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“Alive Inside” Proves Music Makes a Perfect Alzheimer’s Tool

It’s a rare treat when a movie or book comes along and captures what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. However, Dan Cohen, the founder of a nonprofit organization known as Music and Memory, has been able to do just that with his film entitled Alive Inside. Through the camera lens, Cohen is able to show viewers three disturbing themes classically associated with Alzheimer’s disease: aging in place, mortality and the real truth about U.S. nursing homes. Perhaps more importantly, Alive Inside proves that music can help seniors diagnosed with the deadly form of dementia.

Music Therapy Shows Great Promise Among Seniors with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia seem to literally erase the mental and physical presence of affected seniors. However, Cohen noticed that, when he played certain songs for dementia-diagnosed seniors in nursing homes, they were still inclined to respond.

By simply exposing seniors to familiar music, friends and family members are able to once again connect on an emotional level. As the older adults continue to experience reactions brought on by music, loved ones are able to get answers to direct questions or simply rejoice in the moment, listening to stories of the seniors’ past.

Music, as the film’s title suggests, proves seniors with Alzheimer’s are quite literally Alive Inside.

Individual Proof
During the opening scenes of Alive Inside, we’re shown a 90-year old woman apologizing to the cameraman. She’s apologizing because she can’t remember anything when she’s asked to talk about her past life. Once she has headphones placed over her ears, the reaction is undeniable.

By playing Louis Armstrong’s classic rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” viewers get a first-hand look at the transformation of this woman’s expressions. In a matter of minutes, the woman becomes emotional and tears of joy begin rolling down her cheeks. Next, the elderly woman starts talking about her past and the detailed memories the Louis Armstrong tune has evoked. Quite simply, the music has transformed her brain’s functioning power and memory recall.

The Mission
Dan Cohen’s drive to help seniors with Alzheimer’s is strong – as is his belief that music therapy and memory are irreversibly bound to one another. A firm believer that music can improve lives, Cohen would love to see every nursing home patient be provided with a pre-loaded MP3 player full of their favorite music.

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Why it’s Important for Seniors to Keep Moving

We now know that, in order to stay sharp and healthy, seniors must remain active. In fact, research has proven that seniors get the most benefits by completing both mental and physical forms of exercise. These activities can essentially pump up the brain and overall muscle tone.

For seniors, daily physical and mental activities can ultimately produce tangible results in the brain and body. So daily activities, for instance, help to boost mobility, brain activity and overall quality of a senior’s life.

Additional reasons that older adults need a daily dose of activity can include the following:
  • Independence: For seniors living independently and in their own homes, the possibility of a fall is never far from a loved one’s mind. However, with daily exercise and mental stimulation, seniors are able to live in a much safer environment while also putting the worries of loved ones at rest. Physical activities promote muscle strength and improve mobility, while a mental workout improves clarity and decreases forgetfulness. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
  • Awesome balance and reflexes: As aging in place continues, a progressive and natural decline of balance and coordination are working behind the scenes. When seniors include daily mental and physical activities, a decline of these skills can be delayed or prevented altogether. Not only will strength and coordination skills benefit, a senior’s reflexes will also enjoy a much-needed boost to reflexes, ultimately helping to prevent falls and other injuries within the home.
  • The end of high stress levels: Life can be particularly stressful for older adults. Stress has a way of wreaking havoc on the body, mind, and blood pressure of all seniors. It is also known to increase the risk of heart disease, affect the way the brain processes/uses information and decreases memory retention. Fortunately, seniors can work to reduce stress by performing both mental and physical activities. Stress can literally be a killer.

Mind and Body Activities
Seniors looking to get active or boost brain power should consider some of the following activities:
  • Sudoku or similar forms of mentally-stimulating puzzles
  • Brisk walks in environments that aren’t too physically challenging
  • Swimming or water aerobics (age-appropriate classes are usually available)

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How Will You Celebrate National Senior Citizens Day?

National Senior Citizens Day is here once again, so mark your calendars for August 21. The day of recognition was established by President Ronald Reagan 26 years ago. On August 19, 1988, the President issued what’s known as “Proclamation 5847” to create National Senior Citizens Day. The date of celebration was then scheduled to fall on August 21 each year, providing a designated time to acknowledge the life-long contributions our nation’s seniors have made to their communities.

In Proclamation 5847, President Reagan stated:

“For all they have achieved throughout life and for all they continue to accomplish, we owe older citizens our thanks and a heartfelt salute,” Ronald Reagan said. “We can best demonstrate our gratitude and esteem by making sure that our communities are good places in which to mature and grow older—places in which older people can participate to the fullest and can find the encouragement, acceptance, assistance, and services they need to continue to lead lives of independence and dignity.

“Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, president of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim Aug. 21, 1988 as National Senior Citizens Day. I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

Celebration Tips
For the senior caregivers, adult children, grandchildren and friends of older adults, a few celebration ideas for National Senior Citizens Day 2014 might include:
  • Spending some extra time visiting with senior citizens
  • Showing appreciation for seniors’ accomplishments and sacrifices, starting a dialogue that gives them a chance to share stories and wisdom
  • Taking on various forms of volunteer work that support of the elderly, such as meals-on-wheels

For Seniors
If you are a senior citizen, feel free to take time and enjoy your day any way you’d like. It’s called National Senior Citizens Day for a reason, you know? For example, most large department stores offer an additional senior citizen discount on August 21st. This day is all about you and spending time with the people who make you feel loved.

See President Regan’s official Congressional Proclamation of National Senior Citizens Day by visiting here.

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Grandparents Play a Role in Back to School Activities

Despite the fact that most seniors’ days of sitting in a classroom are a distant memory, older adults can still get the “back to school” butterflies. For those who are lucky enough to have grandchildren, preparing for a new school year is still a time of hustle and bustle. Most children love having an opportunity to share the excitement of school days and grandparents can take advantage of this time. Let’s take a look at some activities that give grandparents an opportunity to bond with their beloved grandchildren when the school year begins.

Relax and Take it Easy
Sounds a little too simple, doesn’t it? Well, believe it or not, spending leisure time with grandchildren is one of the best ways to interact and bond without constraints. While parents are constantly pushing kids to keep a schedule and run a household, grandparents get to enjoy a different kind of relationship with these kids. No need to rush; operating at a slower pace can give children the chance to feel, reflect and express their feelings.

Take it Outside
For seniors and their grandchildren, spending time outdoors is the perfect way to get back to basics. Nature has a way of calming humans. In fact, the great outdoors has even been shown to elicit mental and physical healing properties. While taking a leisurely stroll through the woods or a local park, Grandparents have an opportunity to engage children and participate in some pretty interesting conversations.

Seniors might want to think about starting a yearly “back to school” family tradition in the outdoors. It’s possible to start out taking short nature walks during a child’s toddler years, making them longer with age.

Share Your Passions
Taking an active role in the hobbies and activities that grandchildren enjoy provides a golden opportunity for quality time. It’s also a great way to learn where a child’s passions lie. Who knows, the two might share a number of passions. Some great examples of these activities are gardening, dog walking or knitting.

When grandparents and their grandchildren share similar passions, tackling them as a duo encourages an open line of communication. Children will be more apt to open up and talk to their grandparent about the ups and downs of school.

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Slipping and Sliding is Not a New Dance Craze

Home Safety Tips from The Complete Eldercare Planner by Joy Loverde

TCEP updated The majority of accidents happen at home; but did you know that more accidents happen in the living room than anywhere else?  Given the probability that our “home sweet home” can be anything but, The Complete Eldercare Planner  suggests tried and true strategies that help make home a safer place to be.

Risky Resident
Let’s start with you – the homeowner. The cause of accidents is not always environmental. Underlying medical conditions contribute equally to home hazards. Review the following checklist to see if you are healthy enough to manage a household on your own

  • Instability associated with impaired general health
  • Compromised strength, balance, and gait
  • Decline in vision and hearing
  • Chronic disease
  • Mental health problems
  • Deficiencies in the diet
  • Prescription medicines

Stairway to Heaven
According to home-safety experts, fifty-five per cent of accidental injuries in the home involve falls, with the largest proportion of accidents being falls from stairs or steps. FYI… a whopping 60% of deaths result from accidents on stairs! Here are a few facts to consider:

  • Most stairway falls that cause injuries occur while people are walking down the stairs.
  • Absence of handrails account for a large percentage of falls on stairs.
  • Neglecting to use handrails that are installed to reduce the potential for miss-stepping and providing the means to retrieve balance contribute to injuries.
  • Unexpected location of stairs leads to many falls. For example, stairs of just one or two steps in a hallway or doorway are especially hazardous.

Given the severe consequences, do your stairs measure up to safety standards?

  • Steps are moisture-free and clutter-free
  • Steps are level and in good repair
  • Landings, stairs, and hallways are well lit with two-way light switches
  • Handrails are installed, sturdy, and used regularly

Bed, Bath, and Beyond
Getting up in the middle of the night and taking a tumble is unfortunately all too common. From getting tangled up in draping bedding to medications that cause dizziness and disorientation here are a few strategies that help to avert bedroom and bathroom mishaps:

  • If it’s a bathroom problem, talk to the physician to figure out the best way to manage hydration and work on a toileting schedule to avoid needing to go at night.
  • Resist the temptation to purchase silk-like sheets, blankets, and pajamas.
  • Before getting into bed for the night, securely tuck sheets and blankets into place.
  • Turn on the nightstand light before getting out of bed.
  • Remove area rugs and mats as well as damaged and worn carpeting in the bedroom, hallway, and bathroom.

Who you gonna call?
It goes without saying that dialing 911 is your first course of action when a serious accident occurs. Additionally, be sure you know the telephone numbers of the following:

  • plumber
  • electrician
  • handyman
  • electric company
  • water company
  • gas company

More Info
Author Joy Loverde encourages you to visit her website at www.elderindustry.com for more information and to obtain free downloads and checklists from her best-seller, The Complete Eldercare Planner.  

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New Report Highlights the Dangers of Acetaminophen

It’s no secret that the body’s aches and pains can grow substantially worse as time goes by. Chronic pain is a serious problem among people of all ages, but it’s particularly a condition that plagues seniors. Non-prescription painkillers are one of the first treatment options older adults turn to for relief – particularly in the form of acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol). The problem is the use of Tylenol has skyrocketed over the last several years and, according to a new Consumer Report, accidental acetaminophen overdoses are growing to be a serious problem.

Over-the-Counter Dangers
The rise of popular over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers, particularly acetaminophen, leads to more than 80,000 emergency room visits each year. More often than not, these emergencies resulted from taking way too much acetaminophen. It’s important for seniors and their caregivers to understand that acetaminophen is found in more than Tylenol. In fact, the drug is an active ingredient of over 600 OTC and prescription medications, such as allergy relief, common cold remedies and sleep aids. The Consumer Report also said that OTC drugs do not have scientifically-proven data to support guidelines for the consumer’s recommended acetaminophen levels. No one seems to know how much acetaminophen should be considered “too much” over a 24-hour period.

“We found recommendations varying from 1,000mg per day in some nighttime pain relievers to 3,900 milligrams in some products that combine acetaminophen with allergy drugs or cold and flu drugs. We think the labeled daily limit should be no more than 3,250 milligrams,” the report reads.

Going Forward
In an attempt to prevent more accidental acetaminophen overdoses, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chose to alter its prescribing guidelines. Physicians are now under orders from the FDA, preventing the medical professionals from prescribing more than 325mg of acetaminophen for patients. The FDA also mentioned that clinical trials have yet to prove higher doses of the drug can offer additional pain relieving benefits.

For seniors who rely on OTC acetaminophen for frequent pain relief, the Consumer Report piece should serve as a source of knowledge. If a decrease in the dosage amount is not possible, speak with the family physician about regular monitoring of pain and blood work to determine liver health.

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Using Technology to Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

For all their efforts, scientists have yet to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. However, multiple research projects are currently being conducted, many of which look promising. In fact, by using modern research techniques, resulting data was able to prove that the human brain can regenerate and repair itself at any age. To keep a senior’s brain sharp and healthy, regular participation in mentally challenging activities is a must.

