R-6-23

Our Aging Mind
Aging means the process of growing old, prevalence of chronic diseases, and the need
for health and social care. I work at a library where I see many different people at come for many
different reasons, maybe to find an informational book or even to find a free-time book. But one
thing all of the people that come into the library have in common is that they are all writing their
own book, the book of life. The ones in their last chapter are the elderly people who have so
much to tell and talking to them feels like what my mentor Gina said was like “talking to a piece
of history”. At the library, I was unable to spend time with these living pieces of history, so one
day I decided to volunteer at a senior home. On my first day volunteering at a senior home I met
different kinds of people with different pasts and stories they wanted to tell. At first, I was
nervous and anxious when I realized that I had to socialize and interact with people I had never
seen in my life. Regretting my decision, I walked into the senior home to a serene atmosphere
that calmed me down. As the coordinator introduced me to everyone, I was proud that I was able
to make such a decision to help bring company to these delightful human beings.
Their friendly vibe made it feel as though I was talking to one of my own grandparents so
much that I was able to hop up, without hesitating, and play a game with these people that I
barely knew. I introduced myself in front of the crowd and was very surprised in my capabilities
as I was able to grab the attention of the crowd. They shocked me even more when they were so

1

R-6-23

fast at solving the games and finding the correct word in a jiffy, quicker than me. Their smiles
captured my attention as if they were trying to tell me that everything will be alright in the end.
Although there are the elderly people that are still doing well, there are also ones that are
wearing down and are trying to be optimistic, but their illness gets in the way. Sunrise Senior
Home in Walnut Creek, CA also assists residents that deal with mental illnesses such as
Dementia and Alzheimer’s. There is an ongoing effort from these seniors that are continuously
trying to overcome these conditions. The change in these people is very noticeable; the ones that
were so lively and independent are now suffering panic attacks right when they wake up because
they don’t know where they are or what they were doing before their nap. This experience has
made me question what happens to the brain when these conditions control the body in old age.
Are there any treatments that can help cure these diseases? Or what can we do to improve the
mental health of these people? These ponderings lead me to my question: What are the mental
conditions associated with geriatrics and what treatments are available to alleviate the
symptoms?
Opening the French doors to the spacious living room of Sunrise Senior Home, I am
flooded with the scent of a warm bread. As I continue walking down the hall, I am able to track
down the location from which the scent was coming from. A so-called bistro near the living room
had staff member serving the residents mouthwatering pastries. The elderly people eating each
piece of the baked dishes one by one, making sure they could get an accurate measure of flavor
in each bite. As I was thinking to myself, “Wow, they are living the life, they probably are very
2

R-6-23

happy”. A friendly elderly lady with a purple cane starts talking to me out of nowhere. She was a
kind lady who seemed like she was almost waiting for a person she could talk to. Quickly eyeing
for the nearest place to sit down, she started presenting me with a verbal timeline of her life.
From her childhood as a little girl to the band concert that was taking place later that day in the
senior home. Rose’s unreserved behavior was not peculiar to me; I was creating a delightful
conversation that I have never experience so far. I was feeling the emotions she was carrying as
she started to discuss her family member. A disappointment and sadness that arises from her eyes
and hushed voice as she speaks of her children. Rose was yearning to see their faces, but they are
not able to understand their mother’s sorrow. They are occupied with their personal lives and are
unaware that they are leaving their dear mother out of the picture, “I do not remember the last
time I talked to them, I do not want to bother them in their own personal lives”. Realizing that
people can look happy on the outside, but be depressed on the inside is undetectable from a
simple observation. To try to remove the gloomy cloud that sits on her head, we start walking to
the living room to work on an activity with large varieties of colors and uplifting flowers. To our
distinct choice, we each create a bundle of bright and mesmerizing flowers, whose scent brings
peace to the soul and mind. Fresh and lively, the flowers appear if as a farmer just gathered them
the very same day. Finishing the creation we made, we began decorating the senior homes with
these vivid flowers to bring back the colors in these people’s lives. As I look at the clock, I
realize that it is my time to go and bid everyone farewell. As I started walking to my car, I
reflected on how these moments are more valuable to capture for oneself than just a project.

