Lewy body dementia

The Alzheimer’s disease and dementia series

Michigan Alzheimer's Disease Center has established support groups for people with Lewy body dementia and their caregivers.

In partnership with a caregiver, Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center is offering support groups for people with Lewy body dementia and their caregivers.

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the second most common form of degenerative dementia in the United States. LBD affects an estimated 1.4 million Americans. The symptoms of LBD are often mistaken for more well-known diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. They are so similar that only 30-50% of all LBD cases are accurately diagnosed.

What makes LBD different? 

The presence of Lewy bodies—abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein that build up in the brain—distinguish LBD from other dementias. The Lewy bodies are tiny spherical structures that develop inside nerve cells. Their presence leads to the degeneration of brain tissue.  Continue reading

Living with memory loss

There are countless books and published research studies about dementia that give us insight into the

Members of the U-M Elderberry Club have mild memory loss, but that doesn't stop them from having fun, caring for each other and being creative.

Members of the U-M Elderberry Club have mild memory loss, but that doesn’t stop them from having fun, caring for each other and being creative.

disease. However, the best resource cannot be found on a shelf or an online article, but rather in the conversations we have with those who are living with dementia.

I recently visited the Elderberry Club—the first group of its kind in Michigan and the only group in the country that is designed exclusively for women with mild memory loss. The club meets at the U-M Health System Turner Senior Resource Center once a week. The women come together for support, discussion, friendship, creative expression and education.

During meetings, the women participate in a number of activities. They create art, volunteer in the community, write poetry, listen to music or presentations, and much more. The day I visited, the women were creating beautiful marbled ink artwork using the ancient Japanese technique called suminagash. Joy and laughter filled the room. Their personalities were vibrant and unique, and I could tell that they accepted and loved each other.  Continue reading

Dementia and the benefits of nature: Walking

Walking is great exercise for people with dementia.

The naturalist and conservationist John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Muir proved to be prescient. Recent studies show that being in nature and exercising outdoors have positive benefits for everyone—including people with dementia. Exercising outdoors, in nature, is known as “green exercise.”

Benefits of green exercise for people with dementia

A research literature review published by Dementia Adventure points out that adults living with cognitive changes who participate in green exercise experience better sleep patterns; longer sleep duration; and improved continence, mobility and eating patterns.

One of the studies found that having a connection to nature can enhance verbal expression in people living with dementia. Another showed that nature-based activities for people living with dementia bring joy and sensory stimulation.

In fact, research during the last decade in particular has also demonstrated the following benefits for people with dementia:   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