Wednesday, August 15, 2018

What does it feel like to have Alzheimer's? Virtual reality programs may help you find out

What an interesting article. I am happy to read about programs that are helping those who to not have Alzheimer's, begin to understand this journey of those who do have this awful disease. 

Chicago Tribune

After experiencing the world as a woman with Alzheimer’s disease, Ana Lebron took off her virtual reality headset and began to cry.
She couldn’t pinpoint which part of the experience left her in tears. After all, she works with Alzheimer’s patients every day as an activities coordinator at assisted living facility Hartwell Place in Andersonville.
But when she put on that headset and tried to navigate a virtual grocery store, the lights were overpowering, and the food labels were fuzzy. When people spoke to her, their words were distorted. Her virtual family members shot her frustrated glances before they understood why she kept forgetting holidays, faces and how to cook.
“This brings it home even more,” Lebron, said of the experience.
With 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, care facilities and schools are continuously searching for ways to better train caregivers. In recent years, some schools and facilities have turned to a new approach: virtual reality. By putting on a headset, caregivers and others can experience life through the eyes and ears of an individual with Alzheimer’s, even hearing that person’s thoughts.
Leaders of Chicago Methodist Senior Services, which includes Hartwell Place, hope to train all their workers with a program from Los Angeles-based Embodied Labs.
The program includes several different characters going through various scenarios.
On a recent day, new Hartwell employees took turns sitting before a laptop and donning the headsets to experience life as Beatriz, a fictional math teacher in her 60s advancing through the stages of Alzheimer’s. By wearing the headsets, the workers could look around Beatriz’s world, hear sounds as she would and hear Beatriz’s thoughts. They could even move Beatriz’s hands by moving their own, thanks to a camera on the headset.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, Beatriz sat at a park with her grown daughter but grew paranoid when she thought her daughter had taken her purse. In a middle stage of the disease, she sat in her living room, but a roar filled the air and the shadow of a man jerked violently against the wall. She cried out for help. The roar turned out to be the noise from a fan, and the menacing shadow disappeared once her daughter opened the windows, letting light fill the room.
“You are there and you are observing this and you have a deep sense of feeling of what’s happening,” said Dr. Neelum Aggarwal of the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Aggarwal worked with Embodied Labs, as an advisor, to develop Beatriz and the scenarios she goes through. “We know when there’s an emotional connection to something, that whole experience is enhanced and virtual reality seems to be able to do this.”
Rush is now piloting the Embodied Labs program with 60 Rush medical, pharmacy and nursing students, Aggarwal said. Students’ levels of empathy and bias, and beliefs about aging will be measured before and after participating in the virtual reality modules, and they’ll discuss their impressions together.
Aagarwal, however, said the program could also potentially help family caregivers.

“Caregivers of people with dementia often ask me, ‘What is she feeling? I don’t know what it’s like,’” Aggarwal said. “My hope is we not only focus on providers and students that will become future physicians but let’s also use this with the caregivers to help them.”
Chicago Methodist also offers the program to patients’ family members, said CEO Bill Lowe, whose own mother lives at Hartwell.
Embodied Labs CEO Carrie Shaw developed the prototype of the program as a graduate student at the University of Illinois Chicago in 2015 and 2016, inspired by her mother who had early onset Alzheimer’s. She said the program has trained more than 2,000 caregivers across 50 organizations in 14 states and four countries. The company charges about $2,000 for the headset and other equipment and a monthly subscription fee of about $250 to $600 for the virtual reality experiences, depending on the size of the organization.
Other organizations are also working to help caregivers experience – and not just learn about – their Alzheimer’s patients’ conditions.
Georgia-based nonprofit Second Wind Dreams created a “virtual dementia tour” in 2001, in which participants wear special glasses, gloves and headphones, among other things, to simulate the experience of having dementia. Northwestern Medicine’s Mesulam Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center has had a “Buddy Program” since 1997, a program that pairs medical students with people with early-stage dementia.
And Dementia Australia, like Embodied Labs, offers a virtual reality program that lets users step into the world of a person with dementia.
Such virtual reality programs are yet one more way to help caregivers better understand their patients, said Beth Kallmyer, Alzheimer’s Association vice president for care and support. She said there’s a real need for additional training for caregivers for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“It is a very, very stressful situation for the caregiver, psychologically, emotionally, financially, physically,” Kallmyer said. “What we know is when caregivers are prepared in advance for what’s going to occur they’re going to be better able to handle it.”
Lebron, the activities coordinator at Hartwell, said she’s not sure if the virtual reality experience will make her do her job any differently. She said she’s always tried to approach patients with empathy and cheer -- though the experience was still eye-opening.
But Ann Brennan, director of volunteer services for Chicago Methodist, said she had a better understanding, after the virtual reality program, of why patients sometimes become aggressive, angry or isolated.
“We’ve read, we’ve had classroom studies, we observe, but to actually immerse yourself in it and be that person has been remarkable,” Brennan said. “When you see people take off that oculus, oftentimes there’s a big sigh like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m so glad I can step out of Beatriz’s shoes.’”

Thursday, May 24, 2018

This Is the Difference Between Dementia and Alzheimer’s

People often think that Dementia and Alzheimer's are the same. I recently ran across an article that provides some helpful information to help define the difference between Dementia and Alzheimer's.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018

4 Factors Associated With Dementia Risk: Study

Modifiable risk factors can be addressed through the means of early intervention to reduce chances of developing dementia during old age.
By studying data from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), researchers from Boston University School of Medicine identified combinations of factors that were linked to an increased risk of dementia in older age.
The findings were published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease on May 8. The researchers stated they wanted to focus on modifiable risk factors which could help people plan the right interventions to effectively reduce their chances of developing the disease. 
"We wanted to identify information that any physician or even non-physician has easy access to in determining potential increased future risk for dementia," said corresponding author Dr. Rhoda Au, professor of anatomy and neurobiology. Here are four of the life-related risk factors:
1. Age
Age is considered the most significant risk factors for this disease which rarely affects those under the age of 60. According to estimations by the Alzheimer's Association, one in three senior Americans dies with some form of dementia.
On a related note, a 2018 study from the Yale School of Public Health found that attitudes toward aging may also play an important role. After analyzing a cohort of 4,765 older Americans, the research found that those with positive age beliefs were 49.8 percent less likely to develop dementia than those with negative age beliefs. 
2. BMI
Conflicting results have emerged from studies that examined body mass index (BMI) as a possible risk factor for dementia. While some suggest that lower BMI is the culprit, others have rejected this and found that a high BMI is what seems to be linked to an increased risk.
A 2017 review concluded that a majority of literature has provided evidence that obesity in mid-life was linked to a higher risk of dementia, while the association of the disease with being underweight remained inconsistent at best. It has been noted that excess body weight in mid-life could contribute to neurodegenerative damage, which may increase the chances of dementia.
"While there are currently no sure-fire ways to prevent dementia, current best evidence suggests that maintaining a healthy weight is a key way to keep our brains healthy," said Dr. Rosa Sancho, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK.
3. Marital status
The new study also found that the marital status of "widowed" was strongly associated with dementia. Previously, research has provided similar findings on older adults who are single or have lost a spouse.  
Andrew Sommerlad, a psychiatrist at the University College London in England, stated that the lower risk was not a direct effect of wearing a wedding ring. He referred to something known as "a possible protective effect" linked to various lifestyle factors that may accompany marriage, such as lower chances of loneliness, a generally healthier lifestyle, having more social stimulation, etc.
4. Sleep
Those who experienced less sleep at mid-life may also be more likely to develop dementia. A study from 2017 found that people took longer than 90 minutes to enter REM (the fifth stage of sleep) were at high risk for developing dementia.
Though it is known that poor sleep can contribute to cognitive decline, the mechanisms underlying this association have not been firmly established. What is clear is that treating sleep disorders, establishing a routine, and learning to prioritize good quality of sleep is highly recommended earlier in life to avoid short-term and long-term health problems.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

One Reno veteran may have Alzheimer's, but this Christmas is one he will never forget

What a touching story. I am so proud of my community! Home means
BY: Sanaz Tahernia

RENO, Nev. (News 4 & Fox 11) -- Dean Miller is a World War II veteran who suffers from Alzheimer's, and his condition has worsened since he lost his wife a few weeks ago to Stage 4 terminal cancer. Knowing she was going to pass, Jerelyn's grandson Jerry Pryde flew to Reno from Los Angeles to take care of his grandmother, and one of her last wishes was that Jerry stay in Reno to take care of Dean for the rest of his life.
Jerry said that because Jerelyn just passed, he figured Dean wouldn't celebrate Christmas this year, but that didn't stop him from nominating Dean for Signature Landscapes' Decorated Family Program. The local Reno landscaping company chooses a number of military families in Northern Nevada in order to decorate their homes for the holidays for free. Company owner, Justin Trimble believes it's a way for the company to give back to veterans who bravely sacrifice their lives for the safety and freedom of Americans.
When Dean found out his home was selected to be decorated, he said that the decorations are allowing him to get into the holiday spirit in a difficult time.

Friday, November 17, 2017

November is National Alzheimer's Awareness Month!

Alzheimer's Association. Go Purple with a Purpose for Alzheimer's Disease Awareness and Caregivers Month. President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month in 1983.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Thank You Bill GATES!

Contact: Kate Meyer, 312-604-2435, Alzheimer’s Association media line, 312-335-4078 The Alzheimer’s Association Welcomes Bill Gates to the Trenches to Dig Deep into Alzheimer’s Disease CHICAGO, November 13, 2017 — Today Bill Gates announced his commitment to the Alzheimer’s cause. The Alzheimer’s Association welcomes him and applauds his efforts to seek an end to Alzheimer's, which he details in the piece titled “Why I’m Digging Deep into Alzheimer’s.” As he notes, more people are living longer than ever before and discoveries in science mean that less people die young from heart disease, cancer and infectious disease, allowing for longer lives. However, along with increased age comes a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s, a disease that is not normal aging and is ultimately fatal. Gates acknowledges that in addition to the staggering economic costs, emotional costs also run very high for families affected by this devastating disease. Sharing personal insight into his own family experience is brave and advances the public conversation about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Those who have experienced this disease firsthand, like Gates, know the enormous impact it has on individuals and families creating, as he says, a ripple effect that is unmatched by other health conditions. Data reported annually in the Alzheimer’s Association Fact and Figures report illustrate the impact: More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and they are cared for by over 15 million family caregivers. In addition, dementia creates a staggering financial burden. Those who have dementia spend five times more annually on outof-pocket health expenses than those who don’t have Alzheimer’s, and the disease accounts for direct American health care costs of $259 billion in 2017, with projected growth to $1.1 trillion in 2050. Gates has invested a great deal of time to better understand the full scope of the disease and how he can play a significant role in accelerating progress. The Alzheimer’s Association commends Bill Gates for digging in and joining the cause. In his letter, Gates describes how he will address this issue using a multidimensional approach. This is crucial. We are learning how the brain changes throughout life and are beginning to identify those abnormal changes early, even before symptoms occur. We also know that given the complexity of the brain, that multiple approaches to combating Alzheimer’s, including lifestyle and drug interventions, are necessary to slow and ultimately stop the disease. This will require more public and private funding, more clinical trial participants and more data sharing to push progress forward faster. The Alzheimer’s Association believes strongly in addressing Alzheimer’s through a multidimensional approach, so we’re leading initiatives, convening and collaborating through scientific projects including: 1. Data sharing through through the Global Alzheimer’s Association Interactive Network (GAAIN) 2. Clinical trials examining the impact of lifestyle interventions through the U.S. Study to Protect Brain Health Through Lifestyle Intervention to Reduce Risk (U.S. POINTER) and 3. Large-scale early detection efforts such as the World Wide Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (WW-ADNI) and Imaging Dementia — Evidence for Amyloid Scanning (IDEAS) study. While these are just a few examples of the Association’s efforts to accelerate progress, the Alzheimer’s cause still needs much more. To that end, the Association is leading the way to increase the nation’s federal commitment to Alzheimer’s disease research. As a result, in the last five years, Alzheimer's research funding at the National Institutes of Health has nearly tripled — and yet, this amount is still not sufficient to create the progress needed to achieve the bipartisan, federal commitment to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025. Nonetheless, thanks to all of the contributions of all of the dedicated people working to defeat Alzheimer’s, the Alzheimer’s Association is confident that together we will succeed. Having Bill Gates declare his dedication to making an impact on accelerating progress is great for the cause. We extend our deep thanks to Bill Gates for his commitment to moving the Alzheimer's cause forward even faster, and extend our open arms in working together to achieve a world without Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s Association The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. It is the largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research. The Association’s mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Its vision is a world without Alzheimer’s. Visit or call 800-272-3900

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Miss America Contestant Victoria Huggins Advocate for Alzheimer's Awareness

Congrats to Miss North Carolina for bring awareness to Alzheimer's! Great job!! I am so thrilled to see more pageant sister queens share their reasons why they advocate for Alzheimer's.
"The Moment Miss America Contestant Victoria Huggins Knew She Wanted to Advocate for Alzheimer's Awareness: 'It Was Like a Scene Out of The Notebook"
Victoria Huggins returned to the pageant circuit at 17, but she’s been advocating for Alzheimer’s awareness and music therapy since she was 7 years old.
Huggins, the reigning Miss North Carolina, sang for her great-grandmother during visits to the nursing home where she received extended care. After a while, other residents wanted to hear her voice, so Huggins performed in the lobby, where she encountered Alzheimer’s patients for the first time.
“Sometimes the music would help connect them to memories they had been unable to remember due to Alzheimer’s,” Huggins, 23, tells PEOPLE. “To see how something that I love so much, music, was able to bring so much joy and comfort not only to the person dealing with the disease, but also their families, that showed me that that was something I wanted to get involved in.”
Huggins — who entered her first pageant when she was 5 years old — remembers one song in particular that resonated with a patient she visited in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
“There was a lady named Miss Rosie, and she had not been able to remember her husband for the past six months,” the University of North Carolina at Pembroke alumna recalls. “I started singing ‘At Last,’ and she reached her hand from the wheelchair to her husband’s beside her and said, ‘Honey, that’s our song.’ She started singing along to the lyrics and told all of her caregivers that that was her first dance at their wedding. He just looked at her like he had seen the sun for the first time. It was like a scene out of The Notebook.”
Life changing moments like that led Huggins to partner with the Alzheimer’s Association, for which she serves as an ambassador and partakes in the organization’s annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s. And since earning the title of Miss North Carolina in June, Huggins has started gathering iPods and loading them with personalized playlists for Alzheimer’s patients to listen to in nursing homes.
The Johns Hopkins grad student explains that the cost of music therapy makes it difficult to implement in every nursing home, but the iPods can help until legislation funding the practice passes.“That’s my ultimate goal,” Huggins says of pushing for government funding. “North Carolina is on the way to having it implemented in every facility. A lot of other states have it on a much larger scale, but it definitely needs more awareness, and I hope that’s what I can do.”