Facts About Memory Loss

by Rita Altman, RN

Each year, Alzheimer’s awareness is heightened on September 21, World Alzheimer’s Day. This dreaded disease impacts not only the person living with it, but also their loved ones. All who know the person experiencing memory loss are affected by watching the inevitable, progressive decline that accompanies it.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, every 67 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s and at least 200,000 of them have the younger-onset form. Although Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, it cannot be cured.

Based on these facts and figures, it’s natural for individuals experiencing memory loss, or their loved ones who observe the changes in mood, memory, or personality, to be tempted to deny such changes.

Countless times I’ve heard from family members who clearly recognize that their loved one is experiencing memory loss yet insist that it isn’t as “bad as it seems.” Some even advocate for them to continue to live independently in their own home, hoping that remaining in a familiar environment will help keep memory loss at bay.

But when families make the decision to get their loved one the appropriate care, they quickly discover they can breathe a sigh of relief — all because the person with memory loss is receiving the support they truly need. According to experts, such as the Mayo Clinic, early interventions may also help to slow the progression, which can give the person better opportunities to plan for the future.

Today’s reality is that we cannot wish Alzheimer’s away, and we may be taking risks with our loved ones’ health and well-being if we do not provide them with the extra level of care and supervision to help maintain their safety.

Here are some commonly held misconceptions and ways of denying that a person might have Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.

1. She’s just getting older
Aging is known to be one of the greatest risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s. One’s chances of developing the disease doubles every five years, beginning at age 65, and by the age of 85, the risk is nearly 50 percent.

Despite these sobering statistics, it’s important to note that memory loss is not an expected result for every person who is growing older. However, when some people notice that their older loved one is becoming increasingly forgetful, repeating the same story over and over again, or getting lost while driving home from the grocery store, they write these occurrences off as normal signs of aging. It is essential to encourage the person experiencing these changes to have a thorough check-up by their physician who can help to find the cause.

2. It must be a mid-life crisis
No one wants to consider that a person in his or her 40s, 50s or 60s could have a progressive form of memory loss, though it is a possibility. Frontotemporal dementia is less common than Alzheimer’s and is believed to account for 10 to 15 percent of all dementia cases, with many of these occurring in people under the age of 65. Some of the earliest symptoms are marked changes in personality and language problems.

Some other signs are impulsive, out-of-character behaviors and poor judgment. This can often be seen with regard to financial matters, such as a pattern of running up credit cards with frivolous purchases. While it can be tempting to correlate some of these actions to a mid-life crisis, it is crucial to be aware it may be a deeper issue that requires further evaluation.

3. Stress and lack of sleep must be causing my forgetfulness
Most of us have experienced a poor night’s sleep at one time or another and recall the “foggy brain” feeling that results the following day. Experts and studies tell us that getting quality sleep is important because it helps to solidify newly acquired information as well as remember newly learned information better.

On the medication front, a recent study published in the British Medical Journal suggests that the use of benzodiazepenes, often prescribed to treat anxiety and insomnia, may be linked to Alzheimer’s. Therefore, they recommend that benzodiazepines be used for a short duration of time, not to exceed three months.

People with Alzheimer’s may experience changes in their sleep patterns because of the disease’s impact on the brain, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The best way to find out if lack of sleep is associated with dementia is to get a thorough medical evaluation.

4. Everybody forgets sometimes
It’s true that aging can contribute to an occasional memory lapse, sometimes referred to as a “senior moment.” Many people have difficulty recalling someone’s name, at times. A truer sign of dementia occurs when a person doesn’t recognize a formerly well-known person, doesn’t know the day or season, or has difficulty remembering new information. These types of changes warrant further medical investigation.

5. She’s just really sad
Depression can cause changes in cognition, including decreased ability to pay attention and concentrate. These symptoms could make dementia and depression difficult to distinguish. According to the Mayo Clinic, one important difference between the two is in the effectiveness of treatment. Medications to treat depression may actually improve a person’s quality of life, whereas Alzheimer’s drugs can only slow the disease’s progression. Knowing this, the physician may decide to provide therapy to address the depression first, followed by a reassessment to determine whether there has been an improvement in memory and concentration.

The Alzheimer’s Association is a great resource and provides a full list of Alzheimer’s warning signals that may indicate a memory loss issue. Above all, know that, while noticing and experiencing these changes can be overwhelming or even scary, you and your loved one are not alone in this journey.

Here’s to hoping that World Alzheimer’s Day will bring increased awareness and help more people get the needed early detection, personalized interventions and most importantly, the care and support that they so deserve!

