Glen Campbell Says Farewell in Documentary

When Glen Campbell, 78, received the news about his Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, he was told to “hang up his guitar and prepare for the inevitable.” The singer/songwriter instead decided to embark on a “Goodbye Tour” that was to last 5 weeks. Instead, the tour lasted a year and a half, and Glen Campbell played to sold-out audiences in 151 performances around the country.

That tour, along with the chronicle of Mr. Campbell’s advancing disease, has been captured by the documentary, Glen Campbell . . . I’ll Be Me, which opened this past week across the U.S. Documentarian James Keach captures not only the amazing performances, but also the struggles with his advancing Alzheimer’s disease. However, not only do we see the anger, frustration, and moments of lucidity that are the hallmarks of memory loss disease, we also get to see the triumph of Mr. Campbell’s spirit on stage. Of his film’s subject, Keach has said, “It became not so much the story of Glen Campbell, but the story of the gift that is being taken away from him. And us."

Even if he sometimes forgot the words, the music is so ingrained in this man’s mind, body, and soul, that he could still do this:

For those too young to remember, Glen Campbell is a 6-time Grammy winner, including an Album of the Year in 1967 and is a recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award (2012). He was a session guitarist with the Beach Boys and Elvis Presley and in 1975, his hit “Rhinestone Cowboy” was No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 list. He is back on the list at No. 90 with the film’s "I'm Not Gonna Miss You." It’s his first chart appearance since Sept. 5, 1981—marking a 33-year hiatus.

Since the tour ended, Mr. Campbell’s family, including his wife, Kim Woolen and the couple’s daughter Ashley, 27, were caring for the singer at home until this past April. It was then that the 24-hour care Campbell needed became too much for the family to provide themselves. They decided to place Mr. Campbell in a memory care facility near their home in Nashville, TN. Ms. Woolen told People magazine about the decision. "No one was getting any sleep and we were just struggling every second to keep him safe – we felt like it wasn't safe anymore."

An estimated 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease in 2014. Most of us know someone or love someone with some form of dementia. We know how difficult it is to watch that person slowly slip away. It used to be that we wouldn’t acknowledge memory loss disease. What was referred to as “old-timer’s disease” was rarely spoken of and it’s sufferers stigmatized. It takes a lot of courage for someone like Glen Campbell, along with his family, to open their lives and share publicly what so many families are experiencing privately.

Julianne Moore is Still Alice

It happens to everyone, I think. The missing keys, the lost word, that moment when you walk into a room and forget what you came in for. When it happens to me, I get a brief moment of fear that it might be something a little worse and a little more frightening than simple forgetfulness. At my age, I worry that it might be just a harbinger for more serious things to come.

Still Alice is a story that takes us into the world of a woman — a scholar, wife, and mother — for whom that fear becomes a reality when she’s diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Based on Lisa Genova's 2007 bestselling novel of the same name, it’s the story of a linguistics professor who struggles to hang on to her memories, and herself during her swift deterioration. And by all accounts, Julianne Moore's performance is incredible.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is a fairly rare form of dementia that strikes people younger than 65. As in the movie, it’s common for those with the disease to exhibit symptoms beginning in their 50s. Most early-onset Alzheimer’s is genetic, and although not backed by hard data, the perception is that early-onset Alzheimer’s progresses more quickly than Alzheimer’s disease experienced later in life.

The movie co-stars Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish as Alice’s three grown children who watch their brilliant mother fade away while learning they may inherit her disease. Alec Baldwin co-stars as her husband, and after the great chemistry they showed on 30 Rock, I can’t wait to see them together here in a more dramatic pairing.

Here’s a clip from the movie in which Julianne Moore’s Alice discusses the short but beautiful lifespan of butterflies with her family caregiver, daughter Lydia:

The movie, and especially Ms. Moore’s performance (The Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg calls it “nuanced and heartbreaking,”) were such a hit at the Toronto International Film Festival that there’s been a lot of talk about this role finally garnering her an Oscar. She’s had four nominations but no wins to date.

