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Senior Assisted Living Blog



Memory And How It Affects Us Every Day

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Our memories are a primary determinant of who we are as people.  Our values, ethics, and priorities are all products of lessons learned over our entire lifetime.  It is memory (be it conscious, subconscious, or a combination of both) that define who each person is today and frames who they will be tomorrow. It is our intent at every Spring Arbor Living location to strengthen memory retention of our dear residents who suffer from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

Every memory in life, every experience we undergo, effects who we are no matter how insignificant the experience may seem. Every person you meet or pass on the street becomes a part of you even if you only glimpse at him or her for a second. This is true, for even if you do not consciously recall their presence.

We can consider a memory as a fraction of our being.  Every time we remember an environment, situation, or emotion, that memory enters our existence and becomes part of us forever. To think of this in another way, you can think of each memory as a person. Some people pass right by, only affecting you for a second, but SOME, stick around for a long time. You may not see that person every day, however, every time you see that person you re-experience their company, and they become a greater part of you. A memory is like a person that is still in your life, and even though we may not think about it every day, memory keeps us company. Dementia suffers are at maximum need for company.

Remembering a traumatic experience is something that is very difficult to deal with. However, that memory does not always have to be negative, as one can look at it as a way they learned and grew. When we are unable to handle the memory, or the experience, that is when it begins to tear us apart. Dementia patient caregivers need to work exceptionally hard to identify the positives embedded with traumatic memories and labor to reinforce those positives.  Unfettered emphasis on negative thought is damaging to the psyche, the soul, and the brain.  

This is why your Spring Arbor Living staff invests so much time and energy blogging about various mental exercises.  We seek to empower dementia patient caregivers with a means to help promote memory retention.  It makes all of us richer human beings.   


Want To Feel Revitalized? Try Going To A Salon

Joseph Coupal - Friday, September 10, 2010

Have you considered visiting a local salon? Of course we are neither partnered nor in the business of promoting any particular salon.  What we want to do is share with all of our Spring Arbor Living blog readers that frequenting salons has great social and self-esteem benefits.  We also included some ideas and tips for those who might think that salons are an unaffordable luxury.

One obvious reason that a trip to the salon is beneficial is that it is a great social opportunity. Entering new environments and creating new friendships in an around our Spring Arbor Living communities is an indisputable healthy act. The salon is a very interactive environment. Establishing a regular hairstylist creates a new social relationship. Your hairstylist will get to know you and over time become skilled at modifying your style and thus giving you exciting new looks.
 
A new hairstyle or salon service will simply make you look nice and you will feel younger.  If you are concerned about costs, check out different salons in any Spring Arbor Living location that may have some promotions or coupons available. You can also talk to your stylist about setting up a frequent visitor plan. Group rates are sometimes available so talk to your friends and make it a fun, monthly outing!

Do not forget that salons do more than cut hair.  They can offer waxing, tanning, massages, and other beauty and health-related services. Shampoos can be a great way to revitalize your hair, and skin treatments can help your skin stay healthier and younger looking. Eyebrow waxing is a cheap way to change your look too. Did you know that there have been advances in hair coloring that eliminate (or partially eliminate per your desire) gray and white hairs without damaging sensitive skin?

Ask any of our Spring Arbor Assisted Living Facility staff members what they think about this subject. Most will agree that if you want to feel healthy and revitalized, getting your hair cut at a salon is one way to do it. Treat yourself to a nice relaxing shampoo and a manicure while you are there. You will walk out feeling like a million bucks.


Another Memory Helping Program From Anne Basting

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, September 07, 2010

In one of our previous posts we talked about Anne Basting and how informative her work is. In our continuing quest to provide the very best of care and services, we've discovered some new and worthy information from Basting that we'd like to pass along. She calls it her "TimeSlips" program.

TimeSlips is a program created by Basting which teaches caregivers a fun and worthwhile activity for people caring for those with dementia or Alzheimer's. In the exercise, caregivers navigate a discussion that allows patients or residents to create their own stories. The focus is on creating new stories instead of dwelling on trying to remember old ones. The story is then weaved into "a poetic collage."

The experience that people have had from this program has been phenomenal. It is a great activity for both the care givers and the patients. Both get to weave a story into whatever their fantasies are, then express it to each other, which helps build memory. The program began as a simple exercise but now is practiced all over the nation. One of the biggest issues caregivers have when caring for their loved ones with memory loss is that they can't remember things that they once cared about. This avoids this fear and sadness altogether by creating new memories while their loved one can exercise their mind.

