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Learning to Live with Memory Loss with Marianne Sciucco
Episode 98th June 2023 • What The Health: News & Information To Live Well & Feel Good • John Salak
00:00:00 00:31:45

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Discover invaluable insights on addressing mental health challenges in mature adults with our special guest, Marianne Sciucco, a nurse, caregiver, and founder of AlzAuthors. Together, we'll shed light on the potential causes of anxiety, depression, and dementia-related issues and share crucial strategies for supporting those affected and their caregivers.

Join us as we explore the complexities of diagnosing Alzheimer's and dementia, battling the stigma attached to mental health conditions, and navigating the financial challenges that arise with a diagnosis. We'll discuss the importance of basic physical exams for older individuals and the hurdles to obtaining an accurate diagnosis. Don't miss this eye-opening conversation with Marianne Sciucco and learn how to be better prepared for the mental health trials of aging.

Chapter Summaries;

0:00:30 - Understanding Alzheimer's and Dementia

0:03:04 - Introduction: John Salak introduces Marianne Sciucco, founder of AlzAuthors

0:04:19 - Challenges of Aging and Mental Health 

0:06:32 - Marianne explains why she thinks Alzheimer's is growing

0:08:35 - Discussion about the factors that can contribute to Alzheimer's

0:11:59 - Healthy Habits for Brain Health

0:14:29 - Alzheimer's and Dementia Diagnosis

0:18:56 - Living With Dementia 

0:24:20 - Caregiver Health and Well-Being

0:28:05 - Milton’s Discounts: WellWell-Being Community Health Discounts

0:28:46 - Health Hacks: Support to Caregivers and Individuals Affected by Alzheimer’s

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Let’s Connect:

Connect with Marianne Sciucco;

Connect with WellWell USA;


Marianne Sciucco


John Salak: As we age, we all face challenges. There's simply no way around it. As a great Betty Davis said, old a Jane for sissies. However, in recent years, the mental health problems and challenges mature adults face have become more apparent, which is admittedly alarming for many, but also a good thing. Whether we are directly confronting those issues or caring for someone who is, it's critical that we all understand.

ng from early identification [:

There are a lot of factors driving these conditions, including isolation, loneliness, sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, and a lack of activity and social integration. Beyond this, however, is the dreaded fear of cognitive impairment and perhaps worst of all Alzheimer's disease. We hear about these diseases constantly and with good reason.

nt of them, how they can and [:

With this in mind, we're going to speak with an expert on Alzheimer and dementia shortly. A person who has both personal and professional insights on the challenges and approaches necessary for those directly affected and for their caregivers. It is also an opportunity for everyone to understand, even with the challenges, life goes on productively for many.

So we'd like to welcome everybody to this section of our podcast, and we are going to be interviewing a very special guest who's dealt both personally and professionally with some of the issues that mature audiences face in terms of mental health.

t least individuals who deal [:

So we're gonna touch on today with Marianne a little bit about what are some of the challenges people face as they age? What's bringing this about and how caregivers and these individuals can deal with it?

So, Marianne, welcome to What the Health Podcast.

Marianne Sciucco: Thank you so much for inviting me, John. It's lovely to meet you.

John Salak: Now is that, was that a fair description on what you do, both your professional background and your personal background?

Marianne Sciucco: Yeah, it's pretty accurate. Alz Authors is the global community of authors who are writing about Alzheimer's and dementia from personal experience.

And our goal is to help other people who are currently caring for a loved one with one of those conditions.

John Salak: So, and your, your personal background, you describe yourself as a dementia daughter, I believe. Is that correct? Yes,

Marianne Sciucco: yes. I had a stepfather had dementia.

John Salak: So it, it hits you both on a personal and a professional level, obviously.

you know, and it's a pretty [:

Marianne Sciucco: It sure is. Yes. It's very painful. Okay. And there's like a lot to learn.

John Salak: So let's see if we can hit some of the big issues. And not to say that we can address everything in this, this interview, but hopefully we can address some of the things, or at least help people learn where they can begin to go get some of the answers or What are some of the biggest challenges mature adults face as they age in terms of mental health? Certainly physical health can have an impact on mental health, and we've written about this and talked about this before, but what are some of the challenges that they face on a mental health level? And

rink a bit. Some people have [:

And the same goes for cognitive impairment or cognitive decline, which would be actual brain changes that could be due to a host of factors and are something that really need to be investigated to find out is this something that's, temporary? Is it something that can be resolved or am I sliding into the path of maybe having Alzheimer's or some other kind of dementia in the next decade or so?

ally be some kind of organic [:

John Salak: There's just a growing legion of articles, books, and a, a wider focus than ever on the problems with dementia, the challenges of dementia, challenges of Alzheimer's, which I is a good thing because it makes people more aware the challenges. I assume it probably terrifies a lot of people because it's a horrible disease.

Do we see Alzheimer's, dementia is it growing or are we just more aware of it today than ever before? Or combination of both, perhaps? Mm.

Marianne Sciucco: Yes. The answer to that is yes.

John Salak: What are some of the reasons that it is growing?

Marianne Sciucco: The number one reason is the number of people in the population that are affected is it, is the largest population that we had ever had up until, I guess, recently with the baby boomers. So now the baby boomers are starting to reach their old age 60, 80 nineties years of age.

ople can still have dementia [:

Now in diagnostics for people. So in the past if somebody were exhibiting signs of like Alzheimer's disease, people would just chalk it up to old age or they would be diagnosed with hardening of the arteries or senility. And there really isn't anything that you can do about that, which is true today.

There really isn't much that you can do about it, although we do have some options on the horizon. But Now you can actually pinpoint what it is that may be causing those symptoms. And in some cases it could be perhaps irreversible disease or condition that can be treated medically or with cognitive changes and other, and other things, lifestyle factors.

oms, to see their doctor and [:

John Salak: So it would be fair to say that we're seeing more of this one because people are living longer or there's a greater percentage of the population now that's living longer.

So we're just confronting more people who are dealing with dementia. And we're more aware of, the issue because it's been diagnosed, it's been studied. Are there any other factors that drive it or is this just an awareness and natural progression? Is there something about the way we live our lives, our diet, anything like that?

Or just our social Isolation that may cause that

Marianne Sciucco: it's kind of a combination of all of that. One big factor is genetics. So if your parents, mm-hmm, your grandparents or siblings have had it, then you may also be predisposed. And there are tests that you can get to find out if you were that inclined.

and the way that we live our [:

And another component of it is sleep. A lot of people feel that it's okay to skimp sleep, but what the studies now show is that sleep is a very important factor in brain health. So if you're cheating yourself outta sleep thinking you can get by four or five hours a night in the long run, you can't.

And so that's something that you want to work on, right away. And to try to build a better sleep habit so that your brain is getting the time that it needs at night to process it and to go through what it needs to go through so it can stay healthy.

John Salak: So some of these factors like sleep, like stress, they're actually having a physical impact on the brain.

a little bit different than [:

Maybe that's a sign.

Marianne Sciucco: Yeah, a lot

of people get nervous, you know, when they can't find their keys, you know, where did I put my keys? And I think everybody does that like pretty regularly. Something that we, absent mindedly, put them down somewhere in our pocket, you know, and then you switch your code or you switch your purse.

But um, that's not really that much of an indicator. It's when you have the key in your hand and you don't know what to do with it. When you, that's when you need to start wondering. When you can't remember people's names, some of the authors in our community will tell stories of how, you know, they were at a, board meeting and they'd been on the board for 12 years, and then they introduced themselves to the people like they've never met before.

laundry, that's a sign that [:

So there's a lot of different things that go on. It doesn't necessarily mean that you have Alzheimer's, but it could be something else. I know a lot of people get worried Over, over some little things that may turn out to be nothing, but it's when things start to impact the way that you function or other people are starting to notice.

You know, with my stepfather, his thing was he slept all the time. He slept about 20 hours a day. Mm-hmm. And that's not good. And he always had, strange behaviors. That was his personality. And when those were like exacerbating, that's how we kind of knew that there's something more here going on than what we, we initially thought.

So those are the kind of things that you need to watch out for.

John Salak: Are there other things people can do earlier in life that is going to lead to a stronger or better mental health, better protective health.

And then the second thing is once you see these issues coming up, what are your first steps take? And

Marianne Sciucco: [:

So that would involve your diet. You wanna stay away from a lot of processed foods. You want to eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, all of those things. Skip the fast food, try to skip the desserts and not too much sugar in your diet. Decrease alcohol. All of those are really good things to do for both your heart and your brain and overall health.

