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March 24, 2019
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Navigating the aging journey

Julie Ann Soukoulis
Youth, women and dementia
January 11, 2019

 This week I wish to share with you something from Lakelyn Hogan. She discusses a poignant topic: how the youth in families are affect by a diagnosis of dementia. I have said before, it is not only the one afflicted with dementia that is diagnosed, but rather the entire family. We as adults forget the impact this diagnose of an aging beloved family member has on the children within the family. What is their role in caregiving for grandma or grandpa? How does our culture support this concept or does it? We will conclude with discussing the gap in research for women and dementia.  

Lakelyn begins with reminding us  that one in 10 people over the age of 65 living with Alzheimer’s (according to the Alzheimer’s Association) and 16.1 million Americans providing unpaid care for someone with Alzheimer’s, nearly everyone is touched by this disease.  

Did you know every 65 seconds someone in America develops Alzheimer’s and every three seconds someone in the world develops the disease? Through understanding and education, we will be better prepared to care for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia disorder.

Every Sept., the Alzheimer’s community dedicates itself to World Alzheimer’s month, a month focused on research, collaboration and hope. At Home Instead we see the daily impact Alzheimer’s has on family caregivers, family members and those living with the disease. As an organization, we’re passionately committed to fulfilling our mission: to enhance the lives of aging adults and their families and a big part of that is our commitment to raising awareness for Alzheimer’s and other dementias.   

In the past few months, I had the privilege to attend a few conferences focused on the future of Alzheimer’s. It was inspiring to see people from all over the globe working to better the lives of people living with dementia, to better help the people caring for those with dementia and Alzheimer’s and working hard to further research efforts for better treatments and a cure. 

Below is what I found most interesting and impactful from these events.

Youth’s involvement in dementia education and caregiving is changing globally.

There is an emphasis around the world to educate young people on dementia and Alzheimer’s. Various countries are stepping up to begin education earlier and it’s inspiring. 

In Japan dementia education is integrated into school classrooms in the fourth through seventh grades. These young grade school children are then educating their parents on the disease. This approach is taking intergenerational learning to a whole new level!

Dementia in Australia has a program called “dementia in my family.” This website has educational material and resources for youth of all ages. For preschool age children, there is an interactive book about how the brain changes. Teens can share their stories and learn from others. The education materials range from preschool age to 16 and reach the youth right where they are, online. I’d encourage you to look at the program: dementiainmyfamily.org.au

I had the pleasure of meeting a 5th grader named Hailey from the U.S. who started her own blog and support network for other young people: Kid Caregivers. Her blog has great tips for young caregivers. 

There is a research gap for women with dementia.

Women are affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia more than men. In fact, 70 percent of new Alzheimer’s diagnoses will be given to women; however, research for the disease is focused on men. The male and female brains are different and these differences must be taken into consideration when scientifically researching dementia and when researching the effects of dementia on caregivers.

A NYU researcher, Mary S. Mittelman, Ph.D., shared her results from studying male and female caregivers. She found that there are gender differences in caregiving, which means they may need to be supported differently. For example: men were more likely to place loved ones in care communities and women were more likely to care for loved ones at home. Men were also more likely to regularly attend support groups than women.

Next week we will continue our discussion with a focus on The Women’s Brain Health Initiative,  (an organization dedicated to helping women care for their brains to help prevent cognitive decline) and the long-reaching impact of dementia.  

Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern?  She’d love to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.