Alzheimer's Archives | Wesley Woods at New Albany

What is a “Continuum of Care”?

If you have been looking at various senior living options, including continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs, also called life plan communities), you have likely heard or seen the term “continuum of care” used. It’s an important concept when it comes to the variety of services provided by retirement communities, but it is also a term that is unclear to many prospective residents. So, let’s dig in and answer the commonly asked question: What is a “continuum of care”?

First, the definition…

A “continuum of care” refers to the increasing intensity of healthcare services that a person may need as they age.

Envision a spectrum. On the left, the spectrum begins with independent living–a person who is more or less self-sufficient and able to safely live on their own. The spectrum then progresses to the right to include personal care, assisted living, and/or memory care–this includes people who need help with activities of daily living (ADLs) like dressing or bathing, and/or have memory issues as the result of age-related cognitive decline or conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease; depending on the individual’s needs, it may or may not be safe for them to live alone. Then, on the far right-hand side of the spectrum would be skilled care and skilled nursing care –for people who have major health issues or cognitive decline and are no longer able to care for themselves.

A closer look at the phases of the care continuum

Independent living

Independent living is an option for seniors who are able to perform ADLs with little to no assistance and who do not require on-going medical support. They may, however, need occasional assistance with “instrumental activities of daily living” (IADLs), which include things like housekeeping or household maintenance. Thanks to ever-improving assistive technologies, combined with other support devices like walkers, wheelchairs, ramps, and rails, many seniors are able to remain in the independent living category for longer than in previous generations.

Personal care and assisted living

Assisted living (also called “custodial care” or “personal care”) is non-medical care services for people who require help with one or more of the six main ADLs: bathing, continence, dressing, eating, toileting, and/or transferring (walking). Medication management may also be needed. These services are often first provided in the senior’s own home, but as a higher level of help is required, moving to an assisted living facility may be more practical.

It’s important to note that assisted living is for non-medical care. While in most cases, assisted living recipients are not able to live fully independently, they do not need the type of around-the-clock medical care provided by a skilled nursing facility. But it’s worth noting that some assisted living providers are more equipped than others to serve residents with higher care needs–approaching what you might find in a skilled nursing facility, but stopping short of the type of medical care services that require a license.

Memory care

Memory care is an increasingly common component of both assisted living and skilled care as more and more seniors are diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease; there are even dedicated memory care centers available in some areas. Typically, memory care is offered in a community setting with the level of care increasing as the illness progresses, often leading to 24-hour care.

Skilled care and skilled nursing care

Encompassing both healthcare and rehabilitative services, skilled care can include things like nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. This type of patient management, observation, and/or evaluation is typically administered by licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs)–not usually by registered nurses (RNs).

A step up from basic skilled care is skilled nursing care, which is provided by registered nurses. These nurses give hands-on care in many cases–performing tasks such as administering IV drugs or giving shots.

Sometimes referred to as nursing homes, skilled healthcare centers employ LPNs, LVNs, and RNs. There are also licensed home healthcare providers who deliver these types of healthcare and rehabilitative care in seniors’ homes.

Where retirement communities fall on the continuum

If you are considering a move to a retirement community, it’s important to understand exactly what you are getting for your money. Yes, you want to look at perks like amenities and location, but one of the most important factors that distinguish one senior living community from another is which phase or phases along the continuum of care the community is able to serve.

Some retirement communities are focused on specific points along the continuum of care–perhaps it is an independent living community, or maybe it’s an assisted living residence. Others are equipped to offer services spanning the entire continuum. By definition, CCRCs fall into this latter category, providing their residents with a complete continuum of care–from independent living to skilled nursing care.

The progressive services offered by CCRCs allow residents to receive whatever level of care they need, whenever they need it. Services, amenities, and lifestyle are all important considerations, but for many CCRC residents, it is the availability of a continuum of care that is their community’s most valuable asset.  Of course, this leads to other important considerations, such as the availability and quality of care services.

 

 

The above article was written by Brad Breeding of myLifeSite and is legally licensed for use.

 


Game On: Can Brain Games Improve Your Memory?

There are a number of so-called “brain game” products on the market these days. These typically are computer or smartphone/tablet-based games that claim they can help improve seniors’ cognitive function and memory. But do they really work? Could playing video games be the secret to decreasing the prevalence of neuro-degenerative conditions like dementia? And what about things like crossword puzzles and sudoku—can they help seniors stay mentally sharp?

Aging and brain function

It is a normal part of the aging process to experience some decline in the number of neural synapses within the brain, which are imperative to memory and cognitive function. There are also conditions like dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) or Parkinson’s disease that cause more severe and debilitating cognitive decline among older people.

Some of the causes behind cognitive decline may be preventable by making lifestyle changes like managing weight, staying physically active, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and managing stress. Keeping the mind active—pursuing continuing education opportunities, or learning a new skill, a new language, or how to play an instrument—may even aid with the formation of new neural networks in seniors’ brains.

Inconclusive studies

You’ve heard the saying “use it, or lose it”; this axiom may be applicable to the brain.

The 1995 MacArthur Study, one of largest longitudinal studies of the aging process, found that among the octogenarians in their study sample, those who were more physically and mentally active—frequently doing activities like crossword puzzles, reading, and playing bridge—also had the highest cognitive abilities. However, a study conducted by neuroscientists at University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University found no significant difference between the memory function of seniors who played “brain games” and the control group that didn’t play the games.

Still another recent study found that it’s not enough just to use your brain; you have to challenge it by learning something unfamiliar.

University of Texas at Dallas researchers randomly assigned 221 adults, ages 60 to 90, to participate in a particular type of activity for 15 hours a week for a three-month period. Some were assigned to learn a new skill — digital photography, quilting, or both. Others were told to engage in more commonplace activities at home, like listening to classical music and doing crossword puzzles. And some seniors were assigned to a group that focused on social interactions, field trips, and entertainment.

At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that the seniors who were in the group that learned new skills showed quantifiable improvements in memory, as compared to those who engaged in the non-demanding mental activities at home or the purely social group.

So, while the research is thus far inconclusive on this topic, it appears that the most beneficial mental stimulation may involve learning new information or skills, rather than just recalling what we already know.

And this stands to reason. Think of the brain as being like a computer. Learning something new—like a new language or skill—stimulates the brain and helps form new neural pathways. It’s sort of like adding new software or a new hard drive to a computer, increasing its functional and memory capacity. By comparison, activities like trivia or crossword puzzles simply require you call upon data that already exists in the computer that is your brain.

Gaming for the senior set

Video and computer games are getting increasingly popular among seniors. Entertainment Software Association research from 2018 found that a quarter of people over the age of 50 play video games on a regular basis—a number that is trending upward.

If you’re a senior who is interested in diving into the gaming world with the goal of improving your brain health, again, games that teach new information—versus recalling data you already know—are believed to be best. However, there are also many fun games that get your body moving, offering the added benefit of improving your physical fitness, balance, and cardiovascular health (which is also good for your brain!).

Computer games and apps for smartphones/tablets

There are more and more computer-based games, as well as apps that can be downloaded to a smartphone or tablet (such as an iPad), that have educational value, which may be beneficial for seniors’ brains.

For example, programs like Rosetta Stone, and games such as Lingo Arcade, Influent, and MindSnacks can help you learn a new language, and Rocksmith can teach you how to play the guitar. If you’re interested in learning how to do computer programming, CodeMonkey will educate you on the basics of coding languages like HTML5 and JavaScript.

History buffs may enjoy games like Crusader King or Civilization VI, which combine strategic thinking with history lessons. There are even flight simulator games that can teach you how to fly an airplane!

Gaming consoles

There are numerous options when it comes to gaming consoles, from Xbox to PlayStation to Nintendo. Many of the games for these systems provide purely entertainment value, and there’s nothing wrong with that! But there are also several games that are effective at getting your body moving while you have fun. As an added benefit, these gaming systems are enjoyable for people of all ages and can be a great activity for grandparents to share with their grandchildren.

You may have heard of a Wii (pronounced like “we”). It is an interactive gaming console sold by Nintendo, and it’s become all the rage in many senior living communities. The Wii Fit system bundle comes with a balance board “peripheral” (add-on equipment) that is used in many Wii games to track your movements, allowing the game to make more personalized recommendations.

Wii Fit can be used for activities like yoga, balance games, and aerobic and strength training exercises. The Wii Sports Resort game offers numerous virtual activities that can get seniors moving like golf, tennis, and bowling.

Virtual reality

The lines are increasingly getting blurred between gaming and virtual reality (VR). VR is where a user dons headphones and a special mask that displays various simulations of three-dimensional images that can be interacted with by the user in a seemingly real way.

Such VR technology is another high-tech tool that is being used in several new applications for seniors. There are VR uses for memory care patients, with programs designed to stimulate the brain, spur memories, or encourage anxiety reduction. There are also physical therapy and pain management applications for VR.

The future of gaming in senior living communities

It is likely that gaming will play a bigger role in the future of the CCRC industry. It’s even possible to imagine a time when CCRCs and other senior living communities might create on-site gaming centers where residents can enjoy some friendly competition with each other. Whether it’s innovative uses for Wii Fit exercise groups or a fierce Crusader King virtual battle, residents can benefit from the physical activity and/or mental stimulation offered by these games in a fun and social atmosphere (interpersonal interactions which offer their own health benefits for the seniors).

But the bottom line is that, based on current research, the types of games that are believed to be most beneficial for seniors’ cognitive health are those that involve educational elements. So instead of a word puzzle, sudoku, or fantasy-adventure game, chose one that will help you learn Italian, take up the virtual guitar, or try your hand at computer programming.

And also don’t underestimate the “old-fashioned” way of learning: from a book or in a classroom-type setting. Most CCRCs provide residents with opportunities for this type of continuing education on an array of topics. Some even have lifelong learning partnerships with nearby universities, allowing residents to audit college courses. It might not be as snazzy as the latest computer or video game, but this type of learning still offers seniors potential benefits to their brains.

 

 

The above content is legally licensed for use by myLifeSite.

 


Making the Transition for a Loved One to Memory Care Support

Caring for a parent or loved one with memory loss is no easy task. While it is a commendable and selfless responsibility to take on, with it comes many obstacles and challenges. With the numerous life adjustments that need to be made such as priorities shifting, adapting your home for safety precautions, and the emotional toll that it can have on everyone included, it is often found that considering a transition to a community with memory care support makes a lot of sense. At all of The Wesley Communities, we have a trusted team to help make your transition as easy as possible while putting your needs and the needs of your loved one first. Below, we’ve compiled some helpful tips you may find useful.

  • Research facilities of interest and be transparent about your desires and concerns. Talk to your loved one and family first and then, make sure to address all areas of importance with administrators, residency counselors, and all others who will be part of this important transition. By knowing the ins and outs of each community you are considering, you will feel more comfortable that you are making the right choice with the best facility for your loved one.
  • Once you do select the facility that is right for your loved one, discuss it sensitively and positively with them. Especially for someone with memory loss, having a conversation of this subject matter may bring fear, anger, and sadness. Try and speak calmly with your loved one and share with them all of the opportunities and benefits they will have available to them.
  • Give the staff useful information and hobbies of your loved one. By letting those at the facility know what interests your loved one has and what brings them joy, they will be able to make the transition as positive as possible. This will better allow them to have activities, books, art and crafts, etc. prepared ahead of time that your loved one will be happy to have.
  • Work with staff to have some of your family member’s favorite foods or snacks available. Along the lines of letting staff know what interests your loved one has, having some treats they enjoy will help as well. If they love your homemade chocolate chip cookies, work with the staff to have some available in the first week after moving.
  • Plan to take some time off from work or other demands to prioritize the move. As with any move, planning is a large portion of it. If you are employed, try and work with your team or save some vacation time so that you can take a few days off to focus on moving your loved one. By your loved one having you every step of the way, they will feel more at ease.
  • Bring a sense of home to their new home. Decorate your loved ones home or create shadow boxes to make it feel familiar. By including your loved one’s favorite home items and pictures of family and friends, their new space will feel comfortable, familiar, and calming.
  • Reassure and be there for your loved one. In many cases, you will need to remind your loved one or re-explain the transition they will be making. Of course, this can be difficult and emotional for both you and them. The memory care staff at the facility you choose will be able to assist with this conversation to try and make it as positive and comforting as possible. Make sure to try and reassure your loved one that this transition will be a good one and again, share with them the great opportunities they will have like making new friends and being able to participate in fun activities.

 Making the transition for a loved one to memory care brings many emotions, challenges, and logistics but for many, it can also be a very beneficial decision for those with memory loss and their caregivers. By working together as a family, and with the supportive staff at the facility you choose, you will find the comfort and peace of mind you deserve.

 

The above article was written by The Wesley Communities’ Marketing Communications Coordinator, Allie DeBor.


How CCRCs Can Ease Retirement-Related Fears

One subject that is frequently voiced among prospective residents of continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs or “life plan communities”) revolves around the stress associated with envisioning and planning for the future, and indeed, it can feel like a daunting task since none of us have the luxury of a crystal ball. The results of a recent survey speak directly to some of these concerns. Click the link above to learn more about the results of the survey and how CCRCs may ease the fears related to retirement.

 


What to Look for in Memory Care Communities

When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or is faced with another serious memory loss condition, there is a good chance they will require professional memory care services at some point. Finding a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, or “life plan” community) with memory care will make life for the patient, loved ones, and caregivers more comfortable and enjoyable.

Click above to learn what to look for in a memory care community.


Nutrition for Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Dementia is the loss of memory, cognitive reasoning, awareness of environment, judgment, abstract thinking, or the ability to perform activities of daily living. The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia that involves slowly developing symptoms that get worse over time. Dementia resulting from vitamin deficiencies, or caused by underlying disease (such as brain tumors and infections) may be reversible. Other forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, are not reversible, and are often treated with medications.

As dementia progresses, changes can occur that may affect someone’s ability to obtain adequate food and nutrients to maintain their health status. Such changes will vary depending on the type of dementia, as well as the stage of the disease. Some of these changes include:

  • Altered sense of smell and/or taste
  • Inability to recognize food or distinguish between food and non-food items
  • Poor appetite
  • Chewing difficulties (pocketing food, repetitive chewing, etc.)
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Forgetting to eat
  • Shortened attention span leading to a loss of interest in eating
  • Difficulty using eating utensils
  • Increase in pacing or walking
  • Drug side effects

The symptoms of dementia vary, and the treatment and nutrition care should be determined by these symptoms. Some techniques to consider for continued delivery of food and nutrition include:

  • Provide kind reminders to eat.
  • Provide meals in a low stress environment, minimizing noise and visual
  • distractions.
  • Develop a meal routine that can be repeated over time, to provide meals at
  • similar times, or even similar meals every day.
  • Have someone eat with the individual to provide assistance and reminders
  • on how to eat.
  • Have family join the individual at meal times to encourage eating.
  • Pay attention to other health issues, such as infections, fevers, injuries, or
  • other illnesses, as these may increase food and fluid needs.
  • Provide well-liked food and drinks to encourage eating.
  • Limit the amount of food served at one time so as not to overwhelm.

Provide finger-type foods for individuals struggling to use utensils:

  • Hamburgers
  • French fries
  • Carrot sticks

Check with a dietitian or doctor for any specific dietary needs.


Activities to Help Keep Your Brain Sharp

If you are approaching retirement, or are already retired, you might be wondering how you will keep your thinking skills sharp. The good news is that there are several activities that will help you stay ahead of the brain game. When it comes to brain power, if you don’t use it you lose it. The following are some tips for a healthy brain at any age.

 

Eat Smart to Think Smart

Clogged arteries reduce blood flow and that means less oxygen to the brain. When the brain is low on oxygen, you may have problems thinking clearly. Consuming foods that are lower in saturated fat and cholesterol keeps blood vessels open, allowing oxygen-rich blood flow to your brain. Foods high in omega-3s like nuts and fish, as well as colorful, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables provide nourishment for a healthy brain.

 

Give Your Brain a Workout

Like the rest of your body, your brain benefits from exercise. Try reciting the alphabet backwards. Crossword puzzles, sudoku puzzles, and word searches are also excellent workouts for your brain.

 

Hydrate your Brain

Did you know that dehydration can make you feel disoriented and light-headed? Your brain needs adequate fluids to function, and your brain may be desperately in need of fluids even when you don’t feel thirsty. Try to get six to eight (8-ounce) cups of fluid each day. Healthy drinks like water and low-fat milk are good choices. If you don’t enjoy plain water, add a splash of fruit juice to your water. You can also get healthy fluids from fruits, vegetables, and soups.

 

Challenge Your Brain

Just for fun, if you are right-handed, try writing with your left hand or use your left hand to operate your computer mouse. Activities that cause you to concentrate more may help you grow new brain cells.

 

Go for a Brisk Walk

People often overlook the benefits of walking, but walking is yet another way to get your brain in gear. Your brain controls your muscles and when you walk, your whole body gets a workout. We have already seen how oxygen can help the brain. Walking is an aerobic exercise that helps deliver more oxygen to the brain.

 

Engage in Healthy Debates

Your brain was made for thinking. Being quick-witted and thinking on your feet can keep your brain ready for what comes your way. Pick a side and make your case for what you believe. You might be surprised at how your debating skills will improve.


10 Ways to Love Your Brain

 

If you fail to properly take care of your brain, you may eventually experience problems such as memory loss and stroke. The brain needs both exercise and nourishment to maintain proper function. Try these 10 tips to help you to love your brain and keep it healthy:

  1. Focus on your diet. Healthy foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol will promote brain health because they don’t clog the arteries. Clogged arteries block proper blood flow to the brain.
  2. Stay hydrated. Failing to consume adequate fluids can cause dehydration. A dehydrated brain becomes disoriented. Water and other healthy fluids keep the brain sharp.
  3. Stay well-rested. The average amount sleep required for an adult is at least eight hours of every evening. When you don’t get enough sleep, you feel foggy and irritable. Not only does your body feel tired, but your brain can also be exhausted. As a result, you may not be able to think clearly and make important decisions.
  4. Get your exercise. Practicing adequate physical activity keeps the blood flowing to vital organs. Blood carries oxygen to the brain, helping you to think and feel more energized.
  5. Take medications as prescribed. Taking too much of a medication can negatively affect the brain. An excess amount of medication can cause symptoms like dizziness or headaches and can impair judgment.
  6. Stimulate your brain. Brain exercises, such as playing cards, working crossword puzzles and reading, keep your brain active and sharp. Try to focus on stimulating your brain every day.
  7. Limit your alcohol intake. Like too much medication, too much alcohol can cause an impairment of judgment and motor skills. Eventually, this can have negative effects on your brain.
  8. Stop smoking. Smoking causes changes in blood vessels that can impair blood flow. Quitting smoking not only promotes a healthier brain, but can also add years to your life.
  9. Stop worrying so much. Chronic stress be unhealthy for the brain. Stress relievers include walking, listening to music, watching a funny television show and getting enough rest.
  10. Spend time with others. Spending too much time alone is not good for the brain. Loneliness often leads to internal sadness and depression. Get together with friends and have some fun as much as possible!