Alzheimer's Disease Frequently Asked Questions
5. Is there anything I can do to help my mother preserve what memory she has left?
Losing cherished memories is one of the devastating consequences of Alzheimer's disease. Some medications used to treat Alzheimer's disease may help slow down symptoms and there are some techniques you can use to help enhance what memory exists.
- Use notes, lists, memos, etc., to help remind the person with Alzheimer's disease of his or her daily tasks.
- Keep photos of family members and friends where the person can see them. Label photos with names, if necessary. Reminisce with him or her about the family, or activities he or she once enjoyed.
- Use memory "tricks"; for example, thinking of the word HOMES to remember the great lakes: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.
- Use labels (with words or pictures) placed on drawers and shelves to identify their contents.
- Limit your loved one's alcohol consumption and try to ensure he or she gets adequate sleep.
- Remind him or her of the date, day, time, place, etc., and repeat the names of the people with whom he or she has contact.
- Encourage your loved one to exercise his or her mind by reading, doing puzzles, writing, etc., as well as to exercise his or her body as appropriate. However, avoid challenging your loved one to the point of frustration.
6. Can ginkgo biloba or other natural rememdies cure Alzheimer's disease?
Ginkgo biloba, an extract from the ginkgo tree, has been touted by many as a memory booster. Although a 1997 study in the U.S. suggested that ginkgo extract may be of some value in treating the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia, more recent studies have not found that ginkgo biloba will cure or prevent Alzheimer's disease. Other studies also suggest that daily use of ginkgo biloba may cause side effects, such as too much bleeding (especially when combined with daily use of aspirin).
There is not enough information available for doctors to recommend the broad use of ginkgo biloba for Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia.
Cerefolin is a nutritional supplement that is used in people with mild memory loss such as in those with early Alzheimer's disease. It is a part of the dietary management of patients and contains folate and other B vitamins. Some studies show that older adults may get mental benefits including better memory by taking folic acid supplements.
7. Is exercise recommended for someone with Alzheimer's disease?
Exercise offers many benefits for people with Alzheimer's disease. The major benefits include improved strength, endurance, and heart fitness. Exercise can also increase energy, and improve mood and sleep. Exercise also helps people with Alzheimer's disease preserve motor skills and improve balance, which in turn, can help prevent serious injury from falls. Further, exercise can help improve mental function.
The type and intensity of exercise appropriate for someone with Alzheimer's disease depends on the person's degree of impairment. People in the early stages of the disease may enjoy exercises such as walking, bowling, dancing, golf, and swimming, although supervision may be necessary. Greater supervision may be required as the disease progresses. Activities that could lead to injury should be avoided.
It is important to talk to the person's doctor before beginning any exercise program. There may be other factors -- such as bone disease, a heart condition, or balance problems -- that could limit or restrict activity.