We interview Tara Reed, an artist who has also written the book, “What to do Between the Tears – A Practical Guide to Dealing with a Dementia or Alzheimer’s Diagnosis in the Family.”
Her dad had Alzheimer’s and passed away soon after this episode was recorded. The 2 Boomer Broads send her our love and prayers.
Coming to you this time from the 2 Boomer Broads Bombay Café.
Tara talks with us about normal aging and how to know if you may be at risk for dementia. Do you worry that you’ve been forgetful and think you’re losing your mind? Listen in by clicking on the player above because she has some wonderful tips to share.
What is normal aging and what is not? How to know if there is a problem on the horizon and what to do about it.
You may have a parent right now who has dementia like Tara did or you’re worried about your own mental health.
Tara refers to those who are concerned as the “worried well.” Most of us are fine but we worry every time we forget a word.
What inspired her to write the book was her experience going through it with her father. When he was in his late 60’s his personality began to change. Her family didn’t know if he was ill or he if was suddenly becoming a grumpy old man.
Tara hadn’t seen her parents for a few months and went to visit them. She noticed that her dad was acting strangely and asked her mom about it. Her mom broke down in tears. Sometimes changes in personality are easier to notice if you aren’t living with them every day. Her dad’s behavior wasn’t typical for him. Determine a person’s normal baseline. If they suddenly start cussing up a blue streak when they don’t normally cuss, that is a warning bell.
What is dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term for memory loss and Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. There are hundreds of different types. Dementia means your brain isn’t working properly and is declining in some way. Alzheimer’s occurs when proteins and plaques get into the brain, break connections and cause problems. Vascular dementia is a lack of something like blood flow to different areas of the brain that cause you to forget.
How to tell if someone has dementia
Early signs of dementia are related to the frontal lobe of the brain behind the forehead. It affects attention, focus, shorter term memory, inhibition, and judgment. 1 in 3 people over 85 have some level of dementia, which is normal.
What you can do to prevent it.
It helps to eat a healthy diet of non-processed foods and do exercises to work your frontal lobe. Tara’s dad was a college professor who used his mind constantly. He was reading a 900-page book about the universe at the time he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Tara learned that he wasn’t using the correct part of his brain because he mostly focused on learned knowledge and facts. Instead of re-reading facts you already know, always be learning and doing new things.
Sudoku, word searches, and other activities that require focus and attention are helpful. Crossword puzzles are not as effective because you are using learned knowledge rather than new knowledge.
Learning a new song or poem requires focus and attention and uses the frontal lobe. However, if you repeat the same song or poem over and over it becomes memorized and automatic. Another way to exercise the frontal lobe is to learn a new language. Rather than try to cram it all into your brain in a short amount of time, learn a new word every day.
In addition to eating healthy, Tara also uses a water filter to clean out toxins and heavy metals, which can disturb the brain. Avoid exposures. Be careful what you breathe, bathe in, put on your skin, and ingest into your body. Avoid eating too much sugar. Physical exercise helps as well.
Studies have been comparing Alzheimer’s with Diabetes. Alzheimer’s may be a type of diabetes for the brain. Tara’s dad went from not having a sweet tooth to having a crazy sweet tooth. The taste buds of people who have dementia change and they often crave sweets. Sweetness is one of the last things they can actually taste.
If you feel like you or anyone else you know may be experiencing the onset of dementia go to a doctor for a diagnosis. Don’t self-diagnose. The problem could be a vitamin deficiency or in the case of a celebrity, Lyme Disease. Start with a general doctor. He or she may refer you to a neurologist. They will do tests that can determine if you have dementia, what type you have and how to treat it.
Knowing that you may have the beginnings of dementia helps you prepare.
If you are over 50, it’s important to have all your legal documents in place. Once a person goes into full-on dementia they aren’t competent to sign documents so it’s important to be organized and have everything filled out before it happens. If you don’t, you will be adding stress and red tape that your family will have to deal with.
If you or someone else has the beginnings of dementia start keeping a journal. Write down detailed notes of changes you notice. Time tracking, name recognition, moods, food preferences etc.
Keep questioning if something doesn’t appear to be as it should be or doesn’t make sense. It will give you more credibility with doctors and give them clues on what to look for.
Make sure you are allowed to talk to doctors if you are caring for someone who has dementia. Get the patient to sign forms in case they are unable to make decisions so that you can confer with their physician. Never send anyone ill to a doctor by themselves, especially if they are over a certain age.
Record each doctor visit on your phone using a voice recorder to remember everything the doctor says. If you are not able to go to the appointment, have the patient record the session. You will become the patient’s advocate and voice.
Connect with Tara Reed
Visit Tara’s website at www.pivottohappy.com On her homepage, you will find the buttons – Spouse, Child, and Employer. Click on the one that applies to you and you will receive a list of 20 things you can do now.