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Displaying items by tag: Dementia

A therapeutic innovation launched during the COVID-19 pandemic is making its way into mainstream care of older adults who live alone and those who have dementia. Lifelike robotic cats and dogs are an effective way to help seniors enhance social interaction, improve symptoms of depression, and reduce feelings of loneliness. These robotic pets can even be purchased by family members to gift to a loved one – perfect for the holiday season.

Loneliness Increases among Older Adults in Winter Months

Feelings of loneliness, depression, and isolation can increase dramatically during the winter months, particularly around the holiday season. Among older adults, these feelings can become overwhelming – worsening their symptoms and increasing risk for accidents and even suicide. Research shows that something as simple as a lifelike pet cat or dog can significantly improve wellbeing for older adults, including those with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. 

Therapeutic Animatronic Dog or Cat Enhances Social-Emotional Wellbeing for Seniors

The positive impact of these therapeutic robotic pets include improved mood and affect, better communication and meaningful social interaction, including having a sense of being needed by the companion robot pet. 

Additional positive emotions experienced when interacting with a therapeutic robotic pet include:

  • Joy
  • Surprise
  • Empathy
  • Gentleness
  • Connection 

Older adults who have access to a robotic pet may also have better outcomes during a hospitalization, including less delirium, loneliness, fewer falls, and reduced need for a 1:1 companion. Some studies point to older adults with a robotic pet having enhanced cognitive function, less agitation, and less anxiety; although more research is needed in these areas.

Animatronic Therapeutic Pets Ideal for Seniors in Many Living Arranagements 

Initially launched in the spring of 2020, in a partnership between Ageless Innovation and the Department of Elder Affairs in Florida (among other states) the program provided lifelike Joy for All Companion Pets® as a means to facilitate and enhance interaction between an older adult and their caregivers and family members. Since the end of the pandemic, the therapeutic robotic pets have been used in a variety of settings including senior centers, hospitals, nursing homes, memory care facilities, and senior living communities.  

Mood Enhancing Behaviors for Older Adults with a Therapeutic Robotic Pet

Some of the mood enhancing interactions that have been observed between seniors and their therapeutic robot pets include:

  • Cuddling
  • Grooming
  • Petting
  • Sleeping with the pet
  • Naming the pet
  • Taking the pet with them on outings
  • Playing
  • Gathering in a communal area to talk to others about their “pet”
  • Intergenerational connection between an elder and a young child

Features of the Robotic “Thera-Pet”

The robotic pet cat or dog (and now birds are available) has motion sensors in the head, cheek, back, tummy and other areas so the animatronic can respond to petting. Each also has sound effects (purrs, cries, barks), which can be turned off for an elder with audio sensitivity. The fur is very soft and inspired by the texture of real animal coats. The “pets” can mimic a “nuzzling” action, can detect light in the room and respond to it with vocalizations, can bark and purr depending on movement and room setting. The robotic pets come in a variety of colors, too.

To discuss incorporating a Joy For All Companion Pet into the care plan for your loved one, please inquire with your health care provider. If your loved one is a resident at one of the Everbrook Senior Living Communities, please inquire with our Wellness staff. If your loved one is not a resident at one of our beautiful communities schedule a visit today.   

Resources

Florida Department of Elder Affairs

Hudson J, Ungar R, Albright L, Tkatch R, Schaeffer J, Wicker ER. Robotic Pet Use Among Community-Dwelling Older Adults. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2020 Oct 16;75(9):2018-2028. doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbaa119. PMID: 32789476; PMCID: PMC7566965.

Koh WQ, Ang FXH, Casey D. Impacts of Low-cost Robotic Pets for Older Adults and People With Dementia: Scoping Review. JMIR Rehabil Assist Technol. 2021 Feb 12;8(1):e25340. doi: 10.2196/25340. PMID: 33497349; PMCID: PMC8082946.

Ihamäki P, Heljakka K. Robot Pets as "Serious Toys"- Activating Social and Emotional Experiences of Elderly People. Inf Syst Front. 2021 Aug 14:1-15. doi: 10.1007/s10796-021-10175-z. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34413702; PMCID: PMC8364409. 

Petersen S, Houston S, Qin H, Tague C, Studley J. The Utilization of Robotic Pets in Dementia Care. J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;55(2):569-574. doi: 10.3233/JAD-160703. PMID: 27716673; PMCID: PMC5181659.

Published in Information

Talking to a teen about a family member diagnosed with dementia can be incredibly difficult for caregivers. The approach taken when you have this conversation can help your teen cope effectively with the news and empower them to preserve a meaningful connection with their loved one. 

When to Tell a Teen About a Loved One Diagnosed with Dementia

For most teens, the family member with dementia will be a grandparent or older family member, but for some it may be a parent.  Even if, at some level, a teen had some awareness that the diagnosis was coming, hearing it spoken aloud is a hard-hitting reality. It’s imperative to have the conversation as soon as possible after a diagnosis of dementia is confirmed, so that your teen does not find out “accidentally” from someone else in (or outside) the family; this would compound stress for all and may feel like a breach of trust to the teen.

Beginning the Conversation about Dementia with Your Teen 

Be prepared for the fact that your teen will experience a jumble of emotions from shock and anger to grief and even shame. Many teens feel they can’t talk to their peers about such devastating news. It’s also not uncommon for them to feel like they can’t go to other adults in the family whom they may see as struggling to cope with their own emotions while trying to plan for the family member’s medical care. 

First, plan ahead for when and where you will have the conversation. If at all possible, avoid having the conversation with your teen when they’ve had a lousy day at school, work, or practice. Give them some space at home to recover from their day and then invite them to sit down for a chat.

Second, manage your own emotions. Begin the conversation about a family member with dementia when you feel as centered as possible. Your teen will need your guidance and support; they should not feel like they have to support you. You want to create a safe space for them to experience whatever emotions come-up for them.

Third, be prepared to provide support. Make sure you have resources ready to share with your teen, should they need them. Of course, they can lean on you; also, be able to recommend other family members, community resources, or support groups. The teen probably won’t want this at that very moment, but you can tell them you have these resources ready for them, should they be interested.

What to Say to a Teen about a Loved One with Dementia

When you do speak share the news with your teen, be honest and open from the start. If a rapid decline is expected, let them know this. Be forthcoming with whatever knowledge you have about the family member’s diagnosis. And, remember:

  • Keep information simple; don’t use complicated medical terms. Explain treatment plans in concise terms so the teen knows what to expect going forward.
  • Give only the information you know; don’t speculate. 
  • Be realistic; don’t encourage false hope. There is no way to reverse dementia.
  • Accept your teen’s feelings. They will move through many different ‘feeling states’ during the course of a loved one’s struggle with dementia. 
  • Help the teen to understand changes in behavior, thought process, and personality that can occur in their loved one with dementia.
  • Encourage your teen to utilize appropriate resources to help them learn how to respond as their loved one changes and so they can effectively process their own feelings as these changes occur. 

Some teens will understand more about dementia than others. They may dive into researching information to better understand how their loved one will be affected. Others may not want to know any details about the diagnosis. These are both coping strategies. For most teens, it may be helpful to have a family meeting with the medical providers or medial support staff who can answer questions and provide more specific advice to help you teen cope.

What Can Your Teen Do Once They Learn of a Family Member with Dementia?

In the days and weeks that follow the news about a family member having a diagnosis of dementia, your teen may wonder how they should act around this person. What should they—or shouldn’t they—say or do? 

Teens often will be concerned about how their own behavior may affect the family member with dementia. Additionally, the teen will be concerned about the safety and quality of life of the family member with dementia. This is a lot for a teen to think about on top of all the usual excitement and stress that comes with being a young person on the verge of adulthood. 

Help Teens Stay Connected with a Family Member with Dementia 

There are quite a few things that your teen can do to help them maintain meaningful interaction with their loved one who has dementia include:

  • Continue with usual routines, such as a weekly visit, with the family member with dementia.
  • Play simple games such as cards, puzzles or even rolling a ball back and forth
  • Bake cookies or muffins.
  • Play with molding clay or even Play-dough.
  • Enjoy time outdoors by taking a walk or sitting in the park.
  • Look at photos or create a memory box or scrapbook.
  • Watch re-runs of their favorite TV show.

If the teen does not live near the family member, these approaches can help them maintain connection:

  • Write letters to the family member with dementia. Letters can be read by, or to the adult with dementia. It creates a more meaningful connection than email or text. If the family member can use technology, it’s okay to text or email as long as it is medically prudent to do so. 
  • Call and leave a voice message. Frequent calls and voice message can be appropriate ways to let a loved one know they are in your thoughts. Video calls are another good option. 
  • Send a care package. Everyone loves to receive goodies in the mail. Include art or and photos or other personalized items that the teen creates, if desired. Be sure to check with medical providers for items that should not be sent.
  • Plan a visit. It is really hard to know for sure how quickly a person will decline with dementia. Don’t delay in planning an in-person visit. 

There are many other activities that a person with dementia can continue, depending upon the degree to which the illness is affecting them. Be sure to check with your family member’s medical support team for specific suggestions.

As you and your teen navigate the care of a family member with dementia, encourage your teen to talk or journal about their experiences and emotions. When necessary, meet with a grief counselor as a family. And remember, as you demonstrate healthy emotions and model ways of maintaining connection, you will help your teen work through their own concerns and feelings about how dementia will affect their loved one.

Everbrook Senior Living Helps Families Cope with a Dementia Diagnosis

When it comes to the support a family needs to cope with dementia diagnosis, the staff at Everbrook Senior Living go above and beyond to provide resources and support for all. We, too, are son and daughters, nieces and nephews, of person’s who have been placed in long term care due to dementia. We are available and approachable – often giving out our cell phone numbers as we help families navigate challenges that come with declining health due to dementia. You can trust in our healthcare experience; you can count on our compassion. Learn more about our Memory Care services and our EGIS program.

Resources 

Parent Guide to Helping Children and Teens Understand Alzheimer’s Disease

https://www.alz.org/documents/national/brochure_childrenteens.pdf 

Alzheimer Society. Helping Teens Understand Dementia

https://alzheimer.ca/en/help-support/i-have-friend-or-family-member-who-lives-dementia/helping-teens-understand-dementia 

When a Friend or Family Member Has Dementia: Resources for Kids and Teens

https://www.alz.org/help-support/resources/kids-teens 

Published in Helpful Tips

Feeling a sense of purpose or meaning in life is associated with a 19% reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment later, according to findings from a review of evidence led by researchers at University College London (UCL).

The UCL researchers examined several positive psychological constructs (e.g., maintaining a positive mood, being optimistic, having a sense of life purpose) to determine if these constructs have a significant association with reduced risk for dementia and other cognitive impairment in later life. 

The results showed that having purpose and meaning in life were key factors consistently associated with reduced risk of dementia years later:

  • Among people who had higher purpose or meaning in life, there was significant association with a reduced risk of multiple cognitive impairment outcomes, including dementia and mild cognitive impairment. 
  • Having a sense of purpose, most notably, was associated with a 19% reduced rate of clinically significant cognitive impairment. This finding—reduced risk for cognitive impairment—did not apply to other positive psychological constructs, such as having a positive mood state.

For this study, the UCL research team conducted what is known as a systematic review and meta-analysis, which involves and in-depth approach to pooling and analyzing data from multiple studies. The researchers gathered evidence from nine previously published studies, yielding data from 62,250 older adults (age 50+) across three continents. This makes the findings quite meaningful because they have relevance across different demographics. 

Meaning in Life: How Does it Protect the Brain from Impairment?

One theory about how purpose and meaning, as well as other positive psychological factors, may protect against cognitive decline has to do with the physiological effect that positive mood and resiliency has in the body, including the brain. 

Positive mood promotes a state of balance (homeostasis) in the body. This reduces the circulation of stress hormones and other chemicals that are known to increase inflammation in the cells and tissues, Inflammation, which causes damage to cells and can alter physiological function, is a known underlying factor in many disease processes, including Alzheimer’s Disease and heart disease among others. 

Having a sense of purpose in life seems to promote positive mood, which supports resiliency from stressful events; in turn, this reduces inflammation in the brain—both of which are linked with reduced risk of dementia.

Reinforcing the positive psychological effects that come with having a sense of purpose is the fact that, when people feel their life has meaning and purpose, they are more likely to engage in activities that support their health: exercising, socializing with peers, doing volunteer work—all of which may protect against dementia risk.

The researchers suggest that prevention programs for people at-risk for cognitive impairment and dementia should prioritize activities that help bring purpose and meaning to one’s life. Staff who work with older adults can devote programming time to helping the elder identify what is important them, what their values are, and how they might act in alignment with these priorities and values. The researchers suggested “taking small steps.” For example, if an elder values “education for all,” they could benefit from volunteering as a literacy coach or as a reading buddy in a local school.

Everbrook Senior Living Residents Find Meaning, Purpose in Ageless Communities

The Everbrook philosophy is that, in later life we become ageless: As we fully accept our health and functional status, and that of our friends and neighbors, we recognize how interdependence helps to preserve independence. Our staff design and deliver activities that are suitable for all residents without regard to their functional status (independent living, assisted living, memory care). It is very important to all of us at Everbrook—and to our residents—that there is mutual respect and support among residents and that all residents experience belonging. 

