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Game On: Can Brain Games Improve Your Memory?

There are a number of so-called “brain game” products on the market these days. These typically are computer or smartphone/tablet-based games that claim they can help improve seniors’ cognitive function and memory. But do they really work? Could playing video games be the secret to decreasing the prevalence of neuro-degenerative conditions like dementia? And what about things like crossword puzzles and sudoku—can they help seniors stay mentally sharp?

Aging and brain function

It is a normal part of the aging process to experience some decline in the number of neural synapses within the brain, which are imperative to memory and cognitive function. There are also conditions like dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease) or Parkinson’s disease that cause more severe and debilitating cognitive decline among older people.

Some of the causes behind cognitive decline may be preventable by making lifestyle changes like managing weight, staying physically active, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and managing stress. Keeping the mind active—pursuing continuing education opportunities, or learning a new skill, a new language, or how to play an instrument—may even aid with the formation of new neural networks in seniors’ brains.

Inconclusive studies

You’ve heard the saying “use it, or lose it”; this axiom may be applicable to the brain.

The 1995 MacArthur Study, one of largest longitudinal studies of the aging process, found that among the octogenarians in their study sample, those who were more physically and mentally active—frequently doing activities like crossword puzzles, reading, and playing bridge—also had the highest cognitive abilities. However, a study conducted by neuroscientists at University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University found no significant difference between the memory function of seniors who played “brain games” and the control group that didn’t play the games.

Still another recent study found that it’s not enough just to use your brain; you have to challenge it by learning something unfamiliar.

University of Texas at Dallas researchers randomly assigned 221 adults, ages 60 to 90, to participate in a particular type of activity for 15 hours a week for a three-month period. Some were assigned to learn a new skill — digital photography, quilting, or both. Others were told to engage in more commonplace activities at home, like listening to classical music and doing crossword puzzles. And some seniors were assigned to a group that focused on social interactions, field trips, and entertainment.

At the end of the study, the researchers discovered that the seniors who were in the group that learned new skills showed quantifiable improvements in memory, as compared to those who engaged in the non-demanding mental activities at home or the purely social group.

So, while the research is thus far inconclusive on this topic, it appears that the most beneficial mental stimulation may involve learning new information or skills, rather than just recalling what we already know.

And this stands to reason. Think of the brain as being like a computer. Learning something new—like a new language or skill—stimulates the brain and helps form new neural pathways. It’s sort of like adding new software or a new hard drive to a computer, increasing its functional and memory capacity. By comparison, activities like trivia or crossword puzzles simply require you call upon data that already exists in the computer that is your brain.

Gaming for the senior set

Video and computer games are getting increasingly popular among seniors. Entertainment Software Association research from 2018 found that a quarter of people over the age of 50 play video games on a regular basis—a number that is trending upward.

If you’re a senior who is interested in diving into the gaming world with the goal of improving your brain health, again, games that teach new information—versus recalling data you already know—are believed to be best. However, there are also many fun games that get your body moving, offering the added benefit of improving your physical fitness, balance, and cardiovascular health (which is also good for your brain!).

Computer games and apps for smartphones/tablets

There are more and more computer-based games, as well as apps that can be downloaded to a smartphone or tablet (such as an iPad), that have educational value, which may be beneficial for seniors’ brains.

For example, programs like Rosetta Stone, and games such as Lingo Arcade, Influent, and MindSnacks can help you learn a new language, and Rocksmith can teach you how to play the guitar. If you’re interested in learning how to do computer programming, CodeMonkey will educate you on the basics of coding languages like HTML5 and JavaScript.

History buffs may enjoy games like Crusader King or Civilization VI, which combine strategic thinking with history lessons. There are even flight simulator games that can teach you how to fly an airplane!

Gaming consoles

There are numerous options when it comes to gaming consoles, from Xbox to PlayStation to Nintendo. Many of the games for these systems provide purely entertainment value, and there’s nothing wrong with that! But there are also several games that are effective at getting your body moving while you have fun. As an added benefit, these gaming systems are enjoyable for people of all ages and can be a great activity for grandparents to share with their grandchildren.

You may have heard of a Wii (pronounced like “we”). It is an interactive gaming console sold by Nintendo, and it’s become all the rage in many senior living communities. The Wii Fit system bundle comes with a balance board “peripheral” (add-on equipment) that is used in many Wii games to track your movements, allowing the game to make more personalized recommendations.

Wii Fit can be used for activities like yoga, balance games, and aerobic and strength training exercises. The Wii Sports Resort game offers numerous virtual activities that can get seniors moving like golf, tennis, and bowling.

Virtual reality

The lines are increasingly getting blurred between gaming and virtual reality (VR). VR is where a user dons headphones and a special mask that displays various simulations of three-dimensional images that can be interacted with by the user in a seemingly real way.

