Feb 19, 2013

Alzheimer's - Diseases Above the Neck

As Alzheimer's caregivers it is imperative that we give more thought to the brain, how it works, and what happens when it malfunctions. We need to better understand how the brain is working in order to become more effective caregivers.

We really don't know much about the brain. | Alzheimer's Reading Room
By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Let's face it, most of us are not very good at dealing with diseases above the neck. Diseases that affect the brain.

We just don't comprehend them.

We really don't know much about the brain. How many of us have ever taken a course about the brain and how it works? How many of us have read books about the brain?

How many have read the recent best seller written by Deepak Chopra and Rudy Tanzi - Super Brain?

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Here is what we know about Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's systematically kills the brain as it progresses. More often than not this is a process that takes place over decades. The worst, the harshest, stages of Alzheimer's come on average in the last 7-8 years. They come after Alzheimer's or a related dementia are finally diagnosed.

But even before the diagnosis patients start showing signs that the brain is not functioning properly - not working well.

If you read What Was the First Sign of Alzheimer's Disease in Your Case? you will find that caregivers can look back and identify the signs of Alzheimer's and dementia. You will also learn that they did not necessarily see these as signs of dementia as they were occurring. The brain remains mysterious to most of us.

If you read the article you will learn that an early sign of Alzheimer's is the inability to use the checkbook correctly. Some early sage patients pay the same bill over, others stop paying bills. Not paying bills can result in all kinds of horrific problems like the start of the mortgage foreclosure process.

One reader wrote and told me that her mother had her air conditioning ducts cleaned three times in one year at the cost of $3,000. The same company cleaned those ducts. They took advantage of a person suffering from dementia.

The article What Was the First Sign of Alzheimer's Disease in Your Case? contains 268 accounts (comments) of the early signs of Alzheimer's. After the fact these signs often seem obvious; but. more often than not they are not obvious while they are happening.

How to Adapt the Caregiver Brain to Alzheimer's and Dementia

Let me put it this way. I often thought to myself, if I knew then what I know now I would have been able to get Dotty diagnosed and treated sooner. Early detection makes a big difference in quality of life, and the ability to care effectively. If only I had known more about the brain.

We don't know much above diseases above the neck. More often than not these diseases manifest with behaviors we don't understand. Many Alzheimer's patients are mean or evidence challenging behaviors. We tend to blame them and get angry. But how often do we think, this is being caused by a disease above the neck? A disease that makes the brain do things that are beyond normal.

Initially do we blame the patient, or do we think - there must be something wrong with their brain?

Do we think something must be causing these erratic moods and behaviors? Or, do we just blame away and get angry? At the outset most of us get angry, frustrated, or confused don't we?

If we are angry, frustrated, and confused how many of us ask or wonder - if I am feeling like this how must the person who's brain is being affected feel? How do they feel?

We just don't understand diseases above the neck very well. Often we don't know what to do or how to deal with behaviors that come with these diseases.

There is another aspect of Alzheimer's that is worth considering. I already wrote that Alzheimer's kills the brain of the patient. But I also know from the over 40,000 comments on this blog, and 9,000 emails from readers that Alzheimer's also tries to kill the brain of Alzheimer's caregivers.

Alzheimer's Care Using the Brain to Create Happiness

Around 40 percent of caregivers suffer from depression. Or, from what can be described as a very deep sadness. Alzheimer's can make us sad, mean, confused, and angry. Alzheimer's even effects the area above our own necks.

Thing about that.

The brain is still very mysterious to us. We don't understand how it works when a disease sets in and the brain starts to malfunction.

As Alzheimer's caregivers it is imperative that we give more thought to the brain, how it works, and what happens when it malfunctions. We must give more thought to how Alzheimer's effects our own brains.

About two months before my mother went to Heaven she picked up some colored pencils and started coloring a butterfly. She did this beautifully. She seemed rather happy and content while coloring and talking about it. She was already in a late stage of Alzheimer's.

When I saw this I was truly amazed and I felt great joy. Why didn't I try this sooner?

I didn't try it because I was constrained by my own brain. I knew that my mother was capable of more than I could imagine. But after 8 years I was still constrained in my thinking because of the stigma attached to Alzheimer's.

Our good friend Jeanmarie brain was not constrained. She was the one that bought the coloring pad and colored pencils. It never occurred to her, not even for a second, that Dotty couldn't do it. Her brain was not constrained.

To learn more about the coloring pad read this - Jeanmarie and the Coloring Pad. To watch the video where Dotty colors two months before she sent to Heaven watch this video - Alzheimer's Patient Dotty Colors, 95 Years old.

Amazingly, even though Alzheimer's robs person living with dementia of the ability  to remember anything new, in fact there are other parts of the brain are still working. As caregivers we should always remember this.

Use our Knowledge Base (on the right hand side of every page) to learn more about music, painting, puzzles, art and how socialization can make Alzheimer's patients happier and more alive.

Learn how you can bring Joy into your own heart. And, brain.

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Bob DeMarco is the Founder and Editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. Bob is a recognized Influencer, speaker, and expert in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community Worldwide. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

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