Tag Archives: Ideas to Float On

Alzheimer’s and Other Puzzles: Solvitur Ambulando

This week gave me too much to think about. News of a friend’s death and a child’s grave illness shook my composure and cast Mom’s disease in new light. To make sense of tragedy, I employ the Roman dictum Solvitur Ambulando.”


In Latin, that phrase means “it is solved by walking.” Long walks help me find peace even when answers are elusive. Our society embraces a form of this practice with events like the Alzheimer’s Walk. These marches allow families to take strides that promote public awareness about the disease until a cure is found. My sister is doing her part today by walking for the Philadelphia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

Solvitur ambulando also offers a method for reflecting on what you know until clarity emerges. My morning walk gave me time to consider a week of sad revelations. A friend and beloved neighbor was recently killed during a freak accident at his house. He was the kind of guy who expertly tiled my bathroom when a contractor let me down. Just last month, he installed my new washing machine after the delivery guy left before finishing the job. Rocco was a generous person who shared his skills freely with many people. His death at age 47 leaves a huge gap in the life of his 3-year old son.

On the heels of this news, I learned that the 7-year old daughter of someone in my yoga class has been diagnosed with a rare cancer that has no cure or reliable treatment. The little girl’s window on life is estimated at two years, maximum. Events will help raise money for her medical costs, but consolation for her family will be much harder to come by.

When stacking situations like these against the troubles in my own life, I feel fortunate — yet perplexed. It’s always seemed so unfair that my mother got a rare form of dementia after taking such good care of her health. But despite this terrible development, we have been blessed to know her for decades and she can still experience joy. It can be a struggle to take care of Mom, but somehow our problems feel contained and manageable compared to these other tragedies.

I know that many caregivers face greater challenges than mine and I hope all of you find the strength you need to surmount the hurdles in your life. Maybe you can benefit from the ‘solvitur ambulando‘ practice. Walking doesn’t always bring answers, but it usually offers some relief from distress. As you shoulder your own burdens, pax vobiscum — peace be with you all.

Can Sleep Help Prevent Dementia?

The passing years have taught me that night time interruptions turn me into a monster and sound sleep boosts my mood. Now it seems that the crankiness caused by sleep deprivation has deep implications for caregivers. Sleeping well may help prevent dementia. And not sleeping?….You guessed it.

#sleep and dementia

Results of a recent study carried out by Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, professor of neurosurgery at University of Rochester Medical Center for Translational Neuromedicine, suggests that sleep time is when our brains clean themselves. Nedergaard says that, “The restorative nature of sleep appears to be the result of the active clearance of the by-products of neural activity that accumulate during wakefulness.”

Details of the study appeared in an article by Mary Elizabeth Dallas, a reporter for Health Day. The writer explains that by using new imaging technologies, researchers were able to examine the brains of living mice to monitor the waste removal process that occurs during sleep. Dallas writes that investigators “discovered the brain has its own unique process, known as the glymphatic system, that is guarded by a complex gateway known as the blood-brain barrier.” By pumping cerebral spinal fluid through brain tissue, this system pushes waste into the blood stream which carries it to the liver. An interesting aspect of this process is that the brain actually uses more energy when it’s asleep. In fact, brain activity in study mice was 10 times greater during slumber.

Study authors explained that pumping cerebral spinal fluid is an energy intensive activity which may only be possible during sleep. It’s the rare time when the brain isn’t actively processing information. Sleeping brains also removed much more amyloid-beta, the plaque-building protein that’s been identified as the probable cause of dementia. Consequently, if care responsibilities are keeping you awake at night, you are not giving your brain a chance to do a critical job.

Professor Nedergaard observed that the study’s findings “have significant implications for treating ‘dirty brain’ disease like Alzheimer’s.” She hopes that further research will be able to help us understand how the brain’s cleaning system works and how we can boost its efficiency. My gut tells me she’s onto something important.  I know that good sleep enhances my health — and I’ve often thought of dementia as the ultimate “dirty rat”.