If you live in New York or Los Angeles, you’ll be able to see the movie on December 5, 2014 (in time to be considered by the Academy). For the rest of the country, the film is set for U.S. wide-release on January 16, 2015.

I remember reading the Caregiverlist Alzheimer's Diary by Norm McNamara back when we published it in 2011. Mr. McNamara gave us a peek into what living with Alzheimer’s is like in that one-day entry. I imagine the heartrending research Julianne Moore must have gone through to prepare for her role. These point-of-view looks into the life of those afflicted with memory loss disease is as close as I want to get, but I think it’s so valuable for us to see and try to empathize with the millions of Alzheimer’s sufferers around the world.

Leeza Gibbons Invests in Senior Helpers

Leeza Gibbons is an Emmy Award winner and a longtime champion for Alzheimer's care. After losing both her mother and grandmother to Alzheimer’s disease, she began her campaign to spotlight memory disease and help families and caregivers find the tools and information they need to best support those in their care.

Now Ms. Gibbons and her husband have decided to invest in and become franchise owners of one of the nation's largest in-home senior care companies, Senior Helpers.

Choosing a senior caregiver is, as she puts it, “a delicate decision” because they become like family. There is a great deal of trust that is placed in the hands of those caring for the elderly, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“Senior Helpers provides trusted and dependable care and encouragement to seniors and families facing devastating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Leeza Gibbons on the Senior Helpers website. “This is the precise type of care I wish my family and I had when my mother and grandmother were suffering from Alzheimer’s. That is why I am proud to invest in Senior Helpers franchised business, to ensure that the best in-home care is available to support, empower and uplift seniors and their families.”

Many senior care agency owners began their careers caring for senior loved ones. Seth Zamek Owner, Senior Helpers, Fort Mill, SC and one of our Senior Home Care Agency Experts decided to start his business in senior home care after both he and his wife and were caregivers for his mother-in-law during her battle with cancer, Caregiverlist’s own founder and CEO, Julie Northcutt, owned a senior care agency prior to establishing Caregiverlist.com

“This is just an opportunity that’s getting bigger and bigger,” says Ms. Gibbons. “It’s here and we all have to get on board and figure out how to deal with it.

Ms. Gibbons is also seeking to  convert a landmark home in Lexington County, South Carolina into a caregiver assistance facility. With area philanthropist Michael Mungo, Ms. Gibbons is planning to provide a center aiding people caring for others with major diseases and wants the center to offer free services for those coping with the stress of caring for someone with chronic or terminal illness.

More information about Ms. Gibbons and her decision is in this Entrepreneur article.

Alive Inside: Music Triggers Memories

Every year, I look forward to fall movie season—comedies, crazy horror movies (looking at you, Tusk,) big blockbusters, and sweet, small romantic dramas—I don’t have a favorite genre. As long as its well written and well acted, I’m in.

I’m also a nut for music, and the two are combined with great effect in the documentary, Alive Inside. Great documentaries not only entertain, but by their very nature, teach us something we didn’t know before or gives us a deeper understanding of a subject. Documentary filmmakers are rarely in it for the money, so you know that telling their story is a labor of love.

Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett follows social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the organization Music & Memory, a nonprofit that uses music to trigger memory and emotion to those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss. Winner of the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, the film showed music’s capability of reawakening the mind and soul of the listener, restoring an individual’s sense of self, especially when that person is battling memory loss.

It’s been chronicled that those with Alzheimer’s and dementia feel emotion long after memory has faded. Alive Inside shows nursing home patients respond to the music they enjoyed in their youth.

Just as “Radar Love” takes me back to cruising the streets of Chicago in my first car (a 1970 Nova), Henry reacts to the big band music played through an iPod and headphones. The 94-year-old man suffers from dementia and initially seems cut off from the outside world. We watch as he listens. The transformation is immediate and profound. Henry sits up, sways to the music, and starts raving about how much he loves Cab Calloway. He responds to questions and suddenly he is full of energy and life.

