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Cognitive Fitness & Innovative Therapies Targets Brain Health

A team of experts at the Santa Barbara nonprofit works with clients and families to maintain mental acuity before symptoms of disease set in

Imagine having the ability to control the overall health and longevity of your brain with cognitive therapy and medical supervision.

The nonprofit Cognitive Fitness & Innovative Therapies, at 2409 De la Vina St. in Santa Barbara, is making a name for itself offering “Brain Care for Life” via services to maintain cognitive health in later years.

The goal of CFIT, medically licensed for operation in March 2009, is to “successfully manage aging in place, as in at home,” said Hether Briggs, the agency’s director of operations. “We teach skills that transfer back home with the client.”

Using information gathered from a caregiver, family member or even the client, CFIT’s staff evaluates a range of criteria including social and fitness skills, diet, genetics, stress level, sleep patterns and neuropsychological issues, Briggs said.

“We look at one’s cognitive decline and measure any level of social depression” a prospective client might exhibit, she said.

Often a widow or widower is isolated socially and displaying signs of withdrawal from society in general that, in turn, are likely to affect one’s ability to sleep, decrease stress and maintain nutritional health, Briggs said.

Another individual may be physically challenged by issues of equilibrium, which often trigger falls and accidents. That type of behavior typically raises “suspicion in caregivers,” Briggs said. Those caregivers, be they family members or employees, are those likely to instigate initial contact with CFIT’s team of intake specialists, as are family physicians or neurologists.

Tonya Kydland, Ph.D., fills the novel role of “navigator” for CFIT. She helps guide clients into the program best suited to their needs and, as a cognitive psychologist, directs the balance of therapy, which could involve exercises, interactive challenges or individual activities, Briggs said.

Dr. Kenneth Kosik is CFIT’s executive director and director of research. He works closely with members of the Santa Barbara and regional medical community. CFIT often teams with the Alzheimer’s Association, which focuses on support groups and legislative advocacy, Briggs said, and Kosik addresses the public at events hosted by local Rotarians and members of the Channel City Club, and visits regional retirement communities.

Kosik is known as a leader in the field of cognitive disorders, and in 2004 was recruited from Harvard University by UCSB to co-direct its Neuroscience Research Institute.

“We don’t duplicate any services already provided by other nonprofits in the area. We believe in working together for the benefit of the client, and hope our model (of service) could radically change how we care for people” in their later years, Briggs said.

CFIT offers two programs, both of which are based on medical, physical and neurological assessments. The first is a personalized, year-long membership package; scholarships funded by donors are available. The second is based on a one-day evaluation of a client, who then participates in off-site services available via software.

The agency also offers a la carte services such as massage therapy, genetic testing markers and nutrition counseling to the public; they do not require CFIT membership.

Of the 23 clients who participated in CFIT’s pilot program, Briggs said that only one did not improve with initial work. Most clients reside in the Santa Barbara or Goleta areas

The center will host an open house at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, May 13. Guests include Larry Crandell, UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang, Cottage Health System President/CEO Ron Werft and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider. The reception will include a silent auction, live music, wine and hors d’oeuvres. For more information, e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

— Noozhawk contributor Laurie Jervis can be reached at [email protected]

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