Category Archives: Taking Care of Yourself

The Power of the Playlist

img_3138-1Ron and I were already champions of Dan Cohen’s world-changing Music & Memory program, which is featured in Connecting in the Land of Dementia, but we had never met Dan in person. The moment we learned we were going to New York City, we reached out to Dan and he agreed to meet with us.

Dan is a prime example of one collaborative person making a difference for thousands. Eighteen states have already funded Music & Memory rollouts as a best practice approach for care facilities to improve quality of life for persons with dementia. In Toronto, everyone who is diagnosed with dementia receives a free iPod so they can enjoy personalized music. Dan and his team have trained 5000 dementia care managers, who understand how effective this program is. He is currently collaborating with hospitals, hospice, and prisons, as well as long term care communities.

Here is some of the wisdom he shared with us.

“We all need to create our personal play lists now,” Dan says. “Music makes any healthcare encounter better.  Whether you’re waiting in the doctor’s office, going into the hospital, attending rehab, or moving into a care community, you’ll have a more comfortable experience when you are able to listen to favorite songs.”

Click here to listen to Dan Cohen.

Click here to learn more about the Music and Memory program.

Read more about Dan’s programs in Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together.  Order your copy from your favorite independent or online bookstore.

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Fulfilling the Bucket List, Trip by Trip

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Our friends Elizabeth and Charlie Miller are a constant source of inspiration. Here is one of the many ways they embrace life.

Elizabeth and Charlie knew they had to instantly work on their travel bucket list. When they met and fell in love, Charlie had been living with dementia for four years. He had not traveled much, but he wanted to see the world with Elizabeth. He asked a friend to help him plan a romantic trip to San Francisco, where he proposed to her.

After she said, “Yes,” they combined their love of beaches and nature and began adventuring, going on driving trips, taking cruises, and sharing a multitude of experiences. When flying grew too complicated and stressful for Charlie, they focused on local day trips or short driving trips.

“I used to have to travel alone,” Elizabeth says. “Now, I travel with Charlie. He enjoys the trip in-the-moment. How wonderful to have all these shared experiences. Plus, it’s renewing to be outside of our routine.”

DSCN1635Recently, Elizabeth and Charlie were driving around and Charlie said, “What was that long cruise last fall that had so many beautiful places?”

Elizabeth stopped to think. “Hawaii,” she said.

“Hawaii,” Charlie said, his eyes bright. “Wasn’t that the best cruise ever?”

Elizabeth smiled and felt a deep sense of happiness and connection. “You are right. It was the best cruise ever.”

To make every trip “the best” here are a few flying travel tips from Elizabeth:

  • Try for a non-stop flight at a time best for the person living with dementia.
  • Call TSA in advance and arrange for assistance in getting through screening.
  • Ask for a Pre-boarding pass to minimize the stress in boarding.
  • Get a business-type card that says, “Thank you for your patience with my companion. He is living with dementia.” Share this information, as needed.
  • Carry a travel packet that includes a letter from an MD, stating that your companion has dementia, and a medical power of attorney.  Include doctors’ names and contact information as well as emergency contact information.
  • Carry a bag of essentials: water, snacks, medications, a change of clothing, and activities.
  • Be flexible, in the flow, and have fun!

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. 

COMING SOON: Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together 

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My Favorite Form of Brain Fitness

As the daughter of someone who lived with dementia, I do a lot of things to promote my brain health. I try to walk 10,000 steps a day, along with other exercise. I eat blueberries and broccoli. I work on crossword puzzles, occasionally flirt with a new language, try new things, and sing. But a recent study revealed that I was doing something else that was cheering on my brain, something I hadn’t even counted….

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Yes, eating dark chocolate. I am in love with this Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study (MSLS), of 968 people that asserts:

All cognitive scores were significantly higher in those who consumed chocolate at least once per week, than in those who never/rarely consumed chocolate.

 “More frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with better performance on the Global Composite score, Visual-Spatial Memory and Organization, Working Memory, Scanning and Tracking, Abstract Reasoning, and the Mini-Mental State Examination,” said the research team, which included scientists from the University of Maine.

More Delicious News

And another study from Loma Linda University states:

Dark chocolate, which is 70 percent cacao, is a major source of flavonoids– powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components that are known to be beneficial to cardiovascular health. The California team’s initial studies at Loma Linda University have shown that absorbed cacao flavonoids penetrate and accumulate in regions of the brain associated with learning and memory.

