[Editor’s Note: Al Power is filling-in for Christa “Monkhouse Mondays” while she’s on vacation.]
I’ll follow up Wednesday’s “Pre-Dementia” post with three more items that have popped up in the past two days:
(1) On July 28th, our local newspaper described a new study from the University of Kansas, to be published this fall in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Diesase and Other Dementias. In this study, it was found that people with dementia take great offense to being talked down to with demeaning names or infantile language. Many people reacted with increased agitation and physical aggression. Even people with fairly advanced dementia can tell when they are being demeaned or patronized.
This lends support to those of us who feel that interpersonal interactions are an important factor in the genesis of behavioral symptomatology. I only have one complaint: The article states that this method of address is so common that “researchers have coined a word to describe it – ‘elderspeak'”.
Now wait just a minute here! That isn’t elder-talk – it’s baby-talk! Let’s not besmirch a title of honor and respect by associating it with infantilizing language.
(2) The UK has a new drug that claims to “halt the decline of dementia”, something no other drug has succeeded in doing. The media has descended like vultures on the report of this trial drug named Rember (get it?). The study claims that there was no significant decline in cognitive function after 19 months on the drug, compared with an 81% relative decrease in those not taking it.
The drug appears to work by attacking the “tau protein” that forms the damaged nerve tangles of Alzheimer’s. This is an industry-sponsored study, and hasn’t been put to intense scrutiny or replication yet. However, it was enough to impress Clive Ballard, a prominent researcher in the UK. Others cite the evidence that the drug decreases blood supply to some brain areas as an indication to proceed with caution into further trials.
So we’ll keep our fingers crossed and see what happens here…
(3) Finally, back on the topic of social capital, the BBC also reports that single people have three times the risk of dementia that married people have. This was reported by the Karolinska institute, after a study of 1449 Finns. It is theorized that the “intense social and intellectual stimulation” of marriage has a protective effect. Those who were widowed at a young age and never remarried had six times the risk.
This certainly adds to recent evidence about the beneficial effects of social interaction on cognition and other health indicators, (though a few of my formerly married friends might take issue with the hypothesis!).
I would comment that the article does not tell if cognitive testing was done on these people, or just an interview and health history. The latter would not rule out the effects of an ongoing relationship in helping to “cover” for mild deficits. There is also evidence that untreated depression can be neurotoxic – this might also be an issue in cases of divorce and bereavement. Finally, there may be lifestyle differences associated with stable marriages (diet, exercise, etc) which contribute.
Keep an eye on this blog for the latest developments!
— Al Power