Exercise and Brain Health

People choose to exercise for many different reasons. While some people exercise to reap the physical benefits, others enjoy physical activity as a way to release stress and anxiety. As we age, exercise becomes increasingly important to our overall well-being. Consistent exercise can prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, lower blood pressure, and improve our mental health. What most people don’t know is that exercise can change the brain in ways that improve thinking and cognitive function. Some studies even suggest that a single exercise session can provide the same cognitive benefits as longer and more regular exercise.

Risk of Cognitive Impairment in Seniors

Older adults are naturally more at risk of cognitive impairment when compared to other age groups. The most common cognitive impairments can be caused by medication effects, depression, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Without taking steps to protect our brain health, we can put ourselves at risk of developing cognitive impairments in our later years. People with these types of disorders can experience a variety of symptoms, the most common of which are listed here:

• Decreased Processing Speed. Processing speed refers to the time it takes our brain to complete a mental task such as finishing an assignment, following instructions, or comprehending a conversation. It’s likely for older adults to notice cognitive changes related to their processing speed.

Problems with Attention. Some older adults with cognitive impairments may notice that their minds wander when trying to concentrate on a specific task or conversation. This can also express itself through difficulty when focusing on more than one thing at a time.

Memory Problems. Changes in memory are very common among older adults. Some age-related forgetfulness is normal; however, memory loss is not.

Difficulty Expressing Oneself. Decreased speed in verbal fluency is a cognitive impairment that refers to the ability to recall vocabulary. If our verbal fluency was to decrease, we would have problems expressing ourselves in conversations.

Losing Things. Forgetting your keys or an occasional appointment can be normal behaviors for people of all ages. However, older adults with cognitive impairment are often unable to remember important information consistently.

Social Withdrawal. Older adults experiencing cognitive impairment may notice changes in their behavior and begin to withdraw from their normal activities as a way to disguise or hide their symptoms.

While many older adults suffer from cognitive decline, it doesn’t have to be this way for everyone. There are simple things we can do to decrease the risk of developing these impairments. Dr. Wendy Suzuki, the author of Healthy Brain, Happy Life, and member of the advisory board at Maplewood Senior Living, knows the important role exercise plays in brain health.

In an interview with KTVU FOX 2, Dr. Suzuki reported that “Keeping our bodies moving is so important. Even one walk outside releases the neurotransmitters in our brain that keep us happy and boost our mood.” In her research, Dr. Suzuki has discovered there is a biological connection between exercise, mindfulness, and action. When we exercise, our bodies feel more alive and our brains perform better.

Benefits of Exercises for the Brain

As we exercise, our heart rate increases, causing an increase in blood flow to the brain. This allows our brains to receive more oxygen, nutrients, and proteins, while also promoting the growth of neurons. Additionally, the chemicals released in our brain during exercise can also make us feel less stressed and anxious. As she writes in her book, Dr. Suzuki believes that exercise has a direct effect on brain health and can provide a variety of benefits. Here are some of the most common benefits of physical exercise on brain health:

Reduces Stress– When we exercise regularly, our norepinephrine levels increase, which helps regulate the way our brain reacts to stress. Ultimately, exercise allows us to cope with both mental and physical stress in healthy ways.

Improves Mood– You might have heard that exercise is a natural mood booster. Exercising for just 30 minutes a day can release endorphins, which can help boost your mood while also decreasing the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Increases Confidence– As we exercise and begin to grow and build muscle, it’s natural to feel a sense of confidence, which can carry over into many different aspects of our lives.

Prevents Cognitive Decline– Although research is limited, some studies have suggested that exercise can help keep blood flowing to the brain, which can reduce the risk of damage or deterioration. Some research has suggested that white matter fibers, which are associated with brain function, are less likely to deteriorate with consistent exercise. Other researchers believe that aerobic exercise can help slow the shrinkage of the hippocampus, which controls our memory.

Increases Creativity– You might notice feeling sharper and clear-headed after physical activity. Exercise can make us feel more alive and help spark our sense of creativity.

Decreases The Risk of Dementia– As we exercise, we decrease our chances of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and depression, all of which are linked to dementia.

Physical Exercises for the Brain

Any type of exercise will allow you to reap the benefits of physical activity for the brain. Exercise doesn’t have to be complicated! If you don’t know where to start, you might consider one of these three simple exercises:

• Walking will increase your heart rate, allow blood and oxygen to flow to the brain, and release mood-boosting endorphins. Walking is also great for mental health, especially for those who have a hard time de-stressing and relaxing. After a 30-minute walk, you might notice feeling less agitated.

• Dancing requires our brains and bodies to communicate with each other. Remembering choreography might take some practice, but it can also help our brains stay sharp.

• Swimming or other water-based activities are great for older adults who experience joint and muscle pain. Water activities are low impact and can decrease the chance of injury.

Protecting the Brain through Exercise at Maplewood Senior Living

Health is one of our top priorities at Maplewood Senior Living. Each of our communities offers group-led physical activities that are designed to pose a challenge while also prevent injury for all residents. We know exercise can be powerful, that’s why we encourage all of our residents to get moving! To learn more about our offerings, please contact us here.

Sexuality, Dementia and Relationships

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, disorders grouped under the general term dementia are caused by abnormal brain changes. These changes can cause a decline in cognitive abilities, memory, and behavior. Chances are you probably know someone with a form of dementia. In fact, nearly 50 million people worldwide live with a type of dementia, with 10 million new cases being diagnosed each year. There are many types of dementia such as Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, and the most common type, Alzheimer’s disease, which accounts for nearly 70% of all dementia cases. Dementia cases are most commonly diagnosed in older adults, aged 65 and above, who exhibit common signs and symptoms. While dementia symptoms can appear differently in each adult, there are some signs that are reported often.
It’s not uncommon for partners, spouses and close friends, and family members to recognize signs and symptoms of dementia in their loved ones first. According to the Mayo Clinic, common signs can include memory loss, difficulty communicating or recalling commonly used words, difficulty with making decisions, problem-solving, planning, and organizing. While most of these symptoms and behavioral changes are commonly discussed and widely recognized, there are some changes that can go unidentified—sexuality is one of these. As the disease progresses, and changes in the brain continue to develop, many people with dementia can experience changes in their sexuality and sexual feelings.