“We are tremendously excited about what these findings could potentially mean for brain health,” said Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, who led the team. “This may open the door for potential restorative uses for individuals with memory/recall or dementia and aging-related issues.”

Never Forget To Boost Your Brain

I now have a remedy for those days when I’m too tired to exercise, too busy for a crossword, too cranky for a brain game. Or for when I forget. On those days, I’ll simply treat myself to a taste of the dark side. And hope it leads me towards the light.

Want to learn more?

www.goodnewsnetwork.org/study-confirms-brain-and-memory-benefits-from-dark-chocolate/

www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666316300459

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. IMG_0107

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Five A-HaHaHa’s for Adding More Laughter into your Life

When you laugh, you change, and when you change, the whole world changes.   Dr. Madan Kataria, M.D., Founder, Laughter Yoga Movement

Have you ever found yourself surrounded by brilliant, compassionate, and creative people? For months, I interviewed more than 60 such luminaries, all of whom contributed to my new book, Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activities to Explore Together. The book features easy, meaningful, and fun activities for people living with dementia and their care partners.

Dr Madan Kataria, founder of the globally acclaimed Laughter Yoga movement, taught me how important and easy it is to consciously add laughter into the day.

“Do you know the Ha Ha chorus?” he asked, during our Skype session.

I had to answer, “No.”

He began singing, “Ha ha ha ha ha ha,” to the tune of Happy Birthday to You. I was instantly laughing, as was he.

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Carmela Carlyle, who is a Dementia Care Specialist, Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher, and the creator of the training DVD, Laughter Yoga with Elders, offered simple tips for adding laughter into daily life, including “Ha ha ha-ing” at traffic lights and while cooking a meal together.

From these two luminaries, I learned the importance of consciously integrating laughter into daily life. Dr. Kataria explained that laughter improves blood circulation and increases the net amount of oxygen to body and brain, which makes us feel more healthy and energetic. Laughter also makes our immune system stronger. Plus, laughing with others builds a social bond and reduces feelings of isolation.

Carmela Carlyle says, “When we laugh, our jaws move, sending a message directly to the brain to release feel-good hormones.  People living with dementia can bypass the intellect and go directly to the powerful medicine of laughter.”

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To add more laughter into your life, visit www.laughteryoga.org

Madan Kataria, MD, is the founder of  the Laughter Yoga Clubs movement, which started in 1995 in Mumbai, India. Dr. Kataria is an internationally acclaimed speaker and a corporate consultant for holistic health, stress management, team building, leadership, peak performance and communication skills. He is associated with a number of research projects to measure the benefits of laughter. www.laughteryoga.org

Carmela Carlyle, is a psychotherapist, Eldercare Specialist, Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher and Certified Integrative Yoga Therapist. Her DVD, Laughter Yoga with Older Adults: Joyful Chair Fitness, is used all over the world. www.carmelacarlyle.com

 

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey. 

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Eight Steps to Help People Living with Dementia Feel at Ease during Holiday Gatherings

As we move into the holiday season, Ron and I think often of our parents who went through their last holidays with dementia: my mom Frances and his father Frank. We wanted to share the season with them in ways that felt safe, comfortable, and honoring so we gradually developed these tips. Recently, we shared them via email and had such a great response we also want to share them with you.

Several people wrote, “These tips are good for anyone, not just those with memory loss.”

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What great wisdom–to treat each person with the tenderness and consideration that we often reserve for someone going through a physical or emotional illness.

We’d like to share our tips and we’d like to learn from you: what other suggestions do you have for helping people feel connected at gatherings?

Eight Steps to Help People Living with Dementia Feel at Ease during Holiday Gatherings

  •       When you’re in a group, help the person living with dementia feel safe and comfortable by having a trusted friend or family member stay beside him or her, explaining the proceedings and fielding questions from others, as needed. 
  •         Encourage people to say their name and maintain eye contact when conversing with the person who is living with dementia.
  •         Make sure the person can come and go from the group as needed. Create a quiet space where he or she can rest — or appoint a caring person to drive your loved one home when he tires of the festivities.
  •         Have something special for them to look at, like a family photo album or a favorite magazine.
  •         Choose background music that is familiar to them, music of their era played in a style they resonate with.
  •         Prepare a few of their favorite foods.
  •         When talking to them, don’t correct or contradict or try to pull them into the current reality. Simply listen carefully and let them talk.
  •         Appreciate them for who they are right now.hands and heart

Here’s to a holiday season filled with grace, gratitude and generosity.

Deborah Shouse is the author of Love in the Land of Dementia: Finding Hope in the Caregiver’s Journey.

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