Driving Retirement Does Not Have to Equal House Arrest

 

It goes without saying that for any of us, driving represents freedom, control, and of course, a degree of personal independence. But this is particularly true for the older driver. Here are five reasons a senior driver may not be willing to retire from driving, despite what may be obvious and quantifiable safety reasons:

1) For a senior driver, losing the ability to drive can be an obvious emotional set-back. In some cases, this set-back can be even more complicated when combined with recent losses such as the death of a spouse, a close friend, or a recent diagnosis of a serious health condition.

Imagine for a moment that only months ago your spouse of 50+ years died unexpectedly, and now your adult children are trying to take your car away from you. Or that just last week you were diagnosed with cancer, and today your family doctor compounded your anguish by suggesting that for safety reasons you stop driving, effective immediately. The recipient of all of this wonderful news would certainly feel like a tsunami of doom has just reached their beach.

2)  A senior driver may believe that if he/she can no longer drive, they will become a burden to others. This may be the furthest thing from the truth, but it becomes very real in the eyes of the beholder. Imagine for just one minute that you can suddenly no longer drive…ever. Although completely unwarranted, it is human nature to feel at least somewhat burdensome asking others for help getting you to and from your doctor’s appointments? Taking you to get groceries? Driving you to the hairdresser or barber? Taking you to visit an old friend?

3) Many seniors see a surrender of their driver’s license as an acknowledgement that their physical wellness, agility, mental sharpness, reflexes, sight, hearing or memory are beginning to deteriorate. Or that an illness or pre-existing medical condition is “getting worse”.

4) Many older drivers believe that if they give up their driving, they will have fewer social opportunities than what they are accustomed to.

5) Despite everyone’s best efforts, driving cessation can sometimes trigger depression in elderly people which, in turn can cause a noticeable deterioration in your loved one’s physical health.

There are obviously many, many more examples of the emotional distress driving cessation can cause for an older driver. The good news is; a retirement from a long and successful driving career does not have to be all doom and gloom, and does not have to be the equal of “house arrest”.

Keeping Us Safe provides services to both older drivers and their families across the United States. You can visit them online at www.keepingussafe.org or call toll-free at (877) 907-8841 for more information.  In the greater Raleigh area, contact Lauren Watral, MSW from Raleigh Geriatric Care Management at 919-803-8025.

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How to Tell Your Loved One It Is Alzheimer’s Disease

Daniel Paris, MSW

There are a number of takes on telling the person with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) the truth. I would propose a couple of things to keep in mind:

  1. Ask yourself how much your loved one will understand of the explanation. Sometimes they can understand and retain a lot of the information (you have a disease of the brain, etc…); sometimes all they can understand is that they have “some memory loss;” sometimes they are unable to get any of it. Remember, the cognitive impairments of AD affect not only their ability to comprehend information, but also their ability to communicate.
  2. Often someone with Alzheimer’s knows something is wrong, they just can’t figure out what. Are they stupid or going crazy, they may wonder. Finding out there is something wrong that is a legitimate disease beyond their control can actually be comforting at times in this light.
  3. There are some people who will never accept what you tell them due to denial, resistance, the disease, etc. Complicating this can be a host of personality or cultural traits pre-AD. There are times when telling the person can do more harm than good. Because of this, you can’t force them to understand if they are unable or unwilling.
  4. This is an individual decision; you should think about the type of person your loved one is, and how the Alzheimer’s disease has impaired them. You can always try beginning the conversation and see how it goes. If they become very upset and if it doesn’t work, there is a good chance they will not remember the conversation.
  5. Finally, if you are certain your loved one should know, be ready to repeat yourself numerous times as they will probably not remember what you said.

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Caregiver Tips for travel

Traveling long distances with a person in the early stage of dementia may still be quite enjoyable. As dementia advances, however, traveling becomes unpredictable as the person becomes more confusing. Plan ahead for a trip by gathering important documents: insurance cards, passports, your physician’s phone number, refills on medications and a copy of medical records in case the person with dementia needs to see a physician while away. Make sure you keep track of all the documents and medications. Packing them in carry-on bags so they will not get lost en route is a good idea. Remember to bring sufficient funds or a credit card with you in case you must change your plans suddenly and return home. Also, you may want to bring along a brief letter from your physician to the airline or hotel to expedite a change in plans.

When traveling, try to follow the routine that is followed at home. Even minor changes in routine can be distressing to your loved one, and may cause unexpected delays in the delivery of care. So, be sure to allow plenty of time for everything. Plan for rest periods throughout the day. For example, if you are taking a tour by bus, you may want to remain in the bus so the person can take a nap instead of visiting all the sights.

