New Studies Shed Light On Caring For Those With Alheimer’s

August 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last month the annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference was attended by scientists and health care providers from around the world to present and discuss the latest research on the debilitating disease.  Of course, there were several reports on new drugs that are in some stage of production, but there were also a presentations that included advice for caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients.

A trial conducted at the University of British Columbia looked at the effects of exercise on cognition.  The study included 86 women who were between the ages of 70 and 80. These women were divided into three groups and each group was assigned a specific type of exercise to perform twice a week for six months.  The types of exercise included were aerobic, resistance training and balance/toning training.

While all types of exercise proved to have some sort of physical improvement for the participants, resistance training had the biggest effect on cognitive tests.  The study also found this type of exercise “led to functional changes in three regions of cortex involved in the encoding and memorization of nonverbal associations.”

Caregivers may see the benefit of creating some sort of daily exercise routine for their loved one. Even a daily walk can help maintain a person’s balance, strength and mobility.  If the caregiver can work the exercise into part of a daily routine, it will help provide structure which can be very important for Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Another study presented at the conference showed the positive attributes of Alzheimer’s patients who remain socially engaged.  Oregon Health & Science University tracked 148 patients with mild cognitive impairment (a risk factor for Alzheimer’s) over three years. They tracked their activities outside of the home.  Researchers found the more time the participants spent at home translates to less outside stimulation, and ultimately, more isolation and depression.

The lesson to be learned for caregivers is to maintain their family member’s activities like social functions and hobbies if they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia.  If their loved one begins to withdraw or lose interest in their normal activities, it may be a sign of other mental issues which will only compound the cognitive disability and further more, the stress on the caregiver.

One final study from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom showed the astounding results alcohol can have on cognitive function.  The research team followed more than 5,000 people ages 65 and older for eight years and measured their alcohol intake and cognitive performance.  Those that reported binge drinking (more than 4 drinks at one sitting) once a month were “62% more likely to experience the greatest declines in cognitive function and were 27% more likely to be in the group experiencing the highest amount of memory decline.”

Caregivers may be tasked with watching the number of drinks their loved one consumes because they may not be able to keep track of how many they have had.  Another tip would be to try and distract them until they forget they wanted an alcoholic drink.

For more tips and advice on caring for Alzheimer’s or dementia suffers, visit the Alzheimer’s Association’s website.

The Law Office of Dawn M. Weekly, PC is located in Sandwich, Illinois and focuses on elder law and Life Care Planning for clients.  The office may be reached by calling 815-570-2334.

   Every day of every week, Weekly Law is there for you.

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