Spotlight on Alzheimer’s

This morning, I step outside and feel a familiar cold chill –reminiscent of pre-sunrise in San Diego.  Later, I glance out the window. Sunshine hides like my favorite red augyle sock after laundry.

Gloomy skies get me thinking about Seasonal Affective Disorder and what new therapies exist.

People generally talk about S.A.D. (pun!) when Fall arrives.  What about cloudy days in Spring?  I’ve never been diagnosed with S.A.D., but I’m a bit of a hypocondriac.  I know.  Ironic.

Other people get to benefit from it. In the past, doctors. They’d laugh and say I was the healthiest person they’d ever seen.  I’d get sent home with a lollipop.  And a bill. 

Friends and relatives because each time I think I have something, I put my glasses on and do extensive research.  Lightning speed.  I don’t need eyeglasses anymore (thank you, Dr. Bell of The San Diego Eye Institute).  So now, I’m even faster.  Research Ninja.

Ever since I was a little kid, my cousin Josephine and I loved researching our imagined illnesses. We loved  using big medical words too.  Some words made us crack up.  Today, if we want to laugh all we have to do is say, “Spinabifida.”  Josephine is a top pediatric nurse now. 

Anyhow, this morning, while I’m researching light therapy for Seasonal Affective Disorder, I find a blog about using the same Light Therapy for Alzheimer’s patients.  WOW.  Never heard of THAT. 

It’s written by a caregiver named Gary LeBlanc.

I contact Gary & ask for permission to share his blog. I thought it would help other people. He says yes.  (Don’t worry, I get back to light therapy options for Seasonal Affective Disorder later.)  So, I switch gears and decide to put the spotLIGHT on Alzheimer’s instead of S.A.D.

I thank Gary for allowing me to repost his unique experience utilizing light to care for his father with Alzheimer’s disease. I always trust real people sharing their medical experiences, rather than professionals.  I have to read between the lines with the latter. Who is funding them? What’s the agenda? Are they PR flacks?  When it’s real people –there is no agenda. 

Gary was the primary caregiver of his father for a decade after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Gary has a book, but it is one based on his experience.  It’s called, “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness.”  

I notice his article got 7 clicks.  Since I have over 1.2 million people within my social network, and most work in NATIONAL MEDIA and MEDICAL –I thought I’d share his story and shed some LIGHT on something a lot of other Americans are dealing with right now.   It’s so cool when something little –something you can DO can make a big difference. Gary explains.

Light therapy lessens hardships

By GARY LEBLANC | Common Sense Caregiving
Published: March 22, 2012 Updated: March 22, 2012 – 12:00 AM

For many years now I have preached how beneficial it is to keep the homes of those suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease well lit. Throughout my father’s illness I kept the lights on at full tilt in both the bedroom and bathroom throughout the night. By doing so it kept him from experiencing mass confusion during his frequent bathroom runs in the wee hours.

Even during the daylight hours he had trouble crossing the threshold into the bathroom. The difference from one room’s carpet turning into tiles had him believing there was a step, making him raise his foot high, stepping over nothing. Color contrast can become very deceiving.

A friend of mine, who cares for her father-in-law with Alzheimer’s, recently told me that when she takes him to his doctor’s office, there’s a black welcome mat that scares him to pieces. He refuses to walk on it because he believes it’s a deep hole.

As caregivers we must keep things as simple and safe as possible for our loved ones. Paying close attention to their habits is a good way to start.

For those experiencing Sundowners, also known as “Sundown Syndrome,” start lighting up the house a good hour before dusk. By preventing shadows from creeping in, this will take away some of the hardships experienced during that time of day. Researchers have even found that by using the correct color temperature light bulbs may have a positive effect on mood and behavior.

For instance, what is perceived to be cool-white light has been reported to help the patients remain more alert and verbally active. On the other hand, warm-white light, which has more of a reddish-yellow tinge to it, is said to keep the patient calmer, helping to temper behavior problems.

Unfortunately, visual perception becomes altered from Alzheimer’s. A good tip to keep in mind is to always consider the color contrast in all situations. If you’re having problems getting patients to eat, take into account the way in which the table is set. A white plate on a white table cloth may be very difficult for them to see. Think “Bold Colors.” Try placing their food on a red plate. Even when it comes to the silverware, bright colored handles may encourage them to start digging in. A recent study has found this method has increased intake by 25 percent.