Dementia’s Effect on Intimacy and Sexuality

As humans, we all have needs for friendship, companionship, and intimacy. These needs do not go away with a dementia diagnosis. However, as the disease progresses, the way the need for intimacy is expressed can change. In addition to the disease itself, other related conditions such as depression, medications, and changes in memory, can result in behavioral changes that can affect one’s sense of sexuality. Some dementia-related changes in sexuality one might experience can include the following:

Reduced sexual energy. Depression and anxiety are common side effects of dementia and can cause a decrease in sexual desire or the need for intimacy and friendship. Even if a person is not diagnosed with depression, withdrawing from people is common. While some people feel comfortable with this change in desire, others may enjoy being hugged, cuddled, and shown affection.

Dementia and sexually inappropriate behaviors. Dementia can affect the areas of the brain that keep us from acting on our impulses. That’s why some dementia patients exhibit inappropriate sexual behaviors such as flirting with strangers or speaking about sex in an inappropriate setting.

Dementia and romantic relationships. While some people with dementia experience a decrease in sexual energy, others may feel an increased need for sex and other forms of intimacy. Knowing how to navigate this change can be difficult for many partners. One partner may feel a rise in sexual energy while their partner or spouse feels unsure of the new demand. If this new sexual energy feels uncomfortable, it can be helpful to explore other ways of feeling intimate.

Hypersexuality. According to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada, “as the ability to remember sexual interactions decreases, a person’s desire for sexual intercourse can increase.” This person might become overly interested in sex and masturbation. As the National Institute on Aging reports, these behaviors are related to the disease and don’t always mean that the person is interested in sex.

Issues to Consider

Navigating conversations around sexuality can be difficult, especially when dementia plays a role. It’s important to take all factors into consideration before starting a conversation about sex with your partner. Some people might misinterpret actions from people with dementia as sexualized behaviors. However, sexual behavior can be used as a way to communicate other needs for people with the disease. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Society, other reasons for behavior that may seem sexual can include needing to use the toilet, discomfort in clothing or temperature, boredom, expressing a need for affection, and mistaking someone for their own partner.
It’s also important to consider that people with dementia can continue to have a healthy intimate life, but what that looks like may change many times throughout the progression of the disease. Consistently readdressing comfort levels and desires will help both people in the relationship identify each other’s wishes and concerns. It’s common for both partners to change their wishes. In fact, some partners feel guilty if they no longer want to be intimate, while others may continue to have intimate moments.

Tips for Coping

Dementia can be a lonely disease. Most people living with dementia need to feel love and shown affection consistently. It’s important to remember that the changes in sexual behavior you see in someone with dementia are products of the disease, not of the person. While experiencing these changes in someone you love can be difficult, finding ways to cope can help.
• Explore ways to spend time together like making lunch or dinner together, walking outside, or listening to music.
• Find other ways to show affection. If one or both of you are uncomfortable with being sexually intimate, you might consider hugging, holding hands, dancing, or sitting close to one another.
• Remember to be sensitive and reassuring. Navigating these changes is difficult and judgment can make it worse.
• Do not feel guilty if you no longer feel romantically connected to your partner.
• Join a support group through the Alzheimer’s Association. There are groups in most geographical areas and can be accessed online.
• Do what feels best for you. Be gentle with yourself.

Living with Dementia at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living, we prioritize the physical and emotional health of all residents. Navigating diseases like dementia can be difficult but working with a team of professionals can make it easier.
Support groups, specialized activities, and therapies are offered at our communities to help cope with the behavioral, physical, and emotional changes caused by diseases like dementia. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us here.

Join us on Tuesdays for 6 Weeks Starting on September 22 for our Dementia Bootcamp. This is a free six-week support group hosted via  Zoom. Register at RSVP@maplewoodsl.com to find. Every Tuesday at 3pm.

What You Need to Know About Parkinson’s Disease

By definition, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects the area of the brain that controls movement. Brain changes caused by the disease can affect a person’s gait, facial expressions, posture and, as it progresses, can begin to interfere with memory and the ability to make sound judgments. Parkinson’s is the second most common age-related neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, Parkinson’s disease affects nearly 2% of older adults over the age of 65, accounting for nearly one million cases. The symptoms of Parkinson’s can look different on each person, depending on when the diagnosis occurs within the progression of the disease. However, there are some common symptoms most PD patients experience.

Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Those with Parkinson’s disease can experience both motor and non-motor symptoms. The first signs of Parkinson’s are often so subtle that they go unnoticed. However, as the disease progresses, symptoms tend to get worse. Here are the most common symptoms according to the Mayo Clinic :

Tremors in the face, legs, arms and hands. Tremors, which usually appear as shaking in the limbs, hands or fingers, are very common among Parkinson’s patients. Some people might experience hand trembling while resting or rubbing between the forefinger and thumb.

Rigidity. Muscle stiffness can occur in any part of the body and become painful if it lasts for long periods of time. Many people who experience rigidity have a limited range of motion and trouble walking.

Slowness. Parkinson’s can cause delayed movements and make basic daily tasks hard to complete. Other symptoms include walking with shorter steps or dragging your feet while walking.

Loss of automatic movements. Unconscious movements such as blinking, smiling and swallowing become more difficult as the disease progresses.

Changes in speech. Some individuals with Parkinson’s disease experience changes in their speech such as hesitation, softness, quickness of speech or slurring words.

Causes and Risk Factors

While researchers are still gathering data on Parkinson’s disease, we do know that there are several factors that increase the risk of developing the disease. Researchers have shown that some specific genetic mutations are directly related to Parkinson’s disease. However, it’s rare to develop these mutations unless the disease is present in many family members. There are also other mutations that increase the risk of PD, but do not directly cause the disease.
In addition, some researchers have suggested that ongoing exposure to toxins, such as herbicides and pesticides can slightly increase the risk of PD. It’s also been proven that older adults, most of whom are diagnosed around the age of 60, are more at risk of developing Parkinson’s disease when compared to younger adults, just as men are more at risk than women.

Related Health Conditions

Those who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease may experience other health concerns. These issues usually arise after the disease has progressed. These are some of the most common health conditions related to Parkinson’s disease according to the Mayo Clinic:

Dementia

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation , nearly one million Americans have been diagnosed with the disease. Of those diagnosed, nearly 50 percent to 80 percent may experience dementia. Most adults who develop dementia are diagnosed 10 years after the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Along with the typical symptoms of PD, some people with Parkinson’s disease dementia have reported changes in memory, muffled speech, visual hallucinations, depression, daytime drowsiness and anxiety.

Depression and Emotional Changes

These are common problems for those in any stage of the disease, especially for those who have been newly diagnosed. Other emotional changes such as fear, anxiety and loss of motivation are common and can be treated with medication.