Such VR technology is another high-tech tool that is being used in several new applications for seniors. There are VR uses for memory care patients, with programs designed to stimulate the brain, spur memories, or encourage anxiety reduction. There are also physical therapy and pain management applications for VR.

The future of gaming in senior living communities

It is likely that gaming will play a bigger role in the future of the CCRC industry. It’s even possible to imagine a time when CCRCs and other senior living communities might create on-site gaming centers where residents can enjoy some friendly competition with each other. Whether it’s innovative uses for Wii Fit exercise groups or a fierce Crusader King virtual battle, residents can benefit from the physical activity and/or mental stimulation offered by these games in a fun and social atmosphere (interpersonal interactions which offer their own health benefits for the seniors).

But the bottom line is that, based on current research, the types of games that are believed to be most beneficial for seniors’ cognitive health are those that involve educational elements. So instead of a word puzzle, sudoku, or fantasy-adventure game, chose one that will help you learn Italian, take up the virtual guitar, or try your hand at computer programming.

And also don’t underestimate the “old-fashioned” way of learning: from a book or in a classroom-type setting. Most CCRCs provide residents with opportunities for this type of continuing education on an array of topics. Some even have lifelong learning partnerships with nearby universities, allowing residents to audit college courses. It might not be as snazzy as the latest computer or video game, but this type of learning still offers seniors potential benefits to their brains.

 

 

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Warm Weather Safety Tips for Seniors

Now that we are in the thick of summer, the increase in temperature has not only become more noticeable but it has also become something to take into serious consideration before heading outside, especially for seniors. Before you plan your next activity outdoors, follow some of the below tips to ensure you’re staying healthy and safe.

  1. Stay hydrated. Make sure that you drink plenty of water before, during, and after being exposed to high temperatures. Staying adequately hydrated will help reduce the chances of overheating and becoming dehydrated. Avoid alcohol or caffeinated drinks as these tend to dehydrate you more.
  2. Avoid direct sunlight. Try to find a shaded spot or a cover you can stay under while being outside in the heat. By avoiding direct sunlight, you’ll limit the potential of sunburn and again, overheating.
  3. Use Sunscreen. Using a sunscreen for both face and body with an SPF of 30 or higher is best to use when being exposed to sunlight. If you plan to be outside, make sure you apply a generous amount and keep reapplying as necessary.
  4. Dress accordingly. Wear light, breathable clothing while you’re outside in the heat. Fabrics such as linen or cotton will help keep you cool and comfortable.
  5. Air conditioning is your best friend. When you’re able to, try and stay in well air-conditioned areas as much as possible. If you don’t have air conditioning in your home, install a paddle fan or purchase a window unit to help circulate and regulate air flow.
  6. Know the signs and symptoms of dehydration and heat stroke. Knowing how to spot dehydration or heat stroke is important when being exposed to high temperatures for extended periods of time. If you happen to experience a headache, weakness, muscle cramping, dizziness or pass out, you may be dehydrated. As soon as possible, drink plenty of water or a drink with added electrolytes such as Gatorade. If you still don’t feel better, call 911. If you experience a temperature of 104 degrees or higher, red, dry or hot skin, a fast pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting or passing out, you may be having a heat stroke. Call 911 immediately and move to a shaded, cool area. Remove any additional layers of clothing and if possible, pour cold water on yourself. If you can safely swallow water or a sports drink, do so while waiting for emergency personnel to arrive.
  7. Check the weather every morning. By being proactive with how the weather and temperature may change throughout the day, you’ll be better able to plan your activities and in most cases, can save the cooler days for being outside.
  8. If you can move activities indoors, do so. By evaluating which activities that you originally had planned to participate in outside can be moved inside, you will limit your chances of overexposure to high temperatures, and in turn, keep yourself healthier, happier, and cooler!

Making the Transition for a Loved One to Memory Care Support

Caring for a parent or loved one with memory loss is no easy task. While it is a commendable and selfless responsibility to take on, with it comes many obstacles and challenges. With the numerous life adjustments that need to be made such as priorities shifting, adapting your home for safety precautions, and the emotional toll that it can have on everyone included, it is often found that considering a transition to a community with memory care support makes a lot of sense. At all of The Wesley Communities, we have a trusted team to help make your transition as easy as possible while putting your needs and the needs of your loved one first. Below, we’ve compiled some helpful tips you may find useful.

  • Research facilities of interest and be transparent about your desires and concerns. Talk to your loved one and family first and then, make sure to address all areas of importance with administrators, residency counselors, and all others who will be part of this important transition. By knowing the ins and outs of each community you are considering, you will feel more comfortable that you are making the right choice with the best facility for your loved one.
  • Once you do select the facility that is right for your loved one, discuss it sensitively and positively with them. Especially for someone with memory loss, having a conversation of this subject matter may bring fear, anger, and sadness. Try and speak calmly with your loved one and share with them all of the opportunities and benefits they will have available to them.
  • Give the staff useful information and hobbies of your loved one. By letting those at the facility know what interests your loved one has and what brings them joy, they will be able to make the transition as positive as possible. This will better allow them to have activities, books, art and crafts, etc. prepared ahead of time that your loved one will be happy to have.
  • Work with staff to have some of your family member’s favorite foods or snacks available. Along the lines of letting staff know what interests your loved one has, having some treats they enjoy will help as well. If they love your homemade chocolate chip cookies, work with the staff to have some available in the first week after moving.
  • Plan to take some time off from work or other demands to prioritize the move. As with any move, planning is a large portion of it. If you are employed, try and work with your team or save some vacation time so that you can take a few days off to focus on moving your loved one. By your loved one having you every step of the way, they will feel more at ease.
  • Bring a sense of home to their new home. Decorate your loved ones home or create shadow boxes to make it feel familiar. By including your loved one’s favorite home items and pictures of family and friends, their new space will feel comfortable, familiar, and calming.
  • Reassure and be there for your loved one. In many cases, you will need to remind your loved one or re-explain the transition they will be making. Of course, this can be difficult and emotional for both you and them. The memory care staff at the facility you choose will be able to assist with this conversation to try and make it as positive and comforting as possible. Make sure to try and reassure your loved one that this transition will be a good one and again, share with them the great opportunities they will have like making new friends and being able to participate in fun activities.

 Making the transition for a loved one to memory care brings many emotions, challenges, and logistics but for many, it can also be a very beneficial decision for those with memory loss and their caregivers. By working together as a family, and with the supportive staff at the facility you choose, you will find the comfort and peace of mind you deserve.

 

The above article was written by The Wesley Communities’ Marketing Communications Coordinator, Allie DeBor.


We Are Family

We are facing a difficult and scary time right now. Our lives have been flipped upside down, emotions are heightened and in more cases than not, fear has taken the front seat.

While hard times surround us, we urge everyone to take a deeper look and to remember why we are here in the first place.

We have grown to love each and every one of our residents, hospice patients, and families. Why did you seek us originally? You needed a place that was there for you, that would care for Mom, Dad, or Grandma like you care for them. You needed us, and you found us, and from there, another form of “family” began.

We treat your loved one as if they are our family, not only caring for them, but growing with them. We celebrate the important, happy days, and we comfort them in sadness and grief when it’s needed most. We know them by name, we know their children, and we know their children’s children. We worry about them and protect them as if they are our family and we do everything we can to care for them, not just in the face of a pandemic, but always.

Our communities and teams are made up of clinicians and professionals in a variety of specialties. We have so many passionate people in such important roles. From doctors and nurses, to social workers and aides, we all have unique roles and different responsibilities, but we all share one thing in common and that is that to us, your family has become our family.

We are a place filled with dedicated, hardworking people who followed a passion – a passion to serve. We give your loved ones medication, and meals, and provide comfort and quality of life. We read to them and create beautiful pieces of artwork with them. We work with families on new treatments and diagnoses, and we hold their hands when a loved one is in their final stages of life. We lend our families a shoulder when it’s needed, and we reassure them that we are here for love, support, and sympathy.

And when a pandemic unexpectedly hits – we rise, and we fight, and we protect. We monitor your loves ones day in and day out, constantly assessing and evaluating while still providing positivity among the darkness. Our staff adapts quickly, following CDC and state guidelines, while putting important regulations and additional PPE in place. We listen to each other and support each other as a team. We react and we push forward. We work hard together, and lean on each other, and we make sure to thank each other. We do our best to keep families connected through FaceTime, window visits, and letters, and we find comfort in local businesses who donate and help. We continue to serve our patients and families, and it is an honor. We are resilient and we are family.

 

This article was inspired by a Facebook post written by a Wisconsin nursing manager named Rachel encouraging those to spread the word.


How to Cope with Stress, When Times are Stressful

At a time like this, it is normal for stress levels to be heightened and for you to feel “off” more often than you feel “normal.” Your feelings are completely validated and while they are okay to have, for most of us, it doesn’t feel very good.

The Ohio Department of Health has put forth some valuable information and resources for identifying your stress, managing it, and for helping manage the stress of a loved one you’re caring for.

Stress during an infectious disease outbreak can include:

  • Fear and worry about your own health and the health of your loved ones.
  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns.
  • Difficulty sleeping or concentrating.
  • Worsening of chronic health problems.
  • Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems, and skin rashes.
  • Anger or short temper.

