I've been playing brain games on my smart phone, mainly to keep myself occupied while I'm traveling. They are so easy to download. I especially like Lumosity, and various word search games that people have suggested.
It turns out that these types of games are recommended as a way to keep your mind supple and fend off Alzheimer's. The Alzheimer's Research and Prevention Foundation discusses "four pillars of prevention:"
diet and supplements, including reduced fat and foods high in antioxidants;
mind and body exercise; and
spiritual fitness, i.e., increased consciousness and cognition (including religious practice).
What I like about their website is the measured way in which they present their information. It is written in a clear style, and suggests scientific thought behind their recommendations.
There's an advertisement that pops up on sites that I've visited which presents a message completely opposite to the one listed above. It consists of a video in which a man tells the emotionally difficult story of losing his young wife to Alzheimer's, the doctor predicting she has only six weeks of certain memory left, and how he miraculously discovers a diet that reverses the illness in only 21 days! But act now, as the video insists, because this information is so explosive, big companies may take down and bury the site.
Yeah. I liked that video so much I stopped watching it before the end. The miracle diet apparently includes coconut oil and other spices that may or may not have an effect on reversing Alzheimer's.
Scientific proof is still sadly elusive as to whether the types of prevention we take will ultimately protect us from succumbing to Alzheimer's. All the evidence is anecdotal. Research into Alzheimer's is taking many forms and directions. Google Alzheimer's research and you will find links to the efforts of scientists as well as to many "breakthroughs" that are publicized widely in internet media. The jury is still out when it comes to understanding the disease and how to prevent it.
Back to the brain games, it turns out that games built specifically for people with Alzheimer's, those with clear instructions that can be played on a large screen, may have some positive aspects on memory. There's a fantastic program called Savion created by the care organization in Israel, Melabev, that can be tailored to an individual's abilities and interests, using verbal or numerical games to stimulate them.
Not all Alzheimer's patients are the same. My mom, for example, cannot sit still for any length of time. She is uninterested in computer games. We do read together, though, and sing, and look at photographs, so perhaps this is enough to keep her functioning at her current level for a while longer.
And me? I'm going to continue playing my brain games, exercising at the gym, connecting with individuals and going to synagogue, and I've even changed my diet to include healthier eating habits. But I won't be swayed by the emotional blackmail of some of these sites that offer panaceas to a disease that cannot be reversed.
This week, I felt particularly sandwiched between the generations. I visited my parents in Netanya, then traveled to Kiryat Atta to see my son and his family (yes, my delicious grandson Ro'i), where I met up with my husband and his parents, returning to Beer Sheva that same day. It was a lot of traveling, to say the least. It was important for me to bring the older and younger generations together. In my mind, there is always a sense of the unknown, of time racing ahead to when we can't be together whether it is from the inability to travel or the finality of death. We were together only briefly, but we captured it in our minds and in our cameras.
This Shepherd's Pie recipe is in honor of my grandson whose name means "My shepherd." It is bursting with broccoli and carrots, two vegetables that contain antioxidants. I used ground chicken and sweet potato topping, but you can substitute ground beef or turkey and regular potatoes.
I've made this pie with many variations, and it is always tasty. You really can't go wrong. Using sweet potato topping adds a splash of color.
500 gr (1 lb) ground chicken
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large onion, sliced
2 carrots, grated
1 cup broccoli, chopped
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
4-5 sweet potatoes peeled and sliced
2 cups water
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Sauté onion and garlic in frying pan until browned. Add vegetables and spices. Sauté up to 10 minutes until vegetables are soft. Add meat. Cover and cook until meat is cooked through. Let cool. Meanwhile, peel and slice potatoes and place in a pot. Add enough water to cover potatoes. Add 1 tsp salt and bring pot to boil. Lower heat to simmer and cook until potatoes can be pierced by a knife. Drain and mash. Add egg and mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Place meat mixture in bottom of oven-proof dish. Top with potatoes. Cook on 350° for 20 minutes.