September is World Alzheimer’s Month. Alzheimer’s Disease International’s annual campaign raises awareness and challenges the stigma that surrounds dementia. It also encourages advances to enhance quality of life for people living with dementia and family caregivers, innovative assistive technologies to empower them, and new knowledge to protect brain health.
Protecting cognitive health
Lifestyle factors account for three-quarters of changes in the brain associated with cognitive decline, according to the University of Edinburgh. The Lancet reported dementia risk can be reduced substantially through nine modifiable lifestyle factors: being physically active; staying socially engaged; avoiding high blood pressure, obesity and smoking; managing diabetes, depression; and keeping your mind active through lifelong learning.
Technologies to support abilities and manage risks
New assistive technologies are being developed to help manage potential risks, support a person with dementia to maintain some abilities and independence, and assist with memory and recall. Toronto Rehab Institute (TRI) has developed a tool to assess walking patterns and stability in adults with dementia to predict the risk of falling. TRI’s interactive robot, called Ed, helps older adults with prompts, reminders and guidance in doing everyday tasks such as getting dressed, brushing teeth and making a simple meal.
A teenage Japanese inventor, Kenneth Shinozuka, created socks with sensors that wirelessly send a warning to caregivers through a smart phone that a person with dementia is getting up unexpectedly. The idea was inspired by his personal experience with his grandfather, who regularly wandered out of bed.
People living with dementia often become more sensitive to their physical and social environments, and they rely more on their senses for cues about what’s happening around them, says Australia’s Victorian Department of Health. Creating a positive environment, conducive to their needs, helps reinforce well-being.
A physical environment that’s welcoming to people with dementia includes clear and legible signage at eye level, open spaces and places of activity and rest, says Alzheimer Society of Canada. Dementia-friendly retirement homes create environments that are safe, familiar, well lit, with no reflective and slippery surfaces, and having landmarks to help residents navigate their way around, according to SafeCare BC.
Chartwell Retirement Residences seeks to support older adults living with dementia and their families through their memory care and memory living programs. Some Chartwell retirement communities are equipped with dedicated and secure memory care floors, where residents and their spouses can comfortably live, and trained, caring staff can help them lead meaningful and fulfilling lives. To learn more, click here.