Guns and dementia

From WebMD: “A new survey looks at access to guns by people with dementia.It finds that caregivers images-1and family members of people being checked for problems with thinking didn’t consistently remove guns from their homes or keep them locked up.The study underlines the need for doctors to ask caregivers if they have guns in the home and, if so, advise them on safety measures to take, the researchers say.In the United States, there is “a significant presence of firearms in the homes of patients with dementia, and many of these patients suffer from delusions and hallucinations, some of which can be paranoid, persecutory, or hostile,” says Jason Hsieh, a medical student at Cleveland Clinic Lerner School of Medicine.The results were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2014.

“In the U.S., 27% percent of people over the age of 65 own a firearm, Hsieh says. “In general, almost 40% of households in the U.S. contain a firearm, and surprisingly, in households with a firearm, the average number of firearms is 6.6,” he says.The elderly have the highest suicide rate of any part of the population, and firearms are the most common, as well as the most fatal, method of suicide. Data from the National Trauma Databank show that as people get older, the proportion of gun injuries that are self-inflicted rises. Other data show that as they age, people are less likely to survive a gunshot and less likely to return home after recovery.

“In addition to suicide, elderly individuals can be the victim of homicide, and this often happens from their caregiver,” Hsieh says. “Most of these events happen at home, and again, just like suicide, using a firearm is the most common method.”Also, it’s been shown that caregivers, families, and loved ones with dementia often don’t remove guns from the home as the dementia gets worse, he sayThe concern comes from the fact that people with dementia more frequently behave aggressively than those without it. Increasing dementia is linked with worsening agitation and aggression, along with delusions – particularly, mistaking a person for someone else, he says.Included in this analysis were 495 people, with an average age of nearly 80. Most of the patients were women (63%).Of the group, 378 (77%) qualified for a diagnosis of dementia, and 64% were already diagnosed with depression or qualified as depressed, the researchers say. Continue reading “Guns and dementia”

Dementia villages

Centuries after Shakespeare wrote about King Lear’s symptoms, there’s still no perfect way to care for sufferers of dementia and Alzheimer’s. In the Netherlands, however, a radical idea is being tested: Self-contained “villages” where people with dementia shop, cook, and live together—safely.

We, as a population, are aging rapidly. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors today dies with dementia. The process of finding—and paying for—long-term care can be very confusing, unfortunately, and difficult for both loved ones and patients. Most caretakers are underpaid, overworked, and must drive far distances to their jobs—giving away some 17 billion unpaid hours of care a year. And it’s just going to get worse: Alzheimer’s has increased by an incredible 68 percent since 2000, and the cost of caring for sufferers will increase from $203 billion last year to $1.2 trillion by 2050.

In short, we’re not prepared for the future that awaits us—financially, infrastructurally, or even socially. But in the small town of Weesp, in Holland—that bastion of social progressivism—at a dementia-focused living center called De Hogeweyk, aka Dementiavillage, the relationship between patients and their care is serving as a model for the rest of the world.

Hogeweyk, from a certain perspective, seems like a fortress: A solid podium of apartments and buildings, closed to the outside world with gates and security fences. But, inside, it is its own self-contained world: Restaurants, cafes, a supermarket, gardens, a pedestrian boulevard, and more.

The idea, explains Hogeweyk’s creators, is to design a world that maintains as much a resemblance to normal life as possible—without endangering the patients. Continue reading “Dementia villages”

Largest Alzheimer’s DNA study results

A clearer picture of what causes Alzheimer’s disease is emerging after the largest ever analysis of patients’ DNA, reports the BBC today.images

“A massive international collaboration has now doubled the number of genes linked to the dementia to 21. The findings, published in the journal Nature Genetics, indicate a strong role for the immune system.

“Alzheimer’s Research UK said the findings could “significantly enhance” understanding of the disease. The number of people developing Alzheimer’s is growing around the world as people live longer. However, major questions around what causes the dementia, how brain cells die, how to treat it or even diagnose it remain unanswered.

