Mild memory & thinking issues: What works, what doesn’t?

U-M experts weigh the evidence to help doctors & patients navigate mild cognitive impairment

memory finger string blogFor up to one in five Americans over age 65, getting older brings memory and thinking problems– along with the embarrassment of not being as “sharp” as they once were, and the worry that it will get much worse.

They might just call it “getting older”. But officially, when memory or cognitive problems don’t interfere significantly with daily living, doctors call them mild cognitive impairment, or MCI.

What can be done to prevent or slow MCI? And how much should seniors fear that their thinking or memory problems will get much worse?

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Variety and expertise: the rehabilitation recipe that worked.

Paul was up to challenge and his abilities continue to improve.

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Paul continues to see improvements in his abilities and credits the skilled physicians and staff at U-M MedRehab.

The MedRehab program is celebrating 25 years of service. Paul and Joan Christensen shared how Paul was able to recover after an unexpected stroke put him in the hospital.

Paul: I had a stroke when I was 59. I was not a candidate for stroke, being a non-smoker who exercised regularly and was in good health, so it was definitely a complete surprise. The stroke resulted in left side paralysis and I was unable to walk at first. I was originally admitted to St. Joe’s Hospital in Pontiac, but I wanted to come back to Ann Arbor for outpatient care. U-M is our home hospital, and we wanted to come back to where our doctors were.

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Turkey… with a side of memory loss?

If older relatives at holiday gatherings show early signs of dementia, new research shows the importance of steering them to testing

Thanksgiving memoryAs you gather for Thanksgiving and winter holidays, you might notice that Grandma, Aunt Betty or Uncle Sal seems to struggle more with memory, or thinking, than she or he did last year.

Rather than chalk it up to normal aging, new U-M research suggests you might want to gently suggest they get it checked out by their doctor.

In fact, as many as half of seniors who have these symptoms have never had it checked out fully, new research finds. Dr. Vikas Kotagal, a U-M neurologist who led the new study, says families should encourage seniors with even early signs of memory loss to talk to their doctor.

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Honor “Mr. Hockey” by sharpening your stroke knowledge

Gordie Howe's severe stroke should remind all fans of what they can do to cut risk & respond quickly, says U-M Comprehensive Stroke Program doctor

Gordie Howe

Gordie Howe, at the December 2013 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Detroit.

Hockey fans everywhere are sending their thoughts and prayers to Gordie Howe this week, as the legendary “Mr. Hockey” battles the effects of a stroke.

But there’s something more that all fans, and their loved ones, can do to honor Howe, says the head of the University of Michigan’s Comprehensive Stroke Program.

Take this time to play defense against a stroke, and know what to do when you or someone around you suffers one.

Eric Adelman, M.D., the U-M stroke neurologist who helps lead a U-M team that has the highest level of stroke accreditation in the U.S., took a moment to discuss what fans can do. Continue reading

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