How Can Chiropractic Care Help with Symptoms of Dementia?

Degenerative diseases of the brain are becoming common with the elderly. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one out of three seniors dies with a degenerative brain disorder like Alzheimer’s or dementia. In the last two decades, deaths from Alzheimer’s have grown by almost 150%. It’s no secret that dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are serious problems that require serious care. And, in the same study regarding Alzheimer’s Disease, half of primary care physicians believe that the health-care industry is not prepared to handle the onslaught of dementia.

Symptoms of Dementia

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease have similar symptoms. Common symptoms include memory loss, concentration problems, confusion with familiar tasks, difficulty communicating, mood changes, and anxiety.

Types of Dementia

There are several types of dementia, not just Alzheimer’s. Most involve memory loss and confusion, but they manifest with other problems. For example, vascular dementia also include problems that look like stroke side effects, like difficulty walking, temporary paralysis, and other movement problems. Another type of dementia includes Lewy bodies. People with this diagnosis will have periods of being alert, then suddenly drowsy. They also have visual hallucinations and are likely to fall. The other type of dementia is frontotemporal, which manifests in a changed personality where the patient does not know how to behave in a socially appropriate way. People with frontotemporal dementia often struggle to communicate and they become obsessive. As people move through the stages of dementia, they lose their social awareness, their personalities change, and lose bladder and bowel control. Most people with dementia problems are over age 65, but there are younger people between 45 and 65 who show signs of the growing problem.

Growth of Dementia Diagnoses

Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease have both been studied extensively in recent years. Dementia diseases do not have cures, but researchers believe that the cure is somewhere in the brain. There are several ways to treat dementia and Alzheimer’s, but the diseases will continue to run their course until the patient is no longer living. Dementia – the degenerative brain disease – is practically at an epidemic level, as the growth over the last twenty years shows. Fortunately, there are treatments available, including chiropractic care. When you recognize how chiropractic care works, it becomes easy to see why a neurological problem like dementia can be treated with a health-care program that values the spine.

Causes and Prevention

The latest research shows that there are several factors that increase the risk of developing dementia. They include hypertension, hearing impairments, diabetes, social isolation, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, obesity, head injury, physical inactivity, and air pollution.
Research also shows that prevention for dementia should start at a young age and continue through the elder years. All children should receive primary and secondary education. The dangers of drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes should be shared with the public so people will avoid both to reduce their risks of developing dementia. Public health should train people to eat healthy foods so they avoid developing type-2 diabetes and other obesity-related problems. With healthy diets, people sleep better and are less likely to develop hypertension.

It is also important for people who need hearing aids to get them. Hearing loss is often a precursor to dementia. Finally, people should be able to live in communities that do not have excessive air pollution and homes should be free of second-hand smoke. Dementia care should include multidimensional treatments for the whole body. And, this is where chiropractic care comes into play. Many dementia patients take medications, but they only cover the problem, not solve it. Because so many people have dementia, Medicare is covering chiropractic care as a treatment because the care has proven to improve health, cognitive function, and life in general.

How Chiropractic Care Helps People with Dementia

Chiropractic care is dedicated to the maintenance of the central nervous system including the brain and spinal cord. Dementia and Alzheimer’s are degenerative brain disorders, so chiropractic care directly affects parts of the body affected by these diseases.

Feeding the Brain

There is research that shows the brain needs to have certain nutrients to function properly. When those nutrients are blocked, the brain changes and loses certain functions. When there are subluxations or misalignments in the spine, the body and the brain do not work as they should. Chiropractic care realigns the spine by removing the subluxations. The result is that
nerves can operate properly so nutrients can reach the brain, returning the spine and brain to normal function.

Typical Treatment Options

At this point, chiropractic care does not cure dementia or Alzheimer’s, but it does serve as a realistic treatment. Chiropractors work with patients who have problems with spine-related pain, joint stiffness, and extremity pain. Research shows that many of those problems manifest themselves as acute pain or restricted mobility. Most chiropractors use similar treatments:
● Myofascial therapies
● Ischemic compression
● Mechanical percussion
● Muscle stretching
● Thrust manipulation

Collaborative Changes to Meet Patient Needs

Patients who needed neurorehabilitation usually needed treatments that were different from the typical movement-related choices. According to research, people who needed chiropractic care for neurological conditions, like dementia, had chiropractors who developed collaborative plans with other health care providers. The programs required longer visits and non-standard treatment ideas. Chiropractors had to adapt to each patient’s cognitive issues and problems with communication.

Slowing Memory Loss

Chiropractic care is not a miracle solution for any degenerative brain disease, but it can help ease the symptoms. Some patients have found that chiropractic care has slowed their memory loss. Chiropractic care will not bring back lost memories, but research shows that thoughtful,
collaborative chiropractic will help maintain the status quo. Chiropractic care also helps improve musculoskeletal function in dementia patients.


