September 17th filled my brain with such incredible information that it is perplexing to analyze it all and move to action. 

With a lineup of amazing knowledge and talent, no one left without advanced awareness. The Boys and Girls Club provided the cafeteria with WiFi, Zoom connection, excellent microphones, and outstanding snacks and lunch. 

Chef Ian offered sliced fresh fruit – good for the brain – and a variety of juices plus healthy muffins and granola bars. As we settled into our seats with yummy filled plates and cups before us, the day began.

Drs. Fettic, Argyle, and Gong launched us into learning focusing on being proactive with our health instead of reactive, the value of carefully guarding our brains, risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and many ways to protect ourselves for a bright future. 

These three were our first Zoom experience, and thanks to technology and the brilliant help of attendees Casey Acklin and Ashley Maden, I stumbled through with nary a hitch. On my own, that may have been a different story.

With our brains and health guarded, Allison Stephens guided us through important ways to maintain strength and mobility.

The benefits of brain and whole-body health include decreased problems with blood pressure, preventing obesity, improved sleep, increased cerebrovascular function, and enhanced cognition. 

Following recommendations for 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, starting low and slow, and working on strength, endurance, and balance, overall health is guaranteed to advance. 

Allison also led us through several exercises – practicing now means we will be able to recall these to institute a program tomorrow.

A quick break directed us to Niki Rubarth and Cathy Maupin of the Alzheimer’s Association who suggested tips to better understand Alzheimer’s and dementia and so take care of ourselves and our overall health. 

Did you know that 49,000 Nevadans have dementia and that that number is ever-expanding? What can we do? 

Engage, exercise, pay attention to nutrition, socialize, and interact. That’s not hard, is it? The Alzheimer’s Association is there to help with advice, insight, and support. Join the Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease at the Sparks Marina Saturday, October 2nd.

My dear friend Janice Walter spoke with us next. A recorded Zoom session presented buffering issues however her message was clear: A Disability Does Not Define Ability. Janice explained her encounters with the hard knocks of life and how she endured, conquered each obstacle, and became ever-stronger. 

Her message resonated with hope and the overpowering significance of our ability to succeed in all worthwhile endeavors.

A stretching and Yoga session with Maria Bengochea assisted us with posture, flexibility, strengthened back muscles, movements to remove stiffness, and ways to tone and rejuvenate abdominal muscles. Yoga is an excellent exercise for increasing strength and balance as each of us pushed just a little to make Maria proud of our efforts. In just 15 minutes, we felt stronger and even wiser and ready to dive into lunch.

Boxed lunch hardly describes the delicious food we devoured with a choice selection to meet every palate. We soon found ourselves further engrossed by the presentation of Kathryn MacDonell, of Texas Presbyterian in Dallas.

A serendipitous encounter with her impressed me so that I knew she just had to join us. Many older adults face loneliness and a sense of helplessness. Kathryn proposed how the arts – art, music, and movement – help preserve cognition and joy and improve overall health. Paint a little, sing some more, dance and wiggle, socially engage. The result? Happiness prevails.

Our ensuing panel, Laura Christean, Sundae Orwick, and Cathy Maupin brought the honest truth of the overwhelming, exhausting task of caregiving for a loved one. No sleep, interrupted life plans, loss of dignity, feeling alone, and finding legal matters in disorder are a few of the challenges of becoming a 24/7 caregiver. 

As loneliness and isolation seep in, these three emphasized the importance of asking for and accepting it. There is no need to go it alone when others can lend a hand.

Casey Acklin rounded out the day as he explained about the CDC Healthy Brain Initiative and Dementia Friendly Nevada.

He pointed out the negative connotation of dementia as he listed ways to find joy as we focus on growth, learning, and establishing a new, though different, relationship with a love one.

Life is not over, it is simply perceived in a novel, ever-changing manner.

Thanks to speakers and attendees, our Brain Health conference inspired me.