The other thing is exercise and movement. So, you know, that keeps your heart pumping and you know, that gets your blood going and that just helps all your processes really work better in including your brain. So it's a good idea to try to incorporate some kind of movement or exercise into your day.

with people getting out and [:

With routine tasks or, or able to articulate for themselves, or they're not remembering things that they should, then the idea would be to go to your primary care healthcare provider and raise your concerns and then ask them to run some tests. So it would be like some simple blood work. They may do like, the mini mental health exam, which they can do in the office.

and they may refer you to a [:

Very don't want that he bucket the idea of seeing a psychiatrist. But those are the kind of people who are going to be able to make that diagnosis. So that's why you need, need to go to see them. So, if your doctor's not open to, to doing that and you still feel like you have concerns, you're not satisfied, then you need to pursue it even further and not be afraid to get a new doctor.

John Salak: You have personal experience and obviously you're involved in this. Are doctors more aware? Do you find doctors more aware of the problems, and how to refer people on, and they, were say 10 or 15, 20 years ago, as you mentioned, old age, just sort of ility, just sort of was a catchphrase that is natural now it seems maybe something else.

a lot of stigma attached to [:

So what we see, Through the books that come in through our collection and the authors that we meet is a lot of doctors may be reluctant to attach that label to a person because it has profound effects. So they may not want to be the one to make that call. They may bounce you off to somebody else. They may wanna look for something else.

A lot of people, especially when they're diagnosed with the early onset Alzheimer's, which is typically diagnosed before age 65, you know, that can have a profound effect on a person because many cases they're gonna end up having to leave their employment when they're still of working age and not eligible for their social security, or retirement benefit.

ngs that would be in the way [:

John Salak: Would a standard, annual physical pick up signs of possible dementia or early stage Alzheimer's, or would it need to be testing, treatment?

Marianne Sciucco: It should be a part of a basic, physical exam, especially for an older person. It may not be. I mean, there's a simple questionnaire that you would put somebody through and to see how they answered those questions. So now people who have cognitive impairment are very skillful at answering the questions properly so that they skate through.

The test my stepfather did that. And that's like a very common thing. Somebody will be brought in and they exhibit all kinds of symptoms at home, but as soon as they get into the doctor's office, they're totally lucid and answer all the questions. Right. So, it might require more digging. And so then you may be referred on to other people, you know, with more skill, like a neurologist to try to get mm-hmm.

To the bottom of what the [:

The family member is gonna be the one that's gonna be able to articulate the behavioral changes probably better than the person themselves, because A, they may not be aware of it. Or be there in denial. They don't wanna discuss it, which was in my situation where my stepfather believed he was perfectly alright, and then it was, you know, my mother and I were the ones to say, no, we have this, this, this, this is all going on.

It can be very time consuming to go through the workup. It takes months or maybe even years for people to get an accurate diagnosis.

John Salak: So there are no simple tests effectively to determine whether you have Alzheimer, early stage, , Alzheimer, dementia.

Marianne Sciucco: No, it's not easy.

t them to a gerontologist, a [:

Geriatrics. And, she met with him and we gave her our concerns and she examined him and went through some questions and things and said right there that he has dementia. So, then we had to go through the steps of like medically proving it, which we did. And that took, a few months.

John Salak: When people, are diagnosed with dementia, Alzheimer, and I know the degrees differ and some of the other, cognitive impairments differ.

Is it a matter at that point of just, dealing with a disease or lessening the impact? Or what are the treatment prospects? Are they growing, are they the same or is it just a matter of handling it?

Marianne Sciucco: Mm-hmm. So there are some drugs that are available, whether or not they help is up for debate.

that that you can have. And [:

So for many people to hear that they have dementia is like a, death sentence, or it means life is now over, meaning now on that day, my life just ended. But in reality, you are the same person that you were before. You had that diagnosis and you can continue to your life and live your life for years, if not decades, without having any real profound change.

o give up employment because [:

And you can still be a productive family member and a friend and travel. And we've got authors who have written more than one book since they got diagnosed. And Travel. I have no authors who travel all over the country doing advocacy work for Alzheimer's and dementia. So that's huge. Being able to do something like that.

And you know, they still married, they still have their families and you just don't give up.

John Salak: Somebody who's diagnosed with these problems. I assume that with this still things like reducing stress, sleeping properly, eating properly, getting exercise socialization are also keys.

If not for reversing the disease, then maybe lessening its impact or lessening the speed at which it comes on.

outine and to participate in [:

You know, people, they go on cruises, they fly, they have new experiences. And sometimes they don't remember, they have no short term memory. They can't remember, but they still are able to enjoy in the moment and they can be funny. Okay. And this, you know, they can be creative. Mm-hmm. They can do art.

