Chef’s Table: The Bristal at West Babylon’s Amanda Ciniglio Shares the Recipe for Her Blueberry Carrot Cake

Posted by: The Bristal

carrot cake recipe

Amanda Ciniglio, Director of Food Services at The Bristal at West Babylon, has always loved food and cooking. In fact, the first badge this lifelong Girl Scout received was for cooking. Growing up in an Italian family, a love for food is in Amanda’s blood.

“I learned from my mother, my father, my grandfather, and food was always important in our house,” Amanda says.

Although Amanda makes all types of food at The Bristal at West Babylon, she credits dessert as her favorite to prepare.

“People are happy when they’re eating desserts,” she says. “Dessert kind of brings people back home; brings them back to memories. Whether it’s cookies, cakes, breads, it can bring you back to happier times. If you’re in a funk, dessert is an uplifting thing. It’s nice to share with people. It gives me a good feeling when I show up at somebody’s house with baked goods that warms their heart, and they enjoy them.”

So, it’s no surprise she chose a blueberry carrot cake with cream cheese and raw honey frosting to share! Read on to learn more about Amanda and to get her recipe.

About Amanda, the Chef at The Bristal at West Babylon

Amanda originally went to school for music therapy but changed her major to culinary because she was having so much fun working in restaurants. After culinary school, she worked at a few restaurants and ended up in senior living, eventually coming to work for The Bristal.

What She Enjoys About Being a Chef at The Bristal

When asked what her favorite thing about working at The Bristal was, Amanda says that it is the people, like the residents and her wonderful staff, that she enjoys most.

“I feel like I have a purpose, helping seniors through food, giving them an excellent dining experience to share with their friends, their families,” Amanda says.

She also says she enjoys having a lot of food freedom at The Bristal. Whereas at a restaurant, you have to follow the recipes to a T, she can stray off the menu here.

“Here, we can have a lot of creative moments with our menus,” Amanda says. “We can change things and do fun events and theme days. You can get as creative as you want with the food.”

Amanda noted creative events like the San Gennaro feast, clam and lobster bakes, Hawaiian day, Oktoberfest, and an apple-themed fall festival as some fun food events she’s enjoyed at The Bristal.

See what’s happening at The Bristal at West Babylon. >>

Being a Chef Outside of The Bristal

When Amanda’s not cooking for residents at West Babylon, she stays busy. For the past nine years, she has judged the junior culinary competition at the Long Island Fair every year, where kids from Nassau, Queens, and Suffolk counties enter their baked goods in the competition.

Amanda is a lifelong Girl Scout and holds a Gold Award. She also participates in numerous cooking competitions and fundraisers, as well as chef showdowns through area fire departments. In 2014, she won the Taste of Long Island. In 2016 and 2017, she was part of the winning team for the Guiding Lights of North Carolina’s Share to Care event.

About Her Brain Food Cake

Amanda says her blueberry carrot cake with cream cheese and raw honey frosting came about because she wanted to look at a different way to incorporate brain foods. She notes they try to get as many healthy ingredients into their menu at The Bristal at West Babylon, and this cake is no exception.

“It’s a fun way to spin a dessert to get them some healthy foods, and it’s very tasty,” Amanda says of her made-from-scratch recipe.

Amanda’s Blueberry Carrot Cake with Raw Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients You’ll Need:

For the Cake:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups grated peeled carrots
  • 1 pint fresh blueberries, washed
  • 1 1/4 cups coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons minced peeled ginger

For the Icing:

  • 10 ounces cream cheese (such as Philadelphia), room temperature
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup raw honey


For the Cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter two 9-inch-diameter cake pans. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Butter and flour paper; tap out excess flour. Whisk flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend. Whisk sugar and oil in large bowl until well blended. Whisk in eggs 1 at a time. Add flour mixture and stir until blended. Stir in carrots, blueberries, and ginger. Divide batter between prepared pans.
  2. Bake the cakes until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Turn out onto racks. Peel off parchment paper; cool cakes completely.

For the Icing:

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat at low speed until well blended. Beat in raw honey. Chill until just firm enough to spread, 30 minutes.
  2. Place 1 cake layer on a platter. Spread with 3/4 cup icing. Top with the second layer. Spread remaining icing over entire cake. Arrange walnut halves around top edge. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with a cake dome; chill. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving.)


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Our Sleep Services in Dementia Care

Posted by: Kate Schneider, Reflections Programming Specialist

Senior woman with dementia having issues sleeping at night

When you are the caregiver for a loved one diagnosed with dementia, it can be an emotional and sometimes stressful experience. You may be seeing instances where your parent may not recognize you at times or just aren’t acting like they always did. Then at night, you may see another set of challenges.

Confusion and Other Sleep Disturbances

Sleep disturbances can be common in individuals showing signs of memory loss or who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia. Your parent may wake up confused, such as in the middle of the night and believe it is time to start their day. He may revert back to a work schedule he had when he was younger or he may seem to have his day and night confused and is sleeping during the day and awake at night.

If you’re a caregiver and your loved one is waking upset or confused, the best thing you can do is validate your loved one is upset and talk with them and comfort them. While the method may vary from person to person it is important to have an in-depth knowledge about the individual.

