Thursday, April 21, 2016

Q for Questioning (A to Z Challenge)

Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.
I do not know who said that but I do have an issue with that questioning. I'm so tired of it and for some reason I can't find answers to many questions. Am I really doing the right thing? What would happen if I wouldn't interfere with my MIL life? Well, I know the answer to this one. By now she would be locked up in nursing home just like her mother was. She would be sitting on the wheelchair with her head hanging down, over medicated in the LaLa Land. Who knows, maybe by now she would lay peacefully by her late husband. I know I have extended her life and gave her more joy. But... what about me? I had to give up my dream, I had to close my business, my daily life is all around her and she isn't even my mother, she is the mother of my partner. I had a growing, profitable business, I was well respected in a professional world and now I'm broke trying to make sense from my life. You see, Theresa's mother also had Alzheimer's and not Theresa nor her brother quit their jobs to take care of her. Theresa's mom end up in the nursing home and she lived there for about ten years.
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
Fine, I get it. I must have a 'bad' day...

So long my friends,

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

A to Z Challenge: N-O-P

Oops, I am a little behind but I'm still in the challenge. To catch up today I will do all three letters. Let's start with N for Neurofibrillary tangles.

These tangles, are due to  a protein (beta-amyloid) that becomes abnormal inside the neurons rather than outside.

You see, neurons have a system of specialized filaments called microtubules that transport nutrients, organelles, and other essential materials from the cell body to the tip of the axon. These microtubules are somewhat like a pair of rails on a railroad, and the protein that acts as the ties that hold these rails together and keep them parallel is called the tau protein.

In people with Alzheimer’s, the tau protein molecules disaggregate into filaments that form tangles. Thus the “rails” lose their “ties” and can no longer stay straight and properly transport the materials essential to the neuron’s survival.

The nerve endings at the very tip of the axon are the first to degenerate as a result of this lack of sustenance. As a result, communication with the following neurons in the circuit is reduced and, once the entire neuron has degenerated, cut off completely.

If you would like to know more about brain's anatomy here is the link to the  'Brain Tour'. The tour explains how the brain works and how Alzheimer's disease affects it.

O for Obesity and links between body weight and dementia risk in those over 40.

Lately there is so much in the news about harmful effect of obesity, I was pleasantly surprised to find this article:  Does midlife obesity protect against dementia? (I love comments posted below article)

This article was published a year ago and contradicts research by Dr Rachel Whitmer published on April 29, 2005.

I want to believe that fat is good for the brain. What do you think? Please tell, I want to know.

P for Plaques
Those darn proteins not only killing neurons from inside but also from outside by building up between nerve cells. That build up is called plaques.

In a healthy brain, these protein fragments are broken down and eliminated during our sleep. In Alzheimer's disease, the fragments accumulate to form hard, insoluble plaque.

Many researchers believe that accumulations of proteins are generally only the final manifestations of diseases with earlier causes, and that amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles are no exception to this rule. Some researchers even directly question the harmfulness of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, arguing that they may in fact represent a defensive response by the brain to harmful processes that precede them, such as oxidative stress, inflammation, and dysfunctions in the cellular cycle. Some studies have shown that this protein plays a protective role against microbes.

So, go figure... all is clear as mud. There is a lot of study and research yet to be done...

So long my friends,

Friday, April 15, 2016

M for Me (A to Z Challenge)

Today I will share with you why I decided to help Theresa. After all she was living in Ontario we were in the Yukon 3,000 miles apart. In Ontario she has two of her children: a daughter who lives just about 35 minutes away and a son who lives couple hours away. Both of them highly educated, financially very well off - I was sure that their mother was happy and properly cared for. I was very surprised when she called and ask us to come and live with her. After a while those phone calls became more frequent and I realized that she wasn't joking, she was very serious.

I wasn't ready to move across Canada, I just started my firm and my dream was coming true. I spent five years taking accounting courses and I loved the north. I was happy.

Topaz (my doggie) was getting old and I decided to get a puppy. I had an idea of Topaz teaching new puppy good manners and I thought it would be fun to have two big white girls. I called the breeder and a little white fur ball was ready by the end of April. Of course the puppy was in Ontario and, since there wasn't a direct flight possible, it was easier for me to jump on the plane and personally pick her up than to ship the little critter. And there was another benefit to my trip - I could visit Theresa!

And this is how it all started... I found her extremely lonely, somewhat lost, with many little things not being done. My heart was breaking. When we were in trouble she was there for us, now she was in a big trouble and I did not see anyone there for her. She needed someone every day on a regular bases. I came back home with a puppy and a story for Freddy (my other half and Theresa's oldest son). Both of us were kept in a dark about her circumstances. We knew she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's but we did not know that her younger son pressured her to change her will. And, oh my! There were so many things we did not know... We were in shock. 

In August Theresa fell in the garage and that was the turning point. Freddy flew to Ontario and stayed with her for a couple weeks. Things turned very ugly between her and her other two children (the ones in Ontario) and I made an executive decision: "Honey, bring Mom home. She can stay with us until things cool off".  The rest of this story is for a very, very long post or maybe even a book but I can tell you this - two and half years passed and we still are living together.

So long my friends,

Thursday, April 14, 2016

L for Loneliness (A to Z challenge)

Did you know that lonely individuals may be twice as likely to develop the type of dementia linked to Alzheimer's disease in late life as those who are not lonely? Social isolation, or having few interactions with others, is associated with an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline. Loneliness is a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease, not an early sign of the disease. I wish that the mechanism that does link dementia and loneliness was more clear. After all humans are very social creatures and we need healthy interactions with others to maintain our health.

Here is a link to '5 ways to beat loneliness'.

So long my friends,

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

K for Keeping routine (A to Z Challenge)

Daily routines are sacred for most people. For individuals with dementia, sticking to a routine is not only sacred, but a necessity. Change is difficult for those with Alzheimer's disease and keeping routine can relive a lot of tension. I like to plan my day too. During my 30 Day Minimalism Challenge I leaved a whole day unplanned - it was terrible!

Our daily routines can make a huge difference to how healthy, happy and productive we are. I'm in the process of adjusting my own routine in the hopes of getting more done and wasting less time in-between tasks or activities. So I started searching for routines of successful entrepreneurs and I really like the one of Benjamin Franklin. He starts his day with a question "What good shall I do this day?" and in the evening he asks himself  "What good have I done today?" I absolutely love this and I'm borrowing these two questions for my daily routine.

So long my friends,

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

J for Joy (A to Z Challenge)

Believe or not there is a joy in caring for person with Alzheimer's. I don't know if there is anything that could sound more confounding than finding pleasure in Alzheimer's. People with dementia have good and bad days. I'm very lucky because Theresa most of the time has good days and only sometimes 'bad' moments. She knows that she has the disease, her mother was affected by the same. She fully understand what future holds for her and she is a fighter. Together we are doing a lot of brain exercises and is a real joy to see her accomplishing things. She memorized her new address, new telephone number, she remembers names of our new neighbours. It's a fun to go out with her - this lady knows how to enjoy life, believe me. I know that Alzheimer's is progressive and not reversible but I hope she stays the way she is for a long time.

So long my friends,

Saturday, April 9, 2016

H for Healty Living (A to Z Challenge)

I wrote about importance of healthy diet, exercise, keeping your brain active - today I would like to mention benefits of socialization.  

Including meaningful social activities in your day is important for everyone but especially for people with Alzheimer’s disease and caregivers. People living with the disease can become isolated and lonely. Finding opportunities to interact with the people around you will help you stay engaged. Talking to someone you trust about your feelings, your hopes and worries or simply sharing a good laugh can provide the support and encouragement you need.
  • Call a friend or family member – take someone to lunch or chat on the phone.
  • Engage in conversations with acquaintances such as neighbours, store clerks, bank tellers.
  • Accept invitations. 
  • Find an outlet to discuss your feelings and frustrations; consider joining a support group.Enjoy yourself – share activities you love with others. 
So long my friends,

Friday, April 8, 2016

G for Genetics (A to Z Challenge)

As I mentioned earlier, Alzheimer's disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease. It is characterized by the loss of connections between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain; and the death of these nerve cells. There are two types of Alzheimer's—early-onset and late-onset. Both types have a genetic component.

I will not bore you with too much science but for those interested here is more info.

Thank goodness that this dreadful illness doesn't run in my family but no one in my family has vitiligo either - I do...

Now, something that is not in the A to Z Challenge but something that put a big smile on my face. Look what Royal Mail brought to me

I didn't decide yet how I will stitch those lovely garden lasses. They aren't very big, just 62 x 154 stitches each. Should I stitch them separately or on one piece of fabric, what count? Decisions, decisions, decisions...

