• November 15, 2017 /  Dementia

    10 Brain Exercises to Help Prevent Dementia

    In the past we’ve shared valuable tips on how physical exercise can help reduce your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now it’s time to look at working out your brain, in ways that might help prevent the development of these devastating diseases.

    You want to take care of your whole self as you get older, and that includes keeping your brain running at peak performance. Just as it’s important to get up and get moving with some daily exercise, you can’t overlook giving your mental muscles some exercises to do, too. Scientists agree that training your brain helps keep it healthy, letting it form new neuro-connections and preserving the older ones.

    Another benefit of challenging your brain each day is that you will notice any changes early on. For instance, if you find that your daily crossword has become much more challenging than in the past, it might be a good idea to mention it to your doctor. They might recommend ways to help prevent future mental deterioration, including supplements, nutritional changes, and the like.

    Common Symptoms of Cognitive Impairment

    These are some of the signs of mild cognitive impairment that could be a signal to you that it is time to see your doctor and get started right away on your mental workout:

    • Forgetting important events/dates
    • Easily distracted
    • More impulsive
    • Difficulty with abstract thinking
    • Trouble finding the right word for something
    • Lose train of thought in conversations
    • Difficulty making decisions
    • Trouble finding your way around familiar places
    • Neglecting personal nutrition and hygiene

    All of these can simply be signs of getting older, but it’s always a good idea to keep your brain in shape to help keep you sharp as you age. Don’t worry. Exercising your brain doesn’t have to feel like a return to your school days. There are plenty of games and exercises that are fun and stimulating without feeling like homework.

    10 Ways to Get Your Brain in Shape


    Crossword puzzles, in addition to the many other kinds of word or number puzzles, are excellent exercises for mental stimulation. They help improve or maintain your recall abilities, and changing up from one puzzle to the next helps stimulate different areas of your brain, keeping your nerves functioning properly. They work out the part of your brain that relates to reasoning and problem solving, one of the first areas to be impacted by dementia.

    Learn Something New

    Don’t ever think that you’re too old to learn something new. There are hundreds of classes available online for free about a wide range of topics. You don’t have to be working towards a degree to take advantage of these resources. Just find a topic that you’ve always wanted to know more about and sign up. You can also sign up to learn a new language or take a cooking class. Learning new things helps improve self-esteem and memory while strengthening the connections between different parts of your brain.

    Read More Books

    Reading is a low-stress activity that offers hours of enjoyment. You are limited only by your personal preferences when it comes to books. Dust off that library card or visit your local secondhand bookstore to find a new adventure in fiction, or choose to learn something new with the plethora of non-fiction works available. Cutting back on the amount of TV you watch can also reduce your risk of dementia, so let yourself get swept up into a book series instead of a television series.

    Play with Children

    Doctors have found that adults who spend time playing with children have lower levels of stress as well as reduced blood pressure, cortisol, and heart rate. Play can also improve mood, which is an important element in keeping your brain operating at its highest level. If you have grandchildren, playing with them won’t just benefit you – it will benefit them emotionally as well!


    As we’ve talked about in our previous posts, regular exercise is an important part of keeping the brain healthy. The more you exercise, and the healthier you eat, the better your mental well-being will be compared to people who avoid those things.

    Grow a Green Thumb

    Gardening has been proven as an activity that helps improve mood and brain function, but no one really knows why. Perhaps it’s the probiotics in the soil, exposure to natural light, or simply the joy of seeing something grow, but gardeners have shown lower levels of stress and improvement in cognitive abilities, and an alleviation of dementia symptoms.


    Yoga gives you all of the benefits of exercise but with much less impact on your body. Combine yoga with meditation and you’ve got a great balance for mind-body health. It helps improve focus, reduce stress and anxiety, and increases neuroplasticity.

    Listen to Music

    Researchers have shown that the brain of a musician has better recall of large chunks of data, plus the connections between short term and long-term memory are closer than the average person’s. More studies are being done to see how music therapy can help people fight dementia.

    Hand-Eye Coordination Work

    Activities like knitting and needlework are excellent ways to keep your brain stimulated and functioning at a high level. People who have these types of hobbies have been found to recall information more easily. These activities improve concentration, and are considered a natural antidepressant!

    Play Games

    There are tons of apps you can add to your phone that are geared towards building your mental muscle. They offer a variety of games and puzzles you can do on the go. Some that you should check out include Lumosity, CleverMind, and the Brain Trainer App. These are handy to have when you’re waiting at a doctor’s office, on your commute, or even when you have a little downtime at home.

