How to Keep Your Mind Sharp as You Age

Learn useful tips for how to keep your mind sharp as you age.

It’s no surprise that as we age our brains change. We all lose our keys or forget appointments, but as we age these moments of forgetfulness can become a health concern. Our brains help us make sense of the world, connect to others, remember, learn, and create. As we age, it’s important to give our brains what they need to remain healthy and sharp.

Changing Brain

According to the National Institute on Aging, our brains control many aspects of thinking, remembering, planning, organizing and making decisions. As we get older parts of our brain can actually shrink, causing delays in our ability to learn and complete complex mental activities. However, our brains can change in positive ways as well. Our lifetime of experiences help us to learn new things and give us the opportunity to create new memories. As we age, it’s important to understand how to care for our brains and what puts them at risk.

 

How to Keep Your Mind Sharp: Risks to Cognitive Health

While some aspects of brain health are related to genetics, there are other environmental and lifestyle factors that can influence our cognitive function as well. The National Institute on Aging has provided a list of the most common factors that can contribute to a decline in our cognitive health:

Health problems

Those at risk for heart disease and high blood pressure increase their chances of experiencing a stroke, which can put you at risk for developing dementia. Memory diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia can lead to memory loss and thinking complications. While these conditions can be genetic, eating a heart-healthy diet can help protect your brain.

Brain injuries

It’s not uncommon for older adults to experience a fall-related injury. In fact, according to the National Council on Aging, one in four Americans aged 65 and older fall each year. These accidents can put you at risk for developing a brain-related injury or head trauma. If you are at risk of falling, make sure to fall-proof your home, especially in tight spaces such as the hallway.

Medicine

Some medications, especially when you take several different prescriptions, can cause side-effects such as confusion, memory loss, and delusion. Medications can also cause you to develop a Urinary Tract Infection, which, if gone untreated, can cause confusion and disorientation. Always make sure your doctor knows which medications you are consuming, especially if you see multiple healthcare providers.

Lifestyle

Our lifestyle choices can have a dramatic effect on our cognitive health, especially as we age. Lack of exercise can increase the risk of heart-related diseases, depression, and stroke, all of which can negatively affect the brain. Brain health is closely related to our heart health. This means that smoking, consuming a diet high in fat and sodium, and consuming too much alcohol put stress on your heart, which can ultimately affect your cognitive health.

 

How to Keep Your Mind Sharp: Tips for Mental Fitness

Keeping our brains healthy is just as important as keeping our bodies active. Choosing to work on your mental fitness each day will improve your quality of life, especially as you age. These tips, published by the Harvard Medical School and Healthline, will help protect and improve your memory at any age.

  • Learn with your senses. Studies show that when we intentionally use all of our senses while learning something new, we’re more likely to remember it in the long-term. This requires you to slow down, and take note of the environment around you. Ask yourself, what do I hear? What do I smell, touch, and taste? When we pair a memory with one of our senses, our chances of recalling other details are much higher.
  • Stop multitasking. We might all think we’re great at multitasking. But, the truth is multitasking is impossible! Focus on one task at a time and use full concentration.
  • Trick your brain into working. There are a variety of games available that practice using different parts of the brain such as crossword puzzles, board games, and Sudoku. These games build your brain muscles, allowing you to learn new tasks, and increase your attention span and reaction time.
  • Read! Whether you choose to read a magazine article or a romance novel, reading constantly demands your brain’s attention. Reading forces us to use our imaginations, process words and sentences, and spark different parts of the brain.
  • Improve your sleep habits. Getting a full night’s rest can actually improve your brain function. Sleep is essential for consolidating memories and improving cognitive functions.
  • Stay positive. Your cognitive health starts with positive self-talk. Giving yourself daily affirmations can actually strengthen your neural pathways. Acknowledge your good qualities and be gentle with yourself!

We spend a lot of time talking about ways to keep our bodies healthy, but our brains deserve some attention too. At Maplewood Senior Communities, we encourage our residents to keep their minds sharp by trying new things. Whether it’s through technology or music, our residents always have the opportunity to learn. To learn more about our offerings at Maplewood communities, please reach out to us.

