Alzheimer's and Dementia Archives | Wesley Glen Retirement Community

What is a “Continuum of Care”?

If you have been looking at various senior living options, including continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, also called life plan communities), you have likely heard or seen the term “continuum of care” used. It’s an important concept when it comes to the variety of services provided by retirement communities, but it is also a term that is unclear to many prospective residents. So, let’s dig in and answer the commonly asked question: What is a “continuum of care”?

First, the definition…

A “continuum of care” refers to the increasing intensity of healthcare services that a person may need as they age.

Envision a spectrum. On the left, the spectrum begins with independent living–a person who is more or less self-sufficient and able to safely live on their own. The spectrum then progresses to the right to include personal care, assisted living, and/or memory care–this includes people who need help with activities of daily living (ADLs) like dressing or bathing, and/or have memory issues as the result of age-related cognitive decline or conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease; depending on the individual’s needs, it may or may not be safe for them to live alone. Then, on the far right-hand side of the spectrum would be skilled care and skilled nursing care –for people who have major health issues or cognitive decline and are no longer able to care for themselves.

A closer look at the phases of the care continuum

Independent living

Independent living is an option for seniors who are able to perform ADLs with little to no assistance and who do not require on-going medical support. They may, however, need occasional assistance with “instrumental activities of daily living” (IADLs), which include things like housekeeping or household maintenance. Thanks to ever-improving assistive technologies, combined with other support devices like walkers, wheelchairs, ramps, and rails, many seniors are able to remain in the independent living category for longer than in previous generations.

Personal care and assisted living

Assisted living (also called “custodial care” or “personal care”) is non-medical care services for people who require help with one or more of the six main ADLs: bathing, continence, dressing, eating, toileting, and/or transferring (walking). Medication management may also be needed. These services are often first provided in the senior’s own home, but as a higher level of help is required, moving to an assisted living facility may be more practical.

It’s important to note that assisted living is for non-medical care. While in most cases, assisted living recipients are not able to live fully independently, they do not need the type of around-the-clock medical care provided by a skilled nursing facility. But it’s worth noting that some assisted living providers are more equipped than others to serve residents with higher care needs–approaching what you might find in a skilled nursing facility, but stopping short of the type of medical care services that require a license.

Memory care

Memory care is an increasingly common component of both assisted living and skilled care as more and more seniors are diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; there are even dedicated memory care centers available in some areas. Typically, memory care is offered in a community setting with the level of care increasing as the illness progresses, often leading to 24-hour care.

Skilled care and skilled nursing care

Encompassing both healthcare and rehabilitative services, skilled care can include things like nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. This type of patient management, observation, and/or evaluation is typically administered by licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs)–not usually by registered nurses (RNs).

A step up from basic skilled care is skilled nursing care, which is provided by registered nurses. These nurses give hands-on care in many cases–performing tasks such as administering IV drugs or giving shots.

Sometimes referred to as nursing homes, skilled healthcare centers employ LPNs, LVNs, and RNs. There are also licensed home healthcare providers who deliver these types of healthcare and rehabilitative care in seniors’ homes.

Where retirement communities fall on the continuum

If you are considering a move to a retirement community, it’s important to understand exactly what you are getting for your money. Yes, you want to look at perks like amenities and location, but one of the most important factors that distinguish one senior living community from another is which phase or phases along the continuum of care the community is able to serve.

Some retirement communities are focused on specific points along the continuum of care–perhaps it is an independent living community, or maybe it’s an assisted living residence. Others are equipped to offer services spanning the entire continuum. By definition, CCRCs fall into this latter category, providing their residents with a complete continuum of care–from independent living to skilled nursing care.

The progressive services offered by CCRCs allow residents to receive whatever level of care they need, whenever they need it. Services, amenities, and lifestyle are all important considerations, but for many CCRC residents, it is the availability of a continuum of care that is their community’s most valuable asset.  Of course, this leads to other important considerations, such as the availability and quality of care services.

 

The above article was written by Brad Breeding of myLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.


Game On: Can Brain Games Improve Your Memory?

There are a number of so-called “brain game” products on the market these days. These typically are computer or smartphone/tablet-based games that claim they can help improve seniors’ cognitive function and memory. But do they really work? Could playing video games be the secret to decreasing the prevalence of neuro-degenerative conditions like dementia? And what about things like crossword puzzles and sudoku—can they help seniors stay mentally sharp?