If you have a loved one who is suffering through a type of dementia, you want the best for them. Rather than watching them go through the daily struggles, a chiropractor might be able to help slow the speed of degeneration. Your health care provider and a chiropractor can work together to improve your loved one’s quality of life, even in just a small way.

If you or a loved one is suffering from dementia check out this blog about counseling services for dementia related concerns.

Written By: Dr. Brent Wells.
Dr. Brent Wells, D.C. founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab and has been a chiropractor for over 20 years. His chiropractic practice has treated thousands of Juneau patients from different health problems using services designed to help give long-lasting relief. Dr. Wells is also the author of over 700 online health articles that have been featured on sites such as Dr. Axe, Organic Facts, and Thrive Global. He is a proud member of the American Chiropractic Association and the American Academy of Spine Physicians. And he continues his education to remain active and updated in all studies related to neurology, physical rehab, biomechanics, spine conditions, brain injury trauma, and more.



Being a Caregiver Changed My Life For the Better

Being a caregiver was the hardest job I ever did. For 16 years, I served as a caregiver to older adult family members during their last illnesses. The work was exhausting and emotionally draining. I slowly lost my loved ones to Alzheimer’s disease and/or cancer. I struggled to maintain my full-time job while caring for my loved ones. As their health worsened, I gradually eliminated other activities until there was essentially no free time, and not nearly enough sleep. I attended to my loved ones’ physical, emotional, and spiritual needs at end of life. I grieved each loved one who died.

Being a caregiver was the most fulfilling job I ever did. I wouldn’t trade those precious years as a caregiver, or the intense months of end-of-life caregiving, for anything in the world. I learned to carry on, even when I felt empty, depleted, and inadequate. I learned to draw strength from my faith, family, and friends. I learned to show my loved ones that I loved them for who they were, not for what they did. I learned to speak by my actions, when I could no longer reach my loved ones by my words. I learned that the most profound communication is without words. I realized that caregiving was the work that I truly loved—although it was not the work for which I had been educated.

Being a caregiver led to my new career. After my loved ones died, and I was alone, I felt lost. I went to a therapist. He said that I was experiencing normal grief, plus a need for a midlife career change. After he guided me through a long, careful exploration, I realized that I wanted to care for older adults, including those who are nearing end of life; and that I wanted to be a counselor. My therapist suggested that I get a master’s in social work. In the summer between my grad school years, I chose to take a certification course in caring for persons with dementia. I learned that my path from a personal dedication to a professional one was not unusual. Each participant in the class—whether instructor or student—had been a caregiver to family member(s) with dementia, who had since died. Each participant said that caregiving was incredibly hard. And each participant said that they wanted to keep learning skills that would enable them to help persons who are currently suffering from dementia, and to help their caregivers.

May I walk with you? If you have been diagnosed with a serious chronic illness, or if you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with a serious chronic illness, it would be my honor to share your journey with you. It is too hard a journey to travel alone. 

Written by: Catherine C. Stansbury, LMSW, supervised by Melissa L. Gould, LCSW-S. Catherine is a therapist here at Austin Family Counseling. She has a Master of Social Work with clinical specialization, gerontology concentration from Baylor University (specialized training in caring for older adults and their caregivers). She is PAC Certified Independent Consultant, certified by the Positive Approach to Care organization (specialized training in caring for persons with dementia and their caregivers). Catherine is also an Associate member of Aging Life Care Association (a national association of professionals who are dedicated to caring for older adults and their caregivers).


Domestic Violence: What You Should Know and How You Can Help

October is domestic violence awareness month, my goal is to give you all a little information about what violence in relationships might look like, the prevalence, what you can do when you’re experiencing violence, and how to support those who might be. Every relationship is unique whether you are reading this and thinking about your own romantic relationship or someone you care for, it is important to recognize that every situation is different, relationships can be complex, and this in no way summarizes every experience.

Conflict is a normal part of intimate relationships. There are times, however, when conflict can result in violence. Intimate partner violence (IPV) describes numerous behaviors that aim to cause harm to a current or former romantic partner.  Different types of IPV include physical violence, sexual violence, emotional violence/psychological abuse, threats, and stalking. Additional behaviors can include financial abuse (for example preventing a partner from earning an income or obtaining financial resources), and relational aggression (for example damaging a partner’s reputation or hurting their social standing).  

Prevalence Rates

We often think these things won’t happen to us, but no one is immune to the threat of partner violence. In fact IPV occurs across all ages, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, and between both same and opposite sex couples. In the United States rates of IPV vary with about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men reporting they have experienced IPV 1.  These behaviors start early with 1 in 5 female high school students reporting abuse by a romantic partner 2. IPV can have deadly consequences, in fact, it is the leading cause of female homicides and on average nearly three women are murdered a day at the hands of their current or former romantic partner 3

Situational Couple Violence

Fortunately most instances of conflict and most instances of violence do not end in homicide. When we imagine domestic violence we usually picture a partnership with one coercive and controlling partner and another partner that is clearly the victim. While this does happen and can have devastating consequences, it is much more common that a couple engage in what psychologists refer to as “situational couple violence”. This type of violence is less lethal, and usually involves an argument that has spiraled out of control. Situational couple violence is far more likely to be mutual in nature and less frequent. Couples that experience this type of violence in their relationship would likely benefit from counseling services that focus on improving communication between partners, navigating recurring conflict, and tips for de-escalating when emotions run high.  

Tips For De-Escalating Conflict

If you have had this experience some things to help de-escalate conflict include having a negotiated time out, this is a time that you and your partner agree upon to step away from the argument and pick a time to return. Another tip would be to match and de-escalate. When we are confronted with conflict, our default reaction is sometimes to become defensive and in turn get angrier than your partner (match and escalate), this is less than ideal and the trend is a spiral to greater conflict. Instead we should aim to do the opposite, by remaining calm we remind our partner and ourselves, that this is a disagreement, not a fight. Another tip is to hold space, take the time to understand your partner’s perspective and get to the root of the conflict instead of reacting instinctually; get curious about the feelings and concerns of your partner. The goal is always a calm conversation. These are just a few general tips for navigating conflict; additionally speaking with a counselor can likely help to develop specific tips and work through tough issues when it’s hard to handle alone.  

What To Do When Your Partner is Dangerous?

But what happens when this is not possible in your relationship. When it’s not possible to have a calm conversation with your partner. It is still worthwhile to seek counseling. Women with a history of IPV are three times more likely to report that their mental health is poor compared to those who do not have a history of violence. If getting help is possible, it’s worth considering. However, we know that it is not always possible. In relationships with a coercive and controlling partner it may be unlikely that counseling would be considered and may even be seen as a threat; my recommendation for those who feel they are in this situation is to come up with an emergency or safety plan. Have a bag, phone numbers, money and documents, anything you might need. Include information on how to reach a friend, family member, or shelter that you know you can go to. You can even have this bag at another person’s house, if you feel it’s more safe than having it in your own home. Set up a key word with someone you trust so that you can alert him or her if you are in danger. Call the domestic violence hotline for more tips and help with your plan. It doesn’t always feel like it, but there is always a way out. Your safety is incredibly important. Have an emergency plan. 

How Can I Support My Friend?

As you’ve read there are different types of violence and how you respond to your friend might be related to the type of violence they are experiencing. No matter the circumstance, the most important thing you can do for your friend is to be there as nonjudgmental emotional support. Listen to your friend and believe them, it is likely that it is taking your friend a lot of courage to share with you. Offer whatever support you feel comfortable offering, that is likely to be different for everyone and that’s ok. The ways you can help vary but can include anything from suggesting helpful resources to offering to let your friend leave their emergency bag at your house. The level of support you’re able to give might differ, again that is ok.  Follow up with your friend; ask if its ok to follow up, they may want to pretend that they never disclosed, it is not your job to remind them, but as a friend it may be part of your role to follow up. When you do follow up ask “Is now is a good time to talk?’. 

This can be tough for you too. You likely care deeply for your friend, it is important that you get support if you need it too. Any domestic violence hotline available to your friend is also available to you. Additionally counselors are available to help you navigate circumstances, conversations, and feelings that may arise while supporting a friend experiencing IPV. Experiencing IPV and being support for someone who is experiencing IPV can feel incredibly isolating or overwhelming, but you are not alone.

If you or a loved one is experiencing domestic violence please reach out to any of the resources below.

  • The SAFE Alliance
    • (512) 267-7233 24/7 Crisis Hotline
    • (737) 888-7233 24/7 Crisis Text-line
    • 1515 Grove Blvd. Austin, TX 78741
    • http://www.safeaustin.org

Sources

Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S. G., Walters, M. L., Merrick, M. T., . . . Stevens, M. R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Silverman, J. G., Raj, A., Mucci, L. A., & Hathaway, J. E. (2001). Dating violence against adolescent girls and associated substance use, unhealthy weight control, sexual risk behavior, pregnancy, and suicidality. JAMA, 286(5), 572-579.


Violence Policy Center  (2020). When men murder women: An analysis of 2018 homicide data. Washington, DC. With Data from the Federal Bureau of Statistics.

 

Written By: Dr. Monica Yndo. Dr. Monica Yndo is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Concordia University Texas. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from The University of Texas at San Antonio. Her research focuses on communication and conflict in relationships, intimate partner violence, sexual assault, social support, and family dynamics.


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