The movie is full of those kind of examples. Mr. Rossato-Bennett spent three years watching and recording the effects of music therapy. At its best, the movie let’s us see the transformation of memory loss patients from isolated to reconnected—all through the power of music.

The documentary also contains interviews with experts including renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, who discusses links between music and emotion and the strength of musical memories. Musician Bobby McFerrin (Don’t Worry, Be Happy) also weighs in on the power of music as a trigger of emotional memory.


Caregiverlist supports the family and professional caregiver and understands the challenges of caring for seniors with memory loss. We think music therapy is a great technique for connecting with those with Alzheimer's disease.

And if you are looking for a a little escapist fun in theaters this fall, Irma la Douce and Captain von Trapp (Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer) are living it up in Elsa & Fred, an American remake of a 2005 Spanish-Argentine film of the same name.

Do you have an issue you'd like to see tackled on this blog? Connect with Renata on Google+

Caregivers Need Care Too: World Alzheimer's Day

World Alzheimer’s Day was observed on September 21, 2014. Because of the nature of the disease, caregiving for a person with such a degenerative memory condition can be especially taxing.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2013, 15.5 million family and friends provided 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care to those with Alzheimer's and other dementias – care valued at $220.2 billion. Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers had $9.3 billion in additional health care costs of their own, due to the physical and emotional burden of caregiving. This doesn’t even take into account lost employment income and the out-of-pocket costs associated with in-home care. A recent study showed that 54% of family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias had to go
in late, leave early, or take time off and 7% had to turn down a promotion due to the demands of caregiving.

Family caregivers are often reluctant to reach out for help. Middle-stage caregiving lasts longest and this is where most family caregiving occurs. The person living with Alzheimer’s doesn’t yet need the extensive (and expensive) care that late-stage Alzheimer’s demands, so often a spouse, child, or other family member provides the needed care. At this stage, the person with Alzheimer’s may have a more difficult time expressing their thoughts and may anger easily. They have an increased need for help as their independence decreases. Caregivers need patience and flexibility, but it’s important to realize that providing this level of care bring with it a higher level of caregiver stress and burnout.

You know how, on an airplane, the flight attendant will instruct passengers to, in case of emergency, place an oxygen mask on themselves before helping others? Same thing goes for family caregiving, especially when caring for those with AD or dementia. What starts out as a labor of love often turns into feelings of resentment, isolation, depression, and the physical problems (such as hypertension and coronary heart disease) associated with chronic stress.

Caregiver stress and caregiver burnout are prevalent and may counterac the caregiver’s original intent to keep the care recipient at home. For example, when caregivers report being stressed because of the impaired person’s behaviors, it increases the chance that they will place that person in a nursing home.

There are, however, several interventions that are proven to help the family caregiver.

Work with a Professional
A Geriatric Care Manager can help assess the needs of someone afflicted with Alzheimer’s and dementia and provide information, referral, and help with care coordination. They can be a strong advocate for the family caregiver.

Get Counseling
Professionals can help resolve conflicts between caregiver and care recipient and help the caregiver work through emotional overload.

Find Support Groups
Online and offline, it is important to know you are not alone in your caregiving, and that the emotions you are feeling—as well as the physical challenges you experience are experienced by others as well.

Get Respite Help
Ask for help, hire help, demand help. Reach out before you burn out. Just because you don’t do it alone doesn’t mean you’ve failed. Much-needed breaks will make you a better caregiver.

Make Nutrition and Exercise a Priority
Many caregivers say they simply don’t have the time to care for themselves. If you aren’t healthy and strong, you can’t take care of anyone else. Lead your care recipient by example. Eat well and schedule exercise breaks.