    Dementia and Alzheimer’s are a risk for any adult as they get older. Doing whatever you can to help reduce your risk of developing these diseases can be fun, stimulating, and keep you feeling like yourself for many years to come, so don’t wait. Start exercising your brain today!

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  • October 16, 2017 /  Basics, Dementia

    Reduce Your Dementia Risk With Exercise

    In our last article, we discussed what proactive steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Today we’re going to go into further detail on one such step: regular exercise.

    Many older adults find that with age fitness is more difficult to maintain. You may face chronic pain, fatigue, or illnesses that limit your physical abilities. Additionally, if you’re isolated from friends and family you might lack the motivation to exercise on your own. There’s still plenty you can do, however! Let’s learn why exercise plays such an important role in reducing one’s risk for these serious diseases, and how you can incorporate it into your own life.

    Scientific Evidence

    What scientific evidence is there to support this claim? As one reference, we can look at a study done by neuroscientist Art Kramer. He scanned the brains of 120 older adults, half of whom started a program of moderate aerobic exercise — just 45 minutes, three days a week, mostly walking. After a year, the MRI scans showed that for the aerobic group, the volume of their brains actually increased.

    What’s more, individuals in the control group lost about 1.5 percent of their brain volume, adding up to a 3.5 percent difference between individuals who took part in aerobic exercise and those who did not. Further tests showed that increased brain volume translated into better memory.

    This isn’t an isolated case. Bryan James is an epidemiologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago. He conducted a study in which he looked at a different measure of activity — something he calls “life space.” He added up how often people got out of their bedroom, went out of their house, traveled out of their neighborhood or out of town. “The people who never left their home — even though they didn’t seem to have any cognitive problems when we started following them — were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease over five years,” James says.

    Why exactly does this happen? Increased aerobic capacity has benefits for the metabolism and physiological function of the brain. A protein known as brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) is known to be important in the development, survival, and plasticity of nerve cells called neurons. It’s also important in protecting against neuro-degeneration that’s associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia.

    Regular aerobic exercise boosts the level of BDNF by 2-3 times, and clearly the more often you exercise, the more prolonged the effect. We all deal with stress and fear in our everyday life, requiring our brains to constantly adapt. Since exercise has been shown to help us do this, it may well explain how it can be effective in reducing the risk of depression, anxiety, and dementia.

    What You Can Do

    As mentioned, this blog has covered the topic of fitness in the past. There are 3 common threads among them: start with easy, gentle exercises until you know your personal limits; reach out to family and friends for support, or look for a group to join; and have fun! By finding activities you really enjoy doing, you ensure that you continue to do them with regularity.

    For more, check out our past articles regarding fitness and overall wellness:

    4 Ways to Stay Active as a Senior

    How To Exercise When You Have Arthritis

    Five Wellness Tips for Seniors

    Speaking of Exercise

    Does this mean that you can 100% prevent dementia? Sadly, no. There are a myriad of factors that influence someone’s risk. However, you can play an active role in your own future health, and do a great deal of good for your brain!

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  • October 2, 2017 /  Dementia

    Lifestyle Tips to Help Prevent Dementia

    For those with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, forgetting names and misplacing keys is more than just a frustration – it can feel like a sign of what’s to come. But we are more than our genes and in fact, for the vast majority, it’s lifestyle choices that represent the biggest dementia risk factors.

    Change is hard, and it’s unrealistic to try to completely transform your life just for the sake of making changes. A smarter move would be to take manageable steps that will actually make a provable impact. Taking a look at scientific evidence can help you make those changes.

    Improve Your Daily Routine

    From how you spend your daylight hours to how well you sleep at night, it’s your daily routine that impacts your health the most.

    • Quit smoking.A daily habit of lighting up can be a dementia risk factor, research shows. In 2014, the World Health Organization found that smokers have a 45 percent higher risk of developing dementia than non-smokers. Be aware of second-hand smoke exposure too – it may increase your dementia risk by nearly the same amount as if you were holding the cigarette. For tips on quitting, read our previous article on the subject here.
    • Sleep better.The CDC estimates that 50-70 million U.S. adults don’t get enough sleep. Studies suggest that slumber is essential to brain health. As you snooze, your brain resets and cleans out the hormones and chemicals it used during the day. One of the chemicals that is scrubbed away each night is amyloid-beta, a chemical that forms brain plaque – a key suspect in what causes Alzheimer’s.
    • Exercise regularly.One of the signs of dementia is loss of brain mass. A 2013 study conducted by Maryland School of Public Health researchers tracked four groups of healthy adults aged 65-89 – those with high and low Alzheimer’s risk and those with high and low activity levels. Only one group lost brain mass – those who had both a high genetic risk for Alzheimer’s and who also did not exercise. If you need ideas on how to start getting fit, read our article about how to stay active!