Sleep Disorders

Those with Parkinson’s disease often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep through the night. Rapid eye movement, which involves acting out your dreams, is also common for those with the disease. These sleep disorders can cause fatigue, especially later in the day. Doctors and healthcare providers can prescribe medications to pacify these problems.

Bladder and Constipation

Some people with PD have reported issues with controlling their bladder and having difficulty urinating. Constipation also accompanies Parkinson’s disease due to the slowing of the digestive tract.

Changes in Blood Pressure

It’s not uncommon to feel lightheaded due to a sudden drop in blood pressure.

Pain

Because of the changes in the brain, PD patients often experience pain. This pain can be felt all over the body or concentrated in certain areas.

Treatment Options

While there is no standard treatment for Parkinson’s disease, there are some treatments designed to help manage the symptoms. Treatments can include medications to manage tremors, stress and sleep problems. Other alternatives, like surgery, is reserved for patients who have trouble managing tremors with medication. Traditionally, exercise and therapies are standard treatment options that help with improving flexibility and balance, while reducing rigidity.
Because there is a lot we do not understand about Parkinson’s disease, there are many clinical trials designed to gather more information. These trials include testing new treatments, such as medications, surgery or therapies on existing PD patients in hopes of creating a new successful treatment option.

Living with Parkinson’s Disease

Learning how to navigate life as Parkinson’s disease progresses can be difficult. As part of the diagnosis, the biggest challenges can be managing overall health and wellness including managing medication appropriately, getting enough exercise while remaining flexible and managing stress and anxiety. While some people living with the disease may wish to remain at home with a caregiver, other options, like assisted living, can provide additional support and peace of mind for the caretaker. Here are a few ways assisted living communities can help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease:

Health and Wellness– A medical management team, provided at most assisted living communities, can help control symptoms of PD, while minimizing adverse effects. They can also provide individualized care planning, help with medication administration and provide nutritionally balanced and healthy meals reviewed by a Registered Dietician.
Exercise and Fitness– Exercise can slow down the disease progression and help enhance motor function. Assisted living communities offer daily group exercise classes, individual fitness programs and physical, occupational and speech therapies to help reduce the loss of motor function and increase flexibility.
Managing Stress and Anxiety– Unmanaged stress and anxiety can actually make PD symptoms, like tremors and rigidity, worse. Assisted living communities can help manage stress through psychology and psychiatry services, counseling, music therapy and social programs to connect residents that have similar challenges.

Managing Parkinson’s at Maplewood Senior Living

Because Parkinson’s disease is both a chronic and progressive illness, those who have been diagnosed need high-quality care both physically and emotionally. At Maplewood Senior Living , our assisted living communities are highly skilled in caring for those with Parkinson’s in many ways, such as providing medical attention and offering activities designed to promote physical and mental wellness. If you’re interested in learning more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, we would love to connect with you here.

Food and Dementia: Does Diet Reduce the Risk?

While it’s normal to experience occasional forgetfulness as we age, like misplacing our glasses or missing an appointment, memory loss is not a normal part of aging. However, it’s a condition that many older adults experience. In fact, nearly 5 million Americans, aged 65 and older, have been diagnosed with a form of dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Dementia is an overall term used to describe a wide range of medical conditions caused by abnormal brain changes.” Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type of dementia, accounts for nearly 60-80% of all dementia cases.

While Alzheimer’s and dementia can show up differently in each person, many have problems with short-term memory, remembering appointments and trouble with comprehension, especially when it comes to finances. While we can’t completely eliminate our risk of developing dementia, there are simple things we can do to decrease it. In fact, it can be as simple as eating a healthy diet.

Diet and its Effect on Dementia

It’s been proven that diet can have a profound impact on our overall health, especially as we age. While research is somewhat limited, there are three diets that have been linked to decreasing the risk of dementia.

The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH)

According to the Cleveland Clinic, researchers traditionally thought a high sodium diet resulted in high blood pressure. However, sodium can have a different effect on different people. This prompted further research to study how different diets can impact blood pressure. The DASH diet, which is heavily focused on fruits and vegetables, was found to lower blood pressure significantly. Because heart disease is a common risk factor for dementia, the DASH diet has been encouraged by many researchers as a way to decrease that risk. Those who follow the DASH diet aim to reduce their blood pressure by:

• Eating foods low in fat and cholesterol
• Eating mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts
• Decreasing the amount of red meats, sweets and sugar-based beverages

The Mediterranean Diet

Alzheimer’s disease is caused by abnormal build-up of proteins around our brain cells. The Mediterranean Diet, which includes high levels of antioxidants, can actually protect our brain cells from damage, while also reducing brain inflammation and lowering cholesterol. This diet primarily focuses on fruit, healthy fats, herbs, fish and poultry, while limiting consumption of butter, red meat and salt.

The MIND Diet

This diet is specifically designed to prevent dementia in older adults. The Mediterranean diet and the DASH diet were combined to create Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay, or MIND. A study published by Rush University Medical Center showed that, “the MIND diet lowered the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 53% in participants who adhered to the diet rigorously and by 35% in those who followed it moderately well.” To create the MIND diet, researchers combined elements of both diets and added emphasis on foods that were shown to benefit brain health.

Foods to Eat on the MIND Diet

According to the Mayo Clinic, researchers found that older adults, “whose diets most closely resembled the pattern laid out in the MIND diet had brains as sharp as people 7.5 years younger.” While the MIND diet closely resembles foods found in the DASH and Mediterranean diets, it focuses strictly on foods closely linked to dementia prevention. According to Healthline Magazine, these are the main food types eaten when following the MIND diet:

• Green leafy vegetables including kale, spinach and greens are packed with vitamins A and C and other nutrients. Researchers have suggested that consuming six servings or more provide the greatest benefits.

• All other vegetables are packed with nutrients and fiber that are good for overall health. These are recommended in addition to green leafy vegetables.

• Berries- When creating the MIND diet, researchers found that berries in particular are excellent for improving cognitive function and protecting the brain. Researchers suggest eating berries at least twice a week.

• Nuts contain healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants and can even lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The MIND diet suggests consuming five servings of nuts per week.

• Olive Oil is a recommended alternative for butter. Studies have shown that olive oil can protect against cognitive decline.

• Whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, bread and quinoa should be consumed three times a day when following the MIND diet.

• Fish such as tuna, salmon and trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids and can help protect brain function. Unlike the Mediterranean diet, the MIND diet suggests consuming fish once a week.

• Beans are high in fiber and protein, but low in fat and calories. Beans can help you feel full and provide you with nutrients while also keeping your brain sharp.

