Memory Rescue by Dr. Daniel Amen (2017) – Book Review

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I am a geriatric mental health clinician, and frequently I am asked: “How can I improve my memory skills?” The usual recommendations from doctors are, “Exercise and learn new things.” I have been on a quest to find some other tips and tools that people can use to help improve or maintain their brain and memory functions as they age. This need has led me to try to find the perfect book to recommend to those who are looking for more information. “Memory Rescue” has some useful information but it’s not the book I was looking for.

I purchased a copy (Amazon) of psychiatrist Dr. Amen’s book “Memory Rescue: Supercharge your brain, reverse memory loss, and remember what matters most” which has a second subtitle, “The official program of the Amen Clinics.” The Amen Clinics are found all over the USA, and the services and programs offered there are to help people with various mental health and brain health concerns (such as memory loss, ADD, and traumatic brain injury).

This book starts out with 20 testimonials and reviews which is very impressive until I realized they were all from men. The male-dominated view about memory problems and the Amen Clinic program was very strong. The only female presence I felt was from Dr. Amen’s wife, Tana, which was very sparse. There were also a handful of case studies that were about females. As a woman reader and professional, I wish there had been a more balanced perspective.

The overall takeaway of this book, for me, was that this was a big advertisement for his Memory Rescue Program that he offers through his Amen Clinics and the MyBrainFitLife.com website. There were case examples of how his clinics help people, and there were lots of “SPECT” (single photon emission computed tomography) scan photos to “prove” it. Even after looking at numerous SPECT images, I still wasn’t 100% sure what I was looking for. I felt these images were a bit overkill.

Here in Canada, we don’t have access to Amen Clinics, and SPECT scans are reserved for those exceptional cases (which I am still not sure what those cases are.) We tend to favour CT, MRI and PET scans.

Ultimately I was looking for concrete tips on “how to improve memory skills” and “how to improve memory problems.” Amen’s program is intended to enhance your mood and memory skills using the BRIGHT MINDS risk factor approach, with each letter standing for a component of the “ultimate memory formula.” Blood Flow, Retirement and Aging, Inflammation, Genetics, Head Trauma, Toxins, Mental Health, Immunity/Infection Issues, Neurohormone Deficiencies, Diabesity, and Sleep Issues. There was quite a lot of repetition throughout the book, with the main recommendations being: Exercise, Nutrition, Nutraceuticals (and supplements).

On pages 28-30, you can take the “Amen Clinics’ Early Warning Signs Questionnaire.” Your score will provide you with a risk of “significant memory issues,” from low to high. Amen states, if you are at moderate to high risk, it is important to get a thorough medical evaluation.

This book brought up some new terms and concerns. Those including my need for nutraceuticals (which Amen sells on his BrainMD website), getting tested for the APOE gene (related to Alzheimer’s disease), an integrative medicine doctor (but doesn’t say where I can find one). He was heavy on the recommendation of Gingko Biloba (a natural supplement that has limited research evidence to help prevent memory problems, see GEM study). He was anti-marijuana use and wasn’t that clear on what the recommendation was for alcohol use (was it 2-4 servings a week or only 2?).  He suggests coconut oil is good for our brains, but I have read that it is not good for our bodies. There is a lot of reference to the Memory Rescue Diet, but it is not discussed until chapter 16. There are a lot of references to the Bible, which surprised me. He also suggested that “praying to release your worries and to rejoice over the good things around you can help reduce your risk of mental health problems” (p. 337).

Ultimately, as I mentioned earlier, I was looking for specific tips and techniques to help people improve their memory skills. The most helpful part of the book in this regard is found in Chapter 17 “Sharpen Your Memory––Brain Workouts for a Richer Life.” He provides a lot of suggestions of what activities can help strengthen the different areas of the brain such as playing Scrabble, completing crossword puzzles, and learning to play a new musical instrument. He suggests engaging in “map reading” without a GPS device. He’s a big fan of table tennis and other coordination activities, such as dancing, yoga, and tai chi. He says we should travel to new and interesting places and develop relationships with smart people. Music, especially classical, can enhance memory and cognitive function. Surprisingly, I didn’t find the instruction to “pay attention” to what we are doing, which I believe is an essential tip for being able to remember things in the first place. He doesn’t speak to word-finding difficulties, either, which is one thing a lot of older folks are initially concerned about.