Remember the person who is at risk of wandering when at home, may also do so in an unfamiliar place. If this is the case with your loved one, try using an identity bracelet or necklace that clearly explains that she has a dementia illness. Put a card with the name and address of the hotel where you are staying in the person’s pocket. You may want to carry a recent photo of the person in case she gets lost.

Traveling may also make the person more anxious. Bring along an anti-anxiety medicine just in case. Toileting is an issue that requires some forethought when you are traveling. If you are driving, stop at the rest-area toilets every couple of hours. If the person needs assistance in the bathroom and you may be in there for a while, bring along an “OCCUPIED” sign for the washroom door. Have on hand a full change of clothing. Be sure to keep the way to the toilet well lighted in hotel rooms, and keep a light turned at night in the bathroom.

A few more travel tips to keep in mind: If you are traveling by car, never leave your loved one with dementia alone in the car. Try to bring along a relative or friend to share in the driving. And if you are traveling by plane, you may want to notify the airline ahead of time, so you can ask for any assistance.

Manual of Caregivers by Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center

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Conversation Topics with Seniors

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pnkVFCNep4s

 

Ever feel like you don’t know what else to say to a loved one? Longtime companions often feel “talked out.” For others, making conversation with a frail older adult can be hard if you’re unsure what’s safe or comfortable to bring up. Many people balk, for example, at broad questions like, “What’s your favorite memory from childhood?” because they feel put on the spot. And people with dementia may resist direct questioning because they feel like they’re being quizzed and get nervous about being unable to supply a “right” answer. Despite obstacles like these, talk is worthwhile because it passes the time, illuminates things you might not have known about your loved one, and builds new and cherished memories. In a pinch, try this conversation-starter alternative: “Tell me about . . . ” These three little words are nonthreatening and inviting. Casually curious, they work for any topic, from the weather to politics. They allow for open-ended responses. The conversation may go nowhere (try again another time) or take off. Some examples: “Tell me about what winters were like in North Dakota when you were a boy.” “Tell me about your wedding day.” “Tell me about this blanket — you knitted it, didn’t you?” “Tell me about that pet cow you had.” “Tell me about the garden you always had.” “Tell me about why you joined the military.” “Tell me about how you stay so calm all the time.” “Tell me about your mother.” They’re almost as good as those other three little words (“I love you”)!

 

from Caring.com Lauren Watral   Lwatral@rgcmgmt.com     Raleigh Geriatric Care Management:  www.rgcmgmt.com

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Why Do People With Alzheimer’s Wander?

By  Frena Gray-Davidson

Don’t think Alzheimer’s experts know any more than you about Alzheimer’s behaviors. They don’t. So, your guess is as good as theirs. And, speaking as a longtime Alzheimer’s dementia caregiver, frankly I think caregiver guesses are better than most other people’s. So there! In my workshops, I always encourage family caregivers to guess. If the first guess seems to be wrong, guess again. Always be prepared to try something new when dealing with solving a difficult behavior.

And, by the way, it’s only difficult for you, which is really worth thinking even harder about. Not that you don’t matter because, of course, you do. It’s just that sometimes we’ll label a behavior as difficult and then we’ll fight to stop that behavior. To retrain our person. To make them learn that it’s not what we want.

Boy, now there’s a way to make yourself feel crazy. When we’re specially stressed, we caregivers can get stubborn and locked into our own demands. That’s because of the tightening up we experience as stress. Weary, grieving and overwhelmed, we just don’t tend to say to ourselves, “Now, how can I find a better way to solve this problem?” No, we tend to mutter between our clenched teeth, “If he (or she) doesn’t stop doing that, I’m going to go crazy!” So, figuring out how to find a solution to any dementia behavior problem should be preceded by a warm scented bath, or a session at the gym, a movie you love and then your own self-consulting care plan conference.

So now let’s fast-forward to that relaxed state in which you can ask yourself, ”What exactly is this behavior about and how can I find a solution?” People don’t do things only because they have dementia. Yes, they do have short-term memory issues. And, yes, they are usually unable to do rational step-by-step thinking. Even given those two unfixable issues, people with dementia have a very wide range of possibility in the behaviors they demonstrate.

So, why is your person doing that particular thing? That’s what you have to make guesses about. Your person is targeted on doing what will bring a desired emotional result. That you don’t want them to wander is your problem. Even if you pointed out that certain things are dangerous for them, it means nothing. Why not? Because they don’t remember what the problem was with what they did. And anyway, they feel like that’s what they want to do. And you can’t fight dementia.

