Archives for October 2014

Study Sheds Light On Why We Might Remember Some Things and Not Others

(Northwestern University) Why do we remember some things and not others? In a unique imaging study, two Northwestern University researchers have discovered how neurons in the brain might allow some experiences to be remembered while others are forgotten. It turns out, if you want to remember something about your environment, you better involve your dendrites.

Using a high-resolution, one-of-a-kind microscope, Daniel A. Dombeck and Mark E. J. Sheffield peered into the brain of a living animal and saw exactly what was happening in individual neurons called place cells as the animal navigated a virtual reality maze.

The scientists found that, contrary to current thought, the activity of a neuron’s cell body and its dendrites can be different. They observed that when cell bodies were activated but the dendrites were not activated during an animal’s experience, a lasting memory of that experience was not formed by the neurons. This suggests that the cell body seems to represent ongoing experience, while dendrites, the treelike branches of a neuron, help to store that experience as a memory.

“There are a lot of theories on memory but very little data as to how individual neurons actually store information in a behaving animal,” said Dombeck, assistant professor of neurobiology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the study’s senior author. “Now we have uncovered signals in dendrites that we think are very important for learning and memory. Our findings could explain why some experiences are remembered and others are forgotten.”

In the brain’s hippocampus, there are hundreds of thousands of place cells — neurons essential to the brain’s GPS system. Dombeck and Sheffield are the first to image the activity of individual dendrites in place cells.

Their findings contribute to our understanding of how the brain represents the world around it and also point to dendrites as a new potential target for therapeutics to combat memory deficits and debilitating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Disruption to the brain’s GPS system is one of the first symptoms of AD, with many patients unable to find their way home. Understanding how place cells and their dendrites store these types of memories could help us find new ways to treat the disease.

The Northwestern study was published Oct. 26 by the journal Nature.

Neuroscientist John O’Keefe discovered place cells in 1971 (and received this year’s Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine), but it is only in the last few years that scientists, such as Dombeck and Sheffield, have been able to image these neurons that represent a map of where we are in our environment.

In their study, Dombeck and Sheffield found dendrite signals that could explain how an animal can experience something without storing the experience as a memory.

They saw that dendrites are not always activated when the cell body is activated in a neuron. Signals produced in the dendrites (used to store information) and signals within the neuron cell body (used to compute and transmit information) can be either highly synchronized or desynchronized depending on how well the neurons remember different features of the maze.

Scientists have long believed that the neuronal tasks of computing and storing information are connected — when neurons compute information, they are also storing it, and vice versa. The Northwestern study provides evidence against this classic view of neuronal function.

“We experience events all the time, which must be represented in the brain by the activity of neurons, but not all these events can be recalled later,” said Mark E. J. Sheffield, a postdoctoral fellow in Dombeck’s lab and first author of the study.

“A daily commute to work, for example, requires the activity of millions of neurons, but you would be hard pressed to remember what was happening halfway through your commute last Tuesday,” Sheffield said. “How is it then that the neurons could be activated during the commute without storing that information in the brain? Now we may have an explanation for how this occurs.”

Dombeck and Sheffield built their own laser scanning microscope that can image neurons on multiple planes. They then studied individual animals navigating (on a trackball) a virtual reality maze constructed using the video game Quake II.

Each lit-up structure seen in the images they took indicate a neuron firing action potentials. The activity of these neurons represents an animal’s experience of where it is in the environment, the researchers said. Whether the neurons store this experience or not appears to depend on the activity of the neurons’ dendrites.

Support for the research came from the Klingenstein Foundation, the Whitehall Foundation, the Chicago Biomedical Consortium, Northwestern University, the National Institutes of Health (grant 1R01MH101297) and the Life Sciences Research Foundation.

The title of the Nature paper is “Calcium transient prevalence across the dendritic arbor predicts place field properties


Megan Fellman

Copyright Northwestern University


Institute Discovers New Target for Drugs to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

(PRNewswire) Scientists at the Roskamp Institute (, a not-for-profit biomedical research facility specializing in Alzheimer’s disease research, have isolated a key molecule that gives researchers a new drug target for the treatment of the progressive, irreversible neurological disorder.

This finding is the culmination of more than 10 years of work by more than a dozen scientists and clinicians in the research team inSarasota. Alzheimer’s has been the subject of intensive research for more than 20 years. As yet, there is no approved treatment that impacts the course of the disease.

