Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis: The Scary Truth of Being Uninformed

familly_caringDuring my morning commute a few months ago, I switched on the radio and caught the tail end of a brief NPR story about doctors not communicating to their patients when they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Because I am surrounded by this disease in the workplace and have experienced it first-hand in my family, I was quick to become empathetic and my heart sank into my stomach. It just seemed so unfair and, well, wrong.

The next day, I decided to dig a little more deeply and find the article in writing. Maybe I missed some important details at the beginning of the story. Maybe the twist was that these patients were being diagnosed but simply forgot after they walked out of the doctor’s office doors, because, after all, they do have memory loss and dementia. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

According to this specific study, an alarmingly low number of patients with Alzheimer’s (only 45%) claimed that they were given this diagnosis by their doctor. When the study looked past the patient’s input, still only 53% of family members or caretakers reported being aware of the diagnosis. The reasoning behind this sits among a variety of excuses, ranging from the doctor having limited time in each appointment to the doctor simply feeling uncomfortable.

Is It Acceptable to Withhold the Diagnosis?

Are these legitimate excuses? Is it ethically acceptable to withhold information that is unknowingly being written down in your medical records just to save one or both parties from feeling uncomfortable? 

Sure, it feels terrible to look someone in the eye and tell them devastating news, but when a person is relying on someone, their doctor in this case, to keep them informed, the doctor needs to take responsibility here. Withholding this information puts the patient at risk of harming himself, as well as those around him. What if those around a person with Alzheimer’s believe these forgetful moments are merely part of a normal aging process? Maybe one day the person with Alzheimer’s cannot recall a street name, which may seem normal, but what if the following week(s) lead to such scenarios:

The person with Alzheimer’s…

  • Goes for a walk or bicycle ride without telling anyone and gets lost.
  • Accidentally leaves the gas burner on all day while home alone.
  • Needs help but forgets how to dial the phone.
  • Leaves the water running in the bathtub, does not realize it, and goes to bed.
  • Gets in a pool alone and forgets how to use their legs, loses footing, and goes under.

Benefits of Knowing the Diagnosis

Some of these examples may seem extreme, but they are actually scenarios that either myself or someone I know has personally witnessed. So many dangerous situations can be avoided if family or close friends are aware of the diagnosis. And though there is no cure, doctors are finding medications that can help slow down the disease process, and researchers are finding more and more ways for people with Alzheimer’s to gain a better quality of life through means such as music, aquatics, memory care, and more.

I often see family members or caretakers get frustrated, and even angry, with people who are forgetful. When we are able to have a medical diagnosis, can realize that it is truly a disease and out of the person’s control, and can view the whole picture, we are opening a door to having more compassion and understanding for the situation a person with Alzheimer’s is facing. 

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Topics: senior wellness cognitive function memory dementia memory care Alzheimer's Disease

How One Senior Living Community Got Focused on Brain Fitness

senior_puzzleMost senior living communities have a variety of group fitness classes on their calendars focused on balance, muscular strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health, and the clients we work with are no different. But we’ve landed on a program tied in with our group fitness classes for seniors that has become wildly popular with the residents. It turns out, it’s been a great way to draw more participants into the exercise program, too.

The Popularity of Brain Activities

At one of our client’s communities we have many of the typical activities to stimulate the mind: card games, lectures, forums, resident committees, etc. And at one point we offered a “Memory” workshop series. This was so popular that we added a word of the day and the TriBond® game to our daily information board in the fitness center, along with including puzzles in our newsletter.

Over time, we noticed that more and more people started coming to the fitness center to learn the word of the day, to get the TriBond® puzzle, and to ask questions about the puzzle in the newsletter. It was obvious that our residents were craving ways to challenge their minds, and we were eager to respond in ways that would help them keep their minds strong or increase their abilities.

So we added a brain fitness class to our group fitness schedule, and that class is thriving each week! In the weekly offering, our residents have a wonderful time challenging their minds. They learn new games like Sudoku, and play old games like Memory™. They also engage in history trivia questions and challenges. One of our residents recently named all 44 presidents, in order, off the top of her head!

