Helping Kids Understand Alzheimer’s Disease

When a family member has Alzheimer’s disease, it affects everyone in the family, including children and grandchildren. It’s important to talk to them about what is happening. How much and what kind of information you share depends on the child’s age and relationship to the person with Alzheimer’s.

Helping Kids Cope

Here are some tips to help kids understand what is happening:

  • Answer their questions simply and honestly. For example, you might tell a young child, “Grandma has an illness that makes it hard for her to remember things.”
  • Help them know that their feelings of sadness and anger are normal.
  • Comfort them. Tell them no one caused the disease. Young children may think they did something to hurt their grandparent.

Talk with kids about their concerns and feelings. Some may not talk about their negative feelings, but you may see changes in how they act. Problems at school, with friends, or at home can be a sign that they are upset. A school counselor or social worker can help your child understand what is happening and learn how to cope.

A teenager might find it hard to accept how the person with Alzheimer’s has changed. He or she may find the changes upsetting or embarrassing and not want to be around the person. Don’t force them to spend time with the person who has Alzheimer’s. This could make things worse.

Give children information about Alzheimer’s that they can understand. For Alzheimer’s books and other materials, visit Resources for Children and Teens About Alzheimer’s Disease.

Spending Time Together and Alone

It’s important to show kids that they can still talk with the person with Alzheimer’s disease and help him or her enjoy activities. Many younger children will look to you to see how to act.

Doing fun things together can help both the child and the person with Alzheimer’s. Here are some things they might do:

  • Do simple arts and crafts
  • Play music or sing
  • Look through photo albums
  • Read stories out loud

If kids live in the same house as someone with Alzheimer’s disease:

  • Don’t expect a young child to help take care of or “babysit” the person.
  • Make sure they have time for their own interests and needs, such as playing with friends, going to school activities, or doing homework.
  • Make sure you spend time with them, so they don’t feel that all your attention is on the person with Alzheimer’s.
  • Be honest about your feelings when you talk with kids, but don’t overwhelm them.

If the stress of living with someone who has Alzheimer’s disease becomes too great, think about placing the person with Alzheimer’s into a respite care facility. Then, both you and your kids can get a much-needed break.

Read about this topic in Spanish. Lea sobre este tema en español.

For More Information About Helping Kids Understand Alzheimer’s

NIA Alzheimer’s and related Dementias Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
1-800-438-4380 (toll-free)
The National Institute on Aging’s ADEAR Center offers information and free print publications about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias for families, caregivers, and health professionals. ADEAR Center staff answer telephone, email, and written requests and make referrals to local and national resources.

Alzheimer’s Association
1-800-272-3900 (toll-free, 24/7)
1-866-403-3073 (TTY/toll-free)

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
1-866-232-8484 (toll-free)

National Respite Locator Service

Content reviewed: May 17, 2017


Police officers trained in ‘dementia friendly’ programs

New training offers insight into best practices for helping those with dementia.

Watch the video below: Courtesy of ABC News ITeam

Every 66 seconds someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As our population ages, it’s important police and other first responders understand effective ways to communicate with those suffering from dementia.

Blountsville’s Police Department recently became designated as a “Dementia Friendly Department.” Officers and others in the community took part in special training. The training is put on by M4A which is a group that specializes in helping the elderly.

To learn more:

Residents of Blount, Chilton, Shelby, St. Clair and Walker counties can get a free emergency folder to be kept on their refrigerator. In case of an emergency, it gives first responders contact information, health conditions and a list of medications.

To learn more:

Alzheimer’s of Central Alabama provide this information:
• Of the approximately 90,000 Alabamians with Alzheimer’s and dementia, 13,000 live alone.

• The biggest dangers for community dwelling patients: guns, cars, telemarketers, managing their medication and/or finances without supervision.

• The most dangerous dementia behavior is wandering. 60% of patients will wander and those who do tend to wander repeatedly. It takes an average of 9 hours for law enforcement to locate a missing patient versus 15 – 30 minutes to locate a patient wearing a Project Lifesaver bracelet. Every patient wearing a bracelet who has wandered in Alabama has been successfully found.

• The best strategy for communicating is to redirect. Never rationalize or reason.

