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cognitive impairment

Identification of Potential or Preclinical Cognitive Impairment and the Implications of Sophisticated Screening with Biomarkers and Cognitive Testing

Identification of Potential or Preclinical Cognitive Impairment and the Implications of Sophisticated Screening with Biomarkers and Cognitive Testing

Teaser: 

Dr.Michael Gordon Michael Gordon, MD, MSc, FRCPC, Medical Program Director, Palliative Care, Baycrest Geriatric Health Care System, Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON.

The last decade has seen an enormous growth in the interest in the recognition of and intervention in those diagnosed and living with the whole range of cognitive impairment and frank dementia. In the western world, the recognition of the impact on patients, families, health care systems, and societies that dementia poses has led to great efforts to help define the indicators for current and future dementia with the intention to treat those already afflicted even with the primarily symptomatic medications that exist and to recognize those at future risk with the hope of providing counselling to forestall its future development. The idea of "early diagnosis" appears at first glance to be attractive for the purposes of future planning and research studies, but it is not clear what the benefits and risks might be if screening processes define people at risk when beneficial interventions might not yet be determined. The ethical as well as financial implications must be explored and defined before implementation of such screening becomes a normal standard of practice.practice.
Key Words: cognitive impairment, dementia, screening, biomarkers, cognitive testing.

The Wonders of Wood: Cognitive Impairment Not a Barrier

I returned from a medical conference overseas. As I entered the living room, I could see the small walnut side table my wife emailed me about while I was away. It was placed in front of the gas fireplace, next to my favourite "relax" chair and was the perfect colour and size to fit there, waiting for a cup of coffee, a portable phone and the controller for the small stereo next to it. I marvelled at the shape and fine workmanship reflecting that even after less than one term in a College course in industrial woodworking my son Eytan, whose primary love is playing the electric guitar with his heavy metal music band, was able to do such lovely work. His taking a college course in woodworking was part of his desire to have some other skills beyond music for the future and working with wood has always been attractive to him. Three months later at the end of his second term as a gift he made two small tables for our sun room out of extraordinary Walnut with Olive Ash Burl (Figure 1).



Figure 1. Walnut with Olive Ash Burl Tables

The quality was very impressive but most important when I asked him how he did it he was able to go through all the steps with hand drawings to illustrate. Clearly for him the wood, the design and the hands-on experience were very meaningful.
Of the many reasons I was so delighted with his handiwork was the associations I had with woodworking. I attended New York's unique Brooklyn Technical High School because during my early teenage years I wanted to be an engineer like my late father. I loved building and fixing things and had ability in math and physics, therefore, it seemed a natural career path. "Tech" as the school was called by the students was a fantastic educational experience. Beyond a vigorous general curriculum we averaged an extra two hours a day of technical skills and processes which ranged from working with the various metals and wood. I recall vividly my woodworking teacher who was demonstrating how to use a chisel properly. It was from him I learned that a sharp tool is much safer than a dull one as you do not have to apply as much pressure which can lead to poor tool control. I recall how after he chiselled a piece of wood and before it was actually sanded he let us all feel the surface and said something which then would have been considered a bit risqué, "see, smooth as a baby's aaaarm", at which we all sniggered, knowing what "a" word he really meant.

I changed career plans at the end of high school and decided on medicine which was the perfect choice for me. I have however always maintained my love and respect for working with wood. When I did my military service in Israel I had access to a large "hobby shop" which had all the woodworking machines and tools I learned to use at "Tech". With ample supplies of rough wood from the crates in which new General Electric airplane engines were shipped to replace original French engines in reconfigured old French fighter planes I was able to build kitchen shelving and cabinets and furniture for our future Jerusalem apartment.

I once saw a house for sale in which the husband as part of his retirement project renovated it using hand turned and carved and stained wood wherever there was an opportunity to do so. The project according to his wife, kept him sane, healthy and active for the fifteen years since his retirement. His experiences with woodworking are echoed by many patients who have pursued "hobbies" or "pastimes" from their younger years and use them as a focus of their creativity to give meaning and passion to their post-retirement years.

