Lack of Estrogen May Play A Role In Women and Alzheimer’s
Prior to my wife being diagnosed with dementia, and later it was confirmed to be Alzheimer’s. I knew very little about this cruel thief. A thief that slowly robs a person of their very existence. First, it injects confusion into their minds. Forgetting appointments, recent conversations, where they placed common items. Like keys, eyeglasses, eye contact cases, personal items like combs and hair brushes.
Alzheimer’s a slow thief
Then it continues to pilfer their ability to remember common everyday facts. Like what day, month or year it is. How to follow basic instructions, both verbal and written. Followed by stealing their ability to perform simple math. The disease slowly steals their brain. The brain actually shrinks becoming a fraction of what it was prior to taking up residence within a living soul.
I was a reluctant student this was not a subject that I wanted to study
I have come to learn more than I ever wanted to know about this disease. One is that it disproportionally affects women more than men. Some of the factors are only starting to be understood.
Estrogen or the lack thereof may play a big part in why it targets women. I have been researching for a couple of weeks about hysterectomy’s and how that may play a role. Especially if the ovaries are removed. It appears that if a woman has an oophorectomy (oh-of-uh-REK-tuh-me). Which is the surgical procedure to remove one or both of their ovaries. A woman’s likelihood of Alzheimer’s rises considerably and the younger the greater their likelihood of being struck.
More Research Needed
I am continuing to research this topic and will write about it more in the future. What called me to the keyboard this morning was a short segment on CBS This Morning, about women and childbirth. Once again it mentions the production of estrogen or lack of production. Childbirth may actually lower the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Here is a link to the CBS segment
Alzheimer’s and Hallucinations, Delusions, and Paranoia
Due to complex changes occurring in the brain, people with Alzheimer’s disease may see or hear things that have no basis in reality.
- Hallucinations involve hearing, seeing, smelling, or feeling things that are not really there. For example, a person with Alzheimer’s may see children playing in the living room when no children exist.
- Delusions are false beliefs that the person thinks are real. For example, the person may think his or her spouse is in love with someone else.
- Paranoia is a type of delusion in which a person may believe—without a good reason—that others are mean, lying, unfair, or “out to get me.” He or she may become suspicious, fearful, or jealous of people.
If a person with Alzheimer’s has ongoing disturbing hallucinations or delusions, seek medical help. An illness or medication may cause these behaviors. Medicines are available to treat these behaviors but must be used with caution. The following tips may also help you cope with these behaviors.
Hallucinations and Delusions
Here are some tips for coping with hallucinations and delusions:
- Discuss with the doctor any illnesses the person with Alzheimer’s has and medicines he or she is taking. Sometimes an illness or medicine may cause hallucinations or delusions.
- Try not to argue with the person about what he or she sees or hears. Comfort the person if he or she is afraid.
- Distract the person. Sometimes moving to another room or going outside for a walk helps.
- Turn off the TV when violent or upsetting programs are on. Someone with Alzheimer’s may think these events are happening in the room.
- Make sure the person is safe and can’t reach anything that could be used to hurt anyone or himself or herself.
In a person with Alzheimer’s disease, paranoia often is linked to memory loss. It can become worse as memory loss gets worse. For example, the person may become paranoid if he or she forgets:
- Where he or she put something. The person may believe that someone is taking his or her things.
- That you are the person’s caregiver. Someone with Alzheimer’s might not trust you if he or she thinks you are a stranger.
- People to whom the person has been introduced. He or she may believe that strangers will be harmful.
- Directions you just gave. The person may think you are trying to trick him or her.
Paranoia may be the person’s way of expressing loss. The person may blame or accuse others because no other explanation seems to make sense.
Here are some tips for coping with paranoia:
- Try not to react if the person blames you for something.
- Don’t argue with the person.
- Let the person know that he or she is safe.
- Use gentle touching or hugging to show you care.
- Explain to others that the person is acting this way because he or she has Alzheimer’s disease.
- Search for things to distract the person, then talk about what you found. For example, talk about a photograph or keepsake.
Also, keep in mind that someone with Alzheimer’s disease may have a good reason for acting a certain way. He or she may not be paranoid. There are people who take advantage of weak and elderly people. Find out if someone is trying to abuse or steal from the person with Alzheimer’s. For more information, visit Elder Abuse.
Coping with Agitation and Aggression in Alzheimer’s Disease
People with Alzheimer’s disease may become agitated or aggressive as the disease gets worse. Agitation means that a person is restless or worried. He or she doesn’t seem to be able to settle down. Agitation may cause pacing, sleeplessness, or aggression, which is when a person lashes out verbally or tries to hit or hurt someone.
Causes of Agitation and Aggression
Most of the time, agitation and aggression happen for a reason. When they happen, try to find the cause. If you deal with the causes, the behavior may stop. For example, the person may have:
- Pain, depression, or stress
- Too little rest or sleep
- Soiled underwear or diaper
- Sudden change in a well-known place, routine, or person
- A feeling of loss—for example, the person may miss the freedom to drive
- Too much noise or confusion or too many people in the room
- Being pushed by others to do something—for example, to bathe or to remember events or people—when Alzheimer’s has made the activity very hard or impossible
- Feeling lonely and not having enough contact with other people
- Interaction of medicines
Look for early signs of agitation or aggression. If you see the signs, you can deal with the cause before problem behaviors start. Try not to ignore the problem. Doing nothing can make things worse.
A doctor may be able to help. He or she can give the person a medical exam to find any problems that may cause agitation and aggression. Also, ask the doctor if a medicine is needed to prevent or reduce agitation or aggression.
Tips for Coping with Agitation or Aggression
Here are some ways you can cope with agitation or aggression:
- Reassure the person. Speak calmly. Listen to his or her concerns and frustrations. Try to show that you understand if the person is angry or fearful.
- Allow the person to keep as much control over his or her life as possible.
- Try to keep a routine, such as bathing, dressing, and eating at the same time each day.
- Build quiet times into the day, along with activities.
- Keep well-loved objects and photographs around the house to help the person feel more secure.
- Try gentle touching, soothing music, reading, or walks.
- Reduce noise, clutter, or the number of people in the room.
- Try to distract the person with a favorite snack, object, or activity.
- Limit the amount of caffeine, sugar, and “junk food” the person drinks and eats.
Here are some things you can do:
- Slow down and try to relax if you think your own worries may be affecting the person with Alzheimer’s.
- Try to find a way to take a break from caregiving.
When the person is aggressive, protect yourself and others. If you have to, stay at a safe distance from the person until the behavior stops. Also, try to protect the person from hurting himself or herself.
I am going to share another video. This one is a Ted Talk, the speaker is Lisa Genova the author of ‘Still Alice’.
Alzheimer’s Caregiving: Changes in Communication Skills
Communication is hard for people with Alzheimer’s disease because they have trouble remembering things. They may struggle to find words or forget what they want to say. You may feel impatient and wish they could just say what they want, but they can’t.
The person with Alzheimer’s may have problems with:
- Finding the right word or losing his or her train of thought when speaking
- Understanding what words mean
- Paying attention during long conversations
- Remembering the steps in common activities, such as cooking a meal, paying bills, or getting dressed
- Blocking out background noises from the radio, TV, or conversations
- Frustration if communication isn’t working
- Being very sensitive to touch and to the tone and loudness of voices
Also, Alzheimer’s disease causes some people to get confused about language. For example, the person might forget or no longer understand English if it was learned as a second language. Instead, he or she might understand and use only the first language learned, such as Spanish.
Help Make Communication Easier
The first step is to understand that the disease causes changes in communication skills. The second step is to try some tips that may make communication easier:
- Make eye contact and call the person by name.
- Be aware of your tone, how loud your voice is, how you look at the person, and your body language.
- Encourage a two-way conversation for as long as possible.
- Use other methods besides speaking, such as gentle touching.
- Try distracting the person if communication creates problems.
To encourage the person to communicate with you:
- Show a warm, loving, matter-of-fact manner.
- Hold the person’s hand while you talk.
- Be open to the person’s concerns, even if he or she is hard to understand.
- Let him or she make some decisions and stay involved.
- Be patient with angry outbursts. Remember, it’s the illness “talking.”
To speak effectively with a person who has Alzheimer’s:
- Offer simple, step-by-step instructions.
- Repeat instructions and allow more time for a response. Try not to interrupt.
- Don’t talk about the person as if he or she isn’t there.
- Don’t talk to the person using “baby talk” or a “baby voice.”
Be Direct, Specific, and Positive
Here are some examples of what you can say:
- “Let’s try this way,” instead of pointing out mistakes.
- “Please do this,” instead of “Don’t do this.”
- “Thanks for helping,” even if the results aren’t perfect.
You also can:
- Ask questions that require a yes or no answer. For example, you could say, “Are you tired?” instead of “How do you feel?”
- Limit the number of choices. For example, you could say, “Would you like a hamburger or chicken for dinner?” instead of “What would you like for dinner?”
- Use different words if he or she doesn’t understand the first time. For example, if you ask the person whether he or she is hungry and you don’t get a response, you could say, “Dinner is ready now. Let’s eat.”
- Try not to say, “Don’t you remember?” or, “I told you.”
If you become frustrated, take a timeout for yourself.
Helping a Person Who Is Aware of Memory Loss
Alzheimer’s disease is being diagnosed at earlier stages. This means that many people are aware of how the disease is affecting their memory. Here are tips on how to help someone who knows that he or she has memory problems:
- Take time to listen. The person may want to talk about the changes he or she is noticing.
- Be as sensitive as you can. Don’t just correct the person every time he or she forgets something or says something odd. Try to understand that it’s a struggle for the person to communicate.
- Be patient when someone with Alzheimer’s disease has trouble finding the right words or putting feelings into words.
- Help the person find words to express thoughts and feelings. But be careful not to put words in the person’s mouth or “fill in the blanks” too quickly. For example, Mrs. D cried after forgetting her garden club meeting. She finally said, “I wish they stopped.” Her daughter said, “You wish your friends had stopped by for you.” Mrs. D nodded and repeated some of the words. Then Mrs. D said, “I want to go.” Her daughter said, “You want to go to the garden club meeting.” Again, Mrs. D nodded and repeated the words.
- Be aware of nonverbal communication. As people lose the ability to talk clearly, they may rely on other ways to communicate their thoughts and feelings. For example, their facial expressions may show sadness, anger, or frustration. Grasping at their undergarments may tell you they need to use the bathroom.
Teepa Snow explains what is happening as the brain slowly degenerates. Knowledge of what is happening to the brain will help caregivers and people interacting with a PLWD better support the PLWD.
This is another Teepa Snow Video, it is long about 30 minutes. It is very good it explains what dementia does to the brain. By understanding what is going on upstairs in the PLWD you may be able to better manage the PLWD.
I am going to close this weeks topic on what is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia with one more video. I hope you have a better understanding of the difference. If not please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or put it in the comments below.
If there are other topics you would like for us to cover drop us an email at the above link.