Care Partner: 8 Healthy Steps for the Emerging Caregiver in Dementia Care

Well-being is at greater risk for care partners in dementia care primarily because it requires care partner2recognizing, identifying and responding to what can be an extremely insidious shift in roles, relationships and responsibilities. Emerging care partners are learning to respond to an illness that cannot be seen while being simultaneously assaulted by the stigma that often comes with a diagnosis of memory loss. Unlike other age-related illness, Alzheimer’s and other related dementias can result in enormous shifts in personal identity, in addition to how a couple and a family function privately and socially. Consider the following suggestions for cultivating well-being while care partnering:

ONE: Use the word care partner more; see how this impacts perception. Adults living with memory loss will thank you for it. You may thank you for it. Continue reading

Care Partner: The Emerging Caregiver

“A partner paradigm strengthens our interconnectedness and can bring more awareness to the kindness and support that is right under our nose.”care partner1

When do you realize you are a family caregiver? Responses in my experience range from the darkly humorous to the completely visceral, such as: “When my husband started calling me ‘mom.’” Emerging caregivers are often not new to caregiving at all, but rather isolated from the pack. This delays significant steps toward caregiver support and activities that contribute to well-being and caregiver identity, such as joining groups for information, support, stress reduction or counseling. There may also be significant resistance to the word “caregiver” and associated activities. It can feel one-sided and lonely; a loaded word fraught with fear, judgment from friends and comparisons to other family members who may have carried this title in the past.

Emerging as a caregiver can be an uncomfortable and vulnerable time, a trust free-fall. A sense of loss and disappointment is completely natural. Continue reading

Connecting Cognitive and Movement Disorders

Sami Barmada, M.D., Ph.D., is a scientist, lecturer, and clinician in the University of Michigan Cognitive Barmada labDisorders Program. He was recently in the news for the discoveries that he made in the laboratory with his colleagues in California and the United Kingdom. Their research findings focused on a protein, TDP43, which accumulates in the brains of individuals with ALS and dementia. We had a chance to sit down with Dr. Barmada to understand more about the connection between ALS, dementia and other related diseases.

You are a clinician in the U-M Cognitive Disorders Program but your research focuses on ALS. Are cognitive disorders related to ALS?

The short answer is yes. Years ago, we believed that ALS was a disorder that only affected movement, Continue reading

Four Key Questions on Parkinson’s Disease

As we continue to remember comedian and actor Robin Williams, and in light of the recently shared news of his being diagnosed with early stage Parkinson’s disease, we sat down with William Dauer, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of the University of Michigan Movement Disorders Group to understand more about Parkinson’s and its potential connection with depression.

William Dauer, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of the University of Michigan Movement Disorders Group

William Dauer, M.D., Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of the University of Michigan Movement Disorders Group

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which there is a progressive death of brain cells, also known as neurodegeneration. The loss of these neurons, which takes place most prominently in areas of the brain that control movement, leads to the characteristic symptoms of the disease: slowness of movement, soft voice, tremors, and difficulties with posture and gait, leading to devastating falls. It is increasingly appreciated, however, that the neurodegeneration in Parkinson’s disease affects the brain widely, leading to many other “non-motor”symptoms – the most feared of which is dementia, but that also includes symptoms such as depression, pain, abnormal sweating, and sleep disturbances.

Is there a cure for Parkinson’s?

No, neurons that use the chemical transmitter dopamine are particularly important for the symptoms of Continue reading

Detour Ahead: Your Journey road sign for dementia or memory loss

DetourLife is a journey. The Detour Ahead road sign acknowledges that dementia or memory loss significantly alters a person’s journey through life. Other road sign tips for living with memory loss will be introduced over the next few months.

Just as detours are not a normal, expected part of your daily commute or family road trip, dementia is not a normal part of aging. As you age, a few changes can be expected such as:

  • Increase in forgetfulness. The older we are, the more we have learned and have to remember.  It is normal to become more forgetful after age 50.
  • Slowing of response times
  • Decline in vision and hearing abilities
  • Increased cautiousness

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Of mice and muscles: Dystonia discovery may help patients

Persistent team of U-M scientists study neurological condition that twists muscles of kids and adults

Dystonia causes muscles in the neck and limbs to twist or contract uncontrollably, in children and adults.

Dystonia causes muscles in the neck and limbs to twist or contract uncontrollably, in children and adults.

Twist and hold your neck to the left. Now down, and over to the right, until it hurts.

Now imagine your neck – or arms or legs – randomly doing that on their own, without you controlling it.

That’s a taste of what children and adults with a neurological condition called dystonia live with every day – uncontrollable twisting and stiffening of neck and limb muscles.

The mystery of why this happens, and what can prevent or treat it, has long puzzled doctors, who have struggled to help their suffering dystonia patients.

But a persistent team of University of Michigan scientists have finally opened the door to a new way of answering those questions and developing new options for patients.

Continue reading