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Your Options of Care for Late Stage Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a very cruel and unforgiving disease of the brain. Damaging its ability to retain memories and communicate with the rest of the body, it is a degenerative condition, meaning that it grows steadily worse with time. Unfortunately, there is no known cure, nor method of reversing the damage, once it is done. While early stages of Alzheimer’s seem like little more than the occasional memory lapse, a person who is suffering from the final stages of Alzheimer’s is in need of 24-hour care and constant watching. How do you handle an adult who is suffering from Alzheimer‘s disease? What sort of care facilities are available, to help a loved one who is in the final stages of this devastating disease? What can you do to help?

The most important thing that you can do, to help a person with Alzheimer’s disease, is to be patient, caring and understanding. A diagnosis of this magnitude can be just as devastating as the condition itself, and patients are often frustrated, confused and afraid. Assure your loved ones that, no matter what, you will be there for them and discuss different options with the patient, letting them have a say in the decision that is being made.

When a person is suffering the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, there are many options available for them, such as retirement housing, adult day services or in-home respite services. However, as the disease progresses and the Alzheimer’s patient comes to require more and more assistance and supervision, these independent care facilities are no longer an option. By the time that a patient has entered into the final stages of Alzheimer’s, they will require 24-hour care and constant supervision. By this point, the main question is whether you wish to care for your loved one at home, or if you believe that a nursing home can provide them with the best care at the moment.

This type of decision can be difficult, both on the patient and on their loved ones. At a time when they are feeling lost, frightened and confused, the Alzheimer’s patient is already dealing with feelings of being abandoned and often suffering from anxiety, or lashing out with aggressive behavior. This can make a wise decision difficult, sometimes, to choose. While few find pleasure in the idea of having someone they love placed into a home, in some cases, this may very well be what is for the best.

Nursing homes are needed when the patient requires 24-hour supervision or special care. Specially licensed and able to administer the proper medications as needed, some nursing homes even have specialized programs for those suffering from dementia. Additionally, nursing homes have licensed professionals on staff and have to submit to regular inspections, to insure patients are receiving suitable care.

Many people feel guilty about leaving their loved ones in a nursing home and choose to keep the patient with them, where they are more familiar with their surroundings and cared for by those that love them. True, these are very noble reasons, but again, one must always look at the big picture. Before you take such a risk, think everything over clearly; are you truly able to stay with your loved one throughout the duration of this disease if it goes on for another 20-years? Are you willing to give up your career? What about your life out, dancing in the clubs, or taking trips? Can you put your life on hold for all that time?

For those who feel that they are capable of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient, another form of help is available in hospice care. Hospice care is an option for any terminally ill patient, during their last 6-months of life or, as in the case of those suffering dementia, during the last stage of Alzheimer‘s disease. Experienced with medical equipment, meds, and often just talking and helping to alleviate stress, hospice care workers often help to tend for the ill person, handling the things that they cannot do at home, such as bathing, administering certain medications, et cetera.

Whether you choose to have your loved one’s care provided in a nursing home or in your own home is a choice that you and they have to make, hopefully together. Take into consideration all avenues; cost, needs, programs, reliability and respectability. Once you’ve weighed your options and considered all routes, when it comes down to the final decision, follow your heart.

Stem Cell Research - Impact on Study of Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Stem cell research is a highly contentious issue. Stem cell research involves the use of cells from human embryos that are a few days old, and occasionally, cells from fetuses greater than eight weeks old. Opponents of embryonic stem cell research compare it to abortion because the cells are capable of producing human life. Proponents of stem cell research point out stem cells are destroyed on a daily basis in fertility clinics – these stem cells are unused embryos from couples undergoing fertility treatments – and that rather than destroying these cells, scientists ought to be able to use them for medical research. In the US, federal law currently prohibits providing federal funding for any kind of stem cell research, however, the research that has been done has shown great promise for a number of diseases, including Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Dr. James Thompson created the first stem cell line using human embryos in 1998 at the University of Wisconsin. He used embryo stem cells to grow healthy, functioning heart cells. This success opened up the possibility of generating healthy cells to replace all kinds of diseased cells in the body, including the ability to replace diseased cells in the brain. Further research has been hindered in a major way because of the federal ban on funding, but the research that has been conducted has only increased the excitement of scientists and doctors more.

One common misconception about stem cell research is that the debate could be stemmed if adult stem cells were used in the research. Adult stem cells do not offer anywhere near the potential for regeneration that embryonic do. Adult stem cells are thought to be “multi potent,” meaning they can only generate certain types of cells. Stem cells from embryos, on the other hand, can be “totipotent” or “pluripotent.” Totipotent cells are embryonic cells in their first few days of development. These cells have the potential to grow into any kind of cell in the human body. Embryonic cells are “pluripotent” after a period of around four days. At this point, the cells can develop into any kind of cell in the body with the exception of the cells needed to create a fetus. Clearly totipotent and pluripotent cells are the most desirable for research because their potential is nearly limitless, allowing scientists to experiment with cures for different diseases with ease.

Though stem-cell research has great promise in the quest to cure medical conditions such as diabetes, spinal chord injuries, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, it cannot be assumed stem-cell research definitely holds the key to the cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia. Doctors and scientists still must understand much more about the causes of Alzheimer’s and dementia before they can be sure what would offer a cure. In addition to understanding how normal and abnormal cells develop and how to heal abnormal cells, scientists must also develop some way for their stem cell discoveries to be tested in Alzheimer’s patients to ensure they are effective and safe. The patient testing of stem cells generated in the lab might be the most difficult issue facing scientists, beyond the ethics debate.

Many patients, and their families, who are affected by conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, for which stem cell research offers a reason for hope, find themselves wanting to encourage future research. Despite the federal ban on government of funding embryonic stem cell research, the research itself is not illegal when funded privately. People can also donate their stem cells for scientific research – women can donate blood from umbilical chords, and couples with unused embryos from fertility clinics may donate those embryos to scientists.

The debate over stem-cell research is likely to continue for a long time. This, however, does not mean that research will stall. Countries outside of the US who have different policies about embryonic research continue to conduct experiments and attempt to generate healthy cells. Stem cell research potentially opens the door to even more issues of medical ethics, like designer babies and cloning, but at the same time, the ability to generate healthy brain cells in a laboratory that could replace brain cells damaged by Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia offers hope to some families struggling with the devastating potential effect of alzheimers and dementia.

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