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.

Expressing and Experiencing Your Love for Those in Need

Do small things with great love CGJ

Spring reminds us that small things, like seeds or a raindrop, can help produce life and multiply in the form of a beautiful flower garden or a new spring creek. “Hope springs eternal” is philosophy that caregivers know well. Caregivers know that love doesn’t need to take up much space or a be a “big to do” to be felt. We know you do small things with great love every day.

When you choose – or it is chosen for you – the caregiving role, we encourage you to look at it as an adventure where you are in control of expressing your authentic nature in the way you love those around you. Adding something more to your life sounds exhausting, but you don’t have to add lots more overwhelming activity in order to make an impact in the lives of those for whom you are responsible. The regular day-to-day in our lives – taking a loved one to the doctor or checking in on a neighbor – are the exact places in which we express and experience our love for those in need.


Here are some ideas on how to experience the joy in the little things that can have great impact:

  • Hang up a cherished picture in a cherished space
  • Say, “I love you” without expecting anything in return
  • Listen to your favorite song and share it and the memories associated with it
  • Listen to their favorite song and ask them about the memories associated with it
  • Thank the parent for whom you are caring for something that they taught you that has changed your life
  • Ask your loved one the following question, “What is the one thing noone knows about you?”
  • Hold hands
  • Share some of your favorite quotations that help you keep going, inspire you and give you strength as they may do the same for others

What other ways to you do small things with great love every day? Share with us on our Facebook page today.

For some inspiration created through color and life and light, we hope you enjoy this video link that we saw shared on FB. You can use it to take a minute away from your caregivers duties, appreciate the beauty of nature and simply breathe.



The Five Freedoms of Caregiving

Five Freedoms Cover (2)

July is a month when the U.S. celebrates freedom. Caregiving is often associated with restrictions on an individual’s independence. This month The Caregiver’s Journal is taking fresh approach. While we realize that caregiving has its limitations, caregivers also have a lot of freedom in how they deal with their individual circumstance.

You too can discover freedoms in your caregiving role. No really…we aren’t kidding. Here are a few hints to get started.

Caregivers have the Freedom to:

  1. Maintain their liberty without declaring independence from the ones they love. Caregiving takes the focus off our typical self-reliance and demonstrates our mutual needs as human beings and as a community.
  2. Educate themselves with accurate information by engaging with credible resources that help improve the health and well-being of their loved ones and everyone involved in the care.
  3. Graciously accept help when people offer it, while freely communicating the specific help needed and when.
  4. Experience grief as a part of the process. Caregivers help survivors deal with feelings of guilt, helplessness, anger, fear, and grief and move through those emotions while accepting their necessity as part of healing.
  5. Embrace the happiness bestowed through caregiving. Although the virtue of caregiving often seems too ordinary and undervalued, it is truly extraordinary in this world where giving and receiving of care is often eschewed.

How has caregiving changed your definition of independence? E-mail us at or tweet to @jmariegibson if you can contribute more freedoms that you have experienced in your caregiving journey. We will publish your responses in next month’s article, so check it out on our website .

Bridge the Miles with These Long Distance Caregiving Tips and Resources

Long Distance Caregiving Tips Overview (2)

Summer is here! For those of you who can travel to see your loved ones, that is amazing! Travel safely and well. For those of you with caregiver duties who cannot travel, being far away can be a challenge. Long distance is tough on any relationship, and this is especially true for caregivers and their loved ones who find themselves far away from each other. Long distance caregivers are often required to miss work to see to their relative’s care, may need to manage and supervise paid care providers from a distance and often feel left out of decisions made by health care professionals and other family members who are on-site. Worry can set in as it is very hard to have a loved one at a distance because they may not be eating, may not be taking their medication as directed or may not have anyone to look out for them in an emergency.

This summer we are giving you tips for caregiving that can help you feel secure no matter if you are one minute or one-thousand miles away.

Collect Important Information Before a Crisis

Keep the following information organized and easy to reach: medical records; notes on their condition; medications; names and phone numbers of all doctors, pharmacies, and medical insurance (The Caregiver’s Journal works for this!); will, trust and estate information and contacts; financial information such as bank account numbers, investment accounts and  insurance policies; and personal identification information such as social security numbers, birth and marriage certificates.

Discover Who’s Who

If you do not know them already, get to know your loved one’s best friends and neighbors. Establish a relationship. Give them a call, video chat or email. Have their contact information readily available on your person or in your car at all times.

Family Support

Schedule a family meeting. Gather those involved in your loved one’s care in person, by phone or chat. Discuss your goals, feelings and divvy up duties. Summarize decisions made and distribute notes. Include your loved one in the decision-making.

Maintain a balance

Depending on the circumstances, talking about caregiving issues in every conversation you have with your loved one might not be the best for your relationship. Try to have phone calls with the sole purpose of a lighthearted conversation versus health related or other stressful issues. You can always, “get down to business” on another call to review medical, financial or other heavier matters at hand.

Leverage Time

If you have the good fortune of being able to travel to see your loved one, make the most use of your time. Plan ahead before your visit by making appointments and addressing any care need weeks or months in advance. Set some time aside to observe your loved in their daily environment. Sometimes when we visit we over-schedule and may miss a hazard like a loose rug, or some type of self-care concern like an inordinate amount of dirty laundry and dishes, unopened mail, or lack of food in the refrigerator or pantry.

Remember, caregivers prove every day that…