As the coldness of Winter starts to settle in, I pour myself a G&T and settle in front of the fireplace. I start to reflect on previous Winters and the loved ones I have spent them with. As I think back to all the loved ones that have been part of the past Winters, I can’t help but think of those who had the shadow of Alzheimer’s on their lives both directly and indirectly as June is Alzheimer Awareness Month.
Alzheimer’s is challenging for all parties involved. The retirement environment has provided me with lots of experience, but it does not make this any easier. Alzheimer’s impact is devastating both on those with the disease and their families that have to see their loved one’s mental state deteriorate. My only advice I have for family is to ensure you don’t neglect your own emotional wellbeing. To do so it is important to consider both your mind and body. The book Approaching the natural: A health manifesto puts it very well: “Caring for the mind is as important and crucial as caring for the body. In fact, one cannot be healthy without the other.”
Invariably as our lives are touched by Alzheimer’s and it is usually associated with people over the age of 60, I have asked my nursing personnel and collected some research on what can be done to prevent this disease from spreading its tendrils to ourselves and our loved ones. The advice aligns well with caring for our wellbeing:
Physical Exercise - Physical activity is an essential part of Alzheimer’s prevention. In fact, it has been found that exercise can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 50%.
Brain Exercise – Engaging in activities that stimulate the brain, like crossword puzzles and Sudoku, improves cognitive and memory function.
Breaking from routine –As we undertake tasks we have done many times, we tend to move to “autopilot” without realising it. This is why many of us have arrived at a destination we travel to regularly with no recollection of the trip. Purposefully avoiding this by doing things like brushing your teeth with a different hand can force you to engage your mind more, helping to keep it young.
Quality Sleep – Good sleep is essential to human function at every stage of life. A lack of sleep also impacts one’s mental wellbeing.
Diet – Following a well-balanced and nutritious diet is elemental in maintaining overall health.
Social Well-being –It is important to be socially engaged and keep the brain sharp. By joining a book club or some sort of social club gives one a social opportunity with mental stimulation.
Seek help when needed - I would also like to take this opportunity to remind our residents and their loved ones that our Social Workers are available should they feel the need to talk.
I wish to close off this month by reminding us all: although our loved ones might forget us, we as a society must always remember them.