Dr. Daniel Tranel share information with the Sisters at Sinsinawa Mound.

Brain Health and Dementia
Dr. Daniel Tranel Visits Sinsinawa

by Eileen Dushek-Manthe

Brain health is a hot topic in health care and the preparation for the senior years of one’s life. Dr. Daniel Tranel came to Sinsinawa Mound Sept. 21 to share information about brain health and answer questions from Sisters. He also came to visit his aunt, Jean Tranel, OP.

Daniel is professor of neuropsychology at the University of Iowa (UI) and runs a clinic in Iowa City. He explained that dementia means “worse thinking” and that Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common subtype. Other subtypes include Vascular, Frontotemporal, and Lewy Body. A person can have more than one type. A diagnosis is made by assessing how symptoms present themselves.

After 40 years of research, he was candid in his findings and that of the research community: there is no known cause, no known treatment, and no known cure.

So what is one to do? Take steps to stay active physically, mentally, and socially. Education can protect people from developing symptoms of dementia. Keep the brain active and engaged. “Your brain does better if you use it,” Daniel said. He referred to this as “cognitive reserve.” Stay physically active. “Walking is good. There is a big difference between zero and some.” Social interactions are important. Play cards and other games or just talk and laugh with others. Sisters commented that the communal prayer and Dominican pillar of study are practices in their favor to help prevent dementia. Dan agreed.

There is no definitive research to account for why some people get dementia and others do not. Dan revealed studies to determine whether the environment is a factor show some suggestive evidence, but they are mostly inconclusive. Genetics is a small component of determining if someone will get dementia.

How can people support someone who is experiencing a form of dementia? Be present with them in their reality, and focus on feelings and emotions. Research has shown that people with dementia may not remember what you said but will remember how you made them feel. Feelings carry forward long after an event is over or a memory fades. Dan also emphasized that fear or anger take hold the longest amount of time. He has worked with Dr. Jade Angelica, who has led dementia workshops at the Mound, and implemented some of her techniques in the UI pamphlets. Some Sisters recently attended a workshop with her and were happy to hear this.

Dan reported that caregivers of people with dementia have been supported better in recent decades than when Alzheimer’s was first identified in the 1950s. Caregivers of the 1990s were found to have lived shorter lives. Those numbers have reversed themselves in the 2000s, and caregivers are now living longer. Support groups can be found in most areas. With people living longer, the risk of developing a form of dementia is greater. Putting into practice those activities we know make a difference can help lower your risk of being affected by these diseases.

Visit online and search for “types of dementia” for a helpful chart.

Click for Spectrum November 2022 Index

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