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Psychologist writes of dealing with Alzheimer's in family

 

By Kate Daly

Special to the Almanac

Constance Vincent's late father suffered from dementia, and now her 95-year-old mother is in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease. At 74, Ms. Vincent, a Menlo Park psychologist, fears she could one day lose her memory, too.

She recently self-published her first book, "Not Going Gently: A Psychologist Fights Back Against Alzheimer's for Her Mother ... and Perhaps Herself."

Ms. Vincent has never been a practicing psychologist, but taught at Chapman and Santa Clara universities. She worked on a book about "how and why some people are capable of changing and others aren't," yet never published it.

After her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2008 and placed in a memory care unit in Nevada, Ms. Vincent talked to her on the phone several times a week "to stimulate her feelings," and then noticed "she was terribly lonely and depressed."

Ms. Vincent started taking notes and doing research on Alzheimer's. The end result is a 168-page paperback she authored using Amazon's CreateSpace print-on-demand service.

The book starts with her mother's decline, and how after moving several times into smaller and smaller places, "she lost all her belongings and felt under-stimulated and locked up."

Her mother had vision problems caused by untreated glaucoma and a cataract, and ended up in a wheelchair because she kept falling. Surgery eventually helped her regain some eyesight and equilibrium.

Ms. Vincent is convinced "so much happened to my mother that should not have happened. There's better care than we're giving."

Alzheimer's disease is worse than cancer, she says, because it can't be cured. "It can be delayed," she adds, "but one must start early because deterioration of the brain starts at least two decades before."

She preaches and practices lifestyle and dietary changes to delay the possible onset of Alzheimer's. For example, she advocates regular aerobic exercise a minimum of 30 minutes a day five days a week.

She also advocates mental exercise. "I think you need something much more purposeful than playing a game," she says, encouraging people to take on new tasks and activities where "you're learning" a new instrument, language, art form, or information.

She follows the Mediterranean diet and advises staying away from "the same things they tells us to avoid to prevent coronary heart disease, strokes and diabetes."

She suggests eating raw seeds and nuts, drinking green tea, and cutting back on animal proteins. She emphasizes the importance of getting plenty of B and D vitamins, glutathione, essential fatty acids and alpha lipoic acids.

Last summer she spent a day at UCSF, participating in a study on the aging brain and was relieved when the tester reassured her she was doing all right.

She has not sought out any genetic testing to see if she is carrying a higher risk for getting Alzheimer's. Instead she plans to continue leading an active life with her husband, Ed.

Go to drclvincent.com for more information on Ms. Vincent. She will speak at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 5, at a Menlo Park Library event in the Menlo Park City Council chambers.

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