The number of Americans afflicted with Alzheimer’s and Dementia is growing and unfortunately at a rapid rate.
An estimated 5.4 million people (of all ages) have this disease in 2016. To break this down further, of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s/Dementia an estimated 5.2 million people are age 65 and older, and approximately 200,000 individuals are under age 65 (younger-onset Alzheimer’s).
One in nine people age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia.
By mid-century, someone in the United States will develop the disease every 33 seconds.
These numbers will escalate rapidly in coming years, as the baby boom generation has begun to reach age 65 and beyond, the age range of greatest risk of this disease.
By 2050, the number of people age 65 and older with this disease may nearly triple, from 5.2 million to a projected 13.8 million, unless there is a new development or medical breakthrough to prevent or cure the disease. Previous estimates provided by the U.S. Census suggest that this number may be as high as 16 million.
Here are some tips that we’ve compiled for caregivers who are spending time with Alzheimer’s/Dementia patients. We hope you find them helpful.
Proven Benefits of Cognitive Stimulation for people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. These should be carried out for about 45 minutes at least twice per week to provide adequate stimulation. Cognitive stimulation activities include:
Discussion of past and present events and topics of interest
Practical activities such as baking or indoor gardening
Overall, participants who received cognitive stimulation reported improved quality of life and they were able to communicate and interact better than previously.
Mind Stimulating Activities for Dementia/ Alzheimer’s Patients
Activities that provide cognitive stimulation ideally target both mental and social functioning. Cognitive stimulation can be done either in a group setting if patient is in a nursing home or residential care setting or it can be provided individually by a professional or family caregiver and tailored to the affected individual’s specific interests and abilities.
Some of the various activities include:
Thinking – puzzles, games, reading
Physical – take a walk, arm and leg exercises, dancing
Social – visiting with family and friends, senior center activities
Chores – folding the laundry, setting the table, feeding the pets
Creative – arts and crafts projects, painting, playing music or singing
Daily living – taking a shower, brushing teeth, eating, getting dressed
Reminiscence therapy is another type of cognitive stimulation that can help improve the quality of life.
Looking through photo albums
Creating a scrapbook
Telling “I remember when” stories
Re-reading saved letters and greeting cards
Listening to music
Baking and eating a special family recipe together
Aromatherapy is a quickly growing type of therapy. In the USA it has recently been recognized as a legitimate part of holistic healing. Pleasing scents help relax people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Aromatherapy uses essential oils from plants, either applied in a lotion and absorbed by the skin or inhaled and absorbed into the lungs and nasal passages, to improve physical and mental health.
Linen bags filled with lavender flowers and placed under pillows in order to facilitate sleep. It has been shown that use of lavender increased sleep patterns of dementia patients.
A diminished sense of smell is such a well-established early symptom of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Unlike other sensory systems smells are sent straight through to the regions of the brain considered to be responsible for mood and emotion.
A recent study shows that dementia and Alzheimer’s patients can recall memories and emotions, and have enhanced mental performance after singing classic hits and show tunes from movies and musicals – a breakthrough in understanding how music affects those afflicted with Alzheimer’s and Dementia.
Here are some of the reasons why researchers believe that music boosts brain activity:
1. Music evokes emotions that bring memories
Music can evoke emotion in even the most advanced of Alzheimer’s patients. By pairing music with every day activities, patients can develop a rhythm that helps them to the recall the memory of that activity, improving cognitive ability over time.
2. Musical aptitude and appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in dementia patients
Musical aptitude and music appreciation are two of the last remaining abilities in patients with Alzheimer’s. Because these two abilities remain long after other abilities have passed, music is an excellent way to reach beyond the disease and reach the person.
3. Music can bring emotional and physical closeness
In the later stages of dementia, patients often lose the ability to share emotions with caregivers. Through music, as long as they are ambulatory, they can often dance. Dancing can lead to hugs, kisses and touching which brings security and memories.
4. Singing is engaging
The singing sessions engaged more than just the brain and the area related to singing. As singing activated the left side of the brain, listening to music sparked activity in the right and watching the class activated visual areas of the brain. With so much of the brain being stimulated, the patients were exercising more mind power than usual.
5. Music can shift mood, manage stress and stimulate positive interactions
When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements. This is because music requires little to no mental processing, so singing music does not require the cognitive function that is not present in most dementia patients.