I was watching 60 Minutes last Sunday evening, and a segment of the program featured six seniors over the age of 90, who had been participating in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and performed by researchers at the University of California – Irvine, for more than six years.
The special seniors who participated in the study called “90+,” all had active lifestyles, and each was proactively providing information to the team of researchers every six months, as scientists sought to discover insight into the lifestyles of men and women over age 90, as well as the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in aging brains.
It was quite enlightening to learn about new findings in dementia research, thanks to the elderly subjects being studied. One gentleman had been diagnosed with dementia. Another man had been a gunner in World War II, while a second WWII veteran enjoyed driving his convertible. Two participants were ballroom dancers, and another woman had been a speed walker at age 95.
Over the six years, the study focus shifted from insight into the elders’ lifestyles, to memory and dementia. During the six years, two of the male participants died, including one of the ballroom dancers, and each donated their brain to a team of pathologists at Stanford University for examination and a scientific review of data.
The team discovered that the male ballroom dancer’s brain had lots of amyloid plaques and tau tangles that are signs of Alzheimer’s, but they also identified lots of TDP-43, a protein previously identified in ALS patients. The cognition of the man, who had died of cancer at age 100, was impressive, considering the pathology in the findings. He demonstrated what the scientists referred to as resilience.
Resilience to Alzheimer’s may be a genetic trait, and there may be other factors in combination with genetics that prevent symptoms of cognitive decline from emerging.
Ironically, the brain pathology of the gentleman with the dementia diagnosis, who demonstrated significant cognitive decline, presented with no plaque or tangles, but lots of TDP-43.
Now, I am no scientist, but the neurologist featured told Lesley Stahl that it was a breakthrough to learn that not all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s, were a death sentence or were destined to become debilitating situations for seniors.
I hope beyond hope that these studies are the beginning of breakthroughs that will lead to treatments, therapeutics, and maybe someday, a cure to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As of now, there are only medications that can slow the progression, but there are no cures.
President Ronald Reagan proclaimed November National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in 1983, and it is important we continue to bring awareness to this and all forms of dementia. It is also crucial we recognize and support family and in-home caregivers who provide necessary assistance to those suffering the negative impacts of these mind-robbing brain diseases.
“Caregivers provide 24-hour care, in most circumstances. As the disease progresses, the stress becomes overwhelming,” says Jeff Hoyt, Editor-in-Chief at SeniorLiving.org.
Respite care for family caregivers is one service we provide at Home Helpers. With more than five million cases of Alzheimer’s in the United States, respite care is a viable answer for overwhelmed and exhausted caregivers.
Caregivers for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia keep their patient’s daily routine intact to avoid confusion. Highly-skilled and trained caregivers know how important it is to keep things as simple as possible, with no overstimulation.
Moreover, our caregivers always try to help those in their charge to feel safe and comfortable, and they never yell or argue with them, but use calming tones to prevent them from becoming frustrated or uncomfortable.
If you are a family or private in-home caregiver to a special senior someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, and you could benefit from respite care, please consider hiring a professional caregiver during the holidays, or any time you need a break. I am happy to schedule a FREE consultation to assess specific needs and concerns, and I can recommend the perfect caregiver to help.
We, at Home Helpers® Clearwater, are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award for 2017, 2018, 2019 & 2020. We proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Home Helpers®…we are Making Life Easier℠
60 Minutes – CBS News
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