Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Inheriting early-onset ALZ

Congratulations to Niki Kapsambelis for her new book on one family's coping with inherited Alzheimer's Disease.

The Inheritance is about the six children of Galen and Gail DeMoe; all six have a 50% chance 

Read this review and interview by John Williams in the New York Times today:

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trump & ALZ

If you search Twitter, you will find thousands of tweets by using the search terms "Trump dementia."

I first heard these reports in June of 2016.  

They began multiplying in January as the inauguration of Trump approached.

Many of these tweets cite articles on the question of whether the president has dementia.

One interesting and brief summary is "Linguistic Features Identify Alzheimer's in Narrative Speech" by Charles Moore, who reviews a study headed by Dr. Frank Rudzicz.  


“Every caregiver knows that people with dementia have good days and bad days — we can tell this by talking to them, because speech is a rich source of information on the brain’s cognitive function,” says study co-author Dr. Jed Meltzer, a neurorehabilitation scientist with the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences, a premier international center for the study of brain function. 

I've been noticing quite a few ALZ-like qualities in Trump's speech.  I'm familiar with this speech because of spending so much time with my mother in her last four years.

*  repetition -- Trump repeats statements so often in his speeches.  He repeats words like "very very very."

*  simple vocabulary --  Trump doesn't know how to praise a politician or diplomat or anyone else using complex, precise vocabulary.  All he does is repeat five simple words:  great, huge, terrific, amazing, big.  For those he doesn't like it's loser, sad, stupid, horrible, weak.  

* simple sentences -- Subject, verb, period.  There are very few sentences that begin with "Although, when, whether, if" or other subordinating conjunctions.  

* simple ideas and lack of detail in presenting them.

There are other signs of his dementia beyond speech:

  • his inability to remember what he has said or done earlier.

  • his grandiosity, a part of my mother's Alzheimer's.  During late 2007 and early 2008, she confused me with Hillary Clinton and thought I was running for president.  Then she thought my husband was running.

  • his lack of impulse control--like tweeting that President Obama had wiretapped Trump Tower.  His frontal lobes and temporal lobes are not functioning well.


These kinds of things convince me that Trump has dementia.  He lacks the 

The novelist described Trump as a speaker "wielding a vocabulary of seventy-seven words that is better called Jerkish than English.”


How to diagnose ALZ

Dr. Frank Rudzicz and team

There's now a way to diagnose Alzheimer's Disease with 80% accuracy.

Because science didn't have an accurate way to diagnose ALZ in 2004 through 2008, my mother's dementia wasn't correctly identified until after her death, when an autopsy was done.

Her physical, behavioral, and mental symptoms were tentatively diagnosed as Lewy Body Dementia, but instead of small hard Lewy bodies, her brain held the protein tangles of ALZ.

Developed by Dr. Frank Rudzicz at the University Health Network's Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, the new method was reported in the December 2015 issue of The Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.


"Linguistic Features Identify Alzheimer's Disease in Narrative Speech" is the title of the research report.

Speech samples were taken from 167 Alzheimer's patients and 97 control persons of similar ages and backgrounds.

The aspects of speech analyzed included 
lexical diversity, syntactic complexity, semantic content, and acoustics.

Now a start-up company called WinterLight Labs is working to commercialize the techology and make it available to the public. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Signs of Alzheimer's Disease

People fifty years and older often put themselves down with the comment, "I'm having a senior moment."

I don't like to hear this when the thing misplaced or word forgotten is something that could happen at any age.

Let's know the difference between normal forgetfulness and early signs of Alzheimer's.

Go the the Alzheimer's Association website to learn the important differences.



In brief, they are:

  1. memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. challenges in solving problems
  3. difficulty completing familiar tasks
  4. confusion with time or place
  5. trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. new problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. poor judgment
  9. withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. changes in mood and personality

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Thinking of Evelyn in 2017

My mother and I on Zuma Beach with Pt. Dume behind us

My mother would have turned 98 today.

Fortunately, she did not have to face that birthday.  She succumbed to Alzheimer's Disease at age 89 in 2008.  To live longer in her state of incapacitation would have been hard for her to bear... though she did feel a wistful sense of loss at leaving this earth.  

Her friend Janet Krause did turn 98 this year.  

Her Christmas card showed four generations:

  • herself
  • her daughter Karla,
  • her granddaughter Jenny, and
  • her greatgrandson Seth, age 3.

It's a beautiful photo.  

I appreciate knowing that a dear friend of my mother's is still alive and remembers Evelyn and their days together at Children's Hospital in Denver training to be nurses, graduating in 1941.  Out of the 28 who started in 1938, only 19 completed the program and became Registered Nurses.  Several of them went on to serve as military nurses in World War II.

Janet wrote me a lovely note, citing challenges as well as blessings:

"Some of the challenges include poor eyesight and issues with memory.  Some days can be more challenging than others.  Overall, though, my health is pretty good for a 9-year-old.

My many blessings include being a resident at Countryside Living Retirement and having so many wonderful friends.  My daughter retired in July, so she has been able to visit more often along with her husband Deen, granddaughter Jenny, and great-grandson Seth (3).  I am planning to go to Denver for Christmas so I will be able to visit most of my family at that time.  Other blessings include two very dear friends who come from out of town regularly to visit and help, Linda Ripley and Barb Schommer.

May God's blessings fill your heart this Christmas!

I do think of you, Anne--I am getting too old.  JK"  

The last line is hand-written.

What a blessing to have one's mental faculties at age 98.  

My mother inspires me to do all I can to slow or avoid my own development of Alzheimer's Disease.

The things I do include:

  • Trying to keep my weight down to about 150 pounds.

  • Trying to walk 10,000 steps per day as monitored by my Fitbit.

  • Taking occasional hikes.  I used to jog twice a week, but I have let that lapse.

  • Avoiding sugar except when it comes in natural forms with milk or whole fruit (not juice).

  • Learning Hebrew to keep my mind sharp.  (I'm not patient enough to do crossword puzzles.)

  • Getting 7-8 hours of sleep most nights.  I need to raise that to 8-9.