Today, I want to take the opportunity to reflect on an experience I had a few weeks ago and introduce you to Rivet Revolution – a brand that advocates for Alzheimer’s Awareness.
Last month, I attended the second annual Dementia Boot Camp in Tyler, Texas. Pharmacy, nursing, and OT students underwent a Virtual Dementia Tour where we had a spiky plastic insert placed in our shoes, large gloves on our hands, a head set with distracting noises placed over our ears, and colored glasses that simulated tunnel vision over our eyes. Then, we were verbally given a list of tasks to complete and evaluated on our performance. Out of my six tasks, I only heard two and was able to actually complete one.
The simulation only lasted about 15 minutes, but by the end my heart was pounding and I was incredibly uneasy. As a healthcare professional, I understand the basic pathophysiology, or what goes wrong in the brain and other body systems with this condition. I understand how to treat it. But I struggled to empathize with the patients until attending this boot camp. Knowing and understanding – being able to compare treatment options and recommend one over the other is one thing. But actually stepping into the patient’s world and experiencing it myself through the simulation is another.
We heard from a patient, and his wife, who is currently under treatment at the Mayo Clinic for Lewy Body Dementia. Before his diagnosis, he worked as a lawyer and spent hours prosecuting cases. Now, on his good days, he educates the community and finds his purpose in bringing awareness to Dementia. He shared a story about seeing his dog in the doorway to a spare room and sitting down to talk with and pet her for about 30 minutes. Unfortunately, she’d passed about a year prior and he was experiencing a visual hallucination that’s incredibly common in dementia patients.
Then, we heard from a panel of caregivers who shared a variety of stories- from the struggles of caring for their loved ones at home, the moment of taking the car keys away, to the heart-wrenching decision of placing their loved ones into the care of a long-term facility. So many tears were shed that day, as we focused more on the people and their stories than the condition. This isn’t something we get to do a lot. We’re always so focused on the symptoms, the medications, the side effects, delaying the progression. That we often miss the day-to-day moments experienced by the most important part – the patient and their caregivers.
Now, I’d like to give a few ways to reduce your risk of developing Dementia. Aside from the basics – exercise and avoiding processed foods that cause inflammation – making sure to include adequate Vitamins B + D in your diet, getting enough restful sleep, avoiding smoking and excessive drinking, and controlling your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol can help protect your from developing Dementia. And of course brain games like crossword puzzles help keep you sharp! However, the most interesting protective factor is pursuing your purpose.
A 2012 study by researchers at Rush University Medical Center found that participants who reported a higher level of engagement and purpose were 2.4x less likely to develop Alzheimer’s, the most common form of Dementia, when compared to those with the lowest scores. So engaging in an activity that you love or are particularly passionate about can also help protect you. Lead researchers suggest volunteering, learning to play a new instrument or speak a new language, or adopting a pet can help you derive more meaning in life.
The Rivet Revolution Team derive their meaning by creating the beautiful bracelets featured here, and financially supporting cutting edge Alzheimer’s research. They donate 10% of every sale to organizations like Part the Cloud and The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. Every 65 seconds, a new brain develops Alzheimer’s. Every 2 out of 3 of those brains belong to women. By working with these groups, Rivet Revolution not only produces beautiful, conversation sparking jewelry, but also strives to end this life-altering condition. If you’re personally affected by Alzheimer’s I encourage you to click here, and leave a tribute to your loved one.