At The Bristal Assisted Living, our Reflections staff follow an individualized service plan and a resident profile. The profiles show past and present likes, dislikes, patterns, interests, abilities, and needs, so that our staff members are able to comfort your loved one in a knowledgeable manner.

Related Blog: Behavioral Changes: Tips for Caregivers

Measures Caregivers Can Use to Promote Better Sleep

There are a few measures caregivers can do to lessen their loved one’s dementia-related sleep issues at night, such as:

    • Provide stimulating therapeutic recreation during the day
    • Exposure to outdoor or natural light
    • Create a ritual and hold to it to promote good sleep patterns
    • Follow similar sleep recommendations for the general population, taking into consideration dementia, like no electronics, caffeine, etc.
    • Incorporate aroma and music therapy
    • Offer a comfortable bed and pillow
    • Encourage proper food intake
    • Use the bathroom prior to bed

The Bristal Assisted Living provides the above to residents in our Reflections memory care areas as part of our individualized services. The Bristal is able to provide a standard mattress and bedding at our communities; however, we encourage bringing your own furniture, bedding, and pillows, as each person has different preferences.  

Try Activities During the Day to Help Alleviate Sleep Issues

You can also incorporate activities during the day to help alleviate sleep issues at night, like therapeutic programming your loved one would be interested in. Adaptive physical programs are always good because they decrease boredom, so the person is active in the daytime. If your parent sleeps well during the night, naps are fine during the day – just watch the duration of the nap, or make it earlier in the day if they start showing signs of difficulty sleeping.

At The Bristal Assisted Living, our Reflections memory care programming includes adaptive physical, cognitive, social, religious, outdoor, and cultural activities, as well as various supervised trips and outings. Remember: keeping the body, mind, and spirit engaged is important, so that when it is time to go to sleep, the body, mind, and spirit is willing!

Looking after a loved one who is showing early signs of dementia can often be overwhelming. Our Alzheimer’s Day Care programs can help.

Establish Bedtime Rituals to Alleviate Stress

Individuals with dementia can pick up on a caregiver’s stress level, so one suggestion to help alleviate your own mental exhaustion would be to start rituals in both of your schedules. Getting a person ready for bed will take time; but with a ritual, it will get easier over time.

One of the ways we incorporate bedtime rituals at The Bristal is by using “sleep hygiene” to utilize the social and physical environment to promote a healthy sleep pattern and sleep experience. Your loved one’s routine is important at The Bristal, so our staff keeps a schedule so that the resident wakes up and goes to sleep at a similar time each day and night.

Educate Yourself About Dementia and Sleep

If you’re a caregiver to a loved one who has been diagnosed with dementia or who is showing signs of memory loss, be sure he or she gets a full diagnostic workup and exam, and follow up.

Always check with your loved one’s doctor about medications, as certain substances — such as some pain relievers — and alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine can also exacerbate sleep issues in persons with dementia.

There are also many resources available for you to educate yourself about dementia and other cognitive issues. Our TopStories newsletter is a great source to find more information on Alzheimer’s disease and memory care.


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Wellness Apps for Smartphones to Improve Your Health and Fitness

Posted by: The Bristal

Active senior woman in New York utilizing free health and fitness apps on her phone

Are you a senior with a smartphone? You’re not alone! In fact, 67 percent of Baby Boomers (54 to 72) and 30 percent of the Silent Generation (73 to 90) own smartphones, according to Pew Research Center. And those numbers are only growing!

Whether you prefer to play games or keep up with friends and family, your smartphone is a helpful device for all aspects of your life. For example, if you’re looking to get healthier, there are a variety of health and fitness apps available to you. To help you discover the best one for you, we’ve put together a list of five health and fitness mobile applications for your smartphone.

The apps we have chosen to feature (which are not endorsed by The Bristal) can be used on your smartphone on both IOS and Android.

5 Free Wellness Apps for Your Smartphone

Whether you want to track your nutrition or exercise your mind, smartphone apps are easy to use to keep you in your best shape. From mental health to medication management, mobile applications can also help you alleviate stress and improve your mental capacity — all in the palm of your hand.

Discover an app for your lifestyle!

Diet and Exercise

Diet and exercise apps like MyFitnessPal offer a one-stop shop where you can track your goals, log exercise (including the ability to sync your activity tracker like a Fitbit or Apple Watch), and even get support through its community feature. If you’re eating out, this award-winning app features foods from hundreds of popular restaurants, too, making it even easier to count calories and keep track of your nutrition.

In addition to strengthening your muscles, activities like yoga can help ease stress, improve balance, and boost energy, according to research by Johns Hopkins University. One yoga app, Daily Yoga,  offers targeted asanas in addition to routines geared toward weight loss and strengthening. Consult with your primary physician before beginning any new exercise routines.

Mental Health

There are many ways to de-stress, and smartphone apps are one of them. Apps like Calm help users lessen anxiety and improve their sleep patterns using guided meditations, breathing programs, and relaxing music. If you’re looking for more ways you can reduce stress, check out this blog!

