As we age, it’s relatively common to forget something and laugh it off as a senior moment, but in reality, memory issues are no laughing matter. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, an estimated 5.3 million Americans are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. This debilitating disease doesn’t discriminate, striking anyone, anywhere – from independent living communities to assisted living communities to memory care assisted living communities.
Although that statistic in itself is staggering, it is the tip of the iceberg. One in three seniors suffers from Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia at the time of their deaths. The medical treatment needed to care for elderly people with memory issues exceeds what is available in traditional independent living and assisted living communities, which is how memory care assisted living communities came to be.
Memory loss doesn’t happen overnight. The first step is identifying a problem, explains Debra Sawyer, executive director of Fountain Park Assisted Living & Memory Care in Bryan, OH. Fountain Park is one of Premier Senior Living, LLC’s memory care assisted living communities. Sawyer explains that their staff of professionals is trained to pick up on the earliest indicators of memory loss.
“The senior experiencing memory loss changes his life to accommodate the loss,” explains Sawyer. “During the early stages of memory loss, the senior may try to cover it up. The senior may have notes posted around the house to remind them of things they may think they will forget. The senior may not go out as much or drive far distances for fear they may get lost. Socialization may decrease for the senior because he fears someone will notice the memory loss. The senior may seclude himself and not do the things he enjoyed prior to the memory loss increasing.
“Imagine feeling as though you cannot enjoy the things that bring you so much pleasure in life because you are hiding a secret, or you don’t want to feel embarrassed by saying the wrong thing or forgetting what you were doing.”
Because memory loss is a sad reality for such a large percentage of the elderly population, the condition presents its own set of challenges and needs for sufferers and caretakers. Thankfully, assisted living communities have integrated memory care alternatives that offer long-term care to those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. These memory care assisted living communities were created with these residents and their struggles in mind.
On the upside, research shows that there are ways to stave off – or even reverse — memory loss. A study conducted by Robert S. Wilson, senior neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that seniors who engage in mentally stimulating activities, including writing and reading, experience a slower rate of memory decline (by 32 percent) compared to their contemporaries. On the contrary, seniors who didn’t engage in regular mental stimulation had a 48 percent faster memory decline compared to the average person.
With such a high incidence of memory loss among the elderly, experts who work at independent living and assisted living communities, such as Premier Senior Living, LLC and their assisted living communities in New York, Ohio and Florida, recognize the importance of being proactive, which is why they customize each resident’s individualized care plan to include activities that protect the brain.
Below are some recommendations from the Mayo Clinic on how to prevent memory loss.
- Put your best foot forward — Nothing beats good, old-fashioned exercise. There’s no denying the mind-body connection. Studies show that people who participate in regular physical activity are more likely to experience good mental health.
- Stay mentally active — You’re never too old to learn. Work that memory muscle by learning new things. Take a class. Follow the news. Pick up a new hobby. Do crossword puzzles. Read. Play an instrument.
- Get organized – Maintain a calendar. Write everything down. Use a notebook. Keep a to-do list. Do one thing at a time. Focus on the task at hand. Give whatever you’re doing your full attention.
- Eat smart — Here’s some food for thought. Load up on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats from fish, nuts and olive oil. These foods reduce the risks of diseases that contribute to memory loss. Fruits and veggies are also chock-full of antioxidants, which protect against diseases and age-related deterioration.
- Sleep tight – Get six to eight hours of shuteye. According to experts, sleep is a necessity for memory consolidation and overall wellness.
- Build a social network – Beat the blues. Depression and stress lead to memory loss. Feeling a sense of camaraderie and support is the boost seniors need. Take advantage of opportunities to socialize.
- Take care of chronic conditions – Whether it is diabetes, heart trouble, thyroid problems or any other condition, stay on top of your health issues that can lead to memory problems if left untreated.
If you want to learn more about preventing memory loss or if you have any questions about memory care assisted living communities, please contact us at 1-800-380-8908 for more information or to schedule a tour.