Last Week’s Links

‘I am mine’: This is what Alzheimer’s is like at 41

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is particularly devastating. This article tells the story of a loving couple when the husband, Jo, was diagnosed:

Four years ago, Jo was diagnosed with dominantly inherited Alzheimer’s disease, an extremely rare form caused by a genetic mutation slithering through his family tree. Jo watched his mother die of the same illness when he was a teenager. Even in this early-onset form of Alzheimer’s, Jo is a terrible rarity: he was 37 years old when he was diagnosed.

The publication carried an earlier story, soon after the diagnosis, that is linked here.

This article decorously discusses the many issues this family faces, including information about the decision to place Jo in an a home and end-of-life directives in patients with dementia.

Lies, lies and more lies. Out of an old Tacoma house, fact-checking site Snopes uncovers them

In the pre-internet days we called wild-sounding stories urban legends. Nowadays most such stories are spread across the internet, and we call them hoaxes.

All those viral hoaxes, spread by social media, have created a market for fact-checking sites, with Snopes, started in 1994, being the champ.

I’ve been consulting Snopes for ages, but I did not know until I came across this article that it is run out of a 97-year-old house in Tacoma, WA, my new home town. In fact, the Snopes house is in Tacoma’s North End, which is where I also live.

Snopes is particularly busy in the current political climate, in which “the hoax reports just keep rolling in.” So before you blindly repeat that story you heard on Twitter or read on Facebook, ask yourself: “ Just what is your receptivity to something that sure looks like it came from a bull?”

Best Buy is cashing in as Americans grow older

Big electronics store Best Buy is positioning itself to attract an older clientele by becoming the go-to niche market for digital health:

In August, Best Buy announced it would buy GreatCall for $800 million. GreatCall makes Jitterbug cell phones with big buttons and bright screens designed for senior citizens, as well as medical alert devices that can detect falls and summon help.

The demand for digital health products and services will grow in the future as the U.S. population of people over 65, now at around 50 million, doubles over the next 20 years as Baby Boomers retire.

Google Plus Will Be Shut Down After User Information Was Exposed

I was somewhat relieved to read this news. When Google Plus came into being, I tried for a few weeks to use it. But I never really got it: Its interface wasn’t obvious, and I never saw the point of simple links with no context.

So I’m glad to learn that I no longer have to feel inadequate about not knowing how to use Google Plus effectively. Now if I could just figure out Instagram …

Nursing Homes Are Pushing the Dying Into Pricey Rehab

Bloomberg reports:

Nursing home residents are increasingly spending time in rehabilitation treatment during the last days of their lives, subjected to potentially unnecessary therapy that reaps significant financial benefits for cash-strapped facilities, a study shows.

A study out of the University of Rochester, based on data from 647 New York-based nursing home facilities, revealed that “Some residents were found to have been treated with the highest concentration of rehabilitation during their last week of life.”

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

When Family Members Care for Aging Parents

Sandeep Jauhar, a cardiologist, writes about her experience sharing caregiving duties with her siblings for a father with dementia and a mother with Parkinson’s disease:

My siblings and I joined the ranks of the 15 million or so unpaid and untrained family caregivers for older adults in the United States.

In addition to expected duties like dispensing medications and shopping for groceries, she discovered that she also needed to look out for people trying to take advantage of her parents financially:

after some items were stolen, we realized we had to be more careful about whom we allowed into our parents’ home. Older adults in this country lose almost $3 billion a year to theft and financial fraud.

Can’t Get Comfortable In Your Chair? Here’s What You Can Do

Chairs haven’t always been the big, soft, enveloping things that fill our living rooms today. Historically, chairs were built to accommodate the human spine better than many chairs do today. If you’re having trouble sitting comfortably, here are some suggestions about how to sit so as to best support your spine.

35 OVER 35: WOMEN AUTHORS WHO DEBUTED AT 35+

I’m a bit peeved that the author of this article chose 35 as the starting point for “older” writers’ debuts.

This list of “women writers whose debut traditionally published full-length work came out after their 35th birthday” includes writes from age 35 to 93.

Apple Watch faces its toughest challenge yet: Grandma and Grandpa

Because one of the stereotypes of older adults is people who have to ask their grandchildren how to work the DVR, I especially like articles that feature older adults using new technological gadgets. This article focus on the Series 4, the latest version of the Apple Watch:

The Series 4 Apple Watch now in stores pitches itself as a Food and Drug Administration-cleared “proactive health monitor” and a “guardian” that will call help if you take a hard fall. Its screen is 30 percent larger. You won’t see Apple say “senior citizen” in ads – yet suddenly, grandmothers and abuelas, not to mention opas, are thinking about getting one. Adult children looking to keep parents safe are curious, too.

Writer Geoffrey A. Fowler reports:

I sought help in reviewing the new Watch from a gang of tech-savvy seniors. Seven members of the Computer Club of Rossmoor, a 55-plus community in California, helped me set up, poke and prod the new model. No seniors were harmed in testing the fall-detection tech… . There wasn’t a technophobe among my helpers. After our tests, one of them – a satisfied Apple Watch owner – decided she’d definitely upgrade. None of the others were sold.

Read how they tested the watch and how the new features, such as the fall detector and electrocardiogram monitor, performed.

The Comforting Fictions of Dementia Care

This long article in The New Yorker looks at the use of “nostalgic environments,” surroundings created to resemble life in earlier times, to help ease the anxiety and disorientation of dementia patients. The article proceeds from description of such environments to a consideration of the ethics of lying to patients intertwined with a history of various approaches to treating patients with dementia.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Introducing a New Category: Older Adults in Literature

In my other life I blog about books. One of my particular interests there is how literature reflects the culture that produces it.

When I put together a list of 5 Novels That Feature Older Adult Characters for the post International Day of Older Persons on this blog, I realized that the topic of how older adults are portrayed in literature is appropriate for both sides of my life and deserves to be its own category. I’ll be cross-posting more such lists and book reviews on both blogs from time to time.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Infectious Theory Of Alzheimer’s Disease Draws Fresh Interest

This article reports on the “germ theory” of Alzheimer’s disease. Germs in this case “means microbes like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. In other words,” is Alzheimer’s an infectious disease. This theory “has been fermenting in the literature for decades,” but research in this area has received almost no funding.

If the germ theory gets traction, even in some Alzheimer’s patients, it could trigger a seismic shift in how doctors understand and treat the disease.

14 of the Very Best Books Published in the 1970s, From Le Guin to Haley

Having come of age in the glorious 1960s, I took particular interest in this list of books published in the following decade that, in a literary way, reflect the profound ways in which the ’60s influenced later society. The books from this list that I remember most vividly are Rabbit Redux by John Updike, Kindred by Olivia E. Butler, The Stories of John Cheever, All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi.

What about you? Do you remember any of these books?

Scientists Gave MDMA to Octopuses—and What Happened Was Profound

Ever since we began visiting the Pacific Northwest in the U.S. in the mid 1990s, I’ve been fascinated by the Giant Pacific octopus native to this area. Octopuses (yes, that’s the correct plural) are extremely intelligent, although their decentralized nervous system differs greatly from our own. Octopuses are also asocial, in contrast to humans’ need for social contact.

This article reports on a study by scientists interested in whether octopuses would react the same way humans do to “the drug MDMA, versions of which are known as molly or ecstasy.” The drug commonly makes people “feel very happy, extraverted, and particularly interested in physical touch.” The scientists were interested to discover that, despite our different nervous structures and social behavior tendencies, octopuses’ reactions to the drug resembled humans’ reactions.

It’s clear that psychoactive drugs like MDMA, LSD, and magic mushrooms are going through a scientific renaissance—they’re being studied as potential treatments for depression and PTSD—and as their stigma decreases, scientists are more open to studying them, and more research funding becomes available. This could be important for our understanding of animal and human brains.

Paper Trails: Living and Dying With Fragmented Medical Records

This is a long article, but it’s a must-read for anyone who moves from one place to another or from one medical facility to another. Dr. Ilana Yurkiewicz explains how lack of compatible electronic medical records can disrupt medical treatment and how such disruption can lead to life-and-death situations.

How to Optimize Caffeine (and Improve Your Productivity)

caffeine is powerful stuff, and because it has a direct effect on your energy level, you should drink it with intention rather than on autopilot.

This article is aimed at office workers (hence the emphasis on productivity), but it’s good advice for anyone who is bothered by occasional insomnia.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

5 Novels That Feature Older Adult Characters

On December 14, 1990, The United Nations General Assembly by resolution designated October 1 each year as International Day of Older Persons. According to the U.N. page for this international celebration:

Almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60. By 2050, 2 billion people, over 20 per cent of the world’s population, will be 60 or older. The increase in the number of older people will be the greatest and the most rapid in the developing world, with Asia as the region with the largest number of older persons, and Africa facing the largest proportionate growth. With this in mind, enhanced attention to the particular needs and challenges faced by many older people is clearly required. Just as important, however, is the essential contribution the majority of older men and women can continue to make to the functioning of society if adequate guarantees are in place. Human rights lie at the core of all efforts in this regard.

The theme for this year’s event is “Celebrating Older Human Rights Champions.” This theme aims at addressing four main issues, one of which is perfect for literary treatment:

Raise the visibility of older people as participating members of society committed to improving the enjoyment of human rights in many areas of life

Literature reflects life. Here are five novels I recommend that feature older adults living their lives with dignity and purpose.


Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos

Margaret Hughes, age 75, has just learned that she has a brain tumor. Margaret lives alone in a huge mansion in the most upscale section of Seattle, where her only companions are the rooms and rooms full of valuable figurines left to her by her father. When Margaret’s mother, dead some 60 years, begins visiting her, Margaret decides to take in a boarder. Wanda, in her 30s, answers Margaret’s ad. She recently sold all her belongings and left New York City for Seattle in pursuit of the lover who abandoned her. Warily, Margaret and Wanda begin to befriend each other. The mansion’s list of residents increases over the course of the novel as new people arrive to fulfill various needs—both their own and each others’.


Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

This short, poignant novel features an older widow and widower who come together for companionship and emotional support. Their lives are complicated by small-town busybodies, social proprieties, and the demands of family relationships.


A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Ove (pronounced UH-ve) is probably the biggest curmudgeon you’ll ever meet, either in literature or in life. His wife died several years ago, and his retirement has left him feeling lonely and purposeless. He’s set in his ways, with strict daily routines, and he demands that everyone must follow the neighborhood rules to the letter. Translated from the Swedish, this novel demonstrates how even a crotchety old geezer can change and learn to appreciate life, with a little help from some new friends. The novel also carries a gentle message: don’t judge a man until you understand his life.


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Young journalist Monique Grant is stagnating as a reporter for an internet sleaze site when she receives a sudden and mysterious summons from Evelyn Hugo, the aging actress who is finally ready to tell her story and insists Grant is the one who must write it. Hugo’s story covers her journey to Los Angeles in the 1950s, her rise to fame, and her decision to leave show business after a 30-year career. That journey includes ruthless ambition, seven husbands, a deep but forbidden love—and no regrets. She’d do it all exactly the same way again, Hugo tells Grant, before finally revealing why she has chosen Grant to write this story.


The Pigman by Paul Zindel

This YA novel from the 1960s focuses on two high school students who form a taunting, derisive friendship with a neighbor, the widowed retiree Antonio Pignati. Although the story revolves around the teenagers, the loneliness and desperate desire for companionship of Mr. Pignati, whom the kids call The Pigman, is painfully accurate.


© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

IS THE CURE FOR ALZHEIMER’S HIDING INSIDE US? SHE THINKS SO

Here’s a profile of Annelise Barron:

Alzheimer’s is the root cause of 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and the complexity of the disease has troubled neurology researchers for decades. But Barron, an associate professor of bioengineering at Stanford, has uncovered a way for our own immune system to fight off a major cause of Alzheimer’s. If her research leads to a treatment, it would be the first new therapeutics development in more than a decade.

BOOKS WITH STRONG FEMALE CHARACTERS OVER 50

Being of a certain age myself, I enjoy books that feature older women characters. And if you’re into reading challenges that ask you to read a book featuring “a strong female character over 50,” here are eight books to help you fill in that category.

READ HARDER: A BOOK WITH A FEMALE PROTAGONIST OVER THE AGE OF 60

And if 50 is too young for you, here’s a list of six books featuring female protagonists over age 60. I heartily second the recommendation of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and would also add Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney.

Cover: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

SOLVING THE HIDDEN DISEASE THAT’S AS BAD AS 15 CIGARETTES A DAY

That disease would be loneliness:

Experts agree that we’re facing a loneliness epidemic, one that has profound consequences for our physical health, our longevity and our overall well-being. But where others emphasize the scale and seriousness of this looming crisis, Murthy offers an encouraging message: Yes, loneliness is a pervasive problem worldwide, but there is a simple and actionable solution.

Why Older People Have Always Trashed Young People

Why can’t they be like we were, perfect in every way?
Oh, what’s the matter with kids today?

Why does every generation express worry that its kids aren’t as good? Because of fear, this article argues:

We talk of children in terms of continuation. They carry on our traditions. They take our names. We delight in how they look like us, act like us, think like us. We want our kids to adopt our politics, our causes, our sense of meaning. In our children, we seek immortality.

But then they grow up, and we discover they’re not us. They are their own people. They’ll find their own politics, their own causes, their own sense of meaning. They’re more interested in the future than the past. They’ll know their parents’ names, of course, and probably their grandparents’ names, but perhaps not their great-grandparents’ names, and certainly not their great-great-grandparents’ names. Which means one day they’ll have children, and those children will have children, and our names will begin to be forgotten too. We will slip into nothingness, remembered by nobody, having left no recognizable impact.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown