April 23, 2014

I'm Now an Associate Member of Palisades Village

I've followed with great interest the spread of the "Village" concept -- non-profit membership organizations that help seniors stay safe, comfortable, and active in their own homes for as long as possible. A recent AARP survey indicated that 88 percent of seniors want just that -- to age happily in place.

I didn't think I needed the services of the Village in my beloved Palisades. I have a young couple for housemates; my son and daughter live in the area and frequently remind me that they can help; I have an arrangement with a young friend up the street who acts as my chauffeur; I can afford to hire a gardener and other helpers I occasionally need.

A few days ago, I attended a meeting in a neighbor's home where Palisades Village's executive director provided information on their services. I don't need -- yet -- everything that full members receive, but I learned the Village also offers associate memberships that give seniors access to all the social and cultural events -- not the services -- offered to full members.

It was a timely discovery, in light of my advancing Parkinson's. I've cut way back on my driving, now limiting outings to places in the immediate neighborhood -- the shopping center, the entrance to Battery Kemble Park with its wonderful wooded trails, and the scenic street overlooking the Potomac's DC and Virginia palisades where I love to walk. These destinations are only a few minutes by car from my house.

It's terrific to have all these benefits. But I won't be visiting museums and galleries like before, or regularly attending special events that occur around the nation's capital all the time. Now, the Palisades Village can fill that gap and introduce me to more of my neighbors. Having this new option confirms that the Palisades is as close to heaven as I'm likely to get.

April 22, 2014

Caffeine and Nicotine Together: Powerful One-Two Parkinson's Punch?

According to media reports last week, University of Saskatchewan professor Dr. Jeremy Lee has “discovered” a potential treatment to prevent the progress of Parkinson’s disease. This therapy is no less than a combination of two substances we’ll identify by their technical names: caffeine and nicotine.

We’ve known for a while that smokers and coffee drinkers seem less at risk for PD. Now we learn about the potential of the two common household drugs to work together . . . and the reason why they appear to function especially well in tandem.

The PD literature is full of references to the protein alpha-synuclein. When that protein “misfolds” in brain cells, more and more of the protein accumulates, damaging the cells and short-circuiting their ability to properly communicate with the body. Eventually, symptoms appear – which may include the classic shakiness we associate with Michael J. Fox and other high-profile people with PD.

Lee knew from his earlier studies that amphetamine use and misfolded alpha-synuclein were linked, and that users had higher PD risk. If amphetamines latched on to the protein to cause the misfolding, then caffeine and nicotine must have some different, protective effect. How could he find out what was happening at the cellular level?

April 21, 2014

Schappi-Fuller Nuptials: More Fun than Any Wedding I've Attended!

My granddaughter Emily was married on Saturday, March 29, to Jerrod Fuller. The wedding ceremony was held in the United House of Prayer for All People, Baltimore, MD. A fabulous time was had by all.

I'll keep the narrative to the minimum, and let the photos tell the story.

The Procession at the Church
Jerrod's parents led off the procession, followed by this couple:

I was delighted when Emily asked me to escort her wonderful foster mother Carolyn down the aisle. The cap covers my heavily bandaged forehead after recent skin cancer surgery.

April 18, 2014

"Celebrating" 20 Years with Prostate Cancer

You needn't send a "Happy Anniversary" card.

Actually, I keep forgetting I have prostate cancer. I get the reminder every six months for my regularly scheduled appointment with my urologist. He administers the blood and finger tests, then I worry for a day or two while I await the results. That's about it.

I had my spring checkup last Monday. Results later.

My Prostate Cancer History
I learned about my prostate cancer in 1994. After reviewing options with my urologist, Dr. Nicholas Constantinople, I chose surgery. That was in January, 1995 -- a strange way to celebrate my first month of retirement. The operation also marked my first use of Medicare.

Post-operative PSA tests showed some remaining cancer cells. One of the key -- and most difficult -- questions with prostate cancer is whether it's relatively slow-growing or more aggressive. Fortunately, mine has proved to be the former.

Since 1995, I've checked in with Dr. Constantinople every spring and fall. My PSA reading went from near zero in March 1995 to a little over 4 in March 2011. Then the number began bouncing around, starting with a big jump to 9.4 in October 2011. Urologists become concerned when PSA readings more than double within a year or so.

I wasn't concerned. I was panicked, expecting Dr. C to recommend hormone treatment or some aggressive, unpleasant therapy. Instead, he said "Let's wait and see what happens next March." I was relieved when that number came in at 7.1, and Dr. C said that number was in the normal range for me.

April 17, 2014

Computer "Brain Training" .... Should You?

When I decided to research the question – Does computer brain (or cognitive) training work? – I had no idea that the answers would so various, or so complicated.

If one headline I found summed up the issue, it’s this one from an article in the cerebral magazine Scientific American: “Study Shows Brain Power Can Be Bolstered—Maybe.”

It’s no wonder we get a “maybe.” To begin with, what IS brain power? There are so many different elements: reaction time, visual and auditory recognition, attention, processing speed, executive function, and the biggie: memory. Reviewers even chop memory into subgroups, like episodic and working memory.

Even if you zero in on a specific cognitive activity of interest, you have to ask: “Who was tested?” Healthy children? Kids with ADHD? Healthy teens? Healthy adults? Adults with cognitive impairment? Study subjects who were motivated? Subjects who really wanted to improve?

It’s just like high school: The smart kids who studied, paid attention in class, and did their homework got excellent grades on their tests. The slackers barely got by. So, if you tried to evaluate the success of a teacher’s training abilities, you’d hear as many answers as there are students in class, and you've have the data to prove it.

Why should computer brain training be any different?

Can Positive Results "Generalize"? Will They Last?