The right approach can slow cognitive decline The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

The right approach can slow cognitive decline

December 8th, 2020 Mesa Tribune Staff
The right approach can slow cognitive decline

By Kristie Stark
Tribune Guest Writer

This pandemic has put a spotlight on so much that we take for granted.

As the executive director of The Summit at Sunland Springs Assisted Living and Memory Care Community, the outpouring of support I’ve seen for our frontline workers and the efforts everyone is making to protect our seniors has been incredibly uplifting.

Any one working in senior living or long-term care will tell you that it comes with its fair share of challenges – and never has it been more difficult than in 2020.

There has never been a better opportunity to start the conversation around the reality of aging and the cognitive decline we associate as an inseparable part of that process.

It’s not fun to think about the dulling of your mind. Young or old, we’d rather ignore it than address it.

It’s no great mystery as to why. No one wants to admit that getting older may mean more brain fog. No one wants to admit they may need help with daily activities. So many put off discussing care options with family until it’s desperately needed.

But aging does not automatically mean brain fog. By starting the conversation early, you can get a jump on age-related cognitive decline, and with early intervention, slow or even stop it so you can continue to live the life you love.

Despite our usual view of cognitive decline as a one-way ticket, research shows that diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s are largely a consequence of our lifestyle.

Many experts have begun to refer to Alzheimer’s as Type 3 diabetes, owing to the inflammatory effects of glucose on the brain.

And much like treating Type 2 diabetes, by controlling various lifestyle factors, we can improve cognition and actually begin to reverse the signs of Alzheimer’s.

We take a holistic approach with each of our residents to identify exactly what factors are causing cognitive decline and then develop individualized plans to mitigate those factors.

From vitamin deficiencies and diet to sleep quality and mental and physical exercise, our protocol has helped people regain mental clarity that they thought was lost.

I’ve seen husbands and wives remember spouses that they had forgotten; men and women regain control of their mind and body.

For families that thought they would have to watch their mother or father slowly vanish before their eyes, to have them returned to them is a miracle that I will never tire of seeing.

Those results come from our staff’s love for the people they care for. As a locally owned and operated business, we know that a fun and positive work environment translates to a higher quality of care for our residents.

When one of our staff learned that a 94-year-old resident, Chuck, wanted to cross ‘drive a Tesla’ off his bucket list, we made it happen. Even in the midst of a pandemic, our mission is to help our residents enjoy life to the fullest.

So, if you or a loved one are beginning to see signs of slowing down, I encourage you to start the conversation. Be proactive. Talk to friends and neighbors about their experiences.

And remember, the sooner you’re willing to address a concern, the more positive the results will be, and the better you and your family will feel.   

Kristie Stark can be reached at or 480-955-1633.


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