Maplewood Senior Living Walks to End Alzheimer’s

What You Should Know about Alzheimer’s Disease

The month of September is designated as World’s Alzheimer’s Month. Alzheimer’s disease isn’t just a national problem, it’s a global issue that affects nearly 44 million people worldwide. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is a memory disease, under the umbrella of dementia, which causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. As symptoms worsen, Alzheimer’s can ultimately affect a person’s ability to complete basic human tasks like speaking and eating.  The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is expected to rapidly increase in the next 30 years— from 5.8 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s today to 14 million by 2050. As the threat of the Alzheimer’s epidemic increases, so do campaigns that spread awareness and raise funds devoted to finding a cure. The first step in spreading awareness of Alzheimer’s is to educate people on the causes of the disease.

Contributing Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease

While it would be impossible to identify just one cause of Alzheimer’s, researchers and scientists do believe there are a few leading causes of the disease. Some of the causes and factors can’t necessarily be changed, but some of them, like lifestyle and environment, can help inform our daily lives and decrease our chances of being diagnosed. Listed below are the associated causes and risk factors of Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Age

While most people with Alzheimer’s get diagnosed after the age of 65, 10% of patients are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s between the ages of 30 and 60. Age isn’t directly correlated with the disease, however the risk of being diagnosed doubles every five years after the age of 65.

Family History and Genetics

Adults who have immediate family members with Alzheimer’s disease are more at risk for being diagnosed than compared with families without a history of the disease. Researchers and scientists believe that the risk increases with each family member who has the disease. The reason behind this can possibly be attributed to genetics and environment.

According to the National Institute on Aging, researchers haven’t identified a specific gene known to cause the disease. However, many experts believe that those who carry a form of the APOE gene are more at risk of developing the disease than those who do not.

Environment and Lifestyle

Those who study Alzheimer’s believe there is a connection between the brain and the heart, which can ultimately influence the risk of developing the disease. This means that those who experience high-blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol, or heart disease should be aware of the symptoms of the disease and consult with their healthcare provider. Eating a well-balanced diet and exercising daily will decrease your risk of heart disease, ultimately decreasing the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Brain health is also a factor when it comes to developing Alzheimer’s. Falls and brain trauma are also known to be underlying factors to the disease. Protecting your brain by wearing your seatbelt and decluttering your home to decrease your risk of falling, can help protect you from Alzheimer’s dementia.

Continue reading “Maplewood Senior Living Walks to End Alzheimer’s”

Live-In Home Care Vs. Assisted Living

We have addressed a number of care levels available to seniors in our recent articles – independent living, assisted living, and private duty caregiving. However, to this point, we’ve not yet mentioned “Live-in Home Care.

Live-in home care is a unique care situation where an agency will provide a person to “live” with your loved one. Of course the appeal with any ‘in-home care’ is that the senior is able to remain in their own home, which is something that appeals to a vast majority of seniors. There are also many things to consider with regard to your loved one’s healthcare needs, and if remaining in their home, even with someone living with them, is the best option. Keep in mind, there are usually quite a few ‘rules’ with agencies who provide ‘live-in’ aides. Some of these include: the caregiver must be able to sleep for a minimum of 8 hours per day, they must be able to have a ‘day off’ every so many days, they must be provided a private area in your loved one’s home where they are able to sleep, dress, etc. There may be other rules involved, but this can vary from one home care provider to the next. You’ll also want to inquire as to how you will be billed for this service.

It is also important to ask key questions before bringing a private duty caregiver into your loved one’s home. Do they background check and drug test their aides? Are the aides bonded and insured by the agency? Are they trained in first aid? How long have they worked for the agency? Can they provide names/contact information of families that have used the service in the past? What is the plan if the aide that is living with your loved one becomes ill and can’t work? What happens if the aide gets injured while on your loved one’s property?  Not all states require home care agencies to obtain a license to go in to business, therefore it is important to do your research before hiring this type of service.

