Sun Cities Seniors Can Enhance Brain Health

May 09, 2024

Dementia care and support are close to home for seniors in the Sun Cities. Resources, education and support groups and medical improvements are available to everyone battling dementia.

Debbie Gross, Home Instead Surprise co-owner and operator, said Care Pros in her company have dementia caregiver training, which is endorsed by the Alzheimer’s Association.

She said the company is known for dementia care so families can be matched with caregivers with a lot of experience and are certified.

“We are working with Hospice of the Valley after they received a grant for educating families who have someone living with dementia and want to keep them in their home,” Gross explained.

The Hospice of the Valley Supportive Care for Dementia program offers additional training for caregivers teaching families how to deal with people with dementia. This includes going in to homes to show different ways to assist family members. This program began earlier this month.

The programing through Home Instead includes Hilarity for Charity, which Home Instead fulfills the grant for, and Hit a Home Run for Dementia, which offers different resources and facilitates support groups.

“If a family qualifies for the program, Home Instead will be contacted and then families will be enrolled. We are going to families once a week for six months and it is either low cost or offered at a greatly reduced rate as most of it is covered by the grant,” Gross said.

This grant provides hands-on training in a home setting as well as respite care, with monthly visits with a dementia educator and 24/7 access to phone support to learn how to use redirection tactics and different strategies to make it easier to keep the person at home, according to Gross.

“We can give caregiver support and the practical hands on training,” Gross said.

Benevilla, a non-profit organization that offers free home services and support groups, is also working to support residents and families with dementia.

Barbara Mason, Benevilla support group facilitator, said Benevilla has a number of different focuses, one which helps the community suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, as well as life enrichment programs. This allows residents with cognitive disorders to have meaningful experiences through the day, including experiential exercises and activities that promote brain health and activity, she explained.

“The idea is the more we interact and provide stimulation, the longer residents remain mentally active and helps with their cognition, which slows the dementia process,” Mason said.

Caregivers can leave these family members to take care of personal needs and Mason said through the intergenerational program residents with dementia are reading with children and getting the chance to play together.

Dr. Cassie White, Honor Health neuropsychologist, said the idea of preventive medicine and care for older adults rather than waiting until older adults are unwell, is a way to empower patients to take care of themselves.

“Similar to what you have heard over the past decades, diet and exercise do matter and being physically active doesn’t have to be expensive gym membership. Gardening going for a walk and taking a class, taking stairs and parking far from the front door are simple things,” White explained.

Diet is important, Dr. White said. The body must be fed well to help feed the brain and there is no quick fix pill or supplement.

Seniors must keep the brain active and White said if you do not use it, you lose it. She said unfortunately that holds true for couch potatoes are not going to fair as well as those that are actively keeping the brain engaged and learning and those individuals do better.

A good night’s sleep is when the brains garbage trucks come through, according to Dr. White, and if people are not prioritizing sleep and scrolling on the phone or binge watching, they are hurting the brain.

“The field of neurology and the brain are ever changing and what I know today may very well be different tomorrow or a month from now,” Dr. White said.

Her passions include caregivers, as she said that is the most undeserved population when it comes to dementia. She said providing the best knowledge and resources or pointing residents in the right direction is key.

Dr. White said not everyone who has memory problems has dementia, but if residents are concerned they should speak to a doctor and open up the discussion of cognition during this time.