Someone explained that Alzheimer's and dementia is similar to wanting to say something but simply not having the words to say it. When we lift expectations of what "should" be said or "should" be remembered, we ignore that road block. TimeSlips is a great program. Learn more about TimeSlips at http://www.timeslips.org. 


Only 5 Percent of Military Veterans Apply and Receive Maximum Financial Benefits

Joseph Coupal - Friday, September 03, 2010

This blog post is a call to action for all military veterans (and their care givers) to schedule an appointment with their local Veteran's Administration (VA) representative.  It is estimated that only 5% of American military veterans are exercising their full VA benefits.  

We can only assume that this means that certainly some of the Spring Arbor Living's armed forces veteran residents (and the families) are not receiving their full financial support. The numbers are staggering as it is estimated that only 105,000 (of 2.3 million) veterans are exercising maximum benefits.  Within those numbers are those who, if the Veteran or family only applied, will qualify for up to $2,000 or more per month!

Some people aren’t finding out about the benefits they could be getting until they just happen to talk to someone else who knows about the benefits. It is the intent of this blog post to be "another one of those people you are talking too".  Tragic stories abound regarding families inquiring about VA death benefits only to discover that they failed to lay claim to eligible financial benefits for decades.  So the bottom line advice is this. If you or your loved one was honorably discharged from the United States Armed Services, you owe it to yourself to contact an area representative of the Veteran's Administration and discuss you current assisted living situation or your future assisted living plans.

We advised that you take a moment to research the Veterans Administration's website and familiarize yourself with their programs.  Of course you can contact any of our Spring Arbor Assisted Living & Alzheimer's Care locations in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and/or Tennessee for help.  We can help arm you with targeted questions.  Make sure you have social security numbers of those involved including dates of when the veteran was in the service. We also recommend getting a binder and notebook specifically for the veterans benefits. Keep everything together and organized.  You will find the VA to be a federal agency whose representatives tend to be passionate about their service offerings.  So please give them a call and take action to verify that our country is returning the maximum benefits allowable to the Spring Arbor Living American heroes who selflessly served their country.


Hearing Loss -- Education and Prevention

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, September 02, 2010

All of us at Spring Arbor Living seek to promote healthy life styles for both our residents and their entire family.  According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), ten million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise and another 30 million are exposed to dangerous levels of noise each and every day. Hearing loss is a common affliction for both the old and the young. So take two minutes to read, reflect, and if need be, change your bad habits that put your hearing at risk.  

The rule of thumb, according to NIDCD, is to be wary of noises that are “too loud”, “too close”, or last “too long”. When exposure to potentially dangerous noise is unavoidable, noise induced hearing loss can be prevented by using effective hearing protection such as earplugs, earmuffs or headsets. These will help drown out the sound from those outside sources and protect your ears.

Make sure to watch out for symptoms of hearing loss, including sounds that appear distorted or muffled a ringing in the ears, a feeling of fullness in the ears and difficulty understanding speech. Any of these signs signal that a hearing test is essential. The test will go through a series of sounds and pitches to determine where your hearing level is and if it is damaged.

Today’s hearing aids are smarter, smaller and more comfortable than ever before. With proper professional hearing care support, they can benefit 95 percent of all those with hearing loss. However, there is no substitute for prevention, and noise induced hearing loss is 100-percent preventable. There are many programs and companies out there that specialize in hearing aids. And most of them would be glad to help out.

As a small quick tidbit, we'll share some quick sound facts since we are on the subject of hearing and sound. We hope this post was informative and everyone protects their ears. Being able to hear is a valuable sense to have and we take it for granted until it is gone.

•   The unit used to measure sound is a decibel: A whisper may be 30 decibels, and typical conversation measures 60 decibels, while a hair dryer can come in at 90 decibels.
•   An increase of 10 on the decibels scale means the sound is 10x more powerful.
•   The Sight and Hearing Association estimates that unprotected hearing can be damaged in four hours when using a power saw (95 decibels), 15 minutes at a stadium football game (115 decibels), and eight hours in truck traffic (90 decibels).
•   A single acoustic trauma can result in permanent hearing loss – or in temporary hearing loss, which may be followed by partial or total recovery. Sudden hearing loss always requires prompt medical attention.

So just exactly what is "too loud too close, or too long".  Unless you carry a decibel meter wherever you go, you just have to trust your instincts. You know, young people just know that they are going to "hear forever".  We, the mature, know better.  Just be honest with yourselves, and don't be lazy.  Reach for your hearing protection each and every time your gut tells you to do so. 

Stop by or call to continue the discussion or for more references on the subject of hearing loss. 


What is Young-Onset Dementia

Joseph Coupal - Monday, August 30, 2010

"Dementia" is a general term that refers to decline in multiple areas of thinking and/or memory while an individual is awake and alert; the decline is enough to interfere with normal daily functioning, whether on the job or at home.

The term "young-onset dementia" refers to dementia that begins before the age of 65, sometimes as early as the 30s and 40s. This is to be differentiated from "early stage dementia," which has nothing to do with age. Rather, it refers to the beginning of a dementia syndrome regardless of the age at which it starts.
Young-onset dementia can be caused by frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), Alzheimer's disease (AD), cerebrovascular conditions (e.g., multi-infarct disease, stroke), Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, prion diseases (e.g., Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease), and other conditions.

These early dementias are devastating neurological conditions that exact a tremendous emotional and financial toll on patients and their families and present a host of challenges never envisioned by the young patients. The condition causes a unique problem not only because it is so unexpected but because most of the potentially helpful programs and services that a younger patient needs have all been carefully designed and targeted for much older people.

One of the major problems with young-onset dementia is that it cuts down a person in their prime wage-earning years. While most older people with dementia are retired, many people with young-onset dementia are still working when they are diagnosed.


Types Of Dementia And Their Characteristics

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, August 26, 2010

We had a family member recently suggest that we post a blog that defines the common forms of dementia and the associated characteristics.  There is a shared bond between patients and family members of those inflicted with dementia. A common observation by these fine people is how little the general public knows about dementia outside of the relatively well known subject of Alzheimer's.  We will be glad to list below the most prolific forms of dementia in America today:  

Alzheimer’s disease: Most common type of dementia; accounts for an estimated 60–80 percent of cases. Difficulty remembering names and recent events is often an early clinical symptom; apathy and depression are also often early symptoms. Later symptoms include impaired judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.

Parkinson’s disease: Many people who have Parkinson’s disease (a disorder that usually involves movement problems) also develop dementia in the later stages of the disease. The hallmark abnormality is Lewy bodies that form inside nerve cells in the brain.

Vascular dementia: Considered the second most common type of dementia. Impairment is caused by decreased blood flow to parts of the brain, often due to a series of small strokes that block arteries. Symptoms often overlap with those of Alzheimer’s, although memory may not be as seriously affected.

Dementia with Lewy bodies: Pattern of decline may be similar to Alzheimer’s, including problems with memory and judgment as well as behavior changes. Alertness and severity of cognitive symptoms may fluctuate daily. Visual hallucinations, muscle rigidity and tremors are common.

Front temporal dementia: Involves damage to brain cells, especially in the front and side regions of the brain. Typical symptoms include changes in personality and behavior and difficulty with language. No distinguishing microscopic abnormality is linked to all cases. Pick’s disease is one type of front temporal dementia.

Mixed dementia: Characterized by the hallmark abnormalities of Alzheimer’s and another type of dementia — most commonly vascular dementia. Recent studies suggest that mixed dementia is more common than previously thought.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: Rapidly fatal disorder that impairs memory and coordination and causes behavior changes. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is believed to be caused by consumption of products from cattle affected by mad cow disease. Caused by the misfolding of prion protein throughout the brain.

These are some of the most common types of dementia. While Alzheimer's is the leading type of dementia there other forms that we thought everyone should be aware of the many forms of dementia. Each and every one of these disease is devastating on both the patient and their support team.  And always realize, your support team at Spring Arbor Living is always well educated, well versed in these diseased, and most importantly, well stocked in the passionate care of you all.  


Mental Exercise Tip: Adding Associations To Strengthen the Mind

Joseph Coupal - Monday, August 23, 2010

This Spring Arbor Living blog offers new tips on battling forgetfulness.  We'd like to introduce to you another another great book we've discovered, Harry Lorayne's "Ageless Memory: Simple Secrets for Keeping Your Brain Young".  This book is yet more validation that we need to exercise our minds like we do our bodies.  This work is very insightful and offers new tricks to train your brain to focus. Here are some things from his list of ideas for helping to strengthen your mind.

- Pay attention: Create links to something else when you’re trying to remember something.

- Visualize the name: Link an image to a name with similar characteristics based on sound.

