Ten Everyday Activities for Seniors to Help Boost Your Memory

Changes in thinking processes and memory are inevitable as we age. According to the 2011 Alzheimer’s Association’s Annual Report, someone in the U.S. Develops Alzheimer’s disease every 70 seconds. San Francisco Home Care states that in California, 500,000 individuals suffer from Alzheimer’s and 75,000 of these individuals reside in Northern California. The good news is that simple lifestyle activities on a physical and mental level can delay the onset of dementia and help to keep the mind sharp as a tack!

Here are 10 ways to boost your memory power. You will notice that many of these activities are probably already incorporated into your daily routine:

1. Take the stairs – Exercise benefits your brain as well as the rest of your body. Increasing blood flow to the brain results in less brain shrinkage and decreases one’s the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Remember, one step at a time – it all adds up. Avoid elevators, park at the far end of the parking lot or take an evening walk around your block.
2. Take a nap during the day – Memory storage happens while you sleep, which is why a good night’s sleep is so valuable. A six-minute nap is as valuable for short-term recall as a 90-minute nap is for speeding up the process that helps the brain consolidate long-term memories.
3. Play a ‘brain’ game – A study in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society shows that those over the age of 65 who used a computerized cognitive training program for an hour a day, over a period of eight weeks, improved memory and attention span more than the control group. Open up the San Francisco Chronicle and fill out a crossword puzzle or Sudoku board, both will help aid cognitive functioning.
4. A Cup of Joe – Green and black teas help with memory and increased concentration. People who drink moderate amounts of coffee, as many as three to five cups, have lower odds of developing dementia later life.
5. Eat your greens – People who are deficient in folate and vitamin B12 have an increased risk of developing dementia. In Northern California, we are lucky to be so close to local, sustainable vegetable sources where we can purchase romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, collards, broccoli, cauliflower and beets. All of which contain folate. Don’t like vegetables? Folate can also be found in lentils, calf’s liver and black beans. Home Care Assistance offers a great health-oriented program for clients that caregivers are trained in called the Balanced Care Method.
6. Learn something new – Pursue a new type of activity using skills far different from those you are accustomed to using. Learn a new language or try a sculpting class!
7. Eat chocolate! – In 2007, a study by the Journal of Neuroscience reported on the memory-boosting effects in rats from a plant compound called epicatechin. In addition to cocoa, epicatechin is found in blueberries, grapes and tea.
8. Put everything in its place – Your memory functions best with a certain amount of familiarity. Place your keys and glasses in the same place every time. Write notes to yourself as a reminder (the very act of writing will help your recall).
9. Don’t retire – Volunteer. A satisfying work life offers social stimulation and decision-making opportunities, exercises and problem-solving skills. Check out the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society or Relay for Life, both of which have local chapters in the Bay Area.
10. Spend time with loved ones – Being around other people who are engaging will keep you stimulated lower your risk of developing dementia.

When you set aside time each day to walk, learn something new or sample a new brand of dark chocolate, you can help boost your memory for years to come. San Francisco Senior Care urges you to give it a shot, there is nothing to lose and only benefit to gain.

New Guidelines for Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Announced

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, by the year 2050, 262,000 Northern Californians will develop Alzheimer’s.  In an effort to further understand this disease and diagnose it correctly, the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association recently announced new guidelines for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease before it turns into full blown dementia.  For the first time ever, the guidelines include brain imaging tests that clearly show how Alzheimer’s contributes to an individual’s mental decline.  The new guidelines aim to identify the disease even earlier, proving it attacks the brain over a period of ten years, before external signs are visible.

San Francisco Home Care states that the tests conducted use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and position emission tomography (PMT) as well as examine spinal tap fluid.  The tests will reveal ‘plaques’ made up of a protein called amyloid and tau which are key determinants of Alzheimer’s.

The new guidelines compartmentalize Alzheimer’s into three stages: preclinical Alzheimer’s – individuals with specific brain changes, but no obvious symptoms; mild cognitive impairment – mental decline is obvious, but individuals are still able to maintain independence; and lastly, Alzheimer’s dementia – which is the latest stages of the disease.

Unfortunately there are still not any therapies that can change the course of the disease, but there are things families and caregivers can do to minimize the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on the individual.  Structuring the patient’s environment, healthy exercise, diet and getting proper medical care are all important steps.  Gary Kennedy, M.D. and Director of Psychiatry at the Montefiore Medical Center says, “We can’t really modify the disease, but we can push back the disability.”
These new guidelines aim to help scientists predict the biological changes that cause Alzheimer’s and develop drugs to fight it.  The director of Johns Hopkins Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, Marilyn Albert, said, “We believe that it’s critically important, when we do have more effective drugs, to intervene as early as possible”. Victims of this diseases agree. As one woman at an Oakland town hall meeting said, “early diagnosis [of Alzheimer's] is vital. It has made all the difference in the world to my life.  It gives us a purpose and allows us time to get our house in order.”

Caregiver Stress Impacts Middle Aged Women

Family CaregiversAn article published in USA Today explored the declining physical and emotional health of middle-aged women. In the United States, there is steady rise in depression, obesity and chronic disease found in middle-aged women. San Francisco Senior Care states that middle-aged women are described as having the lowest levels of well-being compared with other age groups. According to researchers, a key contributor to this dramatic decline in well-being is the stress that results from being the primary caregiver of an aging family member.

Today there are 61 million family caregivers in the United Statesalone and many tens of millions more globally. The majority of caregivers are middle-aged women who are juggling career and parenting roles in addition to caring for an aging loved one. Exhaustion and symptoms of depression are prevalent in this group, with the AARP reporting depression symptoms in as high as 40-70% of family caregivers.  It is evident that many women in this age bracket find themselves overwhelmed and overstretched, but there are a number of steps women who fall into this category can take to improve their quality of life.

Family caregivers need to make their own health a priority. They can be proactive about ensuring their own well-being by taking steps such as setting aside time to rest, seeking help in the form of respite care or joining a support group. As the aging population continues to grow, the demands placed on family caregivers will also continue to rise. Family caregivers need to maintain their own physical, mental and emotional health and, in so doing, will also be able to better support their loved ones.

Of course, there will come a time when the family caregiver is burned out or finds that support is needed to adequately care for an aging parent or loved one because of geography or time limitations. In these instances, hiring a caregiver from a reputable home care agency can be an effective solution. This alternative ensures the parent companionship and safety in his or her own home.

Another great resource for those caring for a loved one is the Bay Area Family Caregiver Alliance website.  Likewise, for individuals who have developed chronic and disabling health conditions as a result of care giving responsibilities, it may be more beneficial to make an appointment with the Caregiver Alliance Center (415-434-3388) located at 180 Montgomery Street, Suite #1100 in San Francisco.

Memory Quizzes Still Best For Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Here is an interesting article on NPR regarding Alzheimer’s diagnosis. San Francisco In-Home Care states that the article discusses how old fashioned memory quizzes are still a very good way of predicting whether someone will have Alzheimer’s disease. The articles talks about the impact of advancements in medical technology and research on disease prediction. Yet, in some instances old fashioned memory tests and quizzes are still a powerful way of determining Alzheimer’s in a patient.  You can read more about the study and the results that were just published in the Archives of General Psychiatry comparing different methods for identifying Alzheimer’s. Here is a link to the full article on NPR.