Thursday, February 06, 2014
Brain games are good for all ages By Dr. Anthony Policastro

I have written in the past about the importance of brain exercises to keep our brains sharp. AARP offers an online brain games site for this purpose. What I did not write about was the importance of brain games at younger ages. We know that there are many areas of the brain that do different things. We need to exercise these areas. It is no different than exercising the various muscles in our body. A child who focuses solely on playing the same video game over and over is not able to do that. Recently, I was at the Christiana Mall. I was down near Target when I noticed a store called Marbles the Brain Store. I had to go visit. The store sold a collection of brain games that were aimed at the younger age group. The stores brochure said that they were only located in nine states nationally; Delaware is one of those states. The stores focus was on five major skill areas. One of those was what they called critical thinking. This involves judgment, impulse control or patience and our social behaviors and reactions. A second area is word skills. This involves learning new vocabulary, recognizing letter patterns and creating new word combinations. Skills in this area translate into the individual being a good communicator. A third area is visual perception. This involves the ability to recognize shapes and colors which is essential for children learning the alphabet and their numbers. It also involves the ability to shift the orientation of objects in your mind. A fourth area is coordination skills. We have many areas for which we use coordination. One of the most complex ones is driving a car. We need to use our hands, our eyes and turn our heads. There are many other activities that involve complex coordination skills. The fifth area is memory. It is becoming more and more apparent that training our memory over the years will help slow various forms of dementia. This is something we all need to do. There are other areas that were not included on that list. Attention skills is one example. Hearing skills is another. In any case, brain training exercises are good for all ages. For that reason, parents and grandparents need to think about playing games like these with children. If you just buy the game, there is no guarantee that the child will use it. However, if you play it with them, they will use it. They will also spend time with you. Children like a challenge. There are now places like Marbles the Brain Store where you can find ways to make challenges different and stimulating.

Prescription drug abuse legislation Legislation drafted by Attorney General Beau Bidens office and introduced by two registered nurses has been unanimously approved in the State Senate. House Bill 154, sponsored by Rep. Rebecca Walker, D-Townsend, and Sen. Bethany Hall-Long, D-Middletown, seeks to ensure that medications prescribed to patients are not diverted into the wrong hands. It passed the House unanimously in June 2013. It is part of a two-bill package that Biden, Hall-Long and Walker introduced last spring to increase the states efforts to fight prescription drug abuse. Specifically, HB 154 would create a new criminal offense of Medication Diversion that applies to anyone who intentionally diverts prescription narcotics from patients who are under the care of a healthcare program in medical or other 24-hour facilities such as hospitals, group homes, or nursing homes. This felony-level charge subjects offenders  whether licensed healthcare workers who provide treatment to patients, patients family members or their visitors, or non-healthcare workers employed by programs and facilities that serve patients  to potential jail time. In addition, a conviction more adequately subjects offenders to being placed on the Adult Abuse Registry and more specifically addresses criminal conduct that subjects an individual to professional licensing discipline as opposed to current law which subjects an offender to a misdemeanor-level conviction for theft. As a nurse, I felt this legislation is an important step in combating prescription drug abuse, Rep. Walker said. This will award broader protections to the patients we care for, the family members we love and the communities we serve. There must be accountability and consequence. The other bill in the package, Senate Bill 119, was approved by the General Assembly and signed into law last summer. The measure enhances Delawares prescription monitoring efforts to respond to the recognition that increasing numbers of addicts are turning to emergency rooms and urgent care clinics to obtain narcotics as enhanced enforcement has limited previous sources of drugs. The bills chief provisions limit all medical facilities except licensed pharmacies from dispensing more than a 72-hour supply of a controlled substance to patients and requires all dispensers to enter any prescription of a controlled substance into the states Prescription Monitoring Program, just as pharmacies are currently required to do.

Smoking and depression The Mental Health Association in Delaware offers a free brochure about the dangers of smoking and how it relates to depression. The brochure, Smoking and Depression: What You Need to Know, was developed through a mini-grant received from the American Lung Association through the division of Public Healths Tobacco Prevention Community Contract. While scientists are still unclear about whether smoking leads to an increase in depression or if depression makes individuals more likely to smoke, the following facts remain:

  • There is an inextricable link between smoking and depression.
  • We need to understand the correlation in order to protect and improve our mental and physical health.

For a copy of the free brochure, contact Mental Health Association in Delaware at 302-654-6833 or 1-800-287-6423.

