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Alzheimer’s in men and women

Unfortunately, no one is exempt from developing Alzheimer’s. It can be a devastating illness for anyone involved and is most likely to occur in men and women over 65 years old. However, it is believed that 5% of the population may develop symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s before then.

Although these facts may seem like common knowledge, something that is often not considered in healthcare is how the illness presents itself in men versus women. In this blog, Sova will explore gender differences in Alzheimer’s.

Are Women More Likely To Develop Alzheimer’s Than Men?

In short, yes. It is believed that women are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s due to a range of genetic, anatomical and social factors. According to recent figures, 65% of cases of Alzheimer’s patients in the UK are female with it being the leading cause of death in women. One possible explanation for this is that women have a longer life expectancy than men, as Alzheimer’s usually develops in old age.

Alzheimer’s and the Brain

Another possible cause for women being more likely to develop the disease is due to anatomical differences between male and female brains. A new study by the Alzheimer's Association found that clumps of a protein called ‘tau’ could be responsible. The study looked at the way the protein was spread in the brains in groups of men and women. The scans discovered that it spreads more rapidly in women. When tau forms clumps in the brain, brain cells die - leading to memory problems. Since one of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s is a build-up of tau in the brain, this could be another potential cause for women being more likely to develop the illness.

Alzheimer’s and Exercise

Research has also shown that generally, women do less exercise than men. This could contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s. One study found that women with a high fitness level were 88% less likely to develop the illness when compared to those of a medium fitness level. This suggests that exercise might be a factor in developing Alzheimer’s since it improves blood flow to the brain and strengthens the connections between brain cells. Since women often do less exercise than men, this could contribute to their increased risk.

However, there are many other social and biological reasons that leave you more susceptible to developing the illness such as having diabetes, age, sleep apnea, genetic factors, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, smoking and obesity.

How Does Alzheimer’s Progress Differently in Men vs. Women?

According to research, when you develop Alzheimer’s disease, your brain effectively shrinks. One study showed that, when comparing the brains of newly diagnosed patients, this atrophy of the brain happens earlier in women than men. Previous to their diagnosis, the scans showed that women had also lost most grey matter in their brains. This suggests that women’s brains generally degenerate faster than men who have the same illness.

However, despite these findings, the male participants appeared to have more issues with their thinking ability compared to their female counterparts. This could be due to the fact that men and women lose grey matter in opposing areas of their brains, which could affect their thought processes differently.

Although this may be the case, Dr. Clinton Wright, scientific director of Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, suggested that it may be too soon to jump to any conclusions about gender differences in Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Clinton Wright went on to suggest that additional information would need to be provided, as there may be other factors causing these results.

If you or a loved one is suffering from Alzheimer’s and are looking for some in-home care services, then contact Sova Healthcare today. Our team of experienced and qualified caregivers can offer compassionate home care, domiciliary care and assisted living. With offices in Birmingham, Leicester and Bradford, we can provide home care services across the West Midlands, East Midlands and Yorkshire Regions. Find out how Sova Healthcare can help you today!

Television remains a great way for people to learn about things going on in the world. The right documentary film or series can have a lasting impact on viewers. With the likes of David Attenborough and Louis Theroux regularly presenting popular documentaries and pulling in viewers, it can be a successful medium for shining a light on topics that the public aren’t as knowledgeable about. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are roughly 46.8 million people living with dementia - over 850,000 alone in the UK - which makes it a topic of interest for TV and films.

During May and June, two documentaries looked into the world of dementia in two different ways. Both with the aim of raising the profile of the disease and the people living with it. Sova Healthcare looks at both documentaries to see how successful they are.

Our Dementia Choir With Vicky McClure

Bafta award-winning actress of Line of Duty fame, Vicky McClure, fronted a two-part documentary series which focused on the importance of music and singing for people living with dementia. The show sees McClure work with specialists from medicine, music therapy and performance to help form a choir who will perform in front of an audience.

During the series, scientists combined pioneering techniques with the latest scanning technology to show how music stimulates a brain limited by dementia. The programme aimed to bring together a choir for a performance just three months later.

What was the inspiration for the show?

McClure lost her grandmother to dementia in 2015. During the time she cared for her, McClure became involved with the Alzheimer’s Society where she discovered how music and singing had a positive effect on dementia patients.

Studies have also shown the benefits of music therapy on dementia patients, including Cochrane who found that it improved symptoms of depression and behavioural problems.

Who are the people involved?

