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What we’re learning about Alzheimers

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Northern MI Comfort Keepers Alzheimer’s caregivers have always believed that understanding is the key to compassionate care, so it’s heartwarming when science offers promising new developments.

A scientist from Georgetown University has recently led groundbreaking Alzheimer’s research. Dr. Howard Federoff worked with a team of researchers at Georgetown and the University of Rochester to develop a blood test that can predict the disease.

Many have tried to accomplish this coup in the past, but Federoff and his team seem to have succeeded. Their findings were recently published in a journal called Nature Medicine.

Federoff and his team studied a group of 525 senior adults, all 70 years of age or older and none of whom showed signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia. The scientists examined blood samples at the start of the study and each subsequent year for five years. During the research period, a total of 74 seniors developed Alzheimer’s or another form of memory loss.

What Federoff and his colleagues discovered is that people who developed Alzheimer’s or dementia shared something unique in their blood that changed lipids, or fat-like compounds.

With this knowledge, they were able to develop a blood test to predict who will develop Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Federoff said this test is the first of its kind that is sensitive and specific – in other words, among the test cases, very few who developed memory loss were missed; and there weren’t any false negatives.

What does this mean for Alzheimer’s care Northern Michigan and residents who may need care? There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, but medical experts believe early intervention is a priority. Supportive home care can allow people to maintain an independent lifestyle in familiar surroundings for much longer.
Federoff is optimistic that if people are identified before they exhibit symptoms of Alzheimer’s, treatment might at least slow the progress of the disease. The prevailing thought among experts is that introducing therapies before the brain is badly damaged is essential.

Another practical consideration is that people predisposed to the condition and their loved ones can pursue available therapies and make preparations for care before memory loss is severe.

Each year more than five million people in the United States are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and these numbers are expected to nearly triple in the next quarter century. To promote awareness and understanding about people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, Northwestern University has created a very unique program for medical students, which has since been adopted by a few other medical schools.

In its innovative program, Northwestern paired first-year medical students with dementia patients to give the doctors in training some first-hand experience with Alzheimer’s and other memory loss conditions. Both buddies benefited from the relationship, with the seniors enjoying companionship and outings in exchange for sharing a depth of knowledge about aging and memory loss no textbook could ever offer.

The reality is that most new doctors will deal with Alzheimer’s or dementia during their careers. The hope is that this buddy program will give them insight into living with the reality of such a diagnosis so they may offer compassionate care with a better idea of the kinds of services that can help patients and families cope.

Helping those with Alzheimer’s and dementia stay physically and mentally active in a familiar environment is reassuring for patients and their families. Home care provided by professional caregivers with expertise is often much less expensive than other options like long-term care facilities.

Interested to learn more about Alzheimer’s care Northern Michigan options? Contact Comfort Keepers to find out about our dementia services and to arrange senior home care for as little as a few hours a week.

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