Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Brain Tip #3: Get Out of the House

When people ask us for healthy brain lifestyles tips, they are sometimes surprised at what makes our top 5 list, including today's tip: socialize.

It can be so easy to use a computer screen or television as a substitute for two-way conversations - the kind where you actually address a person and talk. But the truth is, you use a lot more functions in your brain to carry on a real-life conversation. You use sight to interpret body language and facial gestures; you use your ears to not only hear but pick up on subtle changes in tone; and, of course, you speak back and during this common exchange you are actually processing a lot of information. It's actually a pretty complex project.

So a tip is to join a new group or reestablish ties with an old one, such as a church group or volunteer service. Senior centers are wonderful places for retirees, and most provide transportation to make their services and activities accessible.

But such groups and centers may not be appropriate for someone with mild to moderate dementia who requires more attention and a strong understanding of their medical, emotional and physical needs.

Family caregivers and their loved ones with mild to moderate dementia are particularly susceptible to isolating themselves because of the demands and unpredictable nature of the disease. What they fail to realize is that isolation may actually exacerbate some symptoms. What they need is a place they can go where everyone understands them, their situation and the unique challenges they daily face.

That's one of the best parts of our Glenner adult day programs, whether someone attends for a few hours or a every week day. Family members are able to engage in activities throughout the day (no napping here!) that leave them with quite a boost that carries into the evenings. They are among peers, and their caregivers also enjoy some much-needed respite time to meet friends for lunch or coffee or attend a social event. It's a win-win for everyone in the family.

And socialization is one of the things we stress in both our day programs and in our new Glenner Memory Connection Institute (Glenner MCI), a 6-week series of classes focused on a brain-healthy lifestyle.

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