Some treatments may actually help with the disease.
Diets and dietary supplements
Eating vegetables like broccoli and spinach may help older women [and probably men] retain some memory abilities later on, while avoiding obesity in middle age lowers the risk of later Alzheimer's disease in both sexes, new studies suggest." The effect of the vegetables probably comes from the antioxidants and B. vitamins they contain (Ritter, 2004).
Herbal remedies and other dietary supplements are often promoted as effective treatments for Alzheimer's disease and related diseases. Claims about the safety and effectiveness of these products, however, are based largely on testimonials, tradition, and only a small body of scientific research. The rigorous scientific research required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not required by law for the marketing of dietary supplements (Imperial, 1998).
Some of these dietary supplements are Coenzyme Q10 or ubiquinone, an antioxidant that occurs naturally in the body; Ginkgo biloba, a plant extract with compounds that may have positive effects on cells in the brain and the body. With antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties; Huperzine A, a moss extract that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and has properties similar to FDA-approved Alzheimer medications; Omega-3 fatty acids, which been linked to reduced risk of heart disease and stroke; Phosphatidylserine, a kind of lipid, or fat, the primary component of cell membranes of neurons, which degenerate in Alzheimer disease; and coral calcium, a form of calcium carbonate which the FCA and the FTC have made a formal complaint against as not having any evidence to support the claims of being a cure for Alzheimer disease (Genetics, 2006).
Vitamin E supplements may help brain cells defend themselves from attacks. Normal cell functions create a byproduct called free radical, a kind of oxygen molecule that can damage cell structures and genetic material. This damage, called oxidative stress, may play a role in Alzheimer's disease. Cells have natural defenses against this damage, including the antioxidants vitamin sC and E, but with age some of these natural defenses decline, thus the need for extra Vitamin E
The AD patient should talk with the family and doctor about what medical treatments they want to receive in the event they become unable to communicate their wishes. The AD patient may also wish to prepare an advance directive, a legal document that outlines wishes for future medical treatment, as well as a living will.
Exercise is emerging as a possible help in preventing or delaying Alzheimer's. It has long been known that lifelong exercise reduces a person's risk of developing high blood pressure, stroke, and cardiovascular diseases, which in turn decrease the risk of Alzheimer's. The brain benefits greatly from the increased blood circulation brought about and sustained by regular physical activity. Exercise is also an excellent way to release stress and improve overall physical and emotional health (Genetics, 2006).
A key principle of intervention is redirecting the affected individual's attention, rather than arguing, disagreeing, or being confrontational with the person. Additional intervention strategies include the following: simplify the environment, simplify tasks and routines and use lighting to reduce confusion and restlessness at night.
Alternative Living Choices
Living at Home
Alzheimer's disease affects each person differently. The patient will have good days and bad days. A family with an AD patient must try to maximize the good days and not dwell on the bad days, remembering that they are not alone. They should consider joining a support group, by calling a local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association for information on support groups for people with Alzheimer's disease. Neither family members nor the AD patient should keep fears and feelings inside or remain without counsel. The patient and family should seek professional counseling, and share feelings with friends, family or a clergy members.
The Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center was established by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the Office of Rare Diseases (ORD). It employs experienced information specialists to answer questions from the general public, including patients and their families, about care of patients living at home or in nursing homes. There are also resources for finding information on financial aid for medical treatment available from Genetic and Rare Diseases Resources. This group also offers reliable health information to families of AD patients (Bird, 2005).
Taking care of the patient with AD is a large responsibility. The patient should get regular check-ups, and follow doctor's recommendations about diet, exercise and taking medications. They should also be watched so that they will not wander away from the house they live in, for they may forget how to return, they also need adequate rest between stimulating events, labels to cue or remind them of activities and times, doors and gates with safety locks, and guns should be removed from the house.
Caregivers need to feed, bathe, change clothing, help with personal care and do daily chores for the person they are caring for. Taking care of an Alzheimer's patient may be too much for one person to handle at times; it is certainly beneficial to get some relief from care responsibilities. The local Area Agency on Aging (AAA) Eldercare Locator can connect a caregiver to helpful services in the area, including ride programs, home health services, and companion/respite care options.
Alzheimer disease patients are usually elderly people who need care during their waking hours. Often a family or spouse cannot fulfill this responsibility completely because of its demands or because they have other jobs. That is when adult daycare can help.
Assisted Living is also called board and care, adult daycare, adult living, or supported care. It bridges the gap between living independently and living in a care facility or nursing home. Assisted living typically offers a combination of housing and meals, and supportive and health care services either at home or in a facility where the patient spends the day. The federal government does not regulate assisted living, and definitions of assisted living vary from state to state, so the search for an agency or person to help with assisted living should be done with much careful research beforehand.
Nursing homes, also called skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, or custodial care, provide long-term care to individuals who require constant nursing care and supervision. Most nursing homes have specialized services and staff to treat nutrition, care planning, recreation, spirituality and medical care. Nursing homes are usually licensed by the state and regulated by the federal government. Traditionally, nursing homes cared only for those who could no longer care for themselves and whose families could no longer provide adequate care. Now they include a variety of possible living arrangements.
Levels of nursing homes
Today, the trend of care facilities is toward "life care" or "stepped care" facilities. These complexes typically offer three levels of care: independent apartments for people who can still take good care for themselves; assisted living facilities for those who need help with meals, laundry, medications, etc.; and a nursing home for those who need greater supervision and care. Once a patient comes to live in the facility, they can move from one level to another level of care according to their need. Alzheimer special care units (SCUs) are special units designed to meet the unique needs of individuals with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. SCUs may take various forms and exist within different types of residential care. These units are cluster settings where patients with dementia are put together on a floor or unit within a larger residential care facility.
Older people are thought of as light sleepers. Although the amount of sleep each person needs varies widely, the average is between seven and eight hours a night. As people age, the amount of sleep one can expect to get at any one time drops off. Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint among aging people, including those with Alzheimer disease. Insomnia's symptoms include taking a long time to fall asleep (more than 30 to 45 minutes), waking up many times each night, waking up early and being unable to go back to sleep, and waking up feeling tired. There are organizations that may help with this disorder in an AD patient. The Better Sleep Council, the National Center for Sleep Disorders Research and the National Sleep Foundation are just three of them.
Planning an outing
Research suggests that exercise might actually shift the body's (and brain's) metabolic pathways toward the healthy processes that break down the amyloid precursor protein and prevent the buildup of deposits. Outings are good for the AD patient. The caregiver needs to choose how the transportation will be arranged and how it will affect the AD patient. The plan for the destination to be safe and enjoyable is important, as well as accepting of a patient that may be irritable and forgetful.