Managing Alzheimer’s Disease
Aging causes changes, including brain changes. The occasional forgetfulness or misplacing objects, like your keys, is normal. However, when older adults experience increased difficulty communicating or completing everyday tasks without support services, it can be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s can be challenging. Many loved ones have concerns about how the progression affects wellness and quality of life. While memory care communities and treatments are available, is it possible to reverse Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s Disease Health Effects
Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, and the most common type of dementia. As it develops, the disease disrupts communication between neurons in the brain. Some cell loss is expected in healthy aging. But Alzheimer’s causes a widespread loss of neuron function, interrupting the brain’s ability to repair and supply energy to neurons.
The neuron loss begins in parts of the brain responsible for memory. As Alzheimer’s progresses, it damages other areas of the brain that control language, reasoning, and social behavior. Over time, the continued progression affects multiple brain functions.
Some people can live more than 20 years after receiving a diagnosis. However, it’s common for people to live only 4–8 years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Treatment for Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s is a complex disease, so treatment must be tailored to the individual. Research into the Alzheimer’s has introduced various therapies and medications in recent years. Several FDA-approved prescription drugs can help manage the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Some medications available in tablet form include:
One of the newest treatments, aducanumab (Aduhelm), was FDA-approved in 2021. It’s the first FDA-approved therapy that uniquely removes beta-amyloid, a protein that forms clumps (plaque). It collects between neurons and disrupts cell function.
While the brain continues to create the beta-amyloid protein, the treatment reduces the amount. Removing the excess can improve communication between neurons and slow the progression of neuron loss.
Unlike other FDA-approved medications for treating Alzheimer’s, aducanumab is not available in a tablet or patch form. Instead, aducanumab is administered intravenously (IV). The infusions are scheduled every 4 weeks, with 45–60 minute treatment sessions.
The treatment cannot reverse Alzheimer’s disease or restore lost function. However, it can slow progression. Potential side effects include:
- Allergic reaction
- Amyloid-related imaging abnormalities (ARIA)
Typically, people experiencing ARIA do not have symptoms. The condition causes temporary brain swelling that resolves over time. In some cases, it can lead to minor brain bleeds. Other potential symptoms include:
- Vision changes
There isn’t currently a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, there are methods for slowing the progression of the disease. Medications are only one part of preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease. It’s crucial to encourage healthy habits, including socializing, diet, and exercising.
Social activity is beneficial for all health stages. But it can be particularly crucial for supporting brain health. Isolation increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Older adults can be vulnerable to social isolation, particularly if distance or transportation limits their ability to engage in social activities. Seniors living alone are also at risk of Alzheimer’s-related behaviors, including wandering.
Living in a community with nearby access to a variety of activities can encourage seniors to participate. Having a close-knit community, whether family or friends, can also provide more opportunities for casual socializing. A memory care community also has enhanced safety to manage challenging behavior changes.
MIND & DASH Diet
Maintaining a healthy diet can support brain function and prevent age-related processes contributing to Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies have seen positive results for 2 diet styles: MIND (Mediterranean–DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Research suggests these diets work to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, slowing the loss of brain function.
Ensuring proper nutrition can sometimes present challenges in middle to late-stage Alzheimer’s. The individual may not recognize the food, experience appetite changes, or refuse to eat. There are nutrition tips available for at-home caregivers. Staff at memory care facilities receive specialized training to enhance nutrition and resolve eating challenges.
Diet & Choline
Many of the medications designed for treating Alzheimer’s prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine. The neurotransmitter allows communication between neurons in the brain, particularly between neurons related to mental processes, including memory and cognition.
Acetylcholine is also crucial to motivation, learning, and REM sleep. In addition, REM sleep plays a significant role in brain development, including regulating mood and memory.
Although medications can be crucial in preventing the breakdown of acetylcholine, people also need a diet that supports the production of neurotransmitters. The body uses the nutrient choline to produce acetylcholine, but it doesn’t make enough. People receive a significant amount of choline through their diet, including:
- Broccoli, cabbage, apples, & tangerines
- Meat, fish, dairy, & eggs
- Whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds
Exercise & Movement
Maintaining your physical health can support your brain health, including mental health. Regular exercise can reduce cognitive decline, strengthen muscles, lower stress, and support heart health. Daily exercise for 30–60 minutes can:
- Delay the development or slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease
- Improve or enhance memory, judgment, reasoning, and thinking skills
- Increase hippocampus size (the part of the brain that’s associated with memory formation)
Finding Community Support
The challenges of managing Alzheimer’s disease can sometimes be overwhelming for friends and family members. However, you want the best support to ensure your loved one is cared for and comfortable. Memory care can provide a caring community designed to ensure residents’ safety without limiting their quality of life.
When considering memory care, give us a call at Barton House Nashville. Our dedication to specialized training and personalized care can help your loved one feel at home in our friendly community. Contact us today!