CareNotes: The Home Care Newsletter Vol 2 Issue 7
Home Care Assistance Releases Exciting New Book
Written by a team of senior care experts, Kathy N. Johnson PhD, CMC, James H. Johnson PhD, and Lily Sarafan MS, the book lays out specific lifestyle factors that promote healthy longevity for all adults.
Based on the well-known Okinawa Centenarian Study, Happy to 102 spells out precisely what it takes to delay or escape Alzheimer's and other chronic diseases, slow down the aging process, and enjoy better health in our senior years. It lists explicit factors, such as diet, exercise, sociability, mental challenge and sense of purpose that affect longevity. Chapters include, among others, “You Age What You Eat” and “The Psychology of Living to 102.”
These innovative methods give Happy to 102 a unique feel and set it apart from typical aging books. “This is the first book ever published and sold on Amazon.com by a senior care franchise and will serve as an unparalleled marketing tool for our locations”, says Sarafan. “What sets this book apart is its foundation in groundbreaking scientific research of the longest living people on Earth.”
The book’s Acknowledgment section reads, “To the centenarians around the world who inspire us. To the seniors throughout North America we feel privileged to serve each day.” Home Care Assistance is the only senior care agency to emphasize healthy longevity – a combination of lifespan and healthspan. With a focus on aging in place with in-home care, Happy to 102 inspires us all to live happier, healthier lives at any age.
We went through 1,500 copies of our book in the last three months, and we are currently sold out on Amazon!
Balance Care Method – Sharp Minds
Along with proper nutrition and physical activity, the Balanced Care Method™ seeks to help seniors stay as present and engaged with their world as possible by encouraging activities that help keep their minds sharp. While dementia and other memory problems are a fact of life for many older people, there are plenty of things that can keep seniors mentally stimulated.
Good cardio-vascular health, maintained with a healthful diet and regular physical activity, is a prime element of fighting dementia, which is why good nutrition and encouraging physical movement everyday are such important parts of the Balanced Care Method™. Beyond good "physical" health, though, is exercising the mind itself.
One 2003 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that seniors who regularly engaged in activities that required mental effort reduced their risk of dementia. The study looked specifically at seniors who read, played board games, danced, and played musical instruments, all of which were connected with better cognitive function. Importantly, the more frequent the activity, the lower the risk of developing dementia. Other studies have suggested any activity that requires problem solving, patterned thinking, or memory recall can help keep the brain remain functional and help stave off dementia and other cognitive impairment.
Most recently, a study in the August 2009 issue of Neurology showed that the more mentally stimulating activities a senior engaged in on a regular basis, the slower the onset of "accelerated memory decline" that person experienced.
So we know that regular, frequent, and sustained mental activities are key in maintaining memory and cognitive function in seniors for as long as possible. Most importantly, even seniors who are experiencing memory loss can experience benefits from using the abilities they still have.
Mentally stimulating activities are a daily part of life for seniors receiving the Balanced Care Method™. Caregivers make pursuing mentally stimulating hobbies and interests as easy as possible. They also introduce seniors to new mind-sharpening activities. In addition to being excellent "mental exercise," puzzles, games, and creative activities are an enjoyable, productive way to spend time for both senior and caregiver and are much healthier and more beneficial than television watching.
Examples of mentally stimulating activities encouraged by the Balanced Care Method™:
• Skill-based games, such as checkers, chess, backgammon, Scrabble, Boggle, or bridge
• Problem-solving puzzles like word games, crosswords, and Sudoku
• Reading or being read to
• Conversation about issues and current events
• Pattern-making or pattern-following crafts, such as needlepoint or knitting
• Creative arts, including painting, drawing, flower arranging, and playing music
• Foreign languages, if a senior speaks another language, finding opportunities to continue speaking or reading that language can aid cognitive functioning
• People with some dementia can benefit greatly from being asked about the memories they do have. Caregivers are encouraged to talk with seniors about those memories.
In addition to this simple list, Balanced Care Method™ trained caregivers engage their clients in mentally stimulating conversation and memory games. They understand the importance of mental activity for overall health and well-being in seniors.
As many seniors become less physically active (although as previously covered in this newsletter, the Balanced Care Method™ seeks to keep seniors as physically active as possible), having less physically strenuous activities to occupy their time becomes increasingly important. Reading, games and hobbies can become more important to people in their senior years as a way to interact with other people and enjoy the day.
As Dr. Joseph T. Coyle from Harvard Medical School wrote in an editorial essay that accompanied the 2003 study, "Seniors should be encouraged to read, play board games, and go ballroom dancing, because these activities, at the very least, enhance their quality of life, and they just might do more than that."
