Interview with Dr. Bill Klemm, “Memory Medic”

Dear Readers,

I don’t normally run endorsements of other people’s books, but I decided to make an exception for this one. It’s written by one of my old professors, and it’s about how science can help you improve your memory. Back when I was in college, I read Dr. Klemm’s first book on memory, “Thank You Brain,” and it helped me to make some radical changes to my study habits. It was super helpful, and I still use many of his tips to this day. Below is a Q&A by Dr. Klemm, and a link to his new book.


“Improve Your Memory for a Healthy Brain. Memory is the Canary in Your Brain’s Coal Mine.”


Why did you write this book?

I am a neuroscientist, and have always had an interest in memory. Early on, the interest was there because memory skills made school and college easier to master. Later, I got into research and actually did memory experiments on rats and college students. As I got older, I wanted to stay mentally healthy as long as I could. I see so many of my older friends slipping mentally. It is so sad, and I wanted to do what I can to help people from reaching a stage of mental deterioration. Because I follow the memory research literature anyway, I wanted to share the helpful findings that scientists have been discovering over the last few decades.

I understand it is an e-book. Why did you choose that format?

That makes it inexpensive. Everybody should be able to afford it. Besides, in e-format it is easy to search around for reminders and topics you want to look up. The book is available at Amazon, but at you can get it in any e-format, including pdf.

Why do you say that memory is the canary in the brain’s coal mine?

Many decades ago, before there was technology to detect accumulation of toxic gases in coal mines, miners used to put a caged canary in the mine with them. If they canary keeled over, it was time to get out. Well, memory is like that. Declining ability for remembering is a sign that brain damage has occurred. In this case, by the time you notice a problem, it may be too late. The good news is that training your memory is very effective exercise for the brain, and such exercise of the brain builds robust circuitry that accumulates as a cognitive reserve as one ages.

People are living so much longer and so much grief is happening in families because of dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. How does memory training apply here?

Research demonstrates that though memory training may not prevent dementia, it surely delays it and allows more years of normal brain function. 

How does memory exercise and training help delay brain aging?

You could make an analogy to how weight lifting builds muscles. Only brain uses different mechanisms. Whenever the brain forms a lasting memory, the brain has to create new circuitry to hold the representation of that memory. The storage space is created by changing the synaptic weightings of the neural circuits that will house that memory representation. By synaptic weighting, I mean basically a “souping up” of the pathways so that the circuit is preferentially re-set for that particular memory. The weighting has to be achieved by greater neurotransmitter activity. This requires gene activation to grow synaptic junctions and to augment the enzyme systems needed for more transmitter. These gene expression changes create real anatomical and chemical changes. Changing memory changes brain. In terms of aging, this means that a large store of memories creates more circuitry, which means the brain can do more things. This can be essentially a “cognitive reserve” that compensates for physical deterioration that might be occurring. An example is that autopsies of some people have shown that their brains had the lesions of Alzheimer’s Disease, but they never showed clinical symptoms because they had been so mentally active all their life.

Why don’t more people make a conscious effort to improve their memory?

I am baffled. Maybe part of the answer is that any kind of change is hard. Another factor is that many people do not believe they can improve their mental and memory capability. They likely do not know how to improve memory ability, which of course is a main reason I wrote the book. I see this problem even in the young, particularly college students who trap themselves and persist in bad learning strategies and habits, even after I show them a better way. They seem set in their ways, in spite of being young.

How does the information in this book apply to you personally?

I turn 81 this July and think I can document that I am mentally at the top of my game. All my life I have learned about and used memory enhancement ideas. Although this life has been an experiment with n=1, I think the results are more than coincidence. And research involving other people that I describe in the book supports this conclusion.

W.R. Klemm, “Memory Medic,” has two other memory books: Memory Power 101, a general-audience book on improving memory, and Better Grades, Less Effort, an e-book on learning and memory tips for students. You can learn more at his website,

The Second Edition of my Book is Available on Kindle!!

Senior Housing Cover3

Click here to purchase!

Here’s the overview:

Continuing care retirement communities (called “CCRCs” by industry insiders) are retirement communities that offer multiple living options (independent living, assisted living, and nursing). In exchange for an entrance fee and ongoing monthly fees, CCRC’s agree to care for residents for the rest of their lives.

Written by a former senior housing consultant, Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Insider Tells All is a sweeping overview of the popular senior housing product. The book shows you:

  • What services are offered for seniors
  • How to find communities in your area
  • What to look for during your visit
  • How to read the contracts and disclosure statements
  • Why some communities go bankrupt
  • Some warning signs for potential residents of CCRC’s

The second edition has been updated and includes three new chapters: the financial analysis of CCRCs, how to learn about quality of care at a CCRCs nursing home, and the state of the senior housing industry since the recession.

You deserve the best coach when searching for the community of your dreams! Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Insider Tells All shows you the good and the bad in the industry and offers advice on how to make the most of your move into senior housing.