Published October 20 in the on-line edition of the Journal of Biological Chemistry, ( and scheduled for the print edition in December, the results of the extensive studies offer a new target for drug development in the quest for a cure for Alzheimer’s, the most prevalent form of dementia in the elderly.  Currently, the disease affects 5.2 million Americans, or 1 in 9 adults over the age of 65.

The Roskamp researchers have identified a single enzyme which propagates the three key hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease – inflammation, accumulation of amyloid protein, and modulation of the ‘tau‘ protein, all of which are responsible for damage to the nerve cells of the brain.

“These studies suggest there is a single drug target to inhibit all the three key pathologies of Alzheimer’s disease,” says neurobiologistDaniel Paris, Ph.D., lead researcher for the study.

Michael Mullan, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the published study, added,

“Our studies have revealed that the spleen tyrosine kinase (SYK) enzyme is at a crossroad from which all three of the brain abnormalities known to be associated with Alzheimer’s disease diverge. Hopefully, academic or industry researchers can now develop new drugs to inhibit SYK which are suitable for clinical trials in Alzheimer’s disease.”

In working out how an anti-hypertensive drug called Nilvadipine works to reduce amyloid protein accumulations, Roskamp researchers realized the drug also had positive effects on neuroinflammation and the tau protein. The scientists retraced the molecular steps leading to these three factors and discovered they all led back to the SYK protein.

Dr. Paris then went on to show that drugs blocking SYK activity in the brain could represent a new strategy for treating Alzheimer’s.

“The potential for developing a single “multi-modal” drug treatment that will control all three of these Alzheimer’s characteristics has us very excited,” Dr. Paris said. “All of these pathologies are interrelated. In theory, by interrupting these three molecular pathways, we can develop more effective drugs to stop the disease”.

“To date, all the drugs that have been tested only attack one pathology, or Alzheimer’s characteristic, at a time,” he added. “What is needed is one drug to address all three.”

Having discovered and demonstrated the molecular pathway linking SYK with these traits, Roskamp scientists are looking forward to testing their hypothesis, either by developing new drugs themselves or partnering with academic and commercial groups.

“We didn’t know until now that SYK was a possible therapeutic target for Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Fiona Crawford, CEO of the Roskamp Institute. “We’d be delighted for anyone to come up with an “anti-SYK” treatment to stop Alzheimer’s.”

“These findings are really significant,” stated David H. Cribbs, Ph.D., Research Professor at University of California Irvine (UCI), Associate Director of the Institute for Memory Impairment and Neurological Disorders, and Co-Leader of the UCI Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Neuropathology Core.

“With all of the failures of the clinical trials of drugs for this dementia up to this point the finding of new therapeutics is wonderful. And Nilvadipine has a good safety profile,” he added.

A Phase III clinical trial of Nilvadipine for Alzheimer’s disease is currently underway in Europe (the NILVAD study). Phase III studies are the final step in the regulatory process before a drug can be moved into clinical practice.

Five hundred Alzheimer’s patients in 26 clinics across nine countries are participating in the double-blind, placebo-controlled study that began in 2013. Each participant will be followed for 18 months to see if the drug is effective at slowing or stopping the course of the disease.

The Roskamp Institute, Inc. is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) public charity research institute located in Sarasota, Florida, that is dedicated to understanding the causes of, and finding novel therapies for neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. The Institute has devised a broad range of scientific approaches to understanding the causes of and potential therapies for these disorders with an emphasis on Alzheimer’s disease. The Institute’s Clinic focuses on the clinical research, diagnosis, management and treatment of neurological, neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders in addition to conducting clinical research studies.


Roskamp Institute, Inc. 2040 Whitfield Avenue Sarasota, FL 34243 941-752-2949

SOURCE Roskamp Institute

Copyright © 2014 PR Newswire Association LLC. All Rights Reserved.


Traumatic Brain Injury Associated with Increased Dementia Risk in Older Adults

(MedicalXpress) Traumatic brain injury (TBI) appears to be associated with an increased risk of dementia in adults 55 years and older, according to a study published online by JAMA Neurology.

