Geriatric specialists at Brand New Day (BND), a California Medicare health plan, are advising the public to look out for an often-overlooked early symptom of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease — apathy. Apathy is described as showing disinterest in seeing friends and family, participating in activities and hobbies that used to elicit joy, and socializing in public settings including church, restaurants, etc.
Board-certified Internal Medicine/Geriatrician physician Michael Tehrani, M.D., who serves as Medical Director at Brand New Day, says that while the public are generally aware of the most notable symptoms of dementia/Alzheimer’s (i.e., forgetfulness, confusion, inability to recognize familiar people, places, things, etc.), they rarely recognize one of the early indicators — apathy. Good news is there are lifestyle changes that can be taken to stave off those conditions.
In addition to being disinterested in activities they once enjoyed, apathy can also be detected when the individual shows little energy or motivation to perform routine or daily tasks like brushing their teeth or taking a shower,” explains Tehrani, who cites the National Institutes of Health’s report that 13.9% of Americans 71 and older suffer from some form of dementia with 9.7% in that age group being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. “You may also notice a change in their personality, most notably that they will lack empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”
Tehrani says that the Apathy Evaluation Scale and the Neuropsychiatric Inventory are the most widely used tools for assessing apathy, though these forms of diagnoses are not readily available.
Brand New Day advises those with a family history of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s to watch for the warning signs and take action. Among the steps those with mental decline can take: stop smoking, reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption, eat a Mediterranean diet (i.e., fresh fish instead of red meat, whole grains, fruits and vegetables,) reduce sodium intake, avoid sweets and sugary beverages, use olive oil instead of other types of cooking oil, and snack on nuts, Greek yogurt and other healthy options.
Furthermore, Tehrani recommends engaging in regular aerobic exercise like power walking, bicycling, jogging or swimming. He also suggests keeping your mind active by solving crossword puzzles, playing an instrument, learning a foreign language, reading or keeping a diary.
“Though we don’t have a cure for dementia/Alzheimer’s disease at this time, many advances are being made as we speak,” says Tehrani. “Hopefully, we can get a handle on this progressive neurologic disorder that wreaks such havoc on patients and their families.
Brand New Day offers its Bridges Plan for members with dementia and Alzheimer’s. In addition, it offers its Classic Plan (basic plan for Medicare-only, Medicare and Medi-Cal members), Embrace Plan for those with heart disease and/or diabetes, Select Plan for residents of assisted living communities or long-term care (nursing homes) facilities, and its Harmony Plan serving those with mental illness including major depression, schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, and paranoid disorder.
Brand New Day works with independent brokers throughout the state and can arrange for an in-person appointment for those wanting to review the plans in their area. Brand New Day is a subsidiary of Bright HealthCare and Bright Health Group. For more information about the Brand New Day Medicare Advantage plans, call (866) 255-4795, TTY 711 and visit www.BNDHMO.com.
Brand New Day
5455 Garden Grove Blvd, Suite 500
Disclaimer: The views, suggestions, and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Ahmedabad Local journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.