September and October see Walk(s) to End Alzheimer’s all over the country. There may still be available dates in your area. See if you can start or join a team and see just how strong the caring community is.

And check back with this blog in November, which is not only National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, but also National Caregiver Month.

California Caregivers: Must Know Risks Court Rules

Caregivers for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease must know the risks that come with the job, based on a ruling this month by the California Supreme Court. And knowing there are risks when caring for someone with Alzheimer's disease, seniors no longer need to worry about being liable for injuries they may cause their paid in-home caregivers. The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the senior in the Carolyn Gregory, plaintiff and appellant, vs. Lorraine Cott, defendants and respondents, lawsuit. The decision ruled in favor of the senior, 5 - 2, verifying that the caregiver could not be compensated for damages.

 

This case and ruling provides all of us an opportunity to realize the advantages of working with a professionally licensed senior care company for senior care services.  And to understand the limitations for compensation for events we cannot control when this disease claims someone’s mind and body. Professional senior care companies maintain certain quality standards and provide benefits for caregivers legally hired as employees.

Here is the story:

In September, 2008, Carolyn Gregory, age 54, provided caregiving services for Lorraine Cott, age 88.  She was hired to assist Ms. Cott who had advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Now for the tough part of this story - just want to warn you - while the caregiver was washing dishes, which included a knife, the elder Ms. Cott came up behind her and began reaching toward the sink.  The caregiver tried to restrain her and in the process, the large knife she was washing fell and sliced into her left hand.  This caused the caregiver, Ms. Gregory, to lose sensation in her thumb and two fingers and to experience considerable pain.

The caregiver, Ms. Gregory, sued the senior for compensation for the damages to her hand, even though she did have coverage for the injury through her employer’s worker’s compensation insurance.  She sued for additional money for negligence.  The good news is that the caregiver did work for a senior care agency and had worker’s compensation benefits.  She wanted more compensation and the California Supreme Court denied this because of a legal doctrine referred to as the “primary assumption of risk.” From the California Supreme Court, when announcing their decision:

 

We have noted that the duty to avoid injuring others ―normally extends to 

those engaged in hazardous work.‖ (Neighbarger, supra, 8 Cal.4th at p. 536.) 

―We have never held that the doctrine of assumption of risk relieves all persons of 

a duty of care to workers engaged in a hazardous occupation.‖ (Id. at p. 538.) 

However, the doctrine does apply in favor of those who hire workers to handle a 

dangerous situation, in both the public and the private sectors. Such a worker, ―as 

a matter of fairness, should not be heard to complain of the negligence that is the 

cause of his or her employment. 

Caring for a senior home care agency client who formerly worked in a bank, we discovered that sometimes, with no prior warning, she apparently thought she was back at the bank counter.  She would swing her arms out from side to side in front of her and we realized, after talking with her family, that this was her way of pretending to count out money.  We found a way to bring her some peace when these moments presented themselves - we gave her a large magazine and guided her to flip through the pages one-by-one until the urge fled away from her.

None of us know what path old age will lead us down.  The road may be smooth, with a sudden end, or bumpy with sharp curves and steep inclines. We just don’t know how our road ends.  But now we know if our mind becomes something we cannot control, we will not be responsible if our actions might hurt a caregiver.

In Alzheimer’s care, caregivers must know what they are confronting.  They must understand that this is a different type of memory loss which progresses at a different speed for each senior. Senior home care agencies, licensed by their state to provide senior care, do provide quality caregiver training and worker’s compensation insurance for caregivers.  This means if a caregiver should have an on-the-job injury, the worker’s compensation insurance provides for the medical care and recovery needs.  This is yet another reason why many states are requiring specific licensing and training requirements for senior home care agencies.

Caregivers working as employees for senior home care agencies receive active care management, training and support when caring for difficult clients.  Sometimes just having someone to vent to enables the caregiver to go back the next day with a fresh attitude and new tools to successfully assist the senior. Alzheimer’s disease delivers so many “moments’ for caregivers  - and remember, family members and professional caregivers often provide care for those with Alzheimer’s disease as it truly is the long goodbye.

