10 Surprising Facts About Alzheimer’s Disease

Rapidly Progressing Alzheimer’s: Something else?

Caregiving Skills


Without a Cure, Alzheimer’s Could Bankrupt Medicare

While Alzheimer’s research has come so far in a few short years, there is still a long way to go. With studies focused on finding potential disease prevention methods and discovering new links to Alzheimer’s, researchers are hopeful that a treatment is on the horizon. Yet, the disease remains to be a leading cause of death with no treatment and no cure.Without a Cure, Alzheimer's Could Bankrupt Medicare

Threatening to reach epidemic proportions and potentially bankrupt Medicare, researchers are calling for increased federal funding to wage war on Alzheimer’s.

A Closer Look at How Alzheimer’s Could Bankrupt Medicare

While researchers are hopeful that 2016 will bring further advancements in Alzheimer’s research, the current Alzheimer’s stats are tragic, both emotionally and financially devastating.

The latest statistics surrounding the economics of the disease give a glimpse into the catastrophic nature of the Alzheimer’s:

  • Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that can not be cured, prevented or slowed
  • The total cost to the U.S. economy of caring for people with Alzheimer’s is $226 billion, half of which Medicare covers
  • If Alzheimer’s is not treated or slowed, it will cost the U.S. economy over $1 trillion by 2050 with the part covered by Medicare rising to $589 billion
  • For family caregivers, Alzheimer’s costs an average of $287,038 to provide care for the last five years of a person’s life

The cost of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is much higher than someone who is fighting cancer or heart disease, other top causes of death in the U.S. This is because much of the care required at the end of a person’s life with Alzheimer’s is assistance with activities of daily living (i.e. bathing, dressing, eating, grooming) and that kind of care is not covered by insurance.

As the disease progresses and care costs continue to grow, Alzheimer’s could bankrupt Medicare, as it covers about half of the direct costs of caring for people with the disease.

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Closing the Funding Gap

Researchers and experts agree that federal funding for Alzheimer’s needs to increase, and quickly. Federal funding is currently at just under $1 billion, drastically less than the $3 billion spent on HIV/AIDS research or $5 billion spent on cancer.

Director of the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Bruce Miller, states:

“This is clearly the underfunded and understudied problem of the 21st century. We’ve made a lot of progress in therapies around heart disease, cancer and stroke, and we need to move faster in Alzheimer’s research. If we can’t find better therapies for an aging brain, as a society we will dramatically suffer.”

Current research methods are focused on preventing or stopping the progression of Alzheimer’s before symptoms occur. Slowing or delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s by just five years would decrease Medicare spending by 50% and bring new, refreshing hope to a weary population of caregivers.

What do you think can or should be done to wage a war on Alzheimer’s disease? Share your suggestions with us in the comments below.

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How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents

Being a caregiver is a change that can be difficult for both you and your loved one, that can become even more challenging while working with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents

Jacqueline Marcell, author of “Elder Rage,” offers tips on how to survive caring for aging parents during this time.

Caring for Aging Parents with Alzheimer’s

For eleven years I pleaded with my ‘challenging’ elderly father to allow a caregiver to help him with my ailing mother, but he always insisted on taking care of her himself. Every caregiver I hired soon sighed in exasperation:

“Jacqueline, I just can’t work with your father. His temper is impossible to handle and he’s not going to accept help until he’s on his knees himself.”

When my father’s inability to continue to care for my mother nearly resulted in her death, I stepped in despite his loud protests. It was so heart-wrenching, as one minute he’d be my loving father and then some trivial little thing would set him off and he’d call me horrible names and throw me out of the house. I took him to several doctors and even a psychiatrist, only to be flabbergasted that he could act completely normal when he needed to.

Finally I stumbled upon a thorough neurologist, specialized in dementia, who put my parents through a battery of blood, neurological, memory tests and P.E.T. scans. After ruling out numerous reversible forms of dementia, such as B-12 and thyroid deficiency, and evaluating their medications, he shocked me with the diagnosis of Stage One Alzheimer’s in both of my parents – something all their other doctors missed.

How to Survive Caring for Aging Parents

What I’d been coping with was the beginning signs of Alzheimer’s, which begins very intermittently and appears to come and go. I didn’t understand that my father was addicted and trapped in his own bad behavior of a lifetime of screaming and yelling to get his way, which was coming out intermittently in spurts of over-the-top irrationality. I also didn’t understand that ‘demented’ does not mean ‘dumb’ (a concept not widely appreciated), and that he was still socially adjusted never to show his ‘Mr. Hyde’ side to anyone outside the family. Conversely, my mother was as sweet and lovely as she’d always been.

