Many of us have experienced occasional moments of forgetfulness. “Where did I leave my keys?” “Did I turn the oven off?’ Most of us can admit we have sometimes forgotten someone’s name or that a word is “just on the tip of our tongues.” We joke that we may be experiencing a “senior” moment, but the fact is that many of us will be affected by cognitive issues as we age.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2020 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, it is estimated that 5.8 million people are living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia in the United States, and Nevada has the third-fastest rate of growth for Alzheimer’s disease.
We are privileged in Las Vegas to be home to one of the top 10 neurology centers in the country: the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. Plus, Las Vegas presently has more than two dozen memory care communities, like Avenir Memory Care in Summerlin, available to service the needs of seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
It may surprise you to learn that although researchers believe there may be a genetic component to Alzheimer’s disease, it likely develops from multiple factors, which include genetics, lifestyle, and environment. While some risk factors can’t be changed—like age, family history, and heredity—emerging evidence suggest there may be other factors we can influence.
Emely Bitanga, Director of Sales and Marketing at Avenir Memory Care, shared five tips based on work with residents and staff that we can adopt now to potentially reduce our risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
1. Eat your veggies. Not just your veggies. Bitanga stressed the importance meals and snacks play in slowing disease progression. The Avenir Memory Care chefs “make everything from scratch” to ensure residents consume a well-balanced diet of fresh and non-processed foods like legumes, fruits, cereals, fish, olive oil, low amounts of saturated fats and sodium, dairy products, meat, poultry, and of course vegetables.
2. Make connections. Isolation is one of the worst things for the sick. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the pandemic contributed to a 17 percent increase in Alzheimer’s and dementia deaths. Staying socially engaged has been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in later life. At Avenir Memory Care, neighborhoods are designed to group residents by cognitive ability, so everyone feels a sense of community by being surrounded by peers, which encourages friendships, conversations, and social interactions.
3. Get moving - body and mind. According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, regular physical exercise can reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 50 percent, and mental exercise may reduce your chance by up to 70 percent. Residents at Avenir Memory Care begin every day with an exercise and stretching session aimed at maintaining the strength and dexterity necessary for daily tasks like dressing and eating. They also participate in regular activities to exercise the mind, like reading, writing, and playing board games.
4. Play with Fido. Studies by the National Library of Medicine found that pets had significant positive effects on disease function and progression, suggesting that having pets supports daily activity and slows Alzheimer’s disease progression. Moreover, animal-assisted intervention improves emotional, social, and cognitive dysfunction in patients with neurodegenerative diseases. At Avenir Memory Care, residents have animal interaction therapy with visits from a local petting zoo.
5. Rock out. Studies have found that playing a musical instrument throughout life is associated with a lower risk of developing dementia and that musicians were 64 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia. Music can uniquely activate the brain and stimulate parts of the brain that enhance memory. It can also affect behavioral symptoms such as depression, apathy, agitation, and frustration in Alzheimer’s patients. Bitanga says the benefits are evident during music therapy sessions at Avenir Memory Care when residents recall lyrics and beats. So, rock out, sing, listen to music, and play (or learn to play) a musical instrument.
Avenir Memory Care is “Great Place to Work” certified as well as a 2021 “Best of Las Vegas” Gold Winner. The community is intentionally designed to enhance all residents' quality of life, independence, and dignity. “What is important to us is the quality care residents receive,” Bitanga says.
Avenir Memory Care is one of only a few all-inclusive comprehensive memory care facilities in the valley and offers the option of Short-Term Respite Care. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 48,00 people care for Alzheimer's patients in Nevada. Respite programs provide a viable solution for families unable to afford long-term care rates and for caregivers needing a much-deserved break.
Bitanga finds her work at Avenir extremely rewarding. “I get teary-eyed from the time I meet with the families. The connection we make is special and strong. They become friends and share confidences. At the end of the day, what is most gratifying and keeps me motivated is interacting with the residents and seeing their genuine smiles.”
Once forgetfulness turns into something more for you or your loved ones, it is comforting to know that Las Vegas has communities like Avenir Memory Care.
The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice should consult with a licensed physician. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified health provider regarding a medical condition.
I get teary-eyed from the time I meet with the families. The connection we make is special and strong. They become friends and share confidences. At the end of the day, what is most gratifying and keeps me motivated is interacting with the residents and seeing their genuine smiles.
- Emely Bitanga