I have shared previously that I had the gift of meeting former President Ronald Reagan, after he had Alzheimer’s disease.  He thought he knew me and I played along and winked at him.  I was having brunch at the “leftover tables off the breezeway” at a Santa Monica restaurant because I didn’t make reservations and had a former co-worker who was kind enough to give me a lift to the airport. However, she drove an old convertible car that didn’t have a big enough trunk for my suitcases.  Since we had already convinced the valet guy to just leave the car in the circle driveway, to keep an eye on it, we begged for a table and they told us they didn't normally seat people in this area but if we really wanted a table we could have it.

Funny how coincidences work out sometimes……..and then the former President came in and was seated with his nurse and two Secret Service agents, at the table next to us. I was so busy talking with my friend that I honestly did not notice them come in and sit down.  It was only after the waitress came in and served them a platter of fruit and said, in a really loud voice, while talking slowly, “here you go, enjoy your fruit”, that my friend said, she is talking to them like they are in an old folk’s home.

That is when I looked up and realized who he was, and apparently because of the surprise on my face, he thought he knew me.  He waved at me and then leaned over and told the nurse something and pointed at me.  That is when I winked to let them know I knew what was going on and everything was cool.  And I also held back tears.

We are all the same when it comes to old age.  A president was seated in the leftover area, with Ishtar and I, because we had no reservations, and an old car without a real trunk. His road to the end was 10 years long!  He was going for a walk on the beach each morning with his nurse and two Secret Service agents. And when it was time to go, just like my own grandfather, he did not want to get up and leave.  The agents (kind of cool to say that) told us that they never knew how long it would take before he would be ready. Even a former president would misbehave when it came to Alzheimer's disease and now in California, families and caregivers must be aware of the risks. President Reagan had senior caregivers for 10 years........a reminder for all of us to plan ahead for senior care.

 

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Former President Ronald Reagan  

"The Genius of Marian" Shows Love Beyond Alzheimer's

Here are some startling latest Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures from the Alzheimer's Association:

  • More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Alzheimer's disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
  • In 2013, 15.5 million caregivers provided an estimated 17.7 billion hours of unpaid care valued at more than $220 billion
  • Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer's are women.

Pam White is one of those women. Her own mother, the renowned painter Marian Williams Steele, herself died of Alzheimer’s in 2001 at the age of 89. Ms. White was in the midst of writing a biography of her mother, entitled “The Genius of Marian” when she began exhibiting the signs of early-onset dementia. Because she was struggling with typing and other tasks, her filmmaker son, Banker White, began to videotape conversations with his mother with the hope of helping her continue her project.

What came out of those conversations is a film that captures big events and small, as Ms. White details and recalls the events of her life. It also catches the struggle of a loving family as they deal with the complex emotions of losing a loved one to the disease.

It was an audience favorite at the Tribeca Film festival and, by all accounts, is a remarkable film—both for its subject matter and the intimacy and love with which it’s displayed.

In December of 2012, Banker White wrote a guest blogpost for Maria Shriver’s Inspirational Stories for Architects of Change, describing the powerful process of filmmaking this incredibly personal project.

“I believe the story is deeply important and powerfully told and I trust it will resonate not only for those directly affected by Alzheimer’s disease, but for with anyone who has had to reconcile complicated emotions around aging and loss.”



“It’s a remarkable film, not only for the obvious affection with which it was made, but as art.” – John Anderson, INDIEWIRE

David Shenk, award-winning, national-bestselling author of six books, including what is commonly known as the “the definitive work on Alzheimer’s,” The Forgetting (2001), served as consultant on the film. His short video below, provides an engaging and informative introduction to Alzheimer's disease.


The film will air nationally for the first time on PBS’s POV on Sept. 8 and film screenings are available for communal viewing. I’m inking the television debut on my calendar and hoping that Caregiverlist will be able to host a viewing in the Chicago area soon.

