Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Understanding Dementia and Alzheimer's

Do you know someone dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia? Feeling stretched caring for an older adult? It is well known that caring for a family member with a chronic illness such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, or other diseases is stressful and takes an enormous physical and emotional toll on caregivers. Caregivers often completely change their lifestyle to take care of those they love. Caregivers include senior citizens caring for relatives under the age of eighteen, as well as spouses, adult children, and/or friends. Did you know that 85% of all care to the frail and disabled is being provided by family and friends? Are you one of them? The Dale Association has received training to conduct a six part training program to enable caregivers to better care for themselves by improving their own self-confidence and problem solving skills. Powerful Tools for Caregivers is an educational series designed to provide you with the tools you need to take care of yourself. This program will help family caregivers: reduce stress, improve self-confidence, better communicate your feelings, balance your life, increase ability to make tough decision and locate helpful resources. Current research is finding that taking care of tired caregivers could be as important as providing care for their care-recipients. The class is being offered on Tuesdays beginning August 2nd and running through September 6th from 9:30am to 12:00 noon at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, 621 10th St, Auditorium B, Niagara Falls, NY 14031. Two experienced class leaders will conduct each session. Interactive lessons, discussions and brainstorming will help you take the “tools” you choose and put them into action for your life. The cost for the six-week program is $25 and includes a copy of The Caregiver Help book, but is covered in full for members of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of WNY and Independent Health. Pre-Registration is required - Call Erie County Senior Services at (716) 858-2177 or email caregiver@erie.gov for more information and to register. Additional classes are also being scheduled; additional classes can be found at erie.gov/depts./seniorservices. Powerful Tools for Caregivers supported by a grant from Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York and is co-sponsored by The University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions and the Erie County Caregiver Coalition. Cannot make the six week class? A one day informational presentation is being held on Thursday, August 11th from 1:00 – 2:00pm at The Dale Association, 33 Ontario Street, Lockport titled “Navigating Alzheimer’s Disease and other Dementia: Considering Decision Making from a Human Service Perspective”. This program will give an easy to understand description of the diseases, risk factors, warning signs, and what to expect if you or a loved one are facing a diagnosis. Learn about normal and abnormal changes, along with how they can affect decision making and independence. The information will be presented by Julia Szprygada, LMSW Director of Education and Training Alzheimer’s Association WNY Chapter. It is free and open to the public. For more information or to register, call 1-800-272-3900 or 433-1886.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Health and Aging

A new study may shift how we define health and aging. Instead of focusing on diseases, researchers looked at 54 health measures to see which factors or clusters of factors had the greatest association with mortality or incapacity. These factors fell into six major health categories: diseases, health behaviors, psychological health, sensory function, immunity, and frailty. Six clusters of conditions emerged from this analysis: The first cluster was, surprisingly, the “robust obese group”. None of these individuals had a normal BMI, but they had the fewest diseases or vulnerabilities. This group had the lowest prevalence of dying or incapacity 5 years later! The second cluster was “one minor condition group”, comprised of individuals of normal weight with a low prevalence of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. As the group’s name suggests, these individuals tended to have one minor condition or disease. While still classified as robust, their prevalence of death five years later was significantly higher than the robust obese group, suggesting their “minor” conditions could be early warnings of vulnerability. Individuals in these two clusters had stronger social lives than the general population. The two intermediate clusters are “broken bones group” and “poor mental health group”. Those in the first group had broken a bone past 45 years old—but this group was average or above average in mobility. However, they were five times more likely to be incapacitated by frailty or accidents five years later. And the poor mental health group, characterized primarily by depression, was the only group more likely than average to be incapacitated by alcohol, drug abuse, or suicide attempts. The most vulnerable clusters were characterized by multiple comorbid diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and immobility. Most vulnerable was a group with extensive comorbidity and frailty, which had a high prevalence of 47 of the 54 measures, with an average of 17 vulnerable health measures. Forty-four percent passed away five years later. The outcomes from this study are mostly consistent with many other articles about healthy aging. Many factor combine to affect the health of individuals and communities. Moreover, there is a growing recognition that a broad range of social, economic, and environmental factors shape individuals’ opportunities and barriers to engage in healthy behavior. You may be surprised to learn the impact of different factors on the health and wellness of individuals. An individual’s risk of premature death are most greatly affected by: individual behaviors (such as smoking) having the greatest impact at 40%; Genetics is at 30%; social and environmental factors is 20% and health care is at 10%. This information may help us re-conceptualize health and aging. One main finding is that “Health status in older adults does not correspond to chronological age.” And as the authors conclude, “a shift of attention is needed from disease-focused management… to overall health,” so that risks can be more accurately identified and addressed.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Bridge: A Fun and Social Game

The card game of bridge is fun and a great way to build a social network of friends. But bridge, a partnership card game that originated in the Middle East in the 19th century, has even more going for it: It can sharpen your wits, help ward off Alzheimer's, and even make you physically healthier. Bridge works its magic through sheer complexity. Players must remember each player's cards, which builds memory skills. They must plan ahead, strategize, and use logic, all of which challenge and stimulate the brain. Plus bridge is played in groups. According to a study of adults 50 and older published in the Journal of Gerontology, social interaction markedly decreased intellectual decline. In a study published in New England Journal of Medicine, researchers followed the leisure activities of 469 senior citizens for five years. Those who regularly played cards showed a greatly reduced incidence of dementia, while those who exercised exhibited little change from the normal population. Daryl Fisher, who taught English, speech, and debate at a New Orleans private school, could have told you that from his own experience. "When I taught bridge to retired adults," he says, "you could see their interest in life perk up as they made friends and got hooked on the game." A more bridge-specific University of California, Berkeley study shows that playing bridge increases the number of immune cells. Participants in the study included a group of 12 female bridge players. The women, in their 70s and 80s, were divided into three groups; two groups played bridge for 90 minutes, the third didn't. Blood samples were taken before and after play. The two bridge-playing groups showed a significant increase in CD-4 positive T cells, which seek out and destroy foreign bodies in the body. The third group displayed only a modest increase. The study suggests that brain activity might be able to stimulate the immune system. Bridge is casual and funny and serious all at the same time, and you make lifelong friends. It is a great game for adults of all ages. If you are interested in playing bridge, opportunities abound. If you’d like to play bridge on Tuesdays at 1:00pm, call Gretchen at 433-1886; you can play regularly or be a substitute. Duplicate Bridge is played every Tuesday at 7:00pm and Saturdays at 1:00pm; please call Dian at 688-1226 or 238-2230. Again, you can play regularly or be a substitute. Or, there is a Friendly Duplicate Bridge Group that plans Fridays at 1:00pm for fun and good times (no master points). For more information or to join the Friday group, please call Gerry at 791-4075 or Karen at 751-6646. All these bridge sessions are played at The Dale Association, 33 Ontario Street, Lockport. If you are looking for fun, friendship and bridge – I hope you will call.