Comparing this level of care to assisted living, where you have access to multiple aides around the clock, many of these single-aide concerns go away. And assisted living guidelines require the aforementioned items such as: drug tests, background checks, worker’s compensation to be submitted/provided to all employees.

If you’re considering either one of these levels of care, we would encourage you to read the following article, with advice from our Maplewood Senior Living Medical Director, Dr. Susann Varano. Also weighing in on this subject is Eleonora Tornatore-Mikesh, Chief Experience and Memory Care Officer at Inspīr, the newest Maplewood Senior Living project, which is underway in Manhattan.

Click here to read the article in US World and News Report by Elaine K. Howeley.

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Unlocking Memories with Music

According to the Mayo Clinic, research suggests that listening to or singing songs can provide emotional and behavioral benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Musical memories are often preserved in Alzheimer’s disease because key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease.

Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging

At Maplewood Senior Living, we’re continually looking for ways to improve the health and wellbeing of the residents in our communities. One unique way we’ve done that is by partnering with the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging (Benjamin Rose).

Benjamin Rose has operated with a mission to “advance support for older adults and caregivers” in Ohio, since 1908. Along with providing resources related to housing and advocacy efforts, Benjamin Rose has a Center for Research and Education focused on the development of programs that improve senior health and wellness.

In 2015, Benjamin Rose received a grant from the Ohio Department of Aging to implement a music and memory program with individuals living at home or in assisted living settings. Through this initial partnership, Maplewood residents in all three Ohio communities received iPod shuffles that contained songs as part of their personalized music playlist. This initial collaboration allowed Maplewood community members to participate, engage and receive the benefit of music. As that program came to a close, the partnership between Benjamin Rose and Maplewood communities was growing stronger.

Connections through Music – A New Approach

In 2017, Benjamin Rose developed a new group music program for individuals with dementia, called Making Connections through Music. This innovative new program is made up of 6 individually themed sessions complete with familiar songs, small instruments, discussion questions, and photos to increase engagement and socialization among group members.

Benjamin Rose has been training group leaders, both staff (at communities like Maplewood) and volunteers, on how to administer the Making Connections through Music program. The leader uses a pre-defined curriculum for six sessions, with the understanding and empowerment to adjust to fit the dynamic of each group.

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Remember to Laugh

Our expert, caring staff is the HEART of our community.
The HEART™ philosophy is a cornerstone of Maplewood Senior Living and is a main focus of how we train our staff to provide the best care we can for our residents. We believe that being in the moment with our residents, is what it often comes down to and our exclusive relationship-driven HEART™approach allows us to do just that.

Giving our staff the green light to joke and use HUMOR with our residents to create moments of laughter, joy and levity to otherwise challenging situations is empowering. Having EMPATHY for our residents due to their diagnosis and the sometimes challenging situations that they face on a daily basis, helps to keep us grounded as Maplewood Senior Living team members. Giving the residents the AUTONOMY to do as much as possible for themselves allows staff members to help them in a way that is dignified and RESPECTFUL. Gaining the TRUST by building emotional bonds with residents through the heart philosophy, rounds out the mindset of creating an environment of supported independence for those that call our Maplewood Senior Living communities home.

While all of these points are key components of providing the very best emotion-based experience to the residents we serve – humor is a key ingredient of this philosophy- reminding us all to laugh.

Rolling laughter in to everyday care situations is key to friendly, productive interactions, and lightened moods. Benefits are felt between team members and residents, as the health benefits of laughter are many, see some of the examples we’ve found below…

  • We stretch muscles throughout our face and body when we laugh
  • Our pulse and blood pressure go up when we laugh
  • We breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues when we laugh
  • It’s like a mild workout – boosting heart rate
  • 10-15 minutes of laughter can burn 50 calories
  • Some studies have found that better sleep is achieved after watching a round of comedies

William Fry, a pioneer in laughter research, claimed it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter.

comic strip

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Tech Savvy Seniors

The use of technology has grown tremendously among the senior population in recent years.  More and more seniors are using smart phones, tablets and computers to stay informed, connect with others and even shop.

