When Alzheimer’s strikes there is no going back. Are there any ways to slow down or even prevent the disease? Join us in conversation with Lori La Bey who is here to expose the truth about things that help and things that don’t. Enjoy the show!

 

Margaret Manning:

Today we are going to be inspired by someone who is working in an area that concerns many of us in our 60’s. Lori La Bey is an advocate for the discussion about dementia and Alzheimer’s. She has a fabulous website called alzheimersspeaks.com. She puts a lot of time and effort trying to change the conversation to bring it to a dementia friendly level. Welcome, Lori. It’s great to have you here.

Lori La Bey:

Thanks, Margaret. I’m thrilled to be here with you again.

Margaret:

I really enjoy having you on the show. 60 and Me is a growing community covering over 150 countries around the world. It doesn’t matter what country you live in you probably know someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia. This is really an ongoing conversation.

Previously, we’ve talked about what Alzheimer’s is and the stages one may go through as the disease progresses. We covered Lewy Body Dementia as well. At the end of it all though, people want to know one thing: How do you cure it? Proposed ‘solutions’ range from marijuana to champagne to exercise. What can you do to make this disease easier to live with?

Lori:

The sad part about this disease is, there is no cure. There’s lots of research going on, but I think we’re a ways out. I know many organizations claim they will have a cure in the next five years. In my opinion though, we can’t have a cure when we don’t know what is causing the disease.

People say, “What can I do?” and the standard comment is, “What’s good for the heart is good for the brain.” Naturally, this includes eating right, exercising, staying socially engaged and so on. Yet, there are people who have never smoked and never drank, exercise daily and still get this disease. Dementia has proven a tough nut to crack so far.

The claim of marijuana helping is interesting because stress is not good for dementia. When I speak with people with dementia, they’re say, “Well, you know, it might be worth a shot,” because it can reduce stress.

However, if they are in that state of disconnection, it could make them even more disconnected. Nobody truly knows the effects. I know there are many people with dementia open to try something like that because they’re game for anything that might work.

Margaret:

Is dementia considered one of the diseases for which you could get medical marijuana?

Lori:

I don’t think it’s on the list yet.

Margaret:

Okay.

Lori:

I believe they are talking about it more, but I don’t think it’s actually on the list. That might change from state to state, here in the US, and around the world as well. That’s not to say that people can’t get it in other ways, but you don’t know what you’re getting when you buy it on the street. I’d be very, very cautious with doing that. When considering the symptoms, we really have to look at safety first.

Margaret:

In a previous interview we talked about Lewy Body having symptoms like hallucinations and seeing the world through a different lens. Certainly, marijuana could have a heightening effect there, if you were sensitive to it. I guess it’s important to look at your diagnosis first because dementia could be a combination of conditions. Do you think marijuana is a positive option?

Lori:

It could be, but again, I every person is different. If somebody is very anti-drug, giving them marijuana is probably not going to be good for them. You don’t give up your values just because you have dementia. That could be a huge conflict in terms of the name of it.

Margaret:

You could just put it in a brownie without telling them.

Lori:

Yeah. I think that’s something that would have to be very individualized and monitored really closely to see what helps. Although, just because something works for a time—and this could be a medication or marijuana, or Champagne—it doesn’t mean it will always work. The effects might stop because symptoms will change, and thus the reaction will change as well.

Margaret:

What about Champagne? It is an option that is being considered, maybe because of its relaxing qualities.

Lori:

They are saying that for red wine and when drinking it in moderation. Although, from what I have read, I don’t think there is really enough evidence to support that claim.

Dementia and all related diseases constitute a big money deal. Research hasn’t really revealed much, and so every alternate industry is going to try to figure out how their product can offset the condition. It’s something we have to be careful of.

There are people who are saying, “I have this herbal thing,” and there’s no regulation on that. I don’t think there’s a cure, but a lot of people are pitching their products as such.

Margaret:

You mentioned to me that there were some other treatment ideas. Would you share them with our audience so they are aware of them?

Lori:

Sure. Some people talk about the vitamin E as a supplement, but again, just like with any supplement, you have to be careful. You also need to talk with your doctor because it might counteract something else that you have. Exercise is good for us, period.

Exercising makes your heart pump, which in turn leads to greater oxygen supply to the brain. But again, it’s not going to stop the disease from occurring. It could push it away for a while, it could help deter it, but there are no guarantees.

Meditation is gaining attention lately. It really has a lot to do with being mindful and concentrating on your breathing, which is important because it increases the oxygen levels. Meditation brings relaxation, and that’s good because any kind of stress is in conflict with this disease.

I think breathing right is good for all of us. It also helps to slow us down, which is a big problem in our society; the world around us moves too fast. One manifestation is, we’re filling in people’s words without even allowing the conversation to finish.

Margaret:

It’s a high-stress world that we live in, and some of these things you’ve mentioned are good for health in general. So far, what we discussed were ideas for dementia or Alzheimer’s relieve or treatment. What about ideas you’ve heard for Alzheimer’s prevention? Have you heard any talk about foods, vitamins, etc., that people can take or things they can do that will help thwart the disease?

Lori:

There really isn’t anything hard and fast that will stop it. There’s talk about blueberries and greens; those are good diet things for your body and for your heart. They may also be good for the brain, but there is no proof that any of this is going to stop the disease from occurring.

One of the main sayings is, there are no boundaries to this disease. It doesn’t care how much money you make, how educated you are or how healthy your body is. You can still be attacked by this disease.

The other thing that I do want to mention about prevention is social interaction. There is no scientific proof whatsoever, though research is being made in this direction, but I think I’ve seen the best results when a person stays socially engaged.

People with dementia tend to pull back because they don’t want their symptoms to show; they don’t want to embarrass themselves and their family. They don’t want to be ridiculed and so they pull back from society, which, in turn, makes them depressed. A lot of times they will be prescribed medication for depression and this goes down a whole different path.

In most cases, depression is caused by grief of the loss of what they once were able to do, and how they were able to do it. Social interaction is so critical with people. We are all creatures that want to belong and to have a purpose.

That doesn’t change when you get a diagnosis, no matter if its cancer, dementia, HIV or diabetes. We still want to belong. We want to have a tribe. We want to be connected and to feel we are useful.

Margaret:

Absolutely. We talk about this all the time on Sixty and Me. Things are changing in our age group: relationships are shifting; children are leaving home; friends are moving to other cities. We live in a world where we hardly know our own neighbors.

I actually think Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with people. If you can’t get out, at least you are socially connected online. This gives you the opportunity to share that emotion in quite a dramatic way.

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Dr. John Modena. He wrote a book called “Brain Rules,” where he talks about brain health in general, not the particulars of Alzheimer’s. His number one rule was exercise and social engagement. I’d like to put stress on this, get out there, meet people and be engaged.

Lori:

And don’t be afraid of being you. The truth of the matter is, we are all changing. A person with dementia is going through changes as well, but none of us stays the same anyway. There’s a story I’d like to share if we’ve a couple of minutes.

Margaret:

Yeah. Go for it.

Lori:

It’s called freeze framing. When we are taking care of somebody we tend to put them in this pinnacle state where we take all their absolute best qualities and characteristics; we bundle them up and we want the person to be that way all the time.

I did that with my mom without even knowing. I realized it when I ran across a picture of my wedding day. It brought back memories of calling her on the phone saying, “Hey, I’m getting married, and Tom and I think we want this little wedding in the back yard.”

My mom was all excited as we hung up the phone. Twenty minutes later she had called and made arrangements with the church and the food. I remember hanging up the phone and going, “Oh My Gosh,” but that’s what I loved about her. She was organized and loved to celebrate people’s lives.

I wanted that from her even as the disease progressed. Then one day I ran across this picture, and I just started giggling. I was like, “Oh, how dumb is that?” My dad said my mom has dementia and I’m divorced; what right do I have to freeze frame her in time to be this person when all of us have changed?

We have to accept and embrace that because that’s what life is. It’s constantly changing. We tend to categorize ourselves, and we make things better or worse by how we categorize. I think that’s a huge mistake.

Margaret:

I agree with you. I think that women over 60 have an opportunity to change dramatically. We have an opportunity to break the freeze frames that other people have put us in. We don’t need to be there anymore; we can just be ourselves. No one’s judging. You just get out there and do your thing.

I really appreciate your time on this one. This has been an interesting conversation. I think the message is pretty clear—there’s no silver bullet. It’s all about living your life in a healthy way, keeping your brain active, staying social and checking out people like you, who are out there uncovering the mysteries of this disease. Thanks for what you do, Lori.

Lori:

One last thing I would like to add is that people should share their stories with one another. That is really the best research available. Share what’s working; share your tools and your triumphs, but share your fears, too. Other people might have helpful ideas as they are going through the same thing.

Margaret:

I would encourage people to visit your website at alzheimersspeaks.com, and also to learn about the chats that you do. The dementia chats and the Alzheimer’s speaks shows are places where you give people involved with dementia in some way an opportunity to talk. As you’ve said a couple of times, researching Alzheimer’s and dealing with the disease constitutes a brave new world.

Lori:

Maybe people from your audience would want to be guests on our show. We would love to have them.

Margaret:

I’ll definitely put the link to Lori’s website in the article so people can follow up with her. It’s been wonderful chatting with you, Lori. Thank you so much for your time.

Have you heard of other ‘methods’ to slow down Alzheimer’s development? Do you know of someone who has tried some of the ideas Lori mentioned? In your opinion, what is the best way to keep a person socially engaged when they have dementia? Please join the conversation!

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