Just as a body builder lifts weights to bulk up, mental exercise boosts brain function. Seniors who receive new stimuli each day are practicing a form of brain exercise. When challenged on a daily basis, the brain is able to repair and restructure. This process is known as “neuroplasticity”. With evidence in hand, hundreds of technological products and digital applications are being developed in hopes they will pump up brain health. The Clevermind 1.0 app is a perfect example of Alzheimer’s tech.

Clevermind 1.0 App Details
It’s essential to understand that the Clevermind 1.0 iPad app is more than a collection of generic brain games. The app helps seniors manage common dementia-related challenges and developers hope it will provide the support seniors, caregivers and loved ones need during challenging times. While some technology is far too complicated, the Clevermind 1.0 app is different. Developers purposely designed the application to be simple and straightforward – a move that makes the Clevermind app much more appealing to seniors.

Some of the most popular and beneficial features offered with the Clevermind 1.0 iPad app are:

  • A Personal Journal: This keeps track of your daily activities and future goals.
  • Puzzles and Trivia Questions: Seniors can challenge their minds and improve memory skills.
  • Hands Free Interaction: Seniors can control the Clevermind app using nothing more than spoken words. Great feature for seniors who cannot utilize smartphones, tablets or home computers.
  • Ease of Access: The Clevermind 1.0 iPad app generally thought of everything that would make their application more accessible for seniors. Clevermind users will notice the app’s simple Internet navigation and easy option to sync a Facebook account.

Clevermind 1.0 is available for download from the Apple App Store.

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Helping Seniors Prepare for Fall Temperatures

As the days of summer draw closer to an end, the effects of fall will soon be felt. That means cooler temperatures, increased rain, and humidity. For independent seniors and older adults receiving in-home eldercare, taking some key seasonal precautions around the house will ensure they remain safe and comfortable during the fall season.

Here’s a list of simple tasks that can help seniors fearlessly welcome autumn temperatures:

Put an End to Cold Drafts
Windows are the number one culprit of cold drafts in the home. For example, windows with cracks or an inability to properly close can result in large open spots that lead straight to the outdoors. Older homes are notorious for problem for window drafts, allowing precious heat to escape and lowering indoor temperatures.

Luckily, this problem can usually be remedied. For old wooden-frame windows or cracked seals around doors/windows, applying a strip of all-purpose caulk serves as an instant solution. For areas that are too big for caulking, seniors can tape a large garbage bag over the cracks until a professional can fix the problem.

Evaluate the Home Heating Unit
As temperatures continue to be mild, experts believe the U.S. is in for an extremely hard winter. For seniors who are aging in place, an early test of heating systems is imperative. Seniors or their caregivers should turn the unit to heat mode and adjust the temperature to make sure the heat kicks on. Once the unit clicks on and begins blowing air, place a hand over the vents to make sure warm air is coming out.

After no action for several straight months, the heating system can become clogged with dust, pet fur/dander, or debris. Avoid problems with the heating unit by running routine checks on the system throughout the spring and summer months.

Home Gutter Maintenance
With drastic weather changes on the menu, seniors should make sure their house gutters are clear and in working order. In older homes, gutters are often ignored for years. This neglect causes clogs to form within the gutters, eventually leading to dangerous water backups. Believe it or not, clogged gutters can cause leaks in the roof and result in major damage. Worst case scenario, the house floods on a chilly fall evening and power is lost. With no way to heat the home, seniors can find themselves in a real life-and-death struggle.

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What Is Your Level of Workout?

PT Sue LogoJust as all people are different, all responses to a workout vary according to a variety of factors, such as previous level of activity, health issues, and mobility issues. Your workout needs to be tailored to you specifically, especially as you age and accumulate more problems. Once you have a tailored workout, then you can progress. If you choose a workout that is physically and psychologically beyond your limits, you will quickly abandon the workout. If you choose a workout where you can say “It is hard; it makes me work, but I can do it with a little push”, then you have a workout that has the potential to last. As you build in your strength, range of motion, flexibility, coordination, and endurance, then you can progress the workout to a higher level. No workout will be beneficial if, after a week of effort, you give it up. Choose a workout level that is reasonable and a workout space that works for you. And, then, persist in your commitment to exercise. And, rather than a workout, consider the exercise time part of your daily life style, such as getting dressed in the morning.

Workouts are often referred to “light”, “moderate”, or “vigorous”. The terms don’t mean as much as the consideration of your needs, especially if you are regaining strength and mobility after illness or fracture. If that is the case, or you have some serious chronic illness or debilitation, then over exerting your body will run the risk of physical failure due to such factors as over straining joints and muscles, increasing fatigue which can further compromise your immune system, and becoming discouraged and giving up on your body. It is important to have specific short term goals in mind. For example, your goal might be to walk three blocks. That won’t happen immediately if you are recovering, so your short term goal is to walk to the front door. Once you meet your short term goal, then increase the goal in frequency (number of times you walk to the front door) and once frequency is easy at three to four times a day, then increase distance. Your body actually gains more benefit from shorter, multiple sessions compared to one long session and then nothing.

In a light exercise routine your symptoms would be: breathing easily; feeling a warming feeling but no sweating; and able to talk while exercising. In a moderate exercise routine your symptoms would be: breathing faster; light sweating; and able to talk while exercising but with some difficulty. In a vigorous exercise routine your symptoms would be: breathing hard; sweating; very difficult to impossible to exercise and talk.

A senior starting an exercise routine, especially after illness or fracture may be so weak that they are at the vigorous level of exercising just trying to lift their leg up into the air three times. In order to slowly build or rebuild your body, you need to start at a reasonable level of exercise, repetition, and frequency and then slowly build as you gain in strength and endurance. Also, just starting such a routine demands that you really concentrate—pay attention to what you are doing—and that takes energy, much more than you realize. Again, as you get stronger and your endurance improves, so too will your concentration and ability to pay attention, as well as your breathing pattern, posture, and execution. The bottom line is to stay committed to your effort and get the advice of a professional as indicated.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions at my web site, ptsue.com; my office (951)369-6507; or my email, askptsue@gmail.com. My goal is to help seniors keep healthy and moving. I welcome all questions and/or comments.

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National Immunization Awareness Month

Every August, National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) gives the public at large an opportunity to understand the value of immunizations. NAIM also uses this month to educate and encourage people of all ages. To stay protected against dangerous organisms like the flu, measles, or tuberculosis, seniors need to keep up to date on their shots.

Vaccines Defined
Plenty of people assume an immunization schedule is exclusively for children. Unfortunately, those people are wrong; vaccinations are needed throughout the duration of life.

Injectable vaccinations contain dead or weakened disease-causing microorganisms. After receiving a vaccine, the body’s immune system produces antibodies that play a pivotal role in the fight against dangerous microorganisms. In the end, exposure the vaccination makes patients immune to specific diseases.

For older adults, catching up on recommended vaccination formulas may require a series of injections over a period of time. Seniors and their caregivers should speak with the family physician to learn which vaccines are vital and which ones are optional or suggested.

Vaccines recommended for older adults can prevent:

  • Influenza (Flu)
  • Shingles (Herpes Zoster)
  • Diphtheria/Tetanus
  • Pertussis (Whooping Cough)
  • Pneumococcal (Pneumonia)

Vaccines and Success Rates
National Immunization Awareness Month is a great time to remind family, friends, and coworkers they should stay up to date on their shots. Despite the fact that immunizations have significantly reduced the incidence of many infectious diseases, the success rates for preventing disease falls short of preferred vaccination rates. Researchers and medical experts generally agree that a handful of diseases still aren’t meeting national public health goals.

Tools for Seniors
Many seniors want to learn more about the needed vaccines suggested for their particular age group. Further insight into the vaccine schedule can be found by using the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Adult Immunization Scheduler tool. This tool allows seniors and their chosen family members to receive personalized vaccine recommendations based on your age, occupation, health status, and other factors.

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