3

R-6-23

In order to make myself informed on this topic, I decided to research on how common
geriatric conditions are, which are diseases that are related to older people and the statistics that
shows that this disease is impacting a large population of seniors. A mental and behavioral health
and older American association gathered a study in order to get an understanding on how the
decline in mental health occurs in older people on a larger scale. Fairly recent data presents that
an estimated 20.4 percent of adults aged 65 and older met criteria for a mental disorder,
including dementia (Karel, Gatz, & Smyer 184). Another study states that, “More than 50 percent
of residents have some form of cognitive impairment, diseases that causes memory loss, and
many nursing home patients have personality disorders exacerbated by chronic health problems”
(Gabrel & Jones 147). Estimates provide that 1 in 8 people over 65 have Alzheimer’s disease; a
total of approximately 5.4 million older Americans. This number is likely to grow as the
proportion of the U.S. population over the age of 65 increases in the near future (“2016
Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures”). Let's analyze a much smaller population, in order to get
a better understand these complications.
Many residents in Sunrise that have diseases like Alzheimer’s have special routine and
procedures they are suggested to follow in order to reduce complications. But why are they even
in this position and what effect does it have on an elderly body? Alzheimer's is defined as a
disease that is “progressive and neurodegenerative, which is characterized by memory loss,
language deterioration, impaired ability to mentally manipulate visual information, poor
judgment, confusion, restlessness, and mood swings” (“Alzheimer’s Disease”). First, the
Alzheimer’s affects the brain by making it weak and vulnerable. Alzheimer's disease leads to
4

R-6-23

nerve cell death and tissue loss throughout the brain and this eventually causes the brain to
shrinks greatly, which affects almost all the functions. In an Alzheimer's brain, the cortex withers
up, damaging areas that are responsible for thinking, planning and remembering (“What is
Alzheimer’s”). This explains the symptoms that many people associate with Alzheimer’s, which
are memory loss and confusion. Also, the shrinkage in the hippocampus is drastically impacted,
an area of the cortex that plays a major role in formation of new memories (“What is
Alzheimer’s”). Ventricles, which are fluid-filled spaces within the brain, grow larger, which is
caused when too much cerebrospinal fluid accumulates in these areas (“What is Alzheimer’s”).
The results of this disorder are decreased understanding in thinking and reasoning problems,
difficulty in balancing and bladder control loss too. Many Scientist believe that the cells’ death
and tissue loss is due to plaques, which are abnormal clusters of protein fragments, build up
between nerve cells and dead and dying nerve cells contain tangles, which are made up of
twisted strands of another protein (“What is Alzheimer’s”). Tangles destroy an important cell
transportation mechanism made of proteins. In a healthy transportation system, the system is
organized in orderly parallel strands for food molecules, cell parts and other key vita nutrients
travel along the pathway (“Alzheimer’s Brain Tour). If a person cannot get the vital nutrients to
the brain, this causes inefficiency of brain processes and reactions. A protein called tau helps the
“pathway”of the cell transportation stay in straight line. In the areas where tangles form, the tau
collapses into twisted strands called tangles, which cause the pathway to no longer stay linear
(“Alzheimer’s Brain Tour). They degenerate and now nutrients and other essential supplies can
no longer move through the cells, which eventually die (“Alzheimer’s Brain Tour). “Our results
5

