Can You Positively Affect Your Cognitive Aging?

Earlier this summer I attended an engaging lecture given by Charles M. Reynolds, III, MD, a professor of Geriatric Psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 2.23.05 PMIn his talk, Brain Health As You Age: You Can Make a Difference, Dr. Reynolds discussed information aging and the changes that occur in the brain. He also highlighted an Institute of Medicine report, Cognitive Aging: Progress in Understanding and Opportunities for Action (available to download as a PDF).

Continue reading

Music that Heals the Soul

Music by itself cannot heal a disease. No one these days, however, disputes that music can heal the soul, making illness more bearable.

Some time ago I wrote about Alive Inside, a movie that documents the success of therapeutic music programs with elderly participants who have dementia of Alzheimers. The program, started by Dan Cohen, pairs a patient with an iPod music player that contains recording of favorite music from a person’s life. Check out this video clip from the documentary.

Continue reading

So How Does Music Connect With the Brain?

I’ve watched in wonder as music changes people — kids, adults, people who are ill, elders, and caregivers. Of course, the movie Alive Inside visually documents how music can affect people, even those with substantial memory loss. But what exactly is happening in the brain?

In the process of wondering, I came across an excellent video from TedEd (where cool lessons and videos reside). It explains  how the brain processes music when a person listens and how even more complex activity occurs when an individual actually plays an instrument.

Check it out below. 

Alive Inside: This Movie Is Extraordinary!

ec9acd50595499364a6994542e145924_largeYou know a movie speaks to the audience when people just sit there as the credits start to roll rather than getting up and moving out. That’s what happened this evening when my husband and I went to see Alive Inside, the Sundance award-winning documentary about the role that music plays in the lives of elderly people who experience brain disease and loneliness. At first, no one got up to leave.

The other day I described how we watched a preview of Alive Inside at one of Dr. Bill Thomas’ Second Wind events last March and how we were moved to tears. That only begins to describe the reactions in the movie theatre tonight. The people in front of me were tearful and talking about a relative. The young people behind me were sniffling and whispering about their grandmother. I was thinking about my family members.

As I looked around, I observed individuals with hands on their faces, hands folded in prayer, and people with eyes riveted to the screen as we all watched person after person, mostly elders, smile, move, talk, remember, and transform — as the music played. We saw exuberance, animation, even joy come on to faces that, only moments before were vacant.

Continue reading

Grandma by Jessica Shepherd: A Book Review

Grandma book

Recently I discovered a children’s book, Grandma, that tells a story, from a child’s point of view, about a much-loved grandmother who develops dementia. As an educator, I’ve often thought about the need for books that help children understand the disease while illustrating how to continue to love and support a family member who experiences dramatic memory changes. Only now, years after my family lost my husband’s mother to this terrible brain disease, are children’s books that address dementia beginning to appear.

Grandma, an easy-to-read picture book written and illustrated by Jessica Shepherd, fits the bill. Young Oscar shares his thoughts about his grandmother, describing the fun they have, the fond ways they interact, and the changes that have come about since she “started forgetting a lot of things.” He describes how she lives in a new community, with caregivers, and tells about his visits.

Continue reading

Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource-National Institute on Aging

Click to download the  book as a PDF or order a print copy.

Click to download the book as a PDF or order a print copy.

Check Out this Easy-to-Use Guide

from the National Institute on Aging (NIA)

If one of your family members or a friend receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, this book, Caring for a Person with Alzheimer’s Disease, offers an enormous amount of information and support. It’s organized well, overs a range of resources, and even uses an easy-to-read typeface.

From the NIA Website

This comprehensive, 104-page handbook offers easy-to-understand information and advice for at-home caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease. It addresses all aspects of care, from bathing and eating to visiting the doctor and getting respite care. And it’s filled with resources.

Examples of the Information Provided in Caring for a Person With Alzheimer’s

  • Learn more about caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s with advice on everything from memory issues to holidays to travel to coping strategies
  • Get more specifics about the medical facts.
  • Learn how to seek and find additional help for you and your family member.
  • Find out how to help a caregiver remain healthy and strong.
  • Explore a range of safety tips.
  • Get information about the progression of the disease and the last states of Alzheimer’s disease.