Helping Somebody with Alzheimer’s Cope with Losing Their Spouse

Mental Fitness

The loss of a spouse is an incredibly difficult process to bear. It’s compounded by the fact that it’s a partner, a best friend, and a lover who is gone. But what happens if the surviving spouse has Alzheimer’s? The grieving process can immediately become more complex.

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to help the surviving spouse. First, you should understand why this loss impacts that person harder than it can others.

Why This Loss Is Bigger

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia. It affects your mind and plays havoc with your memory, thinking, decision-making, and behavior. It also really complicates matters when someone with Alzheimer’s loses their spouse. Here are some of the problems that can come up in these situations:

  • First, know that everyone grieves differently and for different lengths of time. That means there will be some variation in how someone with Alzheimer’s will react.
  • Because this disorder affects memory, expect that the survivor may not remember their spouse has passed away.
  • Even if they remember, they may not grasp what the death means. They could just assume the person has gone away and will return, or that the loss is not significant.

 

All of this becomes more problematic when the spouse was the primary caregiver. Not only has the surviving spouse with Alzheimer’s someone they love, they lost the person who took care of them.

How You Can Help

So how can you help the surviving spouse? The Alzheimer’s Society has several ways you can offer support that almost anyone can provide:

  • Make sure you explain the death and that the deceased is gone. Don’t try to “soften the blow” or otherwise hide the truth. Although it will hurt, you need to explain what happened. This can help the person with Alzheimer’s get through the grieving process.
  • Because they have this condition, they might forget about the death. Keep reminders of the funeral on hand to lend credibility to the story as you retell it. Be patient, and again, let them process their feelings.
  • Encourage the person to find creative outlets like art and music. Not only can this help them find some joy in the mourning period, it can be a great way to express their feelings.

If the spouse was the primary caregiver, you also need to find a replacement. The Alzheimer’s Association has great advice in finding a new caregiver, including how to screen for one that will best fit. Make sure they have training, experience, and can provide proof of a background check.

Going Through The Deceased’s Belongings

Once surviving spouse has accepted the death (at least for now) and you have a new caregiver, you have to move onto what could be a rough task: sorting through the belongings of the deceased. This can be stressful for everyone involved. Before you go through anything, consider the four Ps:

  • Participants: Can you get through this by yourself or will you need help? It might be best to leave the person with Alzheimer’s out of this process.
  • People: If the person is not going to be sorting through the belongings with you, ask them ahead of time if there’s anything special they want to be saved.
  • Plan: Decide if any items have particular urgency, like bills or the garage. Then list which rooms or items you’ll sort through first.
  • Pace: Don’t try to do everything in one day or weekend. Pace yourself by doing some each day for a while.

They Can Get Through With Your Help

Getting over the loss of a spouse takes time. Until then, things can be difficult to manage, especially for someone who has Alzheimer’s. That’s why your support is so necessary.

By recognizing the difficulties, making sure your loved one understands their spouse passed away, and helping to sort through the belongings of the deceased, you can provide a stable and comforting presence.


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Is Your Stuff Giving You Anxiety?

Anxiety

Americans are all about immediate gratification, and our consumer-driven culture allows us access to that gratification every single day. We go shopping in hopes that it feels good or causes pleasure, and if it does, then we do it again, and again, and again. Our obsession with shopping and acquiring material goods is leaving many penniless and riddled with anxiety.

Consider this: Does it give you a slight panic when you spill food or wine on your most expensive shirt? Are you so attached to certain items that you own that you actually store them away instead of using them for fear of ruining the item that you paid an exorbitant amount of money for?  There is enough in this world to be causing us anxiety- the melting polar ice caps, the devastating stories on the news, and bad pop music. Why let inanimate objects cause you mental pain and suffering?

Advertisements and marketing schemes try to lead us to believe that the more things that we have, the happier we will be. This leads down a path of working a job that we don’t enjoy in order to buy more things that we don’t truly need and can’t afford. Many studies have shown that those that are more materialistic than others have a lower value of self-worth, suffer from depression and anxiety, are overall less satisfied with life, and have high amount of debt with no savings.

Sometimes our outside influences outweigh our better judgement. We try to keep up with the Joneses, submit to bullying or feel peer pressure to buy the newest products. A study called the “Geography of Consumption” refers to how more prestigious neighborhoods that contain more materialistic people has an overall lower quality of life. The study also found that those that lived in these neighborhoods had large amounts of debt from buying things to impress their neighbors. Don’t feel guilty if you are realizing that you have done this yourself. This approval-seeking behavior is ingrained in us as human beings.

So, why do we continue to shop if we know that it has the potential to make us feel so lousy and to ruin our credit? Why do smokers continue to smoke when they know it is bad for their health? It is because in the moment, it feels good. For some it is a form of addiction that can be helped with seeing an addiction counselor. For others, it is a way to cope with anxiety, and the nervous energy could potentially be transferred elsewhere. For some people, it fills a void that they may not even be conscious is there, but they continue to fill it with stuff.

“As we amass more and more possessions, we don’t get any happier, we simply raise our reference point,” explained co-author James Roberts, of Baylor University Hankamer School of Business. “That new 2500-square foot house becomes the baseline for your desires for an even bigger house. It’s called the ‘Treadmill of Consumption.’ We continue to purchase more and more stuff but we don’t get any closer to happiness, we simply speed up the treadmill.”

If you are prone to anxiety, it is best to be hyper-aware of the potential that a shopping addiction could possibly replace healthy habits that you currently have. If your shopping habits have already caused you harm, put a stop to it now and make a plan to repair your credit. The instant gratification and ease of anxiety may feel good in the moment but may have long-lasting financial repercussions. Find outlets for your anxiety that can benefit, rather than hurt, you in the long run by remembering that less is more.


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Is Mental and Physical Health Related to How Emotionally Intelligent You Are?

Healthy Living, Mental Fitness

Described simply, emotional intelligence is one’s ability to understand the emotions of themselves and others, and regulate emotions accordingly. A term made popular by psychologist Daniel Goleman in 1995, emotional intelligence has been a growing field of study ever since.

There are different attributes that define emotional intelligence, but here are the five core traits:

  1. Self awareness: Recognizing your own emotions and how they affect your thoughts and behavior.
  2. Self regulation: Handling feelings and emotions appropriately. You’re able to control impulsive feelings and behaviors, manage emotions in healthy ways and adapt to changing circumstances.
  3. Motivation: Striving to improve and achieve excellence.
  4. Social skills: Being able to collaborate, communicate and positively influence others.
  5. Empathy: Compassion and understanding of others.

Emotional intelligence is pretty mainstream in our culture today as self-help experts, educators and successful executives place emphasis on why we shouldn’t speak without thinking, cause outbursts, and do dumb things under pressure. Many people fail to manage their emotions, which can lead to self destruction and why EI is an important component of being a well-rounded person.

The term is often used to describe how well you get along with your coworkers and family members, but take it a step further to understand that certain mental health conditions are related to lower levels of emotional intelligence. Add to that the fact that as one’s mental health declines so can physical health. That’s why it’s important to develop sound mental and physical wellness through emotional intelligence.

Physical Health

The first step in improving emotional intelligence is learning how to relieve stress, because if you can’t manage emotions, you probably can’t manage stress effectively.

Too much stress can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, raise blood pressure, contribute to infertility, accelerate the aging process and make you vulnerable to depression and anxiety.

Broad types of healthy living can help circumvent illness and relieve corresponding stress, including eating well, exercising, reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking.

None of those activities need to happen in a vacuum. In fact, you could even bond with other people who are also engaging in positive change. Your interactions bring you closer to people and elevate emotional intelligence as a result of your shared physical experiences. Being able empathize with others is a key component of emotional intelligence.

Mental Health

The impacts of depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions take a toll on the brain. Being able to regulate emotions, understand them and be okay with them will make you feel less isolated or lonely. Forming strong relationships not steeped in turmoil will also make you feel less stressed.

The quality of social relationships affect mental health just as much as physical health. Social and intimate relationships make people happier and more joyful. They constitute a vital part of well being.

Relationships can also be challenging. Poor relationships can lead to mental distress. Coping skills can help alleviate stress. Practicing gratitude and mindfulness can calm the monkey mind. Also, learning how conflict encourages people to communicate and solve problems is a trait of people with high emotional intelligence. Laughter, humor, and not taking yourself so seriously are simple ways to appreciate yourself and others. Hanging out with good friends tends to relieve stress, too. Simple stuff really.

What are your tips for relieving symptoms of stress and depression?

Dealing with self expression, regulation of moods and emotions as defined by emotional intelligence points to a direct link between EI and physical as well as psychological health. The higher your emotional intelligence, the better off you are mentally and physically. Compassion for ourselves and others, it would appear, is a huge part living a holistic, healthy life!


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How Dogs Improve Your Health: Mentally, Physically, and Emotionally

Anxiety, Depression, Inspiration, Mental Fitness, Motivational, Stress

Okay. Full disclosure. I have cats… well, actually they have me (wrapped right around their paws). I don’t currently have a dog, but I have in the past and I would love to again – if my cats ever allow it.

They make the rules.

In fact, one of my cats (Alexa) just demanded her favorite spot on my computer desk to oversee the writing of this post. How she knows the topic is beyond me – all I know is the hot chocolate has been moved, the iPhone put out of reach, and she is occupying her favorite spot, everything else be darned.

I did mention they make the rules, right?

My past beloved dogs have been German Shepherds,  toy poodles, and a Basset Hound I miss to this day. She was one of the sweetest natured animals or humans I’ve ever known. There was a purity about her a gentle disposition that words fail to describe.

Like cats, dogs are wonderful entertainment, adorable sources of joy, and perfect companionship.

The infographic below is outstanding. It shows how dogs can improve our health – mentally, emotionally, and physically. These three don’t just go together to make us what and who we are, they actually build upon (or tear away) one another. That’s why when we’re grieving or angry, we often feel physically sick. Our body, mind, and heart must all “feel” the music before we are able to dance.

Through my self help blog, Self Help Daily, I have had countless contact with individuals who are pretty much looking for the same things – happiness and peace of mind.  Whether it’s an individual going through a tough spot or a mother trying to find her way through the darkness of an empty nest, I inevitably include the suggestion of adopting a dog or cat.  When we care for a furry family member, we put ourselves in a position that’ll help us tremendously – we get outside of our own selves as we care for and nurture for them.

Dogs give us countless reasons each day to smile – and almost as many reasons to laugh out loud. The little clowns love nothing more than making their human family members happy and they will go to great lengths to make it happen.

I know one thing, from experience, not only will you walk more often when you have a dog, you’ll enjoy it a lot more AND you’ll walk for longer periods of time. When I walked my dogs, we’d stay gone until they were tired (even if I was dragging butt, we’d keep at it until they turned for home!).

I hope you enjoy the beautiful infographic and I hope (even more) that if happiness and joy seem elusive to you, you will head to your local animal shelter and adopt a precious new family member. Maybe two, if you’re able to!

Brighter days are always ahead when they include paws.

~ Joi (“Joy”)

Click the infographic for a larger view!

How Dogs Improve Your Health

Credit: PuppySpot.com

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Environmental Factors That Affect Dementia

Healthy Living, Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, Prevent Memory Loss

While dementia in it’s various forms is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, recent studies have provided evidence that rates of dementia are going down. Dementia may be influenced in part by a person’s genetics, however, researchers are looking toward environmental factors as a major influence on this recent decrease. These factors include rising levels of education and better practices and treatments related to heart and brain health.

The decline in rates of dementia fits optimistically within the history of modern medicine. In the mid-19th century, tuberculosis seemed to be an incurable condition. Yet through policy reform, improved standards of living, and medical advances, it is much less prevalent today. In a similar way, if we can identify the particular environmental factors that influence rates of dementia, we can encourage better living practices and continue to see a decline in dementia.

