It can be so hard to watch your loved one struggle with the effects of memory disorders like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. They can’t always find the right words they need to communicate, fall behind on chores and simple routines, like cooking and hygiene. They might even wander off, which is not only frightening but potentially dangerous. This can be very stressful and frustrating not only for the person whose memory seems just out of reach, but also for the caregivers trying to keep up with ever-evolving symptoms, all while missing certain aspects of their loved one that seem to have disappeared with time.
If this sounds like you or someone you care about, you might feel like you have tried everything to help ease the strain of dementia. However, there might be one seemingly ordinary thing you can try that has been there the whole time: music.
Numerous studies have shown that music therapy for dementia patients fires neurons in the parts of the brain most affected by the disease. Humans of all ages respond to music differently than other noise, such as the sound of traffic or a lawn mower, this is because music is what scientists call, “organized noise.” In other words, there are patterns, rhythms, and an internal logic to music that humans have evolved a response to. There’s a whole part of the brain dedicated to processing the music we hear! When a song comes on, that part of the brain lights up, and in turn signals other areas of the brain to also respond.
It’s part of why you can’t help dancing when something good comes on the radio, even if you’re sitting at a red light. It’s also why you can hear a song from years ago and feel awash in memories and sensations from that time. Both young and old respond this way. Babies react to music long before they have the language skills needed to understand the lyrics. And anyone who has spent time with kids know how much they love the repetition, rhyme, sing-along-song quality of classic children’s songs and even the hooks of pop music. What seems so natural and impetuous, can help seniors that feel isolated and withdrawn, to communicate despite their Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.
Playing a favorite song, album, or artist for your loved one can get them moving by lighting up areas of the brain most affected by their illness, such as those related to the nervous system. Music can help those with memory issues recall things that are not only harder to access, but might be the sort of memories and information neurotypical people might forget about until a sensory cue reminds them. You know, the kind of things that make talking about music so much fun—like biographical details about the musician, where you were when you last heard the song, or what you liked about the album art. Carefully listen to what your loved one says about their favorite songs or music from their youth, as it can be a wonderful way to reconnect outside the usual topics of medication reminders and daily doings.
Pull out old records or CDs and tailor the songs played to your loved one’s mood—upbeat songs for when they need a little stimulation or conversation, quieter songs for times of rest or when they need help calming down. Afterwards, chat a little about what you heard, or pull out paper and pens and each draw something inspired by the music, even if it’s abstract. You can compare drawings later, too. You might be surprised by what a big effect the right song can have, or if you’re a music lover yourself you might understand completely. Some things are just an inherent part of being human, and getting excited about a great melody or a percussive beat that hits the right spot is one of them.
If you want more tips for how to navigate the complex world of memory care, you can find plenty of resources at the Alzheimer’s Association website. Some of what they offer includes message boards where you can connect with other caregivers, friends, and family who are also struggling with a love one’s early, middle, and late-stage Alzheimer’s journey. There are also plenty of tools to help you find resources in your community. You can find them online at http://www.alz.org/care/.
If you need advice, support lines like the Veterans’ Affairs Caregiver Support Line can help. If you are looking for support or information on what the VA can provide, call 1-855-260-3274 or the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America’s line at 866-232-8484 (toll-free 9AM to 9PM Monday through Friday).
Written by: Meghan O'Dea
The importance of religion and spiritual health in one's life commonly increases with age. It is especially high in seniors. Inside our Regency community, religion has emphatically influenced our residents to live a fulfilling and flourishing life. Whether this takes place in fun-filled group activities, congregational services, singing hymns together, scripture study, or just prayer in one’s own apartment, expressions of faith are vital to the lives of most Regency residents and seniors in general.
But did you know that participating in such spiritual activity offers higher physical and mental wellbeing, and also broadens life expectancy? Health benefits have been known to include offsetting the ill effects of depression, anxiety, and illness amid difficult life circumstances.
Here's the breakdown of studies:
The takeaway from these insights? Religious practices increase happiness, which, in turn, increases health and prosperity in seniors and the community.
At Regency, it could be said that spirituality is the cornerstone of our organization. Being a Christian institution, we value the dedication and sacrament of all religious practices, regardless of culture or belief.
In effort to empower our community and boost health and wellness, we encourage everyone to join us for motivational social events, fun, educational outings, and daily spiritual activities. Come visit us today and see what life at Regency of Charlotte has to offer!
Written by: Katie Hanley
Want to know a fun, free and easy way to instantly feel better?
Not only does having a sense of humor feel good and make life more fun – it can also do wonders for the mind, spirit and body of Charlotte seniors.
Laughing at a movie or TV show provides a physical emotional release that restores a sense of balance that leaves us feeling cleansed afterward.
Our bodies naturally have antibodies to attack disease, and humor increases the number of them working for us, as well as their effectiveness, resulting in a stronger immune system. The human body also produces several stress hormones like adrenaline, cortisol and epinephrine, which laughing meets head on with the triggered release of endorphins. These chemicals not only make us feel good. They also temporarily relieve aches and pains.
Laughter is a distraction that pulls us away from stress, anger, resentment, disappointments, and so forth. It can also keep us grounded in ways that gives us an entirely new perspective on our world. Things that caused worry and angst yesterday can melt into a relaxed state if our mind is pulled into a more positive place.
Most of the things we worry about never even materialize, so humor can make us more playful and creative rather than anxious, angry or sad. When we are relaxed, the tension in our muscles gives way and blood vessels flow more effectively, reducing the dangers of heart attacks.
The unfortunate thing is most people do not laugh nearly enough, but we can often manufacture a state of laughter by smiling, which tends to attract others, which creates opportunities to laugh while participating in fun activities like miniature golfing or bowling.
Trying watching a funny movie on TV and see if your chuckles do not cause you to feel noticeably better.
In today’s busy world, a trusting doctor-patient relationship is difficult to create. As a patient, it is crucial that you are pro-active in order to ensure you get the care you deserve. This doesn’t mean that visiting your doctor in Charlotte, N.C. has to be a stressful experience. A little bit of pre-visit preparation will go a long way toward making your experience less nerve-wracking and more productive.
ASK FOR TIME!
Senior patients can be afforded a few extra minutes in the exam room. Be sure to ask about this possibility the next time you call to make an appointment with your doctor. Any additional time will help you and your doctor relax and discuss your concerns in an unrushed manner. You can also share your list of your health issues with the nurse making your appointment and ask for them to be shared with your doctor.
Bring along a trustworthy companion who will listen and observe your conversation with your doctor. They can even take notes so that the specifics of your visit won’t fall between the cracks.
CHECK IT TWICE
Writing down any worries that you want to discuss with your doctor is a good way to be reminded of exactly what you want to cover during your visit. Do not be embarrassed to share exactly what is going on with you
Take along your comprehensive medical history, a folder will allow you to stay organized. This is of utmost importance when having an initial visit with a new physician. Crucial information includes current doctors’ names, phone numbers, etc., current prescription, allergy and insurance information. Past and ongoing health concerns and treatments should also be included.
While at your doctor’s office:
The more understanding your doctor has about your symptoms, the better off you will be. Discussing your symptoms with your doctor is undeniably paramount to getting the treatment you need.
WRAPPING IT UP
Before your appointment comes to an end, request that your doctor go over the main ideas covered in your time together. You can ask any questions that come to mind at this juncture.
CLEAR THINGS UP
Make sure you go over any written directions with your nurse or doctor before your visit wraps up. A written review will enable you to know that you and your doctor are on the same page with regards to next steps and your follow up treatment.
It is essential to work with your physician as a team in order to optimize your health. Opening the lines of communication with your doctor in Charlotte will help you reach the end goal of good health!
There’s been plenty of talk about the pros and cons of the Affordable Care Act, yet many North Carolina seniors may be unaware of what it specifically means to their health care.
The law, which some refer to as Obamacare, doesn’t affect seniors when it comes to direct care because they are already covered under Medicare. However, the law does impact Medicare by reducing the coverage gap for prescription drug coverage and eliminating abuse, fraud and waste within the system. The so-called doughnut hole in prescription costs (Medicare Part D) should continue to shrink and be eliminated by 2020.
By doing these things, the Medicare program should be strengthened and the life of the program extended by nearly a decade.
Seniors have an opportunity to get in front of diseases by taking advantage of annual wellness checkups that could allow doctors to find and treat problems sooner rather than later. In the past, seniors had to pay deductibles, copayments and other cost-sharing for preventive care in Medicare.
In the first 11 months of 2013, three-fourths of Original Medicare Part B enrollees in North Carolina received all free services, while 153,732 participated in annual wellness screenings.
Such screenings, in some cases, allow seniors also avoid unnecessary visits to the hospital that could lead to health care-acquired infections.
The law puts Medicare Advantage plan payments more in line with the costs for the Medicare program.
The law also creates incentives for medical caregivers to improve quality and enrollee satisfaction.
A voluntary long-term care insurance program provides a cash benefit to help seniors and people with disabilities obtain services and supports that will help them to remain in their communities.
Charlotte seniors also receive greater protection through portions of the law meant to address elder neglect and exploitation. The ACA provides for background checks for employees in nursing homes and requires the immediate reporting of suspected crimes to police. The law provides incentives for individuals to train and seek employment at such facilities.
While the law isn’t perfect, it does provide some benefits that will hopefully extend the life of Medicare and result in healthier lives.
North Carolina has long been a popular state for retirees, and more so every year. With hip towns like Ashville, Boone, Chapel Hill, and, of course, Charlotte that offer big city culture, access to the great outdoors, and an affordable cost of living, it’s no wonder that more and more seniors are choosing the Tarheel state for their golden years. Charlotte especially has earned a reputation as a vibrant city for all ages, its Visitor Association slogan being “Charlotte’s Got A Lot” that makes it easy to travel anywhere in the country and enjoy plenty of fun and excitement in your own back yard.
Another reason North Carolina is such a popular retirement destination, however, is because of its financial incentives for seniors. The state has wooed Baby Boomers with tax breaks that are hard to beat. They were recently improved in 2013, with measures such as lowering the income tax rate to 5.8% in 2014 and 5.75% in 2015 with future drops possible in coming years. Social Security is not included in the types of income that are taxed.
North Carolina also recently ended its estate tax, an especially relief for anyone with 5.25 million dollars or more set aside, which was the previous limit for exemption. This is a huge boon for anyone who had planned and saved beyond the immediate living costs of retirement or anticipates passing along property or other assets. With that extra peace of mind, it’ll be even easier to relax and enjoy all the fun that Charlotte, and North Carolina, have to offer.
Deciding if it’s time to move into a senior care facility can big a big decision, but it can be made easier by approaching it like other big steps in your life, such as purchasing a house. When you buy a house, there’s a lot to consider, from your lifestyle to your needs to your finances. Planning retirement isn’t so very different. You want to make sure that your needs are met, that you’re near the people you love, the things you like to do, and the resources you regularly need in the community.
That means planning ahead now is hugely important. “The first years of returns have an outsize impact on your retirement savings sustainability,” explains Mr. Finke, a professor in the department of personal financial planning at Texas Tech University. The further you plan ahead, the more prepared you’ll be for a variety of possibilities. One factor to consider is whether you will want a retirement community that can age with you as you transition through different levels of independence. Different levels of care may have different costs you’ll want to factor in to your long-range strategy, much as you might want to plan ahead for the potential appreciation or depreciation of a property before purchase, or anticipate how soon you might outgrow your new home.
You’ll also want to consider how you spend your time and if your retirement community is adequate for your needs. Like shopping for real estate, it’s good to consider the geographic location, proximity to friends and family, to activities you enjoy, and what your lifestyle is. Do you travel a lot? Play golf? Enjoy mahjong? Enjoy sports games or theatrical performances? Want to see your grandchildren regularly? Consider these factors the way you might consider a new home in terms of how often you entertain or how many bedrooms you need or if you like the layout of the laundry room. It’s important to be honest about your daily needs and to be able to envision yourself enjoying and benefiting from your new life in a senior care facility.
Do you need help with things you used to do easily, like getting ready for a party or managing your laundry? All of these factors are important to consider when deciding if you need the support of a retirement community and, if so, which one to choose, much as you might consider which school zone a home would be in or how long the commute to work is. By approaching the unfamiliar decision of whether or not you are ready for a retirement community as if it were a more familiar decision you may have made before, you can make it seem simpler and less overwhelming. Take a look at each set of factors—the financial, the logistical, the lifestyle—and this will also help you break down a tough decision into manageable considerations.
Did you know that “43% of Americans over 65 use at least one social networking site, compared with 26% in 2010 and 1% in 2008?” according to a PEW research study? Seniors are currently the fastest growing demographic on social media platforms, finding them (and other online tools) valuable assets to leading independent, well-connected lives. According to the PEW study, “Older people are looking to maintain ties with their family, particularly those who live far away. They want to see pictures of their grandchildren. Seniors also look up old friends and connect with people who share similar hobbies. The majority of seniors on social media are using Facebook.”