Controversy exists about whether there is a link between a single TBI and the risk of developing  because of conflicting study results. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that Americans 55 years and older account for more than 60 percent of all hospitalizations for TBI, with the highest rates of TBI-related emergency department (ED) visits, inpatient stays and deaths happening among those patients 75 years and older. Therefore, understanding the effects of a recent TBI and the subsequent development of dementia among middle or older adults has important public health implications.

1-alzheimersdi (1)

Diagram of the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s Disease. Credit: Wikipedia/public domain.

Researchers Raquel C. Gardner, M.D., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues examined the risk of dementia among adults 55 years and older with recent TBI compared with adults with non-TBI body trauma (NTT), which was defined as fractures but not of the head or neck. The study included 164,661 patients identified in a statewide California administrative health database of ED and inpatient visits.

In the study, a total of 51,799 patients with trauma (31.5 percent) had TBI. Of those, 4,361 patients (8.4 percent) developed dementia compared with 6,610 patients (5.9 percent) with NTT. The average time from trauma to  was 3.2 years and it was shorter in the TBI group compared with the NTT group (3.1 vs. 3.3 years). Moderate to severe TBI was associated with increased risk of dementia at 55 years or older, while mild TBI at 65 years or older increased the dementia risk.

“Whether a person with TBI recovers cognitively or develops dementia, however, is likely dependent on multiple additional risk and protective factors, ranging from genetics and medical comorbidities to environmental exposures and specific characteristics of the TBI itself,” the authors note.

In a related editorial, Steven T. DeKosky, M.D., of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, writes:

“In this issue of JAMA Neurology, Gardner and colleagues used a very large database to examine the risk of dementia following significant trauma, specifically whether body trauma (fractures) or  (TBI) differed in dementia incidence during follow-up.”

“Unfortunately, there was not a nontrauma control group included, which may have answered the question of whether NTT (i.e. body trauma itself) raised the risk of dementia significantly above age-equivalent controls without nonbrain trauma (perhaps from inflammation or other complications),” DeKosky continues.

“Judicious use of data by skilled researchers who are familiar with the entire range of dementia research from pathobiology to health care needs will enable us to ask important questions, evolve new or more informed queries, and both lead and complement the translational questions that are before us. Dementia is both a global problem and a pathological conundrum; thus, the complementary use of big data and basic neuroscience analyses offers the most promise,” he concludes.


Dementia risk after traumatic brain injury vs non-brain trauma: the role of age and severity, Raquel C. Gardner, et al., JAMA Neurology, doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2014.2668, published online 27 October 2014, abstract.

© Medical Xpress 2011-2014, Science X network


The Sensory Room: Ways to Boost Multi-Sensory Environments in Dementia Care

(Medical News Today) A new guide developed by two British academics has shed fresh light on the positive impact multi-sensory environments can have when caring for people with dementia.

The publication, How to make a sensory room for people living with dementia, has been unveiled as part of the Inside Out Festival, which showcases contributions universities make to the English capital’s cultural life.

Produced by researchers Dr Anke Jakob, from London’s Kingston University, and Dr Lesley Collier, from the University of Southampton, the guide highlights the importance of having a space specifically designed to meet the needs of people living with the condition.

Sensory rooms provided gentle stimulation of sight, sound, touch, taste, smell and movement in a controlled way, Dr Jakob explained.

“They can enhance feelings of comfort and well-being, relieve stress and pain and maximise a person’s potential to focus, all of which help improve communication and memory,” she said.

“Traditionally, these spaces have been geared more towards younger adults and children with physical or learning disabilities. However, our approach emphasises the benefits of addressing all the senses to support residents diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia in a care home environment.

Soft textiles, familiar everyday objects, interesting things to smell and taste, sound and film can all have an important part to play in that process.”

The guide contains advice about different materials and tools that can be used to stimulate senses, such as scents like lavender to relax and calm, sounds from the great outdoors and foods with particular flavours. These can all help to improve mood, trigger memories and engage people living with dementia.

Earlier work carried out by Kingston University’s Design Research Centre had noted that, while many care homes had multi-sensory rooms, they were often left unused, Dr Jakob said.

“Reasons for this varied – some were not set up in a way that appealed to residents, some staff did not feel the spaces would benefit the people they looked after and sometimes care workers had not been shown how to use the equipment,” she added.

