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Understanding Alzheimer's: Caring for Loved Ones



Alzheimer's is a progressive brain disorder that impacts millions of people worldwide, particularly the elderly. According to the Alzheimer's Association, approximately 10% of people aged 65 and older have Alzheimer's dementia. Additionally, early-onset Alzheimer's can occur in people as young as their 40s or 50s, though it's less common. As age increases, so does the risk, with nearly one-third of individuals over 85 living with this condition. With this fact in mind, we should know how we can prevent its progress, its signs, and how we can take care of our families who have already been affected by it.

Prevention

There are various factors and causes that can put you at risk for alzheimer's. Such as poor diet, substance abuse, lack of physical activity, social isolation, depression and stress, lack of mentally stimulating activities, and sleep disturbances. With this in mind, one should note the preventative measures for this condition to avoid or reduce the risk of having alzheimer's. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent Alzheimer's, certain lifestyle choices may reduce the risk including: Good quality of sleep

Aim for 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night. Good quality of sleep aids in clearing harmful brain toxins, including Alzheimer's-related beta-amyloid plaques. Moreover, sleep supports brain cell repair and connections, enhances memory consolidation and learning, and reduces inflammation and oxidative stress linked to Alzheimer's.



Regular exercise

Exercise is important in Alzheimer's prevention as it improves blood flow, supporting healthy brain tissue, increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) for better cognitive function, helps control blood sugar levels, and exercise lowers stress, potentially reducing Alzheimer's risk.



Healthy diet

A balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and Omega-3 fatty acids can lower inflammation, a factor linked to Alzheimer's risk. Additionally, heart-healthy diets, like the Mediterranean diet, may reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Having a healthy diet helps regulate blood sugar levels that can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is associated with higher Alzheimer's risk, and nutrient-rich foods supply antioxidants that protect brain cells from damage.



Mental stimulation

Engaging in mentally stimulating activities, such as puzzles and reading. This can build cognitive reserve, potentially delaying Alzheimer's onset.



Social engagement

Social activities build cognitive reserve and stimulates cognitive functions. Social engagement also reduces feelings of loneliness and depression, which are factors linked to higher Alzheimer's risk.



Recognizing the signs

For those of our loved ones who are already at the senior age or those showing cognitive decline, early detection of Alzheimer's is crucial for better management and quality of life. Common signs include:

Memory Loss: Forgetting recently learned information.

Difficulty with Familiar Tasks: Struggling to complete everyday tasks.

Language Problems: Finding it hard to follow or join a conversation.

Mood and Personality Changes: Becoming confused, suspicious, or anxious.

Disorientation: Getting lost in familiar places.


If you or a loved one experience these symptoms, consult a healthcare professional for an evaluation. You may also access this link for the directory of clinics you can seek help from.


Interventions

Although Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disease, people with Alzheimer's can still benefit from a variety of interventions and strategies to slow down its progress, enhance their quality of life, and manage their symptoms. Below are some interventions:

Routine and living space planning:

Creating a structured and predictable daily routine can help reduce confusion and anxiety. Routine can include meal times, medication administration, and activities. Use of clear signage and labels can also help the person navigate their surroundings. Label drawers, doors, and commonly used items. Additionally, maximizing natural light can help regulate sleep-wake cycles. Ensure that there is adequate lighting in hallways, bathrooms, and other areas. You may also consider using assistive devices such as grab bars, non-slip mats, and adaptive utensils to support independence. The use of contrasting tableware can also help to aid visual recognition.



Safety measures

Implement safety measures to prevent accidents and wandering, such as securing doors and installing alarms. Also ensure that the environment is free from hazards, including sharp objects and clutter. Including technology such as GPS trackers or home monitoring systems to enhance safety and security can also be an advantage.



Cognitive exercises

Engage in activities that stimulate cognitive functions, such as puzzles, games, and memory exercises. This also fosters the growth of new neural connections, and regular mental activity supports memory, problem-solving, and overall cognitive function, reducing the risk of cognitive decline.



Expressive arts therapy

Expressive arts therapy, which includes visual arts, music, dance, and drama, allows individuals to express emotions, thoughts, and memories when verbal communication becomes challenging. Engaging in creative tasks can stimulate cognitive function and provide opportunities for problem-solving and decision-making. Moreover, group-based expressive arts therapy sessions encourage social interaction, reduce isolation, and provide opportunities for individuals to connect with peers and caregivers. This can also strengthen the bond between individuals with Alzheimer's and their caregivers or family members through shared creative experiences.


Neurofeedback therapy

While neurofeedback may not halt the progression of Alzheimer's, it may help manage certain symptoms, such as cognitive decline and behavioral issues. It can also help strengthen the connections between different brain regions, potentially improving overall brain function. Furthermore, repeated neurofeedback sessions may enhance an individual's brain neuroplasticity., which is the brain's ability to adapt and reorganize itself. This may be beneficial for maintaining cognitive function in Alzheimer's. Individual responses to neurofeedback can vary, and it should be considered as part of a comprehensive treatment plan in consultation with healthcare professionals.



While there's no guaranteed way to prevent Alzheimer's, lifestyle choices play a significant role. No single approach fits all in this journey. It's a tapestry of understanding, support, and innovative therapies that weaves together to enhance the lives of those touched by this challenging condition. If you or a loved one experience signs of Alzheimer's, don't hesitate to seek help. Early detection is vital for better management. You can reach out to our clinic to explore how expressive arts therapy and neurofeedback therapy can make a positive difference in your life or the life of someone you care for. We're here to support you on this journey.

For inquiries, call us at 0945 527 8090 / 0919 896 5491 or email us at magis.mindworks@gmail.com.



References:


Alzheimer's Association. (n.d.). Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures

Alzheimer's Society. (2021). Risk factors and prevention. https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/about-dementia/risk-factors-and-prevention


Alzheimer's Association. (2021). Alzheimer's & Dementia Risk Factors. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/risk_factors


National Institute on Aging. (2020). Alzheimer's Disease & Related Dementias. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/alzheimers


Alzheimer's Association. (n.d.). 10 Ways to Love Your Brain. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/research_progress/prevention

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