• Poultry such as chicken and turkey are recommended twice a week.

• Wine- Research shows that red wine can help protect against Alzheimer’s. However, the MIND diet recommends consuming no more than one glass per day.

Healthy Eating Tips for Dementia Prevention

Making drastic changes to your diet can be difficult. If the MIND diet isn’t for you, there are still plenty of ways to use your diet to reduce your risk of dementia. There are certain foods to help prevent dementia that you can consume to help keep your mind healthy. You might consider adopting some of these simple habits to protect your brain without following a strict food plan:

Cut down on sugar
Food and beverages that contain sugar such as soda and refined carbs, can cause our blood sugar levels to rise rapidly, which can inflame the brain. Before eating packaged foods, be sure to read the nutrition label and check for added sugar.

Consume omega 3 fats
Omega 3 fats contain docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which is thought to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Omega 3 fats are found in salmon, tuna, trout and mackerel. If you prefer not to eat fish, you can supplement with fish oil.

Increase fruits and vegetables
Both fruits and vegetables are packed with antioxidants and can prevent inflammation. While berries are directly linked to brain health, all fruits and vegetables help to protect your body from illness.

Cook at home
When we prepare our own meals, we have control over what ingredients we are using and what we are consuming. While eating at restaurants and picking up take-out can be delicious and convenient, there might be hidden sugar and unhealthy fats.

Drink in moderation
While one glass of wine per day is linked to brain health, overdrinking can raise the risk of memory related diseases.

Preventing Dementia at Maplewood Senior Living

Health is a top priority at Maplewood Senior Living . That’s why each community offers a wide variety of meal and food options to keep our residents physically and mentally healthy. If you’d like to learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us here.

Making Friends as You Age

There are many opportunities to cultivate friendships in schools, camps and clubs as children and young adults. However, making and maintaining new friendships can become increasingly difficult as we age. This year the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has understandably exacerbated the situation. While many adults experience difficulty in making new friends, the importance of socialization actually increases with age. In fact, according to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine, “Having close social ties is not always considered to be an important health behavior, however, studies have revealed that the effects of close social relationships on health carry the same magnitude comparable to or greater than that of such well-established risk factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity and physical inactivity.”
Both loneliness and social isolation are serious public health concerns that affect many older adults. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported that more than one-third of adults aged 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated.  Long-term isolation and loneliness can actually cause a number of negative health issues, such as the increased risk of mortality, depression, cognitive decline, dementia and high blood pressure. However, these risk factors dramatically decrease when we prioritize and nurture healthy relationships and living in a senior living community offers programs to make a big difference

Benefits of Maintaining a Healthy Social Life

While socializing with friends feels enjoyable in the moment, these activities actually have lasting positive effects on our health and well-being. Research shows that maintaining an active social life can impact us in many ways:
Live longerAccording to an article published by Harvard’s School of Public Health, people with strong social connections and relationships may live longer than those without. In fact, studies show that those who are isolated face a 50% greater risk of premature death than those with strong connections.
Improve physical and mental health- Engaging with others can help strengthen the immune system, allowing the body to fight off physical illnesses while also decreasing feelings of depression and loneliness.
Lower risk of dementiaStudies have shown that increased social interaction helps prevent feelings of isolation, stress and loneliness, all of which contribute to cognitive decline.
Improve brain function– When we socialize with others, our brains become stimulated, which helps improve our cognitive abilities and keep our brains sharp and agile.
Increase the quality of life– When we have meaningful relationships and friends, we love to spend time with, our lives improve. Friendships can help us find renewed meaning and purpose in life.

The Challenges of Making New Friends

Many older adults find it difficult to make new friends in their later years. One of the most common ways for adults to meet new people and establish friendships is through their workplace. For many retired individuals, the difficulty isn’t in maintaining a relationship, it’s in finding new people to meet. It can be especially challenging for adults who move away after retirement or choose to relocate for parts of the year. Before retirement, many individuals are preoccupied with raising their families, or feel like their social circles are already well established.
However, many individuals in their retirement have more time to commit to meeting new people. According to a study from the University of Kansas, in order to form a friendship, two people have to spend at least 90 hours together. Now that you have the time to invest in new relationships, the next step is to think about what kind of friends you want to have in your life.

Tips for Making New Friends

Finding new friends can feel awkward, especially when you put too much pressure on yourself. The best way to meet new people is to seek out new opportunities. If you’re ready to meet new people, here are a few tips to get you started:

Invest in your acquaintances– It might sound unnatural at first, but you might consider writing down a list of people you know that you would like to know better. Think back to people you volunteer with, your neighbors you don’t know that well or even friends of existing friends. There can be a lot of potential for friendship in people you already know. Once you have a list of these people, invite them over for lunch, play cards or to participate in one of your favorite hobbies. Most people are open to new friendships!

Join clubs for groups with people of similar interests– Think about the friends you already have. Where did you meet them? What do you have in common? More often than not, we make friendships based on commonalities. If you enjoy crafting or gardening, you might consider seeking out new group opportunities in your area such as a gardening club or crafting group.

Join a community center– Recreation centers offer wonderful opportunities to meet new people. Most recreation or senior centers offer group exercise classes, activities and some even host parties. Depending on your location, you might be able to join for free or pay a small fee for membership. If this intimidates you, you might consider inviting a friend or family member to accompany you.

Practice starting conversations– Even if you have plenty of experience with people, starting a conversation can be a bit intimidating. However, if you start the conversation first, more likely than not, you will make the other person feel more comfortable. Unleash your curiosity and ask questions that help you get to know the other person.

Find ways to learn– An active mind is a happy mind! When we find new ways to engage our brains, we strengthen our cognitive functions. Learning is also a great way to meet new people. Most universities offer educational opportunities for older adults such as auditing classes of interest.

Volunteer– Before retirement, you might have felt too busy to volunteer at your favorite charities or for causes close to your heart. However, now might be a great time to volunteer and meet new people while doing it. Choose something you want to do consistently that allows you to come more than one time.

Socializing at Maplewood Senior Living

While making friends in your later years comes with its own set of challenges, Maplewood Senior Living makes it easy for our residents to build friendships with one another. Social outings and various activities occur multiple times a day, giving each resident an opportunity to learn new things while meeting new people. Many of our residents find their social calendars full each day with everything from exercise classes, to movies, or coffee and conversations. To learn more about our offerings, please contact us.

