Category: Lifestyle Tips

22 Facts About the Brain | World Brain Day

The brain is a very complex part of your body. It has the ability to send and receive a large amount of information. Because of this, there are still many mysteries about the human brain. Here are some quick facts to help you understand the most complicated organ in your body.

 

1. Multitasking is impossible

When we think we’re multitasking, we’re actually context-switching. That is, we’re quickly switching back-and-forth between different tasks, rather than doing them at the same time. The book Brain Rules explains how detrimental “multitasking” can be: Research shows your error rate goes up 50 percent and it takes you twice as long to do things.

 

2. An adult brain weighs about 3 pounds

The cerebrum makes up 85% of the brain’s weight, and the brain makes up about 2% of a human’s body weight. The texture of the brain is like a firm jelly. The heaviest normal human brain weighed 4.43 pounds. It belonged to the Russian Writer Ivan Turgenev. And the smallest brain, just 2.41 pounds, belonged to a woman.

 

3. About 75% of the brain is made up of water

This means that dehydration, even as small as 2%, can have a negative effect on brain functions. Dehydration and a loss of sodium and electrolytes can cause acute changes in memory and attention. To prevent any loss of body or brain function, take steps to keep your body properly hydrated.

 

4. The human brain will triple its size the first year of life

 A two year old baby will have an 80% fully grown brain. It will continue to grow until you’re about 18 years old. It isn’t until about the age of 25 that the human brain reaches full maturity. The human brain is the largest brain of all vertebrates relative to body size.

 

5. Headaches are caused by a chemical reaction

Chemical activity in your brain, the nerves or blood vessels surrounding your skull, or the muscles of your head and neck (or some combination of these factors) can play a role in primary headaches. Serotonin is a chemical necessary for communication between nerve cells. When serotonin or estrogen levels change, the result for some is a headache or migraine. Serotonin levels may affect both sexes, while fluctuating estrogen levels affect women only.

 

6. The human brain contains approximately one hundred billion neurons 

This is about the same as the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy. These neurons are connected by trillions of connections, or synapses. Experts call this a “neuron forest”. Information runs between these neurons in your brain for everything we see, think, or do. These neurons move information at different speeds. The fastest speed for information to pass between neurons is about 250 mph. That being said, neurons only make up 10% of the brain.

 

7. It is a myth that humans only use 10% of our brain

We actually use all of it. We’re even using more than 10 percent when we sleep. Although it’s true that at any given moment all of the brain’s regions are not concurrently firing, brain researchers using imaging technology have shown that, like the body’s muscles, most are continually active over a 24-hour period.

 

8. Cholesterol is key to learning and memory

The brain has a higher cholesterol content than any other organ.  In fact, about 25% of the body’s cholesterol resides within the brain. The brain is highly dependent on cholesterol, but its cholesterol metabolism is unique. Because the blood-brain barrier prevents brain cells from taking up cholesterol from the blood, the brain must produce its own cholesterol. The brain’s cholesterol is much more stable than the cholesterol in other organs, but when it breaks down, it is recycled into new cholesterol right in the brain.

 

9. Dreams are believed to be a combination of imagination, physiological factors, and neurological factors

The limbic system in the mid-brain deals with emotions in both waking and dreaming and includes the amygdala, which is mostly associated with fear and is especially active during dreams. Dreams are proof that your brain is working even when you are sleeping. The average human has about 4-7 dreams per night.

 

10. Short term memory lasts about 20-30 seconds

This has to do with your brain’s capacity for holding small amounts of information in the active mind. The brain keeps this information in an available state for easy access, but only does so for about a minute and a half. Most people hold memory for numbers around 7 seconds, and memory for letters around 9 seconds. In addition, the brain can store up to 7 digits in its working memory. That is why the telephone numbers in the United States are 7 digits long.

 

11. A brain freeze is really a warning signal

Officially called a sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia, a brain freeze happens when you eat or drink something that’s too cold. It chills the blood vessels and arteries in the very back of the throat, including the ones that take blood to your brain. These constrict when they’re cold and open back up when they’re warm again, causing the pain in your forehead. This is your brain telling you to stop what you are doing to prevent unwanted changes due to temperature. 

 

12. The brain can’t feel pain

There are no pain receptors in the brain itself. But the meninges (coverings around the brain), periosteum (coverings on the bones), and the scalp all have pain receptors. Surgery can be done on the brain and technically the brain does not feel that pain.

 

13. The human brain gets smaller as we get older

Human brain keeps developing until you are in your late 40s. It is the only organ in the human body to undergo development for such a long time. It also sees more changes than any other organ. Around mid-life, the brain will begin to shrink. However, size doesn’t matter in the brain. There is no evidence that a larger brain is smarter than a smaller one.

 

14. Alcohol effects your brain in ways that include blurred vision, slurred speaking, an unsteady walk, and more

These usually disappear once you become sober again. However, if you drink often for long periods of time, there is evidence that alcohol can affect your brain permanently and not reverse once you become sober again. Long term effects include memory issues and some reduced cognitive function.

 

15. Your brain is a random thought generator

In 2005, the National Science Foundation published an article regarding research about human thoughts per day. The average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before and about 80% are negative.

 

16. Your brain uses 20% of the oxygen and blood in your body

Your brain needs a constant supply of oxygen. As little as five minutes without oxygen can cause some brain cells to die, leading to severe brain damage. Also, the harder you think, the more oxygen and fuel your brain will use from your blood – up to 50%. 

 Every minute, 750-1,000 milliliters of blood flows through the brain. This is enough to fill a bottle of wine or liter bottle of soda.

 

17. Exercise is just as good for your brain as it is for your body

Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate and increases blood flow to your brain. As your increased breathing pumps more oxygen into your bloodstream, more oxygen is delivered to your brain. This leads to neurogenesis—or the production of neurons—in certain parts of your brain that control memory and thinking.  Neurogenesis increases brain volume, and this cognitive reserve is believed to help buffer against the effects of dementia. 

It has been noted that exercise promotes the production of neurotrophins, leading to greater brain plasticity, and therefore, better memory and learning. In addition to neurotrophins, exercise also results in an increase in neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically serotonin and norepinephrine, which boost information processing and mood.

 

18. The visual areas of the brain are in the back

The part of your brain responsible for vision, the occipital lobe, is located in the back. This is why if you get banged in the back of your head, you will see stars. The left side of your brain controls the vision on your right side, and vise versa. Your brain also processes sound on the opposite sides of the head.

 

19. Brain activity can power a small light bulb

When you are awake, your brain generates about 12-25 watts of electricity – which is enough to power a small light bulb. The brain also works fast. The information going from your arms/legs to your brain travels at a speed of 150-260 miles per hour. The brain consumes glucose from the body to produce this amount of the energy.

 

20. Reading out loud uses different brain circuits than reading silently

 Reading aloud promotes brain development. Children first learn to read by speaking words out loud. Once that knowledge is established, then they learn to read to themselves. It’s indeed one of the strange facts about the brain because we usually teach our children to read and talk politely. But to promote brain development in your child, you should read and talk aloud in front of them.

 

21. Your brain is mostly fat

Consisting of minimum 60% fat, your brain is the fattiest organ in your body. This is why healthy fats, such as omega-3s and omega-6s, are vital for brain and overall body health. Healthy fat helps stabilize the cell walls in the brain. It can also reduce inflammation and helps the immune system function properly. 

 

22. Sleep is imperative 

Your body and brain require rest in order to function properly. Judgement, memory, and reaction time can all be impaired when someone does not have enough sleep. This is due to the fact that sleep deprivation kills brain cells. Proper sleep is also essential for memory retention. During sleep, the brain accumulates all the memories from the day.

Feeling tired? Go ahead and yawn. Yawning cools down the brain, research suggests. Sleep deprivation raises brain temperature.

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The complexity of the brain is hard to understand – even for doctors and scientists. DENT provides the highest quality and compassionate patient care to the Western New York region, the direct result of a tireless commitment to staying on the forefront of medical advances and breakthrough technology.

By maintaining valuable partnerships with other specialized clinicians, and a dedication to employing the brightest minds in the medical and clinical research fields, you can rest assured knowing when you come to DENT you are receiving the best care possible. 

If you or someone you know is interested in being seen at DENT, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

72 Amazing Human Brain Facts (Based on the Latest Science)

How a Migraine Happens

A tour inside the brain

We are what we eat: a link between diet and PTSD symptoms

With 4 out of 5 people experiencing a traumatic event, there is a good chance you or someone you know has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The symptoms of flashbacks, intense fear and nightmares are quick to appear, but slow to disappear.  Research tells us how to effectively treat PTSD. 

 

Diet and PTSD

 

Traditional treatments, like medication or therapy, are life changing treatments for some who experience PTSD symptoms. Many people are looking to incorporate other methods to improve mental health. Improving your diet is something that everyone can, and should, do. Not only is our diet something we relatively can control, eating is something we do several times a day.

Additionally, nutrition plays a key role in the function and structure of our brain and body.  A link between mental and and food was recently found. A study was conducted to see if a dietary intervention would impact those with moderate to severe depression. In this trial, 67 adults meeting the DSM-IV criteria for a major depressive episode and reporting poor dietary quality were evaluated.  They were randomly assigned to either seven sessions with a Dietitian for Dietary Support, or to an intensity matched social support control condition. This study also did an economic evaluation, taking into consideration the costs. After the study was complete, they found that a dietary support intervention was found to be a cost-effective treatment for depression from both health sector and social perspectives. 

 

We are what we eat

 

In Australia, a study aimed to investigate the association between fruit and vegetable consumption and psychological distress in those who are 45 years or older. They concluded that increasing fruit and vegetable consumption could help reduce psychological distress of middle age and older adults. Furthermore, an additional study was conducted that linked depression and anxiety with unhealthy dietary patterns. These studies are a big reminder that mental health and physical health are fundamentally connected and aggravate each other.  PTSD involves oxidative stress, brain chemical irregularities and mitochondrial dysfunction. A change in your eating lifestyle can have a positive influence on this. 

