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Hope Springs Eternal in the World of Dementia

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They say hope springs eternal. In the spring, the earth brings new life in the form of bird songs, buds, flowers and longer days. As we enter spring with a diagnosis of dementia, we may find hope a bit more elusive than we did prior to entering the world of dementia. Regardless of your health, your care partner’s health or even COVID-19, spring happens.

Research points to nature’s powerful impact on care partners’ health. Even seeing pictures of nature has been shown to have calming effects.

Do you find hope in spring? Perhaps you can find hope in social activities or productivity. Maybe in peaceful settings. Reminiscing on past joys and experiences can provide insight. Was a favorite activity watching for the first flower or enjoying fresh produce? Dig deeper into your past to find some of the simpler pleasures from childhood which are still attainable. For example, you may find not find pleasure in flying a kite, but you may in watching other people fly kites. You may not plant the seeds, but you might still find hope in looking at the seed catalog.

In the words of Emily Dickinson,

Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

Dementia may submerge hope, but it does exist.

Hope is a factor research has found inherent in health-related quality of life.1 In looking at a large sample of community-dwelling seniors aged 65-95 over the course of 3-7 years, researchers assessed physical and mental component scores and their association with cognitive decline and dementia. Higher mental component scores (social functioning, emotional role, mental health) predicted a reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia over time. Social scores were based on the extent physical or emotional problems interfered with visiting friends and relatives. Emotional role looked at satisfaction with productivity and quality as a result of emotional problems. Mental health assessed peaceful or depressed mood. This is hopeful news for care partners and seniors. Even if cognitive decline is already happening, there is hope in maintaining these mental health components for quality of life.

Hope comes from our perspective. Is the seed simply a seed or a future blossom? Is today’s behavior going to last forever or just today? Like spring, change is inevitable. If you find you are needing a dose of hope, consider contacting a professional memory care advisor, a coach, a friend with similar experiences.

By-line: Cate McCarty, PhD in Gerontology, background in nursing, activities and admissions has given her a passionate commitment to quality of life for the individual and family with dementia. Cate is currently the care partner for her spouse who has early-stage dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.

References

1Phyo AZZ, Gonzalez-Chica DA, Stocks NP, Storey E, Woods RL, Murray AM, Orchard SG, Shah RC, Gasevic D, Freak-Poli R, Ryan J; ASPREE Investigator Group. The Utility of Assessing Health-Related Quality of Life to Predict Cognitive Decline and Dementia. J Alzheimers Dis. 2021 Feb 12. doi: 10.3233/JAD-201349. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33579847.