You Can Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Getting Alzheimer’s disease is not inevitable with age. In a recent TED talk, Dr. Lisa Genova, neuroscientist, Massachusetts native and author of several books including Still Alice shared five ways you can avoid cognitive impairment.

You likely know the first four.

1. Get a good night’s sleep;
2. Follow the Mediterranean diet;
3. Exercise several times a week; aerobic exercise is best with strength training to enable fitness; and,
4. Lower your stress levels through prayer, yoga, or meditation.

What often surprises people is the fifth preventative: Learn something new. Exercising your brain through new experiences builds synaptic capacity. Lisa referred to the now famous Nun Study, research that followed the lives of 678 nuns who generously agreed to allow their brains to be autopsied upon their passing at ages 75 to 107. To their surprise, the researchers found that several nuns’ brains had the telltale Alzheimer’s lesions yet these women displayed no evidence of cognitive impairment while alive. Why? Their brains had ample capacity because of a lifetime of learning.

Watch the video. Share this post with your friends and family. Then join me in learning a new language using an app like Duolingo. Au revoir und auf wiedersehen.

c Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Alzheimer’s and Teddy Mac, The Songaminute Man

by Jan Simpson Benvenuti

Simon ‘Mac’ McDermott did what any good son would do when his father’s aggressive behavior from Alzheimer’s disease seemed impossible to manage. He reached out to the National Dementia Helpline in the UK for guidance. Thankful for the kindness of the woman on the end of the telephone line, Simon turned to Facebook, hoping to raise $100,000 to support the Alzheimer’s Society. Simon had discovered that singing brought “his father back,” his musical memory unaffected after a lifetime spent as a nightclub singer. Nicknamed The Songaminute Man, Teddy Mac knew hundreds of songs by heart. Simon recorded carpool karaoke of the duo singing the old bossa nova hit “Quando, Quando, Quando” and watched his post go viral, reaching 40 million viewers, raising nearly $200,000 for the Alzheimer’s Society.

To keep his dad engaged, Simon posted other videos of his Dad’s favorite songs on Facebook, generating a following inspired by his singing. Decca Records offered Teddy Mac a recording contract, and his first single has just been released, a recording of Frank Sinatra’s, “You Make Me Feel So Young.” Follow this story on their Facebook page and consider purchasing Teddy Mac’s single. All proceeds will be split between the Alzheimer’s Society and Teddy Mac. Let’s insure that the family has enough resources to support him along his journey with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Listen, enjoy, and donate.

c2016 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Alive Inside – Music and Memory


by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

This year at the Sundance Film Festival, the 2014 Audience Award was given to a documentary about Music and Memory called “Alive Inside.” The film is a story about the power of music to reach into the minds of elderly men and women, enriching their lives and reconnecting them to their personal music history. Not long ago, a clip from the film about 90-year old Henry became a YouTube sensation. The full documentary began showing in Landmark Sunshine theaters around the country starting July 25th in NY, Toronto and Washington; August 1st in Boston, LA and Philadelphia; and August 22nd in Dallas, Atlanta and Seattle. To find where the film is playing near you, click here.

If you don’t get to the theater, you can help support the lives of seniors across the country by donating money or your unused ipods to the non-profit Music & Memory led by Dan Cohen. Dan’s organization also provides training and materials to healthcare professionals who want to offer the gift of music to those under their care. You may learn more here.

The next time you visit a relative living with dementia, try to engage them with music. As you may know, my mother lived with Alzheimer’s disease for 17 years and in her later years, we played the music she loved routinely during our visits. Perhaps that’s why she retained cognition through the end of her life. Here is one of her favorites from the Andrews Sisters. What music would reach your loved ones?

Know Your Money: The True Cost of Long Term Care

Calculating the Cost of Care

Calculating the Cost of Care

by Janet Simpson Benvenuti

Recently I asked our financial advisor to do some retirement planning and estimate expenditures through the end of my life. To my surprise, my husband and I both are going to die at age 87 (for the record, I will predecease him), spending $100k/year in today’s dollars for each of the last three years of life. Amused, I wondered where I would find care for $100k in Massachusetts. The last assisted living facility with a memory unit I visited cost $8700/month without hairdressing or a personal care attendant. I’m sure to need both. And only three years of care? Prudently, one would plan for at least six, and with any history of longevity or cognitive impairment, I would plan for 12.

That same day, I spoke with a different financial advisor whose 91 year old client has Alzheimer’s disease. He and his spouse reside in Connecticut and spend a more typical $15,000 a month for assisted living with an aide for additional support, $180,000/year. When I reminded that advisor that home care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease is tax deductible as a medical expense, she expressed surprise, unaware of IRS Publication 502.

What’s going on here? Why are financial advisors so ill-informed about the true cost of care?

Quite simply, few people, including financial professionals, understand the extraordinary cost of long-term care and the options available to manage expenditures wisely in the last decade of life.  Effective financial planning requires more than just the skills to create an investment portfolio or project future expenses, but integrated knowledge about finance, elder law, insurance, health care and inexpensive community resources for aging in place. It’s why I founded Circle of Life Partners.

I’ve been guiding families through the aging journey for years, yet I still find the numbers shocking. Recently, I received a call from a family of three adult children who were growing concerned about their mother’s ability to care for their father safely at home. He was three years past his initial diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and the family felt he might be best served by moving into an assisted living facility with a memory unit although he did not have long-term care insurance. I calculated the price tag for nine years in a highly-regarded memory unit and subsequent skilled nursing care, $835,000- $1.25 million. Using an adult day health program or a part-time companion suddenly seemed a much more reasonable option.

Last week, I wrote about the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) launch of a new initiative on long-term care led by former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Bill Frist (R-TN), former Congressional Budget Office Director Alice Rivlin, and former Wisconsin Governor and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson.  BPC’s Long-Term Care Initiative will propose a series of bipartisan policy options in late 2014 to improve the quality and efficacy of publicly and privately financed long-term support services. Read the white paper here to learn more and follow their work @BPC_Bipartisan.

Let’s hope they can get their arms around this issue. Until they do, I’ll continue guiding families to the resources they need, until I need the same support, at age 84.

©2014 Circle of Life Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brain-Friendly Recipes for Memorial Day Barbecues

Delicious appetizer with artichokesby Jan Simpson Benvenuti

As May and June fill with family gatherings – weddings and graduations, Memorial Day barbecues and days lingering on a ball field or attending a school performance or recital – I am mindful of the delicious brain-healthy food we served preceding a recent talk I gave with Dr. Nancy Emerson Lombardo, one of our country’s experts on nutrition and cognition. I knew that Nancy and I would become fast friends when she told me to eat dark chocolate daily. As you plan your Memorial Day barbecue, you may find a tempting recipe on Dr. Lombardo’s website by clicking here.

Researchers  know that nutrition plays a key role in both the prevention of and the delay of the onset of  disease, including Alzheimer’s disease. In July, Boston will be hosting the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference on July 13-18, 2013 at the Westin on Boston’s waterfront. If you have a loved one living with dementia and you are in town, you may want to register for the one-day program about Dementia Care, presented in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association of MA/NH. This is a unique opportunity to learn from international care experts. Here is the link to the program.

Enjoy your holiday and do pass along one of Nancy’s delicious recipes to your family and friends.

© Circle of Life Partners