The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Medicaid Requirements for Long Term Care

(Italicized words are defined in the mini-glossary below.)

Residential care is expensive…more expensive than many of us can afford, but there is help in the form of Medicaid. Each state has different names for this and different standards, although some things are basic government requirements. If you have assets that you want to pass on to your children, you need to start planning early. Any assets you give to your family beyond minimal amounts in the five years prior to your “snapshot date” will still be considered yours when eligibility for financial assistance is determined. This includes trusts. Always consult an elder attorney before making these plans, but here is a simplified outline of what is offered.

The following Medicaid requirements take into consideration the Federal Spousal Impoverishment rules:
  • Countable assets of both spouses are totaled as of the date the institutionalized spouse enters a hospital or long-term care facility and stays for at least 30 days.
  • The community spouse can keep ½ of this total, up to a specified amount (from $23,844 to $119,220 in 2016 depending on the state). State rules differ. Some states allow the community spouse to keep up to the specified amount of the combined total instead of being limited to half.
  • Income of the institutionalized spouse is counted for eligibility, but in most states, that of the community spouse is not.
  • The institutionalized spouse can keep about $2000 (differs with state).
  • The rest of the institutionalized spouse’s assets must be ‘spent down’ before they will be eligible for Medicaid. This can be spent only in certain ways. For example, it cannot be gifted, except in very small amounts. Don’t wait to give your children anything you want them to have. If you wait too long, it may fall within the five years prior to your snapshot date and will be counted as still belonging to you as far as eligibility goes. Consult an elder attorney about the ways to give gifts, and the limitations involved.
Post eligibility requirements:
  • Community spouses with higher incomes may be required to help pay for cost of the institutionalized spouse’s care. (Varies with states)
  • If the community spouse’s income is less than the state’s minimum monthly maintenance needs allowance (MMMNA), then they can keep some or all of the institutionalized spouse's income. (up to $2002.50 a month in 2016)
  • The home equity of the institutionalized spouse must be less than the state standard ($552,000.00 to $828,000.00 in 2016). 
  • The institutionalized spouse is allowed to keep a personal allowance of $60 a month.
  • The institutionalized spouse’s medical costs are also considered.
  • The institutionalized spouse is required to pay the institution what is left of their income after deducting the amount the amount that can be kept by the community spouse, their personal allowance and the allowed amount for medical costs.
It is always a good idea to consult an elder attorney when planning for retirement, long term care, and upon a diagnosis of any eventually incapacitating disease such as Parkinson’s or any dementia. At that time, ask about Medicaid requirements for long term care and how they apply to your specific situation.

Be aware that these requirements can change as the lawmakers in Washington DC hammer out new rules for the Affordable Care Act.

Mini-glossary:

Assets: Anything of monetary value: real property, art work, savings, pension plans, stocks and bonds, cash, etc.

Community spouse: the spouse who is NOT living in a hospital or residential facility.

Elder attorney: A lawyer who specializes in laws concerning the elderly.

Federal Spousal Impoverishment Rules: Medicaid rules which provide special protections for the spouses of Medicaid applicants to make sure that they have the minimum support needed to continue to live in the community while their husband or wife is receiving long-term care benefits.

Home equity: The  fair market value of a home, less debts, divided by the number of owners. Thus the institutionalized spouse’s share of a $900,000 mutually owned home where $100,000 is still owed, would be $400,000.

Institutionalized spouse: the spouse who is living in a hospital or residential facility.

Medicaid: Called by different names in different states. There are basic federal requirements and payments but states can add to these.

Minimum monthly maintenance needs allowance (MMMNA): a minimum monthly income standard for the community spouse, set at one-and-one-half times the Federal Poverty Level for a single person living alone. ($1,991.25 to $2,980.50 in 2016)

Residential care: Care in a hospital or an assisted living, memory care, rehabilitation or nursing home facility for at least 30 days.

Snapshot date: the date a person enters a hospital or residential care facility for a stay of at least 30 days.

For information about Medicaid requirements for long term care specific to your state, go to Find an Attorney, click on your state, and then "Key Medicaid Information" for that state.