Here are a few of the most common environmental factors that may increase a person’s risk for dementia.

Head Injuries

Any impact to the head that disrupts normal brain function is considered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Falls, vehicle crashes, and sports injuries are the most common ways a person can sustain a TBI. The potential downsides of traumatic brain injury has come to the forefront in recent years, as studies have started to show how detrimental football field concussions can be. This awareness has led the National Football League to adopt stricter regulations and push towards further safety equipment innovations that could lead to safer play in years to come.

The immediate effects may include unconsciousness, difficulty recalling the incident, short term memory problems, trouble speaking, confusion, and problems with hearing or vision. And while these symptoms may only be temporary, depending on the severity of the injury, a TBI can have the long-lasting effect of doubling or quadrupling someone’s chance of developing dementia.

Alcohol Usage

Light to moderate alcohol consumption may actually be good for a person’s health. Positive effects include the potential of lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and dementia. However, heavy drinkers are more susceptible to alcohol-related anxiety and types of alcohol-related dementia caused by a thiamine deficiency and poor overall nutrition.

The most common form of alcohol-related dementia, Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, often involves mental confusion, paralysis of the nerves that move the eyes, difficulty with muscle coordination, and problems with memory and learning. It’s possible these damages will be permanent and a person will require life-long custodial care. Though if this condition is recognized early enough, some of the effects can be reversed if the affected person stops drinking and begins following a balanced diet.

Tobacco Usage

Smoking tobacco causes blood vessels to narrow in the brain and heart that can deprive cells of oxygen and nutrients. The nicotine in cigarette smoke raises a person’s heart rate and blood pressure, which can lead to a stroke and vascular dementia. Exposure to secondhand smoke may also increase the risk of dementia.

Air Pollution

Fine particles in the air have been suspected of contributing to neurodegeneration, leading to dementia. These air pollutants often come from factories, traffic, dust storms, pollen, and wildfires. Most weather forecasts include reports on local air quality, which can help people to avoid excess exposure to outdoor pollutants. However, it’s also important to maintain clean air indoors by minimizing dust, fumes from cleaning supplies, and pet dander.

Lack of Exercise

Regular cardiovascular exercise increases the flow of blood and oxygen in the brain, which can prevent vascular dementia caused by strokes. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise can reduce a person’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50 percent. In order to earn this benefit, they recommend a total of 150 minutes per week of cardio and strength training.

Along with physical exercise, mental exercise can reduce a person’s risk of developing dementia by up to 70 percent. This could involve anything that challenges a person’s brain, such as reading, filling out crossword puzzles, drawing maps from memory, learning a foreign language, playing a musical instrument, memorizing song lyrics, drawing, scrapbooking, and playing checkers, card games, and a number of online games and apps that offer a mental workout.

Poor Diet

Certain food choices can decrease or increase an individual’s risk of developing dementia. For example, too much red meat can cause a buildup of iron in the brain which can speed the onset of dementia. Other foods that have been linked to dementia include processed cheeses, smoked meats, microwave popcorn, and refined grains in some pastas, bread, and rice.

In looking for foods with positive effects, eating fruits, veggies, berries, nuts, omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish, and folic acid supplements can help lower your risk of developing dementia and other conditions associated with poor cognitive function. Specific diets like the Mediterranean diet and the MIND diet have been highlighted for their ability to reduce a person’s chances of developing high blood pressure and dementia by up to 54 percent.

Considering each of these environmental factors, there are some practical things we can all do to potentially decrease our risk of dementia. Avoiding head injuries, abstaining from tobacco and alcohol use, minimizing our exposure to air pollution, eating properly and exercising regularly can help anyone to live a full, healthy life long into old age. If we do our best to prevent exposure to common, harmful circumstances, we could significantly decrease our individual risk of developing dementia and contribute to an ongoing decline in the condition.

How Massage Therapy Can Help With Depression

Depression

In recent years, there has been a growing focus on identifying, treating, and removing stigma from mental health as a way to improve overall wellness. More people are realizing that certain behaviors are not the result of poor decision making or personality defects, but rather the result of mental illness that can – and should – be treated just the same as a physical illness or disease would be treated. Therefore, fewer people are treating depression like something that people should just snap out of.

In addition to psychotherapy and the proper medication, there are many ways that people can manage their depression through lifestyle changes and alternative therapies. Diet and exercise have been shown to help, as has meditation. Numerous studies have also shown that massage therapy can help alleviate the symptoms of depression. If you’re a massage therapist, that means you might want to start searching for spa equipment to expand your practice to offer more services for depression and anxiety. If you are a person suffering from depression, that means you might want to start scheduling regular massage as part of your routine self-care.

Here’s what the research tells us about how massage therapy can help treat depression:

Reduce Stress

Stress is a known trigger for depression and anxiety. Chronic stress can exacerbate depression or trigger an episode, as can acute stress in some instances. Getting regular massage can help to reduce stress, which enhance the overall treatment plan for managing depression.

Specifically, massage helps to relax the body and to reduce levels of cortisol, which is the hormone released during times of stress. When you feel stress, you are feeling the effects of cortisol. In the long term, continued exposure to cortisol can cause your depressive symptoms to appear or worsen and can increase the risk of other health problems, including metabolic issues and heart problems. In some cases, massage can reduce cortisol levels by as much as half.

Increase Dopamine and Serotonin

Dopamine and serotonin are important neurotransmitters that play a critical role in our moods. The treatment of depression often involves prescribing medications that control how dopamine and serotonin are released or used in our brains.

Massage therapy increases the levels of these so-called “feel good” hormones. By getting regular massage therapy, you can naturally increase the amount of serotonin and dopamine in your brain, which will improve your mood without the use of medication. You can get regular massage to enhance the effectiveness of your medication. In some cases, you may even be able to manage your depression with massage and other lifestyle changes alone, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Relieve Pain

Think about how you feel when you are in pain. It does more than cause you physical discomfort. It also brings down your whole mood. You feel irritable and maybe even a little angry. If you have chronic pain that brings down your mood regularly, that irritability and anger can turn to sadness and even depression.

Massage relieves chronic and acute pain, which can improve overall mood and wellness. Again, pain relief shouldn’t be considered a sole solution to treating depression, but it can enhance the overall treatment plan and improve results.

Focus on Self-Care

Therapists often urge patients whom they are treating for depression to put greater focus on self-care, which can be lacking when a person is suffering from depression. Therapists urge patients to do things like get more sleep, eat a healthier diet, exercise, and take time for themselves, all of which will improve positive feelings and give patients greater energy to deal with the lows that depression brings.

Massage helps patients put greater focus on self-care. It is a way for patients to take time for themselves and to treat their bodies well. Improved self-care will help to improve their sense of self-esteem and to reduce their depressive symptoms.

Massage therapy should be seen as a viable alternative therapy for depression and a number of other mental and physical health ailments. If you are suffering from depression, talk with your doctor or therapist about how massage therapy might help to manage your condition, either on its own or in conjunction with other lifestyle changes, therapies, and medications.

 

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12 Amazing Psychology Facts Everyone Needs to Know {Infographic}

Infographics

12 Amazing Psychology Facts Everyone Needs to Know

Infographic Credit: SuccessStory.com

The infographic… or more to the point, the information in the infographic… is fascinating. While a few may be subjective, I can certainly see the ration behind most of the 12. For example, spending on people you love makes you happier. True! In all ways true. As far as I’m concerned, that’s why Christmas and birthdays are such happy events – you’re busy buying things for people you love and that’s about as wonderful as it gets.

It goes beyond that, however. It’s more than just the money being spent. I think it’s the amount of time you spend thinking of how happy “she” will be when she opens the box and sees the gorgeous Betsey Johnson earrings or how he’s going to love the Game Stop gift card in his stocking!

The concept of making someone you care about smile makes you, yourself, smile.  The cool thing is, you don’t really even have to spend a lot of money. Reach out and ask someone how their day’s going. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help a busy family member. Buy someone special their favorite coffee shop drink and surprise them with it.

