Shine a Purple Light

I will admit that until I began working in the senior living sector, I knew very little about Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.  It was not something I had seen on a personal or family level.  That has changed.  Now I know and care for people affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia.  I understand that they are not all one in the same.  There are even different types of dementia.  I have come to know some of the devastating effects they take on lives.  Since June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month, I thought I could help do my part by shining a purple light.

Did you know that according to the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Alzheimer’s is fatal. It kills more than breast and prostate cancer combined.
  • Alzheimer’s is not normal aging. It’s a progressive brain disease without any cure.
  • Alzheimer’s is more than memory loss. It appears through a variety of signs and symptoms.

Per the website alz.org, “A number of studies indicate that maintaining strong social connections and keeping mentally active as we age might lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Experts are not certain about the reason for this association. It may be due to direct mechanisms through which social and mental stimulation strengthen connections between nerve cells in the brain.”

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During the month of June, the Alzheimer’s Association asks you to learn more about Alzheimer’s. Share your story and take action.  It may be as simple as bringing awareness via social media.  Alzheimer’s disease awareness is represented by the color purple, and in June, thousands of Americans will turn their Facebook profile purple with an “END ALZ” icon.  If you need help or more information on ways you can raise awareness of the truth about Alzheimer’s, visit alz.org/abam to get started.

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The Importance of Socialization and How It Affects Brain Health

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It’s a good practice to remind us of that there is always something we can do to keep our brain healthy.  While we all read lots of information about eating right and exercising as ways to stay physically healthy, several recent research studies have shown a strong correlation between social interaction and a healthy brain in senior adults.  The same studies showed that social isolation and limited contacts with others increased the likelihood of both poor physical health and the development of dementia in senior adults.  A summary of some of the findings are:

  • Social relationships are consistently associated with bio-markers of good health.
  • Positive indicators of social well-being may be associated with lower levels of interleukin-6 in otherwise healthy people. Interleukin-6 is an inflammatory factor implicated in age-related disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer.
  • Some grandparents feel that caring for their grandchildren makes them healthier and more active. They experience a strong emotional bond and often lead a more active lifestyle, eat healthier meals, and may even reduce or stop smoking.
  • Social isolation constitutes a major risk factor for morbidity and mortality, especially in older adults.
  • Loneliness may have a physical as well as an emotional impact. For example, people who are lonely frequently have elevated systolic blood pressure.

Worried about your parents?  Look for senior centers in the area where you parents live.  Senior centers offer daily social opportunities for senior adults and often provide assistance with transportation in rural areas.  Check out the Church your parents attend.  Many Churches have Senior Adult groups which offer at least a monthly social interaction opportunity.

If your parents like to read, check out the local Library web site.  Many local Libraries have book clubs which meet weekly and share their thoughts on the latest books.  This kind of activity will not only offer a social interaction opportunity, it will also foster a favorite hobby.  Bring the Grand-kids to visit.  Research shows that interacting with children improves the overall health of senior adults.  If the Grand-kids are far away, check out local day care’s for an opportunity for your parents to drop in occasionally to read a book to the children there.

The important thing is don’t give up.  Senior parents are often reluctant to venture out and try new things.  Focusing on how this will help them with their memory and brain health just may be the ticket to getting them involved.