For more information about Spousal improvishment standareds:
2016 SSI and Spousal Impoverishment Standards

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors or lawyers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a physician's or lawyer's advice.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Regina Hicks, Alternative Therapies Consultant

Over the course of the next few months, our Alternative Therapies Consultant Regina Hucks will be guest writing an occasional blog about the use of alternative therapies in dementia care. Raised by a university professor of quantum physics and a master chef, it’s no wonder Regina chose to study the science behind essential oils and the importance of whole nutrition. She holds certification in both Clinical Aromatherapy and Therapeutic Massage, with a focus and extensive research on the chronically ill, dementia, depression and anxiety disorders. Regina teaches the importance of whole nutrition in promoting cellular health, emotional stability and physical healing as well as the benefits of alternative therapies for wellness in everyday life.

Feel free to email your questions to Regina through this link or at the end of this article. Please fill out the short questionnaire so that she can provide a more complete answer.

AN INTRODUCTION TO ALTERNATIVE THERAPIES FOR DEMENTIA CARE:

We do not advocate the use of alternative therapies as your sole source of treatment. We are here to inform, educate and empower you and your charges. Alternative therapies provide benefit to both patient and caregiver. They can work in conjunction with pharmacology to enhance treatment while providing positive and beneficial results. On their own, they have been shown to alleviate, and in many cases, eliminate a multitude of symptoms. Unlike many pharmaceuticals, alternative therapies do no harm. Side effects, if any, are negligible.

We suggest working with your physician to incorporate alternative therapies into your care plan. Many physicians find value and embrace their use while others are strictly by the book. Alternative therapies have been used for centuries, it has only been in the last 20 years or so that our modern medical community has begun to see their value. Physicians, hospitals, hospice and dementia care facilities are relying more and more on the use of a non-pharmacological approach.

I highly suggest taking a look at www.lbdtools.com . Authors, Jim and Helen Whitworth wrote their award winning books and created this website to help caregivers better understand Lewy body dementia and how to provide appropriate care for their patients and loved ones. The Whitworth’s will tell you, caregiving isn’t a job, it’s a labor of love, personal sacrifice and commitment that can take its toll on your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing well beyond what you can imagine.

A positive side to incorporating Alternative Therapies into your caregiving routines is the impact it has on the caregiver over and above the impact it has on the patient. Many of these therapies require physical contact, others, a connection on the spiritual and/or emotional level. As a caregiver, this contact with the therapies may provide you with the same or similar positive experience your charge will have.

While there are a multitude of therapies, we will cover those therapies that:

  1. Are evidence based in nature and have been shown to have great impact on the health and well being of the dementia patient as well as their caregivers
  2. Are a range of affordable services provided by licensed, trained therapist with a history and extensive experience working with dementia patients
  3.  Are therapies (most) that can be taught to caregivers who desire to implement them in the care of their patients or loved ones
  4. We have researched for higher than average results with recommendations for specific products that meet the highest standards in the industry
  5. Have been found to have a significant impact on behavioral and physical problems found in patients suffering from dementia.

Please visit my Healing Things blog  for upcoming weekly articles covering:
  • Incorporating Alternative Therapies
  • Essential Oils and their role in dementia care:
    • Essential Oils for Nutrition Therapy
    • Essential Oils and Massage Therapy
    • Essential Oils and Touch Therapy
    • Essential Oils for Aroma Therapy - Stress Reduction, Improved Sleep, Memory and Cognition
  • Music Therapy
    • Healing Frequencies, Tones and Vibration – Impacting the body on a Cellular Level
    • Music and Memory
  • Art Therapy
    • Memory and Motor Function
    • Color and How it Relates to Dementia
    • Fractal Therapy
  • Meditation and Stretch Yoga
  • Nutrition Therapy – Dealing with Toxicity
  • CBD Oil – Researching the Best, Purest, Cleanest and Organically Grown Product and the Positive Impact on Dementia and Overall Health.on Dementia and Overall Health.

To reach Regina with your questions or feedback, please, click here below and fill in the form.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Five Senses

The following is a chapter in our newest book, to come out this fall. More about it in later blogs.

senses: Sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch; faculties by which the brain receives external stimuli.

The senses are the brain's information gathering system. When they are damaged, the information they deliver may be distorted from the beginning. Dementia itself doesn't damage the senses. Age can, or other illnesses can, but dementia doesn't.

