I can still see her face and hear her laugh. She was the first social director I knew at an assisted living. Was she on the staff? Oh no! She was a sharp dressed lady named Geraldine with an even sharper wit. Affectionately known to her family as “Gigi” she was one of the first ladies who taught me that residents in an assisted living have lots of living left to do. Ms. Geraldine would keep me apprised as to the latest “goings on” with the royals. Gigi loved Will and Kate and a good game of Skip Bo. She and the other ladies that made up her Skip Bo group were the first group I affectionately referred to as my sorority rush committee. Ms. Geraldine would be the first to tell you…life in assisted living is not about bingo and bedtime. It is much more and can be so fulfilling. She spent her golden years of life loving her family and her friends and living each day to its fullest. So, if you are looking at assisted living for yourself or a loved one…what are the benefits of the social aspects?
Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers found evidence that “elderly people in the U.S. who have an active social life may have a slower rate of memory decline. In fact, memory decline among the most sociable was less than half the rate among the least sociable. Senior author Lisa Berkman, chair of the Department of Society, Human Development and Health, went on to say, “We know from previous studies that people with many social ties have lower mortality rates. We now have mounting evidence that strong social networks can help to prevent declines in memory. As our society ages and has more and more older people, it will be important to promote their engagement in social and community life to maintain their well-being.”
Studies show that lack of socialization is linked to negative impacts on health and well-being, especially for older people. Having a variety of social opportunities and activities vastly improve the psychological and physical health of seniors. The benefits include reducing stress, increasing physical health, and defeating psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.
Assisted living promotes socialization with everything from a robust activities calendar to dining together in a community setting. Engaging in activities and other community events allows seniors to bond with new friends while promoting physical and mental health. This can prolong their quality of life and overall life expectancy. Does this sounds like something that would benefit your elderly loved one and you want to know more? Check out our latest Activities Calendar to see what is going on at one of our communities near you at www.greatoaksmanagement.com or call us today at 1-888-258-8082.
*In memory of former resident Geraldine Reilly.
Thank you to her family for allowing us to share this in her memory.
Everyone is forgetful from time to time especially when it comes to things like remembering where we put the car keys or forgetting to pick up something at the grocery store. Adults over 65 say they are more forgetful than when they were younger, sometimes having a “senior moment” when they forget something.
Occasional forgetfulness is different than dementia and as our parents age, sometimes we wonderful is the forgetfulness we see is a part of the natural aging process or the beginning of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. As the child of a senior adult, how will I know the difference?
Research has shown that the early warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease may begin to occur years before our parents get the diagnosis, sometimes as much as 10-15 years before the diagnosis. That’s why it is important to pay attention to early signs of forgetfulness and consider a trip to the physician for a medical work up if we are concerned about the possibility that our parents may be developing dementia. Forgetting a friends name or missing a lunch date is something that people without dementia do from time to time. Someone with early dementia, though, might repeatedly forget names or plans, and forget all about the incident soon afterward. It may seem strange but while someone with early dementia may forget something that happened the previous evening, they may recall in detail events that happened in the more distant past, last year, say, or during their childhood.
The Alzheimer’s Association has published a list of 10 warning signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. They are:
- Forgetfulness and memory loss
- Lack of concentration and confusion
- Losing things
- Difficulty doing familiar tasks
- Language and speaking problems
- Problems with simple math
- Poor judgment
- Personality changes and mood swings
- Changes in grooming and personal hygiene
- Withdrawing from friends and family
If you are concerned about your parent, make an appointment to see their primary care physician. There are medications available which slow the progression of some forms of dementia, but they work better if they start early in the disease.
Getting that initial diagnosis of Dementia is often such a shock, it may take some time to begin to gather information and formulate a plan with your physician. While the medications available today don’t cure dementia, they can help lessen the symptoms like memory loss or confusion.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two types of medications cholinesterase inhibitors like Aricept, Exelon and Razadyne and memantine (Namenda) to treat cognitive symptoms of dementia like memory loss, confusion and problems thinking and reasoning. While these medications can’t stop the damage done by dementia, they may help lessen or stabilize symptoms for a limited time by affecting certain chemicals involved in carrying messages in the brain’s nerve cells.
Cholinesterase Inhibitors: Prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine a chemical messenger important for learning and memory. There are three medications in this category:
- Aricept: Approved to treat all stages of Dementia, delays worsening of symptoms for 6-12 months on average.
- Razadyne: Approved to treat mild to moderate Dementia.
- Exelon: Approved to treat mild to moderate stages of dementia. Same type of drug, but comes in a patch.
Memantine: Regulates the activity of glutamate, a different messenger chemical involved in learning and memory. There is one medication in this category.
- Namenda: Approved to treat moderate to severe dementia.
A New combination drug: Namzaric has just become available in 2015. This medication is a combination of Aricept and Namenda for moderate to severe Dementia.
If you or a loved one has gotten a diagnosis of dementia, talk to your doctor about which medication would be the best fit to help lessen the symptoms of the disease. If the doctor prescribes one of these medications, make sure the medication is taken as directed by the doctor and make sure to let the doctor know how the medication is working.
It’s a good practice to remind us of that there is always something we can do to keep our brain healthy. While we all read lots of information about eating right and exercising as ways to stay physically healthy, several recent research studies have shown a strong correlation between social interaction and a healthy brain in senior adults. The same studies showed that social isolation and limited contacts with others increased the likelihood of both poor physical health and the development of dementia in senior adults. A summary of some of the findings are:
- Social relationships are consistently associated with bio-markers of good health.
- Positive indicators of social well-being may be associated with lower levels of interleukin-6 in otherwise healthy people. Interleukin-6 is an inflammatory factor implicated in age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer.
- Some grandparents feel that caring for their grandchildren makes them healthier and more active. They experience a strong emotional bond and often lead a more active lifestyle, eat healthier meals, and may even reduce or stop smoking.
- Social isolation constitutes a major risk factor for morbidity and mortality, especially in older adults.
- Loneliness may have a physical as well as an emotional impact. For example, people who are lonely frequently have elevated systolic blood pressure.
Worried about your parents? Look for senior centers in the area where you parents live. Senior centers offer daily social opportunities for senior adults and often provide assistance with transportation in rural areas. Check out the Church your parents attend. Many Churches have Senior Adult groups which offer at least a monthly social interaction opportunity.
If your parents like to read, check out the local Library web site. Many local Libraries have book clubs which meet weekly and share their thoughts on the latest books. This kind of activity will not only offer a social interaction opportunity, it will also foster a favorite hobby. Bring the Grand-kids to visit. Research shows that interacting with children improves the overall health of senior adults. If the Grand-kids are far away, check out local day care’s for an opportunity for your parents to drop in occasionally to read a book to the children there.
The important thing is don’t give up. Senior parents are often reluctant to venture out and try new things. Focusing on how this will help them with their memory and brain health just may be the ticket to getting them involved.
Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily living. Dementia is not a specific disease, it is an overall term used to describe the changes in mental ability that affect daily living/functioning. Alzheimer’s Disease is the cause of 60-80% of all dementia. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause, often after a stroke or severe coronary artery disease.
Symptoms of Dementia
While symptoms may vary, at least 2 of the following must be present to warrant a diagnosis of Dementia:
- Memory loss/problems—short term memory
Forgetting recently learned information. Forgetting important dates or information. Asking the same questions over and over. Relying on family to remind them of things one used to do on their own. Getting lost while driving or out shopping
- Communication and language difficulties
Trouble following or joining a conversation. Stopping in the middle of a conversation, unable to complete a thought. Can’t find the right word. Calling common items by the wrong name (a watch may be called a hand clock)
- Ability to focus and pay attention
Difficulty staying focused on a conversation. Difficulty paying attention to TV or Movies. Having problems following a discussion or conversation. Having problems understanding what is said to them.
Giving things of value away .Making poor decisions. Paying less attention to grooming or clothing selection. Not taking care of things that have always been valued by the individual.
Difficulty reading. Difficulty judging distance or color. Not recognizing their own image when passing a mirror, thinking someone else is in the room.
Diagnosis and Early Intervention
If you have a loved one who is experiencing symptoms of dementia, it is critical to get a diagnosis and begin early intervention. There are a lot of new medications which can slow the progress of some forms of dementia. This allows other non medical interventions to be more effective and it also enables one to plan and indentify individuals’ desires and needs for long term care.
For Information concerning our assisted living communities, visit GreatOaksManagement.com.
For more information on Alzheimer’s, visit ALZ.org.