A Loving Caregiver Can Slow Down Alzheimer’s

A Loving Caregiver Can Slow Down Alzheimer’s
New research highlights a non-pharmacological intervention in Alzheimer’s treatment which slows down the inevitable decline the disease brings and this is a big wow! Apparently, the research study, “Caregiver–Recipient Closeness and Symptom Progression in Alzheimer’s Disease” which began in 2002 monitored patients and their caregivers for three years. The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, demonstrates that closeness to one’s caregiver correlates with a slower decline in both cognition and function in activities of daily living, especially for people whose spouses took care of them.

One of the researchers involved the study, Maria Norton, adds, “Considering the aging of the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation, finding ways to reduce risk for development of dementia and slowing the rate of decline in affected individuals are urgent public health priorities.” In 2000, there were around 2.5 million patients with AD in the United States. By 2050, that number will increase fourfold. The cost will be enormous on multiple levels: emotional, productive and financial.

Could reducing the ravages of the disease be so simple and without using medication?

The way I perceive the ramifications of the study is that having a dedicated caregiver will help a patient deal with the inevitable stressors of the disease because there is great strength in a team. Together patient and caregiver can reduce both physical and emotional inflammation, the damaging effects of stress hormones which are corrosive to memory in the hippocampus. Prior medical studies have shown that just holding a beloved’s hand speeds wound healing.

Many successful patients know how to partner their own healing. Instead of fighting their treatment with “Why me?” statements or perceiving the medication as destructive or poisonous, they try to get along with it to activate their own immune system with peace of mind and self-empowerment. But who would have suspected how big a role one’s loving partner would play? Becoming heart smart should not just refer to the cardiovascular system, but to one’s family and friends. Studies have already demonstrated that being distant and distressed does not bode well for both prevention and treatment of Alzheimer’s.

The take home message for us all: It’s time to start making deposits in our “health savings account.” This means creating balance in our lifestyle and nurturing our relationships. Many of us get overwhelmed by stress and lash out at our nearest and dearest forgetting how much we mirror the self in a primary relationship – that we are really frustrated with the self and not the other person. A successful relationship is interdependent: mutual respect and acceptance to be together in this moment – not what once was. The benefit of being in the moment is that one moment can be bad and the next can be beautiful.
For more information on caregiving read my book, Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout. To listen to archived radio shows with guest experts visit Turn On Your Inner Light Radio Show

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