However, attention deficit is a common dementia symptom. It limits one's ability to narrow their focus and pay selective attention. Everything is giving equal billing, making it difficult to choose what to ignore what to zero in on. This broader view sends fuzzier, less accurate information to the brain for processing, even when the senses themselves are not damaged. (reference)

In communication, when words and non-verbal cues picked up via these senses differ, it is human behavior to believe the cues over words. That's because words are symbols that must be decoded, requiring an extra processing step. Non-verbal cues are not so difficult to decode and therefore are processed more quickly.

It is important for a care partner to know not only what dementia has taken away, but also what is left to work with. For example, as language skills wane, a PlwD will turn to using non-verbal cues to communicate their own needs and wishes instead of words.

Vision. As a person ages, one's peripheral vision tends to narrow. Dementia tends to cause this to happen sooner. Thus a PlwD will probably have poor peripheral vision and as the dementia progresses their field of vision narrows to a small area right in front of them. They need you to stand inside their field of vision, but off to one side a little so that you don't block their whole field.

The quality of vision still left also degenerates with age, other health issues, and possibly even with dementia. Things that were once clear can become blurry, faded and distorted. Use bright color and contrasts to help with this. (Reference)

Hearing. Dementia does not make people hard of hearing and using a loud voice will not improve their ability to hear. The louder a voice, the more distorted the sound and the less it will be understood. However, many people with dementia are of the age where being hard of hearing is common. The higher registers tend to be more affected more than the low ones. Use a normal voice, pitched as low as possible, to have the best chance to be understood.

Unless some other problem has caused hearing damage, a person with dementia will usually be able to hear no matter how far they are into their journey--and may be able to comprehend as well. Use care with what you say around a PlwD who appears to be comatose or inattentive. Inappropriate words can cause great agitation.

Smell. There is some early research suggesting that Parkinson's disease (PD) starts in the nose, not the midbrain. An early PD symptom is loss of smell, which supports this idea. (Reference) LBD care partners often name loss of smell as an early symptom even when PD wasn't involved. The good news is odor receptors (olfactory nerves) reside in many areas of the body besides the nose, including the skin. This means that smell-based alternative therapies may still be helpful. (Reference)

Touch. Touch seems to be a long-lasting sense like hearing. This is especially true for the more sensitive areas of the body: lips and tongue, fingers and palms, soles of feet and genitalia. That's why you will see a PlwD touching things or putting them in their mouth. A person can also continue to feel and enjoy touching from others. Use a gentle but firm hand. Avoid a light feathery touch that might cause unpleasant feelings of tickling or even "bugs."

Taste. PlwD often have altered food preferences. Dementia may take away the ability to identify and remember tastes. But typical aging is even more of a problem. Like vision, the efficiency of the taste buds fades with age. Thus a person will tend to prefer sweets or other foods with strong tastes. The ability to enjoy food and the cultural processes around eating last however. This enjoyment can be increased when meals are made into a special time of relaxed togetherness.

We love and welcome comments but we will not print any that advertise a product or a commercial website. This is especially true for testimonials about miraculous Parkinson's cures.

* Acronyms:
LBD: Lewy body dementia
PlwD: person living with dementia
PlwLBD: person living with LBD
DLB: dementia with Lewy bodies
PDD: Parkinson's disease with dementia
MCI: mild cognitive impairment
MCI-LB: the form of MCI that precedes LBD
BPSD: behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Dopamine: For More than Mobility

About half of those dealing with LBD also have Parkinson's disease (PD). Anyone dealing with PD soon learns about the need for adequate dopamine.