There is a body of evidence and knowledge that supports the concept that working with wood can be a very meaningful activity for those living with dementia, especially if their past experience included working with wood as part of their employment life or one of their hobbies. There is often an exaggerated concern that using the tools necessary to work with wood might be potentially dangerous for those living with dementia depending on their degree of residual capability. It is known that skills from the past are often preserved even as the degree of cognitive impairment progresses. Choosing what types of tools or machines might no longer be within the realm of safety would be a prerequisite for designing woodworking programs of seniors living with dementia. An example of one such program describes the program of "Easy Woodworking for seniors with Dementia". In it is described the parameters for success, "Though long-term care residents with dementia may have short-term memory impairment, wooden craft kits are a good way to provide sensory stimulation and creative outlet without requiring a high degree of skill or even memory. From picture frame kits to wind chimes, bird feeders to Christmas ornaments, these wooden crafts can be painted and assembled in one or two sessions with the help of volunteers or even grandchildren who participate in the fun." (http://www.ehow.com/info_8508900_easy-woodworking-projects-elderly.html)

In an academic study on "Tailored Activities Program (TAP) it was determined that if the correct steps are taken to assess and implement activities according to the individual person's cognitive and physical abilities and past history of interests many activities (including woodworking) can be designed that will provide the individual with a meaningful and satisfying activity while at the same time decreasing care-giver burden and decrease the level of neuropsychiatric behavours. In their article published in the 2008 American Journal of Psychiatry "Tailored Activities to Manage Neuropsychiatric Behaviors in Persons with Dementia and Reduce Caregiver Burden: A Randomized Pilot Study" the authors, Laura N. Gitlin LN, Laraine Winter L, Janice Burke J, et al., concluded the following: "In summary, this study provides compelling evidence that a tailored approach that taps residual abilities and previous roles and habits improves life quality in dementia patients. This study identifies a process for customizing activities to abilities and training families in use of activities in daily care. Teaching caregivers activity use has added value by reducing their objective burden and enhancing skills. Given that pilot studies tend to yield large effect sizes, and that the control group did not evince benefit in all areas as the experimental group after treatment receipt, it is important to test TAP on a larger scale, validate it with diverse dyads, and examine the underlying physiological mechanisms by which symptom reduction occurs."http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2803044/

Conclusion
What does the finding that woodworking, whether started in one's early years or not, can be employed to promote a sense of well-being and creativity and accomplishment in individuals living with dementia mean for those designing programs for those in need of long-term care or those attending day programs in the community? Is woodworking unique among a range of creative activities that require the use of manual dexterity, multi-tasking and a degree of problem solving or is it like other similar activities in the realm of arts and crafts. Does the challenge of creating an adequate space with the necessary tools and proper supervision required for woodworking to occur preclude most facilities or community programs for offering such activities to those inclined to take it on? It would seem that considering the potential and real benefits from woodworking as part of the spectrum of creative activities it should be part of the agenda for recreational coordinators or planners to consider when developing programs for those living with dementia.

From my own experience and from what I am observing from the reaction to woodworking in my son, wood resonates for many because of its historical associations in one's life as well as for its marvellous textures and smells. Whether it is painting, ceramics, knitting, quilting, photography or woodworking, the satisfaction of working with one's hands and brain is wonderful for the mind and the soul.

Dr. Michael Gordon is currently medical program director of Palliative Care at Baycrest, co-director of their ethics program and a professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto. He is a prolific writer with his latest book Late-Stage Dementia: Promoting Comfort, Compassion, and Care and previous two books being Moments that Matter: Cases in Ethical Eldercare followed shortly on his memoir: Brooklyn Beginnings-A Geriatrician’s Odyssey. For more information log on to www.drmichaelgordon.com

When just getting started with woodworking, it can be challenging to know where to start or find a project that is actually suitable for beginners. That's why I spent time researching, pulling together, and creating a go-to guide focused on 50 simple DIY woodworking projects that are perfect for new woodworkers: 50 Small, Simple, & Easy Beginner Woodworking Projects

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Pain Management in Moderate and Advanced Dementias

Pain Management in Moderate and Advanced Dementias

Teaser: 

Eric Widera, MD, Division of Geriatrics, University of California at San Francisco; San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, CA, USA.
Alex Smith, MD, Division of Geriatrics, University of California at San Francisco; San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, CA, USA.