To promote a sense of belonging, meaning, and purpose (as suggested by the research study), our staff plans activities that enrich intellectual, social, and emotional wellbeing and help to give residents a sense of control over their aging process. Our interdisciplinary team is well-trained to deliver stage-appropriate activities that are matched to a resident’s functional and cognitive abilities. We employ adaptive methods of communication to evoke and sustain a positive emotion throughout the day. 

Our Wellness 4 Later Life™ program model encompasses seven dimensions of wellness: physical, spiritual, emotional, social, intellectual, vocational, and environmental, as are advocated by the International Council of Active Aging. We help our residents discover what is significant in their life, now. Residents, with as much support as is needed, identify ways to add meaning/purpose to their self-care, in their activities at Everbrook, and in the community beyond Everbrook.

Original Research
Positive psychological constructs and association with reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis” by Georgia Bell et al. Ageing Research Reviews. The study was supported by the Alzheimer’s Society

Supporting Research, Resources

Dockray, S., & Steptoe, A. (2010). Positive affect and psychobiological processes. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 35(1), 69–75. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2010.01.006 

Ong, A. D., Mroczek, D. K., & Riffin, C. (2011). The Health Significance of Positive Emotions in Adulthood and Later Life. Social and personality psychology compass, 5(8), 538–551.https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9004.2011.00370.x 

National Institute on Aging. Positive Mood in Older Adults Suggests Better Brain Function. (2020, Research Highlights 

Published in Health & Wellness

Since older adults tend to need fewer hours of sleep – around 7 hours a night – than younger people, it might surprise you to learn that sleep deprivation can be quite common in older adults. Not only that, symptoms of sleep deprivation can also be confused for dementia in older adults.

Many people are aware that there is a connection between sleep and brain health. The changes in brain chemistry that occur when we don’t sleep leads to impairment of physical performance, decision making skills, and how well we manage our emotions. Poor quality sleep as well as insufficient hours of sleep makes us sluggish, causes muscle tension and physical fatigue, and can lead to changes in appetite and mood. The longer we go without good quality and sufficient hours of sleep, the more imbalanced brain chemistry and hormones become – and that is not good for the brain.

For older adults, who are less physically resilient to the stresses of poor sleep, the effects on their cognitive abilities can be significant. So much so, family members may wonder if their loved on is showing signs of dementia. 

How Can You Tell if an Elderly Adult is Sleep Deprived or Has Dementia?

Before you start calling assisted living centers about memory care services, you’ll want to carefully observe the sleep habits and behaviors of the older adult you are concerned about. First, you’ll want to understand the different symptoms of sleep deprivation versus dementia:

Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

  • Daytime drowsiness and fatigue not attributable to medication or a health condition
  • Difficulty concentrating on everyday tasks that usually come easily
  • Forgetfulness
  • Changes in appetite – either eating too much or not enough
  • Less resilient to stressful situations
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Muscle tension and headaches
  • Being more clumsy than usual, such as tripping or falling frequently

Early Symptoms of Dementia

  • Everyday tasks that should come easily are causing frustration or other difficulty
  • Changes in mood that represent a significant shift in personality
  • Trouble communicating, following a conversation, and losing train of thought
  • Forgetful and needing to repeat statements or questions repeatedly
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability, unusual anxiety, fear, or suspicion
  • Neglecting their appearance and hygiene
  • Confusion about time and place

As you observe your loved one for these symptoms, think about their sleep routine. Ask them (or observe):

  • What is their sleep routine? (learn more about how to improve older adults sleep hygiene)
  • Do they fall asleep easily?
  • Do they wake throughout the night or not sleep at all?
  • Upon waking, do they feel rested or fatigued?

Make notes based on your observation and talk with your loved one and their doctor about their sleep habits. If helping them get consistent quality sleep alleviates the symptoms you’ve observed, then you know they experienced sleep deprivation. With quality rest, you should see a return of healthy cognitive function.

If the symptoms you’ve observed don’t improve with better quality sleep, dementia may be developing. Now is the time to plan for your loved one’s quality of life as the symptoms of dementia will inevitably worsen. 

At Everbrook Senior Living, our exceptional clinical and recreation teams work synergistically to support residents in living a purposeful life. From independent and assisted living to memory care, our programs and services are designed using the latest evidence-based research on aging. Our residents with early to mid-stage memory impairment are surrounded by a compassionate and caring environment – equipped with high-quality amenities designed to support their emerging needs. To learn more about our newly-built, premier communities for older adults, contact Everbrook Senior Living, today.

Published in Health & Wellness

This Valentine’s Day we want to remind you of a special relationship between physical health and level of risk for cognitive decline. You may already be aware that, when you engage in physical activity you are building both physical and mental fitness. What you may not know is there is a “brain-heart-health connection” that influences your risk of cognitive decline: The healthier your heart, the lower your level of risk is for dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). 

