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Can Major Lifestyle Modifications MEND Alzheimer’s Memory Loss?

June 16, 2016

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Metabolic Enhancement for Neurodegeneration (MEND) Study Raises Questions

A program developed by a UCLA neurology researcher claims to stop and even reverse the memory problems associated with Alzheimer’s, the neurodegenerative brain disease.

In a small study on the Metabolic Enhancement for Neurodegeneration (MEND) program, UCLA’s Dr. Dale Breseden claims that its ten participants with early Alzheimer’s presented “unprecedented” improvement in cognitive function.

But the MEND treatment protocol involves so many factors it may be difficult to determine which ones are effective.

The MEND treatment is essentially a 36-point therapeutic program that addresses the patient’s diet, sleep, exercise, intake of certain medicines and vitamins and brain stimulation.  Each of the ten patients recruited for the study was given a MEND program custom-tailored for him or her.

According to the researchers, the custom programs are most effective because Alzheimer’s is a “custom” disease that affects each patient differently.  They say that combining lifestyle and dietary changes with use of the latest medicines is by far the best way to treat Alzheimer’s.

But the complex lifestyle changes of the custom MEND approach, which include elimination of processed foods, regular exercise, yoga and medication to reduce stress, melatonin to extend sleep, supplements such as fish oil, vitamins D3 and B12, and hormone replacement therapy, would make it hard for most people to access financially and logistically.

The study, published June 12 in Aging, also didn’t have a control group using a placebo treatment for comparison purposes.  It also remains unknown how long its observed improvements will be maintained.

Bottom line?  To date, nothing has been proven to prevent Alzheimer’s.  Medications are available but they are expensive, may delay progression marginally, and have side effects.

Home healthcare industry facing another Medicare cut

In late June, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a planned 1% cut, totaling $180 million, to the reimbursement rates to be paid to Medicare home healthcare providers in 2017.

Under an Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate, CMS has trimmed Medicare reimbursement rates to home healthcare providers over the past three years to compensate for overpayments for home health services dating back to 2000.  Payments were cut by $260 million in 2016, $60 million in 2015 and $200 million in 2014.

Agencies in some areas of the country, such as New York and Oregon, are having a particularly tough time, according to William Dombi, vice president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice.

New York Medicare-certified providers have been operating at a loss on Medicare payments for several years in a row, said Roger Noyes, a spokesman for the Home Care Association of New York State.  

According to Noyes, 60 percent of New York agencies have reported reducing staff or cutting other costs to function, and half have used a line of credit or borrowed money for operating expenses over the last two years.  Some have even had to close, while others have cut staffing or are looking at consolidating.

According to the CMS, about 11,400 home health agencies nationwide currently care for Medicare beneficiaries, down from 11,781 in 2014.