According to widely known Eden Alternative, common concerns amongst our elder population have been that they become bored, lonely and have a general feeling of helplessness. Advances in technology have provided many avenues to combat these issues have proven to be a true blessing for many senior community residents.

Maplewood Senior Living prides itself in staying ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. We recently sat down with Brian Geyser, Chief Clinical Officer, for Maplewood Senior Living. Brian leads our resident care programs, population health and technology initiatives.

Here, Brian answers some questions about how technology is used at Maplewood Senior Living.

Q: How does Maplewood Senior Living use technology to improve the lives of residents?

A: Our entire suite of tech products are specifically designed to make our residents lives more enjoyable. Residents have easy access to information, entertainment, care and opportunities to engage through the use of technology.

Q: What types of technology are included in this “suite of products”?

A: Our products include everything from virtual reality to hearing amplification products to high-tech fall risk sensors to educational tools. With this combination, we’ve achieved our purpose: to keep our residents safe, healthy and happy.

Q: Where will residents interact with technology?

A: The simple answer is: everywhere. Residents utilize technology to call for assistance throughout the community. Residents with hearing impairments are able to use noise-canceling headsets to improve programming experiences and social experiences. Virtual reality is used within the program schedule to treat our residents to excursions around the globe, to give them the opportunities to “interact” with animals, and to see and learn new things. New technology is always being added. We never stop searching for new ways to engage and assist our residents, and in this day and age, the possibilities are endless.

Q: How do your technology efforts keep the residents socially active?

A: Social engagement is one of the elements that forms the foundation of our life enrichment and wellness programs, and it’s critical for the overall health and happiness of our residents. That includes our VR Global Travel program and our virtual reality experiences, which will allow our residents travel the world (virtually) without ever leaving home. And our digital interactive programming and live stream learning programs support engagement with a variety of interactive shows and activities.

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Together, But Separate

You’ve reached the point that your loved one has moved into a memory care community, or will need to soon. You know its best, but all the feelings you have make you doubt yourself. This adjustment will take time for both of you. Know that up front. Your husband/wife will not (in most cases) be 100% comfortable in their new surroundings immediately. Sure, some may ‘transition’ easier than others, but for many, this can take at least a month or two for your loved one to feel comfortable.

You’ll also find yourself feeling alone. You may have had visitors in and out of your home to help support you and your spouse while he/she was still living with you. These people may not come around as much. This may be OK. Or, this may cause you to be lonely or to grieve. Make your concerns known to family and friends. Let them know if you still need help or assistance. Maybe you would just feel better with a weekly check in or phone call. Remember your friends and family are likely trying to give you space and may assume that you want to be left alone after all the hard work you were doing for so long.

Identify what overwhelms you the most about being alone. Is it the quiet house? Is it the lack of purpose you feel now that you are no longer caring for your loved one?  Is it that your daily routine has totally changed now that you’re on your own? Enlist a friend to help you find services that might relieve you of these concerns. Make a point to find groups that you might choose to join for social engagement, spiritual support or general interest. Ask a friend or family member to help you with financial concerns, or speak with a financial advisor. Make and plan meals in advance, freezing extra for future meal preparation. Or look into a meal delivery service. Talk to a landscaper about handling the grass and shoveling snow. Many of the things that can overcome you at first, are easily navigated. It will get easier with time.

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Approach to Care

Living with, supporting and caring for a person with a dementia diagnosis can be very challenging, particularly if your loved one begins acting out or becomes aggressive or agitated while you are caring for them. One of the biggest questions that arises for a caregiver in these situations is “why?”  “Why are they upset?” “Why are they acting this way?” “Why can’t they sleep?” Why, why, why.

Obviously being in the role of caregiver can become very stressful, especially when you can’t be certain what is needed to help your loved one feel better, sleep, eat or just relax. While it can be challenging at times as the caregiver, the best thing you can do is try to understand what is causing the behavior. Continue reading “Approach to Care”