Thank God(!) the medical model for treatment of dementia is rapidly changing from 20th century “death sentence” view to a more “cause and cure” 21st century response. Until very recently, all doctors looked at dementia as an incurable and progressive disease that ends only in death. And it has routinely ended in death due to lack of, or destructive, treatment.
Rampant use of antipsychotic drugs, neglect, and abuse
Dementia patients are often given high doses of antipsychotic medications, labeled to increase the risk of death for elderly persons with dementia – transforming them to lifeless, listless, defenseless, and often comatose beings left to die – often neglected and abused while they wait.
Lying to family
Family members are told they are not suffering, don’t feel anything, and don’t remember your visit ten minutes after you’ve gone.
I experienced it, firsthand, more than once. We are suffering.
This is me, in a rehab facility that treated me as such, medicated me, and left me to vegetate in my room. I wasn’t strong enough to wheel myself around, but managed to scoot closer to the camera Janet placed in my room. I cried out to her because I knew she would hear me, and go to her computer to see what was the matter.
Janet rescued me.
She did hear my cries, and spoke to me through the camera. She told me she was on her way. During the 10-minute drive to get to me, she received a call from a facility she had tried to get me into before. The caller arranged to have me transferred there that night, regardless the late hour.
The facility I moved into that night turned out to be a godsend, different from any facility I’d experienced before. I spent my final two months there, and it was life-changing with regard to the improvement of my dementia, my outlook, my dignity, and happiness.
Yes, we do feel our suffering. We do feel fear and anxiety for what is done around and to us. We do want and deserve treatment geared toward improving our life, toward healing our affliction. And some of us do get better. I did.
This is the 21st century. And yes, the mindset is changing. There are tons of studies out now that indicate there are definite causes linked to dementia; and that treatment and lifestyle changes can and DO stop, reverse, and even cure Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Of course there are cases that may not respond – but many do.
But many people are experiencing reversal of symptoms with treatment. I was one of them. Unfortunately I didn’t live long enough to see a complete reversal because I died, first, due to complications of an antibiotic. But my dementia symptoms were definitely improving.
Many causes of dementia.
There are many things that can cause dementia. The predisposition to develop dementia can be genetic. That simply means that if there has been dementia in your family, you may be pre-wired to get it – but does not mean you have to get it. You can take preventative measures to avoid getting it. I was the first one in my family to get it, so genetics were not involved for me.
Traumatic Brain Injury
Traumatic brain injury from falls, repeated concussions, or blows to the head are also ways you can get it. I had several falls that involved concussions and traumatic brain injury, so these were contributing factors.
Diet, oral hygiene, leaky gut, diabetes
You can get it from poor diet, as well. Diets high in sugar, trans fats, carbs, and processed foods can contribute to the development of dementia, as can conditions such as leaky gut that send bacteria into the bloodstream, and to your brain. Poor oral hygiene can also be a factor, as gingival bacteria gets into your bloodstream. Diabetes can also be a factor when sugar levels remain too high or low for extended periods – which is referred to as “diabetes of the brain.” I had diabetes, and also relatively poor diet due to consuming too much sugar, which put me at higher risk.
Mercury and Mold
Mercury from dental fillings and seafood can be contributing factors. Several types of mold can cause it. Aspergillus, Pennicilium, and Stachybotrys are the biggies. Just before I moved to the memory care facility, Janet had my house tested. Aspergillus and Pennicilium spores were found in my home.
Deficiencies in important nutrients such as Vitamins B12 and D can cause it – both of which were issues for me. Lack of hormones or testosterone can also contribute. After my hysterectomy, I chose not to have hormone replacement therapy, which put me in a higher risk category to develop dementia later on.
Exposure to neurotoxins can also cause dementia.
Neurotoxins cause a different type of dementia that doesn’t usually begin with memory problems. It begins with problems organizing things, calculating numbers, following directions, getting lost, and trouble finding the right word. Your memory stays intact, initially, and you can still learn new things, but you get really mixed up. This type of dementia is usually accompanied by visual perception problems and depression, including irritability and anger. It is often referred to as Lewy Body Dementia. This is the type of dementia I seemed to experience, mainly during episodes of urinary tract infections.
The Good News
Many, many things can contribute to the development of dementia. The good news is that if the cause(s) can be determined, dementia can be stopped, reversed, and even cured in many people by treating the cause. For example, if the cause is poor diet, that can be changed. When I moved to the memory care facility, focus on diet was paramount. I received healthy, tasty meals and snacks that helped me in so many ways. I started sleeping better, for one thing, which is extremely helpful to the brain.
