WPC Launches Dual Language Webinar Series

The World Parkinson Coalition is headed to Spain for the 6th World Parkinson Congress from June 7-10, 2022.  In order to help prepare delegates who live with Parkinson’s or care for someone with Parkinson’s, they are launching the first ever WPC dual language webinar series in English and Spanish. Each topic covered is a topic that people with Parkinson’s have identified in survey data that they want or need more information to better understand and to be able to make more informed decisions around treatment options. 

We want our community members to live their best possible lives, but also to be able to articulately speak about Parkinson’s. The more they know about this disease, the better they can explain their needs to their healthcare team and better educate their families and communities. 

Each set of webinars will use bi-lingual Parkinson’s experts. These experts will present and take questions in two webinars back to back. The first webinar will be in English. Once this session ends, they will take a short break and then will give the same talk in Spanish. We believe that it’s important for people to hear about their disease and treatment options in their native language directly from the experts.

 View the schedule HERE.

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3 Ways Connecting to Tech Can Help Keep Seniors Connected

In this fast-paced world, staying connected can be difficult enough for seniors. Add in a pandemic for which people 65+ are most vulnerable, and you have a situation that can lead to intense feelings of isolation, loneliness and hopelessness. But through technology, seniors can stay connect in meaningful ways, such as:

Safely Accessing Resources

Whether due to physical limitations, weather or current events, sometimes it’s impossible for seniors to get out and explore their communities. This makes it important for older adults to be able to access a working home internet connection, both for purposes of socializing and for safety’s sake. Ideally, seniors should have access to both a senior-friendly device and a solid internet connection.

Electronics are increasingly senior-friendly, with both smartphones and tablets worth considering. Internet access can be a challenge, though.

For seniors living in more rural areas, Verizon’s home internet service can be a practical and affordable option for seniors, connecting them to one of the most reliable networks in the nation. With a powerful connection, seniors can access resources like support groups for Parkinson’s, or safely discuss issues with healthcare providers via telehealth appointments.

Regularly Checking In With Long-Distance Loved Ones

Being geographically separated from family can be especially burdensome for seniors. When travel for families is not an option, seniors can start feeling the effects of isolation and depression, both of which are growing issues within aging populations. Seniors may feel unloved, forgotten or without a sense of purpose when they are unable to connect with those they care about.

Thankfully, aging family members can reach out to long-distance family members via social media. Social media has become a sort of safe haven for senior mental health, but there may be times when seniors crave actual face time. As CNBC notes, video chat apps are increasingly useful for maintaining healthy connections.

Staying Safe, Comfortable and Secure While Aging in Place

When visiting with an aging family member is not possible or practical, aging in place tech can assist with staying abreast of well-being from afar.

For instance, a smart home security system that helps aging family members feel protected at home can double as a monitoring system for long-distance caregivers. Virtual assistants allow caregivers to check in with senior loved ones, plus they provide seniors with a sense of comfort. If a senior has mobility issues that makes moving around difficult or even dangerous, smart home options like automated lighting provide peace of mind.

Tech can be a priceless tool when it comes to protecting seniors and preserving their quality of life. Instead of feeling isolated, seniors can use tech to stay connected to the people they love.

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Hiring Home Services or Repairs During COVID-19

CDC offers the following tips for staying safe and slowing the spread of COVID-19 while scheduling services or repairs inside the home. This may include installation and repair of plumbing, electrical, heating, or air conditioning systems; painting; or cleaning services.

In general, the closer and longer you interact with others, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread. Limiting close face-to-face contact and staying at least 6 feet away from other people is the best way to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, along with wearing masks and practicing everyday preventive actions. Before welcoming service providers into your home, consider these tips to help keep you, your family, and the service provider safe during in-home services or repairs:

Before the visit

  • Check with your local health department to see if there is a stay-at-home order in your state or local community that restricts non-essential activities or services. If a stay-at-home order is in effect in your community, consider if the service request is essential or if it can be delayed.
  • If you or someone in your home has COVID-19, has symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, wait to schedule non-emergency services that require entry into your home until it is safe to be around others.
  • If you or someone in your home is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, such as older adults or those with underlying medical conditions, consider not being inside the home during the service, or find someone else who can be in the home instead.
  • Do as much of the pre-service consultation as possible before the service provider arrives, to reduce the amount of time the service provider spends inside your home. For example, discuss the details of the service request on the phone or by email, and send pictures ahead of time.
  • Discuss any COVID-19 precautions the service provider is taking, including the use of masks for the duration of the service visit, any pre-screening procedures (such as temperature checks) and using the restroom during the service call.

During the visit

  • Do not allow service providers to enter your home if they seem sick or are showing symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Ask the service provider to wear a mask before entering your home and during the service visit. Also, you and other household members should wear a mask. Consider having clean, spare masks to offer to service providers if their cloth face covering becomes wet, contaminated or otherwise soiled during the service call.
  • Avoid physical greetings, for example, handshakes.
  • Minimize indoor conversations. All conversations with the service providers should take place outdoors, when possible, and physically distanced indoors, if necessary.
  • Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from the service provider, and limit interactions between the service provider and other household members and pets.
  • During indoor services, take steps to maximize ventilation inside the home, such as turning on the air conditioner or opening windows in the area.

After the visit

  • If possible, use touchless payment options or pay over the phone to avoid touching money, a card, or a keypad. If you must handle money, a card, or use a keypad, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol after paying.
  • After the service is completed, clean and disinfect any surfaces in your home that may have been touched by the service provider.


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How to Deal with Cabin Fever

Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.

In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.

Indeed, cabin fever is a series of emotions or symptoms people experience when they’re confined to their homes for extended periods of time. This may be due to a variety of circumstances, such as a natural disaster, lack of transportation, or even social distancing for pandemics like COVID-19.

Recognizing the symptoms of cabin fever and finding ways to cope may help make the isolation easier to deal with. Keep reading to learn more about how to do this.

What is cabin fever?

In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you’ve been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that’s not the reality of the symptoms.

Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they’re isolated or feeling cut off from the world.

These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of social distancing, self-quarantining during a pandemic, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.

Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.

Cabin fever isn’t a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn’t mean the feelings aren’t real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or “stuck” at home. They’re rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:

  • restlessness
  • decreased motivation
  • irritability
  • hopelessness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irregular sleep patterns, including sleepiness or sleeplessness
  • difficulty waking up
  • lethargy
  • distrust of people around you
  • lack of patience
  • persistent sadness or depression

Your personality and natural temperament will go a long way toward determining how cabin fever affects you.

Some people can weather the feelings more easily; they may take on projects or dive into creative outlets to pass the time and ward off the symptoms.

But others may face great difficulty with managing day-to-day life until these feelings pass.

What can help you cope with cabin fever?

Because cabin fever isn’t a recognized psychological condition, there’s no standard “treatment.” However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.

The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you’re secluded in the first place.

Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.

The following ideas are a good place to start.

Spend time outdoors

Research shows that time spent in nature is time well spent for mental health.

Not only does spending time outdoors boost your cognitive function, it may also help:

Depending on your reason for isolating, be sure to check all local regulations and avoid any spaces that are closed for safety or health reasons.

If getting outdoors isn’t an option, you could try:

  • opening up your windows to let the outdoor breeze in
  • adding a bird feeder outside your window to bring birds closer to your living space
  • ordering or buying fragrant, fresh-cut flowers and placing them where you can see and smell them throughout the day
  • growing herbs or small plants on a windowsill, patio, or balcony

Give yourself a routine

You may not have a 9-to-5 job to report to while you’re isolated, but a lack of routine can cause disruptions in eating, sleeping, and activity.

To keep a sense of structure, try to create a daily routine that consists of work or house projects, mealtimes, workout time, and even downtime.

Having an outline for your day helps you keep track of the trajectory of your hours and gives you mini “goals” to hit throughout the day.

Maintain a social life

So you can’t go to the movies or meet your friends for dinner. But you can still “meet up” with them — just in a different way.

Use real-time video streaming services, like FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype, to chat with your friends, colleagues, and loved ones. Face-to-face chat time can keep you in contact with the “outside world” and make even your small home feel a whole lot bigger.

Connecting with others who are in a similar situation can also help you feel that you’re not alone. Sharing your thoughts, emotions, and challenges with others can help you realize that what you’re feeling is normal.

Connecting with others may even help you find creative solutions to an issue you’re grappling with.

Express your creative side

Did you play a band instrument in high school? Were you once interested in painting? Do you have stacks of vacation photos you once promised yourself you’d put in a scrapbook? Is there a recipe you’ve always wanted to try but never had the time?

Use your time in isolation to reconnect with creative activities that you’ve had to put on hold because life got too busy. Spending time on creative activities keeps your brain busy.

Keeping your mind occupied and engaged may help ward off feelings of boredom or restlessness and make the time pass more quickly.

Carve out some ‘me time’

If you live with others, feelings of cabin fever may be intensified by the nearness of other individuals.

Parents have responsibilities to children; partners have responsibilities to one another. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any time on your own.

Give yourself time “away” from others to relax. Find a quiet place to read a book, meditate, or pop in some earbuds for an engaging podcast.

If you’re feeling stressed, you may even want to tune in to a podcast on mental health or anxiety.

Break a sweat

Research has shown that people who exercise regularly are less prone to anxiety than people who don’t exercise. That’s because physical activity lowers your body’s stress hormones, such as cortisol.

At the same time, exercise causes your brain to release endorphins. These neurochemicals can boost your mood and overall feeling of well-being.

If you can’t get outside, you can do a strength training workout at home using just your body weight or simple equipment, like dumbbells or resistance bands.

Or you can put together your own routine by focusing on a few basic but effective exercises, such as:

  • pushups
  • squats
  • burpees
  • lunges
  • planks

If you need a more structured program, there are plenty of online exercise options on YouTube and through various exercise apps.

Chill out

Not every minute of every day you spend at home has to be planned. Give yourself some time to rest. Look for constructive ways to relax.

Mindfulness, deep breathing, and relaxation exercises may help you maintain your emotional health and balance feelings of isolation or frustration.

When to Get Help

Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.

Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.

What’s more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of anxiety and fear are valid.

In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.

If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you’re experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.

Of course, if you’re in isolation or practicing social distancing, you’ll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.

Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don’t, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.

If you don’t want to talk to a therapist, smartphone apps for depression may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.

The Bottom Line

Isolation isn’t a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other’s company. That’s what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.

However, whether you’re sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.

If and when it’s necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.

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LOL: Reduce Caregiver Stress with a Good Laugh

For family caregivers, the mountains of laundry, endless messes that must be cleaned up, constant doctor’s appointments, complete surrender of one’s personal life and the painful process of watching aging loved ones decline is no laughing matter. We usually feel like crying more often than we feel like laughing.

But many experts say that laughing in even the grimmest situations is good for both our mental and physical health. A case of the giggles can relieve stress and boost “happy chemistry” within the body. Most caregivers desperately need to decompress and lift their spirits, and one way to go about meeting these needs is to teach yourself how to laugh despite the challenges you face every day.

The Science Behind the Benefits of Laughter

Gelotology is the study of the psychological and physiological effects of laughter on the body. Numerous scientific studies in this field suggest that laughter is a powerful form of complementary medicine that yields the following benefits.

  • Improved blood flow: William F. Fry, M.D., emeritus professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University and pioneer of gelotology, and Michael Miller, M.D., cardiologist and professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, found that laughter causes the tissue that lines the insides of blood vessels to dilate or expand to increase blood flow to bodily tissues. This effect was so pronounced that it was similar to the increased blood flow caused by aerobic activity or statin therapy for lowering cholesterol.
  • Strengthened immune responses: Research led by Lee S. Berk, DrPH, a medical researcher at Loma Linda University, has found that laughter has a positive effect on the immune system, including increased production of antibodies and activation of protective cells like T-cells and Natural Killer cells that fight viral infections and tumor cells.
  • Reduced blood pressure: A study conducted in Japan showed that seniors attending adult day care experienced significant reductions in systolic blood pressure and heart rate following regular laughter therapy sessions.
  • Increased pain relief: Researchers from Oxford University studied the effect of laughter on pain perception and found that “social laughter elevates pain thresholds both in the laboratory and under naturalistic conditions.” Endorphins released while laughing can have an opiate effect thereby increasing pain tolerance.

The benefits of laughter may be tied to human physiology. “Babies laugh long before they learn how to talk,” psychologist and laughter coach Annette Goodheart explains. “Laughing is a wonderful, cathartic process. I’ve worked with Auschwitz survivors who told me that the people who were able to laugh were the ones who survived.”

Laughter may seem like an inappropriate reaction to difficult scenarios, but just because you laugh doesn’t mean you don’t care or understand the gravity of a particular situation. Laughing in response to even the saddest circumstances helps you deal with your emotions rather than keeping them bottled up. Sometimes laughter may lead to tears, but Sebastien Gendry, renowned yoga instructor and CEO of the American School of Laughter Yoga, assures that’s perfectly normal. “You cannot open up a box of emotions selectively. A hearty bout of laughter may lead to a good cry, which is also cathartic. If you have unexpressed emotions, laughter may help bring them out.”

Life isn’t always funny, particularly when caring for loved ones who are chronically ill or dying. Laughter forces you to be at peace with who you are and where you are. No one has a perfect life. “Laughter therapy is about how you react in the face of adversity. Sometimes, you can’t control your circumstances, but you can always control your reaction. How you react is always negotiable,” Gendry says.

How to Laugh When You Don’t Feel Like It

To reap the benefits of laughter, you don’t even need to be happy or have a reason to laugh. Faking it works just fine. “The body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter; you get the same physiological and psychological benefits,” Gendry explains. “We change physiologically when we laugh. We stretch muscles in our face and body, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, which sends more oxygen to our tissues.”

The American School of Laughter Yoga recommends the following laughter exercises that caregivers can try at home. You can experiment with these exercises for 30 seconds or a few minutes at a time—whatever feels good to you.

  1. Gradient Laughter: Fake a smile, giggle and then laugh slowly. Gradually increase the tempo and volume of your laughter.
  2. Hearty Laughter: Spread your arms out beside you, look up and laugh heartily from deep down inside.
  3. I Don’t Know Why I Am Laughing: Laugh (faking it is perfectly fine) and shrug your shoulders as you look at yourself in a mirror. Use your eyes and body language to convey the message that you have no idea why you are laughing!
  4. Find Your Laughter Center: Probe your head with one finger as if looking for your laughter center. Imagine that each spot you push on triggers a different type of laughter and then act it out.
  5. Conductor Laughter: Imagine you are a conductor. Direct an imaginary orchestra with enthusiastic arm movements as you sing a song of your choice in laughter sounds only, such as “ho ho ho” or “ha ha ha.”

Join a Laughter Club

Since Dr. Madan Kataria, a family physician from Mumbai, India, launched the first Laughter Club in 1995, Laughter Yoga has become a global phenomenon. This type of yoga (also known as Hasyayoga) is a dual body/mind approach to health and wellness. Today, there are Laughter Clubs around the world where people come together to use unconditional laughter and yogic breathing (Pranayama) to relieve stress and promote health. There are more than 100 Laughter Clubs across the U.S. and most of them offer free weekly meetings. You can find a club near you by visiting the Laughter Yoga University website. There are also laughter sessions available via telephone and Skype that are perfect for busy caregivers to participate in.

Learn to Minimize Caregiver Stress

The reality is that stress will always be an unavoidable part of life. The only aspect you can control is how you choose to deal with the negativity and tension that you encounter. Laughter is a simple and free way to cope with life’s ups and downs.

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For Caregivers: Respite for Two

Adult day care centers provide a break (respite) to the caregiver while providing health services, therapeutic services and social activities for people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, chronic illnesses, traumatic brain injuries, developmental disabilities and other problems that increase their care needs.

Some adult day care centers are dementia specific, providing services exclusively to that population. Other centers serve the broader population.

One difference between traditional adult respite, both group and in-home care, and adult day care is that adult day centers not only provide respite to family caregivers but also therapeutic care for cognitively and physically impaired older adults.

Benefits of Adult Day Care

Adult day care allows caregivers to continue working outside the home, receive help with the physical care of a loved one, avoid the guilt of placing a loved one in institutional care, and have respite from what can be a “24/7” responsibility.

The caregiver’s loved one can also benefit from adult day care. He or she is able to remain at home with family but does not require 24-hour care from the primary caregiver. Adult day care participants also have an opportunity to interact socially with peers, share in stimulating activities, receive physical or speech therapy if needed, and receive assistance with the activities of daily living with dignity.

Contact the National Adult Day Services Association for a set of guidelines for adult day service programs. The U.S. Administration on Aging Eldercare Locator can also direct you to adult day care centers in your area. Ultimately, word of mouth is often one of the best ways of finding quality adult day care.

How Do I Choose an Adult Day Care Center?

  • Conduct an individual needs assessment before admission to determine your loved one’s abilities and needs
  • Is there an active program that meets his or her daily social, recreational, and rehabilitative needs?
  • Does the center develop an individualized treatment plan for participants and monitor it regularly, adjusting the plan as necessary?
  • Are there referrals to other needed community services?
  • Are clear criteria for service and guidelines for termination established based on the person’s functional status?
  • Is a full range of in-house services offered, such as personal care, transportation, meals, health screening and monitoring, educational programs, counseling and rehabilitative services?
  • Does the center provide a safe, secure environment?
  • Are the volunteers qualified and well-trained?
  • Does the center adhere to or exceed existing state and national standards and guidelines.

Article from Today’s Caregiver.

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6 Ways to Be a Great Long-Distance Caregiver

At some point, you may end up being a caregiver for one of your senior loved ones. Whether your parent or your grandparent needs your assistance, you might be wondering if you can fulfill this role without moving them into your home or relocating to be closer to them. Today, it is easy to be a long-distance caregiver for a loved one who is still able to maintain a certain degree of independence but may have limited mobility or need someone to keep them on track with their medication schedule and regular doctor’s appointments.

Of course, some seniors with conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s will need daily, in-home care, but for seniors with conditions like Parkinson’s, support from a long-distance caregiver can be extremely helpful. If you are about to take on long-distance caregiving responsibilities, here are a few tips to help you fulfill your loved one’s needs while living in another city or state.

Navigating Medicare

If you are becoming a long-distance caregiver for your senior loved one, it’s crucial for you to understand the Medicare system. You and your loved one should be aware that Medicare has an Annual Election Period from October 15 through December 7. If your loved one needs to make changes to their Medicare plan, this is the only time of year that they can do it, so make sure that you are prepared with all of the necessary paperwork before by mid-October. This checklist should include their Medicare card, their previous medical bills, and other documents.

Both you and your loved one should also discuss options for long-term care in an assisted living facility if it becomes necessary. Since Medicare does not cover extended stays in assisted living facilities, you should familiarize yourself with Medicaid and what kind of coverage your loved one would be eligible for.

Are you concerned that your loved one will not be able to advocate for their own healthcare needs in the future? Talk to them about naming a trusted relative as power of attorney.

Schedule Regular Check-Ins
Even if you have to travel to see your loved one, it’s important to visit them on a regular basis so that you can see how they’re doing. Yes, you can call them or video chat with them a few times each week to get an idea of how things are going, but when you spend time with them in person, you’ll be able to get a read on how they’re really feeling. If you can’t see them as often as you would like, ask another family member to check in on them sometimes.

Assist With Home Modifications
Although your loved one may be perfectly capable of managing most of their own daily tasks, they may not be able to move around their home as easily as they did in the past. For example, a senior who recently had a hip replacement might be unable to walk up the stairs, while someone with Parkinson’s may feel more comfortable bathing with a shower chair.

If you think that your loved one would benefit from certain home modifications, recommend a reputable contractor. This will give you peace of mind when you’re not physically around to help them.

Medical Alert System
A medical alert system is a must for any long-distance caregiver and their loved one. It will notify you if your loved one needs immediate medical attention.

According to PCMag, seniors can choose from several varieties of medical alert systems, including wearable devices like bracelets or necklaces, fitness trackers, cellular alert systems, and more. Choose one that works for your loved one’s lifestyle.

Digital Pill Dispenser
Many seniors take some kind of medication to manage a chronic medical condition. Whether your loved one takes medication for Parkinson’s or high cholesterol, you should make it a point to ensure that they are taking their pills on time.

You may want to set up a digital pill dispenser for your loved one. A digital pill dispenser will notify you when your loved one takes their medication, so you can get in touch with them if they forget. According to GlobalRPh, seniors who use these dispensers are more likely to take their medications as prescribed. If they frequently forget to take their medication, you can ask their doctor for help to remedy the situation.

Hire a House Call Service
Yes, you’ll want to stop by and visit your loved one when you have the chance. But what if they need medical attention, and you’re not there to assist them? Or what if they have a doctor’s appointment scheduled, but they’re not able to drive safely?

Hiring a house call service can fill in the gaps when you’re not around. On house calls, doctors can provide many beneficial services, and your loved one can receive care in the comfort of their own home.

Whether you are moving in with a loved one to help them or handling these responsibilities from afar, becoming a caregiver can be challenging. Thankfully, the technology we have today makes it possible to look out for your senior loved one’s best interests, even when you can’t see them every day.

Claire Wentz is a contributor to Caring from Afar. For more information, visit

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Doctors Prescribing Music Therapy

Music has proven time and again to be an important component of human culture. From its ceremonial origin to modern medical usage for personal motivation, concentration, and shifting mood, music is a powerful balm for the human soul. Though traditional “music therapy” encompasses a specific set of practices, the broader use of music as a therapeutic tool can be seen nowadays as doctors are found recommending music for a wide variety of conditions.

1. Music Helps Control Blood Pressure and Heart-Related Disorders

According to The Cardiovascular Society of Great Britain, listening to certain music with a repetitive rhythm for least ten seconds can lead to a decrease in blood pressure and a reduced heart rate. Certain classical compositions, if matched with human body’s rhythm, can be therapeutically used to keep the heart under control. The Oxford University study states, “listening to music with a repeated 10-second rhythm coincided with a fall in blood pressure, reducing the heart rate” and thus can be used for overcoming hypertension.

2. Listening and Playing Music Helps Treat Stress and Depression

When it comes to the human brain, music is one of the best medicines. A study at McGill University in Canada revealed that listening to agreeable music encourages the production of beneficial brain chemicals, specifically the “feel good” hormone known as dopamine. Dopamine happens to be an integral part of brain’s pleasure-enhancing system. As a result, music leads to great feeling of joy and bliss.

It’s not only listening to music that has a positive effect on stress and depression. The Namm Foundation has compiled a comprehensive list of benefits of playing music, which includes reducing stress on both the emotional level and the molecular level. Additionally, studies have shown that adults who play music produce higher levels of Human Growth Hormone (HgH), which according to Web MD, is a necessary hormone for regulating body composition, body fluids, muscle and bone growth, sugar and fat metabolism, and possibly heart function.

For more on how music can be composed to benefit the brain, read about States of Consciousness and Brainwave Entrainment.

3. Music Therapy Helps Treat Alzheimer’s Disease

Music therapy has worked wonders on patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. With Alzheimer’s, people lose their capacity to have interactions and carry on with interactive communications. According to studies done in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, “When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements.”

4. Studying Music Boosts Academic Achievement in High Schoolers

Early exposure to music increases the plasticity of brain helping to motivate the human brain’s capacity in such a way that it responds readily to learning, changing and growing. “UCLA professor James S. Catterall analyzed the academic achievement of 6,500 low-income students. He found that, by the time these students were in the 10th grade, 41.4% of those who had taken arts courses scored in the top half on standardized tests, contrasted with only 25% of those who had minimal arts experience. The arts students also were better readers and watched less television.” This goes to show that in the formative stages of life, kids who study music do much better in school.

5. Playing Guitar (and Other Instruments) Aids in Treating PTSD

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shared a study in which veterans experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) experienced relief by learning to play guitar. The organization responsible for providing guitars, Guitars For Vets “enhances the lives of ailing and injured military Veterans by providing them free guitars and music instruction.” Playing music for recovery from PTSD resembles traditional music therapy, in which patients are encouraged to make music as part of their healing process. Guitar is not the only instrument that can help PTSD. In fact, Operation We Are Here has an extensive list of Therapeutic Music Opportunities For Military Veterans.

6. Studying Music Boosts Brain Development in Young Children

research-based study undertaken at the University of Liverpool in the field of neuroscience has light to shed on the beneficial effects of early exposure to music. According to the findings, even half an hour of musical training is sufficient to increase the flow of blood in the brain’s left hemisphere, resulting in higher levels of early childhood development.

The Portland Chamber Orchestra shares, “Playing a musical instrument involves multiple components of the central (brain and spinal cord) and peripheral (nerves outside the brain and spinal cord) nervous systems.  As a musician plays an instrument, motor systems in the brain control both gross and fine movements needed to produce sound.  The sound is processed by auditory circuitry, which in turn can adjust signaling by the motor control centers.  In addition, sensory information from the fingers, hands and arms is sent to the brain for processing.  If the musician is reading music, visual information is sent to the brain for processing and interpreting commands for the motor centers.  And of course, the brain processes emotional responses to the music as well!”

7. Music Education Helps Children Improve Reading Skills

Journal Psychology of Music reports that “Children exposed to a multi-year program of music tuition involving training in increasingly complex rhythmic, tonal, and practical skills display superior cognitive performance in reading skills compared with their non-musically trained peers.” In the initial stages of learning and development, music arouses auditory, emotional, cognitive and visual responses in a child. Music also aids a child’s kinesthetic development. According to the research-supported evidence, a song facilitates language learning far more effectively than speech.

8. Listening To Music Helps Improve Sleep

According to The Center for Cardiovascular Disease in China, listening to music before and during sleep greatly aids people who suffer from chronic sleep disorders. This “music-assisted relaxation” can be used to treat both acute and chronic sleep disorders which include everything from stress and anxiety to insomnia.

9. Playing Didgeridoo Helps Treat Sleep Apnea


A study published in the British Medical Journal shows that people suffering from sleep apnea can find relief by practicing the Australian wind-instrument known as the didgeridoo. Patients who played the didgeridoo for an average of 30-minutes per day, 6 days per week, saw significant increases in their quality of sleep and decreases in daytime tiredness after a minimum period of 3-months of practice. Dr. Jordan Stern of BlueSleep says, “The treatment of sleep apnea is quite challenging because there is not a single treatment that works well for every patient. The didgeridoo has been used to treat sleep apnea and it has been shown to be effective in part because of strengthening of the pharyngeal muscles, which means the muscles of the throat, as well as the muscles of the tongue.”

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‘It is not hopeless’: Parkinson’s disease doesn’t stop Austin duo from making popular art

One day, Verna Earl Hamilton Grice discovered she could not walk up the driveway.

That was the first sign.

Later, she felt tremors on one side of her body.

Ten years ago, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

That’s when she stopped painting.

“I got tired,” Verna, 88, says. “I didn’t do it for 10 years. It’s labor intensive. Susan kept on.”

That would be her daughter Susan Grice, 63, who shares Verna’s zeal for making art.

“She focused instead on trying to figure out the illness,” Susan says of her mother. “She went to support groups such as Power for Parkinson’s. They promote exercise.”

Verna: “I was just hanging on.”

Verna, a native of Lake Charles, La., nevertheless made significant progress. A return to painting has helped.

Susan: “Her doctor says she is in the top 1 percent of his patients.”

“I walk really well,” Verna says with a laugh. “If you walk well, they think you are OK. I have my ups and downs. My ups are longer than they were, because I am so busy painting these days. Just looking at the paint seems to help.”

In their airy home studio, Verna and Susan paint together on wood. They seal the paintings so they can be hung outdoors. Their subjects include images inspired by Old Masters, original ideas, nature and abstract arrangements.

As in the past, the mother-and-daughter team enjoys a steady demand for their output, which could be called garden art. They recently staged an exhibition that attracted more than 60 guests to their house and garden in Westover Hills.

“It makes me feel better, I noticed,” Verna says. “How did I start again? My dentist was going out of his way to be sweet to me — I hate going to the dentist — so I brought him one of my pictures. He loved the picture. He had to have two more. They hang in the dentist’s office for others to enjoy.”

“She came home and said, ‘Oh no. I’ve got to get painting. We’re back in business,’” Susan says. “Since then, we couldn’t stop.”

The Grice method

Susan and Verna make 24-by-24-inch paintings on 3/4-inch exterior plywood.

“It’s done directly on the wood,” Verna says. “We prime it and then seal it several times after painting.”

“It’s like making signs,” Susan says. “They last for years and years. We don’t tell the exact formula. It’s a secret. A carpenter friend makes the frames of cedar.”

Mother and daughter come to the project with similar artistic sensibilities.

Susan, former director of psychiatric nursing at Seton Shoal Creek, studied at the Glassell School of Art, the teaching institute of Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

As for Verna, she was artistic as a child in Louisiana. She painted a bit in high school. She followed that inclination to Mexico City, where she studied Spanish and art in 1948 and ’49.

“Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo were very much around,” Verna says. “I remember seeing Diego’s mural at a hotel there.”

A child of the Depression, Verna did not expect much more from life than hard work.

Her father, Vernon Earl Hamilton, took whatever jobs he could land.

“I never knew what to say when they asked, ‘What does your Daddy do?’” Verna recalls. “There were so many things, since it was the Depression. I know he owned slot machines on the side. He put them in little bars around Lake Charles. He sold one to let me go to Mexico.”

Her mother, Ruth McLaughlin Grice, worked as a bookkeeper for an ice company.

“She went to work to get me braces,” Verna says. “Guess what? She was working till she retired. I never got my braces.”

Verna has one sister, Helen Ruth Garman, who at age 84 is a Ride Austin contract driver.

Even Verna’s Mexican adventure came with a practical work goal.

“I was hoping to get a job using my Spanish,” she says, “but couldn’t find one. So I worked for a construction company for a while, then went to Houston. That’s where I met my husband, a young lawyer named Harrison Marion Grice.”

The newlyweds settled down in southeastern Houston and raised three children: Susan, 63, Charles, 61, and Laurel, 54.

Verna did not stop working.

“I sold real estate for a while,” she says. “I was a bilingual secretary in Spain after my husband died and also a legal secretary. I worked for the National Treasury Employees Union and lived in Washington for eight years. I was marching with the union when the older President Bush tried to freeze employees’ salaries to pay down the national debt. I was arrested and handcuffed, stuffed into a paddy wagon and taken to jail. The one thing I remember is that the toilet in the jail is right out in the middle of the room. That’s punishment enough.”

The family moved to Austin’s Northwest Hills in Austin in 1975. She retired in 1996 as the assistant to her union’s president and purchased the Westover Hills home in 2001.

Why paint?

“I just got in the mood,” Verna says of her first adult painting 15 years ago. “I got bored with looking out at those bare fences around the patio. They needed some color. That’s when we started making groups of paintings.”

Susan started painting and selling art right after Verna started in 2004. They’ve sold more than 100 paintings, many of them at places that also sell architectural pieces or items for the garden.

Verna finds that Parkinson’s is only a partial barrier.

“With just about any disability, you can still paint,” Verna says. “If you find someone to help on some things, you can still enjoy the magic of painting.”

“You let me draw straight lines for you sometimes,” Susan interjects. “With her permission and very specific instructions, she will direct me to draw a line. It allows her to still paint, which is fantastic.”

Both Grices promote Power for Parkinson’s, the nonprofit support group that offers free exercise, dance and singing classes at locations in Austin, Round Rock, West Lake Hills and Lakeway.

“I started going when there were just a few things we could do there, and now there are hundreds of activities,” Verna says. “I swim laps. I play bocce ball. I boxed. I decided my body is not made for boxing. Age 88 is too old to dive into the mat.”

Verna does not paint to inspire others, but she’s gratified it might do so.

“I just want people to know that, at 88, you can still have some fun and enjoy life,” Verna says. “A lot of people with Parkinson’s think that this is the end. But you can slow it down. You realize how important your brain is. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a bear of a disease. But it is not hopeless. There are lots of things you can do. Do it, try it — and get creative with it.”

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Holiday Help: Relieving Caregivers’ Stress

Who doesn’t feel overwhelmed sometimes by the bustle of the holiday season? Add to that the responsibility of caring for a frail elderly loved one, and burnout is simply a concept waiting to become reality. But wait. If you’re one of the millions of households providing care for a family member or friend, there is hope. Stress doesn’t have to take the starring role in your family festivities this year.

If you’re like the increasing number of Americans who are trying to offer a sense of dignity to your parent(s), include them in seasonal events and help them stay in their own home, safety is your number one priority.

Most accidents happen at home in unsupervised situations. This season, enlist the help of older children or a spouse, playing games with (Great) Grandma and (Great) Grandpa while you change beds, do the laundry and other chores. Instead of decorating to the hilt, keep holiday décor simple. Eliminate the need for extension cords on the floor and “declutter” your notion of decoration: use colorful paper garlands strung high instead of breakable objects placed within reach. Remove anything a child or a frail elderly person may stumble over. Replace candles with bright centerpieces of fruit or flowers. Keep candy to an absolute minimum to prevent sugar highs and lows.

With the emphasis on “good cheer” during the month of December, the options are many. But don’t wear yourself out trying to make the holidays “happen” for everyone. If you don’t get yourself in a situation where you “overdo” you’ll be more alert to hazards—even emotional ones. Holidays bring emotions to the surface because they hold the most intense memories for your loved ones, and some may not be pleasant. You may find that tears fall for no apparent reason, or that a frail elderly parent suddenly seems gruff or annoyed just when you think everything is fine. Sometimes, the emotional stress of the season makes a frail aging parent seem distant, just when you want to draw them close. We never know what precipitates these reactions; we only have to deal with them. That’s not an easy task, but first and foremost, a caregiver must keep her own emotional balance.Set a few guidelines as to what you expect from yourself. From the very start, set your intention to be positive during the holidays, and to respond with calmness to upsetting scenarios. Sure, things may come to the boiling point at times, but the resolve not to react in like manner will bring the most effective results. People don’t intend to be grumpy, distant or to give you a hard time. These behaviors may simply be a way of asking for help. The best way to give it is by remaining patient, offering consistent encouragement, and setting safe boundaries.

You cannot make everyone happy at all times, but you can take responsibility for your own emotional highs and lows. Preserve a few moments each day all for yourself. Take a half-hour break while your children entertain the frail elderly with Christmas music from the 30s, 40s and 50s or interview their grandparents about favorite holiday memories. You might enlist the services of a home-help organization to do some of the household chores while you go grocery shopping or simply take a walk. Professional caregivers can also help alert you to signs of stress or special needs that you might not recognize on a day-to-day basis, curtailing accidents or emotional spills.

Keep in mind that a frail person may tire more easily during the holiday season, need more sleep as the days grow shorter, and also need their own “space.” Ask for their help; ask them to let you know what they need and how they want to celebrate. Their answers may surprise you. Above all, an older frail person may crave our respect and our admiration. When we praise the good things they’ve accomplished in life, make certain they know that we appreciate their legacy, and tell them we’re happy they’re with us, things will be a lot easier. If they seem only to complain more, well, just grease the wheel with a little praise for yourself. Send positive messages to yourself out loud and mix in a few more affirmations for them.

The holidays are a great time to slow down instead of speed up. Think about all the things you can let remain undone instead of all the things you need to do. Give yourself a challenge to match the tempo of your frail elderly relatives or friends, and see if you don’t enjoy the season more. And after all, isn’t that what the holiday season is all about?

Article from Today’s Caregiver.

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