+

Sit down, close your eyes, and try to remember how you got to where you are.

How easy is it for you to visualize the path you took today? How did you remember where to go? Maybe you know to always turn at an important landmark — the tree your mom planted, for example. Maybe there was a sign telling you the right direction.


Photo from iStock.

For people living with dementia, these navigational clues can be hard to read.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, about 5 million Americans live with some form of dementia. Dementia isn't a single disease — rather, it's a broad category of cognitive and neurological symptoms. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer's disease, but there are many others, including strokes or Parkinson's disease.

Dementia can interfere with many of the brain's mental processes, including spatial memory — the part of the brain that deals with navigation. This is why many people living with dementia may sometimes find it hard to get around, even in familiar places.

Part of our ability to navigate lies in the hippocampus; dementia can interfere with processes in this region. Image from Henry Gray/Wikimedia Commons.

Getting lost can be especially dangerous for people who live with advanced forms of dementia — it can mean forgetting how to get home and being exposed to the cold or rain or running into dangerous situations like wandering across a highway.

A possible solution for this problem lies in the designs of the very buildings we live in.

Woodside Place is an assisted-living community in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that was built by Presbyterian SeniorCare in 1991.


Photo by Presbyterian SeniorCare, used with permission.

Though not as common today, in the 1980s, many facilities used physical or chemical restraints to prevent their residents from moving around.

Woodside, on the other hand, was specifically built and decorated to accommodate the natural wandering tendencies of people living with dementia.

Clever design decisions — like the use of color — help reinforce and strengthen the residents' spatial memory.

Many care spaces are designed like hospitals, fairly sterile and visually repetitive, white hallway after white hallway. By making the space more colorful, Woodside provides a quick intuitive reminder for residents to identify where they are.


Photo by Presbyterian SeniorCare, used with permission.

At Woodside, even the staff's uniforms are color-coded based on which wing they work in.

"[Patients] may not remember my name, but they remember she's green, she belongs to me," Carrie Chiusano, executive director of Presbyterian SeniorCare's dementia care center, explained.

Staff uniforms are color-coded. Photo by Presbyterian SeniorCare, used with permission.

Another strategy Woodside uses is to have decorations and signs that are meaningful and packed with emotional relevance.

Outside Woodside's green treehouse-themed wing is a large tree decoration. These cueing devices are more than just props; they serve as subtle visual reminders and landmarks for residents.

Woodside has also invested in signs and decorations that have personal significance to the residents. For example, many residents have decorated their doors and living spaces with photographs of themselves, family, and friends, so that they can more easily identify which room is theirs.

This can apply to more than just personal pictures; it can apply to meaningful symbols as well. Mary O'Malley, a Ph.D. student at Bournemouth University in England, told Upworthy of a care facility she visited where one area was decorated with generic pictures of water lilies and another was decorated with a painting of the city's history.

Water lilies vs. New York City. Which means more to you? Images from iStock.

Though the lilies were very pretty, O'Malley said the residents' emotional connection with their home city ultimately seemed to be a more useful navigation tool.

Researchers like O'Malley are constantly looking for ways to design living spaces specifically for people living with dementia.

Along with her supervisors, O'Malley is studying how people learn and remember routes and directions. She's taking a multidisciplinary approach, using psychology, neuroscience, sociology, and perhaps most importantly, direct conversations and feedback from people living with dementia.

Mary O'Malley conducting research at Bournemouth University. Photo from Philip Hartley/Bournemouth University.

O'Malley is interested in what type of spatial memory is most susceptible to memory loss.

For instance, we know that most older adults seem to work better with landmarks ("head toward the church") rather than plain directions ("turn right at the church"). O'Malley wants to see if this pattern holds true in people living with dementia as well. She's also studying the way our brains read maps to see if maps can be more user-friendly.

As we learn more about these designs, we can incorporate them not just into care facilities and hospitals, but into community spaces too.

While care facilities can be designed for residents with specific needs, it's estimated that about 60% of people living with Alzheimer's live within the larger community, rather than in assisted-living facilities.

"If you want to support people so that they remain in the community, then you should be making these changes to the community," O'Malley said.

These design decisions, such as the use of visual reinforcement and meaningful decoration, could be easily incorporated into the spaces we see around us every day. Next time you find yourself stuck trying to navigate, think about all the little visual cues you take for granted and how easy it would be to make them better for everyone.

Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

Keep ReadingShow less