Here’s the preface:

[Note: I have decided not to publish a paper copy of this book for a few reasons (mainly that it’s expensive and time-consuming). If you would like a paper copy, shoot me an email, and I’ll figure out a way to send you a file that you can print from the comfort of your home.]

You’re reading a second edition of my book. Why did I feel the need to put together a second edition? Well, some things have changed over the past few years:

  1. I’ve found a new (and better) source for nursing home information.
  2. Improvements in the economy have flowed over into the retirement industry, and consequently, senior housing is doing well.
  3. Hedge funds and other institutional investors have gotten more involved in senior housing.
  4. Readers have written to ask me questions that I feel should be covered in a new edition.

As a result, I’ve added three new chapters and updated the entire book with information pertinent to today’s economic market.

I am also going through some personal changes that make 2015 a good year to rerelease my book.  I’ve been writing about the senior housing since 2011. I initially scheduled one article a week, but, frankly, senior housing doesn’t move that fast. After a while, I got a bit tired of writing the same stuff over and over.

Plus, I’ve always liked digging deeper into intellectual topics and have been doing so in my spare time. In 2014, I started taking higher-level math courses on the side, and as of August 2015, I’ll be starting a PhD program. It will demand a great deal of my attention. Thus, in preparation for that transition, I want to give my readers a fresh look at senior housing before crawling into the cave that is my new PhD office.

In this updated edition, you’ll find all of the same information that was in the original: information about how to find retirement communities, how CCRCs fees and contracts work, how to negotiate for upgrades, and what happened during some of the industry’s biggest bankruptcies.

I’ve also added more information to help readers who have questions about their move to senior housing: a financial perspective on the costs of moving to senior housing versus staying at home, some good advice on learning about nursing homes in your area, and an update on the aftermath of the 2007 housing crash and how it impacted CCRCs.

While I probably won’t be writing for or releasing books after 2015, I’ll still have my email,, and I’ll keep the site up and available. If I see anything that’s incredibly interesting or that seniors need to know, I’ll add a post.  But, frankly, most of what you need is either in this book or on my website.  I don’t anticipate that the industry makes a huge shift any time in the near future.

If you have questions, please email me.  I like helping people, and I don’t mind fielding a few questions now and then about how to find a good community.

I have enjoyed my years at, and I appreciate all of the comments that I’ve gotten from my readers over the years.  I hope that I have helped you find the best place to spend your retirement years.

Virginia Traweek

May 1, 2015

Dear Readers

This spring, I’m taking a brief break from blogging. While I have loved writing for you, I have an interesting opportunity that I just can’t turn down. However, I am still researching, speaking and writing about senior housing.

Although I’m not actively blogging, you can still find plenty of good stuff on the site about senior housing. In order to make it even easier, you can read my best, most informative articles by clicking on the links below. I’ve roughly grouped them by topic, but there is a great deal of overlap:


Continuing Care Retirement Communities:

Independent Living:

Assisted Living & Memory Care:

Nursing Homes

Hospice/Home Health/Living at Home:

And, of course, you can always buy one of my books on Amazon:

Also, just because I’m not blogging right now doesn’t mean that I’m not here to help answer your questions. If you have anything that you don’t see answered on my site, feel free to email me:

Additionally, I’m still happy to come speak to your group about senior housing issues. You can email me for more information.

Have a safe and prosperous 2015, and thank you for visiting Senior Housing


Researching nursing homes, assisted living in Mexico, crazy causes for dementia symptoms, and complaining to Medicare

Reading glasses help seniors in hospitals

Finding a nursing home isn’t simple, but lots of research generally pays off.

Would you move to Mexico for assisted living?

Diabetes can cause dementia symptoms if left untreated. Another culprit: hearing loss.

How to complain to Medicare.

Walk more = live longer, doctors & end of life, liquid meal replacements, and top-rated senior housing communities


Seniors who walk more live longer.

Most doctors wouldn’t want heroic measures at the end of life.

Liquid meal replacements can’t replace the real thing. has released its list of top-rated senior housing communities.

Seniors bust dishonest business, assisted living staff member buries patient behind facility, abuse & neglect in nursing homes, and checkered pasts

CSI logo

Next on “CSI: Adult daycare,” a senior busts adult daycare operators who falsify documents!

Creepiest thing I’ve heard in a long time: An assisted living staff member was arresting for burying a resident behind the facility.

85% of nursing homes reported abuse or neglect in 2012.

Assisted living operators sometimes have a checkered past.  That’s why it’s always good to check with your local nursing home ombudsman or check your state’s assisted living complaints database.

Caregivers’ lost income, nursing home scam, suicide amongst seniors, and a giant nursing home company


How do caregivers cope with lost income due to caring for a loved one?

This makes me sick: A broker in California used nursing home residents’ identities to scam investors.

Seniors contemplate suicide for a number of reasons.

Two big senior housing companies are merging to create a giant retirement community provider.

Warning to my Readers: Nursing Home Compare isn’t Reliable

medicare nursing home compare

For a long time now, I’ve written about how consumers can use’s tool, Nursing Home Compare, to get ratings for skilled nursing facilities in their area.  However, today I have decided that I can no longer endorse the use of Nursing Home Compare use as a tool for deciding between facilities.