The show got twenty people together from McClure’s hometown in the Nottingham area, who all live with dementia. Included in the choir was Betty, 82, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years before. Despite her confused and absent-minded nature, she has retained her singing voice. There’s also Chris, 67, who has fronto-temporal dementia which affects the areas of the brain that control behaviour, personality and language. As the disease continues to take hold, he is becoming more outspoken and badly behaved. Couple Julie and Mick, both have early onset dementia at the ages of 50 and 51, respectively. The youngest of the choir at 31 is Daniel who has a rare genetic form of dementia that resulted in the death of his father at the age of 36. Tragically for Daniel, he’s not expected to reach the same age as his father.

General Reception

The reception to the show was positive. The Guardian in their review of the show reflected how McClure was empathetic while interviewing members of the choir and the rest of the show took the same approach. The dignity of everyone involved remains intact, and it also highlights the true nature of the disease and the harsh reality of dementia.

The show also led to other dementia choirs gaining spotlight in local publications and one GP even called for doctors to prescribe singing over drugs because of the potential health and social benefits.

The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes

The Channel 4 documentary, The Restaurant That Makes Mistakes, first aired on Channel 4 on Wednesday 12th June and explored people with dementia and their working lives. According to iNews, four out of five people in the UK lose their jobs, independence and sometimes their home, when diagnosed with this terminal disease. The documentary, created in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Society UK, set out to challenge this issue to help volunteers rediscover who they used to be.

The producers set 14 volunteers the task of becoming restaurant staff to make viewers think again about the disease. The show followed the journey of the volunteers as they’re put to work and showed many poignant and feel-good moments.

Channel 4’s Head of Features and Formats, Sarah Lazenby, said: “A dementia diagnosis doesn’t, and shouldn’t mean the end of a career. This poignant and timely project aims to open the eyes of employers to the importance of keeping those who live with dementia in work by boosting their confidence and independence.”

Who is in the show?

Michelin-starred chef Josh Eggleton led a group of volunteers who all have various types of dementia.

  • 23-year-old Jordan Adams who tested positive for Pick’s disease
  • Avril Staunton, 63, a former gynecologist and obstetrician can no longer remember how old she is
  • Legal representative Jacqui Tunnicliff, 61, who had to give up work after dementia damaged her memory
  • Shelley Sheppard, 45, from Nottinghamshire was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s aged 43.
  • Lorayne Burgess, 52, from Kent, who has frontotemporal dementia
  • Former mortgage adviser Sandie Gibbons, 53, from Weston-super-Mare
  • Former Formula 1 mechanic Roger Postance, 64, from Wolverhampton
  • 53-year-old Peter Berry, who owned a saw milling company in Suffolk
  • 62-year-old Sue Strachan, from Herefordshire, who has vascular dementia
  • Former nurse Joy Watson, 60, from Manchester, who has Alzheimer’s
  • Pete Trapani, 67, of Weston-super-Mare who used to be an engineer
  • Sean Blackmore, of Gloucester, who has been living with Parkinson’s disease for five years since he turned 46
  • Steve Vlad, 65, from Bristol, was diagnosed with frontal-temporal dementia and is a former plumber
  • Lesley Morris, 55, of Newport was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2017

What was the inspiration for the show?

A Tokyo pop-up restaurant was created in 2017 with the same premise but the show’s producers decided to supersize the experiment to a fully sized restaurant. The aim of the project is to change the way the public views dementia.

The producers invited a selection of celebrity diners alongside members of the public over a five-week period to test the new staff. The volunteers learned the tricks of the trade for the month before to prepare them for working in a high pressure environment.

General Reception

The reception to the first episode was positive, with many viewers feeling heartbroken on seeing how dementia affected the participant’s ability to complete the work. Tweets compiled by the Daily Mail showed how viewers were shocked that people as young as 23 were struggling with the disease. While some questioned whether it was safe to give dementia patients access to knives and raw meat, the general response was pleased to see the topic being explored, and expressed how they thought people living with dementia shouldn’t be left behind by society. The Huffington Post also echoed that sentiment saying “more needs to be done” for people with dementia.

What's Next for TV and Dementia?

With 1 million people expected to be living with dementia by 2025, it’s vital that the public has a better understanding of the disease. If dementia in its various forms are shown on TV in a dignified way that raises awareness, it’s hoped that it can motivate people to engage as the long search for a cure continues. However, the increased exposure of vulnerable people must be effectively managed.

Sally Copely of the Alzheimer’s Society explained how consent was obtained during the making of Our Dementia Choir:

“We had the ongoing challenge of consent. We had a family sitting in during a meeting with a psychologist, and then every single morning we asked for the volunteer’s consent on camera with the same three questions: ‘Why are you here? What are we filming? Are you happy to be filmed?’

“As long as they could answer those consistently, and the family was happy, we were happy. We then showed it to the contributors and their families before transmission to make sure everyone was fine with how they were represented.”

Both shows had good intention goals that were clear. The UK must invest in people living with dementia, not leave them behind and people must be able to talk about the disease. While it may be frightening to those going through it, a better general understanding can only bring positive results in the future.

For information on Sova Healthcare’s Alzheimer’s care and Dementia care services, please get in touch to see how we can help.

dementia centre to create home tech

Advancements in technology have various benefits in everyday life. From wi-fi, smartphones and AI assistants, our lives are becoming more linked to these devices. As the smart home continues to develop, one centre is soon to open which is dedicated to creating technological solutions to support dementia patients and their home carers.

What Is The Aim of the Centre?

Based at the Imperial College London White City campus, the UK Dementia Research Institute’s Care Research and Technology Centre is part of a multi-partner collaboration. The centre is expected to cost £20m to run with funding coming from the Medical Research Council, Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. Their aim is to develop a system that can be used by dementia sufferers which combine the use of AI, robotics, sensors, sleep trackers and infection testing. It will be designed so the technology doesn’t interfere with the patient’s everyday life, creating homes that are friendly to dementia sufferers.

Professor David Sharp, a neurologist at Imperial College London who is head of the centre said, “The vision for this centre is to use patient-centred technology to help people affected by dementia to live better and for longer in their own homes.”

technological solutions for dementia patients

How Will an EEG Help Dementia Patients?

The EEG (electroencephalogram) device they want to create will fit in the ear of a patient which will then monitor brain activity fluctuations with radar technology used to track movements within the home. The sensors will identify any changes in the behaviour of patients which have the potential to put them in hospital. Changes include a new walking pattern that might lead to a fall or increases in body temperature which is likely to suggest an infection.

EEG device for dementia patients

The results from the monitoring can then be sent to doctors or nurses early if potential problems are arising. The monitoring can also give a holistic overview of a patient, as the data can help better understand the effect of drug treatments and patient wellbeing.

The technology will also be able to track sleep quality of the patient, which is hard to track in the home. Sleep disturbance is a huge problem for dementia patients. The centre wants to create motion sensors that can be fitted to beds to track sleep. The information gathered might improve the quality of sleep for patients.

The technology developed will be assessed by people living with dementia and their carers. This will ensure the technology is both practical and needed by patients.

Why Are Technological Solutions Needed?

With over 700,000 dementia sufferers in the UK and 850,000 expected by 2021, solutions need to be found to reduce the number of dementia patients going into hospitals and help improve their quality of life.

Sharp commented on dementia patients and hospital beds saying, “Latest figures suggest one in four hospital beds are occupied by people with dementia – and 20 percent of these admissions are due to preventable causes such as falls, dehydration and infections. The new technologies we develop will improve our ability to support people in their homes. They will allow us to intervene at an early stage, to prevent the crises that so often lead to hospital stays or a move to a care home. What’s more, we’ll be able to improve our understanding of dementia onset and progression.”

For dementia patients, a trip to or stay in a hospital can be a very stressful experience. If a doctor can monitor a patient remotely successfully, this will reduce the need for those trips to take place. A doctor can then react to anything concerning if they need to.

How Much Will The Technology Cost Patients?

While the centre hopes various off-the-shelf technologies will be available for free through the NHS, some sensors could cost as little as £10.

When Will The Centre Be Open?

The centre will open on 1st June 2019. However, scientists already involved in the project have developed storage technologies that are safe robust, so all personal data of patients is secure.

Any technology that can support dementia patients and their carers is welcomed. It will be interesting to see how the technology develops once the centre has opened. The importance of dementia care services within the home remains, an extra layer of technological support can truly create a ‘Healthy Home’.

For more information on our dementia care services, please contact Sova Healthcare today.

Dementia Research

With technology constantly evolving and our understanding of science ever improving, the research being done into dementia is continually advancing, as doctors and scientists alike work to tackle and overcome dementia once and for all. And with 2018 promising to hold a number of exciting developments into dementia research, we’ve put together some of our predictions for the year, as we explore what we can expect from dementia research within 2018.

The Eradication of Care vs. Cure

Perhaps one of the fiercest debates of dementia research, there’s historically been a reigning debate regarding funding towards both the care and cure of the disease, with people divided as to which should take precedence. However in 2018, we predict that things may start to change, with equal attention and research being given to both sectors. With the Alzheimer’s Society dedicating significant money into researching the improvement of care for all those suffering from dementia, a great step has been taken into equalising the two research points, with equal weight and attention being given to seeking the cure to dementia as well as improving the lives of those suffering.

A Decrease in Data for Dementia

With talks in place regarding the NHS and data sharing, people will soon have the choice to opt out of sharing their medical data, meaning that less statistics and information will be available on dementia within the next year.

