Clues to Dementia Often Missed in Vulnerable Older Adults


Dr. Anna Chodos, a UCSF geriatrician, has worked with many seniors who lived in dangerous situations due to lack of awareness and early screening for dementia. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: As Californians live longer, the number of dementia, a disease that destroys not only memory but also critical-thinking skills will grow. As part of our ongoing series on health, called Vital Signs, we hear from Anna Chodos, a physician specializing in geriatrics. She says that social services can often keep people with dementia safe in their homes, but many older adults aren’t getting the diagnosis they need. 

By Anna Chodos

To diagnosis [dementia] early is to give people a chance to be a part of planning for the future in a very meaningful way. And that’s exactly what I’m not seeing. I’m seeing people stuck in situations where they now don’t have the ability to engage with you in complicated decision making and they’re not making safe decisions for themselves.

Dementia can affect your ability to remember to pay bills. It affects your ability to comply with your medical plan. Continue reading

New Method to Predict Dementia Risk for Type 2 Diabetics


Abel Corona of Watsonville pours piña colada from a pitcher at his home. He is more careful about his diet since he was diagnosed with diabetes. He is a student in a diabetes self-management education class at a local health clinic, Salud Para la Gente, or Health for the People. (Vinnee Tong/KQED)

An international team of researchers says it’s developed a tool that predicts the risk that a senior with type 2 diabetes will develop dementia in the next 10 years.

People with type 2 diabetes are known to be at a high risk of developing dementia – a range of problems that hinder memory, language, and problem solving. In fact, type 2 diabetics are two times more likely to develop dementia later in life than people without the disease.

According to a paper published today in the new journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, researchers have created a 20-point “risk score,” which they assign to patients based on their personal history and health issues. With each point on the scale, a person’s risk for developing dementia within 10 years grows. It’s the first risk score to be developed specifically for people with type 2 diabetes.

“[The risk score] puts these patients on the radar of clinicians to know they are at high risk,” said Rachel Whitmer, a scientist with Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. With this score in hand “the clinician could be especially attentive to looking out for memory or cognitive problems.”

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Support for Patient and Caregivers: New Program for Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care

By Stephanie O’Neill, KPCC

There is a 45% increased risk of death in people who are lonely compared to not lonely, according to a UCSF study.

(Photo: Getty Images)

It’s late morning as Linda Kerr of Canyon Country helps her 85-year-old mother navigate the indoor hallway of her Hollywood apartment.

“Be careful, Ma,” she gently cautions as her mother takes tentative steps forward. “C’mon, get closer to the walker — you’re walking too far away.”

The going is slow and precarious as Martha Kerr, who is recovering from a cracked vertebra in her neck, inches along the corridor guiding the walker for her mom. Her caregiver, Virginia, walks behind her with the wheelchair that will be used to transport Martha after the journey to the elevator is complete.

“The most important resource that a person with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia has is their caregiver — much more important than their doctors.”
This particular morning is a good one for the elder Ms. Kerr. She’s in good spirits, and she recognizes her daughter. On other days she’s more irritable, and she sometimes confuses Linda for her own mother. A series of strokes have left her with dementia. Today, the trek to the elevator lasts about five minutes and is the first leg in the Kerrs’ commute to the Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center.

They’re heading to the hospital to get help and become among the first to enroll in UCLA’s Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program. Funded by philanthropic dollars and a federal innovations grant, the program is designed to help patients and family caregivers deal with dementia. Continue reading