Helen Hovdesven's husband Arne was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease a number of years ago. Before he passed away in the Spring of 2009, Helen generously shared her story in an audio slide show and a series of podcasts. She currently serves as co-chair (with Sylvia Mackey) of the Patient and Family Council of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer's Treatment Center.
Early decisions. Helen describes symptoms her husband had and decisions they made. Listen (10 min)
Psychological support. Helen talks about receiving psychological support for both her and her husband. Listen (10 min)
Coming to terms. Helen deals with her husband's inability to communicate clearly. Listen (9 min)
Focus on caregivers. Helen talks about the multiple roles caregivers fill. Listen (10 min)
NEW! Brain donation and autopsy. Helen returns to talk about her experience of participating in brain donation and the brain autopsy that provided a definitive diagnosis of her husband’s Alzheimer’s disease that helped the family with information and closure. Listen (6 min)
Dr Constantine Lyketsos provides background information on how the brain changes over a person's lifetime and how to distinguish between normal aging and dementia. For example, forgetting where you put your keys versus forgetting what the keys are for. Dementia involves loss of cognitive functioning (memory, abstract thinking, language, attention, decision-making) that affects daily functioning. He walks through the neuropsychological assessments for diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease.
Assessing the probability of dementia and potential causes
Dr Paul Rosenberg underscores the importance of getting assessed at the first signs of memory loss. He walks through the assessment process involving tests and comprehensive patient history with the patient and family member or caregiver.
"I find making the diagnosis is more reassuring than not because first of all, they can give it a name and second of all, once it has a name, they can learn something about it. And they can put what I call some limits on their anxiety," says Dr Paul Rosenberg. The patient and family can make plans and start treatments.
Dr Paul Rosenberg explains two major types of medications for Alzheimer's disease - cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine - and how they are used as the disease progresses. As the disease progresses, depression and psychosis may also develop and medications are effective; Dr Rosenberg outlines what changes to look for and when to consult with a provider.
Similar to research efforts that led to finding risk factors for heart disease and in turn preventing heart disease, Dr Paul Rosenberg explains areas of research that could identify biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease. A combination of clinical events, such as getting depression in old age, and biologic tests may serve as non-invasive predictive tests to asses risk for Alzheimer's disease. Research continues on: brain imaging, cerebrospinal fluid, blood tests, and brain inflammation.