Check out the Alzheimer’s Association Green-Field Library’s Virtual Library, where you’ll have access to the nation’s largest library and resource center specifically devoted to increasing knowledge about the clinical, scientific and social aspects of Alzheimer’s. We’re here to help you get answers to your questions and to dig deeply into topics that are important to you.
WELCOME TO THE VIRTUAL LIBRARY
The Green-Field Library, located at the national office of the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, IL, is the nation’s largest library and resource center devoted to increasing knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
The library produces comprehensive resource lists on frequently requested topics, including our Jumpstarters and a selection of the best websites related to Alzheimer’s disease. Download Free Alzheimer Vidoes about science, memory loss, and care. Resources are chosen by our expert library staff. New for 2014 are three Jumpstarters: Cognitive Stimulation, Diverse Populations, and Research Update. Watch for updated editions of Activities and Dementia and Activities
The Green-Field Library has many DVDs covering topics like how to care for someone in the middle to late stage of Alzheimer’s, activities of daily living, and Alzheimer’s disease dos and don’ts. DVDs can be requested by choosing one of the three options on the How to Borrow page.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. In 2013, Alzheimer’s cost the nation $203 billion; this number is expected to rise to $1.2 trillion by 2050. Join Alzheimer’s advocates from across the country in Washington, D.C., at the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum, as we urge Congress to make Alzheimer’s disease a national priority.
Alzheimer’s disease is an epidemic. More than 5 million people in the United States have Alzheimer’s, the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death; by 2050, that number could rise to 13.8 million. And over 15 million family members and friends currently care for someone with the disease.
People like you.
Help us make a difference by joining the faces of Alzheimer’s at the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum. Come to Washington, D.C., as we put a spotlight on the disease and compel our policymakers to engage in the fight.
Face the facts: It’s time to take action against Alzheimer’s.
Online registration for the 2014 Forum is open here.
LETTER FROM 2014 FORUM CHAIR
Fellow Alzheimer’s Advocates:
When I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2009, I decided that I wasn’t going to sit back and let this disease go unchallenged. I was going to make a difference, and advocacy is one of the ways I’ve chosen to do so. To raise awareness, I share my story at Walk events, Town Hall meetings, support groups and at every other opportunity I can.
I am honored to be chair of the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum. This will be our 26th meeting, and once again we’re planning a seminal event. We’ll hear speakers from across party lines who will share the best practices of advocacy and insider views of the political landscape in Washington, D.C.
This is your opportunity to network with people from across the country. And on the Forum’s final day, you’ll be able to put all you have learned into practice as we storm Capitol Hill in a purple tide and convey to Congress the urgent need to change the trajectory of this disease.
I know you understand that Alzheimer’s is devastating for millions of people who have it or who provide care for someone. You also understand that only through our effective advocacy will our leaders in Washington be motivated to take action.
Please join me in being a voice in Washington for those who otherwise wouldn’t be heard. You, too, can make adifference. I look forward to meeting you in April.
Scott Russell Chair, 2014 Alzheimer’s Association Advocacy Forum National Board Member, Alzheimer’s Association
Scientists are hoping to stave off Alzheimer’s disease by treating people before they show a single symptom. Researchers are looking at risk signs, lifestyle factors and alternative therapies to help keep brains healthy.
Alzheimer’s caregivers also need to take care of themselves
As a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s, you may find yourself with so many responsibilities that you neglect taking good care of yourself. But the best thing you can do for the person you’re caring for is stay physically and emotionally strong.
As a caregiver, you may find yourself with so many responsibilities that you neglect taking good care of yourself. But the best thing you can do for the person you are caring for is stay physically and emotionally strong. Here’s how:
Be sure to visit your physician regularly (at least annually), and listen to what your body is telling you. Any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness, or changes in appetite or behavior should be taken seriously. Ignoring these symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.
If you are caring for someone in the late-stages of Alzheimer’s, talk to your health care provider about the seasonal flu shot. Being vaccinated protects both you and the person you are caring for.
No doubt you know that exercise is an important part of staying healthy — it can help relieve stress, prevent disease and make you feel good. But finding the time to exercise is another story.
Use these tips:
Take friends and family members up on their offers to help. You can get in a good workout in a short amount of time — even a 30 minute break. Use our Care Team Calendar to help coordinate a schedule where you have breaks to exercise and take care of your health.
Start small. While it is recommended that you get 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week, even 10 minutes a day can help. Fit in what you can, and work toward a goal. Use our Care Team Calendar.Our free online calendar helps coordinate friends, family and neighbors that offer to help with caregiving. Learn more.
Exercise at home. When the person with dementia naps, pull out a yoga mat and stretch, set up a stationary bike, or try exercise tapes.
Find something you love. If you enjoy the activity, it will be easier to make it a habit.
There also are many ways you can be active with the person with dementia. Here are a few ideas:
Take a walk together outside to enjoy the fresh air
Go to the mall and take a stroll indoors
Do seated exercises at home
Dance together to favorite music
Garden or do other routine activities that you both enjoy
Heart-healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, are good for overall health and may help protect the brain. A Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats. Try new recipes and involve the person with dementia.
Need ideas on how to go healthy? Try these resources:
You don’t have to look too far to see examples of creative people who had long lives. Pablo Picasso was still painting at age 90. Frank Lloyd Wright started designing New York City’s Guggenheim Museum at age 76. Stravinsky was still composing music in his 70s. And, when artist Georgia O’Keeffe’s eyesight deteriorated, she took up pottery in her 90s.
Increasingly, aging experts are expressing the belief that creative activity is important as we get older. Writing, painting or even cooking can be a way of expressing emotions, processing the challenges of our lives and opening up new pathways in our brain. Creative activity has been shown to reduce depression and isolation. It can offer older adults freedom of expression and even provide a feeling of power or control over lives that may sometimes seem uncontrollable. In addition, activities such as drawing or playing the piano can produce a sense of accomplishment at an age when we have few outlets for that feeling, especially for those who are retired. Perhaps best of all, people who participate in creative activities report a sense of joy and stimulation.
Some research is even showing that creativity is linked to longevity. While being creative doesn’t by itself mean you will live longer, the trait is related to openness—that is, being flexible and open to or willing to change; having an open personality can indicate a longer life, as well as higher self-rated health and stress management.
A study published in the Journal of Aging and Health found that creativity was the most effective aspect of openness in causing health benefits, as creative participants in the study lived longer than others. Using data collected between 1990 and 2008 from more than 1,000 older men, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that creative individuals approached stress as a controllable challenge rather than a troublesome obstacle (“Creativity Predicts a Longer Life,” Sept. 9, 2012, Scientific American). Stress can damage overall health, including cardiovascular, immune and cognitive systems.
Because openness is a sign of cognitive flexibility and willingness to entertain novel ideas, it has emerged as a lifelong factor for protecting health. Creativity draws on a variety of neural networks within the brain, says study author Nicholas Turiano. “Individuals high in creativity maintain the integrity of their neural networks even into old age,” he says, a notion supported by a study from Yale University that correlated openness with the robustness of study subjects’ brain cells.
A different study on creativity measured the impact of artist-conducted cultural programs on the physical health, mental health and social well-being of 166 people older than 65 in Washington, D.C. (“Creative Aging – Transforming the Lives of Older Americans,”about.com). It found a “positive impact on overall health, number of doctor visits, medication use, falls, loneliness, morale and activities [constituting] a reduction of risk factors driving the need for long-term care.”
Dr. Gene D. Cohen, author of The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life (Harper Collins) and the lead researcher of a 25-year study on creativity and aging, gives his reasons to stay creative (“Creativity, Activity and Longevity,”David Gunderman and Andrew Raskopf):
Creativity reinforces essential connections between brain cells, including those responsible for memory.
Creativity strengthens morale. It alters the way we respond to problems and sometimes allows us to transcend them. Keeping a fresh perspective makes us emotionally resilient. Challenging the brain can relieve sleep and mood disorders.
Reading, writing and word games increase one’s working vocabulary and help to fend off forgetfulness.
Capitalizing on creativity promotes a positive outlook and sense of well-being. That boosts the immune system, which fights disease.
Having an active, creative life makes it easier to face adversity, including the loss of a spouse.
“Creativity is a natural, vibrant force throughout our lives, a catalyst for growth, excitement and forging a meaningful legacy,” says Cohen, director and professor of Health-care Sciences and Professor of Psychiatry at the Center on Aging, Health & Humanities, George Washington University.
Being creative doesn’t mean you have to be a great writer or artist. There are many way to express creativity. The important thing, say experts, is to drop your self-judgment (“I’m not good enough”) and do something that provides satisfaction and pleasure. In other words, have fun. If at first you don’t find something you enjoy, it’s OK to try a different activity. Being creative can encompass a wide range of activities:
Music: Join a choral group or chamber ensemble, or take a dance class to connect with others. If nothing else, sing in the car or shower
Cooking or baking: Don’t be afraid to alter recipes, add different spices, substitute ingredients or make a mess. Create a special evening with friends or family, taking care to design just the right table settings. If you feel unsure of your culinary abilities, take a cooking class.
Gardening: A garden can be more than fruits or vegetables; it can include design elements such as stones, bricks and other decorations. If you don’t want a large garden or don’t have room, use container pots or grow plants inside the house. If you don’t have yard space, rent a plot at the community gardens or join local gardening clubs, which often work on public outdoor spaces. Indoors, create arrangements of plants using different pots.
Art: Express yourself at home with crayons, oil paints, watercolors or colored pencils, following the guidance of instructional books or websites, if needed. Or, take a local class; many senior centers offer workshops, as do other local organizations. You can even learn to draw or paint online. Several programs offer classes, with free demos before you buy; for example, Digital Artist or Softonic. Don’t limit yourself to a canvas or drawing pad; have fun repainting an old bench or garden fixture. For aging eyes, follow Georgia O’Keeffe’s lead and take up pottery.
Writing: Write your life story (see “Benefits of Telling Your Life Story,” Senior Spirit, Aug. 2013), a poem or a drama inspired by your favorite TV show or character. Write a review on Amazon of a book you liked, or start a blog about the challenges of aging (designing the blog is also a creative pursuit). Contribute to a local neighborhood or senior center newsletter. You can also take a class or join a writing group.
Scrapbooking: This endeavor can be as simple as taking old photos scattered around the house, compiling them into a scrapbook and putting them in some kind of order (chronological or thematic, for example). You can also create online scrapbooks using programs such as Pinterest.
To find out which creative programs are offered near your home, look in the local paper and community center bulletins or websites, and check out your local Council on Aging. (For examples of programs across the country, see the sidebar.)
All over the country, programs aimed at older adults are helping seniors learn or relearn to be creative.
In the Washington, D.C. area, Anthony Hyatt uses his talents as a violinist, speaker and teaching artist to offer free music and dance workshops. His program is part of the non-profit Arts for the Aging, which offers free workshops at senior centers and nursing homes in the D.C. area.
In New York City, Naomi Goldberg Haas uses public spaces such as Times Square, the Highline and Washington Square to combine formal dance with everyday gestures for older adults to perform together.
In 14 states, poet Gary Glazner directs the Alzheimer’s Poetry Project, which helps people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers create, read and relish poems together. The project has held more than 300 programs at 75 facilities, reaching 9,500 patients and 800 health care workers and family members.
In Oakland, Calif., Stagebridge Senior Theatre Company, the country’s oldest senior theater company, offers classes in theater, dance and storytelling. Said one participant: “Stagebridge is the best thing that’s happened to me since retirement. I started with acting classes in 2009 (wanted to act as a teenager, but life got in the way). Then got brave and tried musical theater. NEVER sang before (was told not to as a child). Then a singing class, then summer camp. Even dragged my husband in. We are both having a ball, being challenged, learning new skills. Now, I would be lost without it.”
In Brooklyn, the Mark Morris Dance Group conductsDance for PD, in which dancer-artist David Leventhal and his team urge people with Parkinson’s disease to move more fully by engaging them in specialized dance classes with live music.
Source: “Creative Aging – Transforming the Lives of Older Americans,” About.com
Caregiving is often a 24/7 job. Cooking, cleaning, running errands, making appointments, providing love and companionship—caregivers do all of this and so much more. Recognize the challenges and sacrifices of the caregiver in your life by presenting a book of coupons, which entitle the recipient to things like a full day off for “me time” and a home cooked meal, among other little luxuries.
Take care of your holiday shopping while contributing to the fight against Alzheimer’s by visiting Shop for the Cause. Find a gift for a person with the disease, a caregiver or anyone interested in supporting the Alzheimer’s Association’s care, support and research efforts.