Research has linked game playing with healthier brains, so why keep your mind sharp and have a little fun at the same time? One app, Lumosity, links science with entertainment. Scientists and game designers developed this app, which combines tasks to measure cognitive abilities with fun, and the resulting puzzles may help improve your brain health.

Medication Management

If you take multiple medications or vitamins during the day, it can also be difficult to remember which medication you need to take when. That’s where apps can help.

One medication management smartphone app is Medisafe. Medisafe features color coding and timed alarms and can also remind you if you’re going to need a refill. If you have trouble reading your medicine labels, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes your pharmacist can print your the with larger type and can also be a resource to help you with finding out about interactions.

Start Exploring More Senior Friendly Health and Fitness Apps

Please note, The Bristal is not endorsing any of these apps listed above. This list is just to help you start exploring your options in Apple Store or through Google Play. There are so many apps out there — let us know what your favorite one is that we may have missed!

If you’re looking for more health tips, don’t forget to subscribe to TopStories to get health tips like these and other information from The Bristal!

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Stay Healthy This Summer With These 14 Tips for Seniors

Posted by: The Bristal

With longer days and cool nights, summertime brings plenty of opportunities for older adults to enjoy the outdoors. We’ve put together a list of summer activities and precautions to consider in order to you stay safe and healthy while you’re enjoying everything summer has to offer!

5 Ways Seniors Can Stay Healthy This Summer

While staying fit should be a prime objective for seniors all year round, there is no denying that warm weather allows for a range of outdoor activities that can make daily fitness more fun in the summer. Here are some of them:

1. Do aerobics in a pool

You don’t have to be an Olympic swimmer to get enormous benefits from exercising in a pool. In fact, you don’t have to swim at all. For example, the simple act of walking in waste-high water is a great muscle-toning exercise. Many gyms and community organizations offer water exercise classes for seniors.

2. Take early morning walks

A long walk before the temperature gets too high can be an invigorating way to start the day. Do it on your own if you prefer a contemplative experience, or arrange to do it with your spouse or friend. You can also join a walking club. Walking improves circulation, strengthens bones and muscles, supports your joints and may even help avoid dementia, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

3. Tend a garden

It doesn’t sound strenuous, but gardening requires a lot of movement and uses many different muscles. For seniors who have a sufficient range of movement, it is an excellent way to retain strength and flexibility. Gardening also can be a highly social experience. Consult the 126-year-old National Garden Clubs for information about a club in your area.

4. Ride a bike

It’s said, one never forgets how to ride a bicycle, and that must be true, because according to AARP, seniors comprise the fastest growing group of cyclists. Health benefits are one of the major reasons for this trend. If bike riding appeals to you, it’s best to stick to parks and streets that have designated bike lanes.

5. Consider Tai Chi

The ancient Chinese practice of Tai Chi Chuan is an exercise that involves a series of relaxed and graceful movements that “have the potential for a wide range of benefits” for seniors, according to Mount Sinai Hospital. Those benefits include improved balance, coordination and flexibility, as well as reduced stress. Many non-profit organizations, including some YMCAs, offer Tai Chi classes for seniors. Classes often are conducted in parks in the early morning.

Click Here for Additional Ideas on How to Stay Socially Active Outdoors

9 More Tips for Staying Safe in the Summer Heat

The hot, humid months of summer can present unique challenges for seniors. There are a variety of potential problems you need to be on the lookout for this summer ranging from sun poisoning to a heat stroke. We thought it would be helpful if we shared a few summer safety tips for seniors.

1. Stay hydrated

You’ve probably heard and read plenty of times by now that health experts recommend drinking eight glasses of water every day. In the hazy days of summer, make it a priority to hit that mark, especially when outdoors. It is one of the best ways to prevent heat-related illness and sunstroke. Many foods have a high water content that can help to improve hydration. Among them are watermelons, cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, celery, green peppers, cauliflower and berries.

Read More About The Importance of Hydration for Seniors

2. Limit sun exposure

The hottest time of the day is between noon and 4:30 p.m. It is best to avoid going outdoors during those hours of the day when the mercury rises over 80 degrees. If you enjoy outdoor activities like walking or gardening be sure to do these things in the morning or later in the evening.

3. Review medications for side effects

Drugs commonly prescribed as we age can increase the risk for heat-related illness. They include medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some of the anti-inflammatories. They could result in heat exhaustion and sunstroke occurring more quickly. Consult with your doctor to find out if any of your medications pose a potential problem.

4. Don’t skimp on sunscreen

One of the most common health mistakes people make in the summer is not using an adequate amount of sunscreen and not applying it frequently. As we grow older, our skin becomes thinner. It means we can experience sunburn more quickly and potentially even develop sun poisoning. Dermatologists recommend applying at least the equivalent of two tablespoons of sunscreen every two hours.

5. Cover up in the sun

While that might seem counterintuitive when you are trying to stay cool, it will help protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Make sure you have a hat that shades your face, sunglasses and a loose-fitting, lightweight shirt to throw on before heading outdoors.

6. Tick patrol can prevent Lyme disease

An increased amount of time spent outdoors puts people at higher risk for attracting ticks. That also applies to your furry friends. Before heading back indoors, make sure to go on tick patrol. Inspect your body and your pets for any signs of ticks.

7. Prevent food poisoning during summer barbecue season

No summer is complete without a few barbecues with family and friends! One of the difficulties of outdoor picnics and potlucks is maintaining the proper temperature of the food. Foods that are considered high risk during the summer heat include prepared salads, dairy products not kept on ice, beef, seafood, fish, pork and poultry. Food poisoning can be especially dangerous for older adults who have health conditions that may weaken their immune system.

8. Overheated homes are especially hazardous for older adults

Rarely does a summer go by that we don’t hear about a tragic outcome for someone who lived in a home without air conditioning. Older adults may be more reluctant to use air conditioning even if they have it because of the expense. Still others may forget to turn their systems on, or their units are in disrepair. Whatever the reasons A/C is not used, the warmer it gets, the cooler the elderly must remain, particularly when they are ill.

According to research conducted at the Harvard University School of Public Health, even small rises in summer temperatures may shorten life expectancy for seniors with chronic medical conditions. Following the lives of 3.7 million seniors with chronic medical conditions over 20 years, the massive study found that for each 1° Celsius of increase in temperature, the death rate increased from 2.8 percent to 4 percent.

Make sure your family has a safe place to cool off during the hottest times of the day. Senior centers, the local mall and the library are all good places to go to stay cool.

9. Finally, be sure to review and learn the warning signs of heat-related illnesses

The key to helping someone who runs into problems in the summer sun is to get medical attention immediately.

Stay Safe and Have Fun This Summer

While there are plenty of precautions you can take to stay safe this summer, we hope you enjoy this season by taking advantage of the warmer weather and participating in a variety of healthy activities. After all, winter will be here before you know it!


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Higher Stamina Levels May Lower Your Risk of Dementia

Posted by: The Bristal


Senior couple walking to increase stamina and reduce the chances of dementia

Women with higher stamina — or greater cardiovascular fitness — in midlife could decrease their risk of dementia by 88 percent, according to a new study published in the American Academy of Neurology’s medical journal, “Neurology.”

Study ties stamina level, dementia risk

The study began in 1968 when 191 Swedish women, age 38 to 60, participated in an exercise bike test to evaluate their cardiovascular stamina. During the test, the women were brought to their “maximum workload” or peak exhaustion.

The women were categorized into three fitness groups based on their workload: Low, medium and high fitness. Of the 191 women, 59 were in the “low fitness” group, 92 were in the “medium fitness” group and 40 were in the “high fitness” category.

For the next 44 years, researchers studied the women’s health, including who was diagnosed with dementia and who wasn’t. The study concluded in 2012.

Related: Is my forgetfulness age-related memory loss or is it early Alzheimer’s disease?

High stamina reduced dementia risk by 88%

The study’s researchers found 44 (or 23 percent) of the women developed dementia during the research period. Researches also learned:

  • The women who had to interrupt their test had a very high incidence of dementia at 45 percent, indicating “adverse cardiovascular processes might be going on in midlife that seem to increase the risk for dementia.”
  • The low group had a cumulative incidence of dementia of 32 percent.
  • The medium group had an incidence of 25 percent.
  • The high group had a cumulative incidence of 5 percent.
  • The average age for the onset of dementia was 11 years higher for those in the high group compared to the women in the medium group.
  • Compared to the moderate level, the high stamina level had an 88 percent reduced risk of dementia.

More dementia research is still needed

There are other factors that could have affected the findings, according to the study. Researchers noted examples such as genetics, hypertension, obesity and the effects that other conditions may have on the brain as additional components to consider.

Researchers also indicate the study’s sample was relatively small, and because it only included Swedish women, the number could be different for other populations. They also noted there were a number of women who didn’t show up or who passed away during the long-term follow-up period, and more research will need to be done to determine when in life a high stamina is the most beneficial to reduce your risk of dementia.

The study shows correlation, but not necessarily causation, CNN reported. However, it was noted that the researchers’ findings still demonstrate the importance of physical fitness in all stages of a person’s life.

Keep your brain active with a healthy lifestyle

There are many ways to help boost your brain health in addition to physical activity. Puzzles, eating healthy meals and keeping busy are just some things you can do to help improve your memory. The important thing is that you start taking steps now to help your body later. And if you or a loved one does receive a dementia diagnosis, know there are plenty of resources available to help.

>> See How The Bristal Incorporates Therapies in Memory Care <<

Posted in: Alzheimer’s & Memory Care
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The Bristal Sponsors NYSSA 13th Annual All-Star Game

Posted by: The Bristal

Today, the New York Senior Softball Association, a Nassau County softball league made up of 130 players 68 and older, gathered to play in its 13th Annual All-Star Game, the day after Major League Baseball showcased its best players. Sponsored by The Bristal, this year’s softball game commemorated the Yankees’ 1978 World Series win over the Dodgers. “It gives us a reason to get out of bed in the morning,” said player Nick Clarelli. Twice a week, his 15-man squad plays a four-inning doubleheader. Clarelli, 80, is one of the league standouts, ranging from 73 to 92 years old, that competed in today’s game. The league was honored to have Nassau County Executive Laura Curran throw out the first pitch. Clarelli’s team lost 14-5, but he came away with two singles and a Yankees cap. Thank you to the New York Senior Softball Association for allowing us to be a part of the fun again this year!


Check out some pictures from the event:

Click here for interviews of the players and coverage of the event:

Posted in: Events, News & Press, Senior Care
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Delirium Is Not Always Related to Dementia

Posted by: The Bristal

dementia care, senior with nurse, assisted living, living with dementia

When an older adult suddenly exhibits confused behavior, loved ones may fear that he or she is experiencing the onset of dementia. Such fear may be unwarranted, however. The cause of the senior’s behavior might well be delirium.

Delirium, says the Alzheimer’s Association (AA), is a “medical condition that results in confusion and other disruptions in thinking and behavior, including changes in perception, attention, mood and activity level.” However, the AA stresses that delirium is not the same as dementia, even though “individuals living with dementia are highly susceptible to delirium.”

To help distinguish between the two conditions, the AA notes that in dementia, changes in memory and intellect emerge gradually over a course of months or years, while delirium comes on abruptly, over days or weeks, or even hours. In delirium, thought patterns become disorganized and the level of confusion can fluctuate dramatically. “The hallmark separating delirium from underlying dementia is inattention,” says the AA. “The individual simply cannot focus on one idea or task.”

Unlike most forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, delirium is usually reversible, and sometimes even preventable. According to the Mayo Clinic, the condition can occur “when the normal sending and receiving of signals in the brain become impaired.” The Mayo Clinic cites an extensive list of factors that can cause, or contribute to, the onset of delirium, especially among older adults. Those factors range from infections and alcohol withdrawal to dehydration, sleep deprivation, metabolic imbalance and emotional distress. In addition, many medications for common ailments, such as asthma, allergies, insomnia, Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain, and anxiety and depression, can trigger delirium.

Still another potential factor is hospitalization. The Harvard Medical School says delirium is the most common complication of being hospitalized among people 65 and older. Its occurrence is especially prevalent after the patient has had certain forms of surgery. The medical school points out that most cases of delirium in hospitals are of the “hypoactive” type, meaning the patient becomes withdrawn and lethargic (as opposed to “hyperactive,” which means agitated and possibly hallucinatory or belligerent). Since people with hypoactive delirium aren’t disruptive, their condition may not be diagnosed. This is important, says the Harvard doctors, because, “Recognizing delirium is critical to a successful outcome for older patients.” The quicker delirium is treated and resolved, the better the patient’s chances for a full “functional recovery.”

There are several steps a caregiver can take to help a hospitalized loved one recover quickly from delirium, or possibly even prevent its onset. The Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s ICU Delirium and Cognitive Impairment Study Group makes the following recommendations to help orient the patient:

  • Speak softly and use simple words or phrases.
  • Remind your loved one of the day and date.
  • Talk about family and friends.
  • Bring eyeglasses, hearing aids.
  • Decorate the room with calendars, posters or family pictures. These familiar items might be reminders of home.
  • Play his or her favorite music or TV shows.
  • If your loved one has delirium, you might be asked to sit and help calm him or her.

In most cases, the delirium is short lived. It need not be related to dementia or result in permanent cognitive impairment. The important thing above all is to ensure that it is diagnosed and treated quickly.

Posted in: Alzheimer’s & Memory Care
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Ways to Stay Connected with Old and New Friends

Posted by: The Bristal

ways to stay connected with old and new friends, happy seniors, smiling senior citizens

Social isolation may be unhealthy for seniors. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), “Several research studies have shown a strong correlation between social interaction and health and well-being among older adults…” Social isolation “may have significant adverse effects for older adults,” says the NIA.

Many seniors seem to be aware of this link. A survey conducted by the National Council on Aging, in cooperation with United Healthcare, revealed that a majority of seniors consider remaining close to friends and family a greater concern than financial independence.

As we get older, however, circumstances sometimes make it difficult to stay close to old friends or to make new ones. Here are some suggestions to help overcome those factors.

Embrace new technology (or at least some of it). As of last year, based on several market research studies we researched, it is estimated that the number of Facebook users age 55 and older had grown to about 34 million. How many of them could be current friends or former acquaintances who would love to hear from you? It may be worth finding out. What’s more, at least four out of ten seniors now own smartphones, reports the Pew Research Center. Emailing, texting and sending photos and videos by phone are powerful ways to maintain ties and reinvigorate old friendships. Some smartphones even allow the user to communicate with live video.

Speaking of live-picture communication, the application known as Skype allows people to “meet” face-to-face with friends (and family, too, of course) right on their computer monitors or phone screens. Skype is a free service when used for computer-to-computer calls, but entails a charge when calling a land line or mobile phone. It is a little more complicated to set up than a Facebook account or smartphone usage. If this or any other modern communication device feels a little intimidating to take on by yourself, plenty of help is available. You may know a tech-savvy teenager you can call upon, but if not, consider finding a local volunteer organization who can help.

Embrace the old ways, too. Pick up the phone and dial; write a letter; send a post card. Sometimes, staying in touch is more a matter of overcoming inertia than anything else. If you haven’t been in touch with an old friend for a while, take the initiative and reach out. It is best not to stand on ceremony about who called whom last, or about some unimportant tiff that may have marred your last interaction. Move on from it, for your sake and your friend’s.

Become a joiner. Senior centers abound throughout the United States, about 11,000 of them, according to the National Council on Aging. Join one of them, and perhaps, encourage an existing friend to do so, too. In addition, consider joining a club that interests you. Did you have a hobby that you are passionate about that you gave up to focus on your career? If so, your senior years might be a great time to take that passion up again, and an equally great opportunity to meet new people who share that interest.

Become a volunteer. With your professional career behind you, it is likely that you have a wealth of knowledge and experience that could be used to mentor someone. Mentoring can be a highly gratifying activity, as well as a good way to meet others who are mentoring and are potential new friends. Alternatively, you might find it amply satisfying simply volunteering your time and efforts on behalf of a worthy charity or civic enterprise.

Get a part-time job. Again, that knowledge and experience you accumulated have value, and many employers know that. They also know that older adults tend to be highly dependable. Therefore, consider returning to work on a modest scale as a means of meeting new people and, possibly, forming important new relationships.

However you choose to do it, try to make an effort to make new connections and hold on to the ones you already have. It may be a benefit to your health and increase your enjoyment in life.

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Healthy Lifestyle Tips for Older Adults

Posted by: The Bristal

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Every day, some 10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “The population of older Americans is growing and living longer than ever,” the CDC says. “As a group, they are living active lives and contributing to the economy.”

That’s great news for seniors as a whole. On an individual basis, however, it’s up to each older adult to embrace habits that promote good quality of life to enhance those extra years. Here is a list of essential lifestyle behaviors to help achieve that goal.

Kick the smoking habit. Virtually everyone acknowledges today that tobacco consumption is bad for your health. In general, we know that it can lead to heart, lung and neurological disease, as well as other ailments. However, consider also its other effects on quality of life, not the least of which is the strain the habit places on your finances. Moreover, the Mayo Clinic points out that smoking can adversely affect stamina and the ability to appreciate tastes and aromas. In addition, older adults who smoke sometimes indulge the habit around their children and grandkids. They may live with the guilt of spreading second-hand smoke. Overall, this is one of the most major steps one can take to improve quality of life than to stop smoking. For help in quitting, consult or talk to your doctor.

Get active. Although it may sound like glib advice, “use it or lose it” is an important principle for staying independent and maintaining enjoyment in later years. The muscles and joints that we no longer put to work become less capable of working, and the bones that we don’t ask to bear weight grow brittle and less able to support us. The U.S. Surgeon General neatly sums up the facts in this report. The simple act of walking whenever possible can contribute significantly to the health and independence of older adults. More strenuous exercise may be beneficial, too. However, be sure to consult your doctor before starting any exercise program.

Be active mentally. “Being intellectually engaged may benefit the brain,” says the National Institute on Aging (NIA). “Learning new skills may improve your thinking ability too,” the NIA adds, recommending that older adults take classes, start new hobbies, read fiction and non-fiction, and play games, among other things. The point is that researchers think such activities may build “cognitive reserve,” which may help “compensate for age-related brain changes and health conditions that affect the brain.”

Eat healthy foods. Older adults need fewer calories than before, in part because their metabolism slows down, explains the National Council on Aging (NCOA).

Also, seniors need more of certain nutrients. “That means it’s more important than ever to choose foods that give you the best nutritional value,” says the NCOA. This does not mean it’s necessary to give up all the foods you love. Healthy eating, however, does require a balanced approach to eating, as well as a focus on proper portion sizes. Add lots of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet. They are rich in nutrients and fiber. Nuts are an excellent source of protein. It helps to lower your intake of processed sugar and of salt. Pay attention to labels. Canned vegetables and soups often contain inordinate amounts of salt. For an extensive list of good nutrition sources for seniors, visit

Prevent falls. As older adults, we tend to grow more vulnerable to falls. However, there are two types of positive action we can take to minimize the chances of falling. The first is to identify potential hazards, especially around the house or apartment, and eliminate them. These include securing loose carpet and throw rugs with adhesives, clearing paths cluttered with electrical cords or small objects, and illuminating dark hallways and bathrooms with night-lights. Also, wear shoes with good support. Become hazard conscious when outside the home as well, taking careful note of sidewalk obstructions, broken walkways, potholes and ice patches.

The second form of action to lessen the chance of falls is to improve one’s sense of balance. The Harvard Medical School recommends the ancient Chinese form of exercise known as tai chi as a good way to help older adults improve their balance. The exercise “uses a series of slow, flowing motions and deep, slow breathing to exercise the body and calm the mind.” The AARP suggests yoga as a good way to improve balance, among other benefits, and offers specific exercises for people in their 60s and 70s. Because seniors may be prone to certain physical conditions and limitations, it’s a good idea to let your doctor know before starting a tai chi or yoga program.

Manage stress. Stress is not conducive to good health at any age. It can cause headaches, stomach upset, poor sleep, and even impede resistance to disease. Stress “can affect your body, your thoughts and feelings, and your behavior,” says the Mayo Clinic, which offers a variety of strategies to control stress. Among them are tai chi and yoga, as discussed above as ways to improve balance. For your long-term health and well-being, pay attention to relieving stress, and make an effort to have fun. Spend time with friends, pursue a social life and embrace the power of positive thinking.

We have every reason to stay healthy in our older years. Make a habit of healthful behaviors to make the most of life.

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How Games May Benefit People Living with Dementia

Posted by: The Bristal

how games may benefit people living with dementia, the bristal assisted living, senior woman playing cards, senior home gamesGames – who doesn’t love them? From our earliest years, we learn, socialize and expand our knowledge of the world by playing all kinds of games: card games, board games, word games, games of chance and many others.

Game-playing is a mentally stimulating activity, and evidence exists that such mentally-stimulating activities can have a positive impact on older adults suffering from dementia.

Let’s take a look at the many ways that games have been found to have value, making the lives of older adults with dementia more fun, engaging and healthy.

Evidence that game-playing is associated with healthier brains

In March 2017, Mayo Clinic researchers published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association linking mentally-stimulating activity with improved cognitive function in older adults. The study, which tracked 1,929 U.S. adults, aged 70 and older, over a period of four years, specifically looked at whether these activities had an impact on the onset of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), a condition indicating an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.

The study’s researchers observed that “engaging in mentally stimulating activities in late life was associated with a decreased risk of incident MCI. More specifically, playing games and engaging in craft activities, computer use, and social activities significantly reduced the risk of incident MCI.”

Several additional studies support the idea that game-playing is linked with healthier brains, including:

  • A 2011 study of 488 older U.S. adults finding that participating in crossword puzzle games “was associated with delayed onset of memory decline in persons who developed dementia.”
  • A 2014 study of 329 older U.S. adults that linked “participation in mentally stimulating activities, such as card games” with improved cognition and larger brain volume.

While these studies associate game-playing with better cognitive function, it’s important to note that researchers have yet to establish an actual cause-effect relationship between game-playing and reduced incidence of dementia.

The many benefits of gaming for older adults

While the question of whether playing games can actually ward off declining mental function is still being researched, what is certain is that older adults – including those suffering from dementia – can benefit from gaming for many reasons, including:

  • A game for every mind. Games range from the very simple (for example, the classic “War” card game) to astoundingly complex (3D chess). Older adults in the first stages of Alzheimer’s may sometimes feel frustrated by complex games, but may greatly enjoy playing games that are easier to master. Just because a game is simple doesn’t mean that it’s not challenging, exciting and fun.
  • Gaming’s social aspect. Many games, including bingo, poker and even cooperative computer game play, can bring people together in an active endeavor that encourages communication and friendship. Results from a 2002 study of elderly populations in Sweden, published on the website of U.S. National Library of Medicine, suggest that “stimulating activity, either mentally or socially oriented, may protect against dementia, indicating that both social interaction and intellectual stimulation may be relevant to preserving mental functioning in the elderly.”

Gaming with your loved one

Every person is different, and some older adults enjoy gaming more than others. However, it may be worthwhile for you to gently challenge your loved one to a friendly game because of gaming’s many potential benefits. If you do, here are some suggested tips:

  • Do your homework. If you grew up with your loved one, you may already know which games he or she enjoys more than others. Older adults who are now in their 70s were kids or teenagers in the 1950s – the golden age of the TV game show. Ask your loved one which one he or she liked (or didn’t like), and see whether there’s a board-game or computer game that’s based on it. If so, consider bringing it on your next visit.
  • Set realistic expectations. Every person – and every brain – is different, and just because studies associate gaming and better brain health does not mean that it will work its magic with your loved one. It’s best to keep your expectations modest to avoid disappointment.
  • Focus on cooperative games. Many popular games involve competition, and while this can be fun, competitive games sometimes result in frustrating experiences for older adults with declining mental function. A cooperative game, however, in which you and your loved one team up to solve a challenge, aligns you both in a shared cause. A picture puzzle is an example of a cooperative game that you both may enjoy.

Games aren’t work or therapy (although they may have a therapeutic result). At times, even simple games can be less than fun for those with dementia. If it’s clear your loved one isn’t enjoying the experience, move on to something else. Remember that games are supposed to be fun.

Posted in: Alzheimer’s & Memory Care
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Dementia: Safety Tips for Different Settings

Posted by: The Bristal

dementia safety tips for different scenarios, the bristal assisted living, seniors walking upstairs, elderly coupleCaring for a loved one with dementia requires both an understanding of the unique challenges posed by the disease and a plan to maximize safety and security on a day-to-day basis. Here are some tips that can enhance safety in a variety of settings:

Prevent falls in the bathroom. As indicated in the Alzheimer’s Association’s article, Staying Safe: Steps to Take for a Person with Dementia, “most accidents in the home occur during daily activities such as eating, bathing, and using the restroom.” To create a safer bathroom, attach textured stickers to slippery surfaces and secure throw rugs and carpeting. If practical, install a walk-in shower with grab bars for safe bathing.

Safeguard appliances and secure hazardous items in the home. Take steps to ensure that your house is as hazard-free as possible. Doing so may entail:

  • Finding a safe and secure place to store grills, lawn mowers, knives and cleaning products.
  • Buying appliances with an automatic turn-off feature.
  • Removing the knobs from the stove.
  • Locking up medications.
  • Hiding vitamins, sugar substitutes and seasonings.

Minimize wandering and getting lost outside. Six in 10 people with dementia will wander, according to the Alzheimer’s Association; this behavior poses obvious safety risks. However, there are many things you can do to help minimize the problem. If your loved one is prone to wandering, consider taking the following steps:

  • Deadbolt the top and bottom of doors to minimize nighttime wandering.
  • Create daily agendas filled with structured, meaningful activities.
  • Encourage exercise to reduce anxiety, agitation and restlessness.
  • Keep your loved one busy with daily household tasks.
  • Console your loved one during times of feeling lost, abandoned or disoriented.
  • Install a GPS device in the car (for people who drive) or hide the car keys (for people who do not drive).
  • Avoid busy places, such as shopping malls, which may create confusion and disorientation.
  • Supervise your loved one whenever possible.

Travel to destinations with safety in mind. Traveling with your loved one can be a safe, enjoyable experience if you plan ahead (visit our blog post, Tips when Traveling with a Loved One who has Alzheimer’s Disease for useful traveling tips). When traveling, make sure you:

  • Travel at a time of day that makes your loved one most comfortable.
  • Inform hotel staff about your loved one’s unique needs, preferably ahead of time.
  • Make copies of important documents.
  • Bring medications, bottled water and snacks.
  • Plan activities before departure.
  • Visit familiar places with minimal changes to daily routine.
  • Enroll in MedicAlert + Safe Return. (People with dementia may wander when they find themselves in new and unfamiliar environments.)
  • When traveling by air, inform the TSA that you’re traveling with a person with dementia at least 72 hours prior to your flight. Use a wheelchair to navigate the airport, ask airport employees and in-flight crews for assistance and stay close to your loved one at all times.

It takes an involved caregiver to help a person living with dementia experience a safe and independent lifestyle at home and out in the world. Follow the safety tips listed above so that everyday life stays enjoyable for both of you for years to come.

Posted in: Alzheimer’s & Memory Care
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The Benefits of Physical Therapy for Seniors

Posted by: The Bristal

the benefits of physical therapy for seniors, senior woman exercising, senior doing physical therapy

Most people associate the term “physical therapy” with recovery from serious injury or with alleviating the effects of a chronic ailment. Physical therapy (or PT), however, also can be an effective and versatile tool for helping to prevent injury, especially for seniors. For example, as we age, muscles tend to weaken, bones become more brittle, and a host of conditions may negatively affect our balance – all of which makes older adults more vulnerable to falls and serious injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, falls are the number one cause of injury among people 65 and older. A principal objective of PT for seniors, therefore, is to counter those age-related physical tendencies and help keep seniors independent and active.

How does PT aim to accomplish that? With exercises and various forms of therapy that improve strength, range of motion, balance, coordination and flexibility, and often help to relieve chronic pain as well. Different types of therapy may involve the use of heat, ice, electrical stimulation, water (hydrotherapy) or manual manipulation.

Helping to prevent falls and serious injuries is only one potential benefit of physical therapy for seniors. Here are some chronic conditions among seniors that often see improvement from PT:

Arthritis. Different therapeutic techniques are brought into play for the many parts of the body that can be affected by arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation says a physical therapist can, among other things, “Teach you proper posture and body mechanics for common daily activities to relieve pain and improve function.” The goals of the therapy should include improving mobility and restoring the use of affected joints.

Osteoporosis. This is a fairly common condition in which bone density has declined to a point where the person becomes susceptible to fractures, including stress fractures, which can occur even without a fall. The condition is most prevalent among women, but men can be affected, too. Therapists usually treat osteoporosis with weight-bearing exercises or resistance training. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends both, but cautions that people who already have had a fracture or have been diagnosed with osteoporosis should stick to low-impact exercises, such as fast walking, stair-step exercises and low-impact aerobics. It’s always best to consult your physician before starting any new regimen.

Parkinson’s disease. Physical therapy helps sufferers increase mobility, strength and balance, says Johns Hopkins Medicine. A special form of PT, known as amplitude training, is designed specifically to slow the physical effects of the disease. You can read more about it

Spinal stenosis. When the spinal cord is compressed because the space within the spinal canal has narrowed, the condition is known as spinal stenosis. The Mayo Clinic notes that people with this condition tend to become less active to avoid pain, which leads to muscle weakness, resulting in greater pain.  Physical therapy can help by rebuilding strength and endurance, and helping the flexibility and stability of the spine.

These are just some of the conditions that may be improved with physical therapy. Others include headaches, tendinitis, bursitis, foot pain and some types of post-operative pain, notes Stanford University’s Stanford Health Care division.  Start a discussion with your doctor to determine if PT might help improve your condition.



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CBS News: Study Suggests Dancing Could Slow The Effects Of Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted by: The Bristal

The Bristal at Lake Success and the Feinstein Institute continue to work together on a study focusing on the impact that dance therapy has on the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

We are so proud of the Feinstein Institute for the amazing research they are conducting at our only community fully dedicated to memory care, The Bristal at Lake Success. We hope that this ongoing study will lead to breakthroughs that could benefit not only residents of The Bristal, but anyone living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Check out some clips from the program:

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