Alive Inside: This Movie Is Extraordinary!

ec9acd50595499364a6994542e145924_largeYou know a movie speaks to the audience when people just sit there as the credits start to roll rather than getting up and moving out. That’s what happened this evening when my husband and I went to see Alive Inside, the Sundance award-winning documentary about the role that music plays in the lives of elderly people who experience brain disease and loneliness. At first, no one got up to leave.

The other day I described how we watched a preview of Alive Inside at one of Dr. Bill Thomas’ Second Wind events last March and how we were moved to tears. That only begins to describe the reactions in the movie theatre tonight. The people in front of me were tearful and talking about a relative. The young people behind me were sniffling and whispering about their grandmother. I was thinking about my family members.

As I looked around, I observed individuals with hands on their faces, hands folded in prayer, and people with eyes riveted to the screen as we all watched person after person, mostly elders, smile, move, talk, remember, and transform — as the music played. We saw exuberance, animation, even joy come on to faces that, only moments before were vacant.

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Grandma by Jessica Shepherd: A Book Review


Grandma book

Recently I discovered a children’s book, Grandma, that tells a story, from a child’s point of view, about a much-loved grandmother who develops dementia. As an educator, I’ve often thought about the need for books that help children understand the disease while illustrating how to continue to love and support a family member who experiences dramatic memory changes. Only now, years after my family lost my husband’s mother to this terrible brain disease, are children’s books that address dementia beginning to appear.

Grandma, an easy-to-read picture book written and illustrated by Jessica Shepherd, fits the bill. Young Oscar shares his thoughts about his grandmother, describing the fun they have, the fond ways they interact, and the changes that have come about since she “started forgetting a lot of things.” He describes how she lives in a new community, with caregivers, and tells about his visits.

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Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource-National Institute on Aging

Click to download the  book as a PDF or order a print copy.

Click to download the book as a PDF or order a print copy.

Check Out this Easy-to-Use Guide

from the National Institute on Aging (NIA)

If one of your family members or a friend receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, this book, Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease, offers an enormous amount of information and support. It’s organized well, overs a range of resources, and even uses an easy-to-read typeface.

From the NIA Website

This comprehensive, 104-page handbook offers easy-to-understand information and advice for at-home caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease. It addresses all aspects of care, from bathing and eating to visiting the doctor and getting respite care. And it’s filled with resources.

Examples of the Information Provided in Caring for a Person With Alzheimer’s

  • Learn more about caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s with advice on everything from memory issues to holidays to travel to coping strategies
  • Get more specifics about the medical facts.
  • Learn how to seek and find additional help for you and your family member.
  • Find out how to help a caregiver remain healthy and strong.
  • Explore a range of safety tips.
  • Get information about the progression of the disease and the last states of Alzheimer’s disease.

Here’s to the Health of Remembering — Even After Forgetting

If you find yourself forgetting things (and taking more time to remember them than you want), read Dr. Bill Thomas’ post, Tip of the Tongue, over at his Changing Aging blog. He writes about the brain and presents a broad range of research findings that address memory, forgetting, remembering, age, and ageism. As we grow older and despite forgetting, Dr. Bill emphasizes, most of the information is still in our brain as we move toward elderhood, though we are a bit less efficient at retrieving it quickly.

Best Quote from this Changing Aging Blog Post

It turns out that younger brains are good at quickly recalling bits of information (like a name or where you put your car keys) because they have a relatively straightforward filing system. Older people, by dint of long experience, “store” memories within a more diffuse network of brain systems.

brainAt least once a day I have a tip-of-the-tongue experience, and almost always, the thought that I was trying so hard to remember pops into my head sometime later in the day. My parents, age 89 and 85, have the same experience. I do not worry about it, and I encourage them not to worry too much about it, because we almost always remember the information in a relatively short time (or we know where to go to find it).

I stopped worrying about forgetting after I attended a parents’ weekend lecture some years ago at Brown University — in a large lecture hall, standing room only. The lecturer, a professor and brain researcher whose class my daughter was taking (and whose name I cannot remember just now), shared some interesting and reassuring facts using a metaphor of old-fashioned library card catalog.

Important Lecture Points With Some of My Editorial Notes          Continue reading

Alzheimer’s Drug Researcher Becomes a Patient – Loses Job

This short article over at Caring.com reminds us that Alzheimer’s is not just a disease for older and elderly adults. Moreover the story reminds us that our stereotypes and dysfunctional thinking, when it comes to people who are coping with serious diseases, can do much harm.

Exercise, Computer Use, and Cognitive Impairment

A research study published in the May 2012 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings finds an association between computer activities, physical exercise and reduced mild cognitive impairment.

Listen to lead author and neuropsychiatrist, Yonas E. Geda, M.D., discuss the study.

The article Computer Activities, Physical Exercise, Aging, and Mild Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Study (PDF) reports on an ongoing population study that randomly sampled 926 individuals in Olmsted, Minnesota between the ages of 70 and 93 (abstract). The article is freely available at the Mayo clinic Proceedings site.

Participants were judged to be free from mild cognitive impairment (MCI) by a medical examination and expert consensus panel. This CBS Interactive HealthPop blog post describes more about the research. Individuals who participated in this part of the larger study of normal aging competed questionnaires about  the frequency and intensity of exercise and frequency of computer activities. Individuals were also asked about caloric intake.

According to the article, the data indicate an association between increased frequency of computer use and lower mild cognitive impairment. A similar association was observed between increased frequency of exercise and lower mild cognitive impairment. Individuals who indicated both moderate computer use and moderate exercise appeared to have an additive interaction, lowering their odds of mild cognitive impairment even further.

In the article the authors point out that:                    Continue reading