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Physical Exercise Keeps Your Brain Healthy

Joseph Coupal - Thursday, September 30, 2010

We know that mobility and physical activity promotes mental health.  Studies indicate a relationship between aerobic exercise and enhanced cognition, learning, and even alleviation of mood disorder. This s why we work so hard to increase and vary the activities for residents of Spring Arbor and The Oaks assisted living communities.  Today, let's discuss some of the scientific reasons these efforts are so valuable.

Animal studies have demonstrated a link between cardiovascular exercise and new brain cell development (neurogenesis) in the hippocampus, a structure critical to learning and memory. Dr. Fred Gage and colleagues have begun to describe the underlying mechanisms of this relationship between physical exercise and brain morphology and function. By manipulating levels of specific proteins in the brains of mice it has been determined that this can have an effect on control of stem cell division which can lead to development of new neurons. The medical community believes with advanced age stem cells become less responsive.  Our staff understands this and it serves as a motivator to keep all of us moving, both staff and our dear residents alike. 

One protein known as bone-morhogenetic protein or BMP seems to reduce the activity of these stem cells and may fuel adverse effects of natural aging.  However, exercise seems to counter some of the deleterious effects of proteins such as BMP according to Gage. Mice provided access to a running wheel had 50% less BMP-related brain activity within a week (a positive thing). The mice also demonstrated an increase in another protein known as “noggin” that acts to block BMP. Noggin helps mice perform better on cognitive tasks such as maze learning.

So what does all this mean to you?  It means simply that exercising and staying active is the best way to sustain the health of both mind and body. These findings underscore the importance in humans to be physically active by walking, jogging, swimming, biking, etc. This is why Spring Arbor Living goes to great lengths at all of our Alzheimer's assisted living care centers to keep our residents mentally and physically active

A New Dye To Trace ‘Plaque’ In Brain Helps Towards Alzheimer’s

Joseph Coupal - Sunday, September 26, 2010

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the leading progressive form of dementia in the United States thought to affect 50-70% of all known cases of dementia. The disease typically manifests after age 65 and has a typical course of early memory problems, spatial deficits; language disorder and eventual breakdown in one’s ability to remain organized and composed behaviorally. The disease causes significant financial and emotional tolls on families and society and projections are for a sharp increase in the number of cases of AD by the middle of this century.

Diagnostic testing has advanced faster than treatments.  There are only four FDA approved medications that treat symptoms of the disease. A fifth (Tacrine) was dropped due to side effects. Diagnostically a comprehensive dementia work-up that includes a physical examination to rule out reversible forms of dementia such as B-12 deficiency or thyroid conditions, neuropsychological assessment, social history, and functional exam can produce a high degree of accuracy for the presence of dementia and the cause such as AD. However, there are still errors made with diagnosis and too many false positives (diagnosing AD when it is not AD) and false negatives (not diagnosing AD when it is present) made. A good rule is to follow patients beyond one examination as it the degree of diagnosis difficulty lessons as the disease advances. It is critical to diagnose early in the disease process, however, so available treatments can begin sooner. It is also critical to know that while the medical community valiantly struggles to cure this dreaded disease, Spring Arbor delivers professional and certified Alzheimer's care  services a four care centers in North Carolina and Virginia.  Those locations are Spring Arbor Alzheimer's Care Cottage of Greenville (Grenville, NC), Spring Arbor Alzheimer's Care Cottage of Salisbury (Midlothian and Salisbury, Va), Spring Arbor Alzheimer's Care Cottage of Rocky Mount (Rocky Mount, NC) and Spring Arbor Alzheimer's Care Cottage of Wilmington (Wilmington, NC).

A recent study has demonstrated that a dye that can stick to the plaque and that can be seen using a radioactive tracer by PET (positron emission tomography) scanning technology. This is the first practical technique to see plaque in a living person’s brain. It offers a significant advancement enabling accurate diagnose and to measure treatment efficacy as we can measure the response of plaque to certain treatments.  An earlier but little used dye (the Pittsburgh Compound B), developed two decades ago. Indeed, science remains unclear if the plaque is event the major factor in the cause of AD.

Nonetheless, the new dye and scanning technique can be a significant step towards a more sensitive and specific approach to diagnosing AD and for measuring the effects of the many new treatments that will arrive to market in the next decade. With much advancement in technology we are one step closer every day to helping patients.

Until the medical community completely eradicates Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, the burden rests with family and professional care providers who understand and can deliver upon the wide-ranging levels of care that the disease demands.  That is why Spring Arbor Living provides custom Alzheimer's care plans that step up and deliver for you and your loved ones.

New Alzheimer's Treatment Study: Insulin Nasal Spray

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The staff of Spring Arbor Living community enjoy keeping you up to date on the latest dementia and Alzheimer's care medical research and development. We consider the act of providing such updates to be basic responsibilities of any and all assisted independent living centers.

According to a recent study, researchers found that insulin administered via nasal spray might benefit Alzheimer’s patients. This is according to a new short-term trial of intranasal insulin in Alzheimer’s patients and people with mild cognitive decline demonstrated improvement on memory and functioning tests. Unfortunately, the ability to perform activities of daily living was unchanged.

This study, presented at the recent Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on Alzheimer’s in Hawaii, followed 109 adults with either mild cognitive decline or early Alzheimer’s who were administered either placebo or 20 or 40 IU daily intranasal insulin treatments over four months. Results indicate the insulin group realized improved  cognitive and functional tests when compared to the placebo group. Some of the improvements lasted two months after treatment ended.

The researchers believe that restoring normal insulin levels in the brain may represent a therapeutic approach to Alzheimer’s care patients. Administration of the insulin through the nose reportedly enables access to those areas hit by the disease. Prior research has suggested a relationship between insulin resistances (the inability of insulin to transport glucose to the cells).

The authors underscore the role of diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and hypoglycemia as risk factors for Alzheimer’s and memory loss with aging. This represented the rationale for the study and potential therapy. Intranasal insulin therapy is yet another promising medical development for the treatment of Alzheimer’s. We hope such treatment can soon be provided at dementia treatment facilities across the United States.

High Tech Accessory: Electronic Tracking and Medical Record Bracelets

Joseph Coupal - Friday, September 17, 2010

High Tech Accessory: Electronic Tracking and Medical Record Bracelets

Medical alert bracelets have been around for years.  However, technology and entrepreneurial opportunists now team to offer a higher level of protection to those with complex medical conditions.  Let us introduce you to the concept of electronic medical bracelets proven to save lives. 

You have read the stories about dementia patients wandering away from their care facilities with the consequences ranging from being a non-health issue to death by exposure.  (Editor's Note: We are writing this blog on behalf of the non-Spring Arbor Living general public.  Spring Arbor Living employs multiple procedural fail-safes that protect our 100% resident accountability record.) Those inflected with any number of debilitating diseases (Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, hypo allergies, etc) depend on some form of technology to communicate to first responders when their condition renders them unable to communicate.  The traditional “Medical Alert” bracelets are themselves a life saving device, however, they communicate precious little specific information.  Electronic medical alert bracelets change that. 

These devices enable first responders determine a patients' complete medical history. The bracelets send responders to data files, secure websites, toll free numbers, or even to live chat with medical professionals. This enables the care providers to obtain all the past medical conditions or any prescriptions they are currently taking. This also helps medics proceed with caution.

The emergency bracelets available today are very different from the ones previously utilized.   They not only have bracelets, but they also have necklaces or even a flash drive that can be stylishly hidden (but obvious to a first-responder) in a charm worn around the neck. First-responders access the flash drive on scene and gain immediate access to critical medical information.  The flash drive is the best option as it provides comprehensive medical information. The only “problem” is that without password protection, the information is vulnerable, so patients and caregivers must conduct a cost-benefit analysis for using such technology.  

Again, this blog post is for the non-Spring Arbor general public because patient accountability and ready access to medical information is a foundational and unblemished patient care service provided at each and every Spring Arbor Living facility location. 

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 

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.