A Florida Recipe for Healthy Aging

Florida is one of the country’s top producers of fresh fruits and vegetables. The state’s warm climate and fertile soil provide the ideal growing conditions for a wide variety of crops, from watermelons to peppers and everything in between.

The abundance of just-off-the-vine produce makes it easy for seniors living in Florida to enjoy all the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Keep reading to learn how eating Florida produce can help you enjoy a more active lifestyle. Plus, get tips on how to find the freshest, most in-season fruits and vegetables in your area.

Healthier Eating = Healthier Aging

In 2012, scientists in Germany conducted a comprehensive analysis of all the available research into diet and disease. They found that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables was linked with a reduced risk of developing many chronic diseases, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories. The German scientists theorized that eating more produce may help prevent individuals from becoming overweight, the most important risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Dementia. While more research needs to be done, the analysis quoted several promising studies from Spain, Korea and France that suggested eating more fruits and vegetables may reduce one’s risk of developing dementia. The antioxidants found in many fruits have also been linked to increased blood flow in the brain.
  • Cancer, including cancer of the esophagus and colon. Vegetables and fruits may also provide a protective effect against cancers of the oral cavity, stomach and kidneys.
  • Macular degeneration. The vitamins and fiber provided by fruits and vegetables may help prevent eye conditions like macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While smoking is the leading cause of COPD, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may also help reduce one’s risk.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The German team also tied a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to a decreased risk of developing osteoporosis, arthritis and digestive issues like chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Their analysis also showed convincing evidence that the more produce one ate, the less likely he or she was to suffer from hypertension or experience symptoms of a stroke.

Exactly how many vegetables do you need to eat to enjoy these healthy aging benefits?


The United States Department of Agriculture recommends women age 51 and older eat 2 cups per day. Men of the same age should eat 2.5 cups.
You can enjoy your vegetables raw, cooked, fresh, frozen or mashed. A juice made from 100% vegetables can also pack a healthy aging punch, said the USDA.

Orange You Glad You Live in Florida?

In addition to produce like avocados and spinach, Florida is also the country’s top producer of oranges. For centuries, this important crop has helped the state’s residents and visitors enjoy a healthier, more active lifestyle.

In the days of the explorers, sailors brought citrus fruit like oranges on long ship voyages to prevent outbreaks of scurvy onboard. Today, scientists have linked the phytochemicals in oranges with health benefits including a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

According to the BBC’s Good Food blog, oranges also provide anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antimicrobial benefits and are a good source of A and B vitamins, fiber, and calcium.

Healthy Aging in Florida: How to Get the Most out of the State’s Fresh Produce

Each month, the Florida Department of Agriculture publishes a list of in-season fruits and vegetables. Many of these are available for purchase in the state’s grocery stores. Or, for a fun outing, consider buying them straight from the source.

On the Farmers Market Directory, a list maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, you can find information about farmers markets in your area, including available produce, opening times and accepted forms of payments.

To learn more about how Sonata Senior Living’s communities integrate fresh Florida produce into their daily menus, contact us today →

To learn more about how Sonata Senior Living’s communities integrate fresh Florida produce into their daily menus, contact us today →

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Everything You Need to Know About Florida Assisted Living Licenses

There comes a point in everyone’s life when they need an extra hand — or two.

Perhaps a chronic condition is making it harder to go about their daily activities. Or maybe it feels like they don’t have the energy to prepare their favorite meals or keep up with their personal care routines. Or, they’ve recently lost a spouse.

When your loved one needs a little extra support, but would still like to maintain an active lifestyle, it may be time to consider an assisted living community.

Assisted living communities can provide as much or as little assistance as needed. Services are designed to help residents feel empowered and independent while providing the level of care they need to achieve their daily goals.

In Florida, there are a wealth of assisted living communities to choose from, depending on one’s budget, preferences and healthcare needs.

Qualifying for Assisted Living in Florida

In order to move into a Florida assisted living community, one must meet specific requirements, as defined by state law.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs says these requirements can vary from community to community. But in general, residents must demonstrate that they need help with at least two of the tasks listed in the Barthel Index of Activities of Daily Living (ADL).

These daily tasks include:

  • Preparing meals
  • Taking medications
  • Managing personal care and hygiene

Depending on your loved one’s needs, they may also benefit from living in a community that is licensed to provide a higher level of daily care and assistance.

Understanding Florida Assisted Living Regulations and Licensing

Unlike skilled nursing facilities, which provide 24/7 medical care and are heavily regulated by the federal government, assisted living communities are regulated at the state level.

In Florida, all assisted living communities with a standard license are required to provide residents with personal care and assistance. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration says these communities must also provide residents with social and leisure activities and assist with daily tasks like making appointments and arranging transportation.

As of March 2018, all Florida assisted living communities are also required to have a detailed plan in place for keeping residents safe and comfortable in the event of a power outage.

In addition to the standard license, The National Center of Assisted Living says Florida assisted living communities may also qualify for additional licenses, as defined by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

These additional licenses include:

  • Limited Nursing Services (LNS) — These communities are licensed to provide medical services required by your loved one’s doctor, including catheter assistance, wound care and urine analysis.
  • Extended Congregate Care (ECC) — These communities can provide advanced medical care and assistance for residents with diabetes, fractures and stomas.
  • Limited Mental Health (LMH) — Florida assisted living communities with this license can care for residents who have a mental condition and receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits.

Which Florida Assisted Living Community Is Best for Your Loved One?

Your loved one’s doctor and medical team can help you determine which type of community is best for their needs. When weighing your options, consider how your loved one’s health may change in the immediate future.

If your loved one qualifies for an assisted living now, but their condition may require additional care in the next year or so, it is wise to consider a community with a limited nursing services (LNS) license.

Assisted living communities with an LNS license can provide the daily assistance your loved one needs both now and in the years to come. They may also provide access to ancillary services like physical, occupational and speech therapies, pharmacy and hospice services, which are provided under physician orders.

To find the best assisted living community and level of care for your loved one, check out floridahealthfinder.gov, a search tool maintained by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

If you’d like to learn more about Sonata’s assisted living and memory care communities in Florida, contact us today →

If you’d like to learn more about Sonata’s assisted living and memory care communities in Florida, contact us today →

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Understanding the Link Between Mozart, Music and Memory

At age 5, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his first composition. The next year, he became a professional performer, touring the concert halls of Paris, London and Zurich.

The child prodigy would go on to write some of the most influential pieces of classical music in history before his untimely death at age 35, according to Biography.com.

While Mozart may be most famous for works like The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro, the composer also made a major contribution to the way memory care communities help residents with Alzheimer’s enjoy a higher quality of life.

It’s called the “Mozart effect.”

Music and Memory: Understanding the “Mozart Effect”

The “Mozart effect” is the nickname scientists use to describe the way the brain changes after listening to the composer’s symphonies and sonatas.

A study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine by J.S. Jenkins, MD FRCP,  showed that people experienced improved spatial reasoning skills after listening to Mozart for just 10 minutes.

Listening to Mozart has also been shown to activate parts of the brain that have been linked to memory and problem-solving, according to a study published in Consciousness and Cognition. In contrast, researchers said listening to Beethoven did not have the same effect.

Diving deeper into the research, the study titled The Mozart Effect: A Quantitative EEG Study, showed that listening to Mozart may increase activity in the alpha band, which is linked to memory, cognition and problem-solving.

Using Music to Power Alzheimer’s Treatment

In Florida, a select group of memory care communities are using music therapy to help residents living with Alzheimer’s. While the Mozart effect and related research drives many of these programs, classical music isn’t the only genre that has the power to heal.

A report published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association showed that a structured program of listening to any familiar song can improve the way the brain functions.

The effects of musical therapy are so powerful, the treatment may even help delay further damage to the brain’s cognitive functions, said researchers behind a 2013 study called The Impact of Group Music Therapy on Depression and Cognition in Elderly Persons With Dementia: A Randomized Controlled Study.

Over time, a structured musical therapy treatment program could even help improve the cognitive function of people living with Alzheimer’s, according to a paper published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.

In addition to changing — and possibly enhancing —  how the brain works, music interventions have also been shown to reduce anxiety in people living with Alzheimer’s. It can also help ease many of the distressing behaviors associated with the disease.

At Sonata Senior Living, our memory care communities draw from the latest research behind music and Alzheimer’s to help our residents enjoy a higher quality of life. To learn more about this special programming, call a community near you to schedule a visit →

At Sonata Senior Living, we’re always tracking the latest developments in music and Alzheimer’s research. To learn more about our innovative programs, schedule a visit →

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Music as Medicine for Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Music has the power to lift our moods and transport us to another time and place. It can reduce stress, ease anxiety and even improve our cognitive function.

That’s why several forward-thinking assisted living memory care communities in Florida are using music as a form of medicine for their residents.

Music as Medicine for People Living With Alzheimer’s

Musical therapy has multiple benefits for those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

#1 – Reduces Negative Symptoms

Music reduces the negative symptoms associated with dementia.

In a Translational Neurodegeneration analysis of five years’ worth of studies reviewing the connection between music and Alzheimer’s and dementia, researchers found the following trends:

  • Music was repeatedly shown to improve moods, decrease anxiety and agitation, and even help people with Alzheimer’s sleep better at night. One study by Gómez Gallego M, et al., showed that music therapy could also help reduce hallucinations and symptoms of delirium.
  • The right song played at the right time can also serve as a distraction, helping reduce anxiety by redirecting someone’s attention away from stressful triggers.

#2 – Improves Memory & Cognitive Function

Music therapy can improve our memory and cognitive function.

Another study, published in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, showed that people who listened to Vivaldi’s “Spring” from “The Four Seasons” as background music during an autobiographical test experienced stronger recall. Other studies published in the Translational Neurodegeneration medical journal have shown singing along with a favorite tune can improve results on cognition tests. Frontiers in Neuroscience has also linked playing an instrument with improvements in memory, orientation and language skills.

#3 – Music is Non-Invasive

Music therapy is a low-cost, non-pharmacological form of treatment.

Music therapy uses songs and instruments, instead of drugs and needles, to help people with Alzheimer’s and dementia reduce unpleasant symptoms and cognitive decline.

The Types of Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s

Assisted living memory care communities in Florida are using innovative music interventions to help improve the quality of life for their residents living with Alzheimer’s, including:

  • Receptive Music Therapy — This passive approach to musical therapy allows the resident to simply enjoy their favorite songs. They don’t have to sing along (unless they want to) or accompany the song on a drum or recorder.
  • Interactive Music Therapy — This is a more active form of music therapy. As the song is playing, the therapist will encourage the person to sing along or keep the beat on a tambourine.

Until recently, scientists agreed that music therapy was an effective way of relieving agitation among people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, though little research had been done to compare the effectiveness of the different types of treatment.

But a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association revealed new insight for assisted living memory care communities in Florida.

When comparing interactive and receptive musical therapy techniques, researchers were able to link receptive music therapy, the more passive approach, with an overall higher quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s.

Receptive music therapy appears to be more effective at easing agitation and anxiety and reducing behavioral problems than interactive music therapy.

At Sonata Senior Living, we’re always tracking the latest developments in music and Alzheimer’s research. To learn more about our innovative programs, schedule a visit →

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Can You Afford Assisted Living?

For many Americans, cost is a big factor when considering whether to move into an assisted living community. Many fear it’s too expensive. Others are unaware of their options for financing the monthly rent.

In Florida, the average monthly cost of assisted living is $3,500, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey, about $500 less than the national median cost of $4,000.

At first glance, that may seem like a high number. But when you consider that the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Florida is $773 and that assisted living fees also typically cover meals, utilities, maintenance, housekeeping and transportation — not to mention medical assistance, excursions and on-site activities — it can actually be an incredibly good value.

Then there are the emotional benefits of life at an assisted living community.

“The thing that is really most attractive to future residents is getting together with other residents, playing cards, having something to do each day and meeting new people,” said Gail G. Matillo, MPA, president and CEO of the Florida Senior Living Association. “Living alone can be very isolating.”

Financing Your Florida Assisted Living

When it comes to financing assisted living in Florida, you have options. Most seniors use a combination of personal savings and the following resources.

Home Equity

As long as house prices continue to rise, seniors’ home equity will rise, said Matillo. “That can be a huge help to those who want to move into assisted living,” she said.

Social Security

Many assisted living communities in Florida will accept your Social Security payments and apply them directly to your monthly rent, said Matillo. This saves a lot of hassle for residents by streamlining the payment process.

Medicaid

Many seniors are surprised to learn that Medicare does not cover the costs of assisted living, said Matillo.

But if you qualify for government assistance, Medicaid may cover some of your assisted living costs.

Most states use 1915c Medicaid HCBS (Home and Community Based Services) Waivers to cover the costs of assisted living, according to PayingforSeniorCare.com. However, Florida has eliminated this program and now covers assisted living through the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Long-Term Care option.

Unfortunately, not all Florida assisted living communities accept Medicaid, and the waiting list at those that do is often long, said Matillo. It’s also important to note that Medicaid may not cover all of your costs.

Family Support & Caregiver Tax Deductible

Many Florida assisted living communities allow family members to pay over the phone or internet via credit card for care and ancillary services like bathing or grooming, said Matillo. This helps to offset the cost of assisted living care.

Furthermore, if you are supplementing your loved one’s care, a caregiver may be able to deduct these expenses on their annual taxes.

Long-Term Care Insurance

This is a relatively new product that offers the best value for Floridians in their 40s and 50s, said Matillo. It may be too cost prohibitive for people in their 70s and 80s, she said.

It’s also worth noting that some long-term care applicants may be turned down due to pre-existing conditions, according to the AARP.

The Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension

Veterans and survivors who are eligible for a VA pension may also be eligible for this program, which increases one’s monthly payout to cover long-term care costs, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

This traditionally covers half the cost of the board and care, said Matillo.

Life Insurance

Some life insurance policies allow policy-holders to receive a tax-free advance on their death benefit, which can be used to fund assisted living costs, according to LongTermCare.gov. This could be a good option for seniors who don’t have children, said Matillo.

It’s best to start by understanding all of the different senior living options in Florida. Then see if assisted living is right for you.

Once you identify your needs, Matillo recommends working with an elder care attorney to determine what you can afford.

When comparing your options, she also suggested asking each community what’s included in the monthly rent, since amenities and meals are usually bundled into the cost.

The price of assisted living in Florida can vary from county to county, she said, with rural areas offering more affordable fees than urban city centers.

To learn more about Sonata Senior Living’s independent and assisted living communities, schedule a visit →

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Preventing Elder Fraud in Florida

Every year, one out of 18 American seniors is estimated to become a victim of financial fraud. This number, which was published in a 2017 report in the American Journal of Public Health, doesn’t include those who were scammed by friends or relatives.

“We’re talking about millions of older adults each year,” said the study’s lead author, David Burnes, in a July 2017 article on Reuters.com. “What’s worse, it’s very likely an underestimate.”

According to the FBI, seniors are often targeted by con artists who assume they have assets like a paid-off home or large savings account. It’s become such an issue, The National Council of Aging says elder fraud is “the crime of the 21st century.”

To help combat this alarming trend, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr recently announced the creation of the Transnational Elder Fraud Strike Force. Starting in June 2019, organizations like the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service will work together to investigate elder fraud and prosecute those who attempt to scam America’s seniors.

As these organizations work behind the scenes to keep older Americans safe, there are steps seniors living in Florida can take today to reduce their odds of becoming a victim of elder fraud.

Know the 3 Most Popular Elder Fraud Scams

The best way Florida seniors can protect themselves from elder fraud is to be able to recognize a potential scam. Here are the most common.

#1 – Internet fraud — Online scammers assume older Americans are easy targets because they didn’t grow up using the internet. Be wary of pop-up windows claiming you have a virus on your computer. And don’t send or “verify” your personal information to an email address you don’t recognize. Scammers posing as Medicare companies or bank representatives may use these tactics to try to “phish” your Social Security number or account information.

If an email seems suspicious, call your bank or insurance broker directly. Never call the number listed in the email.

#2 – Sweepstakes scams — As they say, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you get a call or letter saying you’ve won a prize or sweepstakes, be on the alert. Especially if you’re asked to send money to pay taxes on the supposed prize. Some scammers will go as far as sending a check for the “prize money,” knowing it will bounce when deposited.

#3 – Telemarketing scams — These are by far the most common types of elder fraud schemes, according to the National Council on Aging. Common telemarketing scams include:

  • A call from a supposed old friend who is willing to split a large amount of money with you in exchange for a “good faith” deposit.
  • Someone posing as a grandchild or family member who needs you to wire money to help them pay for a car repair or overdue rent.
  • A call from someone who wants to buy your timeshare — all you have to do is pay the “processing fee.”
  • Representatives for a miracle anti-aging drug or discount prescription service.
  • Fake charities asking for contributions after a national disaster.

Protect Yourself from Elder Fraud in Florida

To protect seniors living in Florida from telemarketing scams, the Florida Attorney General’s Office recommends the following:

    • Don’t fall for high-pressure sales tactics. Scammers want you to buy their phony products or send money now, before you have a chance to research the company or confirm it’s actually your grandchild on the other line.
    • Never provide financial information to an unfamiliar company. If you suspect that a recent purchase was fraudulent, contact your credit card provider immediately.
    • Research the company through agencies like the Better Business Bureau, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Office of the Attorney General. A quick internet search of the company and the word “scam” can also help you decide the best way to move forward.

 Take Immediate Action If You Are the Victim of Elder Fraud

If you are concerned that you were the victim of elder fraud, it’s important not to feel ashamed or embarrassed. These con artists are professionals. They know how to get what they want.

The Florida Attorney General’s Office offers many helpful resources for elder fraud victims.

You can also report the scam to consumer agencies such as the Attorney General’s Office at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM or the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services at 1-800-HELP-FLA.

To learn more about senior living options in Florida, schedule a visit →

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Curbing Lung Cancer in Florida

Lung cancer is one of the leading chronic diseases affecting Floridians. In 2018, more than 18,700 Florida residents were expected to be diagnosed with lung cancer. During this same period, officials estimated more than 11,700 would die from the disease, said Brenda Olsen, American Lung Association Southeast Region Chief Mission Officer.

The earlier one is diagnosed with lung cancer, the less time the disease has to spread to other organs, and the better the individual’s chances of survival. Unfortunately, in Florida, only 20% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at this critical early stage, according to the American Lung Association.

Between 2012 and 2016, more Floridians died of lung cancer than any other type of cancer. The death rate was more than 40%, according to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Statistics Center. The second leading cause of cancer deaths, female breast cancer, was only 19%.

Decreasing Lung Cancer Diagnosis Rates in Florida

This chronic disease doesn’t only affect the well-being of Florida’s residents. It also affects the state’s economy.

Getting the care one needs to treat the disease, including chemotherapy and lab services, is expensive. In a June 2018 study published in PharmacoEconomics – Open Access Journals, the estimated cost of treating small cell lung cancer, the most aggressive type of lung carcinoma, was more than $10,700.

Then there’s the impact the disease has on the individual’s productivity, as well as the time their caregiver has to put into ensuring their loved one gets the proper care and treatment.

To help Florida protect its residents from this deadly and costly chronic disease, the American Lung Association recently released its first LUNG FORCE “State of Lung Cancer” report. The report included statistics of lung cancer rates in Florida, as well as recommendations for decreasing diagnoses and increasing survival rates. They included:

  • Reducing risk factors like smoking and exposure to radon gas by increasing tobacco taxes and improving radon testing and mitigation efforts.
  • Increasing the number of accredited lung cancer screening sites to promote earlier detection and diagnosis.
  • Offering aggressive treatment options for those living with the disease, including surgery.

Florida is already a leader when it comes to offering surgical treatment options. According to the American Lung Association, 21.3 percent of Floridians diagnosed with lung cancer underwent surgery during their initial treatment. This put Florida among the top 15 states attempting to beat this serious chronic disease by removing the tumor, which can increase the chances of survival, especially when the diagnosis is made at an early stage.

Florida Assisted Living Communities Offering Advanced Lung Cancer Care

Lung cancer can cause many physical complications, including shortness of breath, weight loss and bone pain, according to the Mayo Clinic. There’s also an emotional impact to living with this chronic disease. A report published in the European Respiratory Journal said that anxiety and depression are common emotional side effects in people with lung cancer. Because of these emotional and physical drains, many people with the disease have trouble going about their daily lives.

If you have concerns about your ability to care for a loved with lung cancer, know that you don’t have to do this alone. Many Florida assisted living communities offer advanced care for people living with chronic diseases like lung cancer.

At Sonata Senior Living, for example, many communities provide both assisted living and licensed nursing services. This empowers our team to help every resident get the daily care they need without having to leave the community.

To learn more about our advanced approach to caring for Floridians with lung cancer and other chronic diseases, schedule a visit →

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The Neuroscience Behind Musical Memory

Again and again, research has shown that musical therapy is a powerful treatment option for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

The authors of a 2018 Dementia & Neuropsychologia study referred to music as an “island of preservation” for those living with the disease, and a gentler option than pharmaceuticals for improving cognitive functions and increasing overall quality of life.

In a 2018 analysis of 24 studies published in four medical databases assessing the connection between music and memory and music and Alzheimer’s disease, it was shown that music can help reduce age-related declines in memory and cognition. The analysis quoted studies including:

  • A 2014 report in The Gerontologist that showed singing and listening to music on a daily basis can improve overall cognition skills.
  • A 1993 Perceptual and Motor Skills study in which people with Alzheimer’s who listened to and played music showed better fact recall compared to those who played with puzzles and those who participated in drawing activities.

The Gerontologist report suggested, when it came specifically to music and memory, people with Alzheimer’s who engaged in singing activities during a 10-week musical therapy program had better working memory immediately after the program ended than those who didn’t. Six months later, those who engaged in regular musical activity also had improved autobiographical memory.

Attempting to Make Sense of Music, Memory and Alzheimer’s

Why are music and memory so entwined? And why is music so effective at helping people with Alzheimer’s experience better fact recall and autobiographical memory?

A report published in an August 2015 issue of Brain: A Journal of Neurology attempted to explain the neuroscience behind this powerful connection.

Researchers theorized that musical memory, the process of encoding songs and other musical experiences, is at least partly independent from other forms of memory.

On one hand, they quoted studies that showed that musical memory can be severely damaged even when other memory systems are functioning normally.

But on the other end of the spectrum — and perhaps of most interest to those at the forefront of caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease — musical memory is surprisingly strong in those living with dementia, even when other parts of the brain have been damaged by the condition.

The Neuroscience Behind Musical Memory and Alzheimer’s

In the Brain report, researchers theorized that multiple neural networks were responsible for helping the brain encode music. And that different regions were activated when we tried to recall song lyrics versus trying to recall what was happening in our lives when the song was on the radio.

They found that musical memory involved the following regions of the brain:

  • The motor cortices, which help us with planning and executing movement
  • The anterior cingulate gyrus, which play a part in our motivation, decision-making skills and ability to resolve conflict
  • The orbitofrontal cortex, which is involved in impulse control and how we experience emotions

What’s fascinating about this discovery is that these are the areas of the brain that are among the last to experience damage in those living with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Brain study researchers.

While more research is needed to say for sure, this overlap may explain the connection between music and memory and the powerful effect music has on people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Studies like these are what drives Duets, Sonata Senior Living’s new music therapy program designed to promote cognitive rehabilitation and an increased quality of life in people with memory impairment.

To learn how music in memory care can make a difference for your loved one, call a Serenades community near you today or schedule a visit →

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Chronic Disease Care in Florida: Know the Facts

In Florida, chronic diseases — and caring for people living with these conditions — is a major issue affecting the state’s economy and health care system.

Chronic diseases, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes as “conditions that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention” affect more than 13.1 million Floridians, according to the Florida’s State Health Assessment: Key Findings 2016–2017.

That’s more than half of the state’s population. Almost 6 million residents have at least two chronic diseases.

Perhaps most worrisome, nearly seven out of 10 deaths were attributed to chronic diseases in Florida in 2014, according to the Florida’s State Health Assessment: Key Findings 2016–2017. In 2017, the CDC identified heart disease and cancer as the leading causes of death in the state.

Seniors and Chronic Disease

Our risk of developing a chronic disease increases as we age. In Florida, the chronic diseases most likely to affect older adults include diabetes, hypertension and chronic kidney disease, according to studies by the University of Florida and Florida State University. Heart disease is also prevalent in Florida.

Our risk for developing cancer also increases with age. The Florida Department of Health says approximately 60% of the newly diagnosed cases of cancer, and 70% of cancer deaths, occur in people age 65 and older.

The High Cost of Chronic Disease Care in Florida

Per capita, Florida has the highest population of older adults in the United States, so resources for chronic disease care is increasing. As the state’s population grows in coming years — the Florida Chamber of Commerce estimates that it might reach nearly 26 million by 2030 — so will the costs of caring for Floridians living with chronic diseases.

The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, a national advocacy group, projects the total cost of chronic disease care in Florida will add up to $3 trillion between 2016 and 2030. Then there’s the additional $55.5 billion per year in lost employee productivity for people with the disease and their caregivers.

In addition to the scheduling demands and lost work hours for caregivers, a study among outpatient clinics at Duke University and Durham VA Medical Centers showed caregivers of people with chronic diseases also face increased risk for conditions like anxiety, depression and insomnia.

Preventing Chronic Disease in Florida

While chronic diseases in Florida are among the most common and costly health issues facing residents, they’re also one of the most preventable.

The state’s goals for Healthy People 2020, a national initiative for improving the health of all Americans, include reducing the number of chronic disease diagnoses and deaths by encouraging people to embrace healthier lifestyles. This includes eating a nutritious diet, getting regular exercise and stopping smoking.

Providing better chronic disease care in Florida — including access to state-of-the-art prevention, diagnosis and treatment facilities — is another of the state’s Healthy People 2020 goals.

Candace DeMatties, the national policy director of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, said access to better prevention and treatment options could save the lives of almost 12,000 Floridians with chronic diseases each year.

Sonata Senior Living’s assisted living communities are specially designed to help Florida residents with chronic diseases, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, heart disease and more, get the care they need and deserve. To learn more, schedule a visit →

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Wandering Caused by Alzheimer’s: How to Stay Safe in Summer

As lovely as the Florida weather is during the winter, come summer, it gets hot. Real hot. In July and August, temperatures can easily surpass 90 degrees.

These high temperatures can put all Floridians at an increased risk of developing conditions like heat stroke or dehydration. But Florida’s seniors have to be extra careful. According to the National Institutes of Health, most people who die from hyperthermia, or abnormally high body temperature, are 50 years of age or older.

Most active adults can beat the heat by spending the hottest hours of the day in an air-conditioned room or next to the community swimming pool. But for Floridians living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and the people who care for them, it’s not always that easy.

Alzheimer’s affects the brain in many ways. One common behavior of people living with the disease is wandering. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, six in 10 people who have memory issues will wander.

During the hot summer months in Florida, this behavior can be especially unsafe. The confusion experienced by Floridians with Alzheimer’s may lead them to seek safety in a small space like a shed or a parked car. Even on a relatively cool summer day, a car parked in the sun can reach an interior temperature of 119 degrees, researchers at San Francisco State University found.

This same confusion might cause someone living with Alzheimer’s to reach for a bottle of a potentially toxic liquid, instead of water, to quench their thirst. They also might not understand that summer isn’t the best time to wear a coat or sweater, which puts them at increased risk of developing a heat-related condition.

High temperatures aren’t the only threat. Florida summers also bring regular thunderstorms. A person who is wandering might encounter rivers, lakes and ponds with higher-than-normal water levels. According to the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, fatal drowning rates were highest among elderly adults age 65 and up in 2012 through 2014.

3 Tips to Keep Your Loved One Safe During the Hot Summer Months

If you’re caring for a Florida resident with Alzheimer’s, here are three tips to help you keep your loved one safe during the hot summer months.

#1 – Understand What Wandering Is

“Wandering may be unsafe, but it’s not typically viewed as a bad behavior,” said Julie Fernandez, Director of Team Development and Training at Sonata Senior Living. “Instead, it’s the person’s way of communicating that there’s an unmet need.”

Wandering might be your loved one’s way of telling you they’re too hot or too cold. They may be hungry or have to use the restroom. They might be trying to find someone or something from their past.

Sometimes, wandering is a way of communicating that the current environment is overstimulating. On the other end of the spectrum, a person who wanders might simply be bored.

“A lot of our residents have led very busy lives,” said Fernandez. “Sometimes, wandering is a way for them to try to follow their old routines. The brain tells us to move, and that’s what we want to do.”

#2 – Encourage Safe Wandering

Empowering your loved one to heed the brain’s desire to move can help ease feelings of frustration, anger and depression, said Fernandez. It may also help reduce aggressive behaviors.

But you want to keep your loved one safe and, especially during the hot summer months, indoors.

Start by removing all potential tripping hazards in the home. These include rugs, doormats and extension cords. Also, make sure all pathways are well-lit. There are numerous ways to prevent falls in home associated with dementia.

“Dementia can affect the parts of the brain associated with vision,” said Fernandez. “Falling is one of the most serious risks for someone with Alzheimer’s.”

To keep your loved one from going outside without your knowledge, install alarms on all exterior doors. You can also hang curtains over the doors to disguise them as windows. Fernandez said she’s also seen people camouflage their doors with paint and wallpaper.

“Sometimes even a big red stop sign will do the trick,” she said. “A person might not be able to read the letters, but they remember what the red octagon means.”

This isn’t allowed in professional memory care communities as it violates fire code. But in your private home, it may stop your loved one from venturing outdoors without you at their side.

#3 – Ensure a Safe Return

Because wandering is so common, many Florida Alzheimer’s organizations offer GPS bracelets that can help you locate your loved one instantly if they leave home without your knowledge. Other ID bracelets list the person’s name, current address and emergency contact information.

You can also register with the local police and emergency services and inform neighbors about your loved one’s condition.

“Some people may worry that they’re embarrassing their loved one,” said Fernandez. “But during the Florida summers, if your loved one lives at home and they wander and become lost, they would be at high risk of heat stroke.” A GPS bracelet provides a safety net and assurance that your loved one would be found quickly if they were to wander and become lost outdoors.

To learn more about managing behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s and dementia, schedule a visit at a Serenades memory care communities, schedule a visit →

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