Amazing Grace: Enjoying Alzheimer's !

the mission: to give sufferers and carers an alternative to drugs

ARE WE GETTING THE WHOLE STORY? (Ray Smith) PDF  | Print |  E-mail
 Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s ‘Review of the Year 2005/6’ public meeting held on 21 September 2006 was essentially a PR exercise in talking down its severe cost-cutting of front line staff and services and trying to convince us how successful it is in meeting or beating the bureaucratic targets set by the Government.
  It is now known that cholinesterase inhibitors such as Aricept (donepezil) have only a small short term effect on the cognitive and physical activities of daily living of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers. Surely it is time to research beyond the poor medical drugs available and routinely prescribed to keep sufferers in a more or less comatose state. A recent article in The Lancet (vol 363, June 2004) stated that the use of such drugs as donepezil remained controversial and were not cost effective. It also muted the point that claims made by some drug-company sponsored studies were implausible.

  Great steps have been achieved through the use of effective vitamin and mineral alternatives available which reduce neuropsychiatric problems such as aggression and violence present in 90% of all cases of Alzheimer’s. This is where future research should be targeted.

  The 9th International Conference on Alzheimer’s in July 2004 recognised, as a result of a study involving 7,600 patients over a period of 18 years, that Beta-carotine has enormous protective effects against cognitive decline. This is a huge step forward in accepting that there are alternatives to the stranglehold that the drug conglomerates have on the medical profession. Not all answers lie in drugs.

  An article in the British Medical Journal (18 February 2005) highlights a randomised double blind placebo controlled trial of 93 patients with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia and clinically significant agitation. Intervention was atypical antipsychotic (quetiapine), cholinesterase inhibitor (rivastigmine) or placebo (double dummy). The conclusion was that neither quetiapine nor rivastigmine are effective in the treatment of agitation in people with dementia in institutional care. In fact, compared with the placebo, quetiapine is associated with significantly greater cognitive decline.

  I took care of my wife, Grace, from the time she was diagnosed in 1991 until she passed away peacefully at home in December 2002. It began with Grace misplacing little things or suddenly being unable to complete a simple task like threading a needle. We were both trained nurses although we had not practiced for many years and were thus able to recognise that something was wrong. So, once Grace was diagnosed, we set about researching how best to plan the future.

  I had already heard of the work done on biochemical imbalances and nutrition by the noted psychiatrist Dr. Carl Pheiffer in New Jersey, USA. We visited his Princetown Brain Bio Centre there; where we learned how large doses of vitamins such as vitamins A, the B complex, C and E and selenium, together with the value of exercise and a nutritional diet which included oily fish, influences human behaviour. Later research agrees that such a regime inhibits the aggressive and violent behaviour usually associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

  Following the regime designed for her by the Centre certainly enabled Grace and Ito live a happy, calm and active life travelling all over the world. Even at the last, when Grace could no longer recognise me or help herself in any way, Grace remained calm and relatively happy. In fact, this is what inspired the title of the book I promised Grace I would write about our lives with this dreadful disease. I called it ~‘Amazing Grace, Enjoying Alzheimer’s Disease” (published by Metro) and in it I have written about our research, our daily lives, travels and the wonderful people we met.

  In addition to taking the recommended doses of vitamins and minerals we also ate plenty of organic fruit and vegetables, supplemented by oily fish and meat. We took long walks every day and spent as much time as we could in the open air. Eventually, of course, Grace had to resort to a wheelchair but this still did not prevent us travelling abroad where we visited the Taj Ma-hal in India, Cuba, the Great Wall of China, art galleries in Florence, the Galapagos Islands and many other places. We even visited Machu Picchu in Peru — all this done, on very modest pensions, as back-packers staying at the cheapest possible hostels, monasteries and inns.

It was a fantastic time and even when Grace could no longer remember our journeys afterwards, at the time she would gasp with delight at a particularly thrilling view or event. This made it all worthwhile. Her quality of life was good.

Unfortunately, carers are brainwashed by most of the medical establishment into accepting that drugs and eventual institutionalisation are the only way to control the affects of Alzheimer’ s and related dementia diseases. This is incorrect as there are other valuable means of caring and treating sufferers which should be made available to carers so that they can make the choice. If the carer is fit and well and wants to take care of the partner or relative, there is little or no guidance available on what these alternatives are.

For instance Ginkgo biloba can stop some of the cerebrovascular insufficiency especially in the disease’s early stages. As well as Beta-carotine, other antioxidants, especially vitamins C and E can also help. Folic acid, together with vitamins B6 and B12, helps reduce levels of homocysteine that tend to be higher in Alzheimer’s victims. Researchers also believe that fish containing Omega 3 and 6 polyunsaturated fatty acids is beneficial.

Whilst there is debate taking place at the present time on the value of mega doses of vitamin supplements taken by some fitness enthusiasts, it is well documented that, in some cases, the removal of certain foods from the diet or, in other cases, the addition of vitamin supplements can markedly affect behaviour patterns. So a specially developed regime administered under medical supervision can be used to reduce behavioural difficulties. It is also recognised that people who indulge in regular mental exercise are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease so activities such as reading, board and card games, crossword puzzles etc encourage brain activity.

Alzheimer’s disease is a specific brain disorder that appears to affect thinking, memory and language and can occur between the ages of 30 and 60 plus. Aricept (donepezil) has been shown to neither slow down the decline in cognitive ability nor delay the time when a patient is taken into care. In fact, research does not seem to have pinpointed what triggers the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Nobody really knows whether or not it’s hereditary or linked to deficiencies in essential nutrients, poor circulation of the brain or hardening of the brain arteries. Even the theory that it is due to aging is thrown into doubt when a much younger person than the usual pensioner is diagnosed.

in other words the medical profession is ill equipped to deal with the disease and is only able to prescribe the drugs developed at huge cost by the drug industry. Much more research needs to be done into the benefits of vitamin and mineral treatments to fight this disease and give both the sufferers and their carers a better quality of life.

Ray Smith 25 February 2005

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