- Written by Carol Foote, Outreach and Development Director
In its 19th year, the Northfield Mount Hermon Instrumental Ensembles will again host a benefit concert for LifePath to kick off LifePath’s Walkathon season. The concert is scheduled for Sunday, February 19th at 3 p.m. on the beautiful Northfield Mount Hermon campus in the Rhodes Arts Center.
The Concert Band will present music from the heart of its literature: Winds of Celebration by Tyler Grant, a Sousa march, and Chester by William Billings. The strings of the Orchestra will play the first movement of Tchaikovsky's famous String Serenade, and a new composition called Testimony by African American composer Charleton Singleton. The groups will collaborate to present a wonderful medley of music from The Lion King. The Jazz Ensembles will be performing Swing & Latin Jazz selections including Duke Ellington's Take the A Train and Herbie Hancock's Cantaloupe Island.
Donations may be given online here, or, at the venue, a collection jar will be available for cash or checks. We are so grateful to Steve Bathory-Peeler, Orchestra and Band Concert Director, Ron Smith, Director of Music Programs, and the instrumental staff and students, for continuing to make the needs of LifePath a priority with this benefit concert. Thank you to the NMH community and donors who support LifePath in so many ways.
- Written by Amanda Carter (AKA Coach Carter), Event Coordinator
Have you started smiling yet? Well, if you have been consistent with the mantra: “Move, Mood, Attitude,” I am guessing you can sing a resounding “yes” to that question. When you move, it promotes a good mood which leads to an overall good attitude. If you have begun your walking journey, great work—you are on the “right path.”
Wintertime can make it challenging to get your walking steps in. It is cold outside, and snowy or icy conditions can be less than desirable to walk in. As a result, this can lead to sluggish indoor patterns in our daily winter lives. Here are some other ideas to keep you moving:
- Play your favorite dance music in your home and dance! Visit this link to get you going to “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.
Find an exercise video that speaks to you and weave it into your day. Consider starting with LifePath’s Healthy Living Home Workout Playlist. Or sign up for one of LifePath’s free Healthy Living workshops for more great tips!
Join a gym and work with a trainer to get you going on a specific regimen, made just for you. Our fitness partner, Franklin County’s YMCA in Greenfield, MA, is a great place to start.
Three things to think about in the winter months: Stretching, Oxygen, Water
- First things first: Stretch! Wake up those muscles and alert them! It is important to make sure you stretch before and after your movement regimen. Visit YouTube for a pre-walk stretching guide.
- Fresh air is so important for our mental and physical self. If you love to walk, but are uncomfortable being cold, stretch to warm up, then bundle up and take a quick lap around your residence. By warming yourself up first, the fresh air will energize you and might even encourage you to walk longer.
With this inspiration to get moving, the next steps for Walkathon participants include:
- registering for LifePath’s 2023 Path for Life Walkathon event;
- pumping up your walking and fundraising activity, and;
- inviting or gathering your team members and asking them to do the same!
We sometimes forget to drink water in colder weather. Don’t become dehydrated.
In 2022, teams raised a record-breaking $40,000 for Meals on Wheels, in-home supports, and much more. That journey of success started by putting one foot in front of the other, and making the first request of family and friends. And then asking another, and another. The Path for Life Walkathon will be here before we know it on Saturday, May 6th. Start your walkathon journey of 2023 right now!
- Written by Barbara Bodzin, Executive Director
We, as an agency, continue our commitment to combating systemic racism and fostering multicultural growth, equity, and inclusion. While LifePath had previously been involved in diversity initiatives, our renewed investment began in 2020 following the murder of George Floyd, when taking action against racism was explicitly named as our primary focus. We came together at that time to engage in discussions, learn from one another, and raise our personal and collective awareness. We began our journey through a series of anti-racism trainings, which provided the insight and recognition to begin a lifelong commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization.