Let’s say there’s a clear glass of water on a white table; change it to a blue cup. This will help them to visually recognize it easier, actually encouraging them to pick it up and drink from it, preventing dehydration. How important is that?

Gary Joseph LeBlanc can be reached at us41books@bellsouth.net. A new expanded edition of his book, “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness,” can be found at stayingafloatbook.com, Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
 

Here’s little refresher for anyone who isn’t aware of Alzheimer’s statistics:

Right now, 15 million Americans serve as caregivers, and this is projected to rise to 45 million by 2050.  I got that from The Alzheimer’s Association. 

1 in 8 older Americans has Alzheimer’s Disease and 1 in 7 lives alone.  So, there’s all this cheerleading going on about “Living Longer” but are we living Healthier

According to Psychiatric Times, as many as 50% of persons older than 85 years have some form of dementia (Alzhemier’s disease being the cause in at least two-thirds of cases).

Psychosis occurs in approx. 40% of persons with Alzheimer’s disease, and agitation occurs in 80% or more of persons with dementia at some point.  The photo below on the left is what a normal brain looks like. The middle brain shows mild cognitive impairment. The one on the far right is Alzheimeer’s Diseasse. 

When I first saw this photo this morning, I wondered why they can’t track the progression on MRI scans, and then a new study popped up saying researchers discovered they can do just that.  News story below.

A study in March 22 issue of the Journal, Neuron says Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia may spread within nerve networks in the brain by moving directly betweenn connected neurons. They’re thinking an MRI could track the progression of it.

This makes absolute sense and I wonder why they didn’t have this A ha! moment sooner. I was also looking at photos of the brain this morning and photos of the brain without Alzheimer’s and with are remarkably different, so I had the same thought. Why can’t doctors track the progression with a brain scan.

I’d LOVE to know how to PREVENT dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Something is causing it in so many Americans. My first instinct tells me it is related to NUTRITION.   Something people are eating or drinking is eroding brain cells. Is it soda? Did you see how when someone said they found a mouse in their soda and tried to sue the soda company –the soda executive’s defense was that it was “impossibe” because the mouse would have dissolved in the soda?  Wow.   I could almost hear the fizzling sound of brain cells.  Until we discover how to prevent it, I am always on the lookout for anything that can help patients, families and caregivers.

Consequently, my dear friend, Dr. Max Gomez from CBS just lost his father to Alzheimer’s.   Sympathies go out to the Gomez family at this time.  If you’d like to reach out, here’s a note from Max:

“Some folks have asked about flowers… please don’t. If you’re inclined, I’d much rather you send a donation in my father’s name, Dr Max Gomez, Sr., to the Alzheimer’s research group at NYU where they diagnosed and cared for Dad; check should be made out to the NYU Center for Brain Health and sent to:  Center for Brain Health, NYU School of Medicine, Dept. of Psychiatry, 145 E. 32 St., 5th fl, New York, NY 10016.  Attn: Dr. Mony DeLeon. They will also supply tax receipts. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.”

 

LIGHT THERAPY is fascinating in that it can help with the following.   Sometimes, when people have exhausted all else —and they still suffer –they may want to try it. Psoriasis isn’t on this list. I read earlier it was being used for that too:

LET’S TAKE A LOOK AT  WHERE YOU CAN GET LIGHT THERAPY, PRICES along with REVIEWS from HEALTHYLIVING.COM:

Phillips GoLight BLU

Light Therapy On The Go

As I mentioned earlier, I was beginning to feel tied to my sunlamp because I needed to spend much time in front of it. To solve this problem, my husband got me a Phillips GoLight BLU. It’s smaller than the NatureBright and it runs on a rechargeable battery. There’s no cord to fuss with, it works as well as the NatureBright, and I can bring it wherever I go.I’ve started using this device in the mornings. If I so choose, I can now sit on the couch instead of at my desk. Or I can bring it from room to room as I do chores. It’s five or six inches square, so I can can carry it easily and hold it so the light falls on my face while I’m walking. I feel much less restricted since I’ve started using the Phillips GoLite BLU. I also have more energy and a better mood throughout the day, and I have an easier time waking up in the morning.
Philips goLITE BLU Light Therapy Device

Philips goLITE BLU Light Therapy Device

Amazon Price: $119.95 (as of 03/22/2012)Buy Now

Some researchers and light therapy users believe that blue light is the most important part of the spectrum for treating SAD. The Phillips GoLite BLUE is compact, portable, and operates on a rechargeable battery. It’s easy to bring it and use it almost anywhere. 

