Every 66 seconds someone in the U. S. develops Alzheimer's disease — and the diagnosis changes millions of lives every year. Assisted Living at Summerplace marked World Alzheimer's Day, Thursday Sept. 21, with a discussion and some kite flying.
David Troxel, author, speaker and dementia expert, spoke on the day that's set aside to raise awareness of Alzheimer's and honor the caregivers who help people with dementia.
Many Summerplace employees wore purple shirts, the color of the dementia care and research movement, while the facility was festooned with purple streamers, flowers and other decorations.
A group of residents celebrated the hopefulness of the day by "flying" kites in the courtyard of the facility at 15727 N.E. Russell St., which is operated by Prestige Senior Living. Memory care residents decorated the kites, which were held aloft with purple balloons.
"There is a lot we can do to help people with Alzheimer's," Troxel told Summerplace residents and community members. He said those diagnosed should stay active and exercise. They should stay in contact with friends and family.
"Socialization is good for the brain," he said. "Volunteer, be active in your church choir."
More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, according to the Alzheimer's Association. One in 10 people 65 years old and older has Alzheimer's and two-thirds of them are women.
It is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more people than breast and prostate cancer combined.
Of course, the people with the disease are not the only ones who suffer. The Alzheimer's Association reports that 35 percent of people caring for those with Alzheimer's or dementia report their their health has deteriorated, compared with 19 percent for those caring for an older person without dementia.
In the last 17 years, death from heart disease decreased by 14 percent, while deaths from Alzheimer's disease increased by 89 percent.
Troxel and a colleague Virginia Bell created a seven-pillar approach to caring for people with Alzheimer's called "Best Friends." First, the approach urges everyone to recognize the basic rights of a person with dementia. Second, it encourages people around the diagnosed person to understand what it's like to have dementia.
Third, it is important to know the person with dementia's life story and use that life story to help the person recall happy times and successes. Fourth, it helps to learn new communication skills appropriate for a person with Alzheimer's or dementia.
Fifth, Troxel urges people to develop what he calls "the knack" or the art of doing difficult things with ease or using clever strategies with the person such as not contradicting them when they get facts wrong.
Sixth, caregivers should try to provide meaningful engagement every day. Seventh, for professional caregivers, recast your language using friendship terms.
"We want to create a therapeutic environment," Troxel said, "an environment that is healing."