If diabetes is a contributing factor, take measures to lower sugar levels. Where vitamin levels are low, hormone or testosterone levels are low, take action to increase them.
The point is to work toward fixing the underlying cause(s), and then watch as the dementia naturally begins to heal.
Some might say, that’s all fine and well, but once you lose brain cells, and synaptic connections, there’s no cure for that. It has long been believed that the brain rusts and shrinks with age, and that once it is gone, it is gone. This old school of thought is not true.
Brain Plasticity: our natural healer
Our brains have what is called “plasticity.” Simply put, that means that the brain is continuously reorganizing itself to make room for our most important memories. As we learn new things, the brain evaluates and decides whether to keep the new memory, or let it go to maintain real estate for more important memories. For example, your brain decides to drop the memory of the third song you heard on the radio on your way to work yesterday to maintain space for important things, like how to drive. And this is the way it is supposed to work.
The brain’s natural response to dementia .
However when someone gets dementia, their brain goes into desperate mode, hanging onto the old important memories, but refusing to add any new memories in order to keep old memory space for as long as possible. Because with no treatment of what is causing the dementia, the brain begins to shrink in size. It eventually shrinks enough that it begins cutting off connections to even important memories.
We remember things because of synaptic connections between cells in our brains. Broken connections cause memory loss.
Old and new memory gets connected to our vast repertoire of memories by these tiny synaptic connections.
What would happen if our brains repaired broken connections?
Our memories would return. Broken synapse, unreachable memory. Repaired synapse, return of memory.
The old way of thinking is that restoration of broken synaptic pathways cannot occur.
Restoration of synaptic connections occurs under the right conditions. Our brains work with what they’ve got, and if we improve the circumstances of our life, the brain follows suit, and begins a repair process. Google “plasticity” to learn more about this amazing topic.
My brain was starting to heal itself.
I was recalling things I’d long forgotten.
Here’s an example.
I used to play bingo with Janet and my grandson, Douglas. We’d go every Saturday night to the local bingo hall in hopes of winning one of the $500 games. And we did, sometimes. But mostly we had fun.
When I started getting dementia, I couldn’t play bingo very well. I recall being in different facilities, and being taken to the dining hall for bingo. A single card was placed on the table in front of me, and I’d just look at it, no longer sure what it all meant.
After one month in the memory care facility, I was playing two cards at a time, while everyone else could manage only one card. And I had no trouble at all marking the numbers to win. This was a month before I died. My memories were starting to come back. My synaptic connections were being rebuilt. I was well on my way to reversal of my dementia. This was just one example – there were other memories that returned, as well.
I was also on a new medication, as you may have read in my last post, which most likely contributed to my improvement. But I was also in a very good memory care facility that did everything they could to promote healing. Not all memory care facilities are like this, and sad to say, most are not. I was blessed to have found this place because even though I died two months later, it saved my life from the torment of dementia for the remaining time I had left.
How was my memory care facility different?
I think what made this place stand out above the rest is that the staff and management treated patients with dignity and respect, looking always to find ways to engage with you, provided many opportunities to socialize, and worked with you as an individual, and not just part of a sheep herd. They provided healthy nutrition, as well. And each night as I went to bed, the nurse came to my bedside, tucked me in, talked with me a little while, then hugged me “goodnight.” I felt safe here, cared for and about, and looked forward to each new day.
Choose a memory care facility very, very carefully.
Stay away from those where patients have blank looks on their faces. That is the effects of sedation. It makes work easier for staff. Those patients may also be suffering abuse and neglect.
Look for a place where you can feel the positive energy when you walk in, where patients and staff are smiling and talking, where they are playing games or doing something besides staring straight ahead, where you do not hear patients crying or screaming, but instead, laughing and talking. This is an environment for healing.
What is amyloid plaque? It is not dementia. Rather it is what forms to try and protect the brain.
Next I want to talk some about amyloid that forms on the brains of people with dementia. Amyloid is a plaque that forms to try and protect the brain from whatever is causing dementia. Doctors originally thought that amyloid WAS the dementia, and set out to remove it via drugs like Aricept. The theory was that if they could destroy the amyloid, they could cure the dementia. But the medications didn’t help. The dementia didn’t go away, and in some cases became worse.
The problem is that drugs like Aricept destroy the very thing that protects the brain from further damage.
So patients got worse instead of better. I was on Aricept for about a year, and I also experienced worsening symptoms.
