May 2022

...make time for myself despite all that I have to do to care for my family?

May is Caregiver Mental Health Awareness Month. Did you know that one in four adults in the US are caregivers? Caregivers provide so much. Some of them are working full time jobs and then coming home to give care to a loved one. It is important that caregivers take time for themselves to manage the stress that they might feel due to an emotionally taxing situation. The US Department of Health and Human Services offers some tools. Check out slides 1-5 for some tips. Our favorite talks about setting aside some time each day to do something nice for yourself. Something as simple as reading, listening to music or talking with a friend. PlaneTree also curated links for this exact topic. We hope this can help. If there is a caregiver in your life, share some of these tips with them. They might really need a reminder from someone who cares. 

… get tested for autism or ADD even as an adult?

Absolutely yes, if you suspect you might be on the autism spectrum! There are so many benefits to finding out more about ourselves, even later in life - and getting tested is the first step to getting help for the ways that those traits might make your life difficult. The same is just as true for ADD or ADHD, too. Most testing centers are focused on children, though; it is wise to seek a diagnosis from specialists in adult autism, ADD, or ADHD.

… search for the right therapist for my needs?

The pandemic has added a lot of extra stressors to our lives. Some of us are experiencing overwhelming difficulties during these times. You do not have to do this alone. Consider therapy. AARP just released an excellent article that asks you to consider a few things before choosing a therapist. First, they help you understand the difference between two types of popular therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Psychodynamic Therapy (PDT). Then the article breaks down what to look for in a therapist, so that you can choose the right provider for your needs. 

Therapy is just one step you can take to feeling better. PlaneTree Health Library also has selected articles to help guide the public (especially older adults) to find mental health resources. You can find information about expanding your social circles, tips for overcoming loneliness, details about how to cope with grief and loss and much more.  

… trust apps and devices that track my heartbeat?

Though often packed with high-tech sensors and technology, some cardiologists warn that the information we gain from these devices may not always be helpful. Oftentimes, users will get an alert when their device detects an irregularity in their heartbeat of any kind, but this notification then has to be corroborated with doctors through medical-grade diagnostics. This process can be arduous, costing significant amounts of time and money, all the while inducing anxiety in the user. 

In addition to detecting irregular heartbeats, some devices have the potential to detect atrial fibrillation, a condition that increases risk of stroke and heart failure. Though many tech companies are now touting similar functions, it is important to remember that receiving a potential diagnosis is not the same as seeking out treatment. While these devices have undeniable positive prospects, cardiologists still caution that there is an unclear benefit, and that overreliance on these gadgets may needlessly heighten anxiety. 

Music and Health

Music has long been heralded as a form of art that stimulates the brain and brings joy. However, a growing body of research is also suggesting that music-based interventions may actually enrich health and even control symptoms of disease. Studies have showed promising results on the management of pain, anxiety, depression, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, sleep, stress, and more. While benefits are still unclear or limited, there is also ongoing research on the effects of music-based intervention on people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD), and dementia.     

Part of why music may be so beneficial to health lies in its chemistry: listening to and playing music can increase the body’s production of the antibody immunoglobulin A and natural killer cells that target invading viruses. Music in general may also lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. 

Interestingly enough, the rhythmic aspects of music concerning beats and vibrations have also been shown to be tremendously helpful. Vibroacoustic therapy, a form of intervention in which a low frequency sound is utilized to create and apply vibrations to the body of a patient, has led to short-term improvements in Parkinson’s symptoms such as higher walking speed, reduced tremors, and decreased rigidity. There are also hopes that vibroacoustic therapy may restore and repair regular communication between different regions of the brain, and thus allow for greater memory retrieval

A wealth of studies have already shown that music, in general, is positively correlated with health, well-being, and even social connections. While it is still perhaps too early to declare music therapy as a treatment for more severe health conditions, the fact that there is promising research being conducted is definitely something to celebrate; with every day, new and exciting discoveries are continually made about the link between music and health. Family Caregiver Alliance is also hosting a virtual world music event on May 31 celebrating the beauty of music and culture! 

Parkinson's Disease Update

There is much we don’t know about Parkinson’s Disease, but recent research has added some important clues to this mysterious malady. As yet there still is no cure, nor any definite test for Parkinson’s Disease. It’s even uncertain whether this is one disease or several similar conditions; Parkinson’s-like symptoms can appear after head trauma, some viral infections, exposure to toxins or from adverse drug reactions, with Lewy-body dementia, or in other conditions. “Classic” Parkinson’s Disease is now thought to be caused by a combination of factors: toxins in our environment, genetic factors that make some people more vulnerable, and possible involvement of the gut microbiome.

That said, a better understanding of the mechanisms behind the symptoms of Parkinson’s - damaged neurons in the brain that cause levels of dopamine and norepinephrine to drop - suggest ways to manage tremors and other movement problems. In addition to medications (and, in advanced cases, deep-brain stimulation), balance-enhancing activities (t’ai chi, dance, music therapy) and perhaps also intensive exercise may be effective to slow or improve those symptoms in the earlier stages. 

Developing Parkinson’s Disease is life-changing, but more resources for managing the disease (for patients and for their family caregivers) are available today than in the past. Significant research studies over the last decade have added new ways to diagnose, treat, and understand this disease; the many actively ongoing studies and clinical trials offer hope of new discoveries ahead.

On Monday May 16, the FDA approved booster doses of Pfizer/BionTech’s vaccine for children aged 5 to 11. 
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Looking for more community events?

The list of free, public, health-related events in the South Bay that used to be included in PlaneTalk has moved online, as have the events themselves. 

We’ve created an expanded Community Events Calendar on our webpages at:

There are many more events on health and other topics of interest to seniors, their caregivers, and anyone interested in healthy aging on this calendar - and since they’re online, you don’t have to worry about travel time or parking!

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