I'm still frequently amazed at how much the Internet shrinks the world. An author in the United Kingdom was researching her book on dementia and Alzheimer's disease. She came across some of my work, and quoted an article I'd written a couple of years ago, for Minding Our Elders. Of course, I was pleased and honored that she quoted me and was happy to give approval.
The author, an exceptional woman named Louise Morse, is Publicity Manager for Pilgrim Homes, which is a Christian-based elder care business in the UK. Her co-author, Rev. Roger Hitchings is now a trustee of Pilgrim Homes and a pastor in the Midlands (UK). Louise told me she'd send me a copy of the book, after it was published.
One day, I opened my mailbox to find package containing a lovely book from the UK titled Could it be Dementia? Losing your mind doesn't mean losing your soul.
Whether or not the reader is Christian, I believe there is so much compassion, and such an abundance of information, this book should be on any must-read list for everyone interested in dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Indeed, one of the strengths of the book is the way the author presents this abundance of studies and research in language that is crystal clear. She uses a disclaimer that the science in the book is from research, and that she isn't a scientist, but that is exactly what makes this book so readable. She cites her sources well, so those wanting to check her sources will have no trouble doing so.
Morse has some interesting takes on the US. She is a frequent visitor, as she has three sons, all married to American women. After writing about what seems to be a lack of caring and compassion for elders in her country, she says: "Whenever I've stayed in America I've been struck by the affection shown to older people. Grandparents are particularly beloved and seem to have a next-to-God status."
Many here would say that she hasn't seen enough of the US or she wouldn't think so, but I do believe we have some strong family ties in our country. Certainly, we have our share of fractured families and dysfunctional families, but let's take a compliment when we can, shall we?
A theme that runs throughout Morse's book is that loneliness and lack of connection is a huge problem for elders, and may even contribute to dementia. Morse cites a study by researchers at Rush University's Alzheimer's Disease Center in Chicago, where they "have found a link between feelings of loneliness and developing dementia, including Alzheimer's, in elderly people."
I see this as one reason people need to do more than just "stay in their own homes," to age well and happily. There's nothing healthy or happy about watching TV alone and barely eating, day after day, just to stay in the family home. People need socialization to thrive. That can mean visitors, caregivers, or even a move to assisted living, where elders can once more know their neighbors as friends.