Game On – How Tech Can Help Alzheimer’s Patients

Can tech tools like “brain games” help Alzheimer’s patients and/or help stave off symptoms? Yes, it appears there is hope in addition to traditional methods of keeping the brain sharp.

Mental decline, or the loss of mental abilities with advancing age, is a part of normal aging. The sharpest decline in mental abilities occur in mathematics ability, the least in spatial orientation for men, and in inductive reasoning for women. Altered connections among brain cells are the cause of loss.

Benefits of an Active Brain

Research has found that keeping the brain active increases its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells, connections and generate new brain cells. Higher levels of education appear to be somewhat protective against Alzheimer’s, possibly because brain cells and their connections are stronger. Well-educated individuals can still get Alzheimer’s, but symptoms may appear later because of this protective effect. Low levels of education (assuming a lower level of life-long mental stimulation) are related to a higher risk of Alzheimer’s later in life.

Keeping it Sharp

Aside from our education levels – which may or may not be in our control – how can you stop the progression of the disease before you and/or your loved ones lose their memories? Start with something small, like a daily walk. After a while, add another small change and work through this list of suggestions:

  • Stay curious and involved
  • Commit to lifelong learning
  • Read, write, work crossword or other puzzles like Sudoku
  • Attend lectures and plays
  • Enroll in education courses
  • Play games – in person like bridge or online chess challenges
  • Garden
  • Memory exercises

The Case for Brain Games

weston-brainMore than 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the US. By 2050, rates of the disease could nearly triple if left unchecked. Over the last few years, with the proliferation of online memory tools, apps and programs, debate has surrounded whether “brain games” can stave off Alzheimer’s.

New research shows for the first time that older adults who play computer-based brain training games can cut the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia and cognitive loss even years later. If the research is scalable, this would be the first intervention, including drugs, diet, and exercise, with these results.

These new findings suggest we may be getting closer to knowing how to prevent the devastating neurodegenerative disease. In July 2016, results from a promising 10-year trial involving nearly 3,000 older adults were announced at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto. The trial found that a specific type of computerized brain training game that tests mental quickness decreased the onset of dementia by 48 percent compared with controls. These results have not been published in an academic journal, and should be considered preliminary until they are. However, until we find a cure, the study gives hope that Alzheimer’s can be prevented, or at least its worst symptoms can be postponed.

The big idea behind the new research is that speed-processing training builds ” cognitive reserve.” In Alzheimer’s, a type of dementia, the brain physically becomes degraded by malicious plaques and proteins and exhibits symptoms like memory loss, difficulty moving, and loss of reasoning. Scientists believe that structural damage to the brain can precede cognitive changes by 10 years, which offers an opportunity to strengthen a person’s established neural connections to stave off the onset of the disease leading up to the 10-year mark.

The researchers working in this area are aiming to find a constellation of activities that bolster the mind as it degrades. They call this reinforcing process building “cognitive reserves.” Until now, research this far suggested that having a stimulating job, a good diet, good exercise, and strong social ties are keys to increasing these reserves. This new study gives a nod to computerized brain training as a possible solution to add to the arsenal.

If you have employed these “brain games” to help boost your mental acuity, please share your experiences with us on our Facebook page  .

Do brain games help those living with Alzheimer’s disease? Dr. Ronald Petersen, director of Mayo Clinic’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center tells us about the evidence.

Dehydration Prevention for Seniors

dehydration prevention month

Dehydration is a risk for any population, kids, adult and seniors alike. Especially when summer hits, we are running around with different outdoor activities and out of our normal routines. We may not remember to “water” ourselves. In fact, our plants are probably watered with more diligence during this time of year.

Caregiver Caution

Watching for signs of illness in a loved one can be challenging. Some illnesses show up quite clearly, while others have a more subtle, even insidious, effect on daily living. Dehydration, depending on the severity, sometimes creates only small telltale signs while having a big effect on the body, especially in the elderly.

Why Elderly are Prone to Dehydration

  • As people get older, body water content decreases.
  • Many medications the elderly take make them more susceptible
  • Underlying health conditions make them less able to adapt to heat.
  • Comprehension and communication disorders, decreased mobility, reduced capacity, as well as, incontinence can contribute
  • With age come decreased ability to notice changes in body temperature
  • Diminished thirst; which leads to a reduced fluid consumption
  • Their kidneys have a reduced ability to concentrate urine and retain water during water deprivation

How Dehydration Happens

Dehydration occurs when a person loses more water than they take in. Adequate fluid intake allows the body to regulate temperature through sweating, maintain blood pressure and eliminate bodily waste. When people can’t drink enough water – or they simply forget – dehydration sets in. Blood flow to the skin decreases, along with the ability to sweat. Result: the body heat builds up. Body temperature of 104 degrees = danger; 105 degrees = definition of heat stroke; and a temperature of 107 degrees = potential irreversible organ damage or even death.

Be Prepared

The key is to be prepared and know what to look for. Symptoms and results of severe cases of dehydration can include confusion, weakness, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, bedsores in bed-ridden patients and death. Generally speaking, humans can’t survive more than four days without water.

dig the well before you are thirsty garden

Tips to Stay Hydrated

  • Avoid coffee, soda, sweetened teas, alcohol and artificially sweetened juices if thirsty. Why? They might leave you feeling more dehydrated and they contain excess sugar and caffeine.
  • Add a handful of berries or slices of citrus and cucumber if you do not like the taste of plain water
  • Coconut water can be a great way to re-hydrate after exercise because its appealing flavor and electrolytes
  • As a reminder to drink enough, keep a water bottle with you at all times, or use a mobile app (see out tech and tools article below)

If you are “thirsty” for more tips for caregivers, visit our website at .

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)  – The Hidden Wound

PTSD, short for posttraumatic stress disorder, is a mental health condition that can occur after someone experiences a traumatic event like combat, an assault or a disaster.
The National Center for PTSD promotes awareness of PTSD and effective treatments throughout the year. Starting in 2010, Congress named June 27th PTSD Awareness Day (S. Res. 455). In 2014, the Senate designated the full month of June for National PTSD Awareness (S. Res. 481). The purpose of PTSD Awareness Month is to encourage everyone to raise public awareness of PTSD and effective treatments. We can all help those affected by PTSD.
ptsd brain
Here some some facts:
  • PTSD can affect anyone at any age.
  • Millions of Americans get PTSD every year.
  • Many war veterans have had PTSD.
  • Women tend to get PTSD more often than men.
  • PTSD can be treated. You can feel better.

After a traumatic event, most people have painful memories. For many people, the effects of the event fade over time. You or a loved one for whom you care could have PTSD if the normal responses to trauma (including feeling scared, keyed up or sad) do not get better after about a month or they get worse. Mental health experts are not sure why some people develop PTSD and others do not. If stress reactions do not improve over time – they can continue up to years afterwards – and they disrupt everyday life, it is important to seek help to determine if PTSD is present.

If you suspect that you or a loved one have PTSD, talk to your doctor or in the case of current or past military members call the VA and ask for a PTSD evaluation. There are clinical versions for both non-military and military specific (you can also check out the overall quiz below).

For more information on PTSD from the National Institute on Mental Health in a simple and easy to read brochure in printable format, click here .

This video is an easy to understand “story” board about PTSD

Dr. Jan Seahorn presenting a TEDx Talk on understanding PTSD (she is a caregiver to her husband who has PTSD)

Join Us in Supporting May – Month of the Military Caregiver

Weight of Honor Funding Begins May 17

In honor of our military caregivers, The Caregiver’s Journal is supporting the awareness and funding of the documentary, The Weight of Honor.

The Weight of Honor gives viewers a never-before glimpse into the lives of the mostly unseen and uncelebrated Family Caregivers of the catastrophically wounded veterans from our current wars. Of the 5.5 million veteran caregivers in the USA there are over 1.1 MILLION Family Caregivers caring for these most recent veterans. Caregiver issues of job loss, burnout, suicide are far beyond epidemic proportions.

When wounded veterans are released from critical care and sent home to recover, their spouses, brothers, sisters or parents often become their full-time caregivers. PTSD, paralysis, catastrophic burns, loss of one, two, even three limbs – the “caregiver” takes on duties usually reserved for nurses, physical therapists and even psychologists. Faced with these enormous caregiving duties, jobs are interrupted, careers are stalled, lives of the civilians and families are up-ended in ways unimaginable.

In order to encourage everyone to contribute, author Marie Gibson is happy to announce that she has donated 300 copies of The Caregiver’s Journal to support awareness and fundraising for a very important caregiver’s message in the documentary film. For each of the first 300 people who donate $30 to The Weight of Honor IndieGoGo campaign between May 17 and June 24, 2016, Marie will send them one copy of The Caregiver’s Journal. Your contribution to the IndieGoGo campaign will help shine a light on the caregivers needs and make a difference in the fight for the support that our military families so deserve.

The film is backed by a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor: From the Heart Productions. Their sponsorship makes much of your donation tax deductible. Please see details on each donation for specific tax deductible amount.

Below is a video about the IndiGoGo campaign.

Click below to view the The Weight of Honor documentary trailer.

For more resources to help all caregivers, please visit our website at .