So, why does your Alzheimer Dad go wandering? Make some guesses. Ask questions. Ask him, and then ask yourself:

Is he bored? Probably;
Is he restless? Sometimes;
Is he stuck with absolutely nothing to do? Yes, often.
Is he just not used to being this person with dementia? Undoubtedly.
Think about the average person who has dementia. They’ve lost their previous life and have nothing to replace it. Caregivers can be so busy that those they care for are often left in a kind of limbo They can be left doing nothing, having nothing and unable to figure out for themselves what to do.

I always look at the problem things they want to do as their communication to us. So, a walker wants to walk. As my nephew would say, “Duh!” First, everyone else can go walking any time. Except for people with dementia. We even label their walking as wandering. That’s our caregiver jargon which says we don’t want them to do it. It’s dangerous for them and inconvenient for us. If we don’t help find alternatives, however, they will walk out when we’re not looking.

WHY DAD WANDERS

The biggest reason never stated for people with dementia wandering is that this is the way they can self-medicate their anxiety and sense of displacement;
That feeling of displacement drives them to walk out of the front door and straight off down the road, going forward endlessly. It is a feeling that instigates walking and it is dementia which keeps it going. Once people have begun walking, they tend to be unlikely to ask for help or directions and they tend to go straight ahead.
Boredom and restlessness also drive people out of their front doors to find presumably some kind of variety.
This is why the smart caregiver creates an activity plan. For your Dad, maybe he needs a drawer all of his own full of the kind of stuff that used to interest him. Maybe he was a handyman around the home. Then screwdrivers, nails, a hammer – all the equipment of fixing up might keep him happy indefinitely. Maybe a tool box all jumbled up with stuff he can sort out.

How about having him sweeping up the leaves in the backyard? Filling bird-feeders with seed? If you get him weeding, be prepared for the consequences of a person with dementia who no longer knows a weed from a treasured garden guest.

When we craft an activity plan for our family member with dementia we look for something which evokes what was familiar in a way that doesn’t hold to forgotten standards. And as the caregiver, we commit to letting go of our standards of perfection.

The activity works simply by absorbing the person. Sometimes, your Mom could wash and dry the dishes. So what if you have to redo them? Mom felt useful and helpful and it brought back to her a life in which she was the woman who held the family home together.

These activities fill time, yes, but they also remind people who they were when they did not have dementia. I doubt they think it through in that way, though. I suspect they simply feel a more peaceful, more settled sense of belonging.

The desire in the dementia wanderer is often simply to want to go somewhere, anywhere but where they are. In assessing problem dementia behaviors, we always look at both the obvious message and the metaphor. Dementia allows people to operate at a number of different mental levels all combining into this present moment – which in itself might actually be South Dakota, 1926, for the person with dementia. Time zones may blend as that person’s life has now blended into its own story, nearing completion.

How do we bring satisfaction to the wanderer? Well, obviously, an actual walking program is a great idea. The caregiver need not be the one to do this. Ask a family member, a neighbor, a high school kid you trust, a volunteer from the senior center – any of whom can be great company on a walk. Hire someone to do the daily walk – it’ll be a good investment.

To organize this, you plan it, you set the boundaries in time and distance, you train the walker who’ll go with your wanderer. You explain dementia. You prepare them.

Add to this, a driving program. Most people with dementia love a drive in the car. It’s the most active passive entertainment for an elder. It should probably end at an ice-cream parlor or a fruit stand or somewhere else involving food.

The company of others who also have dementia is often very comforting, so look for a good day activity program. How do you know it’s good? See if people are having a good time. Talking like friends. Enjoying the quality of the connection. Dementia is often a lonely condition. The actual activity almost doesn’t matter as long as it clearly connects people by the heart.

The goal of all this is to tire out your family member so that restless dissatisfaction does not speak so loudly to them. Maybe get them a good pet friend, one of those older pets that are so understanding and seldom get adopted..

By the way, don’t forget to secure your doors. You want to know when your person heads for the great outdoors. This doesn’t have to be sophisticated. The things people I know have used successfully have been:

a set of brass bells hanging on a door-handle;
that cheap set of buzzer and five activators that you can put on doors. Not at all expensive — I think around $7 and in most budget stores and hardware places;
a warning door chime;
an ankle bracelet that sets off a perimeter alarm.
Or for the cunning escaper, firmly locked doors, deadbolted and you have the key.
If your person does get out, unnoticed by you, of course you need to go find them. Before you do that, call the police and give a description. Ideally, you would already have lodged a photo with the local police station just in case.