The book is well-referenced, and he claims to walk the talk. The index is sub-par, and it could have been enhanced to make finding things a lot easier to find. Some of the reviews online of Amen Clinics state it is a very costly program. There is no mention of costs, but there is mention that the process of improving cognition or mental health often takes months. It’s assumed the program costs thousands of dollars. The MyBrainFitLife.com online program also has a cost, a yearly fee of USD 99. There are some free Brain Assessments (which I completed) which can help one decide on the level of risk one is at. If someone already has memory impairment, a caregiver or loved one will need to read this book as it tends to have some jargon and technical language, and there is lots to read and learn about.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Amen Clinic Memory Rescue Program. For specific information on brain health and tips for improving memory skills, Chapter 17 is where you want to start. If you believe in God or a higher power, this will also confirm your faith in how prayer and scripture can support your mental health. The book is somewhat repetitive, however, it drives home the main message––that having a healthy body means better chances for a healthy brain.

I’ll leave you with this: Amen provides hope––“Yet new research suggests that a ‘memory rescue’ program, like the one presented in this book, can dramatically improve memory and can prevent and sometimes even reverse some forms of dementia. Given how most doctors approach this issue, however, you cannot count on traditional medicine to rescue your memory.” (p. 4).

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW (Specialist in Aging)

 

 

A Wild, Life-Changing Roller Coaster Ride in the Dark (Book Review)

51+TXv-YH+LIt was very hard to put down Michele Longabaugh’s book, If You’re Not Laughing, You’re Dying: The dawning of hope from the shadows of darkness…blogging through Stage 4 Anal Cancer (2012). Being diagnosed with anal cancer myself, I was drawn to read this book in the hopes of getting some insight into the disease and how to manage it. Being diagnosed with this type of cancer in her late 40s makes Michele relatively young (as the average age of diagnosis of anal cancer is in the early 60s). Anal cancer is quite rare, and can be difficult to find support. Not only do some consider it a stigmatizing and shameful disease, the treatment for it is torturous. Michele’s courage and the sharing of her experience helps destigmatize anal cancer and her rise from shame to advocacy is very inspiring.

The book starts with a beautifully written Foreword by Michele’s loving husband, Jerry. The way he describes her writing is “random, raw and honest.” I would definitely agree with the random and raw, as this book is comprised of her blog posts (typos and all!) written over a period of about two years. The honest part, well, we’ll have to take his word for it!

The writings are very engaging, and each chapter (blog post) has a theme and a story or insight to share. The posts are sometimes upbeat and laughable, sometimes they are stories of the hell and torture Michele endures (which is hard to take). Sometimes they are loving tales of family, friends or healthcare providers. The reader can learn a lot about Michele’s experiences with cancer and its treatment (including a lot of crying, grief and scary parts) and she shares stories about things like medications, “narcotic naps”, ointments, radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, and her fondness for “Dr. Cutie” and her blog-worthy visits with the “butt doctor.”

Michele tends to rely heavily on family, friends, and prayer (she’s Lutheran) for support and strength during her cancer ordeal. I like this about her story, because I can totally relate in many ways. In addition to having a loving husband, she has three outstanding children – Maggie, AJ and CJ. Both Michele and her husband sing high praises for Michele’s sister, “sissy” Renee, who is described as an angel on earth. Michele’s two “besties” Laurie and Marie, also shine as two very important and special people in her life. Michele is a very popular, kind and loving person, and it shows in her writing.

Michele’s adventures of checking things off her “Bucket List” makes for some interesting stories and helps her find joy and pleasure. There are plenty of tears and suffering (both physical and mental) in her life, and she is able to appreciate humourus moments by laughing along or making an odd joke here and there. Near the end of the book, Michele shares some insight about her “Un-Bucket List.” These are things she would never want to do.

Overall, this book did what it was supposed to do; it helped inspire me and gave me hope that this fight against cancer can be won. We can all join Michele on this wild roller coaster ride in the dark by continuing to follow her blog on tumbler – ihavebuttwhat.tumblr.com.

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

A Story of Cancer Survival That Will Touch Your Heart and Soul (and Funny Bone!) – Book review

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Brown Ribbon by Robbi Woolard

Psychologist Dr. Robbi Woolard is a survivor of a rare form of cancer. She was encouraged by two of her friends to put her experiences and thoughts into a book (eBook for Kindle). “Brown Ribbon” is part memoir, part self-help book and is written with a humorous slant (a story about a doctor and a commode made me laugh out loud!). She has an “incredibly strong faith” and her beliefs in God and heaven are referred to throughout the book. She is clearly not afraid of death and is a very brave and courageous woman. She believes accidents, illnesses such as cancer and other traumas are random events and no one is immune (no matter how well one lives their life).

Woolard writes in an entertaining, yet educational and inspiring tone. The book could have used some editing, however, the reader can forgive this oversight as she speaks in a conversational tone and the stories flow nicely. There are some repetitive themes, but overall it’s an easy and pleasurable read.

The warrior spirit in Woolard spares us the gruesome details of her anal cancer treatment. She gives the reader just enough information which helps one to imagine the suffering she experienced. She writes in a way that reassures the reader that although cancer and it’s treatment are difficult, the alternative is worse.

For those who want closure, they will find the last story of her post-anal cancer treatment to get a “colposcopy” a bit frustrating. The chapter called “Caving” does not provide the reader with the results of her biopsy, but Woolard states she hopes she had experienced the last appointment with that doctor (we can only hope along with her!).

In the final chapter, Woolard shares her own personal growth experience. I found this chapter called “Everything I Have Learned from Cancer” especially inspiring (as I am also affected by anal cancer myself). Many of her insights such as “setting new goals after cancer” and “improving connections with others” are very positive and uplifting. I can definitely identify with her lessons learned. She states, “As I age, I’ve begun to believe something that I’d never pondered in years past. I’ve always assumed that all of both the good and the bad that we experience culminate in who we become. Now, drawing upon many decades of both ends of the experience spectrum, I think all of it should be credited with making us richer, deeper, more complete human beings.”

A recommended read for those affected by cancer, especially newly diagnosed anal cancer patients, their families and survivors of cancer.

Get your copy – Brown Ribbon: A Personal Journey Through Anal Cancer and the Adventure it Entailed (2016) by Robbi Woolard.

Angela G. Gentile

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Angela G. Gentile  MSW, RSW is a clinical social worker and author of the book, “Caring for a Husband with Dementia: The Ultimate Survival Guide”, “A Book About Burnout: One Social Worker’s Tale of Survival” and the “Dementia Caregiver Solutions” app for iPhone and iPad. She lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba with her husband and has two adult children. She is creator of the Facebook communities – “Aging Well for Women” as well as “God, Cancer and Me.” For more information, visit: www.AngelaGGentile.com

 

 

 

An Empowering Read for Women, Business Owners and Marketers

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GeroFuturist Karen Sands’ book, “Gray is the New Green: Rock Your Revenues in the Longevity Economy” (2016) is THE book you need to read if you are a middle-aged career women, business owner or marketer and are looking for lucrative opportunities. This small but mighty book covers topics such as ageism in society, business trends, marketing, careers and entrepreneurial opportunities in the field of aging, unretirement, reinvention, and visionaries. Sands intersperses loads of great data and statistics and references other thought leaders throughout the book, providing convincing evidence and support to her thoughts and ideas on “gray is the new green.” She encourages a narrative “re-storying” approach to positively changing the way we think about aging, careers and business.

She uses some familiar and unfamiliar terms such as:

– Longevity Economy
– Ageless Women
– Ageless Technology
– Conscious Aging
– Positive Aging
– Educational Gerontologist
– Age-Friendly Workplace
– Boomerpreneurs
– Solopreneurs
– Grannypreneurs

Hopefully these terms will be defined in Sands’ online glossary (not available at time of printing).

The book is sectioned into three chapters. The last chapter repeats most of what was in the first two. There were many topics that stood out for me as a 50-year-old woman. Sands talks about “The Change” (menopause) and embracing our “Inner Crone.” She empowers the reader when she tells us we can “radically reframe the stories we tell ourselves about aging.” It jolted me a bit when she proclaims 50 is universally “Over the Hill” according to Human Resource (HR) directors.