How to Start Brain Fitness Classes at Your CCRC

We’ve started offering this type of class at our other senior living client sites with similar popularity. Here’s some advice on how you can get it started in your community:

  • Hold an event such as a brain fitness fair for your residents to see how fun and important it is to continue to work on the mind.
  • During the event, pay attention to what the residents like and don’t like. This will help you build a class structure that works for them.
  • Do not always make the class what they like. In order to strengthen the mind we need to challenge it. Typically the things that we do not like are the things that we find challenging.
  • Begin putting puzzles in your weekly or monthly newsletters.
  • ADVERTISE EVERYWHERE!

Brain Class Structure

For the structure of the class, consider the following ideas:

  • Begin with a task that can be done while waiting for everyone to come in and sign in. (Example: Write your name with your non-dominant hand or with both hands at the same time.)
  • Have classical music playing in the background. Some studies show this increases the brainwaves that stimulate thought process.
  • Come prepared with four to five activities. Make it a variety of word games, long-term memory/short term memory, and deductive reasoning. Here are some sites that might provide some ideas: MazestoPrint.com, Activityconnection.com, BrainBashers.com, and ThinkablePuzzles.com.
  • Leave time for discussion in small groups and then time with you for answers.
  • Have the answers for all activities to share with the participants. (The residents will be angry if you don’t!)
  • If you do not finish all activities, consider giving “homework.”

Learn more about physical exercises that help improve cognition here.

Let us know how your brain fitness program works in your setting! We’d love to keep sharing these kinds of ideas to improve the health of the residents we work with. 

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Topics: CCRC active aging senior living communities brain health cognitive function resident wellness programs memory

Exercise Your Brain for Corporate and Senior Wellness

This blog was written by Mechelle Meadows. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

brain healthWhile exercising the brain is of great importance in retirement wellness centers to aid in preventing or reversing memory loss and dementia, it’s never too early to start actively increasing your “brain fitness.” Occasional memory loss happens to anyone, young or old. It often occurs in moments of fatigue, nervousness, or anxiety.

There are exercises you can do to increase memory and other cognitive skills. Just as you should incorporate variety and extra challenges into your physical exercise routines, you should do the same for your brain.

A few mental exercises suggested in this article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer are

  • Learn one new word per day and find ways to work it into normal conversation.
  • Learn a new language.
  • Perform routine tasks in a different way.

Often in retirement or corporate fitness centers, we challenge clients by asking them to close their eyes or stand on only one foot while they do basic strength exercises, thus heightening their proprioceptive awareness and teaching better balance. Similarly, the article says that when you change up simple daily tasks, such as unlocking your front door with your eyes closed, you are activating more senses and key areas of the brain, keeping your mental function at its top level.

Make it your goal to add one mental exercise, such as a crossword puzzle, to your daily routine!

Topics: corporate wellness senior wellness programs productivity brain health memory

Corporate Wellness: Bail Your Body Out of Sleep Debt

This blog was written by Mara Winters. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

tired, headache, sleep debtYou know the feeling. The alarm clock is ringing and you're thinking, “If only I had one more hour to sleep.” Americans tend to lose about an hour of sleep per night (about two full weeks of slumber per year), pushing our bodies into sleep debt.

The side-effects of sleep deprivation are not fun to experience: impaired memory, foggy brain, worsened vision, and impaired driving. Long-term effects of lack of sleep can include obesity, insulin resistance, and heart disease.

Work Out Wisely to Improve Sleep

If you’re like many people, you are looking to get out of sleep debt. Exercise can help you sleep more soundly. Consider the following when exercising:

  • Morning exercise can relieve stress and improve your mood. Coupling exercise with the natural morning light reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle, improving your night’s rest.
  • The most beneficial exercise time is mid-afternoon to early evening. Vigorous exercise during this time raises your body temperature a few hours before bed. Then as you get ready for bed, your body temperature is falling, allowing a natural wind-down for the night.
  • Vigorous exercise before bed is not good for sleep. It raises your temperature and stimulates your brain and muscles, making winding down more difficult.