- Create memorable associations: Even if the association is out of character of the object or person you are trying to remember, the image will stay in your mind.

- Give a play-by-play: Living in the moment and being conscious of what you’re doing helps to remember what you’ve done.

- Make it a habit: For things that are done on a regular basis, be sure to do them in the same way every time.

- Sing it: Putting lists or things to remember to a tune helps it stick in your memory.

- Try mnemonic devices: Using the first word of each item in a list can help.

- Use your body: Create connections to what you’re trying to remember with body parts to create a stronger, closer connection.

- Go Roman: Use well-known areas as a map, where you can place items to remember along the map.

- Use color: Adding color to notes helps create a stronger linkage.

As you can see, most of these ideas are very visually and linkage-related. We feel it is a service responsibility to share our educational findings with you as often as we can.  Our minds like organization and by giving these things that we need to remember a place to be in our minds, even if it’s a weird place, it sticks with us better.

So don't forget to exercise today.....mind, body, and soul. Picking up Lorayne's book might just be great exercise.


Financial Tips For Families and Recipients of Assisted Living

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Do you know that there are wide ranging personal finance and tax saving opportunities that only a professional adviser is likely to be aware of. The staff at Spring Arbor Living would like to point out a few of the not so commonly known proactive measures that you can  take to ease the cost burden of assisted living serves.  If you are either the benefactor of assisted living services OR financially contributing to the same, you owe it to yourself to speak with a professional tax attorney about the implications on your Federal and State tax burden.   Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (the "HIPAA"), seniors may be eligible to deduct portions or all of assisted living costs as a medical expense on their Federal tax returns.   ALL costs related to senior care may be deductible if the resident is unable to perform (without substantial assistance) at least two activities of daily living, such as eating, bathing, dressing, etc. It can also apply to seniors who require substantial supervision to protect the individual from himself or herself because of severe cognitive impairment. Again, we encourage you to discuss the subject of assisted  living expense with an certified tax law professional.

For those of you financing a loved one’s assisted living, that is not reimbursed please realize that elder care medical expenses above 7.5 percent of adult children's adjusted gross income may be tax-deductible. You can and should contact your tax attorney or directly contact the e Internal Revenue Service.

For those who have or are about to enter resident assisted living, very often there is an emotional attachment to the family home that they are vacating.  Children can consider buying it from their senior parents and even  carry back the mortgage of the parent to increase the parents fixed income. If the family wants a formal loan structure, consider looking online or if you have a family financial adviser they can handle the paperwork and collection of payments, etc.

Of course financial matters are very private in most families. Don't be insulted if your parents refuse to share the details of their money while they retain full control. Do guide them to seek reputable guidance. If there is no family financial adviser you can find a very skilled and reputable financial planner through the National Association of Personal Financial Advisers (www.napfa.org) who can provide a second opinion and peace of mind for lifelong do-it yourself investors.


New Scientific Discoveries About Cancer and Vitamin D

Joseph Coupal - Monday, August 16, 2010

In one of our older posts we discussed vitamin D, and its two forms; D2 and D3.  Today, we'd like to share with you some recent  new discovery about the health benefits of vitamin D.  New medical research reveals that Vitamin D could very well be THE most effective “medicine” to use in the war against cancer. 
 
According to Joel Fuhrman, M.D., vitamin D "has now emerged as a positive contributor to many non-skeletal physiological processes which contribute to the prevention of cancer, cardiovascular disease, infections, autoimmune diseases, and more Researchers at Creighton University’s  School of Medicine discovered that supplementing your diet with vitamin D and calcium can reduce your risk of cancer by an astonishing 77 percent. This includes breast cancer, colon cancer, skin cancer and other forms of cancer. This research provides strong new evidence that vitamin D is the single most effective medicine against cancer, far outpacing the benefits of any cancer drug known to modern science.

The study involved 1,179 healthy women from Nebraska. One group of women was given calcium (around 1500 mg daily) and vitamin D (1100 IU daily) while another group was given a placebo. Over four years the group receiving the calcium and vitamin D supplements showed a 60 percent decrease in cancers. Considering just the last three years of the study reveals an impressive 77 percent reduction in cancer due to supplementation.

The research at Creighton University continues  and we hope to they publish more findings soon.  The medical community and the Food and Drug Administration have not altered the official language of the recommended daily dosage of Vitamin D, but stay tuned.  This could soon be one of the more talked about medical breakthroughs.