September is World Alzheimer’s Month

Guest post by Julie Pepper Lim, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Meritage Medical Network.

For September, our Wellness Committee is devoting our attention to Alzheimer’s awareness. September is World Alzheimer’s Month and September 21st is World Alzheimer’s Day. So many of us have felt the impact of this disease because of the people we love who have become afflicted with it. We’ve seen someone we love fall prey to the continuous decline in thinking, deteriorating behavioral and social skills and that paralyzing loss of the ability to function independently. There is so much heartache with this disease, it’s sometimes hard to remember, (even if you don’t have memory loss,) that it’s a brain disease.

Though the exact causes of Alzheimer’s disease are not fully understood, problems with brain proteins that fail to function normally, disrupt the work of brain cells (neurons) and unleash a series of toxic events. Once the neurons are damaged, they lose connections to each other and eventually die—this seems a metanarrative of what the disease does to the person’s connections to others and themselves fragmenting both, or breaking them into superficial versions of the deep connections they once held.

It’s striking to note that though memory loss is one of the chief symptoms of the disease, the damage usually starts years before the symptoms. In the later stages of the disease, the brain actually shrinks physically and significantly.

Though there are things you can do to help lower your risk factors in getting it—there is no sure-fire way to prevent it as family history and genetics seem to play a big role.

There are many places you can go to learn more about the debilitating affects of the disease, but this month, we’re looking at things we can do to make people who have the disease, and the people who love them, feel better.

It may or may not be surprising that skills like reading, listening to books on tape, sharing stories, singing, music, dance and art are all some of the skills that may be preserved longer because they are controlled by parts of the brain affected later in the course of the disease. It is certainly the best news surrounding this traumatic loss of functioning, in the variety of ways that joy can be sustained or nurtured through the sensuality of hearing, sharing, movement and beauty, all associated with these preserved skills.

We’re looking at visiting places where people suffering from the disease live and reading to them, playing an instrument for them, singing with them. Sometimes it’s easier to comfort someone you don’t know with the disease, than someone you’ve known your whole life. If you do have someone in your life that you love with the disease, and you can quell that painful frustration, when the person repeats themselves over and over again, or asks you the same question over and over, again, long enough to take the time to share a story, sing a song, or somehow engage them in one of the few skills they have left, it might help just a little.

We’re going to have an education session, here at Meritage, on things we can do to lower our risk of becoming one of the many who have the disease. We’re also going to wear those deep purple wristbands to remind everyone that they’re not alone in looking at this disease and finding ways to combat the pain and suffering that so often accompanies it.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month—let’s all try to remember it!