If you have already tagged them with a GPS unit, then your search will be much easier. Check on-line to find great prices on personal GPS systems. It’s something you can tag on the back of someone’s pants each day, for example. Not in pockets or a handbag or wallet – which can be lost or stolen.

If you are looking for someone not tagged, know that people with dementia are most likely to simply continue walking in a forward direction. If you have straight highways from your door, I’d follow those first. If you’re calling out for them, call by name, not by role. So Frank, not Dad. That’s because they may be in a much younger time-zone state of mind where they weren’t a Dad.

I know you will already have got a non-removable ID on your person. Not in a pocket but on a bracelet, anklet or dogtag. You can get these from the Alzheimer’s Association but they’re much cheaper from your local Walmart or equivalent. Put on their name, something like “memory-impaired” and the most relevant phone number.

Have your emergency wanderer kit already – all the numbers, all the friends and neighbors who’ve already agreed to help. Call everyone. Don’t be embarrassed – people love to help in a real emergency.

May all dementia journeys be safe ones.

Raleigh Geriatric Care Management*  www.rgcmgmt.com

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20 Easy Ways to Boost your Memory

~Paula Spencer Scott

Worried about fading brain power? If you’re older than 27, you have good reason. That’s the age when cognitive skills start to decline, according to University of Virginia research. But while some changes in thinking and memory are inevitable as we age, the good news is that lifestyle seems to be able to blunt those effects — and keep many minds working sharply well into old age.

That’s reassuring, given headlines from the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual report showing that every 68 seconds, someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s (the most common form of dementia).

Debilitating memory loss doesn’t happen to everyone, though. Learn what you can do to preserve yours.

Memory Booster #1. Take the stairs
Exercise benefits your head as much as the rest of your body, a growing number of studies indicate. Overall cardiorespiratory fitness also lowers the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular problems — all known risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease. Theories on why that’s so range from improved blood flow to the brain to less brain shrinkage.

Experts recommend making regular aerobic workouts part of your routine. Failing that, it appears that even small efforts add up. So avoid elevators. Park at the far end of the parking lot. Start by walking around your block in the evenings, and add a few minutes more each day.

Memory Booster #2: Change your wallpaper
When doing routine things, the brain runs on autopilot. Novelty, on the other hand, literally fires up the brain as new data creates and works new neural pathways.

So shake up what you see and do every day: If your computer screen background is “invisible” to you, run a program that mixes it up every day or every hour. Take a different route home from work. Brush your teeth with your nondominant hand. Buy, borrow, or download a book that makes you think about new ideas.

Memory Booster #3. Steal some zzz’s by daylight
It’s while you’re sleeping that your brain sorts, consolidates, and stores memories accumulated during the day — that’s why eight hours at night is so valuable. But a mere six-minute nap is as valuable as a full night’s sleep to short-term recall, according to German research. And a 90-minute nap has been shown to speed up the process that helps the brain consolidate long-term memories.

Memory Booster #4. Take a mental “photograph”
Memories aren’t just stored in one spot in the brain; bits of data are processed and stored in different areas. To help make the memory of an incident last, take a “snapshot” of it while you’re in the moment, using all your senses. Look around and think about what you see. Notice colors and textures. What do you smell? If you’re eating or drinking (or kissing), what’s the taste?

This “mental camera” trick can help you hang onto a happy memory longer. But it can also help you remember where you parked your car.

Memory Booster #5. Eat less
After only 12 weeks, healthy volunteers (average age 60) who reduced their daily calories by 30 percent scored 20 percent better on memory tests, University of Munster (Germany) researchers have reported. The possible reason: decreased levels of insulin, created when the body processes food, and of the inflammation-associated molecule C-reactive protein. Both factors are linked to improved memory function.

The people in the study were cautioned not to consume fewer than 1,200 calories a day. If cutting back on your diet by nearly a third seems too daunting, focus on eating less fat, meat, and dairy products. Columbia University Medical Center researchers reported that in a long-term study of more than 1,300 participants, those with the highest adherence to a Mediterranean diet — rich in vegetables, legumes, fish, and monounsaturated oils (like olive oil) but low in fat, beef, and dairy — had the lowest risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

Memory Booster #6. Try a “brain-training” game — or join a “brain gym”
The science is promising, if not conclusive, as to whether so-called brain-fitness software can actually improve memory. A study in the April 2009 *Journal of the American Geriatric Society* shows that people over 65 who used a computerized cognitive training program for an hour a day, over a period of eight weeks, improved memory and attention more than a control group.