    Fuel Your Body

    Your body and your brain run on what you consume. There is a significant amount of science on which foods can help reduce your dementia risk.

    • Drink raw fruit and vegetable juices.A 2006 study from Vanderbilt University found that drinking fruit and vegetable juices more than three times a week could cut your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 76 percent.
    • Eat less sugar.Diabetes may not cause Alzheimer’s directly, but the two diseases share the same root cause – the body not using insulin properly. According to research published in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal in 2011, diabetics are more than twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease and have an increased risk of developing dementia of any kind.
    • Eat more fish.Omega-3 fatty acids may protect against brain atrophy, which is associated dementia. An eight-year study lead by University of South Dakota researchers found that women with the highest levels of omega-3s in their blood had 2.7 percent larger brain volume – that means their brain atrophied less. Plus, those who reported eating seafood at least once a week were less likely to have the dementia-related brain plaque.

    Strengthen Your Brain

    Protect your brain’s health by strengthening the areas often targeted by dementia.

    • Learn a new language.In 2013, a study published in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal found that participants who spoke a second language developed dementia 4.5 years later than their monolingual counterparts.
    • Do new things.Simply put, learning new skills helps enhance cognitive function. In a 2013 University of Texas at Dallas study, participants learned quilting or digital photography for three months. They found that no matter if the participants learned the skill alone or with others, their memory of past events was enhanced. The key is to find and spend time mastering new hobbies that make your brain think in new ways.
    • Meditation not only lowers stress – research suggests it can help reduce brain atrophy. A study from the Jena University Hospital in Germany found that the brains of people who meditated regularly appeared on average seven years younger than their true age.

    Dementia may not be inevitable. The studies highlighted here seem to suggest that it’s possible to influence and change your dementia risk factors. Know the science so you can take control and face dementia head-on!

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  • July 27, 2015 /  Basics, Dementia, Resources


    www.Caregiverstress.com Sponsored by Home Instead Senior Care Services

    Senior sexuality represents possibly the last remaining taboo. No one wants to talk about it. In a 2013 survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc., fewer than one-third of adult children said they were even the slightest bit comfortable talking to their parents about senior sex.

    And that’s a problem, because certain medical conditions—like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease—can cause seniors to engage in inappropriate sexual behavior. This development can be disturbing for adult children and caregivers alike, and it can be difficult to manage. As a senior care professional, you can help your clients address these behaviors by sharing some tips and resources.

    Defining Inappropriate Sexual Behavior

    Let’s be clear about one thing: not all sexual behavior by seniors is “inappropriate.” Many seniors enjoy healthy sex lives well into older age. A study by the New England Journal of Medicine found 25 percent of seniors over age 75 are having sex, and about 50 percent of those between ages 65 and 75 are also sexually active.

    No matter the age of the adult participants, consensual sexual behaviors can be considered normal and healthy—as long as the participants retain the cognitive ability to consent.

    When Sexual Behavior Becomes Inappropriate

    Unfortunately, cognitive decline can cause seniors to engage in inappropriate sexual behaviors outside of a loving relationship or in unsuitable environments. These behaviors can cause distress for family members and caregivers who may feel ill-equipped to deal with them.

    Let’s look at three common situations and how to cope with them.

    1. Masturbating in public

    “My father had vascular dementia. He started masturbating in public. Of course, I was appalled when I was told this and then I witnessed it. (I guess a part of me was hoping that I was being told incorrect info.)”

    If a family caregiver asks you for guidance regarding a senior loved one who is fondling himself in public, you might advise them to start with a medical examination. In seniors who can’t communicate well, public masturbation may signal a medical issue, such as pain or a urinary tract infection. These medical causes may be ruled out (or treated) with a physical exam conducted by a skilled geriatric practitioner.

    In our anonymous family caregiver’s case, a trip to the doctor did the trick. She said, “I involved his MD, who examined him, and then gave him a low dose of an anti-depressant medicine. The behavior stopped.”

    1. Inappropriate or unwelcome touching of others

    “My mom seems to have a problem sometimes. My hubby will give her a hug as he always has. But occasionally she puts her hands where they shouldn’t be. So hubby tries to avoid her… which confuses her when she wants that hug.”