Things you can do to support yourself

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate. Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some other activities you enjoy.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

If you are taking care of an older adult:

  • Make sure your loved one’s nutrition intake is monitored.
  • Provide consistent predictable patterns and schedules.
  • Stay engaged with communication.
  • Personal care is important (clean clothes, bathing).
  • Attempt to lower emotions to reduce stress.
  • Understand that this change impacts a wide range of human experience that includes physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual well-being.

 Resources for additional assistance:

  • Throughout Ohio, you can text the keyword “4hope” to 741 741 to be connected to a trained Crisis Counselor. Data usage while texting Crisis Text Line is free, and the number will not appear on a phone bill with the mobile service carrier. People of all ages can use Crisis Text Line.
  • The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Director, Lori Criss, offers information on how to manage Coronavirus related stress. Click the link below to watch.
  • The Disaster Distress Helpline is available 24 hours a way, 7 days a week, year-round.
    • Call 1-800-985-5990 or text “TalkWithUs”to 66746, Spanish-speakers, text “Hablanos” to 66746.

By identifying your own stress and the stress of those you care for, you can work towards managing it and living a happier and healthier life, especially now, when it is needed the most.


What is Social Distancing? And Why is it so Important Right Now?

With the recent events that have transpired over the past few weeks, there are many new terms that we as a society are learning and adapting to. Besides the big ones – COVID-19 and Novel Coronavirus, there are plenty of others. One of major importance that has received a lot of attention, however, is the term social distancing.

For a lot of us, this might be the first time we’ve heard this term and as a result, we may need a little further explanation. So, what is social distancing? And why is it so important right now?

Social distancing is a way for public health officials to try and limit the spread of infection by restricting interaction between people and meetings with large groups. The objective of social distancing is to reduce the probability of contact between people carrying an infection and people who are not infected to again, mitigate the spread of that infection. The more people that actively practice social distancing, the slower an infection will most likely spread.

Under the circumstances our world is facing, social distancing is among one of the most critical measures we can be taking. Right now, health officials are focused on “flattening the curve” through social distancing, which means that they are trying to slow the rate of new cases of Coronavirus so as to not overwhelm the health care professionals and resources that we have available.

Practice social distancing by limiting your interaction with others. If you do need to be around others, it is advised to avoid group settings of 10 or more people and to keep a distance of at least six feet between yourself and another individual. If your circumstances allow you to stay at home, that is encouraged as much as possible.

By taking social distancing seriously, we can help our health care industry, our fellow citizens, and our world through this uncertain and difficult time.


National Nutrition Month – Meet Executive Director of Dining Services, Lisa Wolfe, RD, LD

March is National Nutrition Month and at The Wesley Communities, we are fortunate to have our Executive Director of Dining Services, Lisa Wolfe, RD, LD. As an Ohio State University graduate, Lisa studied Medical Dietetics and soon after, became a Registered Dietitian. Lisa first started with our communities in 2005, as a Clinical Dietitian focusing on clinical nutrition and monitoring resident care. From that position, Lisa’s career progressed to Assistant Director of Dining Services positions throughout our communities, which gave her valuable experience in not only nutrition but also in improving our dining services to meet the needs of our residents. Click the link above to learn more about Lisa.


Why Every Retiree Should Consider a Retirement Community

There are certain adages you may recall your parents saying when you were a child: “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” “Things are not always what they seem,” plus, of course, “You won’t know until you try.”

Clichés are repeated again and again because most often, they are true. And it just so happens that these three sayings don’t just apply to the important lessons of childhood — many adults would do well to adhere to these proverbs as they go through life.

In fact, it recently struck me that seniors who are considering their various senior living options may want to keep these very adages in mind as they ponder the possibility of moving to a retirement community, such as a continuing care retirement community (CCRC, or life plan community).

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Click the link above to learn more about why retirement communities may have more to offer than you think.


Black History Month and Its Place in Ohio

Every year, the month of February is dedicated to celebrating Black History Month, a time to recognize and honor the contributions and heroic stories of African Americans. Did you know that there have been many significant moments over the decades that have advanced black culture in Ohio? Below we’ve included a timeline of some monumental moments right here in The Buckeye State. Click the link above to read the full list.


I’m Not Ready Yet

Although the vast majority of people who live in Continuing Care Retirement Communities report that they are happy with their decision, there are many who delay a move indefinitely because they feel they are not ready yet.

Of course, moving to a CCRC is an important decision. It requires appropriate planning and should not be rushed. Yet, delaying the decision too long could mean missing the opportunity because a common entry requirement among CCRCs is the ability to live independently. Furthermore, even if your health remains good, delaying means missing out on many of the benefits that such a community could provide for you in the first place. Click the link above to read more about what CCRCs have to offer and why you may be more ready than you think.