Meanwhile, previous research conducted by Dr Collier at the University of Southampton had found that, if a sensory environment was adapted to individual needs, improvement in performance, mood and behaviour could be achieved.

“Results showed that 74 per cent of people who took part in the study improved in motor performance – their ability to undertake everyday tasks – and 63 per cent improved in cognitive tasks – their ability to remember, problem solve and judge what to do in everyday activities,” Dr Collier said.

The new guide pulls together and builds on some of the best work already being done in care homes both in the United Kingdom and internationally.

“The role of the designer is to look at space as a whole and consider how aspects such as colour, lighting, materials, furniture and sound can best work together to produce an area that will give people with dementia a positive experience,” Dr Jakob said. “Providing a soft, warm, quiet space where residents can feel secure is vital. Flickering lights and shadows, for example, may be confusing and irritating, so soft lighting should be used along with plain fabrics covering walls and ceilings.”

People with dementia faced many challenges – one of which was being overloaded with sensory stimulation, Dr Collier added.

“This can prevent them from carrying out everyday tasks to their full potential,” she said. “We hope the guide will help care homes develop appropriate environments for their residents but also that other people who care for friends or relatives with dementia can draw inspiration from it so they can improve the lives of their loved ones.”

Maizie Mears-Owen, Head of Dementia at Care UK, acted as an advisor on the project and provided the researchers with access to homes and multi-sensory environments within the organisation’s network.

“We fully appreciate the need for meaningful stimulation and creating relaxing, calming spaces where people living with dementia can ‘just be’,” she said. “Although LED lights have been shown to have a positive impact on residents’ mood and behaviour, we mustn’t forget the more subtle ways in which people are naturally stimulated through sounds, taste, scents and touch – all of which can have a more emotive impact than sight.”

Top tips from the guide, which is available to download free of charge from, include:

  • Create a space that is accessible and safe, both with and without supervision;
  • Bring the outdoors inside with a water feature, plants, shells, conkers and stones;
  • Old films with simpler plots can help prompt memories;
  • Scents can help stimulate a mood, such as lavender to relax and calm;
  • Introduce tactile stimulation through cushions made from various materials, with buttons, pockets, ribbons and zips;
  • Ensure items are age appropriate and familiar;
  • Music played in the background can improve mood and helps to engage care residents;
  • Don’t forget taste as a sensory component as it can help prompt memories and emotion;
  • Having familiar personal items on display can help an individual settle and relax before engaging in activity;
  • Ensure the sensory room or space is a comfortable temperature and has good air quality through regular airing or using an air conditioning unit.

Source: Kingston University

© 2004-2014 All rights reserved.


Dementia Risk After Traumatic Brain Injury vs Nonbrain Trauma

JAMA Neurol. 2014 Oct 27. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2014.2668. [Epub ahead of print]

Dementia Risk After Traumatic Brain Injury vs Nonbrain Trauma: The Role of Age and Severity.

Gardner RC1, Burke JF2, Nettiksimmons J3, Kaup A4, Barnes DE5, Yaffe K6.



Epidemiologic evidence regarding the importance of traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a risk factor for dementia is conflicting. Few previous studies have used patients with non-TBI trauma (NTT) as controls to investigate the influence of age and TBI severity.


To quantify the risk of dementia among adults with recent TBI compared with adults with NTT.

DesignThis retrospective cohort study was performed from January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2011 (follow-up, 5-7 years). All patients 55 years or older diagnosed as having TBI or NTT in 2005 and 2006 and who did not have baseline dementia or die during hospitalization (n = 164 661) were identified in a California statewide administrative health database of emergency department (ED) and inpatient visits.


Mild vs moderate to severe TBI diagnosed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision (ICD-9)codes, and NTT, defined as fractures excluding fractures of the head and neck, diagnosed using ICD-9 codes.


Incident ED or inpatient diagnosis of dementia (using ICD-9 codes) 1 year or more after initial TBI or NTT. The association between TBI and risk of dementia was estimated using Cox proportional hazards models before and after adjusting for commondementia predictors and potential confounders. We also stratified by TBI severity and age category (55-64, 65-74, 75-84, and ≥85 years).


A total of 51 799 patients with trauma (31.5%) had TBI. Of these, 4361 (8.4%) developed dementia compared with 6610 patients with NTT (5.9%) (P < .001). We found that TBI was associated with increased dementia risk (hazard ratio [HR], 1.46; 95% CI, 1.41-1.52; P < .001). Adjustment for covariates had little effect except adjustment for age category (fully adjusted model HR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.21-1.32; P < .001). In stratified adjusted analyses, moderate to severe TBI was associated with increased risk of dementia across all ages (age 55-64: HR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.40-2.10; P < .001; vs age 65-74: HR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.30-1.64; P < .001), whereas mild TBI may be a more important risk factor with increasing age (age 55-64: HR, 1.11; 95% CI, 0.80-1.53; P = .55; vs age 65-74: HR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.04-1.51; P = .02; age interaction P < .001).


Among patients evaluated in the ED or inpatient settings, those with moderate to severe TBI at 55 years or older or mild TBI at 65 years or older had an increased risk of developing dementia. Younger adults may be more resilient to the effects of recent mild TBI than older adults.


© 2014 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.


Getting to the Heart of It: Healthy Heart and Healthy Brain

(Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry) If you’re heading to the fitness center for regular workouts, shedding those extra pounds or kicking a tobacco habit with heart health in mind, here’s good news: you also may be lowering your risk for dementia.

“In other words, what’s good for a person’s heart is also good for the brain,” said Gabrielle Strobel, executive editor of Alzforum.

This is a key message of the World Alzheimer Report 2014, which is published by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) – a worldwide organization of more than 80 Alzheimer’s associations – and international health insurance provider Bupa.

This year’s report, Dementia and Risk Reduction: An analysis of protective and modifiable factors highlights how people can reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias by:

  • Giving up cigarettes
  • Controlling blood pressure to prevent hypertension
  • Managing blood sugar to avoid diabetes
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Exercising regularly

“A healthy lifestyle protects your brain and lowers your risk of developing dementia later in life,” Strobel said. “This is a hopeful, empowering message, as these are things everyone can do. It’s never too early to adopt this healthy lifestyle.”

Lifestyles and life stages came together in several of the report’s key findings. The report’s authors, led by Professor Martin Prince of King’s College London, noted that the risk of developing dementia increases with:

  • Lower education early in life;
  • High blood pressure in midlife; and
  • Diabetes across an entire life.

ADI’s report echoes other research that suggests improving heart health, consuming a sensible diet and maintaining an active lifestyle helps ward off dementia. Even so, according to a previous Bupa survey, most people are unaware of these important healthy lifestyle connections.

What does ADI recommend to remedy this? If the organization has its way, future anti-tobacco and public health awareness campaigns will encourage people of all ages to adopt healthy habits for better brain health.

“While this is true in general and for groups of people,” said Strobel, “one can never guarantee that a healthy lifestyle will protect any given person, just like smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer but some non-smokers get it, too.”


©2013 Banner Health


Activities to Get the Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patient Engaged

(BrightFocus Foundation) Puzzles, word games, picture books, arts and crafts, music, dancing, gardening, walking, and folding clothes are just some of the many activities that one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can participate.

Caregivers enjoy finding a new activity to engage their loved one. And there are many options, but knowing how to engage them in an activity is the bigger question. Especially when the person is stressed, distracted, agitated or sleeps a lot, it can be a struggle to get them going.

These scenarios are challenging, but engaging is possible, and can also help to create a distraction from the troublesome behaviors. Below are some guidelines and ideas to help you assist your loved one be more engaged in a meaningful activity.

First Things First

When you are looking at ways to improve your loved one’s quality of life with activities, consider first his health. Know of any underlying medical conditions and ensure outstanding medical issues are addressed. What are his sleep patterns? Is he in any pain? Is he properly hydrated? Is he at risk for falls? Any of these issues will affect how he responds to any activity, and the healthier he is feeling, the better able he is to engage.

How are the Surroundings?

His environment is important as well. Be aware of the noise level and the visual cues in the room. Is the environment over or under stimulating? Clutter and noise can impede your ability to engage the person with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Is the TV on? Turn it off to minimize that distraction. Can you think of other environmental cues that may be a distraction for your loved one?

Now, Get Started

As you think about what kinds of activities, consider first those he is familiar with, or those that at one time provided special meaning for him. Perhaps he once loved to paint but has not done so in months or years. While being able to paint as well as he once did may not be possible, it can be possible to engage and keep him focused on a simplified painting activity he can perform.