This article highlights the complex challenges seen when managing pain in patients with moderate or advanced dementia. Recent evidence demonstrates that pain is often poorly recognized and treated in patients with cognitive impairment. The progressive decline in cognitive function often leads to difficulties in expressing and recalling painful experiences. Making pain assessments routine and combining patient reports, caregiver reports, and direct observation may help alleviate this poor recognition of pain. Once pain is confirmed, a comprehensive history and physical examination are central in determining the underlying cause of pain and in choosing the best modality to treat the pain.
Key words: dementia, cognitive impairment, pain, opioids, assessment.

Poststroke Dementia among Older Adults

Poststroke Dementia among Older Adults

Teaser: 


Aleksandra Klimkowicz-Mrowiec, PhD, Department of Neurology, University Hospital Cracow, Poland.

Stroke and dementia are major health problems affecting older people. Cerebrovascular disease is the second-leading cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, the third- leading cause of death, and one of 10 leading causes of physical disability. In parallel with the increased prevalence of stroke in aging populations and the decline in mortality from stroke, the rate of diagnosed poststroke dementia has increased, causing a growing financial burden for health care systems. This article discusses the epidemiology, etiology, and determinants of poststroke dementia and outlines the search for a suitable treatment.
Key words: dementia, stroke, cognition, risk factors, cognitive impairment.

The Older Brain on Drugs: Substances That May Cause Cognitive Impairment

The Older Brain on Drugs: Substances That May Cause Cognitive Impairment

Teaser: 


Jenny Rogers, MD, Psychiatry Department, Postgraduate Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.
Bonnie S. Wiese, MD, Psychiatry Department, Postgraduate Education, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.
Kiran Rabheru, MD, CCFP, FRCP, Clinical Associate professor, Psychiatry Department, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.

Alcohol, recreational drugs, over-the-counter, and prescription medications may cause a range of cognitive impairments from confusion to delirium, and may even mimic dementia. Moderate to high alcohol consumption is one of the often overlooked risk factors for development of dementia and cognitive impairment among older adults. Substances such as opioids, benzodiazepines, and anticholinergics pose a particular risk of cognitive impaiment and the risk increases when these are combined with multiple medications, as polypharmacy is common in patients over 65. A substance-induced dementia may have a better prognosis compared to other types of dementia, as once the instigating factor is gone, the cognition often improves.
Key words: Alcohol related dementia, geriatric substance abuse and dependence, polypharmacy, anticholinergic adverse effects, cognitive impairment.

The Role of the Neurologic Examination in the Diagnosis and Categorization of Dementia

The Role of the Neurologic Examination in the Diagnosis and Categorization of Dementia

Teaser: 

John R. Wherrett, MD, FRCP(C), PhD, Professor Emeritus, Division of Neurology, University of Toronto; consultant in Neurology, Toronto Western Hospital and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute; member, Memory Clinic, Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto, ON.

Nonneurologist practitioners faced with the diagnosis of dementia cannot be expected to conduct the detailed assessments for which neurologists are trained. Nonetheless, they should be able to diagnose the most common forms of neurodegenerative dementia and identify individuals that require more detailed neurologic workup. A neurologic examination algorithm is described that allows the practitioner, in a stepwise and efficient manner, to elicit findings that distinguish the main categories of neurodegenerative and vascular dementia, namely, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia with Lewy bodies, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal lobar degenerations. Patients are assessed for gait, frontal signs, signs of parkinsonism, signs of focal or lateralized lesions, neuro-ophthalmologic signs, and signs characteristic of frontotemporal lobar degeneration.
Key words: neurologic, examination, neurodegenerative, dementia, diagnosis, gait, frontal dysfunction, cognitive impairment.