We have some beautiful artists, people who've never picked up a paint brush in their life. Suddenly doing very good works that can be hung in public and. People are selling, actually selling paintings. So that's an amazing thing. Writing poetry is huge. A lot of people writing poems, writing their memoir, writing stories.

socialization. And the first [:

And so does the caregiver. A lot of caregivers become isolated and, fixated on, their loved one and being present every minute of the day, and that's not good for their mental health either. So there is, in some communities you can find, Things called memory cafes where people with dementia can get together with other people and have, a social hour and the caregivers can go off and have their own social hour as well, a support group or something like that, or even just a drop off where you can go for two hours and, and take care of something you need to do, and knowing that your loved one is, in good hands and is also having a good time.

ey can't give decent care to [:

And you mentioned some of those aspects, but what about on a wider scale or there other things they need to think about to maintain their own health and to help others?

Marianne Sciucco: Yeah. When a, when a doctor diagnoses a person with dementia, now they have two patients, cuz it's usually that person's spouse.

Or whoever the caregiver is, say their daughter or whatever. But now you have two people dealing with this condition. It's, shared. I always say the caregiver needs to know everything they need to know on day one, and they usually don't know anything. So now there's this steep learning curve of trying to find out what it is that you need to know, like you wanna know about this disease process, how does it manifest?

y be nothing. So you need to [:

What's available to me, and reach out, and use the resources and not to be shy and not to be afraid to discuss this situation with others. Other people in your social circle because a lot of them are probably dealing with the same thing and nobody's talking about it. So you could be a source of support for each other.

And the caregiver also needs to be aware of their own health and continue their own good health practices, managing their weight, what they eat, getting exercise, getting enough sleep. It's usually the caregiver is the one that collapses first.

John Salak: Interesting. And it's as I suspect, it's not something that's well known or it's not something that's thought of first.

Marianne Sciucco: No. I don't think people think about it until they're in a situation.

n't necessarily have to be a [:

I just want you to reinforce that notion to people because it is such a frightening disease. Mm-hmm.

Marianne Sciucco: So, A person can live with dementia for 20 years or even more. Sometimes people only live a couple of years like my stepfather. But you can have any range of life ahead of you from the day that you're diagnosed.

So you need to make the most of that time. that's one of the gifts of dementia, is it teaches people how to live in the moment because there is no past and we don't know about the future, which is true for everybody.

People with dementia, that's the only thing they have, is that moment. And a lot of people and authors in our organization have written that was the gift that they got, was learning how to be in the moment and to appreciate what is happening at that time. it is a terminal. Disease. Alzheimer's disease is terminal illness.

Most so is most dementia, [:

She wrote three books. People play music. I mean, there's still a lot going on. I went on a cruise and it was for people with dementia and there were, I don't know, at least six or eight couples there, and they traveled and they had a wonderful time. We visited all these islands and, you know, that was going on.

And other people would say, think that they couldn't even leave the house, but it's like, no, there's still a lot of living left to do. So start living.

John Salak: All right. That's probably a great way to to underscore that importance. I would like you Marianne to let us know how people can get in touch with you or your group, so that at least they can reach out and, connect and, and some help if they need it.

So, if you could please give us your contact information or where it's best for people to reach out and connect to you.

Marianne Sciucco: Okay, the [:

Could be a film, it could be a podcast, it could be a blog. Most likely it's a book. We do a podcast. And you can find that on our podcast page. We have a bookstore. So all of our books are categorized to make it easy for you to find what you want. So if you're just looking for a book on caring for your mother, you can find all the books in one section that are about that.

And then you'll also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. And there's a contact page on the website, so you can write into us there and, and we'll get your email.

John Salak: Give us that website one more time.

Marianne Sciucco: It's, A L Z A U T H O R

ights and, really your, your [:

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cluding dreaded Alzheimer's, [:

First off, don't avoid or ignore signs that your a loved one may be dealing with cognitive issues. If you suspect something, get to your general practitioner right away and demand a cognitive assessment be conducted Early identification is critical. To lessening or delaying the impact of cognitive impairment, and if you discover that the issues involve may instead be tied to depression, anxiety, or something else, well, you're now ahead of the game in terms of treatment.

r mind. If you misplace your [:

Four, no matter what you're facing, physical activity, mental stimulation, and social integration will have a positive impact on your physical health. And your mental wellbeing. Get and stay moving and engaged. Five. Diet and rest are other factors that can promote or harm mental health, depending on what you're eating and if you're getting enough rest.

This is especially true for mature adults. Six caregivers need to find time for themselves if they are going to help others through these challenging times. Seven, A diagnosis for cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's is never going to be a positive thing, but it also doesn't mean your life has to stop or become unproductive.

ould take the opportunity to [: