Nursing Homes Archives

Brain Rules: Part I

Brain Rules by John J. Medina, PhD, is an intriguing and interesting book published in 2008. Dr. Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant. He is the director of the Brain Center for Applied Learning Research at Seattle Pacific University. He also teaches at the University of Washington School of Medicine, in it Department of Bioengineering. In Brain Rules he talks about 12 principles of surviving and thriving at work, home, and school.

  1. Exercise: Exercise boots brain power.
  2. Survival: The human brain evolved, too.
  3. Wiring: Every brain is wired differently.
  4. Attention: We don’t pay attention to boring things.
  5. Short-term Memory: Repeat to remember.
  6. Long-term memory: Remember to repeat.
  7. Sleep: Sleep well, think well.
  8. Stress: Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.
  9. Sensory Integration: Stimulate more of the senses.
  10. Vision: Vision trumps all other senses.
  11. Gender: Male and female brains are different.
  12. Exploration: We are powerful and natural explorers.

Chapter 1 immediately caught my attention with exercise boosts brain power. So all of my writing about “moving” and all of the hours I spend in various forms of exercise should pay off. He answers the question: Is there one factor that predicts how well you will age? Before answering the question, he profiles two people he met on television — Jim and Frank.

Jim is in a nursing home — picture him in a nursing home, in a wheelchair, his eyes vacant, lonely, friendless staring into space. Most people would not want to spend their last years of life in this way. On another channel, the author meets Frank … Frank Lloyd Wright, that is. He was amazed at his use of language and the clarity of his mind. Wright completed the designs for the Guggenheim Museum (his last work) when he was 90 years old in 1957.

Jim or Frank — which lifestyle are you headed for? Medina says:

Put simply, if  you are a couch potato, you are more likely to age like Jim, if you make it to your 80s at all. If you have an active lifestyle, you are more likely to age like Frank Lloyd Wright and much more likely to make it to your 90s.The chief reason for the difference seemed to be that exercise imporved cardiovascular fitness, which in turn reduced the risk for diseases such as heart attacks and stroke.

He goes on to say that a lifetime of exercises can also do amazing things for cognitive performance in areas like long-term memory, reasoning, and problem-solving, but the area that’s not improved by exercise is short-term memory and certain types of reaction times. Also, over-exertion and exhaustion can also hurt cognition. So, folks, we continue with our “senior moments.”

Medina says, “Your lifetime risk for general dementia is literally cut in half if you participate in leisure-time physical activity. Aerobic exercise seems to be the key. With Alzheimer’s, the effect is even greater: Such exercise lowers your odds of getting the disease by more than 60 percent.” Now this is amazing — “… a 20-minute walk each day, and you can cut your risk of having a stroke — one of the leading causes of mental disability in the elderly — by 57 percent.”

Exercise opens up your blood vessels so it can feed your brain. In addition as the blood flows more freely, the body makes new blood vessels, which penetrate deeper into the tissues of the body.

He concludes the chapter by saying, “Our brains were built for walking — 12 miles a day! To improve your thinking skills, move.”

In order to have enough energy to exercise, we must get enough sleep. In Brain Rules: Part II, I talk about sleep.

Best New Products for Older Adults

George Mason University Science & Tech Bldg

Isn’t it amazing how a resource can be in your own back yard, and you not know about it? Finding out about the resource is like opening a surprise birthday gift on your birthday. It started with Steve Gurney’s blog post. Steve is well-known in the Washington Metropolitan Area as an expert and publisher of Guide to Retirement Living.

In his blog, he published a press release for the “Nana” technology competition at George Mason University located in Northern Virginia. It was the second annual New Product and Technology Awards sponsored by the Mature Market Resource Center. It’s a recognition for innovative products and services for older adults and their families. The winners have not been announced, but the entrants were in the categories of Internet and computer technologies; monitoring/detection devices; prevention/health maintenance products and services; housing and design; safety products; fitness/recreation/hobbies and more.

Unfortunately, by the time I had arrived, they were getting ready to shut down and there were very few products on display. But in speaking with one of the judges, he showed me a device that the judges liked — a very small phone that you’d wear, much like the alarm button that many seniors wear, but with a lot more features.

Perhaps in the next few weeks, when the winners are announced, I’ll be able to post a list of the winners and their products. But I encourage any creative folks out there to think about us senior folks and how you can help make our lives easier.

I also learned that not only was George Mason University named the number one national university to watch in 2009 by U.S. News & World Report, it also now has a major in Assisted Living/Senior Housing Administration. They have had a program in the area for a few years, but now they actually have a major — the first academic curricula in the nation dedicated exclusively to the senior housing and care industry. Click here to learn more.

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Nursing Homes and Medicare

Goodwin House Alexandria VA

Goodwin House
Alexandria, VA

Nursing homes … does that send a shiver up your spine? I recently became aware of a government Web site that actually ranks nursing homes. It is the official Web site for Medicare. I’m glad I found it because I will qualify for Medicare next year. http://budurl.com/d3am

Although some are run by the government and some are run by non-profit corporations, most are for-profit corporations. A nursing home is a business and they must keep the beds occupied.

One of the worst experiences in my life was the day that my father was admitted into a nursing home. He had been on a wait list, but there’s no waiting once the bed opens up. We were given just a couple of days; mom was at once relieved that dad would get the care for Alzheimer’s that she could no longer handle and anguished and distressed that she would be separated from a man she had been married to for over 50 years.

Dad never wanted to go into a nursing home. Ironically, he’d been on the board of directors of a related nursing home he was admitted to. As we walked up to the entryway, he knew exactly where he was and he didn’t want to go in. There was fear in his eyes. The pain I felt cannot be described. He had to be coaxed in. Just a couple of hours earlier, mom and I had taken him to the barber and we’d taken him to lunch at a Chinese restaurant, trying hard to pretend that nothing was about to happen.

I don’t remember the exact date he was admitted, but there were probably one or two more visits. At the last visit,  I told him I had to go back to Virginia; I did not know that would be the last time I would see him. He lasted for three weeks in the nursing home. In checking out the nursing home he was in, Oahu Care Facility in Honolulu, Hawaii, I’m glad to know that they received 5 out of 5 stars for their overall rating.

Goodwin House in Alexandria, VA seen in the picture above, also has the highest rating. The model for many assisted living places now is to have graduated living facilities so that the nursing home would be available later on, should you need it. In that way, it’s not such a dramatic change to go from living in your own home to moving to a nursing home. Such living arrangements make it easier for the spouse to visit.

Like my father, I don’t think anyone would ever want to enter a nursing home, but it’s good to know that if the need arises, the Medicare Web site makes it simpler to look at the choices. Keep in mind, though, these numbers don’t tell the real story. They are simply numbers. If you have the time, an extended visit to the nursing home is always the best option. However, in many instances this is not always possible.

As always, I advocate taking high quality vitamins and nutritional supplements as well as eating well and exercising. Taking good care of yourself should always be a top priority. That’s one way of staying out of a nursing home as long as possible. Seems like a good option to me. How about you?