In the past, whenever Alzheimer’s was mentioned, as a society and community, we focused on the tragedy and sadness of this disease’s inevitable outcome.

Today there is a different outlook: While Alzheimer’s is a disease, it is a person with a disease, and the focus should be on that person’s many faculties and abilities which are still intact.

Experts have recognized for a long time that socialization is important for brain health, along with a healthy diet and moderate exercise. Regular social interaction gives everyone a greater sense of self-worth and belonging rather than isolation. It also gives us a sense of normal structure and order to life, connecting us to the present time and place.

Studies also show that people with a broader network of social experiences in earlier stages of Alzheimer’s are able to slow down the progression of memory loss more than those whose network is small. Across the nation, experts now extol the benefits of engaging persons with dementia in socialization programs that improve their general wellbeing. 

“Socialization, when provided in a safe, structured manner, can make a positive difference in the quality of life for those people impaired by dementia. Making sure that your loved one is receiving a steady, yet fresh, exposure to opportunities for socialization is important to keep them as healthy and connected as possible. Do this consistently, and you will notice the difference,” according to Anthem Memory Care Communities’ blog.

Changing the outlook of Alzheimer’s means focusing on the diagnosed person’s abilities and allowing everyone to have choices, fun, laughter and socialization. In alignment with this emerging practice, Alzheimers Coachella Valley (ACV) takes a “life goes on” approach and encourages both caregiver and loved one to tap into that and continue to live.  By establishing “where we are on the journey” and going from there, best practice care includes providing resources, up-to-date information, and very importantly, socialization.

We have seen with the ACV first two eight-week Traveling the Journey Together series and ongoing socialization program, Club Journey, that when caregivers and loved ones come together every week for interactive social time, the experience has been revolutionary. People are enjoying each other’s company, engaged in the moment. Families living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias come to laugh, share, learn and feel at home in a safe, secure environment.

Club Journey continues to meet every Tuesday from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. in the ACV office. Anyone in a dementia support group is welcome with their loved one. The next Traveling the Journey Together series begins October 12. Pre-screening is required to make sure the program is appropriate for the diagnosed individual; the series is limited to a maximum of eight couples. All ACV programs are free of charge.

Pat Kaplan and Edie Keller are co-founders of Alzheimers Coachella Valley. For more information on their programs call (760) 776.3100.

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