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Natural Awakenings Northwest Florida

Caring for Dementia Patients in Isolation

Jan 04, 2021 04:32PM ● By Meredith Montgomery

 The stress and isolation caused by the pandemic continues to weigh heavily on the health of elderly citizens. For loved ones worried about aging family members, Dr. J. Douglas Brown, DC, DACNB offers some helpful tips to manage these socially-distanced times. At the Mind Performance Center, LLC in Foley, Brown provides non-drug rehabilitation for a wide range of brain disorders. He is one of only a few functional neurologists in the U.S. offering deep transcranial magnetic stimulation in conjunction with brain pathway activation therapy and the science-based nutritional program of Alzheimer’s researcher Dale Bredesen.

How is the pandemic affecting your patients? 

Cognitive decline is accelerating because of the lack of social interaction. Dementia cases are suffering big time and depression is on the rise. Social interactions are so important, but patients are terrified to see anyone. We see declines accelerate especially in nursing homes, where depression can more easily be overlooked and not paid attention to. 

What can family members do to help loved ones with dementia?

Organize Zoom calls with a group of three or four older people several times a week so they are seeing and interacting with others. Isolation is really taking its toll and they need more than a phone call. If they are in an assisted living facility, ask caregivers how much time they are spending with other residents and visiting communal areas. They shouldn’t be sitting in their room watching TV all day.

Everyone has to have a purpose in life and when we get older, we don’t know what we’re good for. As a family it’s our job to help them find that purpose—to see their value to other people. Help them to help others, even if it’s just making a phone call to brighten someone else’s day.

What role does diet play in cognitive health?

Diet is huge. A lot of times they’re eating just one meal a day like a sandwich or oatmeal and then ice cream at night. Most nursing homes and assisted living facilities serve processed foods loaded with carbs and sugar, which is lethal to dementia patients.

Ask caregivers to make sure they’re drinking more water than juice and rather than junk food, give them salads and raw vegetables as much as possible. Berries are highly nutritious and something most people enjoy. It will make an impact on cognition if you can give them berries sometimes instead of the apples, bananas and pineapple they’re probably eating, which are high in sugar.

Meat is fine—it’s the way it’s cooked that becomes the problem. Instead of fried and breaded, meat should be baked or grilled. Fish is the best option, with salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring being the healthiest.

When we hear, “I’m perfectly fine”, do we still need to intervene?

As Americans our tendency is that when someone says, “I don’t need you to come over,” then we don’t, especially if it’s our parents. But we need to check on them, especially if they live alone. Often you’ll discover that there’s no food in the fridge and they’re not taking care of themselves.

Instead of telling them they’re not eating right, offer to spend more time with them and bring over a nice healthy dinner of grilled fish and salad with healthy yogurt and berries for dessert. Enjoy the meal and good conversation outside together. That way they maintain their dignity and you are helping by giving them social interaction, a sense of community and a really good meal.

You have had a lot of success reversing the effects of dementia and depression. Why is your approach so effective?

We look at patients through the functional medicine lens. We start with an intensive 10-week program, seeing patients four times a week. First we look at diet very carefully and we do a lot of bloodwork to check for deficiencies. Then we ask them how things are at home and socially. We use deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (DTMS) therapy to stimulate the brain and we work on therapies that improve balance, coordination and speed of thinking. We also talk about the importance of getting the heart rate up with cardio exercise. At each appointment we’re educating the family as well. The time they spend transporting their loved one to and from the appointments provides a lot of social time for them to really catch up with each other.

The brain is a complicated subject and if we don’t do everything we can, they won’t get well. Fish oil is important, but it’s not a miracle worker on its own. Good nutrition is vital, but without healthy blood vessels from exercise, blood can’t get to the brain. If you do everything right but live a solitary lifestyle, you can only get so far. By treating everything together at the same time, we get the results we want. Every single thing adds up.

For more information, call 251-597-8787 or visit MindPerformanceCenter.com.

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