  • Keep the activity simple – activities with just 1-2 steps are best.
  • Mistakes will happen – stay calm and ignore them. In the end, they do not matter.
  • Trial and error will be needed.
  • What works for one person with dementia or Alzheimer’s does not necessarily work for another. Pay attention to your loved one’s response, and individualize your approach, and each activity as needed.
  • Evaluate, learn and revise: look back on each interaction and learn and revise approach as needed.

Some Ideas for Simplifying

Over the course of your loved one’s Alzheimer’s, it will be necessary to simplify activities to match his abilities. For instance:

  • A life-long reader may eventually enjoy being read to, and then progress to just looking at the pictures.
  • A love of gardening may go from gardening, to cutting flowers, to weeding, to watering plants, to watching squirrels.
  • A regular round of golf, or a weekly night of bowling may progress to walking only.
  • Playing music or singing may progress to listening to music only.
  • Preparing the evening meal may eventually progress to folding dinner napkins, and can be a very engaging for the one with Alzheimer’s.

Success is in the Journey

It is a well-worn adage, but perhaps nothing is more important than to approach any activity as a chance to engage and involve your loved one with Alzheimer’s, and hopefully add to his quality of life. The end result – what he paints, or how it looks, matters little. What matters is the doing.


Kathleen S. Allen, LCSW, LICSW, C-ASWCM
Eldercare Consultant/Geriatric Care Manager
Senior Care Management Services, LLC

© 2000 – 2014 BrightFocus Foundation. All rights reserved.


Fear Drives “Shadowing” of Alzheimer’s Caregivers

(Mayo Clinic with Angela Lunde) I received a message the other day from a gentleman who said that in his support group the issue of “shadowing” comes up frequently. Shadowing is when the person with dementia attempts to keep his or her caregiver in their sight at all times, following them like a small child would his or her parent. Shadowing can have the Alzheimer’s caregiver feeling smothered and their personal space feeling violated.

Let’s first try to understand this behavior. It’s imperative to understand that changing and challenging behaviors are symptoms of Alzheimer’s (and related dementias). You’ve heard me say on previous blog posts, “Blame the disease, not the person.” Also, it’s critical to appreciate that most challenging behaviors have a purpose for the person with Alzheimer’s — in other words, there’s a message behind their behavior.

In people with Alzheimer’s, I believe shadowing represents the message of uncertainty, insecurity or fear.  “Where am I? What am I doing here? What am I suppose to do?  Where am I supposed to go?  Do I know you?” Consequently, caregivers represent a lifeline, security, a protector, and an anchor to oneself.

Like most challenging behaviors in dementia, there are no easy answers.  We can’t change or control the disease or the symptoms that it creates.  We can, however, accommodate for the behavior. In shadowing, we accommodate by addressing the emotion behind the behavior — fear.

Fear is a constant companion of the person with dementia. Addressing fear can begin by asking yourself this question, “What can I do or say (or not say) to the person with Alzheimer’s that will offer them reassurance and a sense of contentment?”

In general, people with Alzheimer’s  will feel content and safe if they have a predictable daily routine, are engaged in activities that are familiar and uncomplicated, are in an environment that is calm, and receive a daily dose of reassuring messages. Here are some other thoughts:

  • Say reassuring words every day and often, like a mantra — “You are safe. Everything will be OK. It’s good that you are here. I love you.” Your words should be simply stated, short, and always the same.
  • Another idea is to make an audio tape of your voice (or any reassuring familiar voice).  The tape can be a collection of short and meaningful stories from the person with dementia’s past.
  • In similar fashion, a videotape can be created. Remember, persons with dementia forget recent events, so you can play this audio or video tape again and again if it proves to be comforting. Familiar movies or music is another option.

I once heard from a caregiver who was fed up because her husband with Alzheimer’s would never give her “alone time” in the bathroom. What worked for her was an egg timer. She would set the egg timer for however long she wanted to be in the bathroom. Her husband came to realize that she would return when the timer went off. He would hold the egg timer and wait. For her — it worked!

But like all ideas in dementia caregiving — what works for one person may not work for another. And what didn’t work one day may work beautifully the next.

As always, I welcome your insightful comments, experiences and stories.

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” — H. P. Lovecraft


By Angela Lunde

© 1998-2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. All rights reserved.