Alzheimer's Caregivers Cannot Sue, Rules California Court

Seniors who suffer Alzheimer’s can be a challenge to their professional caregivers, especially those who are able to age at home, outside of an institutional setting like a nursing home. Especially in later stages, Alzheimer’s patients and those with other dementia’s can be aggressive, angry, and violent. That can be a very difficult environment, especially for the in-home professional caregiver.

But if a senior caregiver suffers an injury at the hands of their Alzheimer’s client, they cannot sue the patient nor their family or estate for damages, according to a ruling by the California Supreme Court. Monday’s ruling came as a result of a case of a home health aide who was cut with a knife by her elderly client.

Prior to hiring her as to aid his ailing wife, a Los Angeles man informed the agency and the home health aide that his wife was prone to violent outbursts, including biting and scratching. Because of this prior knowledge, the court ruled 5-2 that it would not be appropriate to allow workers to sue their employers. 

California law already states that caregivers in nursing homes and other institutional facilities cannot sue Alzheimer’s patients who hurt them because those risks are inherent in their duties, especially since it’s well known that , although it’s not common for Alzheimer’s patients to become violent, discomfort and confusion can cause a violent flare-up.

The ruling is intended to help families keep their loved ones as home longer. If home healthcare workers were allowed to sue, families might decide it more financial sense to put seniors with memory issues into a nursing home.

Senior caregivers who are not warned of their client’s potential violent nature are precluded from future lawsuits, the court added. 

The best way a professional caregiver can learn how to deal with Alzheimer’s and dementia sufferers and help prevent latent violent outbursts is to partake in professional caregiver training. Caregiverlist® Basic Training, powered by Caregiver Training University provides the elemental training for every in-home caregiver. In addition, Caregiverlist® offers training videos especially for care techniques for those giving care to those with Alzheimer’s and other memory loss diseases.

Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia: What's the Difference?

It happens almost imperceptibly — a misplaced wallet, a forgotten word or name, short-term memory loss. These incidents can be normal blips in memory, but sometimes they can be indications of a more serious cognitive degeneration. The fear of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease can keep a person in the state of denial. In fact, new figures show half of those who are diagnosed with dementia waited at least six months before seeing their doctor.

The Alzheimer’s Association says that of more than 6000 people surveyed, nearly a quarter of list Alzheimer’s disease as the second most frightening condition they most fear getting, behind cancer. More than 80% believe that the disease is a normal part of aging, and nearly 40% of people believed that only those with a family history of the disease could be affected.

But Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging. It's a disease that causes brain cells to malfunction and ultimately die. Neurons are the chief type of cell destroyed by Alzheimer's disease. That causes memory changes, erratic behaviors and loss of body functions. It’s a sad fact that Alzheimer’s has no survivors. The disease is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month. The Alzheimer’s Association is asking everyone affected by the disease to show their commitment to the cause by wearing purple and posting to social media sites like Facebook. As they say on their website, “Everyone who has a brain is at risk to develop Alzheimer's—but everyone can help to fight it.”

A number of celebrities have banded together to support Alzheimer’s awareness. Recently, actor and Alzheimer’s activist Seth Rogan spoke to congress about the need to allocate more funding to research and eradicate the disease that strikes so many, including his mother-in-law.

BradleyCooper

Bradley Cooper proudly promotes purple to #ENDALZ.

All Alzheimer’s disease is dementia but not all dementia is Alzheimer’s. Dementia is an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms. Although Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, there are a variety of other dementia types. These include Vascular dementia, or post-stroke dementia, which accounts for about 10% of all dementia cases. Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) sufferers are more likely than people with Alzheimer's to have early symptoms such as visual hallucinations and muscle rigidity. Parkinson's disease, frontotemporal dementia, normal pressure hydrocephalus are also types of dementia. Some of these diseases are treatable. Unfortunately, no cure or treatment slows or stops some of these progressive dementia diseases, like Alzheimer’s. But there are drug treatments that may temporarily improve symptoms.

