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Posts Tagged ‘Alzheimer’s disease’

English: Diagram of the brain of a person with...

English: Diagram of the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s Disease (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Worried about your risk of dementia? It’s common for relatives of elders with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia to wonder if they are at higher risk for these diseases as well. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Those who have a parent, brother, sister or child with Alzheimer’s are more likely to develop the disease. The risk increases if more than one family member has the illness. When diseases tend to run in families, either heredity (genetics) or environmental factors, or both, may play a role.”

 

The good news is, genes are not destiny and it is thought that dementia is a result of a combination of genetics, environment, and lifestyle. There are more and more research dollars being directed towards prevention! Here is a look at some of the recent research that is trying to capture what can lower our risk for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

 

  • Brains Sweep Themselves Clean of Toxins During Sleep Researchers have long known that sleep disorders and lack of sleep are risk factors for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
  • Stressful Middle Age Tied to Alzheimer’s Risk in Women While there is no definitive evidence that reducing your stress can prevent Alzheimer’s, there is a good deal of research indicating that chronic high stress is a predictor of Alzheimer’s risk. It pays to look at what we might be able to do to both reduce the stressors in our life and also to manage stress more effectively. Some great ways to manage stress include yoga, meditation, prayer, exercise, and relaxation exercise.
  • Systematic Review of Mediterranean Diet Confirms its Good for the Mind A recent systematic review of studies examining how a Mediterranean Diet might affect dementia risk confirmed that higher adherence to a Mediterranean Diet was associated with lower risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. A Mediterranean Diet is one that is high in olive oil, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and fish, as well as reduced consumption of dairy products and red meats.
  • Why Berries May Delay Decline of Memory  Berries aren’t just tasty, they also contain flavonoids which have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. What’s more, this study indicated that consumption of berries by women over 70 was associated with a slower rate of cognitive decline. So pick up some berries on your next trip to the store
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This post is the second in a series of three on using art therapy for seniors with memory loss. It is based on our experience with our own care homes that specialize in caring for individuals with memory loss. See the first post, on the benefits of art therapy, here.

Doing art with our loved ones is not just about getting meaningless coloring pages to fill in the day. It isn’t about getting through an activity as fast as we can to move on to the next activity. It’s about using art as a process to enrich lives, access memories, and give meaning and structure to the day.

This image was selected as a picture of the we...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here are some guidelines for making art truly therapeutic….and fun!

  • Choose Easy but Meaningful Art Projects- Projects that are two difficult for elders may just create frustration. For instance, this last Easter we bought a kit to make Ukrainian eggs! They pictures on the box were GORGEOUS, but we knew right away that the project would be too difficult due to the amount of precision and time required. On the other hand, choosing activities that are too easy or childish might result in less interest. For example, gluing cotton balls to a paper to make a cloud is easy, but some individuals could find it irrelevant or even demeaning. The trick is to find something both doable and meaningful to get the most out of the time.
  • Develop Themes – Themes are a wonderful way to give meaning to activities and to create continuity between the day, week, or month. For example, at Magnolia and Primrose we picked a different April-related theme for each week in April. “Themes of the week” in April included baseball, spring blossoms, and Easter. To develop a theme, look at what holidays, seasons, or special dates are coming up soon. Use the theme to connect the art to special memories For instance, one of the activities during baseball week was making a pennant. Elders could put their names, special number, favorite teams, whatever on it! During the activity, conversation about baseball memories are easily evoked and great conversation ensues. Displaying art afterwards also helps continue the theme and build upon it with future activities.

    A baseball that has been extensively used

    Nearly everyone has strong baseball memories!(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Use Art to Reminisce and Converse-  Individuals with memory loss or Alzheimer’s may have trouble remembering recent events, but many can recall treasured memories of the past., and many love to reminisce on these memories. Art projects can be one way to start conversation about these memories. Even a simple coloring page of an apron or a jack-o-lantern can become meaningful because of the conversation it facilitates.
  • Involve Children- Many elders love to visit with children. You should see how some of our resident’s light up when children come for a “play date”! If your loved one has children that come to visit, try to involve all of them in some form of art! Many times I see our residents brighten at the chance to help a young child with a craft If a craft is too hard, music is another lovely way to create art and connect the generations. Choose songs that seniors know and that are easy to teach children. Add household instruments and voila!
  • Break it Into Pieces– More difficult projects CAN be done, but frequently they need to be broken into stages. This can be beneficial though as they again provide continuity and a sense of purpose. Don’t be afraid to break an art project into several days!
  • Follow your loved one’s Lead- When he or she says an art piece is done, it’s done!
  • Use a Variety of Mediums-Art is a sensory experience. Using a variety of senses is great for the brain! Try lots of different mediums: not only to see what your loved one is most capable of, but also to stimulate different parts of the brain. When we do art pages at Magnolia & Primrose, we know that some people are great with a paintbrushes and enjoy water colors. For others, a paintbrush is frustrating and crayons or makers are more appropriate. Beyond coloring & painting on a page you can do ceramics, origami with colorful paper, music, weaving, paper flowers, collages, and mosaics….the sky is the limit!