R-6-23

show that plaques may be a more important factor in determining which people are at greater risk
for cognitive impairment or other memory diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease,” said the
study’s author Sam Savage (Savage). This can help determine how small changes in the brain
can be deadly to the normal function of a brain. As we just discussed an Alzheimer’s brain
shows the deterioration of the body and brain, this disease then affects a person’s daily routine.
Alzheimer’s affects general routines that one performs on a daily basis from
remembering to eat to understanding what they are supposed to do next. Even in familiar
settings, a person with Alzheimer’s disease may get lost or become confused. Routine tasks such
as preparing meals, doing laundry, and performing other household chores can be challenging
(“Alzheimer’s Disease”). This is due to the different actions that are occurring in the brain that
are slowing the process of how efficiently the brain works, but note that this kind of condition is
not considered a normal aging brain. As the disorder progresses, people with Alzheimer’s
experience behavioral changes and have trouble interacting in a socially appropriate manner due
to the confusion and aggression to comprehend a simple task. This leads to isolation in the
patients because of their confusion to understand how they should behave.
As the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s leads to isolation from society and depression. As
Alzheimer’s can lead to depression, having more depressive thoughts can worsen the conditions
and symptoms of the disease (“Depression and Alzheimer's”). This can cause the likelihood of
improving one’s health to decrease. The confusion and memory loss makes it risky and
dangerous for one to live alone and to be independent. Therefore, many seniors are suggested to
6

R-6-23

live under supervision of a caretaker or a family member. The dependency feeling due to the
disease creates frustration for the seniors because they are unable to live independently due to the
symptoms the condition causes (McLaughlin et.al). Frustration can be caused by many factors
including physical discomfort, environmental factors and poor communication (“Aggression and
Anger”). If the person with Alzheimer's is aggressive, consider what might be contributing to the
change in behavior.They feel unwanted and a burden to caregiver and family members, they start
to withdraw from social events in hopes to “lessen” embarrassing behavior they believe is not
normal in public (“Communication and Alzheimer's”). Alzheimer’s is a disease that controls a
person’s mind and body, which many patients feels as has taken over and now they have no say
in their body and their decision. The science, psychological, and social reasoning of how
Alzheimer’s affects an elderly person shows how this is not to be assumed as a normal aging
process and how the symptoms related to the disease or also known as Dementia needs to be
closely analyzed (Small).
Dementia is not a disease, but instead it is a group of symptoms that affect mental tasks
like memory and reasoning (“What Is Dementia?”). Dementia can be caused by a variety of
conditions, the most common of which is Alzheimer's disease. The major symptom that is linked
to Dementia is memory loss. Initially, memory lapses may be mistaken for the normal
forgetfulness that often increases as people grow older or when they become much stressed
(“Coping with Memory Loss”). However, in someone with dementia it will gradually become
apparent that the memory problems are becoming more severe and apparent (“Coping with
Memory Loss”). Such types of behavior of forgetting common routine is sometimes incorrectly
7

R-6-23

referred to as "senile dementia," which reflects the formerly widespread but incorrect belief that
serious mental decline is a normal part of aging (“Types of Dementia”). For example, a senior
citizen at Sunrise forgot where her room was located. At first , it seemed normal because one
would assume that it was common for older people. Later, she started panicking and whining
since she couldn’t recall anything, It is here that this behavior is not considered a normal
occurrence. Since Dementia can be so difficult to identify, categorizing the symptoms may make
it easier to identify.
The three most common types of Dementia that we associate with the brain are
Frontotemporal Dementia, Vascular Dementia, and Lewy Body Dementia (“Types of
Dementia”). Frontotemporal Dementia usually affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain,
which includes the front and sides of the brain. These parts of the brain are largely responsible
for language and the ability to plan and organize, and are important in controlling behavior
(“Types of Dementia”). The in this kind of Dementia, irregular proteins stick together and
become poisonous to the brain cells, which eventually kill them and cause the affected areas of
the brain to shrink over time . Vascular dementia is caused when the brain's blood supply is
halted (“Types of Dementia”). The brain needs a continuous supply of oxygen and nutrients from
the blood to work properly. If the supply of blood is restricted or stopped, the brain cells will
begin to die, leading to brain damage (“Types of Dementia”).Most experts estimate that dementia
with Lewy bodies is the third most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer's disease and
vascular Dementia; accounting for 10 to 25 percent of cases ( “Types of Dementia”). Lewy
bodies are small deposits of proteins in nerve cells, which are related to plaques and tangles.
8

