Alzheimer’s: mental health is important for everyone | Community alert

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Although change is an integral part of life, very few people feel prepared for the changes to come when they are first diagnosed with dementia. Living with a disease that has no definitive cure is a daunting task at all times.

The good news is that every day we know a little more about dementia. Increasing education and awareness sets the stage for a future in which dementia is much more manageable.

That being said, progressive memory loss can have significant consequences for people with degenerative disease, their caregivers and loved ones. Maintaining mental health is an important part of staying healthy for everyone involved.

The world of mental health therapy has grown exponentially over the past few decades. This is largely due to an increase in demand and a decrease in stigma.

In recent years, the stress of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased reported levels of anxiety around the world. Many seniors have experienced unique and intense stress over the past few years. People over the age of 65 felt anxiety about being designated as a high-risk group. For many people residing in residences for the elderly, strict health protocols have resulted in long periods of isolation. In response, moves have been made in the field of aging services toward proactive assessment of mental health.

While seeing a therapist once carried a heavy stigma, it has now become relatively common. HealthPartners Institute reports that there has been a general decline in negative assumptions about mental health even over the past 5 years. As individuals and mental health campaigns work to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, ease of access to therapy and types of therapy are increasing.

Traditional talk therapy is the most common type of therapy. In the field, it is a proven option for building healthy relationships, regulating emotions, and thinking about how one can be as healthy as possible. Finding the right fit in a therapist can take a few tries. However, finding a trusted mental health professional can be extremely beneficial for those going through major life changes.

Websites like Psychology Today offer search engines that can help filter therapists by area, specialty, and accepted insurers. Many therapists have also started offering virtual or telephone sessions. If in-person visits aren’t an option or preferred, platforms like BetterHelp also offer phone and text support to its subscribers.

Support groups are a great way to find support and community with people facing similar challenges. For those who may not have access to in-person support groups, online options are also available. Research shows that helping others heal can increase self-esteem and optimism about one’s own situation.

Talk therapy can be helpful for both people with dementia and their caregivers to help them deal with their emotions and new dynamics. However, many other types of therapy can be useful to supplement talk therapy.

The Alzheimer’s Association notes that music and movement can be therapeutic for people living with memory loss, as both create engagement and expression. Especially if verbal communication begins to decline, alternative methods of interface and emotional regulation become crucial.

Music therapy, visual arts therapy, yoga, dance, and even pet therapy can improve the quality of life for people with dementia. There are many options for living a fulfilling life after a dementia diagnosis. Medical and mental health professionals are available to discuss potential courses of action. For advice on treating people with dementia, consider contacting a local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association or other local memory care communities.

If you’re interested in learning more about potential therapies for dementia, consider attending the EdenHill Communities Alzheimer’s Symposium on September 14. The event is free and open to the public. Experts will present topics such as “How to Assemble Your Medical Team: Who Should Help You on Your Dementia Journey?” “, “Is it hearing loss or is it dementia? and “Creating an environment of joy and success to reduce the need for pharmaceuticals,” among others. On-site child care is available for caregivers. RSVP required.

To learn more or to register, visit www.edenhill.org/symposium or call 830-625-1327.

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