Fighting Dementia—Recognizing and Combating the Disease

. November 30, 2018.
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Finding out that you or a loved one is experiencing the early stages of dementia can be devastating and confusing. How do you know whether a person is having a momentary lapse of memory or whether there is truly cause for concern?

Detection

Dr. Selena Nicholas-Bublick, a Promedica neurologist, cites several indicators that point toward dementia.

“It is not unusual to occasionally forget names or appointments, but we generally remember later,” she said. “If the memory problem is disrupting daily life, however, that may be an issue. Certainly, regularly forgetting important dates or events or asking someone to repeat a question over and over again may warrant further investigation and a health care evaluation.”

Dr. Nicholas-Bublick identifies indicators including forgetting the names of common objects, like substituting the word “watch” with “hand clock.” There might also be personality changes or confusion while doing familiar tasks. If you find yourself struggling through activities that were once second-nature, it is best to share these concerns with your physician.

Unfortunately, there is no pill that a patient can take to slow the progression of dementia, though there are medications to help with the symptoms. Dr. Nicholas-Bublick also notes that the “risk factors for dementia and more specifically Alzheimer’s include age, family history, moderate or severe traumatic brain injuries and cardiovascular risk factors. Monitored control of other risk factors is important, such as cardiovascular (control of blood pressure, blood sugars, cholesterol and heart disease).”

Dr. Nicholas-Bublick points out, there is no “disease modifying agent” for dementia currently. However, researchers have found ways to minimize some of the effects of dementia through brain exercises.

Brain U Online

Dr. John DeBoer, a clinical neuropsychologist with family in Toledo, is a dementia researcher and creator of Brain U Online. DeBoer has spent his career finding ways to fight this debilitating disease. His passion for research arises from his own grandmother’s battle with dementia, explaining that while most people didn’t notice the changes in her during the early stages, he and his mother did. “As she got worse throughout the years, it was very difficult to communicate with her,” Dr. John said. “We lost my grandmother before she was physically deceased. That loss of personhood, that loss of self, that loss of dignity is something that galvanized my experience, pushing me to help prevent and mitigate the onset and intensity of dementia.”

DeBoer developed the exercises that are now being used in Brain U Online and Brain U Clinic while studying at Harvard Medical School. The exercises, more than just “brain games,” take advantage of novel learning. It is more beneficial to have a patient do brain exercises involving tasks that they have never done before.

“My grandmother could do the New York Times crossword puzzle up to about stage 3 dementia,” Dr. John said. “That’s a very hard puzzle to do, but she did it every day for 25 years.” Things like this can be a false indicator of someone’s cognitive abilities, so Dr. John stresses the need for “new learning.”

Visit brainuonline.com to sign up for a 14-day free trial. Both online and in-person at the Brain U Clinic, service costs are reimbursable by Medicare. A Netflix documentary and book about Dr. John’s work are both titled This is Dementia.

“We’re trying to get people at the very early stages of the disease.” Dr. John said. “We feel like we can delay the onset by more than two years in people that are in their 50s and 60s. Ultimately, It will have a major impact.”

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