father’s experience in the nursing home where he lives, commenting on the difficulty of implementing  the “culture change movement” that is supposed to promote quality of life for residents. Many readers responded that they, too, had been disappointed with attempts by nursing homes to improve care for people with dementia. Since then, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for studies that examine what approaches to nursing home care actually make a difference for residents.

This month I found a an article in a major geriatrics journal that asked a related question: what characteristics of residential facilities are associated with better health outcomes and better psychosocial outcomes for residents with dementia? The authors looked at organizational characteristics (for-profit vs non-profit, urban vs rural, special care units vs no special care units, nursing homes vs assisted living, culture change vs conventional), structures of care (staffing level, proportion of private rooms, staff expertise), and processes of care (activity programs, family involvement, resident-centered care). What was shocking about this report is that although the investigators reviewed 6209 articles written between 1990 and 2012, they only found 14 that met even the rudimentary scientific standards needed to be included in their analysis (for example, a study had to have enough cases to allow the authors to draw meaningful conclusions and it needed to compare two different strategies used in otherwise similar facilities so the investigators could figure out if one strategy was better than the other).”  More.

The Faces of Alzheimer’s

The prevailing view of people with Alzheimer’s is often a depressing one: the patient slumped in a chair or parked in front of a television set. But a new book and photo exhibition this month in New York show another side of the disease, one in which people with dementia can still be engaged, lead active lives and experience love and joy.

The book, “Love, Loss and Laughter: Seeing Alzheimer’s Differently,” was written by Cathy Greenblat, a professor emerita of sociology at Rutgers University who found a second career as a photographer. The exhibition has toured the world and is currently on display at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University in Manhattan.

“I wanted to show what many people don’t know about Alzheimer’s,” Ms. Greenblat said, “that there are ways we can take care of people that build on their remaining capacities instead of just protecting them from danger.”

In one of the many vivid photographs in her book, Ms. Greenblat shows an elderly Houston woman named Luleene, a former musician who played the organ, sang and loved animals, with her husband, Joe. To help her feel connected to her past, the hospice that assists her includes sessions with a music therapist in her weekly program as well as visits with pets.  More.