Benefits of Locally Sourced Food

There is nothing like the flavor of a fresh tomato plucked straight out of the garden or the scent of rosemary that’s just been picked. Many of you may have memories of picking fresh vegetables out of your mother’s or grandmother’s garden and carrying them into the kitchen to eat right away or to add to dinner that night. Now with the convenience of supermarkets and the busyness of life – many of us no longer have the time or energy for gardens but the benefits of food coming straight from the farm or farmer’s market can’t be ignored.
By eating and buying local, you are able to enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables that are picked at their peak of ripeness and packed with nutrients and flavor. Whereas much of the produce found in grocery stores is picked before it is ripe in order to travel long distances to reach your table. Of course, cutting down on food miles also helps save the environment by reducing emissions and supports local farmers and growers.

Locally Grown Food at Maplewood Senior Living

At Maplewood Senior Living , we source as much food as we can locally and for our Connecticut communities, some of it comes from our own farm in Easton. You may be wondering, why buy local? Chef Dave Simmonds, Senior Culinary Services Director at Maplewood Senior Living, told us, “Whenever I mention the ‘Farm’ to a resident or potential resident, they instantly want to go and help out. There is no denying that freshly picked food is just better.”
“In fact, I just passed a resident in the hall and she was holding a fresh heirloom tomato that was just picked from her daughter’s garden. She was glowing as she walked down the hall holding the tomato as if it was a the first-place trophy, it was priceless to see and the tomato was beautiful,” said Dave.

When produce does arrive at communities from the farm, residents do get a real thrill. It triggers memories of their gardens growing up and reminds them of digging up fresh potatoes or pulling up carrots. To compliment sourcing food locally, we also create open kitchens in our communities to enhance the experience. Residents can see our chefs at work creating their meals right in front of them. They can smell a piece of fish frying in a pan or hear the chef chopping herbs for a salad.

Inspired Dining at Maplewood Senior Living

As people age, their sense of taste often decreases, which makes eating fresh, flavorful foods even more important. By watching our culinary teams at work, residents are engaged in the process and often talk to the chef about the preparation of the food.
For our residents who have dementia or Alzheimer’s, we offer our Inspired Dining program which allows them to engage in a culinary dining experience that helps them to discover the joy of living in the moment. Inspired Dining is an overall sensory philosophy, which includes the use of purposeful and custom-made scent focusing on enhancing mood and appetite. In line with recommendations from the Mayo Clinic and the Alzheimer’s Association, we serve fresh brightly colored foods on white plates with contrasting colored table linens to help make the food more distinguishable for residents who have difficulty with depth perception, which is very common among those with dementia.

Seasonal, Local Ingredients for Every Meal

Our chefs build relationships with local farmers and producers to plan their weekly menus around what is in season. The chefs in our Connecticut communities not only source produce from our farm in Easton, but additionally from the rest of the state and neighboring New York and Massachusetts. Baggott Family Farms provides everything from cucumbers and squash to corn, peas and peppers and from the Harvest Farm of Whately we get collard greens, kale, Swiss chard and mint. In the fall, Hudson River Fruit in New York provides us with delicious apples and pears.

In our Massachusetts communities, the proximity to the ocean adds another resource, especially on Cape Cod. Our chefs get deliveries of fresh seafood from Chatham Fish and Lobster and everything from lettuce, beets, tomatoes, herbs and squash from Crow Farm. When it comes to local cheeses, we source them from Great Hill Dairy in Marion that has award-winning Blue Cheese. In fact, it placed 8th in the 2018 World Cheese Championships.
Further afield, from Providence, Rhode Island, we source mozzarella, yogurt and ricotta from Narragansett Creamery. This family-run business was started in 2007 by Mark and Pattie Federico and they now produce 14 different kinds of cheese along with yogurt. PJ Cranberry Bogs are located nearby in Sandwich and the fall delivers freshly harvested cranberries, synonymous with Cape Cod, for pies and jelly.

Our Ohio communities, of which there are three, also benefit from the talent of local farmers and producers. Kaiser Pickles is our source for pickles, peppers and relishes. From Waterfields in Cincinnati, we source microgreens and herbs along with edible flowers. The benefits of consuming local honey have not been lost on our culinary teams either. In addition to adding flavor to dishes, eating local honey has soothing properties, it is antibacterial and it can help alleviate seasonal allergies. We source our Ohio honey from Stein’s Honey, a family-owned business started over twenty years ago with two beehives. They now have over 625 hives, produce honey, comb honey, cream honey and beeswax candles.

Enjoy a Fresh, Locally Sourced Menu at Maplewood Senior Living

While it is not always possible to source everything locally, at Maplewood Senior Living, we do our best to source as much as possible from each state or neighboring states. The results of our efforts show in the dishes we create for our residents and their overwhelmingly positive response. To learn more about our commitment to culinary excellence and our Inspired Dining program, please contact us.

Why You Should Consider Assisted Living

There are nearly 12 million Americans over the age of 65 who live alone, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center. While living independently certainly has its benefits, it can often become a point of concern for family members, especially as their loved ones continue to age and lose the ability to completely care for themselves. At some point, many older adults have to decide whether to hire outside help, rely on a family member or move into an assisted living facility. This decision-making process can be challenging and made more complicated when failing health and finances are important factors to consider.

While there are many different options, most older adults typically decide between hiring outside help while staying at home or moving into an assisted living facility. According to U.S. News, senior home care typically includes assistance with daily activities such as eating, taking medication, bathing, cooking and cleaning. The level of assistance depends on one’s overall health and ability to care for themselves. Although assisted living requires moving from home, it also provides additional services such as planned activities, 24-hour care and additional security measures to keep residents safe. When deciding which option is the best, many older adults and their family members ask, “How do I know it’s the right time to move?”