    Doodle Art

    Doodling is a great way to encourage self-expression. It can also be done as a group activity for fun! You start with a group of people in a circle. Everyone has one minute to start a doodle on their page. After a minute, the artists pass their papers and the next person adds another doodle. The end result is often interesting (and funny as well!)

  • Encourage self-expression- Planned art projects are wonderful and have their place, but there is a huge place for self-expression! Take for example painting: painting a picture of  country farm by coloring in the lines is fine and may work well for some individuals. This may not, however, allow for much self-expression. On the other hand, many people with dementia would not be able to create a farm scene from a blank piece of paper. However, placing part of a farm scene on a paper  (such as grass and a fence) and having a discussion on farms may provide more space for self-expression.
  • Always consider safety – Some individuals may eat small beads or put toxic substances in their mouth. Also sharp objects may need supervision, so please consider safety always!

Hopefully this post gave you some guidance for using art with your loved one. Next time in post 3 of 3 on Art Therapy. we will discuss where to find ideas for projects and how to find inexpensive resources!

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March brings with it blossoms, shamrocks, and all things Irish, and we’ve been itching to get started on these craft and art projects! My excitement over our projects for March got me thinking. Why is art so important? Why do people of all ages enjoy pariticipating in artistic activities? This blog post then begins a three part series on art and artistic expression for seniors with memory loss or Alzheimer’s Disease. While I am by no means an artist or expert on the subject, that is exactly the point. ANYONE…even individuals with significant cognitive decline, can find pathways for expression through art.

Blossoming Tree Project for March

Blossoming Tree Project for March: This picture was made by applying dots of paint by a Q-tip to a pre-printed picture of an empty tree. The use of pink in this picture gives the impression of a cherry tree!

Why Make Art a Priority?

At the Magnolia and Primrose care home, we believe that art and activities are at least as important as medications. Why is that?

  • Art provides other avenues for self-expression which is a huge bonus for individuals with diminishing language capabilities. It uses parts of the brain that are often easier to tap into than language skills and which degenerate slower than other parts of the brain.
  •  Additionally, art therapy can prove calming for some individuals during episodes of agitation. Similar effects are seen with music, animals, and even just viewing art!
  • Art is also useful in building relationships. Caregivers and elders can work together on projects which in turn strengthens their bond together. It can also be used to provide intergenerational interactions between elders and children. Finally, group art projects can build a sense of community in care homes and assisted living facilities. For example, last month each resident was giving a square piece of cardstock with a simple heart outline on it. Each resident was given the opportunity to fill in their hearts with magazine clippings, drawings, or coloring. At the end, all the hearts were combined with pieces of valentine cardstock to create a quilt like effect. The residents were very proud of the beautiful “quilt” they created together!

 To learn more about the intersection between art therapy and neuropsychology, check out this fascinating article about how art therapy can be used and what it does.

Finally, I came across this video from the International Art Therapy Organization in my search for more information about art therapy. It is a fascinating and deeply moving story of a man who started painting for the first time after his Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Check out their page on neurodegenerative disorders for more information.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_Te-s6M4qc&feature=player_embedded

Blog Posts Coming soon…..

  • 2 of 3: Reaching the InnerArtist: Tips for creating art with those with memory loss
  • 3 of 3: Ideas and Resources for Artistic Expression: Where can you find easy but meaningful projects?

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The Alzheimer’s walk is fast approaching and Magnolia and Primrose are getting ready! Our team is forming and we have several events in the works to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association. (More information coming soon!)

Couple walking

One way we are preparing is  by starting a walking club! Participating employees receive a pedometer and are put into a drawing for prizes when they reach over 10,000 steps in a day. However, walking your way to health isn’t just for the young!

  •  Did you know taking at least 10,000 steps a day can help improve your health and reduce the risk of chronic disease?
  • Did you know the average person only takes about 2,000 to 4,000 steps a day?
  • Pedometers are economical and a great way to track your daily activity
Elders benefit greatly from the exercise provided by walking. Walking more actually improves balance while also providing great health benefits. In addition, getting daily exercise helps improve your mood and appetite. Even increasing activity by a little can help! Here are some ideas for getting elders moving:
  • Visit a garden with winding paths.
  • Use pedometers to make your work measureable
  • Go shopping together at non-busy times
  • Dance for Balance (one of our favorites!)
  • Take smaller walks several times a day instead of one long walk
What are your suggestions for getting exercise at any age?

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PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer's disease

Image via Wikipedia

Do you want to learn more about Alzheimer’s and its effects on individuals with the disease and their families?

HBO put out a great series last year called “the Alzheimer’s Project“. It won two Creative Arts Emmys and includes features on individuals struggling with the disease, caregivers, and current directions in science. All videos are now available to watch online.

Here is the 84 minute video “The Memory Loss Tapes” which won a creative Emmy for exceptional merit in nonfiction filmaking. “The Memory Loss Tapes” follows the lives of people with Alzheimer’s as they deal with the diagnosis and the increasing symptoms. It is a very moving film and is a great resource to view to find out more about what having Alzheimer’s is like.

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