Aging and brain function

It is a normal part of the aging process to experience some decline in the number of neural synapses within the brain, which are imperative to memory and cognitive function. There are also conditions like dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) or Parkinson’s disease that cause more severe and debilitating cognitive decline among older people.

Some of the causes behind cognitive decline may be preventable by making lifestyle changes like managing weight, staying physically active, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and managing stress. Keeping the mind active—pursuing continuing education opportunities, or learning a new skill, a new language, or how to play an instrument—may even aid with the formation of new neural networks in seniors’ brains.

Inconclusive studies

You’ve heard the saying “use it, or lose it”; this axiom may be applicable to the brain.

The 1995 MacArthur Study, one of largest longitudinal studies of the aging process, found that among the octogenarians in their study sample, those who were more physically and mentally active—frequently doing activities like crossword puzzles, reading, and playing bridge—also had the highest cognitive abilities. However, a study conducted by neuroscientists at University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University found no significant difference between the memory function of seniors who played “brain games” and the control group that didn’t play the games.

Still another recent study found that it’s not enough just to use your brain; you have to challenge it by learning something unfamiliar.

University of Texas at Dallas researchers randomly assigned 221 adults, ages 60 to 90, to participate in a particular type of activity for 15 hours a week for a three-month period. Some were assigned to learn a new skill — digital photography, quilting, or both. Others were told to engage in more commonplace activities at home, like listening to classical music and doing crossword puzzles. And some seniors were assigned to a group that focused on social interactions, field trips, and entertainment.

At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that the seniors who were in the group that learned new skills showed quantifiable improvements in memory, as compared to those who engaged in the non-demanding mental activities at home or the purely social group.

So, while the research is thus far inconclusive on this topic, it appears that the most beneficial mental stimulation may involve learning new information or skills, rather than just recalling what we already know.

And this stands to reason. Think of the brain as being like a computer. Learning something new—like a new language or skill—stimulates the brain and helps form new neural pathways. It’s sort of like adding new software or a new hard drive to a computer, increasing its functional and memory capacity. By comparison, activities like trivia or crossword puzzles simply require you call upon data that already exists in the computer that is your brain.

Gaming for the senior set

Video and computer games are getting increasingly popular among seniors. Entertainment Software Association research from 2018 found that a quarter of people over the age of 50 play video games on a regular basis—a number that is trending upward.

If you’re a senior who is interested in diving into the gaming world with the goal of improving your brain health, again, games that teach new information—versus recalling data you already know—are believed to be best. However, there are also many fun games that get your body moving, offering the added benefit of improving your physical fitness, balance, and cardiovascular health (which is also good for your brain!).

Computer games and apps for smartphones/tablets

There are more and more computer-based games, as well as apps that can be downloaded to a smartphone or tablet (such as an iPad), that have educational value, which may be beneficial for seniors’ brains.

For example, programs like Rosetta Stone, and games such as Lingo Arcade, Influent, and MindSnacks can help you learn a new language, and Rocksmith can teach you how to play the guitar. If you’re interested in learning how to do computer programming, CodeMonkey will educate you on the basics of coding languages like HTML5 and JavaScript.

History buffs may enjoy games like Crusader King or Civilization VI, which combine strategic thinking with history lessons. There are even flight simulator games that can teach you how to fly an airplane!

Gaming consoles

There are numerous options when it comes to gaming consoles, from Xbox to PlayStation to Nintendo. Many of the games for these systems provide purely entertainment value, and there’s nothing wrong with that! But there are also several games that are effective at getting your body moving while you have fun. As an added benefit, these gaming systems are enjoyable for people of all ages and can be a great activity for grandparents to share with their grandchildren.

You may have heard of a Wii (pronounced like “we”). It is an interactive gaming console sold by Nintendo, and it’s become all the rage in many senior living communities. The Wii Fit system bundle comes with a balance board “peripheral” (add-on equipment) that is used in many Wii games to track your movements, allowing the game to make more personalized recommendations.

Wii Fit can be used for activities like yoga, balance games, and aerobic and strength training exercises. The Wii Sports Resort game offers numerous virtual activities that can get seniors moving like golf, tennis, and bowling.

Virtual reality

The lines are increasingly getting blurred between gaming and virtual reality (VR). VR is where a user dons headphones and a special mask that displays various simulations of three-dimensional images that can be interacted with by the user in a seemingly real way.