Signs it Might be Time for Assisted Living

Coming to terms with a loss of independence can be extremely difficult for aging adults. In fact, for many adults, concerned family members often initiate the conversation of moving first. While we all age at different rates and in different ways, there are some clear signs that it might be time to move into an assisted living community.
Declining Health Conditions– As we age, we become more at risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. In fact, according to research conducted by AARP, “more than 70 million Americans ages 50 and older, or four out of five older adults, suffer from at least one chronic condition.” Managing these conditions, including traveling to doctor’s appointments and taking the appropriate medications, can pose problems for older adults. Assisted living communities take pressure off of managing these conditions, which allows residents to enjoy a higher quality of life.
Difficulty Managing Finances– Age-related memory loss can cause confusion when it comes to managing money. This makes paying bills on time and sticking to a budget more difficult. Other memory disorders, like Alzheimer’s and dementia, can also affect one’s ability to understand finances, putting them more at risk of scams, forgetting to pay bills or filing taxes properly.
Inability to Care for Oneself– If your loved one is unable to maintain their living space, bathe themselves or complete basic daily tasks, it’s time to consider assisted living. A lot of family members take on the responsibility of caregiving without understanding how demanding it can be, especially when they have their own families to care for each day. Assisted living facilities have caregivers on staff who will make sure their residents maintain proper hygiene, a healthy diet and live in a clean environment.
Lack of SocializationAccording to a study conducted by the National Institute on Aging, nearly 17% of all Americans aged 65 or older are isolated due to their location, living status, language or disability. Loneliness and isolation can have negative long-term effects on one’s health, such as cognitive decline, increased mortality and feelings of depression. Socialization is at the core of assisted living facilities. Planned activities, social dining areas and one-on-one interaction are everyday occurrences at most facilities.

Benefits of Assisted Living

While the thought of moving out of your home and into an assisted living community might seem intimidating, the benefits are overwhelming. Instead of thinking about moving as another reminder of aging, you might consider it as an opportunity for something new and exciting. Here are a few benefits of assisted living that you might not have considered:
You Gain Independence– While many people think of assisted living as a way to lose independence, the opposite is true. Instead of relying on a family member or outside party for assistance, all of those daily tasks, like shopping and cooking, are taken care of by staff. This leaves you with plenty of time to discover your interests and renew your hobbies instead of thinking about who will come to help.
More Value for Your Money– Many individuals are afraid to consider moving into an assisted living community because they think they can’t afford it. However, that’s not necessarily true. Many assisted living facilities offer many services under one fee. For example, you might find that meals and activities are included in your monthly fee, where in-home care is usually priced a la carte. While assisted living can be expensive, you might find it to be a better deal based on your needs.
A Safer Living Option– As we age we are more at risk of health emergencies, such as falling. When living alone, these injuries could become life-threatening. However, at assisted living facilities, there is always a staff person or registered nurse available to help, no matter the time of day.
Socialization- Assisted living communities provide a wide variety of activities for their residents. From sing-a-longs to arts and crafts, there’s always an opportunity to learn and socialize with others. Socialization is proven to be beneficial for one’s overall health, especially for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Things to Consider

If you decide it’s the right time for assisted living, there are a few things to keep in mind. As you start touring different communities, they can all start to feel similar. At Maplewood Senior Living , we know what that can feel like. That’s why we have compiled a list of things to consider and questions to ask when looking for an assisted living community:

1. Ask to meet the team. How can a resident or family member get in contact with the management team?
2. Do they have apartments available? What sizes are offered? Is the furniture provided?
3. Ask about the culinary program. Is food prepared from scratch? You might consider asking for a menu or schedule a time to have lunch or dinner on the campus.
4. Are nurses available 24 hours a day?
5. What type of training is provided for the staff?
6. Do they provide call lights, pendants or life alerts? What’s the protocol for responding?
7. Is transportation available for outings, doctor’s appointments or grocery shopping?
8. What accommodations are available when more care is required?
9. What type of programming and cultural enrichment opportunities are available?
10. Ask to speak with a current resident who would be willing to share their experience with you.

Assisted Living at Maplewood Senior Living Communities

We know transitioning into assisted living from an independent living situation can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. Our Maplewood Senior Living communities provide support and transitional care to make the change an easy one. If you’re interested in learning more about our assisted living communities or would like to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Navigating Travel with Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Dementia is used to describe a group of medical conditions related to memory loss. While long-term memory loss isn’t a normal part of aging, there are many older adults living with various types of dementia. In fact, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 5.8 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. However, with summer approaching, Alzheimer’s and dementia don’t have to stop you from exploring new places or visiting family and friends. In fact, many people living with these diseases continue to travel and even do so alone in certain circumstances. While travel has been severely curtained in recent months throughout the country, you may need to travel for unforseen circumstances. Even a trip to the store, or to visit family may need some preparation and of course, if you need to travel to a new living situation you may need to fly or take a long car trip.  If you are planning to travel with a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, the best way to  have a safe and enjoyable trip is to be prepared.

Preparing for Your Trip

According to the National Institute on Aging, as dementia progresses, it can impact our, “behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with daily life and normal activities.” Depending on the stage of dementia, traveling will pose different challenges. Your loved one’s ability to communicate, behavioral patterns and mood changes can all be affected by a sudden change in routine or venturing into unfamiliar environments. As you prepare each aspect of your trip, from accommodations to transportation, it’s important to think about your loved one’s needs and abilities.

Evaluating your transportation options

Depending on the nature of your travel, you will have to decide how to get to your destination. When traveling with someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s, simplicity is key. You might consider minimizing your travel time by taking fewer stops or avoiding airport layovers. Whether you’re traveling by air or by car, there are a few important elements to keep in mind as you prepare your itinerary:

Traveling by Air
The Dementia.org team surveyed caregivers and those diagnosed with dementia to explore their experiences when traveling by air. Those who participated were asked to describe the challenges and surprises they encountered throughout their travels. Here is what they found:

Traveling through airports can be challenging for all people, especially for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. As the disease progresses, following instructions can become increasingly difficult.
Nearly half of the participants encountered problems with checking in, bag screening, finding the boarding gate and restrooms, hearing announcements and reading information on signboards.

Navigating the security checkpoint was exceptionally difficult for those with severe cognitive impairments, specifically those in the later stages of the disease. While it’s helpful for the person with dementia to travel with a caregiver, oftentimes caregivers are unable to help with security checkpoints such as individual screenings.

All of the participants noted that while there were challenges, traveling by air was possible if both the caregiver and loved one were prepared. The following tips helped ease the traveling process for participants in the study:

• Arriving to the airport early to leave time for unexpected challenges
• Notifying airport staff that you are traveling with a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease before your travel date and at the time of arrival
• Minimizing stressors including hand-held luggage
• Going through security checkpoints behind your companion. If you enter through security in front of your loved one, you won’t be permitted to return to them.
• Seek out quiet spaces of the airport including unused gates or sitting areas. These can be helpful in times of stress and chaos.
• Bring noise canceling headphones to help minimize distractions and agitations.

Traveling by Car
It’s recommended to travel by car when traveling with someone with dementia, especially if your destination can be reached within one travel day. Traveling by car gives the caregiver and loved one more control over their journey. Rest stops, food options and overall environment can mostly be controlled.

If you are in the midst of planning a road trip, remember to plan out your rest stops. Searching for a rest stop can be stressful during an urgent situation. Knowing where you will stop and which rest sites are close by will give you a better sense of control. It can also be helpful to consider how long your traveling day will take you, factoring in your loved one’s behavior and mood.

If your loved one is feeling overwhelmed or agitated, you might consider moving on to your safety plan. As you create your safety plan, make sure to consider where you might stop if something comes up or who you will need to contact in the case of an emergency.

Travel Considerations to Keep in Mind

In general, traveling can be stressful for all people with various ability levels. Once you’ve decided to travel, there are a few simple things you can do lessen the stress and anxiety surrounding the trip:

Start your trip prepared- You want to start preparing and packing for your trip a week or so before the travel date. As you begin packing, make sure to take extra clothing and personal care items with you in the case of an emergency. Get plenty of sleep the night before and bring foods that your loved one enjoys and will eat without hesitation. Lastly, leave yourself plenty of time to get ready in the morning before beginning your road trip or heading to the airport.

Write and share your itinerary- Before your trip, write down all of your travel plans, including hotels, and even rest stops you plan to visit. This itinerary should be shared with family and friends who will be available to assist you if needed.

Take important documents with you- In the case of an emergency, you will need to access important documents. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is suggested to take the following essential documents with you while traveling:
• Doctor’s name and contact information
• A list of medications and dosages
• Phone numbers of local police, hospitals and poison control
• Copies of all legal papers including a living will, power of attorney and proof of guardianship
• Name and contact information of emergency contacts
• Insurance cards and information

Be alert to wandering- If your loved one is at risk of wandering, make sure they are wearing an ID bracelet or write their name and your contact information in their clothing.

Dealing with an emergency- If your loved one is prone to outbreaks and aggression, make sure to pay attention to their warning signs. If you are driving when an outbreak takes place, pull over immediately. If you need to calm down someone with dementia, there are proven techniques to help you.

Embracing Summertime Travel at Maplewood Senior Living

Travel doesn’t always have to be a source of tension for you or your loved one. Our staff at Maplewood Senior Living are seasoned professionals who can help you prepare for your trip and provide you with travel tips and tricks. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.

Importance of Hydration for Older Adults

The summertime can be a great opportunity to spend time enjoying the outdoors and beautiful weather. However, as temperatures continue to rise, dehydration can pose a serious threat, especially to older adults. When our bodies expel more water than is put back in, we can become dehydrated quickly. Our bodies need water in order to perform basic functions like regulating our temperature, emitting waste and lubricating our joints, among many others. Dehydration can cause a number of serious side-effects, especially if it goes unaddressed for long periods of time.

Causes and Symptoms of Dehydration

Because our ability to store fluid decreases as we age, older adults are more at risk of dehydration. In fact, according to an article published by the Journal of the National Medical Association, “Dehydration is the most common fluid and electrolyte problem among the elderly.” Many older adults experience a weakened thirst response, which keeps them from feeling thirsty and can often lead to dehydration. In addition, various underlying health conditions, such as decreased kidney function, and the medications used to treat them can cause increased urination, leading to significant fluid loss if it doesn’t get replaced. While these conditions can pose an increased risk, there are several common causes of dehydration:

Heat Exposure– Hot and humid weather conditions can lead to increased sweating and loss of fluid. If these fluids aren’t replaced, it can cause dehydration quickly.

Diarrhea and Vomiting– When we are ill, it’s not uncommon to experience both diarrhea and vomiting. However, when this happens, our bodies discard both fluids and electrolytes which can cause massive dehydration if it persists for a long period of time.

Fever– An increased fever can often lead to lack of thirst and loss of fluid.

Underlying Health Conditions– Some diseases, such as diabetes and kidney disease, can cause you to lose additional fluid. Those who suffer from diabetes can experience an increase in blood sugar levels. When the kidneys are unable to retain the sugar, it gets dumped into the urine and can cause increased urination.

Decreased Mobility– Older adults who need assistance with eating and drinking have an increased risk of dehydration.

It can be difficult to identify when we are dehydrated, especially if we think we are getting enough fluids. While thirst and dark colored urine are obvious signs of dehydration, there are more subtle signs that can present themselves. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some of the most common symptoms of dehydration in older adults:

• Extreme thirst
• Less frequent urination
• Fatigue
• Dizziness
• Confusion
• Muscle weakness
• Rapid heart rate
• Low blood pressure

If you ever experience diarrhea for 24 hours or more, can’t keep fluids down, or have bloody and black stool, make sure to contact your doctor or healthcare provider as soon as possible.

Benefits of Staying Hydrated

We lose water just by breathing! In order for our bodies to function properly, we have to consistently replenish our water supply. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, men need to consume 3.7 liters of fluids each day, while women need 2.7 liters. Exercise, sickness and weather can all contribute to our daily hydration needs. While the importance of hydration often goes unrecognized, staying hydrated has many health benefits:

Helps maintain bodily functions– Our bodies are mostly made of water, so it makes sense that we need it to function. Normal bodily functions like producing saliva, digesting food, regulating our internal temperatures, excreting waste and absorbing nutrients all require water. The more we pay attention to how much water we consume, the more likely we are to have a body that functions well.

Repairs our muscles– When we use our muscles, both during a normal day and during exercise, they can become fatigued without adequate fluids. When we drink water, we ensure our muscles have the nutrients they need to recover and get stronger.

Increases energy levels and brain function– Research suggests that mild dehydration can have a negative effect on our mood, cognitive skills and memory.

Decreases risk of headaches– Some individuals experience headaches as a symptom of dehydration. When our bodies are dehydrated, our brains can actually contract from the loss of fluid, resulting in a headache. Replenishing our bodies with fluids can decrease the risk of a headache from dehydration.

Aids in weight loss– Consuming water can increase feelings of fullness and also helps boost metabolism. Our brains can also mistake dehydration for hunger, so if it’s not time to eat, you might consider drinking water before consuming food. Always remember to consult your doctor before making changes to your diet, especially when weight loss is your goal.

Tips for Consuming More Water

Staying hydrated can be a constant challenge for older adults, especially if they struggle with feeling thirsty or take medications that compromise their fluid levels. A good place to begin is to add more water to your everyday routine. You might consider consuming a full glass of water with every meal or starting each day with a glass of water. This way, drinking water becomes a habit. If you or your loved one have a hard time remembering to drink water, setting a timer for certain times throughout the day can help. In addition to consuming water, there are a number of different ways we can stay hydrated from the foods we eat. Here are a few suggestions to start with:

Eat more fruits and vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables have high water content, which means in addition to receiving nutrients, your body also gets refueled with fluids. Fruits like watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches and oranges are mostly made up of water and have added fiber and nutrients that help boost immune function and promote feelings of fullness. Vegetables like cucumber, lettuce, cabbage and zucchini are high in water and low in calories. You can find a full list of hydrating foods provided by Healthline magazine here.

Soups
Consuming hydrating meals, like soup, can help you consume more hydrating fluids as opposed to only drinking a glass of water. Adding in additional hydrating vegetables can make soups filling, hydrating and nutrient dense.

Smoothies and Beverages
For some people, staying hydrated is easier when it comes in different forms. Smoothies made of yogurt, berries and other liquids like milk or water, are high in vitamins, nutrients and will also keep you satiated. Adding raspberries, lemons and cucumbers to your water can add a subtle flavor which makes it a tastier option than plain water.

Staying Hydrated at Maplewood Senior Living

Our staff at each of our Maplewood Senior Living communities make it a priority to provide plenty of options for hydration to our residents. Infused water beverages, soups, smoothies and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables are provided with each meal. In addition, our staff hosts educational seminars for residents to learn more about nutrition and ways to stay healthy and active. To learn more about our offerings, please contact us!

Why Every Older Adult Should Be Crafting

Depending on where you live, this summer could be looking a lot different than you might have anticipated. For many, travel plans and other summer activities have been put on hold. However, this could be a great opportunity to try things you’ve never done before. While many people might not identify as being creative or artistic, there are arts and crafts options for everyone. Not only is crafting a great way to have fun and socialize with others, it also offers a myriad of health benefits. In fact, some experts believe that crafting and other leisure activities can actually reduce the chances of developing a cognitive impairment by up to 50%. In addition, researchers suggest that crafting-related activities can have a positive effect on a person’s mental and physical wellbeing.

Benefits of Crafting-Related Activities

Creative activities, such as arts and crafts, can help boost mental health by stimulating different parts of the brain, depending on the activity. Trying new activities as an older adult can also provide a sense of accomplishment and improve self-esteem. Crafting covers a wide range of activities from knitting and sewing to painting and coloring. No matter the activity, crafting can provide numerous health benefits:

Promotes Socialization
Untreated isolation and loneliness can cause serious health problems in older adults, such as increased cognitive decline and depression. However, arts and crafts activities provide an opportunity to socialize with others, especially if you join a crafting group or club that meets consistently. Socialization, along with exercising your own creativity, can help enhance quality of life.

Acts as a Form of Therapy
As we age, communicating our thoughts and feelings can become difficult, especially if diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Finding new ways of communication becomes increasingly important with age. Participating in arts and crafts is a wonderful way to practice self-expression when traditional communication becomes more difficult.

Increases Physical Health
Many older adults experience a decline in their fine motor skills as they age. We use our fine motor skills each day when we feed ourselves, use our phones, button our shirts or put the key in the door. These activities can become more difficult for a number of reasons. However, the more we practice these skills, the better they become. Arts and crafts activities, such as sewing and knitting, help refine our fine motor skills.

Protects Against Aging
Crafting has the ability to involve many different areas of the brain, which ultimately strengthens memory, processing and problem-solving abilities. The more we provide a stimulating environment for our brains, the more their ability to become flexible and adaptable increases.

Acts as an Anti-Depressant
When we do something pleasurable, our brain releases dopamine which acts as a natural anti-depressant. Whether we’re creating something from nothing, or learning how to work with our hands, dopamine is released and helps to protect us from feelings of depression.

Tips for Crafting with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia

Arts and crafts can be beneficial for all who participate, but it can be especially therapeutic for those with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia. Keeping the brain stimulated and actively engaging the mind can help slow cognitive decline and increase the overall wellbeing of these individuals. While most arts and crafts activities can be adapted to be appropriate at any ability level, there are some tips you might consider when crafting with those diagnosed with a memory disease.

• While stimulating the brain is good, over-stimulation can cause confusion and anxiety. When leading a crafting activity, keep instructions simple and avoid crafts with many different steps.

• The objective of an arts and crafts activity is to promote enjoyment. When we take the pressure off of achievement, and instead focus on building upon the strengths and abilities we already have, the activity will be much more beneficial to a person’s overall wellbeing.

• If you’re working one-on-one, you might consider tapping into your loved one’s favorite pastimes or incorporate their favorite music into the activity.

• Lastly, keep safety in mind. If you are working with materials that are potentially harmful, keep them out of reach until it’s time to use them. If possible, each participant should be assigned a helper to assist in projects that require more skills.

Crafting Ideas for Older Adults

Choosing a crafting activity can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start. These activities are great for beginners and can be adapted to fit any skill or ability level.

Knitting and Crocheting
Both of these activities help improve mood and contribute to overall wellbeing, especially when done in a social setting. In addition, there are many clubs and groups designed just for beginners. If you’re interested in finding an activity to do alone in your spare time, you might consider purchasing beginner level kits that come with guides and instructions. You can find them on Amazon.

Coloring and Painting
Anyone can color! Coloring is a great form of self-expression and is a perfect crafting activity for beginners. Adult coloring books are available in many different styles and provide a gentle guide for those who are new to coloring or don’t know where to begin. If you prefer to craft with paint, there are still many different options. You might consider beginning with a guided painting picture, or unleash your creativity by painting on rocks for your garden or as a gift for a loved one.

Decoupage
This activity allows you to take a normal household item, like shoe-box or food container, and turn it into a work of art. You can use whatever you have at home, such as wrapping paper, scraps of fabric or other items to make it unique and playful. By using your hands to cut and place small items, you can actually improve your fine motor skills.

While all of these activities can be adapted when necessary, here are a few activities that are especially beneficial for those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia:

• Collages- This is a great way to help evoke memories while inspiring creativity. You might consider using newspaper clippings, or photographs from major life events to decorate your space.

• Greeting Cards- This activity can be adapted to fit any skill level and can allow your loved one to feel connected to friends and family. Start with pre-cut shapes, photographs or glitter markers to make the cards special and unique.
• Clay Modeling- This is a great way to use fine motor skills while also using your creative side. You can model the clay into certain shapes and dry them to make artistic embellishments to give as gifts to friends and family.

Getting Creative at Maplewood Senior Living

Our residents have been releasing their creative sides in many different ways at our Maplewood Senior Living communities. From rock painting to t-shirt making and quilting, our residents have found many ways to unleash their inner artist. To learn more about our offerings or to schedule a tour, please contact us.