According to Anneliese Singh, PhD, anti-racism/social justice scholar, “The term ‘antiracist’ refers to people who are actively seeking to not only raise their consciousness about race and racism, but also take action when they see racial power inequities in everyday life.” Our anti-racism work has united staff, volunteers, and our board of directors in our commitment to social justice. As an organization providing care, we look to dismantle systems of inequity and combat racism as a barrier to health care and home care. We strive to provide access, resources, and safety, while empowering those who have been historically disenfranchised.
Though our learning has been significant, we are still in our infancy with much work ahead. As stated by United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, “Wherever we see racism, we must condemn it without reservation, without hesitation, without qualification.” We must interrogate our established systems and make necessary transformational changes to weave diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging into the fabric of LifePath. We will continue to build our framework, looking to achieve our goals through education, outreach, and examining our personnel and programmatic policies through an equity lens.
Wherever we see racism, we must condemn it without reservation, without hesitation, without qualification.
Ongoing training and education will provide staff and volunteers with the necessary tools to develop self-awareness and insight. From the point of initial onboarding onward, staff and volunteers will have the opportunity to develop their foundational knowledge and skills. Curriculum inclusive of understanding bias, microaggressions, white supremacy, and white privilege will help us move towards more equitable engagement.
We strive to diversify our staff and volunteers to better reflect the racial and ethnic makeup of our region. Sharing of cultures both in our organization and community will foster greater cultural competency and build bridges for enhancing trust and familiarity. We are confident that growing our multicultural and multilingual capacities will provide a more welcoming environment for staff and volunteers who will, in turn, deliver culturally-appropriate services to members of our community.
One of our next steps will be to create a code of conduct to articulate and uphold our guiding principle of fairness and respect for all. We will look to other organizations who have created guiding statements to provide protections against bias and discrimination. For example, Mass General Brigham, Massachusetts’ largest hospital system, recently implemented a code of conduct which does not allow offensive remarks about race, accent, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or other personal traits. Mark Murphy, Mass General Brigham spokesman, said the code of conduct was developed in response to the national rise in violence and hostile behavior at health care facilities. He states, “Just as we strive to provide the best clinical care and experience possible, Mass General Brigham aims to be a safe, welcoming environment for both our patients and our staff.”
LifePath’s code of conduct will provide guidelines regarding acceptable behaviors and treatment to ensure respect and safety for individuals in all instances. LifePath will look to build protections for staff, volunteers, vendors, and those we serve. Such a policy will safeguard against offensive comments, threats, inappropriate behaviors, and refusal to engage with someone based on personal traits. Situations which fall outside of what is considered acceptable behavior will be reviewed with the hope that training and education will positively impact the situation so that care can continue in a respectful manner for all involved.
Community engagement is essential to effectively work against racism, prejudice, and inequality. We look to partner with organizations in our region with shared missions as well as extend our efforts to those we serve. To address racism in a meaningful way, consider exploring the different ways racism manifests and look to take action to create change. There is an abundance of resources available to educate yourself about racism and its impacts. Here is a list of recommendations to get started and join us in this intentional work.
Learning to be anti-racist requires an ongoing commitment to analyzing and evaluating your own personal beliefs, but learning is only part of the picture. What steps can you take to combat racism and promote equity and inclusion? At first, this may seem like an insurmountable question, but upon further consideration there are many ways to start taking concrete steps towards being anti-racist. Act with intention; anti-racism requires a conscious decision to pursue it as a goal and way of being. Be courageous and vulnerable in the face of the shame, blame, guilt, or anger that often surfaces during the learning journey. Approach situations with humanity and empathy to break down the “us vs. them” divide. Lastly, be an ally; take on this struggle as if it is your own. Through our collective actions, we can embrace diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging not just as a cause, but as a way of life.
- Written by Dr. Jeungok Choi; Dr. Raeann LeBlanc; Reem Alalawi, PhD student; University of Massachusetts Elaine Marieb College of Nursing
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Arthritis affects millions of people around the world and is the leading cause of disability. There are many types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis, affecting 27 million adults worldwide. The number of people experiencing OA is expected to rise. By 2050, it is projected that 130 million people will suffer from OA. People with OA are at additional risk for other diseases, such a heart disease.
OA is defined as age-related degeneration of the protective cartilage that cushions the end of bones. OA causes changes in the bone and connective tissue that connect muscle to bone. Inflammation is also thought to play a role in OA. OA is a progressive disease. There is no cure for OA, but there are ways to manage the progression and symptoms.
OA is a disease process that affects the joint as a whole and may affect joints in hands, ankles, knees, hips, and the spine. OA is most commonly a problem with the weight bearing joints, such as hips and knees. OA can affect anyone but is especially prevalent in older and obese people. People who have had previous injuries are prone to OA.
People with OA may experience symptoms such as pain, aching, stiffness, swelling, and/or decreased flexibility of their joints. In addition, it is not uncommon to have symptoms associated with OA such as fatigue. The symptom of fatigue is also common in Rheumatoid Arthritis. As the Arthritis Foundation (2023) describes, fatigue may be related to pain and inflammation impacting sleep or from inactivity and loss of muscle mass.
While arthritis is a progressive, chronic disease, there are ways you can manage OA symptoms. Here are some key ideas that may be helpful for managing OA symptoms.
The largest modifiable risk factor for OA is being overweight. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can help decrease the workload on your joints. Being overweight puts pressure on joints and may change the way the joints are used (biomechanics). Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight may relieve pain, improve function, and slow the progression of OA.
A healthy diet may help you achieve a normal weight. A healthy diet may also improve OA symptoms. OA is thought to have an inflammatory component. An anti-inflammatory diet has foods that are rich in antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids. These foods may decrease inflammation. Additionally, people with OA should ensure plenty of Vitamin K-rich foods are in their diet, as Vitamin K has a role in bone/cartilage mineralization. Antioxidant-rich foods include berries, nuts, kale, spinach, and legumes. Foods with plenty of Omega-3 include fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines), seaweed, flax seeds, and chia seeds. Vitamin K-rich foods include green leafy vegetables, spinach, and broccoli.
Good choices for exercise are activities with low impact, slow, or graceful movements—which can improve balance, reduce stress, and offer arthritis pain relief.
While there is no cure for OA, exercise can slow progression, reduce pain, and maintain or improve function. Regular exercise can help strengthen muscles and improve flexibility and balance. Exercise is part of managing OA every day. The benefits of regular exercise also include decreasing risk of other diseases, such as heart disease.
Good choices for exercise are activities with low impact, slow, or graceful movements—which can improve balance, reduce stress, and offer arthritis pain relief. Tai Chi, Yoga, or simple walking are some examples. Simple walking is a great way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Even short walks are helpful. Activities like swimming or biking are often easily available and helpful too. The key to exercise as a helpful intervention for OA is to make it a part of your daily schedule. You can do this by setting small goals to be active.
Mindfulness can be helpful in managing symptoms of OA. Mindfulness is the awareness that arises through paying attention to the present moment in an open and nonjudgmental way. Mindfulness is a way to be in an emotionally calm state. This allows people to view their illness from a new perspective and has been shown to improve perceptions of pain. An example of a simple mindfulness activity is sitting in a chair with eyes closed and deep breathing for one minute. Set goals to schedule mindfulness moments into your day and build upon this foundation.
Chronic Disease Self-Management Programs
Chronic disease self-management programs such as “My Life, My Health,” offered through LifePath, are a great way to apply these recommendations.
Finally, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Elaine Marieb College of Nursing are conducting a web-based fatigue management study to encourage a simple walking activity for adults age 65 and older who have rheumatoid arthritis- or osteoarthritis-related fatigue. We would like to know what you think about our website and invite you to take part in four brief meetings and complete three short surveys telling us about your fatigue level, cognition, and demographic information. We will teach you how to use our website, and then you will be asked to use the website at home for four weeks.
- Written by NIH News in Health
Forgetfulness, temporary confusion, or having trouble remembering a name or word can be a normal part of life. But when thinking problems or unusual behavior starts to interfere with everyday activities—such as working, preparing meals, or handling finances—it’s time to see a doctor, as these could be signs of dementia.
Dementia is a brain disorder that most often affects the elderly. It’s caused by the failure or death of nerve cells in the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause. By some estimates, about one-third of people ages 85 and older may have Alzheimer’s. Although age is the greatest risk factor for dementia, it isn’t a normal part of aging. Some people live into their 90s and beyond with no signs of dementia at all.
“Dementia really isn’t a disease itself. Instead, dementia is a group of symptoms that can be caused by many different diseases,” says Dr. Sanjay Asthana, who heads an NIH-supported Alzheimer’s disease center at the University of Wisconsin. “Symptoms of dementia can include problems with memory, thinking, and language, along with impairments to social skills and some behavioral symptoms.”
Several factors can raise your risk for developing dementia. These include aging, smoking, uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure, and drinking too much alcohol. Risk also increases if close family members have had dementia.
Most forms of dementia worsen gradually over time. Scientists are searching for ways to slow down this process, or prevent it from starting in the first place.
The two most common causes of dementia in older people are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia, a condition that involves changes to the brain’s blood supply. Vascular dementia often arises from stroke or arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in the brain. Other causes of dementia include Parkinson’s disease, HIV, head injury, and Lewy body disease (Lewy bodies are a type of abnormal protein clump in brain cells).
Regular exercise, a heart-healthy diet, and avoiding smoking can reduce your risk for heart disease, as well as dementia.
The symptoms of dementia can vary, depending on which brain regions are damaged. “In general, the left side of the brain is involved in language, and the right side is very involved in social behavior,” says Dr. Bruce L. Miller, who directs an NIH-funded dementia center at the University of California, San Francisco.
In the case of a frontotemporal disorder, “if it begins in the left side of the brain, you tend to have worsening language problems; if it starts on the right, it affects behavior and might be mistaken for a psychiatric condition,” Miller explains. Damage to specific brain regions can cause people to become apathetic, lose their inhibitions, or show no consideration for the feelings of others.
With Alzheimer’s disease, memory-related areas in the lower and back parts of the brain tend to be affected first. Other types of dementia can affect regions that control movement.
“The treatment for all of these disorders is slightly different,” Miller says. That’s why it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis.
Because different types of dementia can have overlapping symptoms, and some people have more than one underlying condition, it’s best to see a clinician who has expertise in diagnosing dementia. “NIH has specialized centers across the country that have clinics that can diagnose and evaluate patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” Asthana says. (See NIH’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers for more information.)
To make a diagnosis, physicians usually ask about a person’s medical history and do a physical exam, including blood tests. They also check for thinking, memory and language abilities, and sometimes order brain scans. This evaluation will determine if the symptoms are related to a treatable condition—such as depression, an infection, or medication side effects.
With some types of dementia, a clear diagnosis can’t be made until the brain is examined after death. “There’s no single blood test or brain scan that can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease or some other types of dementia with certainty,” Asthana says. “In these cases, a definite diagnosis can be made only at autopsy.”
“Right now, a lot of research is focusing on the pre-symptomatic stages of the disease, where we can see evidence of amyloid protein before a person has any symptoms. We can test to see if medications can slow or prevent buildup of this amyloid protein,” Asthana says. “So far, no studies have shown that clearing the brain of amyloid protein can actually translate into significantly improved symptoms.”
Different approaches are now being studied as treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s dementia, and certain other forms of dementia. Currently approved medications may improve symptoms, but none can halt or reverse progressive damage to the brain.
“In contrast, if the dementia is due to vascular disease, there are many things we can do to prevent it from progressing. It’s the same things we do to prevent cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Helena Chui, director of an NIH-funded Alzheimer’s center at the University of Southern California. “Some people with vascular dementia are given anti-clotting medications. Others are given medications to keep blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes under control.”
Chui notes that a healthy lifestyle can help protect the aging brain. “Regular exercise, a heart-healthy diet, and avoiding smoking can reduce your risk for heart disease, as well as dementia,” she says. Engaging in social and intellectually stimulating activities might also help to protect brain function. “You can change your trajectory toward a healthier brain by making healthy choices,” Chui says.