April 22, 2018
Health & Fitness
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Alzheimer’s: The Cold Hard Truth

Vicky Henderson
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February 8, 2017

These are the dreaded words many of us fear: dementia, Alzheimer’s, senile, memory loss, forgetfulness. However you want to word it, say it, define it, deny it, ignore it or repel it, we certainly don’t want to hear from our trusted health care physician or specialist that our loved one has it. Somehow, we must overcome denial and open our minds to this dreaded disease. With proper planning, education and resources, the road to aging and memory loss might be paved at least a bit smoother.

Personally, I am a victim of this disease. I didn’t have it; my grandmother did. Due to my patience and understanding with her, I was awarded the position of primary caregiver. Primary, that is, after my grandfather. So in other words, he was the primary caregiver. I guess, technically, I was secondary. Somehow, while overcoming his decisions, intervening diplomatically and being concerned about my grandmother’s health and wellbeing, I managed to keep her safe and comfortable until my grandfather moved her to live in another state with family.

I know firsthand the effects of this dreaded disease. I know how it affects family. I know how it affects the patient and I know, most importantly, how it affects caregivers. I know berating them for forgetfulness doesn’t work. I know they can relive the death of a loved one if constantly reminded that the loved one died. I know they can look deep in your eyes and know you loved them.

Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging; it is a common form of dementia. It cannot be cured. It requires a medical diagnosis, and it is chronic and can last for years. It interferes with daily life. Memory is impaired, communication and language become difficult, reasoning and judgment are seriously affected and visual perceptions can be confused. Early detection is key.

There is no one test to determine whether someone has dementia. Doctors review medical history, provide an examination and order lab tests, but the key piece is what the individual, the caregivers or the family can report. With careful evaluation, a diagnosis can be made.

It is believed that cardiovascular problems can damage brain cells, which in turn could lead to dementia or increase the risk of getting dementia. Physical exercise reportedly provides a decreased risk because it increases blood flow and oxygen. And as I have seen in certain cancers, diet has reportedly the greatest impact on reducing risk. As is the case with many cancers, a diet of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, shellfish, nuts and healthy oils helps the brain. But does that explain why my other surviving grandparents had biscuits, gravy and sausage nearly every day, never exercised, and lived into their late 80s?

I certainly want to hear from you to assist my forward thinking. As we all try to wrap our heads around what the future holds for those with memory impairment and the caregivers, I welcome any calls, emails or comments. Each month, I hear from readers and they are talking about Alzheimer’s more often. For more information, contact Vicky Henderson of HealthCare Solutions at 443-926-2376 or vickyh1158@yahoo.com.

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