Follow Rita Altman, R.N. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sunrisesrliving
MORE: Caregiving Dementia Alzheimer’s Memory Loss Warning Signs World Alzheimer’s Day Caregiving


Healing Horses


A horse is the projection of peoples’ dreams about themselves–strong, powerful, beautiful–and it has the capability of giving us escape from our mundane existence. 
– Pam Brown


The most therapeutic activity for my mother when she was dying of cancer was being with her animals. They seemed to know when she needed them. A cat would jump onto the bed and softy cuddle, the dogs would lay at her feet and breathe warm air through her toes, another cat would quietly purr in the corner. I could feel the connection; there was no need for words or explanation. So when my sister brought my mother’s beloved tall black horse into her bedroom to just be with her, you can only imagine the strength of the connection, the healing and in this case letting go. I visualized him right then and there carrying her weak body along her journey with her arms wrapped lovingly around his neck. The power of healing and interconnectedness with animals is powerful to witness, as well as being well documented in the research annals.

Equine horsemanship is a growing program especially among children and young adults and now veterans suffering from PTSD. There are equine horsemanship, leadership and therapy programs. All have very specific areas of focus and expertise. The common denominator in each field is that the horse is our teacher and partner in the experience of living in the moment. The benefits of this work include a greater sense of focus, increased confidence, ability to listen, to trust, to have purpose, and to experience the interconnectedness we all have with animals, nature and each other. Although underfunded, I have found the people who work with horses in the horsemanship, leadership and therapeutic programs are exceptional human beings dedicated to doing good work with people and horses.

We are inspired to embark on an exploration of creating an equine horsemanship program for people living with dementia and their families. We are excited to develop a program that supports a group of people who understand what it means to live in the moment and who will benefit from the unconditional connection with horses. If you are interested in learning more about our program please let us know. We welcome feedback and volunteers.


Mill Valley Film Festival Looks at Aging, Death and Love

Mill Valley Film Festival

Amour looks at Growing Old, Death and Love

October 8, 2012

Summary from the Festival Site.

Directed by Michael Haneke

Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva

Cinema feeds on stories of love and death, but how often do filmmakers really offer new or challenging perspectives on either? Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’ is devastatingly original and unflinching in the way it examines the effect of love on death, and vice versa. It’s a staggering, intensely moving look at old age and life’s end, which at its heart offers two performances of incredible skill and wisdom from French veterans Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva.  The director of ‘Hidden’ and ‘The White Ribbon’ offers an intimate, brave and devastating portrait of an elderly Parisian couple, Anne (Riva) and Georges (Trintignant), facing up to a sudden turning point in their lives. Haneke erects four walls to keep out the rest of the world, containing his drama almost entirely within one apartment over a period of some weeks and months….mong so many other things, this is a film about loyalty and being true to your word right to the very end. ‘Amour’ is a devastating, highly intelligent and astonishingly performed work. It’s a masterpiece.    – TIME OUT LONDON

Aging in Place – What does that mean??

We are using the term “aging in place” in reference to living where you have lived for many years, or to living in a non-healthcare environment, and using products, services and conveniences to enable you to not have to move as circumstances change. More recently “Aging in place” is a term used in marketing by those in the rapidly evolving senior housing industry. CCRCs, (Continuing Care Retirement Communities), by definition offer the chance to age in place, but first you must move to their community to “start aging”. Multi-level campuses market “Independent Living”, “Assisted Living” and perhaps Alzheimer’s care and Skilled Nursing in one location, and claim to offer the opportunity to “age in place.” But again you must move there first. In many cases you must also move from one wing of the campus to another to receive the increased services.

Here we address issues and needs related to “aging in place”, without first relocating.

By: SeniorResource.com

Mills Peninsula – Blood Pressure & Blood Glucose Screenings

Held Every Other Month on the Second Wednesday

Blood pressure and blood glucose screenings include:

  • Blood Pressure Screening – FREE
  • Blood Glucose Screening – $2 (Exact change please)
  • 8 hour fast required
  • Take blood pressure medications and all others as scheduled
  • Delay diabetes medication until after the screening
  • Drink water before the screening
  • Bring a snack for after the screening

Please note:

  • Doors open at 9 a.m.
  • Location: 1720 El Camino Real, Suite 10, Burlingame, Across the street from Peninsula Medical Center
  • In 2012 the drop-in blood pressure, blood glucose screening will be held every other month on the second Wednesday.
  • Cholesterol screening by appointment will be offered for a fee on the alternating months on the second Wednesday.

September 19th World Arthritis Day – Programs in San Francisco

Massage Envy offers pain management as one of the core benefits of massage therapy.  Massage therapy is recognized as being helpful in relieving some of the serious pain and limited mobility issues associated with arthritis and related diseases such as fibromyalgia.  Massage Envy and the Arthritis Foundation share a common understanding of a serious problem and the opportunities for common solutions.

Massage Envy will donate ten dollars from every therapeutic massage session or facial to the Arthritis Foundation to benefit our mission to create public awareness and raise funds to fight arthritis.  For Arthritis Members, Massage Envy will offer a special promotion for this event and a coupon will appear in the upcoming newsletter.  Please visit their site to book an appointment at massageenvy.com.

We hope to see you at one of the Massage Envy’s clinics on September 19, 2012.  Together, we strive for “A world free from arthritis pain.”