Worldwide, nearly 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, and that number is expected to jump to 132 million by 2050. As a caregiver, you are already well aware of Alzheimer’s and dementia and how it has affected your loved one’s brain. But to raise awareness for others – and to offer support to caregivers – the Alzheimer’s Association declares each June to be Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.
To care for those who once cared for us is one of life’s biggest honors, but it can be a very lonely experience without support. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone. In this blog post we’re highlighting the Early Memory Loss (EML) interventions at St. John’s Community Care and the benefits that they offer. Our intention is to better equip you, the caregiver, to walk through this disease with your loved one and to feel supported at every step along the way.
First, let’s clarify what is meant by EML.
Early Memory Loss
EML refers to a collective set of cognitive conditions that produce early memory loss. The two most common conditions are Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and early-stage dementia. Someone with MCI often has cognitive issues that go beyond what is typical for their age and history. However, these issues aren’t quite serious enough to justify a diagnosis of dementia.
People with MCI are usually aware of – and often concerned about – the changes in their cognitive abilities. In spite of this, they can continue to function well in everyday activities that are familiar to them.
As a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia, some experts consider MCI to be a pre-clinical stage of dementia. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone who has MCI will go on to be diagnosed with dementia.
Benefits of Early Memory Loss Support
Studies have shown that individuals with EML can greatly benefit from participating in support groups. By taking part in EML programs, your loved one who is suffering with early stage memory loss can see a significant increase in their quality of life as well as a decrease in symptoms of depression. Improvements in mental health, family communication and self-efficacy have all been shown in individuals who participated in support groups that are specifically designed for people with EML.
At St. John’s Community Care, our Brain Wave program integrates physical, mental, creative, and social activities that are field tested and designed to encourage participants to use their brains in different ways. These adaptable activities help with things like memory enhancement, brain dominance, optimism, stress and relaxation, remembering names, and even self-esteem.
A crucial part of the Brain Wave program is identifying specific goals for each individual and helping them to achieve each one. These goals may include things like building self-confidence and fostering independence as well as setting mental and physical benchmarks.
If you and your loved one are struggling to understand and cope with your situation, the Brain Wave program at St. John’s can be a lifeline to hope. Participants often leave the program with a renewed sense of purpose as they find new ways to be independent.
Staying socially and mentally active is great for the brain. The Memory Café groups offered at St. Johns Community Care provide an opportunity for individuals who are experiencing memory loss – and their care partners – to get together in a relaxed, safe and fun environment. Social isolation can have negative impacts on the brain. So, the ability for you and your loved one to connect with others, to engage in conversation, and to enjoy socializing with others who are living very similar experiences can be a great way to share stories and realize you are not alone.
We’ve also created groups specifically designed for caregivers. From informal coffee talks to family support groups to free caregiver consults, there are so many options available. You don’t have to do this on your own.
To learn more about participating in Brain Wave or attending a Memory Café or one of our other programs, please reach out to Gail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (618) 298-8077.