R-6-23

People with dementia with Lewy bodies often have memory loss and thinking problems common
in Alzheimer's, but are more likely than people with Alzheimer's to have early symptoms such as
sleep disturbances, visual hallucinations, and muscle roughness or other parkinsonian movement
features ( “Types of Dementia”). Many medical test and analysis have shown plaques and tangles
for people with the different kinds of Dementia. In a study on aging-related diseases, “patients
with Dementia demonstrated a 40-60 percent decline in cognitive speed at age eighty compared
people without the disease” (Merrill 32). As, plaques and tangles come in play again, further
studies on prevention and cures should be conducted in order to stop dramatic cognitive speed
loss. As symptoms and conditions of geriatrics tend to gradually decline the brain’s performance,
treatments are necessary to conduct.
The conditions of Alzheimer’s and Dementia have no apparent cure, but many studies
have shown treatments that have improved the symptoms and alleviated them. One of many
treatments is the option to see a geriatric psychiatrist (“Latest Treatments”). This allows patients
to be able to open up and be able to express their feelings, in order to overcome symptoms such
as isolation. Physiatrist can help plan out routine that the caregivers and the person with the
conditions can do to avoid worsening of the disease.. As Alzheimer’s progresses, brain cells die
and connections among cells are lost, causing cognitive symptoms to worsen. While medications
cannot stop the damage Alzheimer’s causes to brain cells, they may help lessen symptoms for a
limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages among the brain's
nerve cells (Panno 69). For example, patients may be treated with cholinesterase inhibitors to
maximize the half-life of brain neurotransmitters to improve cognitive functioning (Panno 69).
9

R-6-23

Some doctors also prescribe high doses of vitamin E for cognitive changes of Alzheimer's
disease (“Latest Treatments”). Research shows that people who are constantly engaged in social
interaction maintain their brain vitality; therefore support groups can be beneficial to increase
brain activity (“Latest Treatments”). One study reported that free-time activities that combine
physical, mental and social activity are the most likely to prevent dementia (“Remain Socially
Active”). In the study of 800 men and women aged 75 and older, those who were more
physically active, more mentally active or more socially engaged had a lower risk for developing
dementia (“Remain Socially Active”). And those who combined these activities did even better.
Treating such diseases and symptoms can make the aging process more pleasant and less
saddening and painful. Making sure that we take prevention measures will also help avoid
contact of such experience, especially depression associated with aging.
As we age our mind and body start to degrade and lack the luster we had as a young
human being. The following diseases and conditions cause the aging body to go in a direction
that is not considered normal aging. Alzheimer’s and Dementia can take over one’s whole body
and that person can feel hopeless. They see no hope in getting better and are forced to live their
last days in agony. These people do not deserve to finish their last chapter in a sad ending, but
instead a happy ending, where there is hope in getting better. Therefore finding and using the
treatments for such conditions will lessen the percentage of people dealing with the saddening
symptoms that are placed on the patient. Let these diseases not control our souls nor let aging
change our youthful spirit.

10

R-6-23

As I started my journey of finding my answer to my paper, I honestly didn’t know how
the people there would behavior. There are two sections of the senior homes, memory care area
and the resident stay. I usually don’t go to the memory care because the staff people prefer that
only the staff members are there to give these fragile humans their time. One day however, they
told me to join along to color and play games. The first thing that popped in my mind was “did
they just say color?”. Well of course I said yes, but when I walked in, I realized why they were
coloring their time away. These diseases don’t seem severe to an average person, but if you
experienced it first hand, you understand the outcomes. You know how a child needs care and
affection, someone to tell them what is right and wrong, here it was the same case. The staff
members were showing the same affection to the patients, telling them that their coloring was
splendid. Encouraging them each step of the way, even when the seniors were coloring way
outside the line. When the patients heard this encouragement, they looked up and had a very
enthusiastic smile, like a child that just received a big chocolate bar. Some of the patients
couldn’t even comprehend the words coming out of the staffs mouth, but they could comprehend
love. Love that is given to a baby from a mother, no words are understood, but somehow these
small entities are able to grasp the warmth. I can’t say that affection, acknowledgement, and
humanity are the cure to this disease, but it surely can put the pain given by the complications to
an ease.
`