The list goes on. Any time you can make two people happy with one action, you’ve worked a little magic…. especially when you’re one of the two!

Make each moment count double. ~ Joi (“Joy”)

Read More: Psychology Facts on Success Story.

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Left vs Right Brain: The Surprising Truth (Infographic)

Infographics

When I was in school, one of the most fascinating subjects in any science classe, for me, was the brain. Each year, I’d search through my textbook for the chapter (or chapters if I was lucky) dealing with the brain. I decided I’d survive the circulatory system, the respiratory system, and anything else they threw at me… just knowing the brain was ahead was all I needed!

The brain still fascinates me to distraction – how it works, what foods and habits are healthy for the brain, what foods and habits hurt it, the difference between the left brain and right brain, etc. The brain is one of those things that literally becomes more fascinating the more you read about it.

The infographic below – as well as the article that accompanies it (Left and Right Brain – The Surprising Truth) is both informative and fascinating. Like a delicious chapter in a brand new textbook!  After reading the infographic, you’ll definitely want to click through and read the article by Jack Milgram.

Left Brain Right Brain Infographic
Infographic Credit: Custom-Writing.org

(I really do hope you click through and read the great article – you’ll find it all kinds of interesting!)


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The Connection Between Dementia and Dirty Air

Healthy Living, Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, Prevent Memory Loss

As I preach and teach… and nag and nag, I’m sure!… we need to do everything within our power to…

  1. Find any and all things in our lives that pose a potential threat to our mental and physical fitness.
  2. Eliminate these things!
  3. Find any and all steps we can take and changes we can make to improve the health of our brains and bodies.
  4. Implement these things!

In keeping with this theme, I’d like to point you to a great article about the quality of air and its link to dementia. Unlike the kale salads or exercise I’m usually pushing on you, this is a fairly harmless step you can take!

I hope you’ll check out the article and share it with everyone you know: The Connection Between Dementia and Dirty Air

Thanks!

~ Joi


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Turmeric: Surprisingly Powerful in Alzheimer’s Prevention

Brain Food, Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Buttery Rice Pilaf with Turmeric and Seasoned Salt

Buttery Rice Pilaf with Turmeric

One of my daughters and I were talking about books the other day (a favorite subject for both of us). We were comparing our favorite subjects to read about. Between us, our subjects covered everything from mysteries to angels and from poetry to ancient Egypt.  Three of my own favorite things to read about and research are: brain health, healthy food, and heart health. Given that one of my main blogs is a mental fitness blog, I guess it’s a good thing the subject fascinates me so much.

 

Fortunately the three intertwine beautifully, so reading about one often means I’m reading about the other two as well. For example, many of the foods and activities that support a healthy brain also support a healthy heart. And healthy eating? It’s at the center for health, period -whether we’re talking about the brain, skin, heart, feet – or anything in between!

I’ve been reading a great deal lately about the benefits of turmeric on the brain – especially when it comes to Alzheimer’s prevention.

Curcumin, the key chemical in turmeric, is believed to prevent or delay Alzheimer’s symptoms. In his wonderful new book, “The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan,” David Perlmutter, MD has this to say about Turmeric:

Turmeric is being studied today for its potential applications in neurology. Research shows that it can enhance the growth of new brain cells, as well as increase DHA levels in the brain. In some people, turmeric can even rival the antidepressant effects of Prozac. It’s been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Indian medicine as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments.

Dr. Perlmutter goes on to say that if you’re not eating a lot of curry dishes, he recommends taking a supplement of 500 mg twice daily.

My favorite way to cook with turmeric is by adding it to rice and rice pilaf dishes. In the picture above, I had made a basic rice pilaf and used turmeric and seasoned salt as the seasonings.

Delicious!

Due to the wonderful effects turmeric is now found to have on the brain, more and more recipes are popping up for this tasty, colorful, and brain-healthy spice. A quick Google search can give you a lot of recipes to choose from.

Make each moment count double (and make this the year you get 110 percent serious about your brain’s health!) ~ Joi


The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan

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