Hope for living, loving, and caring with no regrets!

Successful Meals

Episode 124

Rayna Neises, ACC, host, reflects on her conversation from last week with Marie Vaudry (Episode 123).  Marie is the founder of Gleam in Your Eye, an activity subscription box created for those with dementia. Rayna shares additional information on ways to stay active and engaged no matter your age:

  • [2:24] Brain games can help your brain stay healthier and younger longer. 
  • [4:33] Brain function includes memory, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
  • [5:20] Stimulate your brain in different ways by using your imagination.
  • [6:14] Stimulate different areas of your brain by using your senses or your non-dominant hand.
  • [7:05] Reading is a great way to build your brain power.
  • [8:00] Check out udemy.com for online courses to learn something new.
  • [11:16] Volunteering together can expand your normal activities and keep your brain sharp and healthy.
  • [11:49] Combining cognitive training with regular exercise, a healthy diet, adequate sleep, and socialization provide the most benefit.
  • [12:14] Staying physically active helps boost mood and keeps the doctor away.
  • [13:14] Stretching helps you get loose and ready for the day and can help you sleep better.
  • [14:00] Consider adding yoga or chair yoga to your routine.

This Episode was Sponsored by:


*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

[00:00:00] Rayna Neises: “Don’t try to be young, just open your mind, stay interested in stuff. There are so many things I won’t live long enough to find out about, but I’m still curious about them.” Betty White.

[00:00:11] Didn’t you love Betty White? She was so full of life. And so full of curiosity, one of the things that I thought was most interesting about her was how active and engaged she was all the way up until the very last days of her life.

[00:00:26] Hi, this is Rayna Neises, and welcome to A Season of Caring Podcast where there’s hope for living loving and caring with no regrets. In episode 123, I was able to talk with Marie Vaudry, who is the founder of a Gleam in Your Eye, an activity box created for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Marie mentioned that it’s so difficult to find activities, to keep people who are in those mid stages engaged, using their brain.

[00:00:58] And that got me thinking about how [00:01:00] important it is to stay actively engaged, no matter what age we are. And during caregiving, we can forget that’s one of those self-care items that can really get pushed aside, staying active, intentionally being active and engaged.

[00:01:17] So as I started doing some research about staying active, it was interesting because one of the first things that came up was staying active mentally. And that got me thinking it’s such an important thing, no matter where we are in life, as caregivers, those that we’re caring for staying active and engaged, it can be challenging. Number one, so many things to do. And number two, as life changes what we have time for what we have the bandwidth for, to engage in can really change. And then it can become challenging to find new things and new ideas.

[00:01:56] So I thought today on this podcast, I would talk more [00:02:00] about activities for both you and for the person you’re caring for to help you have the healthiest and happiest life possible. We’re all getting older one day at a time so let’s all think about how we can stay active and engaged.

[00:02:18] I found an article on St. Luke’s health.org that talked about brain games and how engaging in brain games can help your brain stay healthier and younger longer. So you’ve probably heard a lot about brain games. I’ve played brain games at different times, different ones online, as well as Suduko on paper. So it just kind of depends on what you enjoy, but I would say find some different games and try to do them regularly. So this article mentioned that brain games, really the majority of the benefit allows the neuroplasticity to work its magic and neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to form [00:03:00] and reorganize the symptomatic connections.

[00:03:04] So we know that in our brain, we have all of these different connections that help us to sort through all of that information that is stored in our brain. The older we get, the more is in there. And so we’ve gotta have that flexibility for us to be able to access that information.

[00:03:22] On Cedar Sinai’s website it talks about the fact that our brain cells, some are in active mode and some are in default mode. And they actually found with patients who had had strokes instances where the brain is being able to recruit the neighboring cells that are in default mode to compensate for the function of any damaged cells.

[00:03:46] So this act of neuroplasticity can actually achieve through cognitive stimulation and it can help us to wake up those neighboring cells that are default. By observing how the brain recovers from [00:04:00] stimulation it suggests that we can actually keep our brains healthier in the long term, by continuing to stimulate them and helping to bring those exercises that allow the cells in default mode to become more active and to reform connections with other cells. So it can definitely improve that neuroplasticity, which helps us with cognitive rehabilitation as well as just overall brain health.

[00:04:27] So when we think about being able to engage our brains and take advantage of some of the things that we need to do that, let’s talk about some of the different activities. Think about brain function we have memory, problem solving. and critical thinking. So oftentimes critical thinking and problem solving. Those are the types of games that we initially think of crossword puzzles, Suduko. chess, even bridge. But we also wanna consider other creative outlets like drawing, playing an [00:05:00] instrument, or learning a new language. If you try to find a variety of stimulations in those activities, then we’re gonna help to stimulate those default cells in different areas of the brain and help them to be able to wake up and help us with the neuroplasticity.

[00:05:14] So definitely we wanna be able to alternate and find different activities. There are also things online that can help you with memory games, recognizing faces, memorizing people, you know, really thinking about how to stimulate your brain in different ways. One thing that we don’t do a lot of, as an adult is use our imaginations and our imaginations can definitely stimulate different areas of our brain. You can do that through writing creative stories, taking a poetry class, even being able to listen to books on tape and practice visualizing what we think is happening in the story and really building intricate pictures of the characters and the activities that are happening. [00:06:00] Meditating, listening for sounds, bringing ourselves to places that we aren’t, possibly imagining visiting somewhere that you’ve been in the past.

[00:06:08] Another way of stimulating a different area of your brain that can be helpful is using your senses. Closing your eyes and smelling what’s around you. Thinking about what you saw last, really being able to bring up different thoughts and experiences with the senses.

[00:06:28] One challenging way of helping you to really exercise your brain in a way that maybe you’ve never thought of before is to use your non-dominant hand, whether that be to eat or practice writing. Even just closing your eyes when you’re trying to button your shirt or do some normal tasks. Using that non-dominant hand or taking away one of the senses challenges your brain to compensate and really be able to do things in a different way.

[00:06:59] [00:07:00] So when I think about learning new things, I immediately think about reading. I love to read for the fun of it. And I’ve mentioned it before reading is a great way to escape and to just relax. But also reading is a great way to learn new things and build your brain power. Thinking about reading nonfiction, biographies, content, about things you’ve always wanted to learn more about. You can find an abundance of different things to read about if you just expand typical routine and try something new. There are also fun book clubs and opportunities to have book discussions available online, or even at your local library. So don’t forget to think about reading and how that can help you to continue to engage your brain.

[00:07:54] So we definitely established that learning new things can be a wonderful way to keep [00:08:00] your brain sharp and to continue to build that neuroplasticity that we know is so important. So have you heard of Udemy, Udemy website that has over 185,000 courses available on subjects from computer, software, programming it, marketing, business photography, personal development, music. More, I just can’t even imagine 183,000 courses. They start as cheap as at $14.99 and have many, many different options with all different types of people teaching them. So it’s definitely something that’s worth taking a look at to see if you can find something you would like to learn more about possibly a new language or art. I think the possibilities are endless. They’re adding new courses to you, to me all the time. So it’s U [00:09:00] D E M y.com. Check it out and see if you can find something new to learn today.

[00:09:06] So as we are thinking about how to stay mentally and physically active, we might think about the fact that in this caring season a lot has changed. I know for me, I was traveling a long way away from home for long periods of time. And some of the activities that I really enjoyed were no longer an option.

[00:09:29] For example, I was sewing a lot before I started traveling. I was actually making some different crafts and selling them at a local boutique from customized hats to embroidery on scarfs and earrings and jewelry, lots of different things that I was really enjoying. Having access to all of the things that I needed to make those items became really challenging when I started to travel to my dad’s house half the week. And so I had to let go of some of those things. I could do some [00:10:00] while I was at home, but it was really difficult to be in the middle of a project. So I found myself finding some different things to do. I took some art classes online, did some painting and decoupaging. I also broke out my crochet hooks and made projects. I hadn’t crocheted in years and so that was really fun.

[00:10:20] You might find that you enjoy painting or pottery or sculpting. You might also try scrapbooking. I know I did that when I was younger and I still have a lot of the pieces. There’s always new pictures to create and for our scrapbook. You might also enjoy jewelry making, like I did possibly woodworking or even writing, creative writing. I mentioned earlier poetry . Finding some different ways you can write and publish your own blog. Having the opportunity to also pick up a musical instrument, take lessons or just practice, or even attend [00:11:00] musical events, knitting, sewing, quilting, cross stitching, there’s cooking and gardening and genealogy, as well as volunteering.

[00:11:10] There’s lots of opportunities that you or your loved one might enjoy. Volunteering at the zoo or even at a museum, but being able to really expand what your normal activities are, can help you to continue to grow and continue to keep your brain sharp and healthy. There are lots of different activities that can keep you busy in new seasons of life. I think that’s true as well. For those that we’re caring for, especially for caring for an aging parent, helping them to engage in new activities can be really helpful.

[00:11:42] The St. Luke’s health.org article, they mentioned that research definitely shows that the most benefit that they found was when combining cognitive training with regular exercise, so healthy diet, adequate sleep and [00:12:00] socialization, all of those things came together to help with the most benefit of mental health.

[00:12:08] Really staying active, physically, according to heart.org, we need to make sure that we are engaging in physical activity in order to naturally boost our mood to be able to stay fit and able with our strength and our stamina, as well as our ability to compensate and recuperate. It also mentioned it keeps the doctor away when you stay physically active by keeping the blood pressure and cholesterol down, as well as weight at a healthy level and bone density. They went ahead and mentioned that the American Heart Association continues to recommend 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week to increase that blood flow.

[00:12:55] And the St Luke’s article mentioned that increase the blood flow to the hippocampus [00:13:00] which is the brain’s memory storage area. So those activities can definitely have cognitive benefits when we put them together.

[00:13:08] The last one I wanted to share with you was an article that was talking about stretching and how important stretching can be. Sometimes we think of exercise as having to be strenuous and we definitely need to get our heart rate up so that we can increase our blood flow to all areas of our brain, but especially our hippocampus, which helps us to convert short term memories into the long-term memories. But we also don’t wanna neglect some of the things that we can do just with stretching. Starting our day with stretching can help us to really get loose and get ready for the day as well as ending our day with stretching can help us to sleep better, helps with joints and overall deep sleep if we really relax those muscles with stretching.

[00:13:54] If in the middle of the day, we take some time to take a short walk and then do some stretching with that we’re gonna find [00:14:00] that we’ll definitely have healthier overall, muscles and ability to recover from that exercise. Yoga and even chair yoga can be very helpful. So if you find yourself with physical limitations, things like chair yoga can help you get the exercise, which brings the heart rate up at the same time as giving you some of those stretches. No matter what physical condition you’re in it can be a really good exercise to help you. There are chair yoga workouts available online as well as regular yoga. So, if you can’t get out to a community center or gym, that might be a good option for you .

[00:14:37] I think about the activities that I was able to do while I was caring for my dad, some of my favorite things we did together, we were actually able to play ping pong for long periods of time and have a really good time laughing and enjoying that activity. Dad loved to go to the gym and lift weights. And so I was able to go and do that with him as well. We also took walks with the dog and [00:15:00] just kept ourselves really active in that way. So what things are you up to? What kind of activities do you enjoy both mentally and physically with your person that you’re caring for or by yourself? This is a really important time in your life to make sure that you’re being active intentionally and that you’re really planning out how you’re getting your brain exercise in as well as your physical exercise each and every day.

[00:15:24] Staying mentally active can really help us to extend the quality of life. And when we think of that physical activity, we can’t always stay as physically active doing things like volleyball and softball, or even golf as we age. But we can definitely spend some time being able to increase our overall activity when we think of some new action, which helps us to not only enjoy a new hobby, but also develop that neuroplasticity in our brain to keep us sharp and able to engage as long as [00:16:00] possible. I would love to hear from you what physical activities do you find helpful that you can engage in even during your caring season or that you can engage in with the person that you’re caring for?

[00:16:13] Thanks for joining me today. Just a reminder, A Seasonal Caring Podcast has been created for the encouragement of family caregivers. If you have financial, legal or medical questions, be sure to consult your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.

[00:16:29] This episode has been brought to you by Dementia Education with Rayna as a Positive Approach to Care, Independent Certified Trainer. Rayna is able to provide online workshops for family members who have loved ones with dementia or are experiencing brain change. Check out what workshops are coming at www.dementiaeducationwithrayna.com.

*This transcript is a literal recount of the live recording, please forgive the grammatical errors



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Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises, ACC

An ICF Certified Coach, Author of No Regrets:  Hope for Your Caregiving Season, Podcaster, Positive Approach® to Care (PAC)Independent Certified Trainer & Speaker, offering encouragement, support, and resources to those who are in a Season of Caring for Aging Parents.

Her passion is for those caring and their parents, that they might be seen, not forgotten & cared for, not neglected.

Rayna Neises

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