Do you know the people in that photo? Are they your parents? Your spouses? Your family members?
If you have ever been around someone with dementia, also commonly called Alzheimer’s disease although there are many forms of dementia, you know that they can have many problems with their overall functioning, both cognitively and physically.
Dementia is a disease of aging, but many times we see this starting in people as young as in their 50’s. It is not, however, a normal part of aging! According to the World Health Organization, the number of people living with dementia worldwide is currently estimated at 47 million and is projected to increase to 75 million by 2030. The number of cases of dementia are estimated to almost triple by 2050. Those numbers are astounding to me!
Dementia is overwhelming not only for the people who have it, but also for their caregivers, may that be adult children, spouses, or professional caregivers. There is a lack of awareness and understanding of dementia in most countries, resulting in stigmatization, barriers to diagnosis and care, and impacting caregivers, families and societies physically, psychologically and economically.
As a medical provider, I know dementia patients have many limitations depending on the severity of this scary progressive disease. I have also heard the caregiver stories of isolation, anger, and depression; have seen caregiver health status decline due to lack of self-care or lack of a support system for respite; and recognize the sums of money it costs to keep up with the rising costs of care related to this disease.
A while back, I participated in a virtual dementia tour only about 8-10 minutes in length, and boy, were my eyes opened! I entered the dementia patient’s world and walked in their shoes through the use of multiple tools to mimic what a person with dementia lives with every day. Through tools like darkened glasses, gloves, a darkened room, and multiple other methods like sound to change the sensory perception, gait, and interactions of the patient, I found out what it was like. Wow!
I felt vulnerable. I was scared (and I don’t get scared!). I was in the room with other participants but could not ask anyone any questions. I experienced a sense of overwhelming dread and anxiety. I felt inept with the physical tasks I was asked to complete. I was overwhelmed by the sheer noise of what I was hearing. I was rattled by the sounds. My vision was impaired. I could not wait to get out of that room. I was pretty shocked, to say the least, because I am healthy and have no issues with anxiety or any sensorimotor problems.
I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to have participated to experience the profound losses that dementia patients experience in their activities of daily living. If you have the chance to do it – to give yourself a kick in the butt to be motivated to do all you can do to prevent this disease or to understand why your loved one with dementia does what they do – please experience it. It’s available through community organizations or neurological centers that work with dementia patients…truly worth every minute you spend there.
Make it your mission this year to get out, learn about brain health and physical health, and understand that you can take control…
If you want to talk about pro-aging and working on a new trajectory for your body’s health and brain’s health, give me a call at 928-503-2635. I cannot imagine losing my independence, and I hope to be able to help you with that as well. And yes, there are things you can do!! Let’s see what we can do for your own health or that of a parent or loved one.
And when you come across the next person with dementia, be sensitive, caring, and kind. They are not doing what they’re doing on purpose…and give their caregiver a pat on the back or offer to help them in some way.