Dopamine has several functions in the brain, including:
  • Facilitating mobility. This is the function that PlwPD are most aware of. Without adequate dopamine, symptoms such as slowness of movement, tremor and stiffness occur.
  • Reward-based behavior. Anything we consider a treat will increase the secretion of dopamine which facilitates positive emotions. Certain drugs also cause an increase of dopamine, which can make them addictive.
  • Executive functions. In the cortex of the brain, dopamine and acetylcholine play a delicate balancing act that is seldom a problem until cognition becomes an issue.
  • Pain management. In multiple areas of the brain, dopamine acts to decrease pain. Too little dopamine results in more pain, as in restless leg syndrome and an increases susceptibility to pain for PlwPD.
Drug issues. The body protects the brain with a barrier that prevents most substances from passing from the general blood stream into the brain. This is called the blood brain barrier (BBB). Dopamine by itself cannot cross the BBB and so doctors have to find ways around it.
  • Levadopa is a precursor of dopamine that can cross the BBB. Once it is inside the brain, it transforms into dopamine. While levadopa works well for mobility, its effect on mood is limited. Thus, depression is a common PD symptom not treated well with levadopa.
  • Cognition. When PD advances to PDD, with decreased acetylcholine levels, levadopa further interferes with the acetylcholine-dopamine balance and increases already present cognitive issues like hallucinations and slow thinking.
  • Dopamine agonists are drugs that mimic the action of dopamine and can cross the BBB. These drugs appear to have a better effect and may improve depression. However, when dementia is already present, they can increase cognitive dysfunction and compulsive behaviors.
Outside the brain, dopamine has many other functions. It regulates:
  • In the cardiovascular system and kidneys, dopamine acts to increase sodium and water retention, increase heart rate and constrict your blood vessels. Inadequate dopamine can cause low blood pressure and sluggish circulation.
  • In the pancreas, dopamine's job is to regulate insulin production. Too much insulin triggers the release of dopamine, which may also may find its way into the brain where it functions as a reward. Eating high carbohydrate "comfort food" is an example of eating to produce higher levels of dopamine.
  • In the immune system, dopamine retards lymphocyte activity, acting as a brake for when the immune system gets out of control and attacks healthy cells. Inadequate dopamine would result in increased levels of diseases such as arthritis.
  • In the GI tract, dopamine again acts as a brake, reducing gastrointestinal motility and protecting intestinal lining. Too much dopamine can cause constipation. Too little might cause diarrhea and sores on the gut lining.
And so the bottom line is that when a person has PD or PDD, any of these other issues may come into play.  (Reference) (Reference)

We love and welcome comments but we will not print any that advertise a product or a commercial website. This is especially true for testimonials about miraculous Parkinson's cures.

* Acronyms:
LBD: Lewy body dementia
PD: Parkinson's disease
PlwD: person living with dementia
DLB: dementia with Lewy bodies
PDD: Parkinson's disease with dementia
PlwD, PD, LBD, PDD, etc: person/people living with dementia
PlwPD, LBD, PDD, etc.: person/people living with PD, LBD, PDD, etc.
MCI: mild cognitive impairment
MCI-LB: the form of MCI that precedes LBD
BPSD: behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The 2017 Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium Conference

Yesterday we attended the annual Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium Conference. We started out on a rather negative note. We left in plenty of time to enjoy the advertised pre-session Continental breakfast. But, long story short, we went to the wrong place MILES away from the right one! By the time we finally arrived, the speaker had already started. At our age, such incidents always end with us asking ourselves, "Is this a sign of impending dementia?"

But on to serious stuff. This is a conference directed at scientists, which we definitely are not. It is also strongly focused on Alzheimers rather than LBD. Nevertheless, we always come away from this conference in a hopeful frame of mind. This wonderful group of nine Arizona institutions collaborate to do research that a single one would find difficult if not impossible, reaching out to other institutions in the country and the world as well. Every year, they have a special focus for their conference. Several years ago, it was actually Lewy body dementia and other less common dementias. Another year, it was caregivers. This year it was students. Most of the presenters this year were students and they were great.

Of course, much of what we heard went over our heads. But we did learn that there are some amazing minds out there working on learning how to identify Alzheimer's early on. That's exciting because what they learn about AD will be translated to others like LBD very quickly. Here are some highlights of the conference:

Precursors: Several presenters talked about trying to discover what the precursors of Alzheimers. They weren't looking at external things like toxins, but on changes in the molecules themselves and what they do to other proteins that turns them into the plaques and tangles of AD. What seems to drive the changes? How common are they? Which changed molecules are present in people known to be at risk for AD and which ones aren't? And so on. The idea is that if they can discover these precursors, then they can find a way to stop them. Further, r researchers can use the methods they develop to look for precursors of LBD and PD and other neurogenic diseases in the same way.

