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.
Click above to learn what to look for in a memory care community.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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.
Recent life changes have forced me to learn the fundamental differences between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. A month ago, my father fell and broke his hip. While he was in the hospital, we noticed that his memory seemed worse than normal. I asked if there was testing that could be done to determine the level of care that might be needed for him post-surgery based on these noticeable symptoms. There had been many instances over the past three years that warranted some concern, but there seemed to be a drastic change in his confusion. I thought we should have him evaluated before his release from the hospital. One of the things we noticed during the process was his getting lost while driving to the dialysis center he had gone to every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for the last three years. I would receive phone calls in the middle of the night from police officers asking in I come pick him up because he had lost his way. The first time it was the Hilliard police; the next time, the Dublin police; and the last time he ended up in Millersport, Ohio, at 12 midnight, forty miles one way from my home. Each officer said immediately that he seemed very confused and that I would need to pick him up. I tried countless times to have him see a doctor to be tested, to no avail. I was always told growing up that things happen for a reason, so I believe the broken hip was a way to let me know that he does have dementia.
I found out he might have dementia when I mentioned to a nurse that I thought he had Alzheimer’s disease. She said that she was not a doctor, but believed he has a form of dementia and should be tested to properly diagnose his symptoms. Late last week he was accessed by two different people, a doctor and a registered nurse, both concluding he does indeed have a form of dementia. I learned from my dad’s nurse that many people use the words “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s disease” interchangeably. However, they are not the same thing. You can be diagnosed with a form of dementia that is completely unrelated to Alzheimer’s disease. And though young people can develop dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease, the risk increases as you age.
After conversations with my dad’s doctor and nurse, I learned how the two conditions differ. Dementia is a group of symptoms and is not a disease, where the symptoms affect mental tasks like memory and reasoning. Dementia can be caused by a variety of conditions, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s disease. As one’s dementia progresses, it can have a devastating impact on how they function independently. It is a major cause for older people and can cause an emotional and financial burden on families and caregivers. Early signs of dementia are often mild and easily overlooked. People with dementia have trouble keeping track of time and tend to lose their way in familiar settings. As dementia progresses, forgetfulness and confusion grow. It becomes harder to recall names and faces. Obvious signs of dementia include: repetitious questioning, poor decision-making, and concern for personal hygiene is no longer a priority.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease of the brain that slowly impairs memory and cognitive function. The exact cause has yet to be determined. Damage to the brain begins years before symptoms appear. Abnormal protein deposits form plaques and tangles in the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Connections between cells are lost and they begin to die, and in advanced cases, the brain shows significant shrinkage. Research shows it is impossible to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease 100 percent while a person is alive. The diagnosis can only be confirmed during an autopsy when the brain can be examined under a microscope. However, specialists are able to make the correct diagnosis of up to 90 percent of the time.
Wesley Glen and Wesley Ridge offer Alzheimer’s disease/dementia care-specific programs. For information and additional information on the stages of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia contact Wesley Glen by calling 614-888-7492 and Wesley Ridge at 614-759-0023. Specialists are available to assist with questions about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
We all have those moments when we forget where we put our keys, why we walked into a room, and discover when we are at the supermarket that we’ve left the shopping list at home. Everyone forgets things occasionally. Still, memory loss is nothing to take lightly. A strong memory depends on the health and vitality of your brain.
Research shows that by keeping your brain healthy with the right diet and exercising it to keep cognitive function strong, you can boost memory and brainpower. No matter what your age, learning new things, exposing yourself to new experiences and meeting new people can all help keep your mind in tip-top shape. Here are some ways to keep your grey matter in shape.
· Don’t skimp on exercise or sleep. Treating your body well can enhance your ability to process and recall information. Physical exercise increases oxygen to the brain and reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
· Keep stress in check. Stress is one of the brains worst enemies, over time, if left unchecked stress destroys brain cells and damages the hippocampus, the region of the brain involved in formation of new memories and the retrieval of old ones.
· Socialize regularly. Social interaction helps ward off depression and stress. Look for opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others – especially if you live alone.
· Feed your brain. The food you eat has a direct effect on your brain, which is why it’s essential to eat foods that contain proper antioxidants for brain health.
· Brain training games like Lumosity, Memorado or Countdown to name a few, are great brain teasers that help g keep you on your toes. If games are not something you enjoy, tackle a crossword or Sudoku puzzle.
If you’re worried about memory loss — especially if memory loss affects your ability to complete your usual daily activities, it could be time for a visit to your doctor. He or she will likely do a physical examination, as well as check your memory and problem-solving skills.
Clearing clutter makes room for clarity. Join The Wesley Communities, Wednesday, January 28th, 2015, 9-10:30am for tips on downsizing and managing clutter. Presented by Paula Taliaferro at Reynoldsburg UMC located at 1636 Graham Road, Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Registration is required for lecture and respite. Please contact Michelle Crum at 800-272-3900 or email@example.com to reserve your space.
Brain game links:
In June 2013, two residents of Wesley Glen began reviewing research on how physical and mental activity could affect the onslaught of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Some initial research was based on a book entitled “Now You Can See It,” by Cathy Davidson, and other research in “brain training” performed at The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). A focus group was formed under the leadership of CEO, Margaret Carmany, of The Wesley Communities.
Ms. Carmany states, “All residents and employees of Wesley Glen and Wesley Ridge are very interested in this new research. We have all seen the devastating effects of brain function deterioration first-hand in those we love.”
The residents at Wesley Glen and Wesley Ridge Retirement Communities are encouraged to participate in a range of activities, from brain games and physical fitness classes, to spiritual and social interaction groups. In addition, the program is now expanding to train administration and staff members in the benefits of getting involved to encourage residents to engage in brain fitness activities. Research shows that good nutrition and being mentally, physically and spiritually fit may provide our aging population with preventative maintenance against the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia.
It is projected that by 2050, 1 in 85 people will have Alzheimer’s disease and/or dementia, and The Wesley Communities will be a leading source of information and action to the local community.
The Wesley Communities is an affiliate of the West Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church that provides quality housing, health care and services for seniors in Central Ohio. Incorporated in 1967, The Wesley Communities continues to be a not-for-profit Ohio corporation that seeks to understand and meet the unmet needs of older people of Central Ohio. The Wesley Communities operates Wesley Glen Retirement Community, Wesley Ridge Retirement Community, Wesley At Home and Hospice Services at Methodist ElderCare in Columbus, Ohio.
To schedule a tour or for more information about The Wesley Communities, visit www.methodisteldercare.org
5155 North High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43214