Alzheimer’s makes up 60-80% of all dementias and there’s no stopping the progression nor is there yet a cure. However, if identified early there are four FDA approved medications (many more in clinical trials) that in most patients can mask dementia symptoms and keep patients in the early independent stage longer.

Once my parents were treated for the Alzheimer’s, as well as the often-present depression in dementia patients, and then my father’s aggression, I was able to optimize fluid and nutrition with much less resistance. I was also able to manage the rollercoaster of challenging behaviors. Instead of logic and reason, I learned to use distraction and redirection. I capitalized on their long-term memories and instead of arguing the facts, it was best to live in their realities of the moment. I also learned to just go-with-the-flow and let hurtful comments roll off and change the subject.

Most importantly, I was able to get my father to accept two wonderful live-in caregivers. Then with the tremendous benefit of care five days a week for my parents and a support group for me, everything started to fall into place.

Alzheimer’s disease afflicts more than 5.4 million Americans, but many go undiagnosed for years because early warning signs are chalked up to stress and a ‘normal’ part of aging. Since 1 in 6 women and 1 in 11 men are afflicted by age 65, and nearly half by age 85, healthcare professionals of every specialty should know the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s and educate their patients so everyone can save time, money – and a fortune in Kleenex!

About the Author

Jacqueline Marcell is the author of “Elder Rage,” a Book-of-the-Month Club selection receiving over 500 5-Star Amazon reviews and endorsements. She is an international speaker on Alzheimer’s, as well as cancer which she survived after caring for her parents.

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Brain Grown in Lab Used to Advance Alzheimer’s Research

Two scientists have developed a human brain generated from skin cells that may be used to make great advances in neuroscience research. Learn more about the development of the brain and what it means for the future of Alzheimer’s disease. Brain Grown in lab Used to Advance Alzheimer's Research

Creating a Brain to Advance Alzheimer’s Research

A miniature brain the size of a pencil eraser may help researchers fighting neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s.

Rene Anand, professor biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State University and his colleague Susan McKay developed the organoid from adult human skin cells. It is about the size of a 5-month-old fetus but contains 99% of all genes present in a fetal brain. Researchers hope that if the brain continues to grow, the missing 1% of genes may fill in.

Their development method is proprietary and unable to be described in great detail, but the scientists have said that their brain includes a neural system, a spinal cord, all major regions of the brain and various cell types and retina. It does not, however, include a vascular system.

Anand said of the brain, “It not only looks like the developing brain, its diverse cell types express nearly all genes like a brain.” He went on to say:

“We’ve struggled for a long time trying to solve complex brain disease problems that cause tremendous pain and suffering. The power of this brain model bodes very well for human health because it gives us better and more relevant options to test and develop therapeutics.”

Far-Reaching Implications for Alzheimer’s Disease

While the brain is missing 1% of the genes of a human brain and lacks a vascular system, there is enough of it present to make drastic leaps in neuroscience research.

A brain grown from a lab could allow experimental drugs to be tested on it, instead of on mice or other lab rodents giving a more accurate picture of the drugs effects on the human body. Additionally, because of how the brain was grown from human skin cells, it’s a more ethical way to conduct research.

Thus far, Anand and McKay have used their system to create different organoids modeling Parkinson’s disease, autism and Alzheimer’s. The research was presented at the 2015 Military Health System Research Symposium as a way to aid research into post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries that plague the military.

What do you think of this latest development in Alzheimer’s research? Can a lab grown brain help find a cure for Alzheimer’s? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Video Games for Brain Health

While the effectiveness of brain fitness games is heavily debated among researchers, one neuroscientist may have invented a video game with real staying power and results.Video Games for Brain Health

His game, on its journey through FDA approval, uses multitasking to improve overall brain function and he hopes that, pending FDA approval, the game could be used to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and ADHD.

Learn more about the brain fitness industry and what sets this game apart from the others.

Video Games for Brain Health: A Billion Dollar Industry

Brain fitness games that promise to prolong memory, boost brain health and prevent cognitive decline are everywhere. In fact, the estimated market for these games is close to $1 billion and experts believe the industry will grow to $6 billion over the next five years. With stores and marketers promising consumers that these games will make them smarter, raise IQ and forget less, it’s no surprise that brain fitness games are a thriving industry.

However, some experts are more than skeptical about the results of these games.

