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May 2012 Feed

FDA approves use of dye to improve diagnostic scans for Alzheimer’s

One of the most frustrating medical realities of Alzheimer’s disease is that a definitive diagnosis can only be made after death. Even though science has progressed to a point where many doctors  feel quite sure of their diagnosis, there is still a fair chance that the diagnosis is wrong. A recent article in the Detroit Free Press about the findings of Peter Lichtenberg, Ph.D., head of Wayne State University's Institute of Gerontology, states that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is too freely given by the medical profession. Many cases of supposed Alzheimer’s disease studied turned out to be infections, drug interactions or another type of dementia.  

Now a fluorescent dye that binds to amyloid plaques typical of Alzheimer’s disease, will soon be used as a diagnostic tool. The enhanced scans can serve as a method for estimating plaque content in the brains of people exhibiting cognitive decline. 

Read more about the improvement of Alzheimer's diagnosis using enhanced PET scans:

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Getting into their world: a caregiver's story

...Hogwash, I thought. I know my dad. I know he is not capable of coming into my "reality" and I wasn't going to torture him by trying to drag him along. If I argued that he was delusional, he would feel degraded and disrespected. It made no sense to me. I still had my brain. Why couldn't I put his anxiety to rest by traveling into his world – his "reality"?

Read more about joining a loved one with dementia in his or her world:

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Communicating with people who can't speak

Many of us are coping with elders who can no longer communicate. Whether from a stroke, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's or for some other reason, they have lost their ability to talk or seemingly respond in any manner to their loved one's efforts to communicate. Caregivers want to communicate with them, but when they visit their elder and see them in this non-responsive mode, they tend to sit there uncomfortably watching the clock – putting in time, so to speak. There's a feeling, for many of, "what's the use?"

Read more about communicating with people who can't speak:

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Grandmother hides symptoms from the doctor

Dear Carol: I love my grandmother dearly, but she’s becoming increasingly forgetful and confused. She also hallucinates at night, “seeing” intruders leaving the house and birds flying to the ceiling. She’s even called the police a couple of times. When I take her to the doctor, she presents herself as doing well and denies the examples I give of her confusion and hallucinations. The doctor seems to believe her. She needs help around the house and the family is doing that, but her mental state is too much to handle. I know she can afford assisted living for quite awhile, but she says she doesn’t want to go to an “old people’s home.”  What can we do? - Katrina

Dear Katrina: It's common for people to cover up their cognitive problems during a general examination. Most people instinctively fear change. Illness generally means their lives are changing, so staying in the familiar situation, even when it’s negative, seems easier than getting the right help. 

Read more aobut helping grandmother adjust to a safe place:

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Are you having second thoughts about having your aging parent live with you?

Many people are facing the fact that their sweet intentions have taken a sour turn. Certainly, for some, the decision to cohabitate with their elders works out fine. Two or even three generations residing in the same home can work. It can work when there is plenty of space so that everyone has some degree of privacy. It can work when there is respect for one another and a place to go when one has had enough family time. It can work when there is plenty of cooperation, planning beforehand and even some respite care for the elder, should that be needed.

Read more about what to do if you have a parent live with you and regret the decision:

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When your aging parent is addicted to alcohol: how to cope

I visited every day. He told me of the horrible dreams he was having. He was shaking and obviously going through alcohol withdrawal. If the doctors had a clue, they didn't show it. Surely, it was obvious on his admitting records that he had a great deal of alcohol in his system. I tried talking to them, but was basically ignored. Was he unworthy of compassion because he had been drinking when he fell?

Read more about coping with an elderly alcoholic:

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Is Alzheimer’s disease the default diagnosis for confused elders?

Alzheimer’s organizations have worked diligently to raise public awareness of the disease. Their efforts are paying off handsomely. I’d challenge nearly anyone to find a friend or neighbor who hasn’t heard enough about Alzheimer’s disease to give some type of description of the symptoms. The downside of this awareness, however, is that even doctors can jump to possibly faulty conclusions when they see an elderly person showing signs of memory loss or significant confusion.

Read more about the frequent misdiagnosis of Alzheimer's disease:

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Helping an elder parent let go of an unsafe cluttered home

Many elders do well in their homes. They graciously accept the help they need, have cleaning people come in, and are even able to throw away the old newspapers that are piling up in the corner. They are content with adding some safety measures and feel cozy with a bit of clutter.

Read more about helping a parent let go of an unsafe home:

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Talking about end-of-life wishes with your parents

Few of us like to consider the fact that our parents will die. However they will. Nothing will change that fact. Good medical care, solid healthful habits, a pleasant social life – all of these may extend our years, but in the end, we will die.

Read more about talking to your parents about end-of-life decisions:

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When siblings disagree on parent care

 Eldercare has a way of sneaking up on people. Generally, if there is an adult child living in the same town as the aging parents, it is this child who becomes, at the first sign of need, the default caregiver. That usually makes sense. You live in town. Your folks need some help with their Medicare forms, so you stop over. They need help with the yard, so you start taking time away from your family to help out. Then its grocery shopping and then, well, you're on your way to taking on a second job.

Read more about making peace with siblings who disagree on parent care:

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