Coffee Drinking Gets a Fresh Assessment
Speaking of sharp minds, a recent study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease added to the data about caffeine and other stimulants as memory aids. The study, in the July 2009 issue of the journal, found that "Alzheimer’s disease (AD) transgenic mice given a moderate level of caffeine intake (the human equivalent of five cups of coffee per day) are protected from development of otherwise certain cognitive impairment." Even mice that already showed cognitive impairment "exhibited vastly superior working memory compared to the continuing impairment of control transgenic mice." Because mice with both the pre-existing condition and those showing signs of cognitive decline "exhibited memory restoration and reversal of AD pathology" the study concludes that there may be "treatment potential of caffeine in cases of established AD."
These findings build on earlier scientific study results published in the January 2002 issue of Psychological Science by the American Psychological Society. In that caffeine-memory study, researches found that the stimulant effect of caffeine can improve memory. The study took as its base earlier findings that memory in seniors is often at its best early in the day. As the day ticks by, seniors' memory abilities decline, with the most confusing moments culminating at the end of the day. Subjects were given coffee and memory tests at eight in the morning and again at four in the afternoon. The control group was given decaffeinated coffee and "showed a significant decline in memory performance from morning to afternoon." The caffeinated group, by contrast, showed no decline in performance.
In 2005, researchers presented findings that caffeine affects short-term working memory at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. Subjects were shown a sequence of simple images (the letters A, B, C or D) and then asked if an image was the same as the one shown two images earlier, responding as quickly as possible. The task was performed after 12 hours without caffeine and four hours without nicotine. Subjects received 100 milligrams of caffeine (approximately the amount in two cups of coffee) as well as a placebo which was randomized across subjects so that each of them underwent a caffeine and placebo scan. In the "caffeine condition," the subjects demonstrated a tendency towards improved short-term memory skills and reaction times during the task. They showed increased activity in brain regions located in the frontal lobe, where a part of the working memory network is located, and the anterior cingulum, the part of the brain that controls attention. In the "placebo condition," the subjects showed no change in activation patterns.
Caffeine is, of course, a stimulant. These studies have been promoted in the media as being about "coffee" (check out our headline too!), but can just as easily be read as being about tea or even some other type of stimulant delivered in pill form. In short, these studies shouldn't be read as a mandate to go out and start drinking coffee all day – especially for seniors with any kind of sleep disturbance or troubles (see Vol. 2 Issue 6 of the CareNotes Newsletter for more on Senior Sleep).
The author of the 2002 study noted, in fact, that all the participants were regular coffee drinkers. People not used to regular caffeine consumption might have experienced a myriad of negative side effects – anxiety, decreased concentration or shakiness – that may have harmed their performance on the memory tests if they had been included in the study. Keep in mind that everything, even coffee, in best in moderation.
Tips for Caffeine Drinking:
• Moderate the total number of caffeine beverages you drink during the day to keep your caffeine intake under 300 mg (at the most)
• Limit caffeine intake to before lunch to avoid having the caffeine adversely affect your sleep.
• Exercise after having caffeine to take advantage of the energy boost caffeine can provide as well as mitigate its stress-inducing properties.
• Know your caffeine levels: Strong drip coffee (145 mg), espresso (75 mg), instant coffee (60 mg), black tea (60 mg), green tea (25 mg), cola drinks (range from 40 to 60 mg).
• Avoid hyper-caffeinated beverages such as Jolt or Red Bull.
• Know that even "decaf" versions of naturally caffeinated beverages like coffee have some caffeine in them.
• Herbal teas come in a wide range of flavors – from robust and earthy to mild and floral – and are an excellent substitute for sipping in the afternoon and evening.
• Look up the caffeine content of specific drinks at Energy Fiend: http://www.energyfiend.com/the-caffeine-database.
Caregiver of The Month: Grace Shaw
Grace Shaw has worked for Home Care Assistance of Maryland for over a year. In that time she has consistently performed in a professional and competent manner. She is loved not only by her client and their family, but by the office staff as well.
As a caregiver, Grace has been practicing a balanced care approach, long before the Balanced Care Method was in place. She has always managed to care for her client in a holistic and nurturing way. Grace is often found in the kitchen with her client preparing an organic lunch while engaging her client in conversation. Together they planted a summer flower garden and worked on weed pulling and hedge trimming throughout the warm weather. In the winter months, Grace used her own money to buy Christmas cards and encouraged her client to write to all the people in her address book.
Grace is the caregiver you can trust to be on time, to show up ready to work, to give 100% of herself to her job. Grace is the caregiver who will help out in a pinch, who calls you back, who understands that the little things in life go a long way.