Such VR technology is another high-tech tool that is being used in several new applications for seniors. There are VR uses for memory care patients, with programs designed to stimulate the brain, spur memories, or encourage anxiety reduction. There are also physical therapy and pain management applications for VR.

The future of gaming in senior living communities

It is likely that gaming will play a bigger role in the future of the CCRC industry. It’s even possible to imagine a time when CCRCs and other senior living communities might create on-site gaming centers where residents can enjoy some friendly competition with each other. Whether it’s innovative uses for Wii Fit exercise groups or a fierce Crusader King virtual battle, residents can benefit from the physical activity and/or mental stimulation offered by these games in a fun and social atmosphere (interpersonal interactions which offer their own health benefits for the seniors).

But the bottom line is that, based on current research, the types of games that are believed to be most beneficial for seniors’ cognitive health are those that involve educational elements. So instead of a word puzzle, sudoku, or fantasy-adventure game, chose one that will help you learn Italian, take up the virtual guitar, or try your hand at computer programming.

And also don’t underestimate the “old-fashioned” way of learning: from a book or in a classroom-type setting. Most CCRCs provide residents with opportunities for this type of continuing education on an array of topics. Some even have lifelong learning partnerships with nearby universities, allowing residents to audit college courses. It might not be as snazzy as the latest computer or video game, but this type of learning still offers seniors potential benefits to their brains.

 

 

The above content is legally licensed for use by myLifeSite.

 


Making the Transition for a Loved One to Memory Care Support

Caring for a parent or loved one with memory loss is no easy task. While it is a commendable and selfless responsibility to take on, with it comes many obstacles and challenges. With the numerous life adjustments that need to be made such as priorities shifting, adapting your home for safety precautions, and the emotional toll that it can have on everyone included, it is often found that considering a transition to a community with memory care support makes a lot of sense. At all of The Wesley Communities, we have a trusted team to help make your transition as easy as possible while putting your needs and the needs of your loved one first. Below, we’ve compiled some helpful tips you may find useful.

  • Research facilities of interest and be transparent about your desires and concerns. Talk to your loved one and family first and then, make sure to address all areas of importance with administrators, residency counselors, and all others who will be part of this important transition. By knowing the ins and outs of each community you are considering, you will feel more comfortable that you are making the right choice with the best facility for your loved one.
  • Once you do select the facility that is right for your loved one, discuss it sensitively and positively with them. Especially for someone with memory loss, having a conversation of this subject matter may bring fear, anger, and sadness. Try and speak calmly with your loved one and share with them all of the opportunities and benefits they will have available to them.
  • Give the staff useful information and hobbies of your loved one. By letting those at the facility know what interests your loved one has and what brings them joy, they will be able to make the transition as positive as possible. This will better allow them to have activities, books, art and crafts, etc. prepared ahead of time that your loved one will be happy to have.
  • Work with staff to have some of your family member’s favorite foods or snacks available. Along the lines of letting staff know what interests your loved one has, having some treats they enjoy will help as well. If they love your homemade chocolate chip cookies, work with the staff to have some available in the first week after moving.
  • Plan to take some time off from work or other demands to prioritize the move. As with any move, planning is a large portion of it. If you are employed, try and work with your team or save some vacation time so that you can take a few days off to focus on moving your loved one. By your loved one having you every step of the way, they will feel more at ease.
  • Bring a sense of home to their new home. Decorate your loved ones home or create shadow boxes to make it feel familiar. By including your loved one’s favorite home items and pictures of family and friends, their new space will feel comfortable, familiar, and calming.
  • Reassure and be there for your loved one. In many cases, you will need to remind your loved one or re-explain the transition they will be making. Of course, this can be difficult and emotional for both you and them. The memory care staff at the facility you choose will be able to assist with this conversation to try and make it as positive and comforting as possible. Make sure to try and reassure your loved one that this transition will be a good one and again, share with them the great opportunities they will have like making new friends and being able to participate in fun activities.

 Making the transition for a loved one to memory care brings many emotions, challenges, and logistics but for many, it can also be a very beneficial decision for those with memory loss and their caregivers. By working together as a family, and with the supportive staff at the facility you choose, you will find the comfort and peace of mind you deserve.

 

The above article was written by The Wesley Communities’ Marketing Communications Coordinator, Allie DeBor.


