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Alzheimer's, memory loss

Created date

December 25th, 2012

Q.My husband has Alzheimer s disease and lives in an assisted living residence. An organization sometimes brings pets in to visit with residents, but I m concerned about sanitation and the risk of infections. Is this an unsafe practice?

A.Pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, has been used for many years. Research is ongoing about the benefits of this practice, including how pets may reduce stress, lift mood, and provide comfort for people coping with a range of illnesses. Not just anyone can walk into a health care facility with a pet. Strict rules are typically in place with regard to cleanliness of the animals, training, vaccinations, and behavior screening. That s not to say incidents can t happen, but to date, no pet therapy-related infections have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Q.My mother is only in her early 60s. She had a minor stroke a few years back and has been recently diagnosed with diabetes. In the past few years, her memory has gotten worse and her doctor says she has dementia. Because she is so young, is there any chance she could recover some of her memory?

A.Memory loss can have many causes. Medical events such as a stroke can affect the brain s memory processes by depriving it of oxygen, and a chronic condition such as diabetes can cause vascular problems that affect blood flow to the brain. The old thinking was that brain cells cannot regenerate, and damage from a disease process was likely to be permanent. In some cases, this is still true. But in other cases, no matter how old someone is, strategies to control diabetes and prevent future strokes can go a long way in improving memory or, at the very least, slow the process of memory loss. Treating any existing depression can also result in a dramatic improvement of memory loss. Your mother might benefit from a thorough examination by her doctor to determine the best way to manage her health conditions. 

 

Roberta Feldhausen, PMH-CNS, BC 

Director of Mental Health Services, Erickson Health Medical Group  

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