Oh, and my Asian pear tree is in a full blossom (with Ragnar in the center):

So long my friends,

Thursday, April 7, 2016

F for Facts (A to Z Challenge)

I had an urge to write today about families of those affected by Alzheimer's but I decided to leave this topic for later. So let's see some facts. Did you know that:

The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease is growing – and growing fast. (For Canadian facts click here. I like to use quick method: we are about 10 times smaller so the numbers should be10 times smaller too).
  • Today, 5.3 million Americans are living with  Alzheimer’s disease, including an estimated 200,000 under the age of 65. By 2050, up to 16 million will have the disease.
  • Nearly two-thirds of those with Alzheimer’s disease – 3.2 million – are women.
  • Within the next 10 years, 19 states will see a 40 percent or greater growth in the number of people with Alzheimer’s.
  • Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds. In 2050, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds. 
Most people living with Alzheimer’s are not aware of their diagnosis – or have not been diagnosed at all. 
  • Less than half (45 percent) of seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or their caregivers are aware of the diagnosis, compared with 90 percent or more of those diagnosed with cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • Among individuals diagnosed with the disease, only 33 percent are aware they have it.
  • Among all people living with Alzheimer’s disease, only about half have ever been diagnosed.

Alzheimer’s is not just memory loss - Alzheimer’s kills.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States and the 5th leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older.
  • In 2013, over 84,000 Americans officially died from Alzheimer’s;in 2015,an estimated 700,000 people will die with Alzheimer’s – meaning they will die after having developed the disease.
  • Deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 71 percent from 2000 to 2013, while deaths from other major diseases (including heart disease, stroke, breast and prostate cancer, and HIV/AIDS) decreased.
  • Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death among the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured, or even slowed
So long my friends,

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E for Exercise (A to Z Challenge)

Exercise is good for everyone, and it’s especially important for people with Alzheimer’s disease. It won’t cure the condition, but it can help ease some of its symptoms.

Exercise helps people sleep better and feel more alert during the day, so it can promote a normal day-and-night routine for people with Alzheimer’s. It also can improve mood. Repetitive exercises such as walking, indoor bicycling, and even tasks such as folding laundry may lower anxiety in people with the disease because they don't have to make decisions or remember what to do next. They also can feel good knowing that they’ve accomplished something when they’re finished. The type of exercise that works best for someone with Alzheimer’s depends on their symptoms, fitness level, and overall health.

I'm taking Theresa for daily walks and almost every day we are driving to a doggie park. MIL absolutely loves doggie park. She plays with all dogs (on a good day we having there about 10-15 of them). Here is our short video (Theresa wears red hat and Frosty is the white doggie). 

So long friends,

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

D for Depression (A to Z Challenge)

Stress and Depression are two words that are often understood in one and the same sense, there is a difference between them.

Stress is good for you. It keeps you alert, motivated and primed to respond to danger. As anyone who has faced a work deadline or competed in a sport knows, stress mobilizes the body to respond, improving performance. Yet too much stress, or chronic stress may lead to major depression in susceptible people. And I can't express enough how depression can damage our lives. Did you know that older people who suffer from depression have nearly double the risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?

It is very difficult to identify depression in someone with Alzheimer's because dementia can have same symptoms. Here are some examples of symptoms that are identical to dementia and depression
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Social withdrawal
  • Isolation
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Impaired thinking
In addition, the cognitive impairment experienced by people with Alzheimer's often makes it difficult for them to articulate their sadness, hopelessness, guilt and other feelings associated with depression.

My mother-in-law (Theresa) was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2010 and, in my opinion, the depression was a major cause of it. Of course many disagree with me because this disease 'runs in the family', her mother had an early offset of Alzheimer's.

I know Theresa since late 1993. She is a very gentle and sweet lady loving gardening, music and chocolate. She never was a decision maker, that was her husband duty. They have traveled a lot, spend every winter in sunny Florida. They loved sailing, wine, good food and dancing. Unfortunately Jo (her husband) was diagnosed with cancer. It was fatal and he left us in 1996. Theresa was only 65 years old. She never remarried, she missed him terribly. She was living alone in a three bedroom home spending time mostly gardening and taking care of the house. Not noticeable at all, I think, that was a very beginning of her slipping into depression.

In every post I will continue to write her story, who knows, maybe some day it will turn into a book.

Yesterday I promised to write a few words about brain food and diet. Just like everything else, food is extremely important. I'm including a few links below if you're curious about food influence on the brain power:

So long my friends,

Monday, April 4, 2016

C for cerebrospinal fluid (A to Z challenge)

Yesterday I mentioned importance of sleep and today I would like to talk a little more about brain 'self-cleaning' miracle.

The brain produces about 2 cups of cerebrospinal fluid (CBF) per day and that fluid is constantly reabsorbed during the day leaving about quarter of a cup at any one time. It acts like a cushion for our brain during the day and at night the miracle happens...  In the deep-sleep mode the brain turns on the cleaning cycle, much like a dishwasher.

When awake, neurons fire constantly to keep the brain alert, causing the brain cells to expand to about 86% of the volume of the brain. During deep sleep brain's cells shrink, leaving more space for the brain and spinal cord's fluid to move and pickup toxic waste. A sleep-deprived brain has reduced efficiency in garbage removal. And as we get older we sleep more lightly, getting less of deep sleep and as a result we are having more often those 'senior's moments' (that's my own very personal opinion).

Now,  just in a few words about our sleep stages:

Stage 1 (5-10% of total sleep in adults) - Your eyes are closed, but it's easy to wake you up. 

Stage 2 (45-55% of total sleep in adults) - You are in light sleep. Your heart rate slows down and your body temperature drops. The body is getting ready for deep sleep.

Stage 3 (15-25% of total sleep in adults) - This is the deep sleep stage. It's harder to rouse you during this stage, and if someone woke you up, you would feel disoriented for a few minutes. During the deep stages of sleep, the body repairs and regrows tissues, builds bone and muscle, and strengthens the immune system. (The brain shrinks and turns the cleaning cycle).

Human sleep occurs in periods of 90 minutes on average and usually we have four or five cycles per night. There is a stage after deep sleep when we are returning to stage 1. It's called REM (rapid eye movement) and takes 20-25% of total sleep in adults. During this stage most muscles are paralyzed, and heart rate, breathing and body temperature become unregulated, the sleeper may experience vivid dreams. The function of REM sleep is uncertain but a lack of it impairs the ability to learn complex tasks. Functional paralysis from muscular weakness in REM may be necessary to protect organisms from self-damage through physically acting out scenes from the often-vivid dreams that occur during this stage.

Stay tuned, tomorrow  I will talk about brain food.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

B for Brain Health (A to Z Challenge)

The human brain is one of our most vital organs. It plays a role in every action and every thought, and just like the rest of our body, it needs to be looked after.
Can Alzheimer's disease be prevented? I do not think so. There are so many famous people affected by this.This page mentions some of them. There are no guarantees, but healthy lifestyle choices will help keep our brain as healthy as possible as you age.
My big eye opener was a conversation with MIL specialist, Dr Passmore. During one of the check-ups I mentioned that Mom is doing much better and asked how this is possible since Alzheimer's is a progressive disease. He smiled and said: The Alzheimer's isn't reversed but her depression is and that's the reason for her well being. On Tuesday I will dedicate entire post to this subject. Now let's get back to our brain health. So, by making better lifestyle choices now, we can improve brain's ability to sustain long-term health and fight illnesses.
We must be good to our brain:
  1. Sleep! Just recently I've learn that during our sleep brain is flushing himself from toxins accumulated during the day. 
  2. Eat fish. 
  3. Spent some time in nature (walking in the park, gardening, hiking the trail etc.)
  4. Challenge yourself, learn something new: new language, new art/craft; play games
  5. Reduce stress!
I'm sure there is more points to keep brain healthy but, in my opinion, those are the most important.

Have a lovely weekend everyone,

Friday, April 1, 2016

A for Alzheimer's Disease (A to Z Challenge)

Alzheimer's is a dreadful disease. Isn't just memory loss (once in a while we all have those 'senior's moments' or 'brain farts'), the disease affects all of our body.
Most Canadians are unaware that Alzheimer’s disease is just one form of dementia. Dementia
is the term to describe a group of brain disorders that are progressive, degenerative and eventually, fatal, impacting 747,000 Canadians today. In less than 20 years, 1.4 million Canadians will be affected. The risk of dementia doubles every five years after age 65, but people in their 40s and 50s can also develop the disease.
My mother-in-law was diagnosed over five years ago with Alzheimer's and she came to live with us over two years ago. This month I'm dedicating to her and to her struggle with disease.

So long my friends,