Journal of Gerontological Nursing

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Biomarkers Shown to Predict AD Years in Advance

Studying spinal fluid samples and health data from 201 research participants at the Charles F. and Joanne Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis, researchers have proven that certain bio-markers are accurate predictors of Alzheimer’s disease years before symptoms develop. The findings were published in Neurology.

The researchers evaluated markers such as the buildup of amyloid plaques in the brain, newly visible thanks to an imaging agent developed in the past decade; levels of various proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid, such as the amyloid fragments that are the principal ingredient of brain plaques; and the ratios of one protein to another in the cerebrospinal fluid, such as different forms of the brain cell structural protein tau.

The markers were studied in volunteers whose ages ranged from 45 to 88. On average, the data available on study participants spanned 4 years, with the longest recorded over 7.5 years.

The researchers found that all of the markers were equally good at identifying participants who were likely to develop cognitive problems and at predicting how soon they would become noticeably impaired.

Next, the scientists paired the biomarkers data with demographic information. Sex, age, and race all helped predict who would develop cognitive impairment. Older participants, men, and African American adults were more likely to become cognitively impaired than those who were younger, female, and Caucasian.

Clinical trials are already underway at Washington University and elsewhere to determine if treatments prior to symptoms can prevent or delay inherited forms of Alzheimer’s disease. Reliable biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease should one day make it possible to test the most successful treatments in the much more common sporadic forms of the disease.

Source.“Alzheimer’s Markers Predict Start of Mental Decline.” (2013, May 14). Retrieved May 21, 2013, from   http://www.newswise.com/articles/alzheimer-s-markers-predict-start-of-mental-decline.

Canines Can Be Trained for Caregiver Assistance

A new book details how caregivers can train an “Alzheimer’s dog” that has learned to watch over its patient, identify wandering, self-start and alert the caregiver, and then lead the caregiver to the patient’s location, acting as a distractor device until the caregiver arrives.

Caregiver Follow Me: How You Can Train Your Own Alzheimer’s Assistance Dog In Your Own Home, is now available from author Patti Putnam, who introduced the prototype Alzheimer’s dog and helped train subsequent successful Alzheimer’s dog working teams comprised of dogs and caregivers. The book preserves her humane training method and keeps the Alzheimer’s dog viable. The author uses cartoons, diagrams, illustrations, photographs, and stories as teaching tools.

The need for Alzheimer’s dogs continues to grow as the disease increases, and as veterans are returning home from war with head and psychological injuries.

Putnam started an assistance dog provider program and was head trainer and executive director for 25 years. She initiated the program because of her concern for lost and abandoned canines and empathy for people who could benefit from specially trained dogs. She has provided companion dogs for individuals, residential therapy, and distractor dogs for group-living situations and “Happy Hounds” for children and young adults with disabilities and life-threatening illnesses.

More information about the book can be found at   http://www.alzheimersdogtraining.com.

Source.“Learn How to Train Dogs to Control Patient Wandering.” (2013, April 26). Retrieved May 21, 2013, from   http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20130426-910626.html.

Federal Program Makes Nursing Education Easier for Veterans

At the White House Forum on Military Credentialing and Licensing in late April, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a new program to help military veterans with health care experience or training, such as medics, pursue nursing careers. The program is designed to help veterans get bachelor’s degrees in nursing by building on their unique skills and abilities.

Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration at USDHHS, the Veterans’ Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program will fund up to nine cooperative agreements, of up to $350,000 per year. Funding of $3 million is expected to be awarded by the end of fiscal year 2013 (September 30).

Program funding will go to accredited schools of nursing to increase veterans’ enrollment in and completion of baccalaureate nursing programs, and to explore ways to award academic credit for prior military health care experience or training. The institutions will also train faculty to provide mentorships and other supportive services.

This new program is an important step forward in addressing needs identified in the February 2013 White House report, The Fast Track to Civilian Employment: Streamlining Credentialing and Licensing for Service Members, Veterans, and Their Spouses.

Information on applying for this funding opportunity, can be found at   http://www.grants.gov.

Source.“Translating Veterans’ Medical Skills Into Nursing Careers.” (2013, April 29). Retrieved May 22, 2013, from   http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2013pres/04/20130429a.html.

Brain Gains from Playing Games

According to a study from the University of Iowa, adults 50 and older who played just 10 hours of a video game priming their mental processing speed and skills delayed declines by as many as 7 years in a range of cognitive skills.

The study, published in PLOS One, separated 681 generally healthy medical patients in Iowa into four groups—each further separated into those age 50 to 64 and those 65 and older. One group was given computerized crossword puzzles, while three other groups were exposed to a video game called “Road Tour,” (since renamed “Double Decision”), marketed by Posit Science Corp. Briefly, the exercise revolves around identifying a type of vehicle (displayed fleetingly on a license plate) and then reidentifying the vehicle type and matching it with a road sign displayed from a circular array of possibilities, all but one of them false icons. The player must succeed at least three out of every four tries to advance to the next level, which speeds up the vehicle identification and adds more distractions, up to 47 in all. The goal is to increase the user’s mental speed and agility at identifying the vehicle symbol and picking out the road sign from the constellation of distractors.

The groups that played the game at least 10 hours, either at home or in a laboratory at the university, gained, and retained, at least 3 years of cognitive improvement when tested after 1 year, according to a formula developed by the researchers. A group that got 4 additional hours of training with the game did even better, improving their cognitive abilities by 4 years, according to the study.

A key difference between this study and previous research was the use of an active control group—those doing the crossword puzzles. The researchers found those who played the “Road Tour” game also scored far better than the crossword puzzle group on tests involving executive function beyond field-of-view vision, such as concentration, nimbleness with shifting from one mental task to another, and the speed at which new information is processed. The improvement ranged from 1.5 years to nearly 7 years in cognitive improvement, the study found.

In related news, AARP has launched AARP Brain Fitness powered by BrainHQ as part of an overall brain health initiative. The program offers exercises to focus attention, increase brain speed, improve memory, enhance people skills, and sharpen intelligence.

Visitors to   http://brain.aarp.org can try four free brain exercises powered by BrainHQ, and AARP members can unlock more exercises at a discounted rate.

Sources.“AARP Encourages Brain Health with Launch of AARP Brain Fitness Powered by BrainHQ.” (2013, May 15). Retrieved May 21, 2013, from   http://ow.ly/lg968.“Want to Slow Mental Decay? Play a Video Game.” (2013, April 25). Retrieved May 21, 2013, from   http://now.uiowa.edu/2013/03/want-slow-mental-decay-play-video-game.

10.3928/00989134-20130522-89

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