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Q: Are there any correlations between a person’s education level and Alzheimer’s disease?

A: Generally speaking, people with less education have a slightly higher risk to develop this disease. However, there have also been diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease in highly educated people.


Q: A senior in our family has been diagnosed with dementia and is being taken care of properly in a nursing home. However, the senior is often asking to come home, what should we do?

A: This is a common situation. Family members could encourage the senior with phrases like, “you can live here for now, once your condition improves and we have the doctor’s approval, then we can bring you home”. Ultimately the senior patient needs 24 hour care and nursing, which is something that the nursing home can provide. Therefore this is providing the best you can for the senior. Loving a person is to give him/her what he/she needs, not necessarily what he/she wants. Family members should educate themselves about the pros and cons, and should not feel overly guilty about their inability to care for the person themselves.


Q: Does playing mahjong prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

A: Playing mahjong is a type of brain exercise and so is helpful. However, physical exercise is equally important. You should not be playing Mahjong all day long and neglecting other activities, both physical and mental. Other brain exercises, such as, playing chess, solving puzzle, and reading, etc., are also helpful with Alzheimer’s disease prevention.


Q: Someone in the family has been diagnosed with dementia 5 years ago, meanwhile he has been taking Aricept 10 mg. Recently, he started suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high uric acid as well. A month ago, he started having 7-8 bowel movements a day. Is this symptom caused by a worsening of his dementia?

A: According to medical research, the increased bowel movement is not a symptom associated with dementia. Aricept also does not have such side effects. The person may be suffering from gastrointestinal disease. You should bring him to a gastroenterologist for a detailed examination. Another reason could be that the patient requires multiple sittings on the toilet because he often leaves the toilet before he has completely finished his bowl movement.


Q: How should I interact with a family member that has been diagnosed with dementia?

A: Family members will often be saddened in the case of a diagnosis of dementia in the family. We need to first understand that the patient is already sick, so do not argue or debate with him/her. For instance, if the patient says, “it’s time for dinner.” even if it is far from dinner time, we should still accommodate them by saying “yes, it will be dinner time soon.” After a while the patient may already forget what they have said. Therefore being patient and loving is very important. At the same time, we need to understand that this sick family member is not the same as the family member that was healthy five years ago. Therefore the family members should not feel guilty about not caring for them by themselves.


Q: Is Mini-Mental Status Test (MMSE) suitable for Chinese elders that have lower levels of education?

A: There will certainly be some challenges. However, we can try our best to modify the contents of the test so it is suitable to their customs and level of education. For instance, for questions pertaining to date, month, and year, if the elder respond with dates in the lunar calendar, then we should verify the answer with the Western calendar and treat it as a correct answer if that is indeed the corresponding date.


Q: Once diagnosed with dementia, what is the life expectancy of the patient?

A: Dementia itself does not reduce a person’s life span. However, the inability of the person to take care of themselves (forgetting to eat, being unaware of being sick, etc.) may reduce their life span. If the patient receives proper care, the average life span is 6-10 years after diagnosis.