• The average length of time from diagnosis to death is 8 – 10 years. Half of all caregivers stress over finances. 40% of caregivers suffer from depression. 75% of caregivers worry about their own health.

• Alzheimer’s of Central Alabama is a local organization that serves 21 counties across central Alabama. We provide services that help families take care and manage their loved one at home.

by Cynthia Gould



Scientists who study the genetics of Alzheimer’s distinguish between “familial Alzheimer’s disease,” which runs in families, and “sporadic Alzheimer’s disease”, where no obvious inheritance pattern is seen. True familial Alzheimer’s disease accounts for less than 5% of Alzheimer’s cases. Sporadic Alzheimer’s is much more common.

Familial Alzheimer’s Disease
All Familial Alzheimer’s disease known so far has an early onset, and as many as 50 percent of the cases are now known to be caused by defects in three genes located on three different chromosomes, the structures inside cells that house the genetic code. Some families have mutations in a gene called amyloid precurser protein (APP), which causes an abnormal form of the amyloid protein to be produced. Other families have mutations in a gene called presenilin 1, which causes an abnormal presenilin 1 protein to be produced. Still others have mutations in a very similar gene called presenilin 2, which causes an abnormal presenilin 2 protein to be produced.

Even if one of these mutations is present in only one of the two copies of a gene inherited from a person’s parents, the person will inevitably develop that form of early-onset Alzheimer’s (this is called autosomal dominant inheritance). However, the total known number of these cases is small (between 100 and 200 worldwide), and there is as yet no evidence that any of these mutations play a major role in the more common, sporadic or non-familial form of late-onset Alzheimer’s. Scientists are working to reveal the normal function of APP and presenilins and to determine how mutations of these genes cause the onset of familial Alzheimer’s disease.

Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease
Although there is no evidence that autosomal dominant inheritance of mutated genes causes late-onset Alzheimer’s, genetics does appear to play a role in the development of this more common form of the disease. Research has found an increased risk for late-onset Alzheimer’s in people who inherit one or two copies of a particular variation of a gene called apolipoprotein E (APOE) — the variation known as APOE e4. Different variations, or alleles, of particular genes produce variations in inherited characteristics, such as eye color or blood type. In this case, the variations are in the APOE gene that directs the manufacture of apolipoprotein E, a protein that helps carry blood cholesterol throughout the body, among other functions. It is found in neurons and other supportive brain cells (called glia) of healthy brains, but it is also associated in excess amounts with the plaques found in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.

Researchers are particularly interested in three common alleles of the APOE gene: e2, e3 and e4. The finding that increased risk is linked with inheritance of the APOE e4 allele has helped explain some of the variations in age of onset of Alzheimer’s disease based on whether people have inherited zero, one, or two copies of the APOE e4 allele from their parents. The more APOE e4 alleles one inherits, the lower the age of disease onset. The relatively rare APOE e2 allele may protect some people against the disease: It seems to be associated with a lower risk for Alzheimer’s and a later age of onset if the disease does develop. APOE e3 is the most common version found in the general population and may play a neutral role in Alzheimer’s risk.

Does everyone who carries the APOE gene develop Alzheimer’s disease?
The inheritance of one or two APOE e4 alleles does not predict Alzheimer’s with certainty. That means that, unlike early-onset familial Alzheimer’s disease, a person can have one or two APOE e4 alleles and still not get the disease, and a person who develops the disease may not have any APOE e4 alleles. APOE e4 increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, but it does not cause the disease. The ways in which APOE e4 increases the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s are not known with certainty, but one possible mechanism is that it facilitates beta-amyloid buildup in plaques and this contributes to lowering the age of onset of the disease. Other theories involve interactions with cholesterol levels and effects on nerve cell death that are independent of its effects on plaque buildup.

Bathing, Dressing, and Grooming: Alzheimer’s Caregiving Tips

At some point, people with Alzheimer’s disease will need help bathing, combing their hair, brushing their teeth, and getting dressed. Because these are private activities, people may not want help. They may feel embarrassed about being naked in front of caregivers. They also may feel angry about not being able to care for themselves. These suggestions may help with everyday care.Bar of soap and other grooming products


Helping someone with Alzheimer’s disease take a bath or shower can be one of the hardest things you do. Planning can help make bath time better for both of you. If the person is afraid of bathing, follow his or her lifelong bathing habits, such as doing the bath or shower in the morning or before going to bed.

