Feb 19, 2015

Memory, Neuroplasticity, Compassionate Friendship, Belief

I asked Rudy straight out, was it possible  that the routine we had developed for my mother helped slow the progression of Alzheimer's, and otherwise explained why she was able to perform certain skills.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

Memory, Neuroplasticity, Compassionate Friendship, Belief | Alzheimer's Reading Room

The issue - Memory.

Neuroplasticity (or brain plasticity) is the brain's ability to retain new information and create new ideas throughout life span in response to learning.

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In Super Brain,  Deepak Chopra and Rudy Tanzi explain that regardless of age individuals can continue to grow new brain cells throughout life.

I asked Rudy straight out, was it possible that the routine we had developed for my mother helped slow the progression of Alzheimer's and otherwise explained why she was able to perform certain skills even though she had scored a 12 and 14 on the MMSE?

He answered, yes.

My mother did many things even in the last two years of her life that startled me when they happened - the list is very long.

A few things stand out.

For example, even though she never met Harvey the Repeat parrot until December, 2009, she was able to remember his name, and she asked for him by name every morning for the rest of her life (with the exception being the last 3 weeks).

Dotty had already scored a 14 on the MMSE  when she first met Harvey indicating that she was firmly in the moderate to severe stage of Alzheimer's before Harvey.

In addition, she was clearly able to express emotion toward Harvey. She told him daily that she loved him and he was her best friend. Think about it.

For example, just two months before she went to Heaven she signed her name. A skill I thought was long gone. This did startle me.

For example, Dotty continued to read to me from the newspaper each morning, an exercise we had been engaging in daily for seven years. She also read her books every single night when she went in bed even though she could not remember, or repeat, a single word.

To put this in perspective, Dotty could not remember the names of our neighbors referring to one of them as - that guy. She first met him in 2001, and saw him daily, and she did know his name before AD took a strong hold on her.

Those who are long term readers of the Alzheimer's Room Reading can testify that during the last two years of her life, and especially after the introduction of Harvey, my mother often seemed brighter, more energetic, and quite frankly - more there. They saw and heard my mother right here on the ARR.

How? Why?

One thing that has only dawned on me recently is the important of great friendship in preserving memory.

My mother was developing a great friendship, a more important friendship, compassionate friendship, with our neighbors Jim and Ruth.

Two friends who never wavered in their interactions and treatment of Dotty. They treated her the same, and were never caught up in the stigmas attached to Alzheimer's.

They became more compassionate and caring in their treatment of Dotty as she became more fragile. But they treated her as they always had. This added a consistency to Dotty's life.

The point I want to make her is simple and straight forward - you can fight and you can beat Alzheimer's.

Reading. music, real exercise, compassionate caring, love, and socialization (communication) can make a difference regardless of stage. Of the stage of Alzheimer's.

The stimulus of communication is vital to effective care. Talking, yakking, music, reading, Harvey, compassionate friendship, the telephone all vital.

These are my beliefs.

I often wonder if all that we did each day in some way offset the loss of brain cells being caused in my mother by Alzheimer's disease. I believe it did.

I can arrive at no other explanation for our experience.

I asked Tanzi if what I am thinking (and feeling) was possible, he answered yes.

I believe you can do more with a person living with Alzheimer's than your brain will allow you to imagine.

I believe you should do more.

I believe you should fight.

I believe that much of what I did and believe in about Alzheimer's care will come into the mainstream in the years ahead.

It is already happening.

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+Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR). Bob is a recognized expert, writer, speaker, and influencer in the Alzheimer's and Dementia Community worldwide. The ARR Knowledge Base contains more than 4,900 articles. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.
Learn more about Alzheimer's and dementia, visit The Alzheimer's Reading Room Knowledge Base