    Sexual inappropriateness with dementia certainly is not limited to men. As this comment illustrates, women can develop wandering hands, too.

    One way to cope with wandering hands during embraces is to develop a new way to hug. Follow these steps:

    • As you approach the senior, stop a short distance away and raise both hands in front of you in a “stop”-like gesture. Smile and make eye contact.
    • Verbally encourage the senior to raise her hands in the same position.
    • Move forward and place your palms against hers. Quickly interlace your fingers to hold onto her hands.
    • Now that the senior’s hands are secured, you can guide their hands toward your shoulders as you lean in for a ‘hug,’ to touch cheeks or to give your loved one a kiss.
    • When the embrace is finished, back away and release the senior’s hands.

    This method allows seniors to enjoy the physical touch of family members while ensuring hands don’t inadvertently wander where they shouldn’t go.

    1. Stripping in public

    Because Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias reduce a person’s inhibitions, seniors with these conditions may not realize it’s inappropriate to take their clothes off in public. If a family member seeks your guidance on this issue, it’s important to point out this behavior may not be sexual in nature at all.

    Seniors with dementia may disrobe in public for a variety of reasons, from feeling too warm to experiencing an urgent need to urinate. If family members can figure out what triggers the behavior, they may be able to resolve the underlying issue.

    In the meantime, family members can manage the activity as it occurs. Advise them to always take a shawl or throw with them to cover their family member as the clothes come off. Help your clients find resources for clothing that is difficult to remove, such as items with fasteners in the back. Encourage family members to stay calm and not to shame their loved one. Be sure family members know their loved one cannot necessarily control this behavior.

    Keep the Conversation Going

    As a senior care professional, you have the opportunity to bring senior sexuality out into the open. While adult children report reluctance to talk about this subject, they seem to feel relieved when someone broaches the topic to them. As another member of the Alzheimer’s Reflections community put it:

    “I have been a caregiver for the past 18 years. In all that time I have never had that issue come up. It actually had never even occurred to me! How awesome that you have brought this subject to the forefront for discussion if the need arises!”

    This is the link for the article:


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  • November 18, 2013 /  Dementia

    I ran across an article from BBC news on a study that there is initial evidence that autism may be detected in babies as soon as their second month. It looks like more study needs to be done but the initial study lays the ground work of hope for future studies. I’ve included the link to the article below.



    I serve the counties of El Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Solano, Sutter, Yolo, and Yuba and cities like Auburn, Lincoln, Rocklin, Roseville, Sacramento, Placerville, and Woodland.

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  • September 26, 2013 /  Dementia

    Urinary Tract Infections and DisorientationUrinary tract infections (UTI) can cause serious health problems. A urinary tract infection is caused when bacteria in the bladder or kidney multiplies in the urine. Left untreated, a urinary tract infection can lead to acute or chronic kidney infections, which could permanently damage the kidneys and even lead to kidney failure. UTIs are also a leading cause of sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection of the bloodstream.

    According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the population most likely to experience UTIs is the elderly. Elderly people are more vulnerable to UTIs for many reasons, including their overall susceptibility to infections due to the suppressed immune system that comes with age and certain age-related conditions.

    The normal symptoms of UTI’s are urine that appears cloudy or bloody, a strong or foul smelling odor, the frequent need to urinate, painful urination, or low grade fever. A UTI in the elderly can be mistaken for disorientation, confusion, a delirium like state, agitation, or hallucinations.

    I have found that there is a high likelihood that if these symptoms develop suddenly that there may be a UTI involved. I also look for a UTI to develop if there has been a recent surgery, especially on the hips.

    This was true of a case I took on where my client had been declared by the attending doctor to be without capacity, had lost her appetite and the staff was recommending palliative care. I spoke with a couple of people who knew her for a long time and noted that she seemed to have lost her memory and reasoning functions rather rapidly. She had just had a major surgery (hip), and been in a skilled nursing community for a month. As her newly appointed agent for her medical power of attorney, I asked for her records and determined that they had not completed a urine test on her so I ordered one. The next day they reported she had a bladder infection (part of the UTI) and put her on antibiotics. After a full week of medication the UTI was gone and she had significantly recovered memory and reasoning abilities. The doctor completed a reassessment (he used the mini-mental exam) and she passed thus “regaining” capacity.

    Not everything is this easy nor do I always have such a wonderful outcome but it is worth evaluating the patient/family member/friend starting with the simplest things (UTI and/or major surgery) before going to the more complicated treatments.

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