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is often, but not always, a precursor to dementia. If you’ve been diagnosed with MCI, or are caring for a senior with Mild Cognitive Impairment, there’s a lot you can do to ease the ease and reduce the signs of MCI. For example, it’s been found that, coupled with a healthy diet, regular exercise can have a very positive impact on the brain and cognitive function.

Caregiverlist® urges if you are a senior caregiver whose family member or client presents any symptoms of memory loss, to seek the counsel of a doctor. Early detection is key in order to benefit from treatment and to plan for the future. Some dementia disorders are treatable — such as depression, drug interactions, thyroid problems, excess use of alcohol or certain metabolic disorders, such as a vitamin B12 deficiency .

If you or your beloved senior has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, share your story with the world. Reach out to us on Twitter @Caregiverlist and don't forget to use #gopurple and #endalz to join the conversation. It’s time we destigmafy Alzheimer’s and other memory loss diseases.

Are Brain Games Vital to Great Senior Care?

Whenever my older sister misplaced things, or forgot a word or phrase, or walked into a room and couldn’t recollect why, she was fond of saying that she was having a “senior moment.” While it’s true that memory and processing speed can be challenged as we age, there are some aspects of the cognitive mind that are sharper in the elderly than in the young. Older people have a depth and breadth of knowledge and experience from which to draw. Decision-making processes can be stronger and certainly, the elderly probably have better language skills than their younger counterparts. But, as with the rest of the body, the mind should exercise or face possible atrophy.

According to Marbles, the Brain Store, the brain is malleable and can continue to create more neurons and neuronal connections, even older adults can exercise their brains and improve areas that they may not be as sharp in. SharpBrains, an independent research and advisory company on brain fitness, concurs. Cofounder and CEO Alvaro Fernandez states in an article on Social Work Today, that brain fitness is becoming a standard in older adult residential facilities, with more than 700 facilities in the United States alone installing computerized cognitive training programs since 2007.

Although I love computers, I wanted to find some good old-fashioned offline games to help increase brain strength. With that in mind (pun intended), I’ve enlisted the help of my local Marbles to give caregivers an idea of some games they can play with their seniors. Here are some of the suggestions from their website:

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Marbles Good Thinking Kit – This portable kit boasts over 100 activities to help improve memory, critical thinking, coordination, visual perception and word skills.

 

Pengoloo – Pengoloo is as much fun as one of penguins’ favorite pastimes: sliding down icy hills on their bellies! The best part? This charming game works your memory without you even realizing it. (The greatest brain health games are sneaky like that.)

 

Rush Hour – This multi-award winner is one of Marbles’ bestsellers; my kids love it too. Perhaps it’s the fun of setting up the game board based on pictures of traffic jams and then plotting your escape as you slide cars and trucks out of the way. Although it looks like a kid’s game, it’s challenging to even the best adult puzzlers.

 

 

 

Sherlock Deluxe – As Sherlock searches for clues, players are asked to recall objects on a facedown card. If the player is correct, the card is turned face-up and Sherlock moves on. If Sherlock lands on a face-up card, the player gets to keep that card. The first player to collect six cards wins. For adults, the game just might help you remember that you left your keys in the freezer.

 

And because we are not always around or available to play, a good solitary brain game continues to be:

Little Black & White Book of Crosswords – Of course, there areother crossword puzzles out there. But The New York Times Crossword is the gold standard. The bible. The one that all others are measured against. Now you can get 200 of these brilliant bad boys in The New York Times Little Black (and White) Book of Crosswords from puzzle master Will Shortz.

Caregiverlist® suggests that the next time you think of healthy aging and senior caregiving, remember to add some brain exercises. Along with physical activity and good nutrition, it will help you help your senior to age well.

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