November to Remember: Dementia & Memory Issues
November 2021 Issue
Memory problems can be scary! Many of us have experienced a “senior moment”,
but for one in ten older Americans, memory issues are much more serious than that.
Dementia is more prevalent in women, so we thought it was time to ask local wellness experts
to help us understand what could happen to us or someone we love.
By Harvinder Kohli, M.D., Hilton Head Regional Healthcare
Are there any new medicines or research that can help slow down the progress of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of progressive neurodegenerative dementia amongst elderly people. About 6 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number keeps going up every year. It is estimated that by 2050, there will be 30 million people with Alzheimer’s disease. There is no known etiology for this progressive disease. Maybe there is a role of genetic factors. Newer imaging technologies with PET scan, targeting Amyloid and TAU proteins, can help diagnose the disease earlier. Soon, there will be a blood test available to test Amyloid protein in the blood.
Currently available medications such as Aricept, Namenda and Exelon have a minimal benefit of slowing down the progression, if at all. A recently approved drug Aducanumab has not been proven to be effective as yet, and the cost of administering this drug alone is $60,000 a year.
The disease itself has a tremendous burden on families and society because most people need either assisted living or somebody to take care of their loved ones at home, which can be extremely expensive.
What preventive measures can I take to protect my memory? Do brain game puzzles or apps help?
Until there is a definitive cure for this devastating disease,
certain activities can be helpful:
• Staying active socially and participating in creative activities, such as painting, music or learning a foreign language, can delay or prevent further memory loss.
• Simple activities, such as playing different puzzle games, can help focus and attention span, but really do not help with the cognitive improvement.
• Taking care of the comorbidities, such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension, can minimize the risk of stroke, which itself can make memory impairment worse.
• Staying physically active, avoiding certain medications, such as sleeping pills, and not drinking too much alcohol also have a beneficial effect.
Dr. Harvinder Kohli is a Board-Certified Neurologist by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. He is licensed to practice in both South Carolina and Georgia and completed his residency and Neurophysiology Fellowship at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Dr. Kohli practices at Medical Associates of the Lowcountry Neurology, 8 Hospital Center Blvd., Suite 110, Hilton Head Island and can be reached for appointments at 843-732-0732.
By Joy Nelson, Memory Matters
What are some strategies to help patients and their loved ones cope with a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis?
Hearing a diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia can be overwhelming. We advise families to speak with an expert or doctor about options. Are there local programs? Are there local counselors specializing in Memory Care? What resources can help you down this path? Many neurologists will have this information to provide. Here at Memory Matters we provide resources at no cost to anyone who may have questions. We also provide support groups, counseling, virtual and in-person day programs for those living with the disease or dementia, and respite for the caregivers.
How can we maintain and strengthen relationships with
our loved ones who are dealing with memory issues?
Many people don’t realize a person can grow new brain cells. This is how the progression of Alzheimer’s disease can be slowed allowing the brain to generate new neurons that are information messengers. Here at Memory Matters we call these the 5 Brain Health Interventions that include Exercise (150 minutes a week like walking), Lifelong Learning (exploring new ways of doing routine tasks challenges and stimulates the brain, like brushing your teeth with the nondominant hand), Socialization (conversing purposefully with friends and family), Restfulness (resting the brain 20 minutes a day through meditation or sitting quietly), and eating the Mediterranean Lifestyle(eating lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and herbs) When using these interventions at any age, you can keep the brain healthy and thriving. There are more examples of how to keep the brain healthy at wwww.mymemorymatters.org.
Joy Nelson is the Marketing Director of Memory Matters, a non-profit organization that provides memory care, resources and programs to Lowcountry families with compassion and understanding. They strive to offer services to educate the community on what can be done to keep the brain healthy, and what can be done to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. To learn more log on to www.memorymatters.org or call 843-842-6688.
By Paul Mazzeo, M.D., Coastal Neurology
What is the difference between
Alzheimer’s and dementia?
Dementia is a decline in memory and cognitive skills that interferes with performance of activities of daily living, work or social interactions. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia (as much as 80% of all cases) as we age. Not all Alzheimer’s Disease causes dementia. Many live with amyloid plaque brain deposits of the disease without showing outward signs of dementia or memory change without impairment in function (mild cognitive impairment).
Imagine three people, all of whom have Alzheimer’s Disease changes in the brain. The first person appears no different than always and is experiencing normal aging. The second has a noticeable change in memory but has no functional impairment. That person has Alzheimer’s Disease but not dementia. The third person has a decline in memory and can no longer be relied upon to drive. Only this person would be described as having Alzheimer’s dementia.
What signs can indicate potentially
serious memory issues in loved ones?
Whether you should be concerned about declining memory in a loved one largely depends upon the ability to function normally. It is usually obvious there is a problem when basic ADLs (activities of daily living) such as personal hygiene, dressing and eating are affected. Earlier on, instrumental ADLs are affected such as bill paying, driving and medication administration. In its earliest stages, Alzheimer’s Disease may present as mild cognitive impairment. Your loved one may have a very obvious change in short term memory or retrieving words but they still can perform all activities independently.
It is more important than ever that when suspicions arise, the person needs to seek neurological evaluation. Newly approved (Aduhelm), or soon to be approved medications target amyloid, the protein that forms plaque in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease. These medications are most effective in treating people early, before irreversible brain injury has occurred.
Paul Mazzeo, M.D., is a board certified neurologist at Beaufort Memorial and medical director of the Beaufort Memorial Memory Center. He sees patients at Coastal Neurology in Beaufort and Okatie.