Memory Booster #7. Spend some time online
Neuroscientist Gary Small, director of the UCLA Memory & Aging Center and author of *iBrain*, says searching the Web is a bit like using a brain-training course. His researchers used MRI to measure brain activity in Web users ages 55 to 76; the net-savvy users showed twice as much brain activity, especially regarding decision making.

Memory Booster #8. Stop and sip a cuppa
Green and black teas have a protective effect on memory, possibly by influencing enzymes in the brain. The caffeine sparks concentration, too. And people who drink moderate amounts of coffee at midlife — as many as three to five cups — have lower odds of developing dementia in late life, Finnish and French researchers say.

Another benefit: Taking a coffee or tea break in your day (or three times a day) is a good opportunity for destressing.

Memory Booster #9. See a doctor if you feel depressed
Maybe it’s “just a mood.” But untreated depression is common and can impair memory. Talk therapy and/or antidepressant medication can resolve the problem. Two red flags worth mentioning to a physician: a loss of interest in things that once gave you pleasure and a persistent sense of hopelessness.

People at higher risk for depression include caregivers of older people and those who have a family history of depression.

Memory Booster #10. Take the “multi” out of your tasking
Especially when they’re trying to learn something new, people remember less well later if they were multitasking while learning, UCLA researchers have shown. If, for example, you’re studying while listening to the radio, your memory recall may be dependent on the music to help you later retrieve the information during the test — except, of course, that you can’t usually replicate the same circumstances (like music during a test).

Try to learn something new — reading a contract or directions, copying a skill — when you can give it your full concentration. Cut out distractions like the TV in the background or pausing every few seconds when you hear the “ding” of your e-mail or text-message inbox.

Memory Booster #11. Keep your blood sugar under control
If you’re diabetes-free, work to maintain a normal weight and follow a balanced diet to reduce your odds of developing the disease. If you’re a type 2 diabetic already, follow medical advice for managing blood sugar levels.

Research shows that brain functioning subtly slows as diabetics’ blood sugar rises and the blood vessels that supply the brain are damaged. This process begins well before memory problems become obvious, or even before there’s a diabetes diagnosis.

Memory Booster #12. Waggle your eyes back and forth
To help you remember something important, scan your eyes from side to side for 30 seconds. This little exercise helps unite the two hemispheres of the brain, say researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University in England. When the two hemispheres communicate well, you’re better able to retrieve certain types of memories.

Memory Booster #13. Eat your green vegetables
There’s no such thing as an “anti-Alzheimer’s diet.” But people who are deficient in folate and vitamin B12 have an increased risk of developing dementia. (The research is iffy, in comparison, on the benefits of taking so-called memory enhancers: vitamin C supplements, ginkgo biloba, and vitamin E.)

Great vegetable sources of folate include romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley, collards, broccoli, cauliflower, and beets. For you vegetable haters, the nutrient is also abundant in lentils, calf’s liver, pinto beans, and black beans.

Memory Booster #14. Don’t ignore sleep apnea
People with sleep apnea — a condition involving blocked airways that causes people to briefly stop breathing during sleep — show declines in brain tissue that stores memory, researchers at UCLA have reported.

More than 12 million Americans have obstructive sleep apnea. If your doctor has suggested you have the condition, be vigilant about trying treatment, which can include wearing oral appliances and “masks,” losing weight, and surgery.

Memory Booster #15. Learn something new that’s a real departure for you
If you’re a sudoku fan, you might think a good way to stretch your mind would be to take up a different Japanese numbers game, like kenken or kakuro. But an even better strategy for a nimble brain is to pursue a new kind of activity using skills far different from those you’re accustomed to using.

If you ordinarily like numbers, try learning a language. If you’re an ace gardener, try painting flowers instead.

Memory Booster #16. Quit smoking
The relationship between smoking and Alzheimer’s disease is hazy. But smokers do develop the disease years earlier than nonsmokers.

In case you were looking for another good reason to quit.

Memory Booster #17. Eat some chocolate!
Every year some study extols the virtue of dark chocolate, and the effects of this wonder-food (or, at least, wonderful food) on memory have not gone ignored by researchers. In 2007, a *Journal of Neuroscience *study reported on the memory-boosting effects in rats of a plant compound called epicatechin, possibly because it fueled blood vessel growth.