11

R-6-23

Work Cited
Books:
Gabrel, C. & Jones, A. The National Nursing Home Survey: 1997 Summary. National
Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Statistics, 13, 147. Print.
Karel, M. J., Gatz, M., Smyer, M. (2012). Aging and mental health in the decade ahead: What
psychologists need to know. American Psychologist. Vol. 67 (184-198).Print.
Merrill, Gary F. Our Aging Bodies. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2015. Print.
Panno, Joseph. The Science of Aging: Theories and Potential Therapies. New York, NY:
Checkmark, 2007. Print.
Electronic Sources:
"2016 Latest Alzheimer's Facts and Figures." Latest Facts & Figures Report. N.p., 17 Sept.
2013. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
"Alzheimer's Brain Tour." Inside the Brain: An Interactive Tour | Alzheimer's Association.
Alzheimer's Association, n.d. Web. 19 Apr. 2016.
"Alzheimer Disease." Genetics Home Reference. Genetics Home Reference, May 2013. Web. 21
Mar. 2016.

12

R-6-23

"Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia | Alzheimer's Association." Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia
Alzheimer's Association. Alzheimer's Association, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
"Aggression and Anger | Caregiver Center | Alzheimer's Association." Alzheimer's Association.
Alzheimer's Association, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
"Communication and Alzheimer's | Caregiver Center | Alzheimer's Association." Alzheimer's
Association. Alzheimer's Association, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
"Coping with Memory Loss." Natasha Judd. Alzheimer's Society, n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2016.
"Dementia Types | Signs, Symptoms, & Diagnosis." I Have Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's
Association, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
"Depression and Alzheimer's | Caregiver Center | Alzheimer's Association."Alzheimer's
Association. Alzheimer's Association, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
"Latest Treatment Options | Alzheimer's Association." Latest Treatment Options Alzheimer's
Association. Alzheimer's Association, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
McLaughlin Trent, Howard Feldman, Howard Fillit, Mary Sano, Frederick Schmitt, Paul Aisen
"Dependence as a Unifying Construct in Defining Alzheimer’s Disease Severity."
Alzheimer's & Dementia : The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association. U.S. National
Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.

13

R-6-23

"Psychology Today." Alzheimer's Disease. Psychology Today, 27 Dec. 2015. Web. 20 Mar.
2016
"Remain Socially Active | Alzheimer's Association." Remain Socially Active | Alzheimer's
Association. Alzheimer's Association, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Savage, Sam. "Plaque Build-Up In Brain Could Be More Dangerous Than Alzheimer’s."
Healthy

Orbit RSS. Healthy Orbit, 16 Oct. 2012. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.

Small, G. W. "Diagnosis and Treatment of Alzheimer Disease." JAMA: The Journal of the
American Medical Association 278.16 (1997): 1363-371. Alzheimer's Association.
Alzheimer's Association. Web. 20 Mar. 2016
"Types of Dementia" What Causes Dementia? NHS Choices, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
“What is Alzheimer’s?” Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia | Alzheimer's Association."
Alzheimer's Disease. Alzheimer's Association, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
"What Is Dementia?" Dementia – Signs, Symptoms, Causes, Tests, Treatment, Care. Alzheimer's
Association, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2016.
Primary Sources:
Mattson, Gina. "Geriatrics Experience." Personal interview. 2 Mar. 2016.
Rose. "Personal Life." Personal interview. 11 Mar. 2016.

14

R-6-23

15