Psychology professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology Randall Engle has been outspoken about his skepticism saying, “We’re really talking about a biological system. The idea that you can do some little computer game for half an hour a day for 10 days and change that system is ludicrous on the face of it.” He went on to say, “There’s very little research that’s don’t right that suggests that these thing work.”

Engle has completed numerous studies putting brain fitness game to the test and has not seen any “substantial benefit” to the games. In fact, Engle was one of 75 scientists who signed a letter to the brain fitness game industry stating that marketers are inventing claims and even targeting elderly customers worried about memory loss.

New Brain Health Game Takes a Different Approach

Neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley, who in fact signed the same letter as Engle, believes that he may have invented a game that addresses both the business and science aspects of brain fitness games.

His game is in the process of getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which will take several years and even more money. However, if approved, the game could be used to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, traumatic brain injury and ADHD.

The game is fully immersive and focuses on multitasking. For example, the player would need to guide a horse through the desert while tapping only green carrots flashing at the top of the screen, but not the radishes or carrots of another color. Gazelle says that “if we created this, what we call a high-interference environment, with multitasking going on and lots of distraction… if we put pressure in that environment, we would see benefits in other aspects of cognitive control.”

He believes that by improving one area of cognition, all areas of cognition may be improved. He also hopes that one day the game can be analyzed by doctors to tailor the treatment of the player after seeing how the player responds to the game in varied environments.

Admitting that his game and his theory needs to undergo extensive testing, Gazzaley is cautiously optimistic saying:

”Can we go then through a very rigorous validation clinical trial, just like people would expect from a drug, to then show how it works, how it doesn’t work, how it could work better… all those things?”

What do you think about a game like this to improve cognition? Have you seen positive effects from brain fitness games? Is this game different? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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Reasons to Smile with Dementia

Fine artist Kathryn Harrison completed a series of artworks related to caregiving and dementia, in response to her personal experience with her mother’s disease.Reasons to Smile with Dementia

Learn more from Kathryn about her experience with the disease and her reasons to smile with dementia.

Reasons to Smile with Dementia

My mom was diagnosed with early-onset dementia shortly after my second child, my son, was born in 2005. My daughter had just turned two. It was not a surprise as mom had been showing signs for a while, but it was heartbreaking. She was only 62.

What I didn’t know then was how much my two small children would help when faced with this disease.

In the beginning, although my mom sometimes got annoyed by the noise and movement of my children, we discovered things that gave mom great joy from having kids around. She loved blowing and catching bubbles. She liked all the musical toys that played old familiar tunes. We would sing and dance together. She enjoyed Christmas tree decorating with reckless abandonment, literally throwing the decorations on the tree with my kids. They loved that too! She would often colour in colouring books, sitting happy for hours. She also enjoyed touching my son’s Touch&Feel books, especially as her ability to communicate started to fade.Reasons to Smile with Dementia Cover

These practical discoveries helped us care for mom better and, motivated me to create my mom’s own Touch&Feel book. It included photos, favorite rhymes and songs, all mixed with supporting interactive touch components. We used this book as a means to connect with her, even during later stages.

But what was more significant about having young children around, was how they developed strength in the presence of the disease, even as my mom declined. From the start, my kids were gentle, non-judging and natural with her. Then, as my mom progressed further, they were able to look beyond the illness and learned to give loving care. The connection of the heart was more important to them than any changes from the illness. In this new role of caregivers, they also became more sure of themselves. Their growing confidence and their giving actions lent me great strength. They were transforming in the face of the disease and this change helped heal my heart.Reasons to Smile with Dementia Inside

I have created art works to share this experience. The first series includes three acrylic paintings. In these pieces I contrast bright with dark and smooth texture with rough to direct the focus on the children and their positive growth in the presence of disease. The painting, “Assistance,” shows how the caregiver roles switched with dementia, from grandmother to granddaughter. In the second painting, “Adjustments,” I acknowledge how my young son is not only aware but actively supports the constant need to make changes as a result of the disease. The final painting, “Acceptance,” is the work which really highlights the power of my daughter to comfort and my son to smile in the face of adversity, accepting their Nana with love, unquestionably. Their approach helped me to find acceptance and courage.

My children were my new heroes during this time. Together with caring nurses, PSWs, counsellors and friends, these individuals made my world so much brighter. In my second series, I use photo collages to create images that are a tribute to all my champions from this disease. In these metaphorical works, lively and colourful blooms grow out of bleak landscapes, representing the strength that I saw growing during the devastation of dementia.

My third creative response to dementia is still a work-in-progress. I am creating a picture book for young children about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. The illustrated story portrays a young girl as the protagonist, and is aimed at cultivating understanding, acceptance and courage.

My mom passed away from dementia in 2010. Now, 5 years later, I realize more than ever that out of the darkness, out of the fog, love led the way and revealed inspiring strength. I am thankful for this experience and want to share it with you.


Slideshow: Reasons to Smile with Dementia
  • Reasons to Smile with Dementia


    Kathryn Harrison’s “Acceptance”


  • Reasons to Smile with Dementia


    Kathryn Harrison’s “Adjustments”


  • Reasons to Smile with Dementia


    Kathryn Harrison’s “Assistance”


  • Reasons to Smile with Dementia

    http://www.alzheimers.net/wp-content/uploads/slideshow-gallery/Unexpected Hero 1.jpg

    Kathryn Harrison’s “Unexpected Hero 1”


  • Reasons to Smile with Dementia

    http://www.alzheimers.net/wp-content/uploads/slideshow-gallery/Unexpected Hero 2.jpg

    Kathryn Harrison’s “Unexpected Hero 2”


  • Reasons to Smile with Dementia

    http://www.alzheimers.net/wp-content/uploads/slideshow-gallery/Unexpected Hero 3.jpg

    Kathryn Harrison’s “Unexpected Hero 3”


Click to embed this slideshow on your site.


About the Author

Following an MBA and a lengthy career in marketing and advertising, motherhood drew me to pursue my more artistic passions and earn a Diploma of Fine Art from the Toronto School of Art.

Then when my vibrant mother was diagnosed with early-onset dementia in 2005, my artwork took a turn towards this disease. Through art, I have been able to express the difficult experience of caring for and losing someone to this illness.

My most recent project is to create a children’s picture book about Alzheimer’s and other dementias. It’s called “Weeds in Nana’s Garden.” This effort is aimed, not only at increasing education and awareness, but also to raise funds for Alzheimer’s related charities (a portion of all proceeds will be donated). The book will be available towards the end of 2015.

Please contact me through my website: www.kathrynharrison.ca for progress on the book, or connect with me on Instagram to view my artwork.

What reasons to smile with dementia have you found in your life? Share your life experiences with us in the comments below.

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“I REMEMBER” by Alexis Janosik

AlexisAlexis Janosik, age 14, wrote a poem about her grandfather, Mariano Cordoba, who she called “Ito” – short for “Abuelito”. Mariano was a professional Flamenco guitar player and music had been his life since he was a very young boy. Music was his gift to others and he loved playing his guitar for his Grandchildren. While memories began to fade him, music and the faces of family were the two things that he held on to the longest. Alexis wrote this poem a couple years after her Grandfather’s death and she said she finally had a sense of relief for all that she had bottled up. She said she “wants to share it with people who are going through the same thing or who know people who are going through it”.  Below is Alexis’ poem:

I remember his guitar,

Not held at his hips,

But on his leg with

The neck pointed up.

I remember his face.

The wrinkles around his

mouth and eyes,

That told you he likes to smile.

I remember his hats.

His head got cold, so

He wore his favorites.

One for winter, and

One for summer.

I remember his voice.

His words thick with

The accent.

A beautiful Spanish accent.

Blanketing his American words.

I remember the laughter.

He would watch us dance

As his fingers jumped

From string to string.

Making the music.

I remember the music.

The lovely music that

Made us sway and jump.

That he constructed just for us.

I remember the illness.

The terrible illness,

That made his muscles forget.

Forget how to walk and talk.

That made his mind forget.

Forget the time he spent with us.

Forget what he said.

He forgot all of that

But never the music.

He remembered the music.

The music in his heart,

His eyes, his soul.

The music he made.

The music he gave to us.

To keep forever.

He remembered the love.

The love he gave,

The love he got.

The face of love, of his family.

He forgot everything else,

But never the love and music.

I remember when we would visit,

In his care home.

He didn’t remember.

He never remembered.

Then came the music and love.

His eyes would light up,

And it would all return.

Yes, this was his family.

Here to see him.

Here to love him.

He would remember.

Each time it took a little longer.

Longer for the music and love.

Longer for the memories.

Then the phone call.

We all came and saw him.

And wept.

Tears of pain and joy.

For he was gone.

Would not open his eyes again.

But he had the music and the love

To keep now.

And the memories.

No more pain.

Surrounded by love and music.

Now his memories are gone.

Taken from us just as the illness

Took him from this Earth.

Now we are the only holders,

Of these memories.

Times of happiness and fun.

And of music and love.

Always of times of music and love.