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From Survive to Thrive

No matter what part of life’s journey you are on, January is a time to move out of the survival mode of the holidays into the thrive mode. Even retailers support this movement with White Sales. It is time to clean up our eating, return to our exercise plan, and turn the page into a new year with new hopes and dreams.

But for those caring for individuals with dementia---this energy shift can be overwhelming. We are grateful for less demands from the outside world but may feel unable to take on healthy lifestyle choices like time for a walk or dietary changes.

Sometimes our reticence to embrace a change is due to all or nothing thinking. The thought that you and your care partner need to do an hour a day of walking can be fairly daunting. Likewise, the complete overhaul to a healthier diet. But research gives us some good news. We do not have to walk an hour a day, as little as 10 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day shows benefit for cognition. The important thing is to be gentle with yourself.

Take small steps.

Because routine is so important, make positive changes in small increments. Just as in medications, the ideal is to start slow and increase only gradually.

As to diet, the brain-healthy Mediterranean diet is a dose-related solution. In other words, cognitive health changes with each meal. So even if you only manage to get one meal a day to fit the Mediterranean guidelines, that’s one dose of brain health. As in medication and exercise, start simply. Change one meal and then gradually increase. The Mediterranean diet calls for an increase in fruits, vegetables and fish with a decrease in red meats and sugars. Pick one or two changes to make, with assurance that you are cleaning up your eating and entering 2017 with a manageable mission.

Arden Courts offers a variety of care options to assist you in self-care. Contact them for their 30-day trial or respite services to jump-start your January.


By-line: Cate McCarty, PhD, ADC has been collaborating with Arden Courts in a variety of roles since the late 90’s. Her background in nursing, activities and admissions has given her a passionate commitment to quality of life for the individual and family with dementia.


Hardman, R. J., Kennedy, G., Macpherson H., Scholey, A. B., Pipingas, A. (2016). Adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet and effects on cognition in adults: A qualitative evaluation and systematic review of longitudinal and prospective trials, Front Nutrition,3:22.

Lambert S. D., Duncan L. R., Kapellas, S., Bruson, A. M., Myrand, M., Santa Mina, D., Culos-Reed, N., & Lambrou, A. (2016). A descriptive systematic review of physical activity interventions for caregivers; Effects on caregivers’ and care recipients’ psychosocial outcomes, physical activity levels, and physical health, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 50(6): 907-919.


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