How CCRCs Can Ease Retirement-Related Fears

One subject that is frequently voiced among prospective residents of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs or “life plan communities”) revolves around the stress associated with envisioning and planning for the future, and indeed, it can feel like a daunting task since none of us have the luxury of a crystal ball. The results of a recent survey speak directly to some of these concerns.
Retirement worries
The study was conducted by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS), a division of the nonprofit Transamerica Institute, which strives to educate people on retirement security trends in the U.S. This annual survey asked over 5,000 Americans in the workforce about their top retirement/aging-related concerns. Here were the top five responses:

  1. Outliving savings/investments (51 percent)
  2. Social Security will be reduced or cease to exist in the future (47 percent)
  3. Declining health that requires long-term care (45 percent).
  4. Cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease (35 percent)
  5. Lack of adequate and affordable healthcare (32 percent)

You can view the complete TCRS study here.
These results run in parallel to a separate survey conducted by Merrill Lynch in 2013 in partnership with Age Wave, and it highlights respondents’ biggest concerns about living a long lifetime. The results were as follows:

  1. Serious health problems (72 percent)
  2. Not being a burden on family (60 percent)
  3. Running out of money to live comfortably (47 percent)
  4. Being lonely (26 percent)
  5. Not having a purpose (21 percent)

You can view the full Merrill Lynch/Age Wave survey here.
Isn’t it more than a tad ironic that while most people hope to live a long life, simultaneously, they are worried about what will happen if that wish comes to fruition?
Useful perspective for financial planners
We hear a lot of talk about the importance of having enough money for retirement–401(k)s, IRAs, etc.–and of course saving should be a crucial part of anyone’s long-term retirement plan. But for me, the most striking aspect of the two studies described above is that several of the concerns voiced by the surveys’ respondents are not related to money or retirement savings, at least not directly.
From the standpoint of financial advisors, that’s a really significant finding. Understanding clients’ pain points around retirement planning can help financial professionals offer better guidance on the issues that matter most to soon-to-be retirees. After all, one of the motivations for planning for the future is to alleviate some of the anxiety about the unknown–and these studies show that people aren’t just worried about their bank account balance. So, financial planners would benefit from understanding the various options, such as continuing care retirement communities and other senior living options that are available for their clients to plan for potential age-related health issues like cognitive and physical decline that could necessitate long-term care.
Alleviating worries for retirees-to-be
But these study results also are noteworthy for people who are themselves approaching retirement age. Perhaps you’re diligently saving to prepare for the future, but it’s those health and wellness “unknowns” that are keeping you up at night. That’s where a CCRC may become a viable option worth considering.
Planning for an eventual move to a CCRC can allay many of the worries that people express again and again about their retirement years (as evidenced by the aforementioned surveys). CCRCs offer their residents access to a continuum of progressive care services ranging from independent living to full-time skilled nursing care…and everything in between…all within the same community campus. Many CCRCs also provide memory care services for people experiencing a cognitive decline related to conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This range of care affords tremendous peace of mind for CCRC residents, knowing that they will have ready-access to the level of care they need, if and when they need it, and knowing they will not become a burden to their adult children.
Feeling more confident about future unknowns
It’s understandable and normal to have some worries associated with the aging process and the prospect of retirement­–after all, you’ve never done this before! But many points of anxiety can be alleviated through proper financial planning and understanding the advantages of senior living options like CCRCs, which include the necessary facilities and skilled caregivers to attend to your potential physical or mental health needs down the road.
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The above article was written by Brad Breeding of myLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.
 


What to Look for in Memory Care Communities

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or is faced with another serious memory loss condition, there is a good chance they will require professional memory care services at some point. Finding a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, or “life plan” community) with memory care will make life for the patient, loved ones, and caregivers more comfortable and enjoyable.
Many CCRCs and assisted living communities have memory care divisions within their nursing facilities, and today, more and more providers are adding these programs. Beyond this, nursing homes that work exclusively in memory care also are becoming more popular.
What is memory care?
Memory care is a unique type of care provided to patients with varying degrees of Alzheimer’s or dementia (or any other memory loss condition). This care involves a very structured and routine-based lifestyle in order to create a more comfortable and enjoyable day-to-day experience for the patient.
Days typically consist of a set schedule, maximized security, and activities that exercise the brain to reduce the many stresses of these diseases. The newest memory care centers are helping to make sure that their setting feels like a home, with common areas such as kitchens, large dining tables, and living areas.
Memory care communities also have a culture of recognizing the resident not merely as a person who has lost abilities but rather as someone who still has the ability to feel love, happiness, friendship, and caring. Of course, the degree to which this type of setting is most appropriate does depend in large part on the level of need and care required by the patient.
Choosing a memory care facility
Memory-loss conditions are mostly irreversible, especially Alzheimer’s. So, memory care programs or facilities are not cures, but they do strive to make life with these diseases much less daunting for patients, their caregivers, and loved ones.
Memory care works to slow the progression of the disease and provide the patient with a sense of purpose and identity—a reason to live and enjoy living. To achieve these goals, some important features to look for in memory care are:
Security: Dementia and Alzheimer’s patients often wander, and this can be dangerous. Look for a center that a) allows wandering to a healthy extent, and b) keeps wandering patients safe with extra security.
Support: Residents in memory care may become agitated. Look for memory care facilities that have ways of treating patients’ agitation with appropriate coping skills. Some even have sensory rooms that are designed to induce feelings of calm with weighted blankets, scents of lavender, and other calming tools.
Community: There are many levels of memory loss, and it is important for patients to interact with other patients who are at similar levels of memory loss. Similarly, patients should be engaging in activities that not only match their skill level but also their individual interests.
Medication control: Many dementia patients are over-medicated in assisted living facilities. To avoid this, find a facility with around-the-clock service from licensed nurses as well as trained caregivers. With more attention to everyday care, often less medication is required.
Sensory programming: While memory is decaying, the senses are still alive and well. Choose care centers that take this into account and capitalize on the use of senses in their day-to-day programs.
The above content is legally licensed for use by  myLifeSite.  


Nutrition for Dementia and Alzheimer's

Dementia is the loss of memory, cognitive reasoning, awareness of environment, judgment, abstract thinking, or the ability to perform activities of daily living. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that involves slowly developing symptoms that get worse over time. Dementia resulting from vitamin deficiencies, or caused by underlying disease (such as brain tumors and infections) may be reversible. Other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, are not reversible, and are often treated with medications.
As dementia progresses, changes can occur that may affect someone’s ability to obtain adequate food and nutrients to maintain their health status. Such changes will vary depending on the type of dementia, as well as the stage of the disease. Some of these changes include:

  • Altered sense of smell and/or taste
  • Inability to recognize food or distinguish between food and non-food items
  • Poor appetite
  • Chewing difficulties (pocketing food, repetitive chewing, etc.)
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Forgetting to eat
  • Shortened attention span leading to a loss of interest in eating
  • Difficulty using eating utensils
  • Increase in pacing or walking
  • Drug side effects

The symptoms of dementia vary, and the treatment and nutrition care should be determined by these symptoms. Some techniques to consider for continued delivery of food and nutrition include:

  • Provide kind reminders to eat.
  • Provide meals in a low stress environment, minimizing noise and visual
  • distractions.
  • Develop a meal routine that can be repeated over time, to provide meals at
  • similar times, or even similar meals every day.
  • Have someone eat with the individual to provide assistance and reminders
  • on how to eat.
  • Have family join the individual at meal times to encourage eating.
  • Pay attention to other health issues, such as infections, fevers, injuries, or
  • other illnesses, as these may increase food and fluid needs.
  • Provide well-liked food and drinks to encourage eating.
  • Limit the amount of food served at one time so as not to overwhelm.

Provide finger-type foods for individuals struggling to use utensils:

  • Hamburgers
  • French fries
  • Carrot sticks

Check with a dietitian or doctor for any specific dietary needs.


Common Types of Memory Lapses

It’s normal to forget things from time to time, and it’s normal to become somewhat forgetful as we age.  But how much forgetfulness is too much?  How can you tell if your memory lapses are part of the aging process, or if they are a symptom of something more serious?
We’ve all misplaced keys, blanked on an acquaintance’s name, or forgotten a phone number. When we’re young, we do not pay attention to these lapses, but as we age, sometimes we worry about what they mean.  While it’s true that certain brain changes are inevitable when it comes to aging, major memory problems are not one of them.  That’s why it’s important to know the differences between normal age-related forgetfulness and the symptoms that may indicate a developing cognitive problem.
People with some forgetfulness can use a variety of techniques that may help them stay healthy and maintain their memory and mental skills.  Here are some tips:

