Just as we should exercise to keep our bodies strong, we should also challenge ourselves with mental workouts that help keep the brain young and healthy. While there’s no way to prevent aging of the brain altogether, research shows that doing certain brain exercises boosts memory, concentration, and focus, and helps keep your mind sharp as you get older.
Today, we’ll look at a few different exercises that promote brain health and keep you feeling young in spirit. After all, the familiar adage applies here: Use it or lose it!
Pick Your Puzzle
Whether it’s a jigsaw, a crossword, or Sudoku, challenging yourself to solve puzzles is a great way to keep your brain sharp—and a lot of fun to boot. Different types of puzzles work different areas of your brain, so it’s a good idea to switch it up now and then. There’s something classic and peaceful about doing the puzzles in your local newspaper with a pen and paper. But if you’re looking for an easy digital fix, The Washington Post compiles all their daily crossword puzzles in one free, online library. This website has billions of free Sudoku puzzles with varying levels of difficulty.
Learn a New Language
There is a wealth of evidence proving that learning multiple languages provides huge cognitive benefits. Bilingualism promotes memory, creativity, and visual-spatial skills. It also helps you switch mental gears more easily, meaning you can switch between tasks faster and delay the onset of age-related brain decline. The best part is, it’s never too late to reap the cognitive benefits of learning a new language: Researchers insist that you can improve your brain health by becoming a student of Spanish, French, or Mandarin at any stage of life.
Bust a Move
Yep, that’s right—dancing is good for your brain health as well as your physical health! Well, more specifically, learning new dance moves is. According to the CDC, learning a new dance increases your brain’s processing speed and memory. Now may not be the best time to take a salsa or ballroom dance class, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn new moves on your own time. Check out this instructional video that is specifically geared toward teaching seniors Latin dancing, or grab your partner and learn the basics of swing.
Try a New Hobby
Taking up a new hobby or skill is a powerful way to strengthen the connections in your brain and improve memory. Always wanted to learn how to rebuild a vintage car? Curious about decoupage? Now is the time to get started on a new hobby or skill that will not only enrich your life, but also challenge your brain to a workout. With more time on your hands, retirement is a great stage of life to try new things and take up hobbies.
Download a Free App
There are hundreds of free smartphone apps featuring puzzles, games, and challenges to improve cognitive wellness. For example, the CogniFit Brain Fitness app tracks your progress and tells you which areas are most in need of improvement. BrainHQ, which is available online and via smartphone, asks users to solve problems and adapts the difficulty level based on your individual ability. But beware: The aforementioned apps are backed by real scientific evidence, but there are many apps out there of dubious effectiveness. This article provides a helpful guide for choosing the right ones.
At HealthKeeperz, our approach to wellness is holistic. That means we focus on caring for the whole person — not only meeting your needs for physical care, but also for spiritual, emotional, and social support.
You can’t care for every aspect of a person without the properly trained personnel. That’s why we hire people of many different specialties, from registered nurses and occupational therapists to case managers and medical social workers.
“Medical social worker” — there’s a term you may not have heard before. Most people outside the healthcare field probably haven’t, yet medical social workers play an important role in caring for patients. Today, we’ll take a closer look into what they do and how they may be able to help you or a loved one.
Medical Social Work: An Important and Holistic Discipline
Medical social work is a sub-discipline within the larger field of social work. It deals with patients and families who are in need of “psychosocial” help, or help relating to a combination of social factors and individual behavior.
Some of the social factors that are addressed in medical social work are:
● Income level
● Family size and structure
The individual thoughts and behaviors that are often managed by medical social workers include:
● Grief counseling
● Supportive counseling
● Substance abuse
● Family intervention
Healthcare is often inextricably tied to these factors; for example, a patient’s financial status may restrict their access to quality healthcare, or a patient may have existing psychological issues that make it hard for them to cope with illness. It is the medical social worker’s job to help the patient and his or her family navigate these problems and find a way to recovery.
Medical social workers help patients find balance in their personal, family, and social lives. Without this balance, it is often difficult — or even impossible — for a patient to recover from a medical ailment and reintegrate into society. Alternately, if a full recovery is not possible, medical social workers make it easier to manage chronic conditions and access helpful resources.
Qualifications for Becoming a Medical Social Worker
Aspiring medical social workers undergo extensive training and practice. First, they must complete a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a related field like psychology or sociology. Most medical social worker positions also require applicants to complete a master’s degree in social work (MSW).
During their graduate studies, aspiring medical social workers must complete many hours of fieldwork to graduate — often as many as 1,000. Finally, they must obtain licensure through both the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) and their state’s board of social work. Medical social workers are always learning, and must complete a variety of continuing education courses to maintain their licensure.
How Can Medical Social Work Help Me or My Loved Ones?
A medical social worker can help you and your family answer some of life’s most difficult and important questions, including:
● When should I intervene in my loved one’s healthcare?
● What community resources are available to help me or my loved one?
● What is the best course of action to help me or a loved one heal physically, emotionally, and socially?
If you’ve been struggling with any of the above questions, we hope you’ll reach out to us for help from one of our skilled medical social workers. Give us a call at 800-309-3784 to begin the conversation.
After months of widespread business closures and shelter-in-place orders sweeping the nation, we’re finally seeing a slow return to the way things were before COVID-19. Even New York City has taken preliminary measures to reopen. Whether you’re thrilled by the news of reopenings or feeling more wary, it’s important that you continue to take special measures to protect your health – particularly if you belong to a population that is more vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with preexisting respiratory illnesses.
Wear a Mask in Public
Cloth face masks slow the spread of coronavirus by preventing those who may have the virus, but no symptoms, from spreading it. Wearing a face mask contains your germs, keeping them away from others around you, so that when we all wear a face mask, we all protect each other. Countries that combined face masks with other protective measures early in the pandemic saw success in slowing the spread of the virus.
You can buy cloth face masks online or in-store for a relatively low price, or make your own at home. The CDC has provided instructions for DIY cloth face masks, both with and without sewing.
Avoid Large Gatherings
The more people at a social event, the higher the risk of COVID-19 transmission. While there’s no magic number to limit gathering sizes – it varies by state – North Carolina has recommended no more than 10 people gather indoors and no more than 25 outdoors during Phase 2 of reopening.
That doesn’t mean you should go to as many dinner parties of 10 people as you can. It’s probably best to start slow, especially if you are a senior or part of another vulnerable population. And when you do attend social gatherings, be sure to take additional protective measures like wearing a face mask and washing your hands often.
Wash Your Hands, Don’t Touch Your Face
One of the simplest ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to wash your hands after touching surfaces in public, including doorknobs, handles, cash registers, ATMs, and gas pumps. If there isn’t a place to wash your hands nearby, use hand sanitizer instead.
The average person touches his or her face as much as 16 times per hour. The good news is, you can train yourself out of this habit. Simply setting an intention to not touch your face, or to only do so with freshly washed hands, is a great first step. If that’s not enough and you still catch yourself doing it, try placing reminders where you can’t miss them – for example, put a Post-it note on your desk, or set an automatic reminder on your phone.
Continue to Practice Social Distancing
Even as government leaders at the federal, state, and local level relax mandatory guidelines, it’s still wise to practice social distancing as much as you can. When you’re out shopping or dining, keep a distance of at least six feet from others. Avoid restaurants and retailers that appear to be ignoring state guidelines to limit customers to 50 percent capacity. If it looks too crowded, go somewhere else!
Try and plan small gatherings for the outdoors; the risk of coronavirus transmission is lower in the open air. With loved ones, opt for elbow taps and “footshakes” instead of hugging and kisses on the cheek. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue, to name just a few), do not travel outside of the home except to get tested or consult a medical professional.
Happy reopening. Stay safe, stay vigilant, and stay healthy!
HealthKeeperz, along with our friends at Campbell’s Soup, proudly sponsored the Scotland Memorial Foundation’s 2020 5K Virtual FUNd Run.
Since 1988, the Scotland Memorial Foundation has served as the provider and custodian of generous gifts and bequests to Scotland Health Care System. The foundation plays an integral and unique role of support in Scotland Health Care System’s mission to provide safe, high quality, compassionate, and sustainable health care in the communities it serves in Scotland, Robeson, and Marlboro counties.
The foundation touches hundreds of people every year by offering programs and services which provide hope, encouragement, and a healthier way of life to friends, family and neighbors in the communities served by Scotland Health Care System.
In normal times, the FUNd Run is a live event, a typical 5k race. But due to health concerns related to COVID-19, organizers made the prudent decision to go “virtual” and protect the health of area residents by not gathering everyone simultaneously to walk and run. Instead, participants registered as normal and participated on their own, running or walking the 5k between April 25-May 31.
The foundation race organizers handed out multiple awards in the following categories:
· Best 5k time
· Most mileage run (participants could run the 5k as much as they wanted over the month-long event)
· Most prolific social media poster (runners and walkers shared photos taken as they participated)
· Best photo shared
· Craziest outfit
· Farthest participant from Scotland Memorial Hospital
“We were thrilled to sponsor the Scotland Memorial Foundation’s Virtual 5k FUNd run this year,” said April Dederick of the HealthKeeperz marketing team. “Obviously, the current COVID-19 environment posed some incredible challenges to the race, which is one of the major fundraisers for this vital organization that contributes so much to the communities we serve together. But the foundation’s race organizers more than rose to the occasion, creating a fun event where people could not only participate in a healthy endeavor, but also get really creative and show their love for southeastern NC.”
For more information about our friends at the Scotland Memorial Foundation, visit https://www.scotlandhealth.org/scotland-memorial-foundation.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s so important for healthcare providers to stand in solidarity with each other, as many of us work tirelessly to provide the care so desperately needed at this time. Our organization has been recognizing the heroism of our own staff, who go into homes and facilities across North Carolina to care for populations that can include the senior population and those with conditions deemed high-risk with regard to the coronavirus.
Over the last week, we added a new twist on our gratitude tour, according to April Dederick of the HealthKeeperz marketing team. “In the last several days, our sales and marketing representatives have visited 75 care facilities and clinics to thank our community partners and healthcare heroes across 10 counties in southeastern NC.”
Dederick, along with Michele Morgan, Ponce Chavis, Tito Massol, Shaneese Brown, Jeff Hunt, and Otara Mills, have placed signs thanking our partners and recognizing the healthcare heroes we collaborate with every day to give our patients a better quality of life. The facilities visited by the team include skilled nursing facilities, health clinics, assisted living and retirement communities, and facilities specializing in memory care.
For Massol, the pandemic is bringing the healthcare provider community together in a very human way. “The story here is that people need people,” he said. “Social isolation isn’t healthy, especially for prolonged periods. We hope that these signs remind our friends in these facilities and communities that we care about them and miss our connection to each place during this time. We think of it as a big HealthKeeperz version of a Hallmark card!”
“We appreciate everything they are doing to take care of their residents and patients, and they are constantly in our thoughts and prayers,” Massol added. “Part of our mission, caring for all people for the glory of God means caring for our partners, too.”
A favorite song of mine these days has the following refrain.
Come all who are weary
Come all who are broken hearted
Oh come now to Jesus
Come and lay your burdens down.
“He Reigns, --GhostShip
This refrain resonates so deeply with me, because it points us to a source of peace and rest that we all need, whether we are weary now or will be later. Our hearts have been, are presently, and/or will be broken in the future.
And what we need is a friend. And when He says “come, take a load off,” can actually help us unload our burdens. One of the great truths of the gospel is that Jesus bears “away” our sin. Along with the penalty of sin, Jesus also bears its burden. Shame is cast away. Fruitless toil for acceptance by God is gone.
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we are accepted as sons and daughters by our Heavenly Father. We find ourselves empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk in strength, even though we may be experiencing weariness. Broken hearts can be healed and kept soft, that we might love again.
Oh, my friend, if you find yourself overcome with grief, then let me point you to THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT! Jesus knows deeply and intimately the ache of every tear that fills the eye. Yet, He says, “come to me.” When God promises comfort for the weary, it is not through the waving of magic wands or the snapping of fingers, but through faith. Yes, faith. Trust. Belief.
Do you believe God, when He says that your suffering and hurting is purposeful? Do you trust Jesus to provide the strength and comfort that you need? Will you remain faithful to God in deed and heart? My friend, Jesus is not just an ancient Jewish carpenter who drummed up a public following because He could relate with the plight of His kinsman and thus spoke words of hope. No, Jesus is THE HOPE, the great King of Heaven who reigns supreme over all. He is THE creator of all that is seen and unseen.
He fashioned our emotions and our psyche. He knows our hearts. And this is precisely how he knows what we need in difficult times. But Jesus doesn’t simply know in some theoretical, disconnected way. Jesus Himself left heaven to come and live the human experience as a man. He experienced true hunger, exhaustion, joy, excitement, sadness, joy, disappointment, and fulfillment as a human.
The only part of the human experience He did not taste was the taste of sin. He did everything perfectly: no bad words, bad attitude, or bad thoughts. Beloved, if you leave this devotion with one thought, know that Jesus has identified with our humanity in all its sufferings, so that we might identify with His perfections. There’s a day coming when we will never be weary or broken-hearted again, because the very presence of sin and its effects upon the world will be annihilated. But in the meantime, Jesus says “Come to me, today.” Jesus gives the peace and rest of heaven today, by faith. So I end where I began:
Come all who are weary
Come all who are broken hearted
Oh come now to Jesus
Come and lay your burdens down.
Yours in Christ,
Chaplain James Chavis
When deciding to become a nurse, doctor, or physical therapist, few people consider the possibility that they might have to work the frontlines of a global pandemic. And yet, that’s exactly what we see our healthcare professionals doing now: bravely putting themselves at risk to watch over the rest of us.
Neither the Hippocratic oath nor the Nightingale pledge say anything about working during a pandemic. Rather, doctors and nurses are guided by a strong moral compass that goes above and beyond what they pledge to do at the start of their careers. Healthcare professionals have within them a drive to help people, no matter how difficult or dangerous it becomes to do so. This isn’t something expected or required of them; it’s an innate quality that motivates doctors and nurses to help in times of crisis. Their drive is so strong that most would rather put themselves in grave danger than not practice their craft.
Saying thank you to our healthcare professionals is no small feat. After all, how can you adequately thank someone who’s quite literally saving the world? Even if our efforts to show gratitude fall short of their efforts to save lives, we can still try. Thanking doctors, nurses, and all physicians who are helping out during this time is the least we can do.
Thank you, healthcare professionals, for taking a risk every day by coming into work to help us. Thank you for doing your best to save lives, even as hospitals become overcrowded and your work gets harder to do. Thank you for watching over our seniors and folks with preexisting conditions. Thank you for helping our family members, friends, and loved ones.
Thank you for continuing to come to work as so many of us stay home and keep away from others to protect our health. You don’t have the same luxury, and for that reason, we all feel for you and for your families. We don’t expect you to put your health at risk for us, but you do anyway, and for that we are all deeply grateful.
Whatever you do, whether in word or deed,
do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks to God
the Father through him.
At HealthKeeperz, our home health professionals are a part of something much larger: a mission to care for all for the glory of God. Throughout this time of uncertainty and upheaval, they continue to embody this idea in a bold and beautiful way. We’re so proud to call our doctors, nurses, PTs, and OTs part of the HealthKeeperz family. Their unwavering passion for providing care is incredible, and we can’t thank them enough for it.
Psychologists, writers, and even the World Health Organization have argued that the measures we’re taking to slow the spread of COVID-19 – “social distancing” – could more aptly be called physical distancing. That’s because of the multitude of digital communication tools at our disposal, which make it easy to connect with others no matter how far away they are.
Just because you can’t be physically there with your mom, dad, or best friend doesn’t mean that you can’t be with them in voice and spirit. Phone calls and text messages may not provide the same endorphin rush as a big hug, but they do give us the feelings of connectedness that we need as human beings. For today’s article, we wanted to share a few creative ways of staying connected with your loved ones during physical distancing.
Idea #1: Digital Movie Night
Grab the blankets and popcorn – it’s time for a virtual movie night! Use videoconferencing software like Skype, FaceTime, or Zoom to connect with a family member or friend. Then, choose a movie that you both have access to, through platforms like Netflix or on-demand cable rentals. To avoid bandwidth issues, use separate devices to talk with your loved one and stream the movie. Be sure to press play at the same time. And bam, you’re watching a movie together – even if you are miles apart.
Idea #2: Long-Distance Family Trivia
Create your own set of trivia questions using your computer or a pen and paper. To add a personal twist, you might make the questions related to your family history and happenings (i.e., “What line did Dad famously mess up in the wedding vows?”). Gather a group of extended family members across multiple households, and host everybody on a videoconferencing platform. Having some kind of activity, like a trivia game, to guide video calls makes for a more engaging and bonding experience. Let the games begin!
Idea #3: Old-Fashioned Love Notes
There’s nothing quite as touching as receiving a handwritten letter in the mail; it has a certain old-fashioned magic about it that beats receiving a text ten times over. Take a few minutes out of your day to handwrite messages of love and support to your friends and family. Writing these notes is just as therapeutic as receiving them, and you’ll immediately feel a little bit better about everything once you stamp and send off your letter. As an added bonus, snail mail is perfect for the people in your life who aren’t comfortable using text or email, or simply prefer not to. (We all know them. I’m looking at you, Uncle Al!)
Idea #4: Gift Giving
Lord knows our budgets are tight at the moment, so it’s probably not the best time to purchase expensive gifts for those you love. But it’s a great time to send small, symbolic, and preferably handmade items that will cheer up friends and family. For example, what grandparent doesn’t love getting a personalized drawing from their grandchild? If you have any healthcare, delivery, or grocery workers in your circle of family and friends, now is the time to show your support by sending small DIY care packages. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on a gift; what matters is the love and care that it stands for. Right now, we could all use some of that.
Across the nation and the entire world, gyms and sports clubs are closing their doors in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. But does that mean we have to put a temporary stop to our fitness plans, or put physical health on the backburner? Not at all! There are still a number of ways to get the exercise that we need, now more than ever, for both our physical and mental health. Let’s discuss.
Indoors – YouTube fitness videos. Gone are the days when we had to pay for high-quality workout videos. Now, they’re available for free online with just a few clicks of your mouse. YouTube has expert fitness instructors who can teach you everything from at-home kickboxing to yoga to wheelchair-friendly workouts. Fitness Blender is a great place to start because it has workout videos for people at all different levels, from those who have never tried working out a day in their life to the total fitness junkies. They’re simple, easy-to-follow, no-nonsense workout videos. For yoga, which is a great fitness activity for keeping the mind and body healthy, Yoga with Adriene is an incredible free resource for experienced yogis and beginners alike. She offers many practices tailored to individual physical abilities, like wheelchair yoga and yoga for seniors.
Outdoors – Going for walks. Did you know that walking for just 20 minutes per day can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke by eight percent? Walking is also a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some fresh air after being cooped up in your house all day. Nearly all shelter-in-place orders include exceptions for walking, hiking, and other outdoor activities, so long as you maintain a distance of at least six feet from others. Take advantage of this by going for a stroll with your household members or your dog, or go by yourself and enjoy the peaceful solitude.
Indoors/Outdoors – Playing with kids (and grandkids). While having children and grandchildren stuck at home is certainly a challenge, it’s also an opportunity to strengthen your family relationships. What better way to bond with the kids in your household than by playing with them? Playing with kids will get you up and moving all around the house and backyard, whether it’s hide-and-seek, capture the flag, or duck duck goose. These games are a great way to increase your steps, and to tire kids out – remember, tired kids tend to be happier and more well-behaved.
Indoors – Cooking healthy meals together as a family. Many of us are paying more attention to eating healthy as a result of COVID-19 and in an effort to boost our immune systems. With everyone stuck at home together, it’s the perfect time to involve the whole family in cooking healthy meals and, in the process, teach children about nutrition. Cooking together is an excellent way to bond as a family, and after all, what kid doesn’t love playing in the kitchen? Easy-to-find, immune-boosting foods include oranges, lemons, limes, red bell peppers, broccoli, garlic, yogurt, and almonds.
The COVID-19 crisis is an unprecedented challenge for all of us, and it’s putting new strains on our mental health. After all, as humans, we are both highly social and highly anxious creatures. We’ve evolved to have these qualities because they help us survive – but they also make this time of social distancing, uncertainty, and fear extremely difficult. Nevertheless, it is possible to remain calm and maybe even happy during this period of global crisis. It requires taking an intentional and proactive approach to mental health, which we’ll discuss below in these tips for staying mentally healthy amid coronavirus.
Stick to a routine. Shelter-in-place orders, social distancing measures, and work-from-home requirements mean that we’re having to alter our daily routines significantly. But that doesn’t mean we have to let go of them entirely. In fact, doing so can lead us to feel disoriented, directionless, and unproductive. Sure, starting the day with two hours of Netflix may be fun for a day or two, but it soon starts to take a toll on mental health. Rather than giving into the tendency to shun routines in this time of vast change and uncertainty, create a new daily routine for yourself and/or your family, and stick to it. Following a routine is comforting and offers a sense of normalcy. It also boosts productivity and, when working from home, helps the day to feel more like a work day. With many of us having to balance work and watching children who are also stuck at home, it’s inevitable that our routines may change slightly from one day to the next – but having a basic pattern to follow each morning (i.e. wake up, eat breakfast, shower, get ready) is a fantastic way to set yourself up for a productive and relatively normal-feeling day.
Go outside. Many of us have been ordered to stay at home with the exception of essential travel, but most of these shelter-in-place orders include exceptions for outdoor activities like hiking so long as we maintain a safe distance from others (about six feet). Staying inside all day is a recipe for stir-craziness and claustrophobia. As often as possible, get outside, whether it’s by yourself or with others in your household. Play family games in the backyard. Walk the dog around the neighborhood. Go for a hike at a local nature trail. Enjoying the great outdoors makes us feel happier, offers a sense of freedom, and keeps cabin fever at bay – not to mention, it’s a great way to wear kids out and keep them happy. Just be sure to stay at least six feet away from others (excluding household members) at all times.
Minimize your exposure to news media. While it’s important to stay informed about things that affect our health and safety, checking the news every hour during a time like this can be detrimental to mental wellness. Realistically, you will be fine without knowing the number of new coronavirus cases or deaths in a certain country – in fact, you’ll probably be better off not knowing. Checking the news obsessively can lead to feelings of hopelessness, depression, and constant fear. Try a system where you and another adult in your household take turns checking the news once each day. This way, you’ll stay informed about any important updates in your area, but won’t become overloaded by doom and gloom.
Meditate. Despite common misconceptions, everyone is capable of meditating. It’s not easy and at times may feel uncomfortable, but it’s one of the best things we can do for our mental health. Meditation trains our brains to remain focused on the present moment rather than becoming lost in anxiety and fears about the future. Start by focusing on your breath for just five minutes a day – paying attention to the slow rise and fall of your inhale and exhale. Let it soothe you, like the sound of waves rising and falling in the ocean. Many people find it helpful to either begin or end their meditation practice by reading a calming passage from the Bible.
When anxiety was great within me
Your consolation brought me joy.