Safety Tips

To keep the person with Alzheimer’s safe during bath time:

  • Never leave a confused or frail person alone in the tub or shower.
  • Always check the water temperature before he or she gets in the tub or shower.
  • Use a hand-held showerhead.
  • Use a rubber bath mat and safety bars in the tub.
  • Use a sturdy shower chair to support a person who is unsteady and to prevent falls. You can buy shower chairs at drug stores and medical supply stores.

Before Bathing

Before starting a bath or shower:

  • Get the soap, washcloth, towels, and shampoo ready.
  • Make sure the bathroom is warm and well lighted.
  • Play soft music if it helps to relax the person.
  • Be matter-of-fact about bathing. Say, “It’s time for a bath now.” Don’t argue about the need for a bath or shower.
  • Be gentle and respectful. Tell the person what you are going to do, step by step.
  • Make sure the water temperature is comfortable.
  • Don’t use bath oil. It can make the tub slippery and may cause urinary tract infections.

During a Bath or Shower

Allow the person with Alzheimer’s to do as much as possible. This protects his or her dignity and helps the person feel more in control. Here are other tips:

  • Put a towel over the person’s shoulders or lap. This helps him or her feel less exposed. Then use a sponge or washcloth to clean under the towel.
  • Distract the person by talking about something else if he or she becomes upset.
  • Give the person a washcloth to hold. This makes it less likely that he or she will try to hit you.

After Bathing

Try these suggestions:

  • Prevent rashes or infections by patting the person’s skin with a towel. Make sure the person is completely dry. Be sure to dry between folds of skin.
  • If the person is incontinent, use a protective ointment, such as petroleum jelly, around the rectum, vagina, or penis.
  • If the person has trouble getting in and out of the bathtub, do a sponge bath instead.

Other Bathing Tips

For most people, a full bath or shower two or three times a week is enough. Between full baths, a sponge bath to clean the face, hands, feet, underarms, and genitals is all you need to do every day. Also:

  • Washing the person’s hair in the sink with a hose attachment may be easier than doing it in the shower or bathtub.
  • Get professional help with bathing if it becomes too hard for you to do on your own.


People with Alzheimer’s disease often need more time to dress. It can be hard for them to choose their clothes. They might wear the wrong clothing for the season. They also might wear colors that don’t go together or forget to put on a piece of clothing. Allow the person to dress on his or her own for as long as possible.

Other tips for dressing:

  • Lay out clothes in the order the person should put them on, such as underwear first, then pants, then a shirt, and then a sweater.
  • Hand the person one thing at a time, or give step-by-step dressing instructions.
  • Put away some clothes in another room to reduce the number of choices. Keep only one or two outfits in the closet or dresser.
  • Keep the closet locked if needed.
  • Buy three or four sets of the same clothes if the person wants to wear the same clothing every day.
  • Buy loose-fitting, comfortable clothing, such as sports bras, cotton socks and underwear, and sweat pants and shorts with elastic waistbands.
  • Avoid girdles, control-top pantyhose, knee-high nylons, high heels, and tight socks.
  • Use Velcro® tape or large zipper pulls for clothing instead of shoelaces, buttons, or buckles.
  • Try slip-on shoes that won’t slide off or shoes with Velcro® straps.


When people feel good about how they look, they often feel better. Helping people with Alzheimer’s disease brush their teeth, shave, put on makeup, and get dressed can help them feel more like themselves.

Mouth Care

Here are some tips to help the person with Alzheimer’s care for his or her teeth and mouth.

  • Show the person how to brush his or her teeth. Go step by step. Remember to let the person do as much as possible.
  • Brush your teeth at the same time.
  • Help the person clean his or her dentures.
  • Ask the person to rinse his or her mouth with water after each meal and use mouthwash once a day.
  • Try a long-handled, angled, or electric toothbrush if you need to brush the person’s teeth.
  • Take the person to see a dentist. Some dentists specialize in treating people with Alzheimer’s. Ask the dentist how often the person should be seen.

