Did you know that June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month? Now you do! Around the world, there are millions of people affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia, and in June, the Alzheimer’s Association raises money and awareness of these diseases.
What are Alzheimer’s and dementia?
The old idiom says, “all ducks are birds, but not all birds are ducks.” It’s a great way to understand the relationship between Alzheimer’s and dementia. You see, Alzheimer’s is a kind of dementia and, in fact, is the most commonly diagnosed type of dementia worldwide.
Dementia, however, is a class of illnesses defined by the symptoms and the physical cause. Alzheimer’s accounts for around 70 percent of all dementia diagnoses.
Dementia comes with short-term and long-term memory loss and cognitive difficulties, specifically regarding problem-solving and language. It can include any cognitive issues that interfere with someone’s ability to engage in everyday activities and changes in behavior, personality, or mood. Dementia can also affect coordination, which means that a person with dementia will experience difficulty with many daily things, starting with small tasks like doing up buttons to vital tasks like going to the washroom or eating.
How does Alzheimer’s progress?
Alzheimer’s disease progresses into stages, with each stage having its own programs to treat and manage this disease. These stages differ by the severity of the disease depending on how much it has progressed.
The early stage of Alzheimer’s is the easiest one to miss. Its common symptoms include forgetfulness, concentration, attention-span challenges, issues learning new things, negative mood shifts, and can cause coordination problems. At this point in the disease, the person experiencing these symptoms may not need assistance. They can still perform many of their daily tasks and still make decisions on their care and plan for their future.
The Middle Stage
While the person experiencing the disease will retain some awareness of their plight, the middle stage is where the disease begins to affect their everyday life. Memory and cognition will decrease significantly throughout this stage, simple daily tasks will become difficult, and caregivers will need to become increasingly involved in the person’s life. During the middle stage, the person’s plans for their end-of-life care, including assisted living arrangements and adult day programs, will begin to be needed.
The Late Stage
The Late Stage is also, sadly, known as the end-stage. This is the final decline of the person experiencing the illness and eventually leads to their passing away. At this point, the person experiencing the disease will need nearly round-the-clock care and will ultimately lose their ability to communicate, eat, walk, or even use the washroom. This is the most difficult stage for families and caregivers to undergo, both emotionally and physically.
What’s the relationship between dementia and PTSD?
Many of our readers who are veterans or have experienced trauma and developed PTSD, dementia, and Alzheimer’s have a two-way relationship with the disorder.
When it comes to people who have experienced PTSD, we now know that having PTSD can increase the risk that someone will develop dementia later in life. Additionally, for someone who experienced trauma and did not develop PTSD at the time, if they develop dementia later in life, PTSD can have a delayed onset, and the person can begin to develop symptoms.
Early research suggests that treating and managing PTSD can reduce the risk of dementia later in life.
Can CBD help with Alzheimer’s and dementia?
The truth is, right now, we don’t know. Early research suggests CBD could help with some of the peripheral symptoms of these illnesses. However, there is no definitive treatment using CBD or other cannabinoids to treat Alzheimer’s or dementia. You can talk to your doctor if you’d like to experiment with CBD for yourself or a family member.
CBD engages with the endocannabinoid system, which helps create homeostasis within the body and regulate several internal functions. While CBD may not specifically improve these illnesses, it can help promote general wellness and balance and encourage a physical equilibrium.
The Alzheimer Society Research Program engages with more research to determine how endocannabinoids impact mood and test if cannabinoids can help treat people with Alzheimer’s. The research is still in its early stages, with no evident results being published yet.
Help The Cause
Talk About It
You can wear purple all month to draw attention to Alzheimer’s and dementia. For example, you could wear a purple ribbon on your shirt or a purple mask if you wear one. Some people have decorated their shoes or even put a purple ribbon bumper sticker on their car. This is a great way to promote visibility and encourage people to ask questions about this illness.
More importantly than just the symbolic representation of wearing the color, engage in conversations about dementia and Alzheimer’s. Tell people how this disease has affected you or people you know, answer their questions, or direct them to resources and websites that can help them learn more.
By discussing this disease, you can help raise awareness about the disease so we can all help find ways together to help to end it.
The Alzheimer’s Association marks June 21 as their official fundraising day for their cause. You can help by engaging in local fundraising activities, like having a bake sale or garage sale, selling purple lemonade, or even collecting cans and bottles from your neighborhood to return for money to donate.
If you don’t have time to organize an event yourself, you can look online for local events to attend. The Alzheimer’s Society website has a list of events near you that you can visit.
Engage with Government
Look into local resources for families and people with dementia and Alzheimer’s and determine what is needed from your local government. Then you can email or write your representative with information on what people in your community need to improve their lives with this disease. It’s not always a financial need but instead could be an issue of awareness. Your local politician has a platform, and you have every right to ask them to use it to draw awareness to these causes.