The following article summarizes the original event which is listed below the summary.

Explaining the brain

Tue, March 19 2024, 11am

First, the good news. We don’t use the word “senile” anymore. Next, the bad news. Cognitive impairment will happen to many of us as we age—but not all of us. UMRA member Paul Schanfield, MD, a retired neurologist who remains active as a clinical professor at the University of Minnesota, shared definitions, symptoms, and solutions for cognitive changes related to aging during UMRA’s March 19 Living Well Workshop. 

For example, instead of “senility” the term “dementia” is used today to describe the impairment of cognition that interferes with daily living. Often, relatives and friends observe the signs before the patient. Early signs include attention span loss, decline of executive function, diminished judgment, lack of spatial orientation, and lack of insight. There are multiple types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Schanfield emphasized the importance of a healthy diet, good hearing, and sufficient sleep to postponing cognitive decline. Maintaining relationships, lifelong curiosity, education, and hobbies are also important. Schanfield noted that UMRA membership is a great way to remain active. 

There are treatable causes of cognitive impairment, including vitamin deficiencies and low thyroid function. And there are Alzheimer’s disease medications, although some drugs have possible side effects and/or provide only temporary improvements. There are no cures—yet. 

Caregivers need support

If you have a family member with dementia, Schanfield recommended that caregivers avoid arguing or identifying mistakes. Don’t ask if the patient remembers an event, or that a loved has died. Caregivers also need support and respite, so take care of yourself, too. There are many levels of housing and medical assistance for both patient and caregivers. Organizations including the Alzheimer’s Foundation, Elder Voice Family Advocates, and Jewish Family and Children's Service of Minneapolis can provide guidance and help. 

Schanfield’s presentation, like his book, A Migraine in Room 3, a Stroke in Room 4, included heartwarming and amusing quotes from his patients. As one patient said, “I’m not so bad off, so I probably have Half-zheimer’s disease, not All-zheimer’s.” 

Humor is valuable in dealing with all of the challenges of aging. 

—Julie Sweitzer, UMRA president-elect and Program Committee chair

Event recording
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Alzheimer’s, dementia, and the brain explained

Tue, March 19 2024, 11am
Paul Schanfield, MD
Neurologist and physician educator
University of Minnesota

Event to be held via Zoom.

Do you ever wonder whether forgetting names is a sign of impending Alzheimer’s? Or whether it is OK to forget names and nouns but not verbs? All sorts of tales are floating around regarding dementia. So, for the UMRA Living Well Workshop on March 19, we thought we’d go to an expert for some answers. 

UMRA member Paul Schanfield, MD, a “neurologist, physician educator, father, grandfather, and author” as he describes himself, will explain how our brains work and how dementia develops in some people. These are complicated topics, but Schanfield has spent his professional career learning how to share difficult diagnoses with patients and families. He teaches medical students and residents how to do the same. Schanfield has also taught and offered practical medical advice about the brain to older adults through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. During the UMRA workshop, he will simplify common neurological conditions related to dementia, including Alzheimer’s, and guide us through identifying symptoms, prevention, treatment, and acceptance. 

Schanfield retired from private practice in 2015, after 40 years, but continues to teach medical students and residents, primarily as a clinical professor of neurology at the University of Minnesota, where he also serves on the Medical School Admissions Committee. He also teaches at United Family Physicians in St. Paul.

He has received numerous honors, including the first-ever University of Minnesota Neurology Community Educator of the Month Award in July 2017, and teaching awards from the University family practice residencies at the M Health Fairview Bethesda and Phalen Village Clinics in St. Paul. In 2018, Schanfield was recognized as the Community Teacher of the Year by the United Family Medicine Residency Program. 

Schanfield’s book, A Migraine in Room 3, A Stroke in Room 4: A Physician Examines His Profession, was released in 2019.

Please register for this workshop and join us via Zoom at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, March 19.

If you have preliminary questions for our guest speaker, please email them to Wendy Lougee at [email protected]. She will be moderating the question and answer session during the workshop.

—Julie Sweitzer, president-elect and Program Committee chair 

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