Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, DCCP, CLL, Director of Dementia Care, Hebrew Health Care
As I sit here in the Green Room at Fox Channel 61, I am aware of how little we think about brain health. People take it for granted.
Sitting across from me is a young man dressed in his AAA shirt. He watches the news on the TV. Maybe he is trying to remember the answers to his pre-created questions. Or maybe this is old hat to him; he is recalling his experience during Hurricane Irene, which the newscasters remind us was 3 years ago.
Next to him are two women from the local children’s museum. No one but me notices they have small animal cages at their feet, protective towels covering the “guests” who will appear before me (a hedgehog and a snake). They discuss the details of their lives. Kids’ schedules, first days of school, other work projects. Their attention goes to the Green Room TV over a story of famous faces drawn into lattes, unaware if their cognitive functions deciphering the espresso art.
Next to me sits a grandmother and her teenage grandson. He created YouTube videos when they were driving around after school – fun things like his “friend” Miley Cyrus who broke her leg while working, but is doing much better, or a story that he got a girl pregnant, which his grandmother knows is his way of teasing her to get a reaction (she’s unaware that Miley is a celebrity). She takes none of his nonsense. The videos have gone viral. They are excited to see the story teaser on TV. I tell him how lucky he is to have his grandma and get their autographs to their delight. When they ask what I do, they give me the response everyone does… “Oh”.
It’s something people take for granted, cognitive wellness. Whether it’s remembering driving tips for the busiest weekend of the year, or executive functions for organizing your day, or learning about YouTube and being creative with the special relationship we can have with our elders. And people are speechless at the thought of losing it. They do not realize there are things we can do to MINIMIZE those risks.
There are so many people to reach with this message, and so many competing messages grabbing their attention. Please visit www.agingcareacademy.org and click on the Dementia Risk Screen. Don’t let your answer be “Oh” when faced with the concept of losing cognitive health. Empower yourself to do all that you can – challenge your brain to remember simple lists, reminisce about facts of our past history, create projects and think about the individual steps, look for familiarity in places you’d least expect it, tell creative stories, learn about new things and keep social ties strong, especially relationships with those you love. All of these things help keep your brain healthy.