  • Plan tasks, make “to do” lists, and use memory aids, like notes and calendars. Some people find they remember things better if they mentally connect them to other meaningful things, such as a familiar name, song, book or TV show.
  • Develop interests or hobbies and stay involved in activities that can help the mind and body.
  • Engage in physical activity and exercise. Several studies have associated exercise (such as walking) with better brain function, although more research is needed to say for sure whether exercise can help to maintain brain function or prevent or delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
  • Limit alcohol use. Although some studies suggest that moderate alcohol use has health benefits, heavy or binge drinking over time can cause memory loss and permanent brain damage.
  • Find activities, such as exercise or a hobby, to relieve feelings of stress, anxiety or depression. If these feelings last for a long time, talk with your doctor.

If you’re concerned that you or someone you know has a serious memory problem, talk with your doctor.  He or she may be able to diagnose the problem or refer you to a specialist, such as a neurologist or geriatric psychiatrist.  When it comes to memory, it’s “use it or lose it.”  Just as physical exercise can make and keep your body stronger, mental exercise can make your brain work better and lower risks of mental decline.


Keep Your Brain Healthy

Can Alzheimer’s disease be prevented? Researchers across the world are racing towards a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. But as prevalence rates climb, the focus has broadened from treatment to prevention strategies. What they’ve discovered is that it may be possible to prevent or delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias through a combination of healthy habits. Most causes of dementia are not preventable. However, many drug companies, foundations, and non-profit organizations are all actively researching ways to slow, delay, and prevent dementia. Many are particularly focused on Alzheimer’s disease.
Vascular dementia is caused by a series of small strokes. There are steps you can take to reduce your risk of stroke. If you smoke, quit. If you have high blood pressure and/or diabetes, talk with your doctor about getting those under control. Many studies strongly suggest that a low-fat diet and regular exercise may also reduce the risk of vascular dementia.
Some conditions mimic dementia or have dementia-like systems. Those include changes in blood sugar, sodium and calcium, as well as low vitamin B-12 levels. If caught early, these may be treatable. If you have symptoms, don’t delay seeing your doctor.
Diet
Evidence suggests that eating a Mediterranean diet may decrease your risk of developing AD. A Mediterranean diet consists of little red meat and large amounts of the following:

  • Whole grains
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Nuts, olive oil, and other healthy fats

Social Engagement
Research suggests that seniors who spend most of their time in their home environment are almost twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as those who travel out of town. It is unclear whether better health results in more travel or more travel results in better health.
Raise Your C Level
Vitamin C is an antioxidant, essential for healthy skin and blood vessel functioning, but some studies suggest it may also protect against dementia-related brain plaque. Oranges, limes and lemons are a convenient source of ascorbic acid (aka vitamin C), as are sweet peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe, tomatoes, broccoli and leafy greens.
Get Full of Beans
Beans and green peas provide a rich source of B-complex vitamins, which may play a role in protecting against brain shrinkage, as well as in maintaining blood sugar levels and a healthy nervous system. Vitamin B-1 (thiamine and folic acid) is also found in enriched grain products and cereals.
Get Some Sun
New research suggests that adults with low levels of vitamin D may have a higher risk of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s or other cognitive problems. Exposing your sunscreen-free face, back, arms or legs to no more than 10-15 minutes of sunshine a few times a week could boost D levels.
Get Plenty of Omega-3 Fats
Evidence suggests that the DHA found in omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by reducing beta-amyloid plaques. Food sources include cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, and sardines. You can also supplement with fish oil.
Learn Something New
Study a foreign language, learn sign language, practice a musical instrument, read the newspaper or a good book, or take up a new hobby. The greater the novelty and challenge, the larger the deposit in your brain reserves.
Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule
Going to bed and getting up at the same time reinforces your natural circadian rhythms, your brain’s clock response to regularity.
There’s less of a separation between brain and body than you might think. As mentioned above, what’s good for the body — like sleep, exercise, and nutritious food — is also good for the brain. And that also means that the converse is true: things that are bad for the body are also damaging to the brain. You owe it to yourself to work with your body to keep your brain healthy.


Take Our Memory Quiz

It has happened to all of us — we forget where we put our car keys, we are talking and forget what we are saying mid-sentence or we see someone we know, but can’t for the life of it remember his or her name. We joke and say “oh.. just a sign of old age.” Or is it?
November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and a great time to test our memory skills. Did you know that women are twice as likely to get Alzheimer’s versus men? Doctors assume it is because they live longer, but recent research suggests that biological differences may be the reason that women are at higher risk than men. In fact, one study from Duke University linked hormonal or genetic factors to increased memory loss.
While some instances of early onset Alzheimer’s has occurred in people as young as 50 years of age, the average age for increased memory challenges usually hits around 60. If you have noticed some instances where your memory appears “off,” you are not alone. On October 27th, AARP announced the formation of the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) to bring together doctors, scientists, and leaders in academia and policy experts from all over the world to better inform people how to keep their brains healthy.
Below are ten questions crafted by brain health experts. This test is not meant to be diagnostic. If you have concerns, however, it is always a good idea to talk with your family physician. Each question should be answered with a “Yes” or ” No.”
1) Your kids or grandchildren show up for Sunday dinner—-and you completely forgot they were coming.
2) You run into a friend and start to ask about his daughter, but can’t remember her name–until later.
3) You sometimes look in the mirror and do not recognize yourself.
4) You always miss the turn on the road to your grandkids’ regular soccer field.
5) You find your glasses in the freezer, your watch in the sink or other objects in weird places.
6) Your friend told you some great news about his wife’s new job. You were certain he told you at lunch, but it turns out he told you over the phone.
7) You’ve always been a pro at budgeting expenses, but now your bills/checking account are a complete mess.
8) You made a doctor’s appointment months ago, but completely forgot to go.
9) Your spouse or partner tells you that you repeatedly ask the same questions.
10) Your mother recently passed away. You’re having trouble sorting through all of the papers.
Quiz Results:
If you answered YES to questions 2,4,6, 8 or 10, you are either showing signs of normal memory loss due to aging or another factor (stress, grief, lack of sleep) may be affecting it.
If you answered YES to questions 1,3,5, 7 or 9, trouble recognizing everyday objects, putting common things in unusual places or repeating the same question within an hour, these may be the warning signs of some serious memory loss. Family members are often the first to notice symptoms, so be open and listen to their concerns. And talk to your doctor about having your memory checked.
If you answered NO to all questions? That is amazing. Whatever you are doing is contributing to great brain health. Keep it up!


Can Music have Healing Powers for Alzheimer's Patients?

Do you believe in the power of music? Is there a certain genre you like to listen to when you want to relax, and another when you want to have fun? I personally believe that music has a way of reaching deep within a person, and in some cases soothing the soul, relaxing the mind and often lifting one’s spirit. Research says that for Alzheimer’s patients, music can be good medicine. While research on the neurological effects of music therapy is in its infancy, what is known is that listening to music activates a number of regions in the brain. Scientists say the brain responds to music by creating new pathways around damaged areas.
Think about it, usually after about 20 minutes of listening to music, there are observable effects, such as singing, foot tapping, and clapping.   The positive effects of music therapy sessions have been know to last for several hours after the session have ended. Its been said that music is to the mind what exercise is to the body. When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements. Most people associate music with important events and emotions, and the connection can be so strong that in hearing the song long after the occurrence evokes a memory of it.
If you’d like to use music to help a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease, consider these tips:

  • Think about your loved ones preferences. What kind of music does he or she enjoy? What music evokes memories of happy times in their life? If you’re unsure, involve family members by asking them to suggest songs.
  • Set the mood. To calm a loved one during mealtime or the morning hygiene routine, play music or sing a song that’s soothing. Use more upbeat tunes to boost your loved one’s mood.
  • Avoid overstimulation. When playing music, eliminate competing noises. Turn off the TV. Shut the door. Set the volume based on your loved one’s hearing ability. Opt for music that is commercial free as the interruption can cause confusion.
  • Encourage movement. Help you loved one to clap or tap his or her feet to the beat. Encourage dancing if possible.
  • Sing along. Singing along to music together with your loved one can boost the mood and enhance your relationship.
  • Pay attention to your loved one’s response. If your loved one seems to enjoy particular songs, play them often.

Keep in mind that music might not affect your loved one’s cognitive status or quality of life, but it can’t hurt it either and if nothing else it provides time well spent bonding.   Pay close attention to facial expressions to help with those who cannot verbally communicate. To be effective, music therapy must be tailored to the functional capacity of each individual patient. If you are unsure of how to get the most out of music therapy for your loved one, consult the health and wellness counselor at your community.