Michigan CPAP Bank for Patients in Need

Man_With_CPAP_MaskImagine not being able to afford a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, that’s the case for many people who have been prescribed continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and other sleep disorders. That’s why I created the Michigan CPAP Bank, a recycling program that provides free CPAP machines and supplies to patients in financial need.

In 2012, one of my patients brought in his old CPAP machine hoping that another patient might be able to use his equipment. Because he was getting a different CPAP machine to help him breathe at night, he didn’t need the used but still functional equipment. The idea was brilliant.

Today, we have CPAP, BiPAP, auto-CPAP, auto-BiPAP, ASV (adaptive servo-ventilation) and AVAPS (average volume assured pressure support) machines at the Bank. And we have given more than 90 machines and various supplies to people who qualify for them.  Continue reading

Strokes Steal 8 Years of Brain Function

Human brain injury or damage and neurological loss or losing memory and intelligence due to physical concussion trauma and head injury or alzheimer disease caused by aging with red gears and cogs in the shape of a thinking mind.

A new study shows that having a stroke ages a person’s memory and brain function by almost 8 years

A new study from the University of Michigan shows that having a stroke ages a person’s memory and brain function by almost eight years. Stroke, a publication of the American Heart Association, will publish the results in its July issue. The study team comprised members of the University of Michigan Medical School and School of Public Health and the VA Center for Clinical Management Research. The National Institutes of Health funded the study.

We talked with Deborah A. Levine, M.D., MPH, lead author of the study and a University of Michigan Medical School assistant professor, to learn more about the study and her thoughts on stroke prevention.

What was the effect of stroke on brain function?

We found that having a stroke meant that our participants’ score on a 27-item test of memory and thinking speed dropped as much as it would have if they had aged 7.9 years.

By measuring participants’ changes in cognitive test scores over time—from 1998 to 2012—we could see that both blacks and whites did significantly worse on the test after their stroke.  Continue reading

Only Half of Seniors With Signs of Dementia Are Being Tested

Cognitive Tests Now Included in Medicare’s Annual Wellness Exam

Medicare's free annual wellness exam now includes cognitive evaluations.

Medicare’s free annual wellness exam now includes cognitive evaluations.

A University of Michigan study finds that as many as 1.8 million Americans over the age of 70 with dementia have not been evaluated by a doctor. The study was published online in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Data from the study come from before the start of Medicare’s free annual wellness exams for seniors, which began in 2011 under the Affordable Care Act and are required to include a cognitive evaluation.

We sat down with neurologist Vikas Kotagal, M.D., M.S., one of the co-authors of the study, to talk about cognitive evaluations and the results of the study. Kotagal sees patients at the University of Michigan Health System and is an assistant professor in the U-M Medical School’s Department of Neurology.

What can patients and families do if they think their relative may have dementia?

The best thing you can do is to recommend that your relative take advantage of Medicare’s free annual wellness exams for seniors. You can just bring it up as part of regular conversation, without even mentioning the concerns about memory. People just need to contact their regular primary care doctor to set this up. The exam is required to include some sort of brief cognitive evaluation.  Continue reading

Dementia and the Benefits of Nature: Gardening

Woman_GardeningThe American naturalist and nature essayist John Burroughs may have said it best: “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

Whether you love the beauty of the fall leaves, waking up to a fresh snowfall, the smell of new growth in the spring, or feeling the warmth of the summer sun, it is likely that a particular aspect of nature speaks to you and awakens positive thoughts or emotions. I find it calming and relaxing to walk through the woods and spend time canoeing in my pond while watching the turtles sunbathing on the logs. As I age, I hope that I can continue to practice these same activities when I’m in need of calm and relaxation.

Unfortunately, individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease are all too often kept indoors throughout the day. While this might seem like the safest, best option, research shows that access to the outdoors and physical activity can be extremely beneficial for adults living with memory loss. Now, gardening and outdoor therapies are becoming more popular across the globe.  Continue reading

Caring for Someone With Dementia—And Caring For Yourself

Caregiver and patient_FullAre you taking care of a loved one with memory loss? If so, are you taking care of you? Learning to care for yourself is one of the greatest challenges in caregiving. Here are a few statistics that speak to the importance and difficulty of caring for you, the caregiver:

So what do you do? Feelings of guilt, shame and worry may be familiar to the burned-out caregiver, but they are not healthy or successful motivators for positive change and self-care. Mindfulness offers a kinder, more effective path.  Continue reading

Alzheimer’s Disease Vs. Dementia

What is the Difference?

times go by concept digital illustration orange on blackWhat is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia? This is one of the most common questions I receive when I give presentations in the community or answer the U-M Memory Connection line. This is a great question because the terms are often used in place of one another, despite the fact that they mean different things.

In brief, dementia is a broad term used to describe a collection of symptoms. The symptoms are caused by changes in brain function and they are severe enough to affect daily functioning. There are many reasons why someone may have dementia. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for approximately 75% of dementia cases, and that is why the words are often used interchangeably.

Visual images

I like to use the following visual images when illustrating the difference:

  • Imagine that the fruit bowl in your kitchen is dementia. While there are several different pieces of fruit in the bowl, the fruit found most frequently, perhaps a banana, is Alzheimer’s disease. The other fruits in the bowl represent other causes of dementia that aren’t quite as common, such as vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, or reversible dementias induced by things like a urinary tract infection or a vitamin deficiency.
  • Imagine that your grandchild has a runny nose. Their runny nose is not a specific disease or condition; it is just a symptom. There are many different potential reasons for the runny nose. It may be caused by influenza, a sinus infection or a reaction to being outside in a cold temperature for too long. In the same way, dementia is not a specific disease and there are several reasons a person may exhibit dementia, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease.

Continue reading