Patience as practice

“Patience may seem like a superficial virtue, but actually it embodies a deep insight into the nature of things: they’re intertwining, messy, imperfectible, and usually not about you.”  – Rick Hanson, Ph.D., neuropsychologist and author

Patience, is the quality caregivers and partners share most frequently when asked what they need and Handsfeel to be well and balanced in their caregiving role. Reliable and abundant patience is what they desire most in their relationships and in their daily lives. They express deep concern, and even shame, regarding their transient feelings of patience, especially towards the person they are caring for. The direct experience of “lost” patience combined with subsequent self-criticism and feelings of guilt can become a hamster wheel many care partners find themselves circling for years on end. This is a dangerous cycle that not only erodes the bedrock of caregiving confidence, but the health, well-being and safety of all involved.

Here are a few practical tips for nurturing patience as a caregiver: Continue reading

Be a link in the chain of Alzheimer’s research

Now is the time to join our discovery team

Currently, there are over 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease. To prevent or delay the illuminated stone headonset of the disease, we need to do research and discover new treatments.

We’ve all been asked to lend a hand with something or donate a little time for a good cause.  It is quite eye opening how we benefit from volunteers who have helped improved our lives and enriched our culture – including medical discoveries that we rely on every day.

Research volunteers, who generously give up their personal time to become part of an Alzheimer’s research study, play a crucial role in the discovery of improved treatment options and cures for this disease. These do not just get discovered by scientists working in a lab, but also because people and families who are Continue reading

Encouraging News About the Incidence of Dementia

Many projections forecast a major increase in dementia in coming decades. With populations aging across the globe, many more elderly adults are expected to develop dementia.Better heart health reducing dementia

Current projections, for example, predict that cases of dementia will triple in the United States alone.

The results of several recent European studies, however, suggest a more optimistic future.

Large studies of aging individuals in Britain, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands indicate that a smaller proportion of aging individuals will experience cognitive impairment and dementia than had been anticipated.

While no one doubts that the aging of the worldwide population will result in marked increases in the number of individuals with dementia, the future may not be as grim as projected – which is very encouraging. Continue reading

On the list of possible dementia busters: An educated mom, robust social life and delaying retirement

New article highlights effects of education, prevention and better health care on reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease

BlogDementia (2)The growing number of older adults in the U.S. and around the world guarantees that over the next few decades we will see a huge growth in people with dementia.

However, a perspective piece I recently co-authored for the New England Journal of Medicine highlights at least five recent studies suggesting that the risk of any individual getting dementia or Alzheimer’s disease today is lower than it was about 20 years ago. This is good news because it means the average 75-year-old today may be less likely than a 75-year-old in 1993 to suffer from this devastating condition.
Continue reading

Dementia: Reduce your risk by staying active


Sarah Shair, MA, research associate at the MADC

At a recent outreach event, I asked people to name something they could do to reduce their risk for developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. The most common answer that I received was, “do crossword puzzles.”

While crossword puzzles and other brain games are great for your mind, another important and effective way to reduce your risk of dementia is with physical activity. Numerous research studies have linked regular physical activity to a reduced risk of experiencing cognitive decline and developing dementia.

How does it work?
Use it or lose it! As we age, our brains tend to shrink. Physical exercise, however, counteracts this process and actually enables our brains to grow new neurons. In fact, brain imaging studies comparing the brains of active versus inactive adults have found the brains of active adults are larger, especially in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that is responsible for memory. Continue reading

Your Brain on Meditation

There has been a growth in meditation research around the globe in the past five years, including a handful of studies investigating the impact of meditation on adults living with mild cognitive impairment and family caregivers of adults with Alzheimer’s disease.  These studies are of great interest to us at the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center  as we consider the long-term impact of sustained stress on family caregivers and adults living with a diagnosis of dementia.brain meditation

One recent study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical school revealed new insights into the minds’ powerful influence on regulating the nervous system through simple meditation practices. The study, , indicated changes in the physical structure of the brain, through brain imaging, after only a few short weeks of simple meditation practice.

Brain imaging, like functional magnetic resonance imaging or fMRI, is giving us new insights into meditation practices that have long been recognized to improve mood and sleep, reduce pain and enhance stress resilience, to name a few. The brain imaging results show evidence of neural growth and an increase in grey matter in the brain, the matter that gathers information and passes along sensory information.

Research outcomes are also demonstrating how brief meditation may continue to soften perceived stress and the experience of pain even while someone is not meditating. There is reason to believe that mediation can have a long-term impact on emotional and cognitive wellness.

We are not the first University of Michigan department to implement meditation practice and mindfulness based programming, but we are excited to be the first in the State of Michigan to offer Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as an intervention for dementia care and caregiver wellbeing.

Aware Care, an 8-week MBSR course, will be offered this fall for caregivers of an adult living with a dementia as well as adults diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment. For information, please call U-M Memory Connection at 734-936-8803 or visit our website.


MADC logoThe Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center (MADC) was established at the University of Michigan Health System, through affiliation with the Department of Neurology and aims to conduct and promote research on Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders; ensure state-of-the-art care for individuals experiencing cognitive impairment or dementia; and enhance the public’s and health professionals’ understanding of dementia through education and outreach efforts. The infrastructure of the Center stems from a 20 year history as an NIH-funded Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.


UMHS logoFor more than 160 years, the University of Michigan Health System has been a national leader in advanced patient care, innovative research to improve human health and comprehensive education of physicians and medical scientists. The three U-M hospitals have been recognized numerous times for excellence in patient care, including a #1 ranking in Michigan and national rankings in many specialty areas by U.S. News & World Report.