That’s no doubt in part because Facebook is such a great one stop shop that makes it easy to do a lot of things with one account. You can share pictures, find out about local events, create private groups to talk with family, friends, or your craft circle, share articles and interesting content, and more. There are fun online games and contests that work through Facebook, too. Its’ a great place for seniors to maximize their online activity with relative simplicity.
While it might have been true years ago that older folks weren’t tech savvy, today’s retirees were only in their 40s at the advent of the internet. They may not have adopted a tech-heavy lifestyle as fast as younger generations, but many still gained computer and web skills on the job or simply as the internet grew more widespread in everyday life. Now many seniors are taking the time to learn or improve web skills as the internet makes it easier than ever to refill prescriptions, manage money, get in touch with friends, and share memories.
Often the first place many businesses update their contact info, hours, and other crucial information is on their websites or social media pages. Fewer and fewer phone books are distributed, and these days paper media is often out of date shortly after it is published. Even many newspapers and magazines are moving online. One of the best gifts you could give a senior loved one this year is the gift of helping them get online or manage their web life more easily so they can stay up to date and in control of day to day affairs with online tools.
Whether your loved one lives alone or in a supportive retirement community, their independence will be increased simply by being able to use online tools to get in touch with friends and family all over the world and having all the information they need at their fingertips about senior living facilities, area events, vacation plans, medications, investments, and more.
It can be stressful dealing with the holidays as you get older. You may be less independent or mobile than you once were, and find daily household tasks a challenge, much less the added effort of decorating the house, baking and cooking for holiday parties, and hosting big family gatherings. Living in a retirement community can alleviate much of the stress of the holidays, allowing you to spend more time enjoying good company and good fun. With a little planning ahead of time you can avoid holiday stress and make the most of new traditions.
It can be a huge reduction in stress just to plan out what your ideal holiday would be instead of automatically launching into your usual preparations. Write down what you would most like to do for the holidays, and then check with family and friends to see if that overlaps with their vision. Create the holiday you want, not the holiday you’ve always had. Especially if you’re moving to a senior living facility or visiting others for the holidays, this is a great opportunity to create celebrations that suit where you are right now, or to plan ahead for how you’ll handle it when you meet a situation that’s raising your blood pressure.
Plan to do your shopping early before the crowds get big. Black Friday deals are often not as good as they appear and by doing your Christmas shopping bit by bit in the fall, you can avoid the major budget crunch of doing all your holiday spending at once. If you are traveling for the holidays this also gives you ample time to ship gifts to their destination with plenty of buffer in case something is lost or broken along the way, or if there is a delay due to holiday volume.
Most of all, treat yourself. The holidays should be an enjoyable time full of making great memories. Plan ahead of time as much as possible how you can ensure you are well rested, eat right, and have all the medications you need on hand. Don’t be afraid to take downtime during the day or rest up for evening festivities. If you will be traveling for the holidays, make sure everyone knows what your needs are so that you don’t find yourself in a situation that frustrates your mobility or ability to manage things like oxygen tanks. Just be communicating with those you’ll be sharing the holiday with well ahead of time, you can make for an easy season for all.
A 2009 Pew Research survey found that the older people get, the younger they feel, relatively speaking. That’s great news because by acting as young as you feel, you can say “no” to all the clichés that being elderly automatically means declining health. When acting young and keep you young, there’s simply no reason not to keep it up.
One of the keys to acting as young as you feel is taking time to know yourself in a deeper way. Write down what you are grateful for in a journal each morning and maybe learn to meditate. Take thoughtful walks and try to use your time mindfully. Observe the world with a more careful eye.
Now that you are retired and your children have grown, there’s more room in your day to savor the world around you, and to notice the little things that make it so lovely. Try to return to that place of wonder and surprise that you had when you were much younger, before you got so busy and caught up in daily routine.
Living more intentionally in this way will make it easier to enjoy everything you do, from the activities and social events at your retirement community to fun happenings around town. Go for a stroll at Wing Haven Gardens, or the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. Attend one of the Shakespeare performances or wine festivals at The Green in city Center, a favorite spot for things to do in Charlotte. In spring the Sensoria Festival hosted by the Central Piedmont Community college will give you a lot to consider, with many writers and visual artists from around the world sharing their work.
You don’t have to be a stereotype as you get older. Forget the seniors you see in movies and books—there are as many ways to be in retirement as there are retirees. Embrace everything there is to do at your senior living facility and enjoy this new opportunity to take on live with a different perspective.