 

Eating tips for good mental health

 

  • Incorporate coping strategies that do not involve food
  • Include foods that promote gut health: garlic, yogurt, leeks Jerusalem artichoke, kefir, foods rich in dietary fiber (whole grain and plant foods), and colorful fruits and vegetables
  • Moderate red meat consumption may be beneficial for depression and anxiety
  • Implement sustainable changes, as evidence supports the importance of long-term diet for mental health
    • Swapping out an unhealthy snack with a healthy one
    • Eating vegetables at each meal
  • Limit intake of processed food
  • Follow traditional dietary patterns 

 

Other PTSD treatments

 

Psychotherapy Services
DENT Neurologic Institute offers psychotherapy services to assist patients with managing psychiatric symptoms, behavioral issues and interpersonal difficulties. These symptoms and struggles often have a significant impact on the patient’s ability to function as well as on their quality of life. Our providers work with patients and their support systems to create a treatment plan that is tailored to the patient’s specific short and long-term goals.

TMS Therapy 
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy is a state-of-the-art treatment utilized by our doctors to help treat adult patients with major depressive disorder. The treatment utilizes short pulses of a focused magnetic field to stimulate nerve cells in the area of the brain thought to control mood. This brief painless treatment is performed in a quiet, comfortable setting under the supervision of a psychiatrist and is done while the patient is awake and alert.

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
Finally, Dent Neurologic Institute offers ECT for relief of major depression, bipolar disorder and other serious mental illness. We are proud to be the first and only in Western New York to provide this highly effective treatment in an office-based setting as opposed to the traditional hospital setting. Our welcoming atmosphere helps ease the anxiety and tension that often accompanies patients who undergo ECT.  

If you or someone you know is looking to see one of our medical professionals, call 716-250-2000 or learn more by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

The content of this post is intended for general educational and informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical advice.  Readers should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

What to Expect At Your Sleep Study

In a study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 38 percent of adults living in New York reported getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep per night. The CDC identifies daily sufficient sleep as one of the five key health behaviors for preventing chronic disease. 

“Poor sleep can lead to an increased risk for multiple medical issues, in addition to feeling poorly the next day. Depending on the cause, poor sleep can increase your risk for heart attack, stroke and other medical issues, just as much as untreated high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and cigarette smoking,” said Director of the DENT Sleep Center, Dr. Marc Frost.

Insufficient sleep can be caused by a number of factors, many of which can be attributed to lifestyle habits such as late night electronic use or an inconsistent bedtime routine. However, in some instances poor sleep can be caused by a medical condition that must be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional. The first step in identifying if you have a sleep disorder is to consult with your primary care provider to decide if you should participate in a sleep study.

For many, a sleep study can seem overwhelming and intimidating. We asked Doug Lukaszewski, a sleep technician in the DENT Sleep Center, commonly asked questions about sleep studies, to clear up some of the common misconceptions surrounding the diagnostic test. 

1. Do I need a referral from my provider for a sleep study?

Yes, the DENT Sleep Center does require a referral from a physician. Once the DENT Sleep Center team has received the referral, they will seek authorization from the insurance company prior to scheduling.

2.  What Should I Bring to a Sleep Study? 

 All you need to bring to your sleep study are clothes to sleep in.

“Whether it is pajamas or shorts and a T-shirt, something you feel comfortable in will work best. Please do however, make sure whatever you bring to wear is appropriate,” said Lukaszewski.

Additionally, bring all medications that you usually take at night, none will be provided for you. Pillows and blankets are supplied, however you are welcome to bring one with you. 

It is important to remember to take everything you bring to the lab home with you. All the DENT Sleep Center rooms have a restroom that include a shower. If you intend to take a shower in the morning, towels, body wash, and shampoo are provided. Other toiletries are also provided (toothpaste, toothbrush, combs.) 

3. What time do sleep studies normally begin?

Patients are asked to arrive by 8:30 pm and upon arrival are escorted to their private rooms. After paperwork is completed, the sleep technician will apply all of the devices needed to monitor your bio information while sleeping, this process usually takes around 30 minutes. 

Patient should expect to be in bed anytime between 10:00-11:00 pm, and awakened at 5:30 am. 

4. Is there an alternative to having a sleep study done in the sleep lab or office?

The DENT Sleep Center does perform home sleep studies. At home sleep studies are very simple and utilize easy to use devices. Patients are taught how to use the device, to use for their sleep study that night. Information is stored on the device while you are sleeping and is downloaded by the technician. The information is then interpreted by a physician who specializes in sleep disorders. 

5. What are a few common conditions that would bring a person into the Sleep Center?

  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • insomnia
  • narcolepsy
  • periodic limb movements
  • somnambulism (sleep walking)
  • REM behavioral disorder

6. What happens if you can’t fall asleep?

Although the vast majority of patients do get a sufficient sleep in the office, a very small amount do not sleep. In this case, the physician can order another study or the patient can try an at home sleep study.

“Keep in mind the home sleep study devices are intended to almost exclusively diagnose sleep apnea, so there are limitations as to what it can do,” added Lukaszweski. 

The content of this post is intended for general educational and informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical advice.  Readers should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Ease Up On Electronics Before Bed – Your Brain Will Thank You

For many, scrolling through Facebook or Twitter in bed is just part of the nightly routine. However, studies show these activities, especially social media use, can be disruptful to the recovery processes that occur during sleep. 

We sat down with Director of the DENT Sleep Center, Dr. Marc Frost, who discussed the importance of turning off electronics before bed, and shared best practices for getting a good night’s sleep. 

Why is it important to “power down” before bed?

Sleep is an important way for the brain to recover from a day of critical thinking and decision making. Electronics use before bed stimulates the brain, making it difficult to fall asleep, therefore delaying and disrupting the recovery process. 

“Winding down before bed gives the brain a chance to start decompressing from all the activities of the day,” said Dr. Marc Frost. “Electronics that require active involvement like Facebook or Instagram, are too stimulating and require too much attention to allow you and your brain to properly wind down.”

In addition to over stimulation, electronics emit blue light that promotes wakefulness, counteracting the natural transition to sleep. 

“The light involved with the electronics can potentially lead to a decrease in natural melatonin levels. Melatonin is produced by the brain in the evening as it starts getting darker, working with your circadian rhythms to help induce sleep,” said Dr. Frost. “Bright lights prevent this.”

Dr. Frost added that while many electronics do have some type of night mode which attempt to change light frequencies, it is not an ideal or long-term solution.

Best Practices For Unplugging Before Bed

1. Limit significant physical activity (including exercise,) too close to bedtime. Exercise can have an energizing effect, making it difficult to fall asleep if done too close to bedtime. 

2. Avoid caffeine within several hours of bedtime. Some people are sensitive enough that consuming caffeine after dinner time or even after lunch can have negative effects on their ability to fall asleep. 

3. Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol can be very disruptive to the sleep cycle. 

5. Limit the use of video games before bed. Video games are very stimulating because they rely on active involvement.

6. Get into routine! Make a habit of doing relaxing activities before bedtime so the brain will learn a relaxing pattern that signifies bedtime. These activities may include taking a warm bath or reading a book. 

The content of this post is intended for general educational and informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical advice.  Readers should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Making the Most of Your Healthcare Visits – Facebook Live Recap

Preparing for healthcare appointments can seem daunting for both caregivers and patients. There are questions you want to ask and updates you want to give, but you may find that preparing for an appointment is an overwhelming task.

“Sometimes we have patients or family members who don’t necessarily understand the process, and it makes them feel like they don’t get the most out of their healthcare visit,” said Program Director for the DENT Integrative Center for Memory, Sarah Harlock. “However, there are steps that patients, family members and care partners can take to get the most out of appointments.”

Booking and Scheduling

After a dementia diagnosis, it can feel like there are appointments every other week. One day you may have an appointment with your physician, the next week you may need to get additional testing or imaging done. The frequency of appointments and testing can seem overwhelming at first. However, those initial tests are an important part of confirming your diagnosis and creating an appropriate treatment plan.

“Once a treatment plan has been made appointments will become less frequent. Some patients come once every three months, others every six. Depending upon your diagnosis and your needs, you and your physician will create an appointment schedule that works for you,” said Harlock.

Appointment Preparation

Reminders

The way patients diagnosed with memory disorders respond to appointment reminders is very individualized. Some patients enjoy keeping track of their appointments and want to be reminded in advance. Other patients may become very anxious or nervous when reminded. If as a care partner you notice that the person you’re caring for has increased anxiety leading up to an appointment, it’s okay to be sparing with reminders.

Time of day

Caregivers, try to schedule appointments that are at the patient’s best time of day.

“If person the person in your care is generally more confused and agitated in the afternoons, schedule a morning appointment,” said Harlock. “At appointments we will do in-office assessments and we want patients to feel relaxed and able to perform at their best.”

Allot enough time to get ready

“It is important that a patient is fully prepared for their appointment, so try to be mindful of that when scheduling,” said Harlock. “As a caregiver, if you know your loved takes 2 hours to get ready in the morning, maybe an 8 am appointment doesn’t make sense.”

“At each appointment, we want to make sure the patient is in the best frame of mind. Rushing them out the door to the appointment, creating stress is not a good way to achieve that optimal frame of mind,” added Harlock.

Caregivers, it is also important to be mindful of how much help your loved one needs. Is a telephone reminder enough, or has it become necessary to have someone helping them get ready for the appointment?

Preparing for the Healthcare Visit

There are many things you can do as a care partner to make the most of your loved ones healthcare visit.

Make sure the patient has their glasses, hearing aid, etc.,

“One major part of being prepared is making sure the patient has remembered their glasses or hearing aid, or anything vital to their communication. It is very difficult to assess patient if we cannot properly communicate with them,” said Harlock.

Bring an updated list of current medication

Another important piece of being prepared is having a current medication list. This list should include over the counter medicine and supplements. “

This is important, so that we know exactly what the patient is taking,” added Harlock. “The other piece to this is that caregivers are knowledgeable about how well the patient is taking their medication and there are ways to be respectful about this.”

One way you can respectfully check in with your loved one to measure how well they are taking their medicine is to say something along the lines of I’m sure you’re doing this right but just so I can answer the doctor, I need to know you are taking your mediation the way it is prescribed.’

“We have seen many patients whose family member thought they were taking their medication properly, then something happens as a result, and they realize they weren’t.” said Harlock.

Document any changes since last visit

The day before the appointment take a few moments to think about or write down the changes that have happened since the last visit. 

Documenting changes in a patient’s willingness to take shower, ability to handle finances or take medication, is vital information for a provider to be continually updated on.

“Mood is also an important thing to be taking notice of. If there is a big change in mood we would like to know about that,” added Harlock. “Additionally, if there is something you cannot say, or don’t feel comfortable saying in front of the patient, write us a note. Slip the note to the medical assistant or nurse and they will get the questions to the provider who will then make sure it is addressed during the visit.”

At the Appointment

Have your list of questions ready

It is easy to be distracted by rushing to the appointment, or hearing something the provider said. This list will help you focus and on the appointment and get your questions answered.

“Be knowledgeable and honest about what the patient is capable of. If you are the caregiver for a loved on it can be difficult to share, however it is important to be honest and accurate,” added Harlock.  

Take notes during the appointment so you can be mindful of what to keep an eye out for and what to mention in your next appointment.

“It is also helpful for caregivers to ask if there are any red flags to be watching for, especially with medication changes.”

Additional Tips

For caregivers

Caregivers, you are part of the healthcare team! Your insight is vital in maintaining and adjusting treatment plans.

In addition, please do not wait for the next appointment to tell us about a medication side effect, or that the patient is struggling with or has stopped taking a medication,” added Harlock.

For patients

Consider bringing someone to your appointment with you who knows you. Due to the changes that are happening in your brain, even at an early stage, your perspective may not be the same as your families or friend’s. You may not be an accurately communicating or understanding what your treating provider is saying. This is not meant to be an insult, but the reality of the a cognitive impairment diagnosis.

View the entire presentation below!

The content of this post is intended for general educational and informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical advice.  Readers should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

 

Dementia and Communication – Facebook Live Recap

Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe a group of symptoms. Those symptoms can arise as any negative change related to thinking, including; difficulty with memory, language, reasoning or problem solving. Those symptoms, commonly referred to as cognitive changes, may affect the way a person communicates. 

Program Director for the DENT Integrative Center for Memory, Sarah Harlock, explained over Facebook Live why these communication breakdowns happen and techniques you can use to improve communication between you and the person in your care. 

Importance of Communication:

It is important to note that there are many types of dementia, including but not limited to; Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy Body dementia, and Frontotemporal dementia. That being said, it is important to understand that communicating with someone with Alzheimer’s disease may be different than communicating with someone with frontotemporal or vascular dementia. Approaches in communication may need to vary from person to person, dementia diagnosis to dementia diagnosis.  

“It’s helpful to think of dementia communication as a continuum. The person you’re caring for with Alzheimer’s may not be able to communicate the same way as the person sitting next to them who also has Alzheimer’s,” said Sarah Harlock, program director for the DENT Integrative Center for Memory.

“Communication, at its core, is about connecting with another person,” said Harlock. “Although, sometimes communication may be about giving an instruction or direction, try to remember that communication is about making emotional connections and that is what the person with dementia is trying to do.”

In the later stages, dementia can be accompanied by changes that may impact a person’s ability to communicate. 

 

Vision Changes:

Vision changes are a large part of a late stage dementia diagnosis. A person with late stage dementia may experience significantly diminished peripheral vision.

“For example, if you put a cup of coffee on the side of their place-mat and they keep asking ‘where’s my coffee,’ you, as a care partner may be frustrated and keep saying ‘it’s right there, it’s right there’. It’s important to remember that they are not asking to annoy you, or be difficult, the loss of peripheral vision has made it so they really can’t see it,” added Harlock.  

Depth perception and the ability to discriminate colors can also diminish as a dementia diagnosis progresses.

 

Hearing/Auditory Changes:

As dementia progresses, hearing changes can occur making it difficult for a person with dementia to hear certain pitches, particularly higher pitches.

In addition, as the disease progresses it can be hard for a person to distinguish between background noise and foreground noise.

“Whereas our brains can tune out background nose and focus on the conversation at hand, that can become increasingly difficult for a person with dementia, making it hard for them to follow a conversation,” added Harlock.

Creating a quiet and calm environment can be helpful when trying to communicate with a person in that stage.

 

Sensory Perception:

The importance of sensory perception can often be overlooked. However, sensory perception can be very important for people with dementia. Often they can become too hot or cold, and even the feeling of clothing can be uncomfortable for the person, so try to be mindful of that.

 

Processing Time:

When having a conversation with someone we expect them to respond back in a timely manner or give us non-verbal clues that they are thinking about their answer. This processing time can change significantly for a person with dementia.

“Processing time for someone with moderate to late stage dementia can take up to 90 seconds,” said Harlock. “In that case, repeating what you said louder again and again won’t help, it will only frustrate the person. Slow it down and give them a chance to process the information,” said Harlock.  

 

Language:

“Many times, in the late stages,  a person with dementia may revert back to their primary language. For instance, if a person’s first language was Spanish, and they learned English later in life, it is not uncommon for a person to begin solely speaking Spanish,” added Harlock.

 

Emotion:

Emotion can play a large part in communication for someone with a memory or mood disorder.  For example, if a person is anxious it causes them to be distracted, which can affect their ability to retain information.

“It is important to recognize that a person’s emotional state will impact their ability to communicate,” said Harlock. 

 

Verbal vs. Non-Verbal Communication:

 

There are many things you can do as a care partner to make communication easier for you and the person you’re caring for, both verbally and non-verbally.

 

Verbal Communication:

 

Word Choice:

When speaking, avoid slang or jargon. Remember to slow it down, including both talking slower and allowing for a longer processing period.

 

Tone of Voice:

“If you want someone to do something, make sure you are saying it in a way that makes them want to cooperate with you. If you are gruff, unfriendly, or you’re stressed out, the person will pick up on that and be less likely to do what you are asking of them,” said Harlock. 

 

Non-Verbal Communication:

 

“Most communication that happens is non-verbal. Body language, facial expressions and eye contact, all play a big role in communication,” said Harlock.

 

Facial Expression:

Facial expression can play a huge role in communication with a person who has dementia. “If you looking for someone to do something, make sure you are making the correct facial expression that will get you the cooperation you need, “ said Harlock.

 

Body Language:

“If you are acting aggressive or assertive a person with dementia will pick up on that and think ‘Whatever he/she wants me to do doesn’t look like fun, so I’m not going to do that.’ So make sure your body language is really calming.” added Harlock.

 

Gestures:

“If understanding language has become very difficult, we can use gestures to get our point across,” said Harlock

 

Eye Contact:

“Due to the vision loss, make sure you are in their line of sight and engage them in conversation,” said Harlock.

 

Effective Techniques will vary from person to person and type of dementia to type of dementia, however generally these tips can be very useful for creating meaning and effective communication.

 

1.     Speak slowly and calmly

2.     One question or instruction at a time, keep it clear and simple.

3.     Allow time for a response. *remember it can take up to 90 seconds to process the information and respond

4.     Tell the person what you want them to do, not what you don’t want them to do.

5.     Be more positive in your communication. Avoid using the word no (unless safety is at risk, then use the words you need to

6.     Simplify questions, don’t make them too long, keep them clear and concise

 

Techniques:

 

There are a few additional techniques that can help have more positive and productive communication with the person in your care.

 

Validation:

Validation is a way of opening up communication lines.

If the person you are caring for keeps saying ‘I want to go home now’ rather than saying something terse, like ‘you are home’ over and over,  try a different approach like, ‘tell me about your home or what home are you thinking about.’

This method will open the door and allowing for meaningful and productive communication.

 

Therapeutic Fibbing:

Described as a detour from the truth, this technique can be very helpful and very kind for the person with dementia. This technique is best used when telling the truth will be more hurtful than helpful.

“I once worked with a woman who had dementia and would get very upset that her mother didn’t know where she was. She would become agitated wanting to get in touch with her mother. Unfortunately, the woman’s mother had died many years ago, however, instead of saying ‘your mother passed away’ only creating further agitation. we would use therapeutic fibbing to say something like “Your mother called, she wants you to stay for dinner,” and immediately the woman would calm down and be so relieved that her mother was no longer worried,” said Harlock.

 

Watch the full presentation below:

 

The content of this post is intended for general educational and informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical advice.  Readers should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Caregiving Through the Holidays – Facebook Live Recap

Often, the holiday season can seem overwhelming for those caregiving for loved ones with memory disorders. Between navigating logistics and managing expectations for both family members and the individual in your care, it can feel like the holidays are filled with more stress than joy. 

Sarah Harlock, program director for the DENT Integrative Center for Memory, shared her tips for managing the stress of the holiday season, while also finding time to enjoy the company of loved ones. 

“It’s very important to recognize how the holidays impact people with cognitive impairment and how that can impact caregivers,” said Harlock. “Even though the holidays are joyful and something we look forward to, if your day is already filled with the activities necessary to care for a loved one, adding the events and expectations of the holiday season can seem overwhelming.”

Understanding the Diagnosis

“I think it’s always important to go back to understanding the diagnosis. Often we use the terms Alzheimer’s, dementia and memory loss interchangeably, but they are very different, and each one of those diagnoses has different stages, so it’s important to understand the person you’re caring for.”

Neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia are progressive disorders, so understanding the stages people are at is important in understanding how they will be affected by the holiday season.

 Someone who is in an early stage of any of these conditions may have very little change in their holiday routine and may still enjoy the season very much.  However, someone in the later stages of this illness may struggle more with the non-stop action and changes to their routine.

Evaluate your Traditions, Beliefs and Expectations

“I think it’s important that people are evaluating their traditions and beliefs and looking at their expectations. Sometimes, we get caught up in the fancy wrapping, or perfectly decorated house, and while those may have been important before, it’s important to evaluate whether or not they are still important and whether they are really at the essence of the tradition,” said Harlock.  “So, I encourage people to take time to think about what these traditions are really about, and rarely are they about fancy wrapping and perfectly decorated houses. They’re about spiritual connections and growth with other people,” said Harlock.

Often, there is more than one way to honor a tradition or belief. Although you may have celebrated the holiday season a certain way for decades, now you may have to make some changes. It is important to evaluate your expectations as a care partner and prioritize the events that are the most enjoyable and most meaningful, and which ones will be too stressful for the person you are caring for.

“Try to look at what’s important versus what you’ve always done,” added Harlock.

Plan Ahead

Communicating changes is very important. If in the past you hosted the family event and that is no longer feasible, begin planning early for those changes.

All adjustments come down to communication. It’s okay to let loved ones know why you’re changing things up and what they can expect. Be open to family recommendations, but be realistic. If you need to stand your ground, stand your ground.

“Allow yourself and other people to be disappointed that you have to change your traditions. This is a loss, and it’s important to acknowledge that loss,” said Harlock. “However, while I encourage you to acknowledge that this is a loss, don’t get stuck in it, there are many ways to honor a tradition.”

Routine

People with dementia do best when they stick to a routine, so try to keep the routine consistent, even through the holiday season.

The non-stop activity can be tough for the caregiver and the person with a memory disorder, so do your best to keep the changes as minimal as possible. It is important to note that changes in environment, like holiday decorations, can be disturbing for people with dementia, so consider pulling back on some of the more extreme decorations.

Tips for Caregiving through the Holidays 

1.Wherever possible, include the person who has the diagnosis

If the person you are caring for is able to articulate what events they enjoy participating in during the holidays, and what they could give up, have that conversation.

2.Think about where the events will take place

Consider where the holiday events will take place. Take into account the routine changes and consider the environment (hot, noisy, and crowded) and plan accordingly.

3. How long is the event?

If the event is going to last 8 hours and you know that may be overwhelming for the person in your care, consider just going towards the end for coffee and deserts. It may be easier to break the holidays up into smaller events, over four or five days. 

4.Time of the event

Historically, people with dementia struggle with increased anxiety and confusion in the late afternoon or evenings. Consider switching the event from a dinner to brunch. That way you are still honoring the tradition and getting together as a family, you’re just changing the timeline.

5.Try to set aside a quiet space for your loved one.  

People with dementia struggle with commotion, which the holiday season can be full of. To avoid overwhelming that person, consider having a quiet room to give the person with dementia a chance to break from the chaos. This is especially helpful if the person has trouble following a conversation with a group of people. This space will give your loved one a chance to have more meaningful one on one conversations.

6. Decorations can be overwhelming for a person with dementia.  

Try to minimize the distractions. Decorations can add stimulation that might be upsetting or overwhelming for the person you’re caring for.  

7.  Be realistic and flexible

Think about what the holidays mean to you and find ways to participate in and honor your traditions that are enjoyable for both you and the person you’re caring for. 

Check out the entire presentation below.

The content of this post is intended for general educational and informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical advice.  Readers should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

 

 

 

Back to School Sleep Tips

Summertime can take a toll on a child’s sleep routine. Sleepovers, vacations and fewer responsibilities make it easy for children to get out of a consistent sleep schedule, making the back to school transition that much more difficult.

We sat down with Attending Neurologist and Director of the DENT Sleep Center, Dr. Marc Frost, who explained how to ease your children back into a sleep routine, and why instilling healthy sleep habits in your children now will not only help them this school year, but can benefit them the rest of their lives. 

1.  What is the recommended amount of sleep for children and young adolescents?

“Depending on age, it could be as much as 8-9 or even 10 hours,” said Dr. Frost. “The best way to know that a child isn’t getting enough sleep is to note signs of tiredness throughout the day.”

Dr. Frost stated that signs of tiredness in children can manifest differently than in adults who will just feel tired and sleep.

“Children may sleep and nap, but may also just be inattentive. Children may even appear to be daydreaming, or show the opposite of what you might expect and be somewhat hyperactive.”

Dr. Frost added that mood and personality changes may also be observed.

 

2. What are some steps parents can take to get their children back on a regular sleep schedule?

“Taking steps to create a consistent routine should start the week prior to school,” said Dr. Frost. This routine can be created by putting children to bed and waking them up at the time you would normally for school. This will help ease children back into the school sleep routine.

“And as always, no electronics in the bed or bedroom and no caffeine in the evening,” added Dr. Frost.

 

3. Why is a consistent sleep schedule so important? Is it especially important for school-age children?

“We tend to be creatures of habit, so a regular schedule will promote regular sleep.” said Dr. Frost. “Instilling these habits in your children now will promote lifelong healthy sleep habits that will prevent sleep problems later in life.”

 

4. Is there evidence to suggest that children who have a consistent sleep schedule perform better in school?

“Tired children are inattentive and potentially hyperactive children,” said Dr. Frost. “This will clearly lead to poorer performance in school.”

Dr. Frost also added that poor sleep can lead to depression and anxiety, which will affect children both at school and at home. 

 

5. How can parents help their children practice healthy sleep habits?

Practicing the habits mentioned above can help children achieve a better quality of sleep, especially with school around the corner. 

“Parents also need to try and lead by example by maintaining good habits themselves,” said Dr. Frost. 

 

The content of this post is intended for general educational and informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical advice. Readers should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

 

5 Tips for Brain Health

The brain is an incredible organ filled with 100 billion neurons that seamlessly communicate, allowing you to complete tasks from breathing to critical problem solving. Amazingly, it only takes the brain around 1/10,000th of a second to identify a need and respond with the appropriate action.

According to the National Institute on Aging, “Brain health refers to the ability to remember, learn, play, concentrate and maintain a clear, active mind. It is the ability to draw on the strengths of your brain—information management, logic, judgement, perspective and wisdom.”

Essentially, brain health refers to the idea that lifestyle factors play a large role in how well your brain functions. Practicing healthy habits gives the brain the tools necessary to function at its highest potential, and maintaining optimal brain health is an important part of reducing the risks aging poses to cognition. 

We sat down with Attending Neurologist and Director of the DENT Concussion Center, Dr. Jennifer McVige, who shared her tips for maintaining brain health.

1.Use it or Lose It

“Your brain, just like any other muscle needs to be exercised,” said Dr. McVige, “To keep your brain functioning at its highest potential, you must exercise your brain as you would exercise your body.”

You can keep the brain sharp by participating in activities that require mental stimulation.These activities could include reading, solving puzzles, even learning a foreign language. The best way to maintain cognitive health is to never stop learning new information.

“Staying cognitively fit will keep you more alert as you get older,” added Dr. McVige.

2. Maintain a Healthy Diet

A well-balanced diet, makes for a well-balanced brain.  A few common ‘brain foods,’ or foods that are scientifically proven to protect your brain, include; blueberries, wild salmon, dark leafy greens like kale and spinach, and dark chocolate.

“If you put junk food into your body your brain will not work as effectively. Stay away from high sugar, high fat processed foods and try to eat clean,” said Dr. McVige.

3.  Physical Exercise

What’s good for the body is good for the brain!

“Regular physical exercise helps your brain work better,” said McVige. “Exercise increases blood flow to the entire body, allowing us to process information better.”

4. Sleep

 Sleep is a vital part of staying mentally and physically healthy.

“A proper sleep regimen is important for adequate brain health. Sleep deprivation can cause difficulty with concentrating, create mood issues, and even cause headaches.”

5.  Be Conscious of Brain Injuries

“When in doubt sit out,” said Dr. McVige. “Your brain is a beautiful, complex organ with amazing healing powers, but if more injuries are sustained before the brain is fully recovered the healing process gets interrupted.”

 

The content of this post is intended for general educational and informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical advice. Readers should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.

Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

We sat down with Dr. Marc Frost, Attending Neurologist and Director of the DENT Sleep Center, who shared his tips for achieving and maintaining healthy sleep habits.

According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 1 in 3 American adults aren’t getting enough sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society recommend that adults 18–60 years of age, need at least 7 hours of sleep a night.

Why is sleep so important?

Getting a good night’s sleep is a vital part of staying physically and mentally healthy.

“Poor sleep can lead to an increased risk for multiple medical issues, in addition to feeling poorly the next day. Depending on the cause, poor sleep can increase your risk for heart attack, stroke and other medical issues, just as much as untreated high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and cigarette smoking.” said Dr. Frost.

Poor sleep can also increase the risk for anxiety, depression and other mood related conditions.

Tips for Sleeping Well:

Regular Exercise

Exercising is an important part of sleeping well. Regular exercise is a great way to maintain a healthy sleep cycle and comes with a number of added benefits. However, try exercising earlier in the day, so that you aren’t working out too close to bedtime because it could leave you feeling too wired to fall asleep.

Consistent Sleep Schedule

Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule is imperative to achieving healthy sleep habits. Sleep hours should follow a routine from day to day, time to bed and time to wake should be consistent, even on weekends.

Be Careful of Over the Counter Sleep Aids

Over the counter sleeping pills, with the exception of melatonin, need to be used carefully. They are simply antihistamines, and should not be used for prolonged periods of time.

Myth vs. Fact:

MYTH: Drinking alcohol before bed will help you sleep better.

FACT: While it is true that alcohol may help you fall asleep faster, it is one of the most disruptive inhibitors to normal sleep. The sleep you get after drinking is very fragmented and unrefreshing. Alcohol use should be kept to at least several hours prior to bedtime.

Click here to learn more about our Sleep Center.

The content of this post is intended for general educational and informational purposes only; it does not constitute medical advice. Readers should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional for diagnosis and treatment.