Syrcadian Blue Light Therapy Device for SAD

Light therapy for your morning commute!

I bought the Syrcadian Blue Light Therapy Device in October when I was planning a trip to the East Coast. I’d been relying on my NatureBright since September, but it’s way too big and bulky to pack in a suitcase. The days were getting shorter. I’d be father north than usual, where they would be shorter still. Trying to go without light therapy for the entire ten day trip would be courting disaster. I was also on a budget, so I needed my device to be under or around $100.The Syrcadian Blue Light Therapy Device was the answer to my prayers. It comes with a USB cable, enabling me to mount it on my laptop screen. With the car adapter kit, I could mount it on the visor of a car (which I did at one point when I had to leave for a road trip at 7 a.m.). With the lamp itself, plus the car adapter set, it came in at around $100. It probably wouldn’t work for me as my sole therapy device, but using it twice a day kept my mood stable throughout my travels. And on that early morning road trip it really saved me.
Syrcadian Blue SB-1000 Sad Light Therapy Device

Syrcadian Blue SB-1000 Sad Light Therapy Device

Amazon Price: $59.95 (as of 03/22/2012)Buy Now

This handy device is tiny, inexpensive, and very portable. You can mount on the top of your computer monitor, where it draws power vis USB cable, or plug it into your car’s cigarette lighter and mount it on the visor — you can commute and get your light therapy in at the same time! Two brightness settings allow you to select the amount of light you want.

  

Accessories for the Syrcadain Blue

Use it in your car; charge it from a wall socket

The Syrcadian Blue comes with a USB cable, enabling you to plug it into your computer’s USB port, mount it on top, and get your therapy while you work. But that’s not your only option.
Syrcadian Blue Automotive Adapter

Syrcadian Blue Automotive Adapter

This kit provides clips to attach the Syrcadian Blue to your visor, and a car charger to power the device. Use your morning commute to get your light therapy!

Amazon Price: $29.95 (as of 03/22/2012) Buy Now

 
Syrcadian Blue Wall Mount Power Supply

Syrcadian Blue Wall Mount Power Supply

Multi-country adapters to plug your Syrcadian Blue into a wall outlet.

Amazon Price: $24.95 (as of 03/22/2012) Buy Now

  

Other Portable Light Therapy Lamps for SAD

Bring your light therapy with you!

Having the option of taking your therapy lamp wherever you go can alleviate the frustration of living with seasonal depression. Below are more options for portable, lightweight light therapy for seasonal affective disorder. All devices listed have received an average rating of 4.5 to 5 stars on Amazon.
Philips Hf3321/60 Golite, White / Blue

Philips Hf3321/60 Golite, White / Blue

If entirely blue light is too intense for you, Phillips offers a therapy device that’s half blue light and half white light. It features the same low weight and compact dimensions as the GoLite Blu.

Amazon Price: $78.73 (as of 03/22/2012) Buy Now

 
Litebook Elite Hand-Held Light Therapy Device

Litebook Elite Hand-Held Light Therapy Device

The Litebook Elite runs on a long-lasting rechargeable battery. It features a custom lens to provide a uniform field of full spectrum light.

Amazon Price: $168.95 (as of 03/22/2012) Buy Now

 
Sphere Gadget Technologies SP9882 Lightphoria Sad Light Therapy, 10,000 Lux

Sphere Gadget Technologies SP9882 Lightphoria Sad Light Therapy, 10,000 Lux

This portable plug-in sunlamp offers three intensity settings: 5,000 lux, 8,000 lux, and 10,000 lux. It comes with its own travel pouch so you can bring it anywhere.

