MEMORY AND MOOD CHANGES AS WE AGE

Carolyn Phelps, Ph.D

February 12, 2013

Well, as you can see, we spent our time talking about Alzheimer’s disease because that is a huge topic in and of itself. We didn’t spend much time on mood problems in the older adults. Suffice it to say that many times, mood problems can be difficult to diagnose, though certainly can and do exist in older adults. Complicating the diagnosis can be a combination of other physical health problems which also result in shared symptoms with depression (difficulty sleeping, poor energy, difficulty in concentrating), as well as medications which might have similar side-effects. It is important to note that medication dosages need to be varied for the older adult (relative to the not as older adult), and as such, when possible, we recommend a “geropsychiatrist” for older adults with mental health problems. Here are some of the questions that we did not get to last night (because there were so many!)

1. Question: Is there a correlation between pain medication and Alzheimer’s?

Answer: There is no evidence at this time that there is a correlation between pain medication and Alzheimer’s disease. That having been said, people on pain medication may have memory problems, especially at higher doses. Additionally, Alzheimer’s patients can have other health problems which are treated with pain medication.

2. Question: Is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder related to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?

Answer: Stress and lifestyle risk factors may play a role in vascular dementia similar to their relation to heart disease.

3. Question: Does having a concussion or TBI increase your risk for dementia/Alzheimer’s disease?

Answer: Severe head trauma or repeated head traumas, in fact, appear to be a risk factor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Question: What changes occur in your brain after a head injury?

Answer: That depends on the extent of the head injury, the type of head injury and the location of the head injury or brain trauma. That having been said, brains, regardless of the level of injury, need time to heal. It is important to consult a doctor for more specific information and steps to take during the healing process if you feel that you have experienced a concussion, even if you feel it was a mild one.

5. Question: Can you address the problems with finding a dentist willing to treat someone with Alzheimer’s who will probably need sedation?

Answer: Wendy Ruhnke’s group, the Minnesota/North Dakota Alzheimer Association Chapter I bet could help you with that information. Their website information is listed below.

6. Question: My mother makes comments that she doesn’t want to go on living. At age 95, is there anything that can help this? Will antidepressants help her at this age?

Answer: It is hard to know the answer to your question without more specific information about your mother. That having been said, there is no evidence that antidepressant medications “age out,” and as such, antidepressant medications could help. I would recommend that you consult someone who specializes in geriatric medicine, such as Kathleen Cox, one of the guests on our show, who is at Essentia Health.

7. Question: How long do the antidepressants (Namenda, etc.) provide benefit for patients with worsening dementia?

Answer: First, Namenda is not an antidepressant. According to the Mayo Clinic’s website on Alzheimer’s disease, Namenda is most helpful in patients with moderate to severe Alzheimer’s.

8. Question: Does Parkinson’s disease have a hereditary component?

Answer: Overall, the general science of Parkinson’s disease states that the cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. That having been said, researchers have identified certain genetic mutations that exist in very rare cases: those with many family members who are affected by Parkinson’s disease. I would refer you to the Mayo Clinic’s website on Parkinson’s disease.

The book that Mr. Paul Frost (everyone’s favorite last night!) mentioned is “Still Alice.” It is a novel that both and some of our other guests strongly endorsed.

There is a conference on March 2, 2013 in St. Paul: “2013 Meeting of the Minds Dementia Conference.” This conference is for experts in the field, caregivers and those with Alzheimer’s disease themselves. It was heralded by both Wendy Ruhnke and Angela Rosenberg Hauger as an excellent conference. To register for the conference, go to the Minnesota/North Dakota Chapter page of the Alzheimer’s Association website. The Minnesota/North Dakota Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association website is: http://www.alz.org/mnnd/

Also check out the Alzheimer’s organization website. It is fabulous!

Carolyn F. Phelps, Ph.D., L.P.

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