Archive for June, 2010

The American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias recently reported in an open-label pilot study that apple juice improved behavioral, but not cognitive symptoms in moderate-to-late Alzheimer’s disease patients. Although this was a very small study of only 21 institutionalized patients who drank two 4-ounce glasses of apple juice twice a day for a month, the study suggests that apple juice may be a useful nutritional supplement since, as Alzheimer’s disease (AD)  progresses, the mood of AD patients may decline as well. It may help ease the burden for caregivers.

The study said, “Caregivers reported an approximate 27% (P < .01) improvement in behavioral and psychotic symptoms associated with dementia as quantified by the Neuropsychiatric Inventory, with the largest changes in anxiety, agitation, and delusion.”

Exactly how apple juice might help remains unclear. It’s possible that the antioxidant nutrients in the apple juice reduces the oxidative damage to the brain tissue.

Since this was a very small study funded by the apple industry with no placebo, the conclusions need to be viewed with caution. However, given that apple juice is a healthy and inexpensive beverage, it would seem a positive thing for caregivers to try.

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Alzheimer’s Disease — Research

Research is one of the areas of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) of great interest to me. One of the best Web sites for this information is This Web site is part of the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR). Although the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is located in Bethesda, Maryland in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Area, there are studies going on across the country. In addition, there are research studies at all stages of Alzheimer’s. The NIH, known as The Nation’s Medical Research Agency, includes 27 institutes and centers and is a component of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research.

Through research, diagnoses of AD is becoming increasingly accurate. However, absolute certainly still requires an autopsy to define the plaques in the brain. Participation in these studies may require an autopsy where there is no charge to the family. However, if an autopsy is not acceptable to you or your loved one, then participating in research may not be something you should consider.

Participating in a research study could be very time consuming as well. It could involve commuting to the study site as well as filling out mounds of paper work. The specific drug in the drug trial may or may not work or it may work for awhile and then stop working so it’s better to keep your expectations low. Just remember to consider all aspects of  your life as a caregiver before signing up your loved one.

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Freddi Donner

Guest blogger and caregiver, Freddi Donner, shares a poignant remembrance about her mother.

My mom died around noon on December 31st, 1999. She hated New Year’s and I think she decided just to skip the hyped up transition to 2000. Her journey through Alzheimer’s was more difficult for me and my sisters than for her. Of course, she was VERY angry when we told her about her diagnosis and thought my sister and I were so cruel for telling her. As her journey progressed, I began to study the disease. Knowing the “7 stages”, or that there were stages at all, helped me understand what was happening.

We moved her to assisted living for her safety. It was not long after that date she had to be moved to the locked floor. This is when she became childlike. “I have just come back from New Orleans!”, she shares one day. “Mom, why didn’t you let me know? I would have gone with you!” She shared the events of her trip that had an uncanny agenda of a trip she took in her 20’s.

Mom taught me through her journey that imagination is more fun than reality, so let’s just play there. My roles changed as the visits continued (her mom, her sister, an aid, her daughter) but the stories got more entertaining. “I got married last week” was my favorite! She had actually “taken” to one of the male aids who worked the midnight shift. I guess they spent a LOT of time together, because that is who she “married”.  I honestly believe that my mom had more fun in the midst of the Alzheimer’s disease than she had in real life. She loved life and got to relive all her favorite memories and recreate the life she really wanted. God bless her.

Freddi Donner
Unlock your possibilities
for better health and more wealth
Co-Chair, Health and Wellness Committee
Dulles Regional Chamber


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Continuing my highlights of Alzheimer’s Care with Dignity by Frank Fuerst, in today’s post I list 6 caregiver products that Fuerst considers specifically helpful for people with dementia. You may be able to get them free or at a reduced cost. Ask your contacts such as members of your support group or see if it’s a Medicare-qualified item.

Consult his guide for a complete list, but the following are those that solved major physical and psychological challenges for him. Having gotten them sooner he feels would’ve prevented a good deal of stress.

  1. Bathroom transfer bench
  2. Geriatric chair
  3. Plastic runner
  4. Hand-held shower
  5. Stair lift
  6. Wheelchair

A bathroom transfer bench is one where two legs remain inside of the tub with suction cups and two legs are outside of the tub.  It comes with a backrest. Since the person remains seated while bathing, a hand-held shower works well. (Hand-held showers work well for cleaning the tub as well).

A geriatric chair is like a wheelchair except that it is larger and more comfortable. Get one with a tray that can swing down and out of the way.

Plastic runners will help to keep your carpet in good condition in case of accidents. They have spikes on the bottom to hold it in place. Not all plastic runners are alike even though they may look alike. Since you need to walk on the runner, a softer plastic might be more  comfortable than a stiffer one. Use them in areas where there are likely to be accidents such as from the bed to the bathroom and in eating areas.

Stair lifts are expensive, but might still be a less costly alternative to other home alterations. Fuerst suggests that you check the Internet. One source is for more information. They also sell used equipment and will buy back equipment, but don’t expect to recover much of your purchase price.

Finally, wheelchairs are available everywhere, but if you’ve never ridden in one, they are not exactly comfortable. Be sure to add a cushion, preferably a high quality gel cushion as mentioned in this post.

In my last post, I reviewed Alzheimer’s Care with Dignity by Frank Fuerst. It’s a book that I believe should be at your fingertips. In this post and others to follow, I want to highlight some of the chapters that were especially interesting and helpful. One of the most important members of your team is your doctor and in this post, I highlight how to choose a doctor for Alzheimer’s disease patients. However, Fuerst quotes the Alzheimer’s Association in the June 2006 report to Congress:

When a person under age 65 goes to a doctor with symptoms of dementia, the doctor may not even think of dementia as a possibility or may not know how to diagnose it. As a result, getting an accurate diagnosis can be a long, difficult, and frustrating process.

For Fuerst, it took almost three years and he states:

If one suspects early onset dementia, one should choose a doctor who can distinguish between depression, menopause, and dementia. A neuro-psychiatrist may be more likely to recommend tests that will give a more accurate diagnosis. The best choice for most people is a doctor whom other doctors highly recommend.

What makes an ideal doctor? A Mayo Clinic study suggests the following:

  1. Confident
  2. Empathetic
  3. Humane
  4. Personal
  5. Forthright
  6. Respectful
  7. Thorough

Are there any other traits you could recommend?

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