Shine a Purple Light

I will admit that until I began working in the senior living sector, I knew very little about Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.  It was not something I had seen on a personal or family level.  That has changed.  Now I know and care for people affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.  I understand that they are not all one in the same.  There are even different types of dementia.  I have come to know some of the devastating effects they take on lives.  Since June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I thought I could help do my part by shining a purple light.

Did you know that according to the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Alzheimer’s is fatal. It kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined.
  • Alzheimer’s is not normal aging. It’s a progressive brain disease without any cure.
  • Alzheimer’s is more than memory loss. It appears through a variety of signs and symptoms.

Per the website, “A number of studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Experts are not certain about the reason for this association. It may be due to direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain.”


During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks you to learn more about Alzheimer’s. Share your story and take action.  It may be as simple as bringing awareness via social media.  Alzheimer’s disease awareness is represented by the color purple, and in June, thousands of Americans will turn their Facebook profile purple with an “END ALZ” icon.  If you need help or more information on ways you can raise awareness of the truth about Alzheimer’s, visit to get started.


Early Detection Matters

Signs and Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily living.  Dementia is not a specific disease, it is an overall term used to describe the changes in mental ability that affect daily living/functioning.  Alzheimer’s Disease is the cause of 60-80% of all dementia.  Vascular dementia is the second most common cause, often after a stroke or severe coronary artery disease.

Symptoms of Dementia

While symptoms may vary, at least 2 of the following must be present to warrant a diagnosis of Dementia:

  • Memory loss/problems—short term memory

Forgetting recently learned information.  Forgetting important dates or information.  Asking the same questions over and over.  Relying on family to remind them of things one used to do on their own.  Getting lost while driving or out shopping

  • Communication and language difficulties

Trouble following or joining a conversation.  Stopping in the middle of a conversation, unable to complete a thought.  Can’t find the right word.  Calling common items by the wrong name (a watch may be called a hand clock)

  • Ability to focus and pay attention

Difficulty staying focused on a conversation.  Difficulty paying attention to TV or Movies.  Having problems following a discussion or conversation.  Having problems understanding what is said to them.

  • Reasoning and judgment

Giving things of value away  .Making poor decisions.  Paying less attention to grooming or clothing selection.  Not taking care of things that have always been valued by the individual.

  • Visual perception

Difficulty reading.  Difficulty judging distance or color.  Not recognizing their own image when passing a mirror, thinking someone else is in the room.

Diagnosis and Early Intervention

If you have a loved one who is experiencing symptoms of dementia, it is critical to get a diagnosis and begin early intervention.  There are a lot of new medications which can slow the progress of some forms of dementia.  This allows other non medical interventions to be more effective and it also enables one to plan and indentify individuals’ desires and needs for long term care.

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Mild Cognitive Impairment

What is Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Mild Cognitive Impairment is the intermediate stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. It can involve problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes.   Research has found that 10% to15% of all adults over the age of 65 have Mild Cognitive Impairment.  Of this percentage, 50% will progress to develop Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia.

Symptoms of MCI

The primary sympton of Mild Cognitive Impairment, or MCI, is memory loss.  Individuals with MCI DO NOT have problems with performing activities associated with daily living, their thinking is clear and normal, they are not depressed, and their “mini-mental” exam score is 23 or higher.   Other symptoms include: asking the same questions over and over, getting lost when driving or walking, forgetting important dates or events, difficulty switching from one topic or tasks to another, and problems multi-tasking.

Cause of MCI

Several medical problems increase the risk of developing Mild Cognitive Impairment.

  • Hypertension
  • Diabeties
  • High Cholesterol
  • Depression
  • Thyroid Problems
  • Vitamin B12 Deficiency
  • Head Trauma or Head Injury

Treatment of MCI

If a medical problem is causing MCI, especially Vitamin B12 deficiency or thyroid problems, resolution of the medical problem will likely improve the mild cognitive impairment.  There is no specific medication that treats MCI.  Other strategies include exercise, educational activities, social activities, and a healthy diet.

Tools and Strategies
  • Carrying a calendar with you to keep up with appointments
  • Daily lists to serve as reminders
  • Social interactions and supports help improve functioning
  • Family/Caregiver support to organize medications and go to medical or other important appointments
  • If symptoms begin to affect activities of daily living, follow up with your physician

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