A Shift in Dementia Research Focus

Since dementia is caused by the presence of abnormal proteins in the brain, up until now a lot of research focus has been on the two most abundant proteins found in the brain for those suffering from dementia; amyloid and tau. However researchers now think they may have a new lead into uncovering medical development for the disease. Although researchers have long since known that the immune system is affected by dementia, it has generally been considered simply a side effect of the carnal deterioration. However now they believe the immune system may actually play a significant role in activating and causing the disease, meaning that in 2018 we can expect to see a shift in research focus from cranial proteins to the immune system.

A Renewal of 'Challenge on Dementia'

An initiative that was first launched in 2012 by the government, Challenge on Dementia is a programme that focuses on researching and curing the deteriorative cranial disease. Renewed in 2015, the initiative will end in 2020, unless it is once again renewed in the coming Spring. However considering the progress and success that has been made whilst under the initiative, it is likely that Challenge on Dementia will be implemented once more in 2018, allowing funding and research to continue to excel.

The Discovery of Potential Drugs

Thanks to the medical and scientific development made throughout 2017, there is a strong likelihood that we will see an increase in the progressive nature of dementia drugs within 2018. With the Alzheimer's Society dedicating a new programme to drug discovery, a study has shown that a diabetes drug could in fact benefit sufferers of dementia. With the promise of further research being done into this new revolutionary drug, 2018 hopes to be an game changer of a year in regards to dementia research.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, reach out to one of our friendly team today and we’ll work tirelessly to provide you with all the support and care that you need.

Can exercise help with dementia?

There has been increasing evidence that exercise reduces the chance of Alzheimer's disease by almost half, this is supported by the landmark study conducted by Cambridge University which looked at the seven lifestyle threats fuelling rising levels of dementia. The research has stated that one in three cases for the condition can be prevented if individuals increased their activity levels. Making healthier lifestyle choices such as quitting smoking can also reduce the risk of dementia as it was found that smoking increases dementia risk by 59 percent. In the study published in the Lancet Neurology, exercise is identified as the most significant factor in protection against the condition.

Why exercise and what are the benefits?

Exercise is not only beneficial for general health helping us to retain our cognitive and physical abilities as we age, it can help protect against dementia and slow down the progression of the condition. Many studies have revealed that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain, therefore it is important to keep these both as a top priority when it comes to preventing many conditions not just dementia. This is something regular exercise plays a huge part in, many of the other benefits of exercising involve:

  • Helping with sleeping and preventing restlessness
  • Reducing the risk of depression
  • Encouraging social well being. You can meet like minded people by joining exercise groups or at the gym
  • Physical fitness and wellbeing
  • Helping individuals keep in touch with nature by using the outdoors
  • Helping to promote an active lifestyle
  • Minimising the risk of some injuries as you will be physically fitter
  • Obesity in mid-life increases the risk of conditions such as Alzheimer's disease by 60 per cent, exercising can help prevent this. (Cambridge Study in the Lancet Neurology)

What type and how much exercise?

This is dependant on the individual and factors such as fitness, age and other health issues need to be considered. Before embarking on any rigorous fitness regime it's always advisable to consult your doctor, however as a basic most studies recommend moderate exercise such as walking done frequently. In terms of moderate exercise this is recommended 4 to 5 times a week with 30 minute sessions, if you are able to then three 20 minute bursts of vigorous exercise are recommended.

You don't have to do this all at once, with the moderate sessions you can break these into 2 sessions of 15 minute walks or whatever fits your routine best. There are also many ways to achieve being active that doesn't involve taking time out of your day to go to the gym, for instance you can do fifteen minutes housework in the morning and then a short walk in the afternoon. The following day can be some gardening followed by walking around a shopping centre. Keeping a diary to keep on top of your weekly routine and fit in all your exercise will also help.

In the later stages of dementia it is advisable to encourage the person to move about from room to room and do small activities that will keep them and their brain active. Try and get them moving as often as possible as this will help maintain muscle strength, good balance and joint flexibility. If the person is at a stage where they are confined to a bed due to their illness, it would be advisable to seek advice from a physio or an occupational therapist. With the advice from a professional a plan can be put in place for gentle exercises, that can help with keeping muscles and joints healthy.

Finally

Overall leading a physically active lifestyle can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of people with dementia. Exercise is beneficial for physical and mental health and may improve the quality of life for people in all stages of the condition. It is therefore important to incorporate exercise in their daily routine where possible, this will help both in the long and short term.

If you'd like to discuss Alzheimer's with a member of our team or find out more about our home care services, don't hesitate to contact us today.