Other Grooming

Here are some other suggestions for grooming:

  • Encourage a woman to wear makeup if she has always used it. If needed, help her put on powder and lipstick. Don’t use eye makeup.
  • Encourage a man to shave, and help him as needed. Use an electric razor for safety.
  • Take the person to the barber or beauty shop. Some barbers or hairstylists may come to your home.
  • Keep the person’s nails clean and trimmed.

Alzheimer’s Prevention: Nutrition & Lifestyle

Alzheimer’s disease is a complex disorder, for which there is currently no known prevention or cure. Although there is preliminary data to support the benefit of some interventions, nothing at this time has definitively been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.

There are healthy actions people can take to improve and maintain health, no matter what conditions they may be facing.

Alzheimer’s disease is a complex disorder, for which there is currently no known prevention or cure. Some research has generated hope that one day it might be possible to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, delay its symptoms, or even prevent it from occurring at all. Although there are preliminary data to support the benefit of some interventions—such as physical activity and cardiovascular risk reduction—nothing at this time has definitively been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.

The scientific advisors of the BrightFocus Foundation do not currently recommend or endorse any commercial nutritional supplement, exercise program, or cognitive training exercises for the purposes of preventing Alzheimer’s disease. BrightFocus does encourage people to evaluate the role of these interventions on the overall health and spirits of both patient and caregivers. BrightFocus does provide several memory games. Please note that these memory games are not tests for Alzheimer’s disease.

A number of preliminary studies suggest that how we eat may raise or lower our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Eating a diet that is high in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and low in sugar and fat can reduce the incidence of many chronic diseases. Researchers are studying whether these dietary modifications are also applicable to Alzheimer’s disease. The strongest research supporting these modifications has been performed in animal studies, and findings remain to be rigorously established in randomized and controlled human clinical trials.

One example of Alzheimer’s disease nutrition research that BrightFocus funded is the work of Wolfgang Quitschke, Ph.D., of the State University of New York. He and his team are exploring the role of curcumin (from the spice turmeric) in a model of Alzheimer’s disease in mice. This trailblazing project is expected to open up new ways for testing other nutritional ingredients and to help ascertain whether sufficient quantities would be consumed by maintaining a healthy diet or whether these ingredients need to be medically administered.

Healthy Lifestyle Actions You Can Take Right Now

  • Eat a varied, nutritious, and low-glycemic diet. Include foods that contain vitamins C, D, and E, omega-3 fats, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. As can happen with diabetes, researchers suggest that production of higher levels of insulin and blood sugar may harm the brain and contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s.
  • Get regular exercise and maintain a healthy weight. This will improve not only your immune system and blood pressure, but your brain and eye health. Being obese can increase inflammation in your body and increase your risk of developing other diseases.
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at normal levels. Having a cardiovascular disease could contribute to the progression of Alzheimer’s
  • Don’t smoke. Toxins found in first-, second-, and third-hand smoke have been linked to an increased risk for developing a number of diseases.
  • Get enough good quality sleep, as recommended for your age group. Researchers have shown some association between poor sleep and an increased risk for mild cognitive/memory issues.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Maintain regular check-ups with healthcare practitioners—Take all medications, as prescribed. Have one pharmacy or doctor confirm that the drugs you receive from different sources have no risks for interactions or interference from non-prescription drugs or herbal supplements.
  • Keep your mind active. While the debate continues over whether cognitive exercises willhelp lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, keeping your mind nimble will enhance your overall well-being. You can also check out thesememory games.
  • Keep an active social life and strive to widen your social network. Studies have shown that having a large social network may lower the risk of developing dementia. Volunteering for nonprofit organizations with missions that are important to you is one way to expand your circle of friends and acquaintances.
  • Keep yourself informed. Learn about recent advances in research on preventive activities and treatments for your condition, for instance through the services and news alerts provided to you by the BrightFocus Foundation.

Are interested in receiving notices about upcoming trainings? Here’s your chance! SIGN UP & ATTEND

  • Do you know what the ten early signs of Alzheimer’s are?
  • Do you know how to prevent someone with Alzheimer’s disease from wandering?
  • Do you know what Anosognosia is?

If you would like the answers to these questions and many more, please consider attending the Alzheimer’s training we will be hosting next week!

Here are the details:


Alzheimer’s Training
Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Triton College
Robert M. Collins Building (IMPORTANT- located on the East Side of Fifth Avenue)
Room 221
2000 Fifth Avenue
River Grove, Illinois 60171


 Campus map:

To register, please go to .

I hope to see you soon!

Eating Leafy Greens Each Day Tied to Sharper Memory, Slower Decline

Scientists are keen to figure out how diet influences aging, including brain health. A five-year study of healthy seniors found those who ate a serving or two of daily greens had less cognitive decline.

Meredith Miotke for NPR

To age well, we must eat well. There has been a lot of evidence that heart-healthy diets help protect the brain.

The latest good news: A study recently published in Neurology finds that healthy seniors who had daily helpings of leafy green vegetables — such as spinach, kale and collard greens — had a slower rate of cognitive decline, compared to those who tended to eat little or no greens.

“The association is quite strong,” says study author Martha Clare Morris, a professor of nutrition science at Rush Medical College in Chicago. She also directs the Rush Institute for Healthy Aging.

The research included 960 participants of the Memory and Aging Project. Their average age is 81, and none of them have dementia. Each year the participants undergo a battery of tests to assess their memory. Scientists also keep track of their eating habits and lifestyle habits.

To analyze the relationship between leafy greens and age-related cognitive changes, the researchers assigned each participant to one of five groups, according to the number of greens eaten. Those who tended to eat the most greens comprised the top quintile, consuming, on average, about 1.3 servings per day. Those in the bottom quintile said they consume little or no greens.

After about five years of follow-up/observation, “the rate of decline for [those] in the top quintile was about half the decline rate of those in the lowest quintile,” Morris says.

So, what’s the most convenient way to get these greens into your diet?

“My goal every day is to have a big salad,” says Candace Bishop, one of the study participants. “I get those bags of dark, leafy salad mixes.”

A serving size is defined as a half-cup of cooked greens, or a cup of raw greens.

Does Bishop still feel sharp? “I’m still pretty damn bright,” she tells me with a giggle. She isn’t convinced that her daily salad explains her healthy aging.

“I think a lot of it is in the genes,” Bishop says, adding, “I think I’m lucky, frankly.”

She has other healthy habits, too. Bishop attends group exercise classes in her retirement community and she’s active on several committees in the community.

Many factors play into healthy aging — this study does not prove that eating greens will fend off memory decline. With this kind of research, Morris explains, scientists can only establish an association — not necessarily causation — between a healthy diet and a mind that stays sharp.

Still, she says, even after adjusting for other factors that might play a role, such as lifestyle, education and overall health, “we saw this association [between greens and a slower rate of cognitive decline] over and above accounting for all those factors.”

Some prior research has pointed to a similar benefit. A study of women published in 2006 also found that high consumption of vegetables was associated with a less cognitive decline among older women. The association was strongest with greater consumption of leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables — such as broccoli and cauliflower.

And, as NPR has reported, there’s evidence that a Mediterranean-style diet — which emphasizes a pattern of eating that is rich in fish, nuts, vegetables and whole grains — may help stave off chronic diseases.

What might explain a benefit from greens?

Turns out, these vegetables contain a range of nutrients and bioactive compounds including vitamin E and K, lutein, beta-carotene and folate.

“They have different roles and different biological mechanisms to protect the brain,” says Morris. More research is needed, she says, to fully understand their influence, but scientists know that consuming too little of these nutrients can be problematic.

For instance, “if you have insufficient levels of folate in your diet you can have higher levels of homocysteine,” Morris says. This can set the stage for inflammation and a buildup of plaque, or fatty deposits, inside your arteries, which increases the risk of stroke. Research shows elevated homocysteine is associated with cognitive impairment among older adults.

Another example: Getting plenty of Vitamin E from foods in your diet can help protect cells from damage and also has been associated with better cognitive performance.

“So, when you eat leafy greens, you’re eating a lot of different nutrients, and together they can have a powerful impact,” Morris says.

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