What Does a Healthy Brain Require?

The brain-heart-health connection isn’t particularly complex. In a nutshell, a healthy brain requires 3 things:  

  1. glucose (the chemical name for sugar) for energy
  2. a strong blood supply to carry glucose and oxygen into the brain
  3. a healthy diet to provide essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, healthy fats) that serve as building blocks for brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. 

Look over those items once more time. Numbers 1 and 3 on the list are directly related to your diet---what, how often, and how much you eat. Number 2 – a strong blood supply--is related to heart health. So how does heart health relate to brain health?

How a Fit, Healthy Heart Fuels a Fit, Healthy Brain

Your brain relies on a strong heart to pump oxygenated blood into all regions. Scientists now believe that the disease process that leads to Alzheimer’s Disease begins when brain tissue degrades and nerve tissue becomes damaged. Poor circulation to the brain is a key factor in causing such damage to brain tissue.

If you have a history of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, have diabetes, or other cardiovascular risk factors, it’s not only your heart that is at risk for disease, your brain is as well. For example, a type of dementia called vascular dementia can happen as a result of a series of small, “silent” strokes, sometimes called “mini-strokes.” Also, repeated or prolonged stress on the heart (such as from lack of physical activity, smoking, and stress) can lead to blockages and high blood pressure, which in turn affects circulation to the brain.

The good news is, many of the same things that strengthen the heart also help keep your brain fit and healthy

Exercise Daily. Exercise helps to strengthen the heart making it more efficient with each contraction; it improves the elasticity and strength of blood vessels; helps to lower blood pressure and improve circulation. When you exercise to build a healthy heart you are also supporting the health of your brain. 

Manage Stress. Stress elevates hormones in the body that increase inflammation which, over time, contributes to illness. Meditation, yoga, and mindful walking are stress management activities that put a damper on stress hormones and support the health of the heart, brain and body.

Smart Food. As we age, our bodies can become less efficient at digesting food and absorbing nutrients. Exercising and choosing nutrient-rich foods helps maintain healthy digestive processes, and provides the fuel the brain, heart and body need to maintain vital health. 

There are many other heart-healthy strategies you can use to support brain health. These include maintaining a sleep routine for adequate rest; reducing your intake of caffeine, processed foods, sugars, and alcohol; and of course, not smoking. 

Remember, the disease process that leads to Alzheimer’s evolves slowly, over as many as ten to twenty years! But the onset of dementia and AD can feel sudden because of the way it robs people of their vitality, memories, and quality of life. You have so many years ahead of you to take care of your heart and your brain...why not start today so that you can have a fitter, healthier future in your Golden Years!

Supporting Healthy Minds and Bodies at Everbrook Senior Living

From delicious, nutritious food to wellness and fitness activities to meet a wide variety of interests and needs, Everbrook Senior Living boasts a wide array of health and wellness solutions for every stage of life. Our cutting-edge wellness activities help participants achieve improvements in cardiovascular fitness, strength, and balance. These outcomes help residence reduce risk of injury from falls and risk for cardiovascular disease. 

The Wellness 4 Later Life program embodies the seven dimensions of wellness: physical, emotional, social, intellectual, vocational, spiritual and environmental. Our highly experienced team of professional nurses, physiologists, therapists, and instructors delivers a customized, safe, and fun exercise program for each of our older adults. Enrichment activities help round out the needs of each resident, through activities that build community, strengthen cognitive skills, and support emotional wellbeing. 

Sources

CDC.com “Brain Health is Connected to Heart Health” Accessed 18 Jan 2022:https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/brain_health.htm

Natural Healing: Prevent Illness and Improve Your Life. The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (2017). (print)

TED Radio Hour. "Lisa Genova: Can Alzheimer's Disease be Prevented?" Accessed 10 Apr 2018:https://www.npr.org/2017/07/21/537016132/lisa-genova-can-alzheimers-disease-be-prevented 

NIA.NIH.gov "What Causes Alzheimer's Disease?" Accessed 10 Apr 2018:https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-causes-alzheimers-disease

Smith G.E., "Healthy Cognitive Function and Dementia Prevention." Am Psychol. (2016, May-June). 71:4, 268-275. Accessed 9 Apr  2018:http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/amp/71/4/268/ 

Healthy Aging and Prevention: Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at Emory University.http://alzheimers.emory.edu/healthy_aging/index.html 

 

 

Published in Health & Wellness
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