My experience with Aricept
I had private caregivers 24/7 in my home who witnessed firsthand the effects of Aricept on my brain.
My doctor recommended that I take the Aricept at night because it can cause hallucinations, which might disrupt my day. So I took it each and every night. My overnight caregiver mentioned to Janet that she was noticing a drastic change in me about an hour after taking the pill, which lasted off an on through the night.
It was like I became demon possessed.
First of all, I wasn’t sleeping well because I was having nightmares. And when I was awake, it was like I became someone else – someone mean and verbally vicious. My caregiver told Janet that just before I “changed,” my eyes looked odd, like the eyes of a demon she’d seen in horror movies. And within a few minutes, I was spewing obscenities, and cursing at her. I recalled none of it in the morning, and was always mortified when I saw video clips of it taken from the cameras installed in my home.
Caregivers started sprinkling me with holy water.
My caregiver thought demons were possessing me, occasionly. Other caregivers noticed it, too, when they stayed overnight with me. A couple of them actually brought holy water to sprinkle on me when I got like that.
The local priest was too busy to see me.
Two of my caregivers drove me to the Catholic Church one day, and I waited with one of them in the car while the other one went inside to request a priest to come out and bless me.
The priest refused. He said she’d need to set an appointment. But he couldn’t see me for three months. He had many similar requests ahead of me.
A woman standing nearby heard the conversation, and told my caregiver she would remember me in her prayers. Now there must be something terribly wrong in San Antonio when a priest is backed up three months on appointments to exercise demons.
But was it Aricept, or a urinary tract infection?
During this same period of time, I also had a UTI, so it is possible that my demon-like speech was related to that. Yet it was usually one hour after taking Aricept when my alter ego presented itself. But this alter ego was incredible as it hissed at the caregivers, and made up stories of doom for them. Some caregivers quit working with me because the episodes frightened them.
So the caregivers continued sprinkling me with holy water, and prayed for me. Janet wasn’t sure what to think, so talked with the doctor, who then checked me to find a UTI. So were the nightly episodes caused from the Aricept destroying protective amyloid on my brain? Or was I responding to the UTI infection? Or both?
The brain needs healing before using drugs like Aricept to strip away the very thing that is protecting the brain from further damage.
It is not a good idea to remove amyloid from the brain with drugs like Aricept before treating the cause. Otherwise you simply remove the only thing that is protecting the brain.
Look for the cause. Treat the cause.
In my case, my dementia was likely caused by a combination of poor diet, mold exposure, traumatic brain injury from falls due to blood pressure medications, lack of Vitamins D and B12, and possibly hormone deficiency.
I was losing synaptic connectors, and brain cells (likely due to brain injury), and my brain was starting to shrink (per a CT scan done a year before I died). As a result, I lost much of my executive functioning that would include things like being able to play bingo. I was an emotional mess to the point where caregivers were sprinkling me with holy water, and got to the point where I barely spoke, ate, or slept.
I got better.
A new medication seemed to help me. The memory care facility program also aided my progress by working toward healing, instead of routine sedation.
As a result, I became more social, carrying on complete conversations, had new interest in activities and learning, and learned again how to play bingo, and other activities I had previously been unable to do.
I died a month after my healing began, so it’s hard to tell how much improvement I would have experienced on down the road. Neither Janet nor I had any idea that my dementia could get better. We were both under the impression that it would never get better, but only get worse.
There *is* Hope.
Yes, there is hope to improve dementia. But the underlying cause(s) need treatment.
You may or may not be able to convince your doctor of that. But there are doctors out there who do believe dementia can be reversed.
And if you want a sneak peek at the wonderful memory care facility where I spent my last days, you will find it here:
Here’s to hope and healing to loosen the grip on dementia!
Below are some helpful links to learn more about reversing Alzheimer’s and dementia:
Video: Dr. Perlmutter and Dr. Bredesen talks about reversing Alzheimer’s:
Lifestyle modulators of neuroplasticity:
The brain combats dementia by shifting resources:
8 steps to reverse memory loss:
Prevent and reverse Alzheimer’s disease:
Reversal of cognitive decline:
Researchers reverse cognitive decline in mice:
Ketogenic diet shows promising results for all dementia stages:
Alzheimer’s memory loss symptoms reversed – MIT study:
Primary care holds the keys to unlock Alzheimer’s disease:
How to reverse dementia naturally using the Bredesen protocol:
Memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s reverses for first time: