Robert W. Good, Scott C. Bucy, Allen G. Drescher (Ret.), Cheri L. Elson (Ret.) - Attorneys at Law
823 Siskiyou Blvd ● Ashland ● Oregon ● 97520
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Funding for Alzheimer’s!

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s. Over 15 million Americans are acting as their unpaid caregivers, representing over 17 billion hours of care per year. It is projected that by 2050, over 13 million Americans will live with Alzheimer’s. That’s a lot of people touched by Alzheimer’s!

Medicare spends nearly $1 in $5 on Alzheimer’s. The average Medicare payments to someone without Alzheimer’s is $8,000 per year; the average Medicare payments to someone with Alzheimer’s is $21,500 per year. A recent report projects that Medicare spending on people with Alzheimer’s disease will more than quadruple over the next generation, costing the government $589 billion (yes, billion with a “b”!) annually by 2050.

Medicaid payments are even more skewed: $570 per year to someone without Alzheimer’s, contrasted with $11,000 per year to someone with Alzheimer’s – over 19 times more!

Of the top 10 causes of death in this country, Alzheimer’s disease is the only one that cannot be prevented, cured, or even slowed down. The data shows that if onset of Alzheimer’s could be delayed by just five years, Medicare would save $345 billion in the first 10 years alone. That’s a significant savings, and brings home the importance of finding a cure!

The National Alzheimer’s Project Act (NAPA) was passed unanimously by Congress in 2010 and sets out five goals:

  1. Prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s by 2025
  2. Enhance Alzheimer’s care quality and efficiency
  3. Expand the support available to both patients and caregivers
  4. Enhance public awareness and engagement about Alzheimer’s
  5. Improve data to better track research progress

On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed into law an historic $350 million increase in federal funds for Alzheimer’s research in the 2016 fiscal year budget. This represents a nearly 60% increase over the 2015 fiscal year budget and marks the largest increase ever for federal Alzheimer’s research funding, and should help see all five NAPA goals met. I applaud the bipartisan effort that made this happen!

If you are caring for someone touched by Alzheimer’s, or any other dementia, know that you are not alone. As someone who was the sole caregiver for a close family member for over 2 years, I understand the sense of overwhelm and helplessness that can accompany providing care for someone so ill. I can help you navigate this journey, providing assistance and resources to ease everyone’s stress. Please feel free to contact me to set up a complimentary consultation so that we can discuss how I may be of service.

Cheri Elson
Gray Matters Consulting

To read the full article:
Historic Alzheimer’s Funding Increase

The Brain-Music Connection

Music is profoundly connected to personal memories – it can catapult you back in time as though it were happening for the first time.  Not surprising when you understand that our brains are hard-wired to connect music with long-term memory.

Because of how dementia attacks the brain, the most recent memories are often lost first, with memories of teenage years being well preserved.  Favorite music associated with important personal events can trigger not only the memory of the lyrics, but also the experience connected to the music.  It can calm chaotic brain activity and enable the listener to focus on the present moment and regain connection to others.

Music also activates all parts of the brain, unlike any other activity that will be focused in one area only.  In a 2011, Finnish researchers found that listening to music recruits not only the auditory areas of the brain, but also the emotional, motor, and creative areas of the brain.  When someone listens to music, the entire brain lights up!

Music & Memory is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing personalized music to the elderly or infirm using digital music technology, like the iPod Shuffle.  When dementia patients are able to listen to the music of their youth, specifically to music that had deep meaning to them personally, incredible things happened.  Nursing home residents who had been non-responsive for years were reawakened when presented with digital music players, headphones, and the music that was meaningful to them.

In 2012, a documentary about the work of Music & Memory, Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory, was previewed at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City, showing in theaters around the country, including our own Varsity Theater in Ashland!  Through Music & Memory, over 1,000 locations across the United States and Canada, as well as a dozen caregiving facilities in eight other countries, have programs set up for their residents to provide them with music.

Caring for a family member with dementia can seem an overwhelming responsibility.  Creating a personal music playlist for the home can make a huge difference for everyone involved.  It can renew connections, ease transitions, and even provide respite time for the caregiver.  Music & Memory has programs to help set these up, both in private homes and in assisted living facilities.  Of course, you may also contact me – I would be honored to help you in any way I can through your journey.

Cheri Elson
Gray Matters Consulting

If you would like to learn more about research done or Music and Memory, here is are some interesting links:
Listening to Music Lights up the Whole Brain

Four Rituals to Increase Happiness

I came across this article in the Business Insider recently and it really resonated with me. My daughter is a neuroscience major, so I am immediately attracted to anything with the word “neuroscience” in it. The title speaks of increasing happiness, a subject that also always attracts my attention.

According to neuroscientist Alex Korb, of UCLA, there are four fairly simple rituals that can increase your happiness:

  1. Ask “What am I grateful for?”
    Gratitude really does affect your brain at the biological level, activating the brain stem region that produces dopamine and serotonin. Gratitude can create a positive feedback loop in your relationships. And, you don’t necessarily have to find something to be grateful for. It’s the searching that counts.
  1. Label negative emotions.
    Sometimes, we just feel awful, and nothing we do seems to help. That’s okay – see if you can find a name for that feeling. Sad? Anxious? Angry? Helpless? Research shows that when an emotion is consciously recognized, or named, their impact was reduced. Likewise, trying to suppress negative emotional experiences did not result in feeling the emotion less – in some cases, it backfired. Meditation has used labeling for centuries; labeling is one of the fundamental tools of mindfulness. The bottom line is: describe an emotion in just a word or two, and it helps reduce the emotion.
  2. Decide.
    Brain science shows that making decisions reduces worry and anxiety. Decision making includes creating intentions and setting goals, all of which are part of the same neural circuitry and engage the brain in a positive way, reducing worry and anxiety. Don’t be concerned that the decision is the absolute best decision. “Good enough” is just that, good enough. The decision can always be adjusted in the future when more information is obtained. Striving for perfection overwhelms the brain with emotions and causes you to feel out of control. When a decision is made, your brain feels in control, which in turn, reduces stress.
  3. Hugs, hugs, hugs. Don’t text – touch.
    Touch is incredibly powerful and touching someone you love actually reduces pain. A hug, especially a long one (20 seconds or more) releases oxytocin and reduces the reactivity of the amygdala, the fear center of the brain. Massage boosts serotonin and dopamine levels, which can help in creating new habits. Massage also improves sleep and reduces fatigue by increasing serotonin and dopamine and by decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone).

It may sound trite when I say that finding your happiness when touched by progressive dementia is extremely important. The world is crashing and there is nothing but darkness all around and I’m asking you to look for gratitude? However, as the article states so well:

“Everything is connected. Gratitude improves sleep. Sleep reduces pain. Reduced pain improves your mood. Improved mood reduces anxiety, with improves focus and planning. Focus and planning help with decision making. Decision making further reduces anxiety and improves enjoyment. Enjoyment gives your more to be grateful for, which keeps that look of the upward spiral going. Enjoyment also makes it more likely you will exercise and be social, which in turn, will make you happier.”

All of this will help you and your loved ones cope with the condition and live the fullest life possible.

You may agree with the premise of the article and be thinking, “How can I do this alone?” The good news is that you don’t have to do this alone. I can help. My training in life coaching and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), coupled with my personal experiences as a full-time caregiver of a close family member who was extremely ill, has provided me with tools I would be most honored to share with you. I am happy to discuss your personal situation with you to see how I might be able to support you in your journey – my initial consultation is always free of charge.

Cheri Elson
Gray Matters Consulting

If you would like to read the entire article, here is the link: