With the opening of our new Memory Care household, Harvest House, earlier this year, memory support has been top of mind for many members of the extended Homestead Village family so far in 2019.
If you have a loved one who is experiencing memory loss or someone in your life has received a diagnosis of dementia (whether generalized or related to other diseases like Parkinson’s) or Alzheimer’s, it is likely true that questions about brain health and memory have frequently been occupying your thoughts, as well. Know that you’re absolutely not alone, and we can help.
In that spirit, today’s post offers some ways that you can promote mental acuity, or keeping your memory “sharp” for as long as physically possible. Many of these tactics can benefit both recently diagnosed individuals, as well as their caregivers and loved ones looking to lower their own personal risk of developing memory loss later.
The national non-profit Alzheimer’s Association states that certain healthy lifestyle choices, such as regular, age/ability level-appropriate physical activity and a good diet, may help support brain health and prevent Alzheimer’s.
While it’s true that research is not conclusive and scientists and doctors don’t yet have absolute, 100% proven guidelines on prevention strategies, there are also few drawbacks to making healthy lifestyle choices that can improve your health and possibly protect your brain.
Here are a few of the best we have today.
Various studies and survey data have suggested that regular physical activity, such as walking, jogging, swimming, or participating in group fitness classes, benefit your brain just as much as your muscles and cardiovascular system. Exercise increases blood and oxygen flow to the brain, which may have direct Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia-fighting advantages.
Did you know that diets created to be heart-healthy also tend to promote brain health? This is due to the emerging “heart-head connection” in dementia/Alzheimer’s research that suggests cardiovascular disease and disorders like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, significantly increase the risk for developing dementia and brain disease.
The best diets for brain health (and heart health) may have trendy names—the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diets—but they are well-studied, physician-approved eating plans that emphasize limiting the intake of sugar and saturated fats while increasing the amount of fruits, veggies, and whole grains you eat every day. It is important to remember that every person’s dietary needs are different, so you’ll want to work with your doctor to determine whether one of these established regimens will work for you, or if you might benefit more from an alternative, but still balanced and complete diet.
Activities that fall under the large umbrella of Life Enrichment—those fun but also somewhat challenging things that help us open up to new experiences—are actually really excellent for keeping your brain in shape. Everything from completing crossword puzzles and playing along with Jeopardy! on TV to participating in a book club discussion or following instructions to create a complex craft project represents a way to give your mind a little workout.
Here at Homestead Village, Life Enrichment is a major part of life in our community, no matter where you reside or what level of care you require. For instance, our Memory Care households provide special, adapted services to help residents feel happier and more connected. These include planned on- and off-campus activities, pet therapy, access to secure outdoor areas, and more.
Spiritual health is something that doesn’t get a lot of press in our society today, but it is an important dimension of life for keeping stress and worry in check, which can have remarkably positive effects on the brain. Whether you consider yourself to be a practicing member of a specific organized religion like Christianity, Judaism, and more, or you have rarely stepped foot in a house of worship, taking time to think about your beliefs and your place in the world is beneficial. Like prayer, meditation or quiet mindfulness exercises can help you achieve a sense of calm and peace, which is good for your mind and memory.
This is more like a “trick” than a tip, but studies have shown that doing small movements, such as chewing gum, gently clenching and unclenching your fist, or playing with a specially designed “fidget” toy while reading or learning a new piece of information, can increase comprehension and retention of the information. It may feel silly, but why not give it a try?
Doodle, sketch, sing a song, take up piano lessons, or just listen to music you love—all of these pursuits help you open up to the more creative side of your mind, which is very healthy.
Homestead Village offers music and art therapy that benefits even individuals with advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s, as evidence shows that participating in the arts—even as a casual observer or audience member—can “light up” unique areas of the brain.
For both diagnosed individuals and their family members, caregivers, and loved ones, remaining socially connected to others throughout all stages of life is critical for overall health. It has been proven that loneliness is as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes per day, which is a scary thought, but very much drives home the severe risk that social isolation poses.
If your loved one is experiencing progressively more troublesome symptoms of dementia, it is essential that you seek resources within your community that can assist you with your caregiving duties. While many individuals with memory care needs tend to do better with routines and familiar surroundings, sometimes relocating to a Memory Care household like ours here at Homestead Village can help them thrive. Every person is unique, however, and that’s why we offer comprehensive Home Care services, too.
Above everything else, our community is dedicated to compassionate care and helping everyone we work with THRIVE WHERE YOU ARE®–this includes positioning ourselves as a strong and supportive resource for caregivers and loved ones of individuals with progressing memory loss or various forms of dementia. Please get in contact with us today to determine how we can help.