In addition to cocoa, epicatechin is found in blueberries, grapes, and tea.

Memory Booster #18. Put everything in its place
While novelty is like growth hormone to the brain, your memory needs a certain amount of familiarity to keep your life functioning smoothly. Place your keys and glasses in the same place all the time. Write notes to yourself as reminders (the very act of writing will help your recall). If you want to remember your umbrella tomorrow morning, place it right at the door, so you won’t miss it.

Memory Booster #19. Don’t retire
Good news for those who can no longer afford to quit: Provided you like your work, you’re helping your brain by sticking with it as long as you can. A satisfying work life offers social stimulation and decision-making opportunities — and exercises problem-solving skills.

Next best: Volunteering, such as at a school or museum, where your training involves learning new material and the task involves interacting with others.

Memory Booster #20. Throw a party
Being around other people lowers one’s risk of developing dementia. The catch: They should be people you enjoy who make you feel engaged and stimulated. People who are physically isolated (not around people) or emotionally isolated (around people but feeling lonely nevertheless) are at higher risk for depression.

Just go easy on the alcohol at those parties. Studies on its effect on memory are mixed. Long-term, excessive drinking is clearly linked with dementia. Binge drinking also impairs short-term memory. On the other hand, for people who drink moderately (one drink a day), alcohol may have a protective effect. One study found that in people with mild cognitive impairment (mild memory loss that doesn’t necessarily advance to dementia), those who drink less than one drink a day progressed to dementia at a rate 85 percent slower than teetotalers who didn’t drink at all.

Raleigh Geriatric Care Management www.rgcmgmt.com

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The Healing Power of Music

What better “medicine” than a “treatment” that has only positive side effects and “therapy” that is actually enjoyable? That is the “miracle of music” when applied with intention. Music is shown to have the ability to help organize the brain; especially vital to those who are afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

Usually after twenty minutes of music, there are observable effects, such as singing, foot tapping, and clapping. Studies have shown that the results of a musical therapy session last for several hours afterward. Positive results include elevated mood, increased socialization and appetite and reduction in agitation. These benefits are attributed to the stimulation the brain receives during a music therapy session, a sort of “cognitive workout” inspiring us to coin the phrase, “What exercise is to the body, music is to the brain.” The power of music often inspires physical movement and can be used in combination to encourage gentle exercise.

As speech, writing and traditional forms of communication are compromised, music provides an alternative means of maintaining a connection, thereby helping to normalize interaction between caregiver and patient. Music used therapeutically creates an environment where the patient can be nurtured and cared for in a way that is safe, gentle and appropriate. Music is central to maintaining human bonds when those with dementia have lost the ability to initiate communication or to respond verbally.

The powers of music when focused and used therapeutically are many. Critical to maintaining quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s is management of emotions and preserving the connection with others. Music is conducive to keeping those connections strong as long as possible while helping the participant to focus, increase awareness and orient to the environment. A number of research studies have looked at music therapy as an important adjunct to medical treatment and findings suggest a possible link between the use of music and slowing the progression of dementia.

From the rhythms of the heartbeat experienced in the womb to the stirring sounds of a marching band, rhythmic patterns and music surround us. Language itself has a musical quality to it and from the beginning of mankind, as expressed through chanting and drumming, resembled music more closely than speech. Music is primal to life and expressed by each of us every day whether through dancing to a favorite tune, keeping rhythm with a pencil or remembering a special time when hearing a forgotten melody. It is central to our lives and is embedded in our culture, defining how we acknowledge milestones, rites of passage and celebrations as well as providing comfort, transformation and inspiration. Music links us to our world and provides a pathway back to our past.

You don’t need to have any special musical training to institute a therapeutic music program. You will need to select appropriate music, however. This music consists of familiar tunes from the 30s, 40s and 50s with more contemporary music included, depending on the preference or age of the participant. Before you invest in any CDs, check in your own home for possible sources of music. Your local library is a good source. Consider individual preferences and select music that is singable and upbeat.

Steve Toll, a professional musician and trainer, and his wife Linda Bareham, a writer and researcher in the area of alternative therapies for seniors with dementia, formed the company Prescription-Music. Mr. Toll is on the Speaker’s Board for the National Alzheimer’s Association and trains professional and family caregivers in the development of music therapy programs where his intent is to spread the word of the healing power of music for those afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

by Steve Toll and Linda Bareham

Raleigh Geriatric Care Management    www.rgcmgmt.com

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