The Future of Wheelchairs: Intelligent Collision Avoidance and Navigation Assistance

The Future of Wheelchairs: Intelligent Collision Avoidance and Navigation Assistance

Teaser: 

Pooja Viswanathan, BMath, MSc Candidate, Department of Computer Science, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.
Jennifer Boger, MASc, Research Manager, Intelligent Assistive Technology and Systems Lab, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto; Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Toronto, ON.
Jesse Hoey, PhD, Lecturer, School of Computing, University of Dundee, Dundee, Scotland; Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Toronto, ON.
Pantelis Elinas, MSc, PhD Candidate, Department of Computer Science, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC.
Alex Mihailidis, PhD, PEng, Assistant Professor and Head of Intelligent Assistive Technology and Systems Lab, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto; Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, Toronto, ON.

Mobility and independence are essential components of a high quality of life. Although they lack the strength to operate manual wheelchairs, most physically disabled older adults with cognitive impairment are also not permitted to use powered wheelchairs due to concerns about their safety. The resulting restriction of mobility often leads to frustration and depression. To address this need, the authors are developing an intelligent powered wheelchair to enable safe navigation and encourage interaction between the driver and his/her environment. The assistive technology described in this article is intended to increase independent mobility, thereby improving the quality of life of older adults with cognitive impairments.
Key words: mobility, artificial intelligence, assistive technology, wheelchairs, cognitive impairment.

Assessing Pain Intensity in Older Adults

Assessing Pain Intensity in Older Adults

Teaser: 

Sophie Pautex, MD, Pain and Palliative Care Consultation, Department of Rehabilitation and Geriatrics, University Hospital Geneva, Collonge-Bellerive, Switzerland.
Gabriel Gold, MD, Department of Rehabilitation and Geriatrics, University Hospital Geneva, Switzerland.

Persistent pain is common in older adults, and its consequences are often severe. Self-assessment scales have been validated in older populations and remain the gold standard for the evaluation of pain intensity in this age group. Most patients with dementia demonstrate appropriate use of self-assessment scales. Observational scales correlate moderately with self-assessment and tend to underestimate pain intensity; thus, their use should be reserved for patients who have demonstrated their inability to use self-assessment tools reliably.
Key words: pain, dementia, self-assessment, pain scale, cognitive impairment.

Psychiatric Side Effects of Nonpsychiatric Medications

Psychiatric Side Effects of Nonpsychiatric Medications

Teaser: 

The accredited CME learning activity based on this article is offered under the auspices of the CE department of the University of Toronto. Participating physicians are entitled to one (1) MAINPRO-M1 credit by completing this program, found online at www.geriatricsandaging.ca/cme

Kannayiram Alagiakrishnan, FRCP(C), Associate Professor, Division of Geriatric Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.
Cheryl A. Wiens, PharmD, Associate Professor, Faculty of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.

Numerous medications are capable of causing psychiatric side effects. Drug abuse or misuse, polypharmacy, or physiological changes due to aging may lead to these adverse effects. Drug-induced effects on mental health is a topic of considerable clinical importance and yet it is poorly recognized by health care professionals. This article is a review of psychiatric side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications, problem recognition, and what can be done to manage and prevent these adverse events. Prevention of drug-induced psychiatric side effects can be aided by avoiding, where possible, medications that can cause these effects; evaluating renal and hepatic function on a regular basis; avoiding agents that can cross the blood-brain barrier; and conducting brief cognitive and behavioural assessments at baseline with follow up on a periodical basis.
Key words: psychiatric side effect, renal insufficiency, nonpsychiatric medications, adverse drug reactions, cognitive impairment.

Falls in Older People with Dementia

Falls in Older People with Dementia

Teaser: 

Fiona E. Shaw, MRCP, PhD, Consultant Physician and Geriatrician, Newcastle General Hospital, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Older people with dementia are at increased risk of falls and their adverse consequences. Postural instability (impaired gait and balance), medication, environmental hazards and neurocardiovascular instability, in particular orthostatic hypotension, are commonly identified as risk factors for falls in this patient group. It is possible to modify risk factors for falls in older people with dementia. However, to date it has not been possible to demonstrate conclusively that intervention can prevent falls in patients with dementia.
Key words: accidental falls, dementia, cognitive impairment, postural instability, neurocardiovascular instability (syncope).