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Maintaining a Healthy Brain Despite Having Dementia � The Art of Aging Gracefully

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Whenever Professor Kyle Konis, the USC Assistant Professor started studying architecture, the foremost thing that he was taught was the necessity and vitality of natural light. Later on, when we pursued his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, he got the opportunity to study with a certain day-lighting lab where he got to look at energy-efficient windows. Natural light doesn?t only play a vital part of the best practices of designing but Professor Kyle knew that daylight has an impact on the inhabitants of a house in a great way as it makes them feel good.

Research reveals that people who work in spaces which are fully exposed to daylight are happier and more productive than those who work in darker spaces. For instance, studies reveal that people who work at night shifts are more vulnerable to developing Type 2 diabetes and obesity. It is always deemed to be a logical step to think of groups which might be hit the hardest due to the indoor environments which are poorly functioning. This in turn led to the pilot study which took into account the effect of daylight on senior adults and how it led to Alzheimer?s and dementia.

Less drugs is equivalent to more benefits ? How to design for dementia patients

There was a group of researchers who took into account 80 participants through 8 dementia communities in Orange counties and Los Angeles, the study revealed that exposure to natural light early in the morning enhanced the mood of residents, thereby diminishing their psychoactive symptoms and depression which are the two most common side-effects of such neurodegenerative diseases like dementia. The researchers promised to continue conducting more and more research on the topic.

Professor Koni?s work is mainly to give that international push to watch out for non-medical curing procedures for the entire 6 million people in the US that are often under-stimulated and overmedicated. Not only is this a booming problem in the US but this disease is spreading like an epidemic among the seniors of Australia too. In fact, there is also a large part of the Sydney population who are seeking help of in home dementia care Sydney services to continue with the normalcy of their daily lives.

Patients suffering from early stage dementia are put on cholinesterase inhibitors which can delay the language and learning symptoms of the disease. But the doctors often don?t realize that these inhibitors come with other conditions like agitation, depression and sleep issues. If you don?t expose a person to daylight every morning, this can throw people to a ?jet lag? leaving them in a bad mood and with a sluggish attitude. One-third of the adults who are beyond the age of 60 are usually put on more than 5 medicines, as per reports from the National Center for Health Statistics. The more are the number of drugs, the more prone they will be to mortality and sooner hospitalization.

Can changing the environment improve care for dementia patients?

Altering the environment is one of the best ways of mitigating behavioral issues and cognitive delay without the usage of any additional medicines. Dementia is a problem or a disease which has always been linked with pharmaceutical or medicinal cure. However, there are several other things that can be done in order to create a difference. If someone can create a setting that is normalized with better improvisational attitudes and less rules, this is better for the patients. In Campbelltown, a non-profit organization built a home care Campbelltown facility which almost looked like a movie set from the 1950s. They tap into the therapy called reminiscence therapy where they discuss about the past life of the patients through the usage of photographs, music, household things and they believe that this improves the mood of the dementia patients.

In the local memory care communities, they use the virtual experience which is done with the goal of calming adults with Alzheimer?s and dementia. Their take on creating multi-sensory experiences involves tuning into your senses of touch, smell, sight in order to relax and reduce agitation. You can also run off an app as it only requires a TV or an iPad. The resident who might be residing in a nursing home can move inside the room and inform their caregiver where they wish to go, a forest or a beach. Soon the lights will dim down to proper hue, the music will cue and immediately the video will start playing in front of the patient. There will be various elements to provide a soothing experience to the patients.

Dementia and aging ? Journey to a healthier brain

Whenever there is any discussion on growing old, it is vital to keep in mind that aging is a rather new concept. For the 99% of the time that human beings have been on earth, their life expectancy age was around 35-40 years. During the last century, as the world developed, life expectancies started rising to a noteworthy level. Due to the increase in life expectancy rate, there has also been a hike in the number of people who are suffering from cognitive decline that is related to dementia.

Dementia and aging ? Is there an inevitable connection?

The answer to this is ?no?. The normal process of aging leads to physiological changes which can impact the way in which human brain functions, including memory lapses related to age or the phenomena called ?tip of the tongue? but these are much different from the symptoms of dementia. This can be the type of experience where you find yourself entering inside a room and forgetting why you actually entered the room. In such instances, it is a matter of how soon you can process information. Hence, even though dementia is common among older people, it can never be said that it is a normal part of aging.

Though people refer to dementia as a single condition, dementia is a group of symptoms or a syndrome. The symptoms of dementia are not just related to memory loss but also to mood and personality disorder, disorientation, communication issues, behavioral changes and not being able to think abstractly.

The common causes of dementia

It has been proved that 60-80% of all dementia is caused due to Alzheimer?s disease which is a progressive brain disorder which causes the brain tissues to shrink. Besides being the leading cause behind dementia, Alzheimer?s is also deemed to be one of the most common forms of dementia. Few other reasons of dementia can include diminished blood flow to the brain which causes vascular dementia and abnormal deposits of protein inside the brain called Lewy body dementia. Few more reasons behind dementia are stroke or a brain injury which leads to degeneration of the nerve cells in frontal lobes of human brain. These are the areas which are related to behavior, personality and language.

Apart from these irreversible reasons which lead to dementia, there are several other reasons due to which people can experience memory loss in a way that can also mean dementia. Such conditions include Vitamin B12 deficiency, depression, side-effects of medicines, drug and alcohol abuse and dehydration.

Busting the myths of healthy aging ? Throwing light on the facts

There are few myths that are associated with healthy aging. What are they? Check them out.

Myth #1: Aging means disability and poor health

Fact: While it is true that there are few diseases which are common with aging but that doesn?t mean that getting older will make you susceptible to poor health or will confine you to a wheelchair. There are several senior adults who enjoy their health which is at times better than the younger generation. By adopting few measures like handling stress, exercising and eating can reduce risk of chronic injuries and of the disease.

Myth #2: Losing memory is a normal part of aging

Fact: With age, you may notice that you will begin to forget things which you could easily remember in the past. Significant memory loss isn?t an inevitable part of aging. Learning new skills, training your brain can be done all at any age and there are several things which can keep your memory sharp and working. Hence, the sooner you begin, the sooner you can get the benefits.

Myth #3: It is not possible to teach an old man new tricks

Fact: Yet another damaging myths of aging is that post a certain age, you can?t teach an old man new things. Actually, the opposite is true. Older and middle-aged people are extremely capable of learning new things in living in new environments and they also have enough wisdom which comes with life experience. You just need confidence to adjust yourself to any positive environment.

Tips to age gracefully ? How to master the art

  1. Learn to accept changes

When you age, you will find both instances of stress and joy but you need to find out the healthiest ways in which you can cope with such challenges. The longer you live, the more you will lose things and people but this will make life more precious for you. It is only when you stop taking things for granted that you can enjoy life even more. Then there are several things in life which you can?t control. Rather than worrying over them, focus on those things that you can control. Accept your limitations with a dose of humor.

  1. Find joy and meaning in life

If you are happy enough to continuously find joy and meaning out of life, this is the healthiest recipe of aging. With time, your life will change and you?ll eventually lose things that took your time and gave meaning to your life. For instance, you may retire from your career or your job may change and your children may leave your home but all these shouldn?t stop you from moving forward. You may rather spend your time in starting over with a hobby, learning some new language, staying involved within a community, traveling somewhere, enjoying arts, spending time with nature and writing down your memoirs.

  1. Keep yourself connected with people

Being able to maintain your support system is one of the biggest challenges of aging. It is not always easy to stay connected with people when you grow old, even if you had maintained a rather active social life. Retirement illnesses, career changes and moving out of the local area can detach you from friends and family. Regardless of whether you live with your partner or spouse, you should stay connected with others. Try to keep in touch with family and friends, spend time with at least 1 person daily, volunteer for events and get support groups when you change your locality.

  1. Increase your vitality and stay active

Don?t believe in the myth that aging can automatically makes you physically weak. Though it is true that aging involves physical changes but that doesn?t mean that you will become disabled. All types of pain might not be avoidable but there are other physical challenges which can be overcome by eating right, exercising and taking proper care of yourself.? Avert having refined carbs and sugary food and have more fruits vegetables and whole grains. These will keep you more energetic. Exercise is the biggest contributor to longevity as it can add years to your life. But not only does exercise add years but it also boosts your mental health, enhances your sleep and reduces chronic pain. When you?re able to develop healthy sleep habits, this can ensure good quality sleep at night. If you can take a bath before bedtime or wind down by listening to music, this too can give you a sound sleep.

Therefore, if you?re someone who is feeling depressed about the fact that you?re aging, you should stay positive. Only by adopting an optimistic attitude towards life, you can fight the challenges of aging and achieve a better life. Get in touch with your physical health professional to know more on healthy aging.