Understand the Importance of Sleep to Your Health

With some practice you can repay your sleep debt. Just like with exercise, the amount of time and intensity you sleep is important. Add an extra hour or two of sleep a night to ensure that you spend more time in deep sleep. Go to bed when you are tired and allow yourself to wake up naturally.

Sleep is vital to restorative health, so bail your body out of sleep debt by being active and catching up on your Zs!

Topics: exercise heart disease sleep worksite wellness stress obesity memory

Senior Wellness: Exer-games Provide Cognitive Benefit

This blog was written by Jenna Pearson. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

senior fitnessMost people would agree that regular exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, but how much of an impact does physical activity really have on one’s health and well-being?

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has been advocating exercise as medicine since 2008, and when you look at the statistics, the reasoning behind their now-famous Exercise is MedicineTM initiative becomes clear. Studies have shown that regular exercise does the following:

  • Lowers the risk of stroke by 27 percent.
  • Reduces the risk of developing type-2 diabetes by 58 percent.
  • Reduces the incidence of high blood pressure by approximately 50 percent.
  • Can reduce mortality and the risk of recurrent breast cancer by approximately 50 percent.
  • Can lower the risk of colon cancer by over 60 percent.
  • Can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by approximately 40 percent.
  • Can decrease symptoms of depression as effectively as Prozac or behavioral therapy.

Newer research also suggests that certain exercise provides cognitive benefits. Specifically, exer-gaming may delay—or even prevent—dementia, and has been shown to improve cognitive function in normal aging. Such exer-games include CyberCycle by Expresso and Shadowboxer ACTIVE.

Exer-games are also beneficial to physical aspects of health, as they shift one’s attention from the sometimes monotonous mindset of exercise to the task at hand, allowing them to put forth greater effort. Exer-games may also be more enticing for those who are easily bored by traditional exercise, thus helping them to more easily commit to a regular exercise routine.

Topics: motivation senior wellness programs senior fitness cognitive function memory dementia

Senior Fitness: Walking and Memory

This blog was written by Anna Hiple. Meet our blogging fitness specialists at the NIFS website.

senior fitness, retirement community, senior health and wellness, senior fitness managementWalking has long been touted as one of the most effective forms of aerobic exercise an individual can perform. The convenience of walking and the relative ease of it (compared to some other forms of high-impact exercise) make it a beneficial part of any exercise program for individuals of all ages.

The Impact of Walking on Senior Health

Regular walking is especially important for seniors, as it helps them maintain balance, muscle mass, and cardiovascular function that can otherwise deteriorate with age. It assists with the prevention of chronic disease and may help ease the symptoms of some medical conditions.

In addition, what’s good for the body has also been proven to be good for the mind; walking combats age-related cognitive decline, which helps seniors maintain their memory and prevent dementia. Specifically, walking increases the size of the hippocampus, which is a section of the brain related to memory.

Studies Prove the Memory Benefits of Walking for Senior Wellness

While many forms of activity can be good for the brain, a year-long study at a handful of universities specifically highlights the benefits of walking as compared to other forms of activity. Data was taken from two groups of seniors: one group with a walking program and another performing yoga and resistance-band training. The size of the hippocampus increased in the walking group but decreased in the other group. Therefore, especially if you are a senior, it’s important to lace up those athletic shoes and hit the pavement!  

Walking Tips for Seniors

Check out the following walking tips for seniors:

  • If you’re just beginning, start slow. You may want to consult with your doctor about a program.
  • Walk as briskly as possible, which will help you reap the most benefits.
  • Invest in a pair of comfortable walking/running shoes with plenty of support and cushioning.
  • If you have joint ailments, try finding softer ground on which to walk, such as a trail or a track.
  • Incorporate intervals into your walking program. Mix in speed bursts and incline training.
  • Recruit a walking buddy. Exercise can be much more enjoyable with a friend!
  • If walking outside, try varying your routes to keep the scenery interesting.
Topics: walking senior fitness memory