“It is really difficult to treat a disease when you do not understand what causes it,” one of the lead researchers, Prof Julie Williams from Cardiff University, said. The genetic code, the instructions for building and running the body, was scoured for clues. A group – involving nearly three quarters of the world’s Alzheimer’s geneticists from 145 academic institutions – looked at the DNA of 17,000 patients and 37,000 healthy people. They found versions of 21 genes, or sets of instructions, which made it more likely that a person would develop Alzheimer’s disease. They do not guarantee Alzheimer’s will develop, but they do make the disease more likely. By looking at the genes’ function in the body, it allows researchers to figure out the processes going wrong in Alzheimer’s disease. Prof Williams, the head of neurodegeneration at Cardiff University, told the BBC: “We’ve doubled the number of genes discovered and a very strong pattern is emerging.”There is something in the immune response which is causing Alzheimer’s disease and we need to look at that.” Continue reading “Largest Alzheimer’s DNA study results”

Alzhheimer’s, dementia, and stigma

In a time of medical breakthroughs, where cures are created for many conditions that were once terminal, it’s easy to forget that some conditions are still incurable and almost impossible to prevent or slow down, reports the Irish Times.

“Longer life expectancy means that by 2041 there will be 1.4 million people in Ireland aged 65 and over, making up 22 per cent of the population.

imgres

“Dementia and old age go hand in hand so the number diagnosed with dementia is expected to increase three-fold to more than 120,000 in the next 30 years. Currently, there are nearly 42,000 people living with dementia in Ireland.

“Alzheimer’s disease, a common form of dementia, causes memory loss and there is very little medically that can be done. Certain drugs may slow down the progression of the condition, but they are not a cure. The World Alzheimer Report 2012 looked at the stigma attached to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Families and friends often don’t know how to deal with it, which creates feelings of isolation and exclusion for people with dementia.  Continue reading “Alzhheimer’s, dementia, and stigma”

Worries over aging global boomer bubble

Around the globe advances in population control have had an unintended consequence, as the numbers of aging baby boomers now far exceed their offspring. This raises the question: Who will care for the elderly, especially in the world’s poorer nations?

“China’s new leadership will soon be confronted by an enormous demographic challenge.” Reports Al Jazeera in a story entitled “Defusing China’s Demographic Timebomb.” According to the story, “The country’s ‘one-child policy’ means not enough babies are being born to support its elderly population. Around 12 years ago, there were six workers for every retiree, but by the year 2030 it is estimated that there will be just two. By 2050, one-third of China’s population is expected to be aged over 60.

Al Jazeera’s Laura Kyle, reporting from Beijing, says: “For generations, elderly Chinese have been looked after at home by their children. The ‘one-child policy’ is breaking that tradition – with the burden of care too great for many young adults to handle on their own. Now increasing numbers of elderly parents are being sent to [hospices].”

According to Kyle, “the United Nations urged countries to address the needs of ageing populations after releasing a report entitled Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.

“Some of the key findings of the report are:

  • The ageing phenomenon is happening faster in poorer countries
  • By 2050, four out of five elderly people will be in developing nations
  • Only Japan currently has more than 30 per cent of its population aged over 60
  • By 2050, there will be more than 60 countries with the same demographic
  • Forty-seven per cent of the world’s older men and 24 per cent of older women are still in the labour force
  • Only a third of countries have comprehensive social protection scheme

The plan is the only global agreement for improving older people’s lives and it recommends that:

  • Governments should fight any kind of discrimination against older people
  • The elderly should be able to work for as long as they want
  • They should have the same access to preventive and curative care, as well as rehabilitation as other age groups
  • Older people should also have access to decent housing, receive support if they are care-givers and be free from neglect, abuse and violence

For more, see Al Jazeera, “Defusing China’s Demographic Timebomb.”