FDA approves HCV treatment The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a new medication for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Olysio (Simeprevir) is just one of several new medications that will offer patients new treatment options, and the potential to eventually cure this challenging disease. With its increased safety and effectiveness, experts expect this new medication will reduce the need for patients to rely on other therapies, which often cause severe side effects, or sometimes fail to work at all. Chronic HCV infection is prevalent among baby boomers; those born between 1945 and 1965. People born during this period are five times more likely than other adults to be infected. As many as three out of four individuals with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection  therefore the CDC recommends everyone in this group be tested for the virus. Testing could identify up to one million individuals in the U.S. who do not currently know they are infected. Not sure if youre at risk for HCV? Visit the DPH hepatitis web page, and take the 5 minute risk assessment at For more information, or to report a hepatitis C case, call DPHs Adult Viral Hepatitis program at 302-744-1050.

Cholesterol, glucose screenings Nanticoke Health Services will offer cholesterol and glucose screenings at three locations during the month of February. Screenings will be held on the following dates: Friday, Feb. 7 - Georgetown EZ Lab  505 W. Market St., Georgetown, 7 to 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 14 - Seaford EZ Lab  Mears Health Campus, 200 Rawlins Dr., 7 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 22 - Laurel Health Fair, Laurel High School, 7 to 11 a.m. Cholesterol screenings require a 12-hour fasting and read the HDL, LDL and triglyceride blood levels. Cholesterol screening results will be mailed within 3 weeks along with information to evaluate the results. Screenings are free with a $10 donation appreciated. In addition to cholesterol and glucose screenings, free blood pressure checks will be offered. For more information, call 629-6611, ext. 8948. Pre-registration is not required.Shaken Baby Syndrome initiative The Child Death, Near Death & Stillbirth Commission (CDNDSC), in collaboration with Vida Health Communications, Inc. and Prevent Child Abuse Delaware are reaching out to new parents with a statewide Abusive Head Trauma initiative entitled All Babies Cry (ABC).  This initiative is in an effort to combat Abusive Head Trauma (AHT or Shaken Baby Syndrome). AHT is the most common cause of death from child abuse. In Delaware for 2012, the CDNDSC reviewed 7 AHT cases with 2 resulting in death and 5 in near death (total number of all abuse cases reviewed for 2012 was 21; AHT represented 33% of all cases reviewed). ABC goes beyond traditional AHT prevention and additionally aims to enhance new parents (particularly fathers) confidence in soothing their infant and themselves when feeling stressed.  ABC includes a brief component for in hospital viewing and more in-depth demonstrations and modeling for parents to view throughout the newborn period at home on mobile and online platforms. The CDNDSC, through a grant from Prevent Child Abuse Delaware, is now offering ABC to all new parents in the state for the year 2014. Staff at each hospital site has been trained to introduce the 11-minute in-hospital version of ABC to new parents and family at maternity bedside. Staff will provide parents with a brochure that directs them to view the rest of the media and booklet online at

Alzheimers caregiver support Laurel Adult Care will host an Alzheimers Association Caregiver Support Group that meets the third Thursday of each month at 1 p.m. Jamie Magee, program coordinator for the Alzheimers Association Delaware Valley Chapter, will be the guest speaker at the next meeting on Thursday, Feb. 20, at 1 p.m. Join us for a discussion of Alzheimers and other dementias at 113 N. Central Ave., Laurel. All meetings are free and open to the public. RSVP to Robbin Lecates at 875-2301 or Jamie Magee at 854-9788 or email

Manor House hosts program Methodist Manor House will host an Alzheimers Association Program, Memory Loss, Dementia and AlzheiåHmers  The Basics, on Thursday, Feb. 6, at 1001 Middleford Rd., Seaford. Jamie Magee, program coordinator, Alzheimers Association Delaware Valley Chapter, will present the program at 7:15 p.m. followed by a question and answer period. The program is free and open to the public. RSVP to Jamie Magee at 854-9788 or email

Hospice offers grief support group A six-week support group for adults on Healing after the Loss of a Loved One will be offered by Delaware Hospice on Tuesday afternoons, from 1 to 2:30, Feb. 11 through March 18, at the Delaware Hospice Office, Millsboro. The support group is open to anyone in the community. The group will provide grief education, support, and address individual needs including dealing with a multitude of diverse emotions, normalizing your grief, and coping with the impact of the loss on you, your family and friends. Register by Friday, Feb. 7, by contacting Carol Dobson, MSW, at 856-7717, ext. 4120 or