Sands challenges marketers to get beyond the rampant “malevolent ageism” in corporate marketing. She gives a few examples of how advertisers are inadvertently turning off women aged 50 and up who are the “highest increasing-spenders” in the fashion and beauty industries by creating offensive ads that portray older women in a negative way.

For businesses to succeed in this “Gray Tsunami” era, Sands recommends that diversity, gender equality and work-life balance initiatives must be welcomed and incorporated. She warns businesses that don’t adopt and welcome these changes will be left behind.

For those interested in working with or for the aging population, she states the “field of aging is evolving at warp speed.” She gives a listing of up-and-coming careers and opportunities in the aging field such as “cutting-edge age-friendly technology and devices, home design…and adult education.”

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Karen Sands, GeroFuturist

Sands sheds some light on the notion of retirement and how our extended middle-age is changing the way we view working in our later years. She says, “Aging does not mean retiring.” She discusses how people are reinventing themselves, or they are “unretiring.” Others are choosing not to retire. She predicts employees and leaders alike will be working until they die.

For those Boomer Women who want to reinvent themselves by starting up a new business, she provides lots of great advice and questions to think about in Chapter 2. She offers a great tip for a business idea, which is to offer a product or service that can help people save time. She tells women to “awaken their visionary voice” and states “it is never too late to be a visionary.” In Chapter 3 she states although some women may not be ready for this change yet, she encourages them to do the “prep work” now so that they can “leap with confidence” when they are ready.

Although there is not much new in Chapter 3, I love the advice she gives regarding aging. Sands writes, “Marketing, and society as a whole, need to understand that we no longer wish to be told that aging is something we need to be against. Agelessness is about embracing and enhancing who we are, not blindly following an outdated standard of who we should be.”

“Gray is the New Green” is an empowering book for women. It is a goldmine for those in business. It is a lifesaver for marketers and organizations.

The book is available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle versions.

Note: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW
http://www.AngelaGGentile.com

Today’s Woman: Life Balance Secrets (Book Review)

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When you read “Today’s Woman: Life Balance Secrets” (2014) by Miriam Castilla, it is like having your own motivational life coach right by your side. Self-awareness, life strategies, and self-care are essential to achieving life balance, satisfaction and fulfilment. Castilla gives you a wide variety of tips on how to do it.

Castilla, an entrepreneur and finance advisor, gets you thinking positive starting at chapter one as she has you determine what your definition of success is. She gives you a step-by-step method to help you visualize what it would feel like to be very successful.  She explains her definition goes like this — “Success is doing all you love and loving all you do.” She helps you come up with your own.

Castilla, uses the “Pinwheel Principle” as an analogy to demonstrate your need for a balanced life in order to be efficient. She describes the ideal “life pinwheel” to be balanced in these four areas: Body, Mind, Self, Others. She states keeping these areas in balance helps you take a holistic approach to having a well-balanced, amazingly satisfied and fulfilling life.

Castilla also gets you thinking about your five core values and your three central ones. Momentum is gained as you define goals in chapter seven. Part three was most helpful to me, in that I was able to hone in on all those practical tips that help me focus on my goals.

Throughout the book, Castilla injects her personal stories to help us understand how the strategies apply. She helps you think about concepts in a different way. For example, in terms of a bucket list, she tells you that she “fills up her bucket” versus strokes things off the bucket list. As another example, she advises you to not be so hard on yourself for being efficient at what you do.

I particularly enjoyed the section called, “Run Away to the Circus” and the need to have a “crazy sh#t friend!” As part of the “Feed Your Soul” teachings, she tells you about all her adventures and it is very amusing and thought-provoking.

Any professional woman will find this book comforting and motivating. “Today’s Woman: Life Balance Secrets” is a delightful, inspiring read.

Buy Now on Amazon:

Today’s Woman – Life Balance Secrets: Practical Tips & Tricks for Overcoming Stress, Guilt and Overwhelm

Angela G. Gentile, MSW, RSW

http://www.AngelaGGentile.com