Drugs. Most of us are aware of the damage anticholinergics can cause for anyone with LBD or even at risk for LBD. There's also a lot of the research that shows that the elderly who use these drugs are at greater risk than those who don't. A young researcher (a high school student!!) reported on his findings that middle aged people (40-50 year-olds) who used anticholinergics are at low risk for dementia. This was a primary finding and needs a lot more research, but quite interesting! Another researcher reported on findings that antidepressants like Prozac are fairly safe to use with dementia and in fact, may retard the development of AD.

Clinical trials. One of the roadblocks to research is the need for participants. Naturally they need people with the disease but they need healthy folks too, for their controls. We'd recommend that everyone who can should sign up for the Alzheimer's Prevention Registry. We also learned about the GeneMatch program that they have to help researchers working at the gene level. If you are 55-75 years old, live in the US and don't have a diagnosis of cognitive impairment, you are eligible to sign up for this too.

Caregiver care. Finally, we talked to a group called H.O.P.E. for building Health, Optimism, Purpose and Endurance in family caregivers and people with dementia. We were so pleased to see such a caregiver-oriented program represented at this conference. Their focus for the conference was anticipatory grief...which anyone dealing with LBD knows about...or should. They recommended the book, Loving Someone Who Has Dementia by Pauline Boss. "It's the book every dementia caregiver needs to have. It helps you deal constructively with that ambiguous loss that happens as your loved one gradually disappears in mind but is still there in body." Yes! We agree. It's a book you need in your library.

Oh, and we did get something to eat besides the muffins that we stealthy nibbled on while listening to the first speaker. They had a great lunch buffet with lots of healthy food and some decadent little desserts. Interestingly enough, they also had sodas. Have you heard about the latest research that people who have just one carbonated diet soda a day are three (3!!) times more at risk for dementia? And there's more research showing that drinking sugary sodas is linked to dementia too. Scary, huh? (More about this later.)

We love and welcome comments but we will not print any that advertise a product or a commercial website. This is especially true for testimonials about miraculous Parkinson's cures.

* Acronyms:
LBD: Lewy body dementia
PD: Parkinson's disease
PlwD: person living with dementia
DLB: dementia with Lewy bodies
PDD: Parkinson's disease with dementia
PlwD, PD, LBD, PDD, etc: person/people living with dementia
PlwPD, LBD, PDD, etc.: person/people living with PD, LBD, PDD, etc.
MCI: mild cognitive impairment
MCI-LB: the form of MCI that precedes LBD
BPSD: behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Helpful Sites for Care Partners

We recently received two lists of links of for care partners that we believe are worth passing on. The first is from Natalie Kelly, who represents a group of educators and librarians called Forever Curious. The commentary is mine:

Transportation Resources for Older Adults
A very thorough brochure from always helpful Eldercare.gov that lists many suggestions for tranportation once a person can no longer drive. It also lists some agencies to contact for more suggestions in your area.

Selling a Home with Modifications for Older Adults
This valuable group of articles offered by Home City Real Estate are about so much more than selling a handicap-modified home. Anyone with a loved one whose daily living skills are challenged living at home needs to read this. It covers the types of modifications a person can do to make living easier, how these modifications will affect resale value in different areas of the country and how to do these modifications to avoid damaging resale value.

Fall Prevention
A brochure from the National Council on Aging that offers lists of programs to prevent falls by area and several lists on tips for preventing falls. The information is good but the links require patience--they are slow to load.

Assistive Technology Buying Guide
This extensive list of articles was compiled by RetailMeNot for their online shopping advisor, The Real Deal. They accurately advertize it as "Everything you need to know for buying assistive technology smartly." The articles cover everything from what is Assistive Technology and the equipment involved to where to find the best deals, and even how to get at least part of the cost covered. A great read before you buy any of this kind of equipment.

Special Needs Seniors: Planning for the Future of this Vulnerable Population
Retiring Wise is a blog by OneReverseMortgage of Quicken Loans. This particular blog entry discusses financial, medical, communication, and other concerns that seniors face as they age, with an extensive list of links to national, state and private agencies that offer assistance. This article also addresses the advantages of planning ahead, with information about Special Needs Trust, Long Term Care Insurance, and other things to consider early on. A must read, the earlier in the dementia journey the better.

Legal Guide for Newly Disabled Seniors
This article by Just Great Lawyers discusses the issues that every person with a disability and their care partner faces, including dealing with the change to being disabled, applying for services, protecting one's legal, financial and medical rights and more, with links galore for each subject. Every dementia care partner should read this no matter where they are on their journey.

Brain Support Network Blog
The second list comes from Robin Riddle and the Brain Support Network. I've written about their work in helping people donate brains, but now they have a blog that offers lots of information for care partners. Check it out. If you'd like to have the blogs emailed regularly to you, join their email list for LBD and general caregiving. Here is a list of some of the recent blogs:
* "Living Guilt Free" - notes from a one-hour talk
* "Respite Care: Finding and Choosing Respite Services"
* "Grieving Before a Death: Understanding Anticipatory Grief"
* "How do we cope with anger as a caregiver"?
* "13 Secrets That Make Caregiving Easier"
* Urinary problems in Parkinson's - webinar notes
* Complementary and alternative medicine in Parkinson's - webinar notes
* "Beyond Alzheimer's Disease" (including LBD) - webinar notes
* Overview of LBD symptoms and treatment - webinar notes
* Johns Hopkins Overview of Dementia with Lewy Bodies
* Five E’s of empowered living with chronic illness

Happy reading!

We love and welcome comments but we will not print any that advertise a product or a commercial website. This is especially true for testimonials about miraculous Parkinson's cures.

* Acronyms:
LBD: Lewy body dementia
PD: Parkinson's disease
PlwD: person living with dementia
DLB: dementia with Lewy bodies
PDD: Parkinson's disease with dementia
PlwD, PD, LBD, PDD, etc: person/people living with dementia
PlwPD, LBD, PDD, etc.: person/people living with PD, LBD, PDD, etc.
MCI: mild cognitive impairment
MCI-LB: the form of MCI that precedes LBD
BPSD: behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Value of Exercise

We've all heard and read about how exercise is so important as we age, and how it continues to be important for anyone dealing with dementia, both the PlwD and the care partner. Exercise increases blood flow...and oxygen...to the brain, increasing general functioning. But there is so much more!

Exercise is a great stress reliever. It immediately increases the levels of serotonin, noradrenalin, dopamine and endorphins.
  • Serotonin is a feel good chemical that fights depression, common with most dementias, most chronic diseases--and most caregivers.
  • Noradrenalin improves awareness and increases the ability to focus. Apathy, inattention and a short attention span are common dementia symptoms, all involving awareness and focusing.
  • Dopamine facilitates small motor function and decreases depression. Dopamine is one of the chemicals targeted by Lewy bodies, making depression a chronic LBD symptom. (And of course, dopamine also facilitates small motor function, decreasing the tremors, slowness of movement and stiffness of PD.)
  • Endorphins are natural pain relievers. Dementia is mostly a disease of the elderly, who have other illnesses such as arthritis. However, traditional pain relievers are often not recommended due to gastric discomfort or drug sensitivities. And there's more yet! 
Exercise increases cognitive function. It immediately increases the level of Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDMF), a growth factor chemical that facilitates new brain cells and maintains long term growth.
  • BDMF increases a person's ability to maintain focus, or to switch their attention to something else. Most PlwD have a very short attention span unless they obsess, in which case, they can't stop easily.
  • BDMF may also increase a person's ability to access abstract thinking, allowing them to move out of the here and now and to imagine new situations, and to be more creative. (This hasn't yet been tested on people.)
Finally, research has shown over and over that regular exercise decreases the risk of cognitive dysfunction in the future. That is, it won't stop the dementia that's present, but it may prevent dementia from showing up in the future...and it may slow down any that's present. It doesn't really matter what kind you do. Just exercise. Do whatever type you enjoy most. Do it with the PlwD. Do it with family. Do it with friends. Do it by yourself. Just do it!

Thanks to Wendy Suzki for this information.

* Acronyms:
BDMF: Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor
LBD: Lewy body dementia
PlwD: person living with dementia
PlwLBD: person living with LBD
DLB: dementia with Lewy bodies
PDD: Parkinson's disease with dementia
MCI: mild cognitive impairment
MCI-LB: the form of MCI that precedes LBD
BPSD: behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.