I remember a time when I was in elementary school that a dentist came to visit our classroom. He brought everyone in the class a new toothbrush. He demonstrated with a model of teeth the correct way to brush.
First, we all brushed our teeth. Next, we were then given a little pinkish-red pill to swish around in our mouths. Any plaque
remaining on our teeth would turn red. The teacher came around the room with a hand-held mirror so we could see how red our teeth were. This visit was based on one of the special projects aimed at the oral health of children implemented in the 1960s.
Most adults generally know that brushing and flossing our teeth is a good idea. Options for toothpaste, brushes and floss types abound along with numerous commercials and ads each touting the benefits of their products. Meeting regularly with your dentist for cleanings and checkups are also ways to prevent or fix any issues regarding your teeth.
According to the Mayo Clinic, we should brush our teeth twice a day. They have a saying, “When you brush, don’t rush. Take time to do a thorough job”. My husband and I have a saying as well,“You only have to brush the teeth you want to keep”.
Brush your teeth for bonus benefits
Besides the obvious reasons for practicing good oral hygiene such as keeping your mouth clean, preventing bad breath as well as tooth decay and gum disease, there are a few unexpected benefits for regular brushing (which is described as brushing twice in a 24-hour period).
An article titled “Surprising Connection between Gum Disease and Bad Knees“. According to the article in LiveScience.com, scientists have found traces of gum bacteria in the knees of people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, adds more evidence of the link between poor oral health and poor health in general.
I discovered another unexpected benefit while visiting a VA Hospital. A poster on the wall had a headline that caught my attention. It said, “Brush your Teeth to Prevent Pneumonia”. How interesting. It turns out that Shannon Munro, Ph.D., a nurse researcher had investigated the benefits of tooth brushing among hospitalized veterans.
The research demonstrated that if the biofilm that forms on teeth is removed twice a day, harmful bacteria will not migrate into patients’ lungs and cause pneumonia. Since the practice began an amazing drop in the pneumonia rates have dropped by nearly two thirds. It makes sense if it helps folks in the hospital, we all might benefit from such a practice.
On an interesting note: of the two brushing times, bedtime seems to be the most important. One reason is that saliva levels drop while you sleep, which leaves bacteria and plaque to cause destruction to your teeth during the night.
So, at the end of the day (so to speak), you can give yourself the best smile possible when you take care of your teeth to the best of your ability.
Quality of life rises to a higher priority as options become more and more limited. When we first realized that Mama was beginning to display signs of dementia, our family made the unconscious decision to try to fill her life with as much joy as possible. I say ‘unconscious decision’ because, at that point, we didn’t know much about dementia. All we knew was that our smart and witty Mama, who enjoyed eating out, swimming and attending concerts would experience more joy if we tucked as many of these events as possible into her daily life.
These activities must be done on purpose. A default response can easily be to find the proverbial ‘rocking chair’, sit down and rock into oblivion. There may be some prodding and pestering involved in keeping your loved one active and as social as possible.
Bringing joy into Mama’s world didn’t always involve leaving the house. She enjoyed watching her goldfish swim about as well as a wide variety of old movies such as “The Sound of Music” and the ‘Three Stooges”. We also hung a finch sock filled with thistle outside the living room window, so she could watch all the beautiful, yellow finches flit and fly as they came and went from the bag throughout the day.
We went to as many places as possible as well. Leaving the house has its own set of challenges. Since Mama also suffered from diabetes, her ‘go bag’ needed to include a glucose monitor and a small packet of honey (found at coffee shops) in case her blood sugar dropped. Other things became necessary over time such as Depends and a change of clothes in order for Mama to stay active.
Change continues to happen. For example, before Mama broke her hip, she enjoyed taking a walk as often as possible. She was also quite social and loved to visit, even though she didn’t always make sense.
Once she couldn’t walk anymore, we put more emphasis on chatting, singing and praying. She also enjoyed looking out the window watching people and cars go by. As time went on the visiting became more and more one-sided and I would sing songs to her, read out loud and pray for her.
The search for joy and contentment is not limited to those with dementia. For every person, the pursuit will of necessity, require flexibility as needs and abilities change.
Quality of life became a focus when my husband and I retired and moved across the country, we had to discover what activities would be included in our new lifestyle. We do keep busy. We have become beekeepers. Our backyard is small, but on a creek, so we have a good place for the bees to buzz around and (hopefully) make us lots of honey.
We also have hung several bird feeders that have attracted a lovely community of songbirds that we can watch from our dining room table. Quite a few of the birds are new to us here like cardinals, wrens, finches, sparrows and woodpeckers along with doves, titmice, nuthatches, threshers, and jays. We also have a couple of hummingbird feeders and enjoy watching the tiny little beauties visit the feeder throughout the day. For comic relief, we have several squirrels that chase and play all day long. Their main goal in life seems to be to get into the bird feeders (even though Wayne feeds them peanuts every morning). When my sister Peggy and her husband came out to visit they bought us a special bird feeder that has a sensor on it. If a squirrel jumps on the perch, they end up spinning off. We call it ‘Twirl a Squirrel’ or ‘Squirrel-Go-Round’. They are quite persistent (and apparently thick-headed) as they try over and over.
Every stage and season of life will develop its own version of what expresses a good ‘quality of life’. Interests and abilities further define it for each person. If you’re not sure where to begin, here is a site that contains 25 Habits for Improving the Quality of your Life
Have you ever shaken someone’s hand and it felt like a limp noodle? You know the feeling. We’ve all experienced that from time to time. Have you ever wondered what it means?
A weak grip in a handshake may not mean anything except that someone is shy or lacks confidence in social settings.
On the other hand, a strong handshake may mean that someone is strong, confident, and trustworthy.
Could there be more to the story? Yes, as it turns out. Grip strength may actually indicate more than a personality indicator. Several recent studies suggest a correlation between grip strength and longevity.
One study carried out by researchers from University College London found evidence on the association between measures of physical capability, grip strength and balance, and the risk of an earlier death.
Another study by The Lancet concluded that grip strength was a stronger predictor of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality than systolic blood pressure.
PLOS Medicine did a nationwide population-based study in Taiwan among middle-aged and older people. It found that weak handgrip strength showed a significant association between cardiometabolic risk, and the danger of coronary artery disease.
My daughter, a Bodywork Therapist, is continually teaching her clients about the importance of doing muscle strengthening exercises. Since she is an expert on muscles (like a muscle doctor), my husband and I have found that it always benefits us to listen to her teaching and follow her advice.
I asked her what she thought about the importance of a strong grip. Very important, she replied, She explained that the strength of hand grips are a product of something called ‘recruiting’. Recruiting happens when our hand muscles call on muscles from other parts of our body – such as arms, neck, shoulders and even our torso. If those other muscles do not have the strength to respond, than it could be an indicator of muscle weakness. I believe that she hit the mark. A strong core can provide strength to our entire body.
Focusing on our grip strength and ways to improve it can mean more than simply a longer life – it can mean a better quality of life as well. Other reasons why a weak grip can impact our lives: The ability to stay active and independent frequently begins with our hands. Weak hand strength can impair a person’s ability to open a jar, grip a steering wheel, brush your teeth, or hold a grandchild. If you can’t open your medicine bottle, then taking medications becomes difficult.
Time to ‘get a grip’
To get a stronger grip on life, here are some exercises to help you work on your hand strength.
Here are some handgrip exercises, but keep in mind that the overall goal is to strengthen the entire body.
Range-of-motion hand mobility exercises you can do at home
Your muscles and tendons move the joints through arcs of motion, such as when you bend and straighten your fingers. If your normal range of motion is impaired — if you can’t bend your thumb without pain, for example — you may have trouble doing ordinary things like opening a jar.
These exercises move your wrist and fingers through their normal ranges of motion and require all the hand’s tendons to perform their specific functions. They should be done slowly and deliberately, to avoid injury. If you feel numbness or pain during or after exercising, stop and contact your doctor.
Place your forearm on a table on a rolled-up towel for padding with your hand hanging off the edge of the table, palm down.
Move the hand upward until you feel a gentle stretch
Return to the starting position.
Repeat the same motions with the elbow bent at your side, palm facing up.
Stand or sit with your arm at your side with the elbow bent to 90 degrees, palm facing down.
Rotate your forearm, so that your palm faces up and then down.
Wrist ulnar/radial deviation
Support your forearm on a table on a rolled-up towel for padding or on your knee, thumb upward.
Move the wrist up and down through its full range of motion.
Begin with your thumb positioned outward.
Move the thumb across the palm and back to the starting position.
Hand/finger tendon glide
Start with the fingers extended straight out.
Make a hook fist; return to a straight hand.
Make a full fist; return to a straight hand.
Make a straight fist; return to a straight hand.
For more information on the causes and treatment of hand pain, and strengthening strategies for hands, buy Healthy Hands, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GRIP
A Digi-Flex helps users develop strength and dexterity in their fingers and hands. Trumpet players and softball players both use them to improve their manual agility, Evers said, so these devices are found in both music and sporting-goods stores.
Theraputty, which is like a more substantial Play-Doh and available in varying degrees of pliability, also is used in strength-building regimens.
“This is something we give out to patients. They take it home for home therapies and get different colors as they progress,” McKerrow said.
Although the putty can be satisfying to move around as a stress buster, McKerrow said there are specific exercises to go along with it, such as squeezing it between the thumb and forefinger to improve pincer hold strength.
In addition to working on the fingers and hands, McKerrow said the wrist and forearm are important aspects of total hand function.
“You need to have good wrist extension when you hold that coffee cup,” she said.
Want to get to work on your own hand strength? Evers and McKerrow shared the following exercises:
Rubber-ball squeeze: Grasp a ball in the palm of your hand and squeeze it as firmly as you can. Hold this squeeze for 8 to 10 seconds.
Theraputty pinches: Hold a small ball of putty between your thumb and finger. Squeeze it flat or roll it into a tube shape.
Rubberband stretch: Hold your hand with your fingers together and flat and your thumb directly underneath them. Place a rubber band over your thumb and fingers, then slowly move your fingers away from your thumb. Hold this position for a few seconds, then repeat.
Forward wrist extension: Sit near the edge of a table with your forearm supported from wrist to elbow. Your hand should be off the table and your palm should be facing the ceiling. Holding a light weight, slowly curl your wrist upward. Hold for a few seconds, then lower.
Backward wrist extension: Stand holding a light weight with your arm straight by your side. Your thumb should be pointed forward. Slowly flex your wrist to point the weight upward behind you. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower it.
Oh, one more thing. Don’t be too quick to judge someone’s health by their handshake – remember, some folks are left-handed and will naturally have a lighter grip with their non-dominate hand.
It’s berry season. I love berries. One of my fondest memories, when I was a little girl, involves picking wild berries that grew along a dirt road behind my grandparent’s home in Michigan. Blueberries, raspberries, and even one that my Grandpa called ‘June berries’. I don’t know what they really were, but I suspect that he called them June berries because that’s when they became ripe.
Most folks know, or at least suspect that berries are good for you, but it is always a bonus to have studies back it up. As nice as it is to know that berries help keep our bodies healthy, those of us who have loved ones with memory loss, or want to keep ourselves from memory loss will be gratified to know that according to two recent studies, those who ate a cup of blueberries per day showed improvement in cognitive performance and brain function.
Also, a study conducted by Harvard researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that berries also appear to slow progression of memory decline in elderly women. They learned that a high intake of flavonoid-rich berries, such as strawberries and blueberries, over time, can delay memory decline in older women by two and a half years.
Summer is a great time to enjoy berries, but since frozen berries are available year-round, we don’t have to limit the benefits to summertime. I did a web search to see if freezing berries destroy any of the nutrients. According toHealthy Advice Blog: “Freezing raw berries, fruits and vegetables does not kill the enzymes contained in these foods like heat does”
Healthy Advice goes on to mention another benefit: “Frozen berries when local, freshly picked ones are not available is that frozen fruits, berries, and vegetables are often more nutritious than produce that has been shipped a long distance. In order to transport well, fresh produce needs to be picked before they fully ripen to minimize bruising. Plus, with the time involved transporting produce cross-country, what you think are fresh fruits, berries and vegetables may actually be 1-2 weeks old, if not more. This causes them to lose much of their nutrients.”
Healthline.com adds a thought to the fresh vs frozen debate. “Frozen fruit and vegetables are generally picked at peak ripeness. They are often washed, blanched, frozen and packaged within a few hours of being harvested.”
One protest that typically arises whenever the topic is on healthy eating is cost. Eating berries may be part of a healthy diet, but if they are too expensive some folks believe they can’t afford them. No argument that berries can be pricey. I might maintain that though berries aren’t cheap to add to our diets, perhaps instead of adding berries, there is something currently in the budget (less healthy) that can be substituted for berries? It may not be possible, but it may still be worth checking out.
To help determine what the cost of eating one cup of berries per day would be, next time you are at the grocery store, check out the frozen berry section and compare prices. Keep in mind that 1 pound is equal to about 3-3.5 cups of blueberries and about 2 cups per pint of strawberries (sliced).
If you’re still not convinced of the benefits, here is an article enlisting strawberries in the fight against cancer.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to choices.
Twenty years ago, our daughter Bambi moved across the country to go to school. I was sad to see her go but was thankful that her move took place just as new types of communication technology was beginning to embed itself into households across the nation and around the world. Free email systems such as Yahoo and Hotmail were emerging as fun, fast and easy ways to connect with each other.
Bambi and I loved it. Even while we were able to chat and keep each other updated electronically, it was heart-breaking to think of loved-ones everywhere who had been separated before the age of technology. Letters were wonderful, loving keepsakes that spread news far and wide, but email, it turned out was the stuff of everyday interactions. Many resisted the use of email due to the casualness often used when composing an electronic letter, but I felt that it was the very fact that one could be less formal with email enabled us to keep current with otherwise little things and events, questions, answers, and observations of the day-to-day. Another thing Bambi and I used email for was a chess game we played by using a modified Excel document.
One thing that propelled email forward and increased its popularity was that it was easy to use. My elderly parents were able to use something called an E-machine. It’s only function was email so it gave them an easy way to connect with friends.
Electronic communication began invading businesses as well. A large percentage of my workday became devoted to the care and maintenance of our company’s website.
Suddenly, it seemed a plethora of digital options became available. In addition to my computer and cell phone, I got a ‘Personal Digital Assistant’, or PDA. They were sort of a forerunner to the smart phones. A pink Motorola Razr was the next big phone step in my life. My daughter had a nifty phone called a Blackberry that both made calls and had email functions.
Another subtle shift in the technology wind came through the arrival of Smart Phones. My first smart phone was a DROID.
The advent of smart phones allowed more integration between electronic devices such as computers and later, tablets. We achieved a level of communication that had previously been displayed on cartoons such as the ‘Jetsons’. Software that allowed us to both see and hear the person we were talking with blossomed. Skype was the first one we used. It was free, so we downloaded it onto our computer as did our children and voila! It was amazing. We could actually see and hear our grandchildren on our computer screen when we visited.
Time moved along as two distinctly different operating systems made their own version for communicating. Apple’s iPhone developed ‘Facetime’ which worked wonderfully on any Apple device. Google came up with their own system, ‘Duo’. It was great to visit with our granddaughters using ‘Duo’ while they held a phone and were able to visit while moving around their living room instead of sitting still in front of a computer.
Due to this modern, mobile age, much of our family—like so many others, are living in other states and countries. Technology brought an unexpected blessing. When my Mama passed away, some family members were able to attend the memorial service by using Facetime. We set up two iPads on the front pew and everyone could see and hear quite well. Last summer, we were delighted to be able to witness our daughter’s wedding in North Carolina on an iPad when we were 750 miles away in Connecticut. Other family members watched from Canada 1,500 miles away. We used Facetime again a few months later when my youngest brotherdied in a motorcycle accident.
Facebook then moved the video bar forward with ‘Facebook Live’. Even though it isn’t like ‘Facetime’ where we can visit in real time. You can view the video and post comments. Unfortunately, we were able to see the benefit of ‘Facebook Live’ eight months later my other brother died in a car accident in California, and again, many family members were unable to travel to the memorial. Our niece used ‘Facebook Live’ to video the entire service. It was wonderful to not only watch the videos, but to also comment and read the comments of others. Technology has indeed caused the world to become much smaller and more intimate. Ain’t technology great?
I recently received some good news! After submitting a couple of stories to “Chicken Soup for the Soul“, I was notified that one of my stories had been selected for their ‘My Crazy Family‘ book.
The story I submitted is called “Flights of Fancy“, (page 293). In the story, I relate some fun and fashion that we along with our son and his wife enjoyed on a trip to visit family living in Charlotte, North Carolina – more specifically, the adventure we had on the flight over.
Everyone Has a Great Story about “My Crazy Family”A New ChickenSoup for the Soul Collection Showcases Those Wacky, Lovable Relatives
Nearly everyone thinks his or her own family is “crazy” or has at least one or two members who stand out from the crowd in a unique way. With its 101 stories of wacky, yet lovable, relatives, Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Crazy Family (Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC; Amy Newmark; April 10, 2018, 978-1-611599770, $14.95), provides a heartwarming and hilarious tour of everyone else’s families!
Chicken Soup for the Soul’s editor-in-chief Amy Newmark says, “What I loved about these stories is how much the writers truly care about their family members. Every story is filled with love and admiration for that eccentric aunt, that strict dad with a heart of gold, that flighty grandma who ultimately imparts the best advice, or that quirky mom who helps a family have fun together. As I read the stories, I felt even more strongly the bonds of family and appreciated my own.”
ABOUT CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL
Chicken Soup for the Soul, the world’s favorite and most recognized storyteller, publishes the famous Chicken Soup for the Soul book series. With well over 100 million books sold to date in the U.S. and
Canada alone, more than 250 titles, and translations into more than 40 languages, “chicken soup for the soul” is one of the world’s best-known phrases and is regularly referenced in pop culture. Today, 25 years after it first began sharing happiness, inspiration and hope through its books, this socially conscious company continues to publish a new title a month, but has also evolved beyond the bookstore with super premium pet food, television shows, and movies through its subsidiary, Chicken Soup for the Soul
Entertainment, podcasts, positive journalism from aplus.com, education programs, and licensed products, all revolving around true stories, as the company continues “changing the world one story at a time®.”
Are you a wartime veteran of the US Military? Are you married to a wartime vet? During a recent experience at a VA Hospital, among the piles of paperwork my husband and I were handed was a small packet that explained a little-known benefit.
It is a VA Pension offered to wartime veterans by providing supplemental income to help them cope with financial challenges. (This is not to be confused with the 20-year Military Pension).
According to their website,VA’s pension program provides monthly benefit payments to certain wartime Veterans with financial need, and their survivors.
It is a small pension for qualified vets and their spouses who are over 65 or have a non-service connected disability. It works like a ‘safety-net’ to provide veterans with a minimum amount of monthly income.
According to the website, to qualify, your yearly family income must be less than the amount set by Congress to qualify for the Veterans Pension benefit. If eligible, your pension benefit is the difference between your “countable” income and the annual pension limit set by Congress. VA generally pays this difference in 12 equal monthly payments.
There is also an enhanced or special pension to help if the person is housebound or requires an aide or attendant. The VA website contains information about qualifications along with a video explaining the VA Pension: Enhanced Pension Benefits.
The ‘Aid and Attendant’ feature would have been helpful to know back when my Dad, who was a veteran of the Korean conflict (June 27, 1950 – January 31, 1955) became housebound for several years prior to his passing. Then, my Mama who was suffering from dementia needed to live with my sister and then my husband and myself.
Apply for Veterans Pension
To find out if you are eligible, You can apply for Veterans Pension online or download and complete VA Form 21P-527EZ. The application can be mailed in or taken to your local VA Benefits Office for processing. You can locate your local regional benefit office using the VA Facility Locator.
If you think you might meet the requirements, you should apply today. Don’t let another day go by without receiving everything you or your spouse has earned by serving their country. If you don’t qualify, be sure to pass this information along to anyone you know who might.
One more thing. There are a lot of scammers out there. Don’t be a victim! Be aware of pension poaching scams. Click here to learn how to keep yourself safe.
Birds have an amazing communication system. One day, while my Mama was living with us, we attended a potluck lunch to celebrate the end of a project. Held in the dining area of a lovely home, we had a lovely view of a beautifully landscaped backyard.
As we munched and chatted, I noticed a multitude of tiny yellow birds. They were crowded around what appeared to be a tube sock full of seeds attached by a hook to ornate, wrought iron poles. I was told that the birds were goldfinches and they were eating a black thistle seed called Nyjer. The ‘sock’ was made of a netted fabric that allowed the birds to pull out thistle with their small, pointed bills. It immediately occurred to us that Mama would love watching this.
We hung a couple of finch socks in front of the window. Though I’m not sure how birds pass the word along, it didn’t take too long before our finch socks were sporting a dozen or so little yellow birds. They were fun to watch as they flitted about, jostling for position on the sock according to a pecking order known only to them. They were always in motion. It was fascinating to watch them come and go. They provided a constant show for Mama as she watched them regularly with rapt fascination.
Birds in North Carolina
Our recent move to the east coast has given us new birds to entice to our feeders. Most notably, the famous North Carolina Cardinals. With a quick bit of research, we learned these beautiful red birds love black sunflower seeds – abundant in the wild birdseed mix we found. We also discovered suet – a hard block of a seed mixture that sets inside a rectangle frame which the birds hang onto while feasting at the suet.
We found branches that were strong enough to hold the feeders, but too thin for squirrels to climb on. Since the squirrels here are quite clever about getting into bird feeders, we were careful to select just the right branches. We hung our new feeders, sat back and waited.
The bird communication system must have activated again as it was not long before a variety of ‘southern winged visitors’ began to show up. How lovely it was to watch the birds as they eagerly began to munch on the seeds. We began seeing cardinals, sparrows, doves, titmice, nuthatches, and wrens along with a variety of woodpeckers as well as the occasional hawk.
My husband and I found it a very peaceable thing to watch the birds (as well as squirrels) flit, fly and scamper around in search of their favorite munchies. Watching them, I understood Mama’s fascination with the flitting little flyers as we began watching and learning the habits and songs as well as species of the winged visitors who come to our little backyard feeders.
As it turns out, according to ‘ScienceDaily’,birdwatching is very therapeutic. However, birds may not be your thing; perhaps fish are more enjoyable or possibly petting cats. The important thing is to find something soothing that will enable you to take at least one ‘mental health’ break each day to refresh and recharge.
I love our new home on the east coast. There are a lot of amazing attractions and amenities that were not available on the west coast – most notably, our grandchildren. In spite of the fact that we are transitioning nicely into our new world, and yes, culture, there are people and events that take place back home that cause a bit of homesickness. (Hint: it has to do with the word dance)
It is a fundraiser for the school’s arts program. The semi-formal evening is a family-friendly delight filled with dancing and desserts. A photo booth provides a memorial of the lovely almond blossom themed event.
Dancing, it turns out provides many benefits. Of course the most obvious is the physical exercise but its value waltzes way past that. According to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, dancing may be one of the best means of actually avoiding Alzheimer’s. Dr. Joe Verghese, a neurologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, followed elderly subjects over a 21-year period to determine which activities most resulted in dementia resistance.
The study revealed the usual list of suspects such as doing crossword puzzles and reading did show a 47% & 35% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, but the results from golfing, swimming or bike riding produced an unexpected 0% lower risk. The biggest surprise of the study was that social interaction of dancing lowered the seniors’ risk of dementia by a staggering 76%. Wow! Sorta makes you want to do the happy dance.
Another study, this one published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, has similar results. It revealed that dancing causes the part of the brain called the hippocampus, a region crucial for memory to grow larger. The study also indicated that dancing improved balance in the elderly.
What happens when we dance?
It turns out, the need for cooperation between two dancers, with one leading and the other following causes the type of quick decision-making process that makes the brain more resilient. For best results, the dancers need to learn new dances (rather than just doing the same steps over and over) and the more the better.
There seems to be something beneficial when our brains are called upon to move in a required format while at the same time being aware of everything going on around you (so dancers don’t bump into each other). Dancing is also a very social activity; the positive effects of being social have been well known for some time. It becomes especially powerful when combined with music – which is another factor in dementia resistance, associated with dancing.
Spouses who dance together may, over the years be actually watching out for one another’s well-being in a fun way. Dance clubs and senior centers offer opportunities for both couples and singles to learn new dances in a social setting.
Listen, do you hear the music? What are you waiting for? It’s time to dance!
The Cheshire Cat may have been onto something. Accounts differ as to what inspired Lewis Carroll to use the smiling cat in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but the majority agrees that he certainly made it famous. A multitude of studies has recently shown that smiling actually changes your brain (in a good way).
That is really good news for those who suffer from some form of dementia, who, along with Alice might find themselves in a strange and confusing world where nothing appears real and everyone seems to be a bit mad. They may also feel frightened and lonely and wish they could simply tap their ruby slippers together three times and go home again….wait; I’ve mixed up my stories. Suffice it to say, dementia is not a pleasant world to live in.
Those caring for loved ones who suffer from dementia may also find themselves living in a strange and lonely world. People they once had lively and meaningful conversations with can no longer chat and may not even recognize them. My Mama, who was smart, witty and a wonderful conversationalist, lost the ability to recognize me in the early stages of her battle with dementia.
This is the time of year when dark feelings of loneliness and depression can magnify – how ironic since the holidays are usually portrayed by scenes of happy family and friends getting together. Of course, the contrast between what is depicted and reality may be a contributing influence in the sadness factor. That, combined with what is referred to as Winter Blues (when days are short), can cause many caregivers to experience feelings of hopelessness.
Back to the smiles
Smiles are also contagious; if you smile at someone, they smile, and then you both get a little happier–which can be especially good news for caregivers. Try smiling at your loved one several times throughout your day and watch how they respond. Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden concluded that frowning when looking at someone smiling is possible, but would be very difficult.
What if you don’t feel like smiling?
But wait, there’s more! According to HealthHub.com, smiles– even fake smiles do a lot more than simply let the world know you’re happy. It turns out that there is also a whole host of health benefits to smiling. In an article titled, “15 of the best and free health benefits of smiling” including heart health, pain and stress reduction as well as an increase in productivity and longevity.