Amazon Price: $99.99 (as of 03/22/2012) Buy Now

 
NEW Bio Brite Lumie Zip Portable Light Lite Therapy Box

NEW Bio Brite Lumie Zip Portable Light Lite Therapy Box

Another portable sunlamp, only this one works on batteries. Coming in at 2,500 lux, it’s a good choice for those who experience eyestrain or headaches with higher lux, or who would like to double it up as a task lamp for longer periods of time.

Amazon Price: $199.00 (as of 03/22/2012) Buy Now

 
Feel Bright Light Visor

Feel Bright Light Visor

This light therapy visor will be the next therapy device I try. It works on a rechargeable lithium battery and emits 10,000 lux of blue-green light. A visor is included in the package, as well as clips to attach to your favorite baseball cap.

Amazon Price: $217.00 (as of 03/22/2012) Buy Now

 

Important!

An Important Fact Light Therapy and Bipolar Disorder

A lot of people with bipolar disorder have seasonal mood problems. However, light therapy can cause hypomania or manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder. This is especially true with blue light therapy. If you have bipolar, DO NOT use light therapy unless it’s under close supervision by your doctor.

Phillips Dawn and Dusk Simulator

Sunrise and sunset, exactly when you want them.

A “dawn simulator” is a large, bright white light that serves as an alarm clock. Say you set your alarm for 8 a.m.; the light in the dawn simulator will start to come on gradually, starting around 7:30 or so, and reaching full brightness at 8. You wake up gradually and naturally. It feels much better than being startled awake by an alarm clock.Since my home has skylights, I don’t need to use the “dawn” feature, but I love the “dusk” feature. One reason I don’t get enough sleep is that I like to read in bed, and no matter how tired I am, I can easily lose myself in a book. Before I know it, it’s 4 a.m. The dusk simulator allows me to set a timer for up to 15 to 90 minutes, and as that time passes, its light will slowly dim. Eventually I can’t see my book anymore, which makes it easier for me to put my book down and go to sleep.
Philips HF3471/60 Wake-Up Light, White

Philips HF3471/60 Wake-Up Light, White

Amazon Price: $84.95 (as of 03/22/2012)Buy Now

The Phillips Dawn and Dusk Simulator allows you to wake up with the dawn, whatever the actual time might be. At night, use a timer so that the light dims slowly, triggering your body’s natural sleep process. The alarm also has some pretty nice sound options, such as birdsong — much nicer than a buzzing, jangling alarm clock!

 
Wake-up Lights for SAD Therapy from Amazon

Dawn simulators help you sleep and help you wake up.

Dawn simulators increase the light in your bedroom gradually and naturally. The artificial “sunrise” this provides can be especially helpful if you have to wake up when it’s still dark out.
EZ Wake Digital SunRise Alarm Clock - Sea Green

EZ Wake Digital SunRise Alarm Clock – Sea Green

Amazon Price: $89.95 (as of 03/22/2012) Buy Now

 
BioBrite Sunrise Clock Advanced Model  Charcoal

BioBrite Sunrise Clock Advanced Model Charcoal

Amazon Price: $100.00 (as of 03/22/2012) Buy Now

 
 

Natural Dawn Simulator Alarm Clock Light Box

Amazon Price: $165.00 (as of 03/22/2012) Buy Now

 
Sunrise SRS 260 Sun Simulator Alarm Clock MP3 Player

Sunrise SRS 260 Sun Simulator Alarm Clock MP3 Player

Amazon Price: $169.95 (as of 03/22/2012) Buy Now

 

Important!

Side Effects of Light Therapy

Compared to medication, light therapy has very few side effects. They include headache, nausea, irritability, and eye strain. I found that my sun lamp made my dry mouth worse for the first week I used it this year (dry mouth is a common symptom of psychoactive meds, and I take several). These symptoms often go away on their own, or they can be mitigated by changing the angle of the lamp, its brightness, or duration of the therapy.

Light Therapy Reviews

This blog reviews more therapy devices and chronicles my experiences with light therapy.

Stay Healthy, everyone!  :)

Link to Gary LeBlanc’s book, “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness”  at Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/staying-afloat-in-a-sea-of-forgetfulness?keyword=staying+afloat+in+a+sea+of+forgetfulness&store=allproducts