Opinion

SENIOR LIFE 101 Keep brain-fit in your later years

During the past several months, I’ve tried to focus this column on issues that impact seniors and their families, and this month is certainly no exception. In fact, the subject for this column is one that represents one of the most feared and least talked about concerns for seniors and their loved ones today: dementia.

Perhaps the reason many seniors avoid talking about this subject is due to their fear of what this could mean to their “quality of life” in their later years. According to the MetLife Foundation Alzheimer’s Survey, What America Thinks, “American adults fear getting Alzheimer’s disease more than heart disease, stroke or diabetes, but almost nine out of 10 people have taken no steps to prepare for Alzheimer’s — an illness that attacks nearly 50 percent of those who live past age 85.”

In light of this survey, I can certainly understand why seniors avoid such discussions or even fear getting tested for “signs” of cognitive memory issues.

However, avoidance of this subject can prove to be harmful and unnecessary, especially when there are an increasing number of programs, or “methods” that can substantially improve cognition and brain functioning in the early to mid-stages of dementia, and thereby delay the impact of this disease.

This becomes even more relevant in light of the fact that November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has designated Nov. 17 as National Memory Screening Day. As a result, a local non-profit organization known as the Kitsap Alliance of Resources for Elders has been able to partner with the Silverdale Costco to offer free memory screenings from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17. The screenings will take place in the pharmacy area inside Costco. Although this memory screening only takes a few minutes, it does provide enough information to indicate if a more comprehensive evaluation is warranted and, if so, where to obtain such an evaluation.

As I previously mentioned, there are an increasing number of programs to assist seniors with mild to medium stages of dementia, which are proving to be quite effective. One such program, or “method,” is called the Ashby Memory Method — a brain fitness program developed by the late Dr. Mira Ashby who received the Order of Canada for her work with the brain injured. The main goal is to improve the quality of life for the participant and their family by resisting the symptoms of the disease. AMM is specifically designed to improve cognition and brain functioning using materials based on a person’s interests, so that the sessions are relevant and enjoyable. The program is administered by certified facilitators who have been trained on the progression of memory loss and how to maximize the results of the program. Studies have actually shown that these AMM sessions improve memory performance over short-term, and maintain that performance over an extended period of time.

Although the AMM program isn’t the only one available, it is one that I am familiar with, and one currently offered by Abiding HomeCare, a Silverdale based in-home care company, for which I serve as community relations director.

Whether you or a loved one have questions concerning cognitive memory issues, or you’ve personally experienced recent memory lapses, now is the time to get tested and obtain the information you need to better evaluate your options, and get the help you need. Please don’t put it off another day.

Carl R. Johnson appears the last Friday of the month in the CK Reporter.

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