Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Reading About Alzheimer's Disease

As may have been apparent, my previous post was cut and pasted from my other blog, Quilting Bibliophagist. Just to get things back on topic, I thought I'd briefly write about the books I've been reading on the topic of Alzheimer's disease and memory loss.

The first one is The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for Persons with Alzheimer Disease, Related Dementing Illnesses, and Memory Loss in Later Life by Nancy L. Mace and Peter V. Rabins. As might be gathered from its lengthy title, this is the comprehensive book that covers everything you might possibly need to know about caring for a person with dementia. Whether you need general information about getting medical help or specific information about particular problems relating to the daily care of the patient or the the varied behavior problems he may present, this is the book to go to. It's clearly and competently written and I strongly recommend it.

The second is Alzheimer's Early Stages by Daniel Kuhn. The first part of the book focuses on the possible causes of Alzheimer's, its early symptoms, and the most recent progress in its treatment. Parts 2 and 3, which deal with caring for the patient and caring for yourself, have a less clinical and more human tone than The 36-Hour Day. For instance, one chapter deals with the different ways that patients with Alzheimer's experience the disease. (Would you believe that there are actually five books written by people who had Alzheimer's?) This chapter has helped me to both sympathize and empathize with my aunt.

Despite being a voracious reader, I found it difficult to read either of these books for very long at a stretch. It wasn't the writing; it was the subject matter. However, I devoured Carved In Sand: When Attention Fails and Memory Fades in Midlife by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin.

The author is a journalist who began to wonder what was happening to her mind. She felt vague and foggy. She'd barely crossed thethreshold into middle age, but she was losing her edge. She could no longer mentally keep track of her busy calendar. And as a journalist, she was more than a little disconcerted when the precise words she needed for a story began to elude her, and her thoughts became so evanescent that they evaporated even as she picked up a pencil to record them. Then she became aware that many of her friends andcolleagues were suffering from the same problem . Some of them were scared. (One woman, a person whom the author had always considered one of the sharpest people she knew, even quit her job because she could no longer bear the strain of trying to appear as mentally alert as hertwenty-something colleagues.)

The author decided to focus her journalistic skills on the problem. Was middle-aged memory loss normal? Could it be reversed?

(I myself am 56, and I've seriously considered having a T-shirt made with, "Brain Like A Sieve" lettered on the front of it. So I have a personal interest in the author's quest.)

What she discovered is that what we experience in middle age is not simply loss of memory. There is also a change in the speed and manner with which we process information. Yes, menopause really does make you stupider. And (in her case) blows to the head earlier in life will affect your memory years many later. Poor diet can starve your brain; an improved diet and sophisticated supplements may improve your mental abilities but will require an awful lot of prep time. She also tested the effect of both physical and mental exercises. She even tried out a number of drugs reputed to enhance memory, but with varied levels of success. (That part was kind of scary.) Her conclusions are more personal than scientific, but I found her book to be a fascinating read. (I just hope I can remember where I put the book before it's due back at the library!)

1 comment:

experienced healthcare professional said...

As an Akzheimer's disease healthcare specialist, I decides to write a book that engages those with dementia and is an excellent resource for caregivers and healthcare professionals as well.

The name of the book is Adorable Photographs of Our Baby-Meaningful Mind Stimulating Activities and More for the Memory Challenged, Their Loved Ones and Involved Professionals

Ny name is Susan Berg