There have been complaints about the accuracy of Nursing Home Compare’s ratings for a long time, but last week, several articles came out that make it impossible to ignore the problems.  According to the New York Times:

Only one of the three criteria used to determine the star ratings — the results of annual health inspections — relies on assessments from independent reviewers. The other measures — staff levels and quality statistics — are reported by the nursing homes and accepted by Medicare, with limited exceptions, at face value.

The ratings also do not take into account entire sets of potentially negative information, including fines and other enforcement actions by state, rather than federal, authorities, as well as complaints filed by consumers with state agencies.

The remainder of the article goes into greater depth about how ratings are calculated and instances in which highly-rated nursing homes did not provide adequate patient care.  (It’s a good article, and well worth the read if you have family members who need skilled nursing care.)

What should consumers do with this information?  Well, a few things:

You can still use the site to find nursing homes in your area.  It’s pretty straight-forward to type in your city, state, and ZIP code and narrow your search to a specific area.  This is super helpful if you’re just getting started and need a quick, all-in-one place to find rating information.

You can still use the site to find basic information about a community.  Nursing Home Compare still has a wealth of information: ownership, inspection reports, type of payments accepted, and location.  So, feel free to use the site to help you learn more about potential skilled nursing facilities.

You can’t trust the site to provide accurate ratings. Unfortunately, you just can’t trust what you see on Nursing Home Compare.  It’s too easy for nursing homes to game the system right now, and that means that the ratings just aren’t indicative of quality of care.  Even using it to weed out seemingly poor-performing providers isn’t a good recipe for finding the best nursing home.

However, here are a few other ways of checking the quality of care at a senior housing community:

  • Call your local ombudsman. Nursing home ombudsman are awesome resources that you can use free of charge.  You can find your ombudsman by searching the National Consumer Voice website and clicking “Locate an Ombudsman.”
  • Make multiple (sometimes unannounced) visits to the facility.  I’ve heard of unscrupulous marketing agents who spray deodorizing spray in the skilled nursing wing of a retirement community prior to a scheduled tour.  Of course, they do this because the nursing staff isn’t doing a good job of removing odor-causing soiled clothing, diapers, or wound dressings.  But, because you only arrived for the “official tour,” then you won’t see (or, rather, smell) the truth. Another reason to make multiple visits is that, especially when you’re not accompanied by marketing agent, you have a higher chance of observing staff members revert to their “natural behavior.”
  • Talk to other families in the parking lot or hallways.  Now is not the time to be a wallflower.  If you want to learn more about a skilled nursing facility, the best folks to ask are those who have been through the process with a loved one.  To that end, feel free to strike up a conversation with other families that you see in the facility.  They’re highly motivated to share “the gossip” with you and they don’t have any competing interests (unlike the marketing agent whose job is tied to filling beds). Note: Make sure you approach families in a respectful, discrete manner.  It’s one thing to do your own due diligence.  It’s another to infringe on a family who is going through a difficult time.  Please do the right thing, and don’t be obnoxious or ask them overly personal questions.

I’m continually reminded of the fact that skilled nursing, assisted living, and dementia care are not easy jobs.  The senior housing industry has a difficult problem: How can it make money, offer the highest possible level of care, and provide an affordable product?  So far, no one has been able to provide a good solution to that equation, and it’s only served to harm seniors during a very vulnerable time in their lives.

Unfortunately, the odds are not in a consumer’s favor, and it’s very difficult to find a good, one-stop source for senior housing information.  Especially after this week’s article, I can no longer recommend Nursing Home Compare as a viable option.

Want to learn more? Here are a few other links that you might find helpful:

Who to call when things go wrong

Signs of trouble in any community.

Five questions to asking during your senior housing visit.

Finding communities that share your beliefs.

Crisis management 101.

Readers, I have a favor to ask of you.

I spend a lot of time looking at Disclosure Statements for senior housing communities, and most people don’t know just how difficult it is to get one of these statements.  Since some retirement communities view me as “an enemy,” they will not share any of their information with me.  Instead, I often have to submit freedom of information requests with the states in which CCRCs are located.  This is a costly and time-consuming process.  It can take months to receive documents, and I have spent hundreds of dollars in copying and postage fees.

That’s where you come in.

As a senior or a family member, CCRCs should be giving you their Disclosure Statement as part of the marketing routine.  They should also give you a full copy of their Resident Agreement.

If you’re so inclined, please send me a copy of the Disclosure Statement and/or Resident Agreement for CCRCs in your area.  You can email it to me ( or mail it to the address below.  Anyone who sends me documents will get a free print copy of my book, “Continuing Care Retirement Communities: An Insider Tells All.” If you send me documents for 3, or more communities, I’ll send you all three of my books.

Your contribution will be included in my research and help future seniors and their families make a more informed decision regarding their move into a CCRC.

The address again:

Senior Housing

4447 N. Central Expressway

Suite 110 PMB 405

Dallas, TX 75205

Or email me at

Thanks for your help!