Alzheimer’s Awareness Month 2021: Date, History + Activities

Updated

Did you know that brain functions can go into five distinct categories? They include behavior, judgment, language, memory, and thinking. When two or more of these functions have become negatively affected in a patient, doctors classify it as dementia. 

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However, dementia doesn't represent a singular disease. This umbrella term refers to cognitive impairment caused by a wide array of illnesses or injuries. Alzheimer's disease represents one of the most debilitating forms of dementia.   

What is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month?

While doctors can treat some forms of dementia and even reverse their effects, they cannot do this with Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, this progressive type of dementia worsens over a long period of time. Alzheimer’s Awareness Month raises awareness about this life-altering disease.  

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When is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month?

A few different months raise awareness about Alzheimer’s disease. President Ronald Reagan declared November National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in 1983. Later, in 2012, the month of September was designated as World Alzheimer’s Month, which occurs as an annual awareness campaign run by Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI).  

What is the Ribbon Color for Alzheimer’s?

Show your support on World Alzheimer’s Month or National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month by wearing a purple ribbon. According to the nonprofit Alzheimer’s Association, purple is significant because it combines the colors red and blue. 

The color red represents passion and energy, while the color blue exudes a sense of stability and calm. Alzheimer’s disease can feel grueling for both patients and caretakers. It requires a unique combination of endurance and steadfastness, which the color purple embodies. 

Purple, also considered a healing color for illnesses of the mind, can involve symbolic healing, even if doctors and researchers haven't found a cure for Alzheimer's. 

Ways to Participate in Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

When National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and World Alzheimer’s Month come around, you can participate in many ways: 

Learn more About Alzheimer’s disease and dementia

Before you can educate others, make sure you have a solid understanding of the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. Many available statistics help us gain a sense of the type of person most vulnerable to Alzheimer’s. You can also read many great dementia blogs that provide a more personal glimpse into the lives of Alzheimer’s patients and caregivers.     

Get a gift for a loved one suffering from Alzheimer’s 

Alzheimer’s disease often initially manifests as minor memory loss. However, once it reaches the later stages, many individuals can no longer communicate verbally. They also may not outwardly engage with their surroundings. 

Buying a gift for someone shows them you care. Even a loved one in the late stages of Alzheimer’s can still feel comfort and solace from a gift. Weighted blankets and stuffed animals can serve as thoughtful gifts for dementia patients.  

Practice prevention and reduce risks

Research indicates some lifestyle choices could play a part in minimizing risk factors for Alzheimer's. Learn a few preventive measures that you can take:

  • Stay physically active. Studies indicate that regular exercise may help prevent Alzheimer’s and may even slow its progression. Moderate exercise that raises your heart rate like a brisk walk is a small thing that may have a big impact.
  • Eat a balanced and healthy diet. Other studies show that wholesome foods could potentially slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The Mediterranean diet, in particular, has shown lots of promise thanks to its emphasis on lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. 
  • Improve your sleep. When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you may find yourself struggling cognitively the next day. There is some evidence indicating these effects can be cumulative. Aim for getting seven to eight hours of sleep per night to potentially reduce your risks. 
  • Keep your mind engaged. While more speculative, many experts recommend keeping your brain busy even as you age. As you enter your retirement years, crossword puzzles offer a fun and simple way to challenge yourself cognitively each morning. You can also read books, play trivia games, or even learn a new language! 

None of these things will guarantee that you will fend off Alzheimer’s disease. However, they can benefit your physical and emotional health.     

Get a tattoo to honor a loved one

When someone you love has Alzheimer’s, you may feel that person slipping away from you. As the disease progresses, you often find yourself in the uniquely painful position of mourning a living person. Getting a tattoo in honor of your loved one can help you process these feelings.

You've probably heard the old expression, “an elephant never forgets.” This phrase likely stems from scientific observations of elephants' uncommonly long memories. Most Alzheimer's patients exhibit memory loss as the first sign of cognitive decline, so an elephant tattoo holds a certain resonance.     

Another popular Alzheimer’s tattoo motif involves forget-me-not flowers, which holds a special significance — it symbolizes remembrance. They grow in a variety of colors, including purple, which makes them a particularly apropos choice. 

Show a caregiver some appreciation

National Family Caregivers Month also occurs in November in the U.S. Patients with Alzheimer’s disease often need around-the-clock care. This holds particularly true once the disease has reached its later stages. Specialized memory care nursing facilities do exist. However, they can prove cost-prohibitive for many Americans.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, unpaid family members or friends provide 83 percent of the help to older adults. Over half of these caregivers actively care for patients living with some form of dementia. Of course, this includes Alzheimer’s disease. If you put a price tag on this unpaid labor, it would cost more than $250 billion each year. 

Being a caregiver for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease can come with physical and emotional challenges. Alzheimer’s disease tends to disproportionately affect people with lower incomes, meaning that individuals cannot even hire temporary respite care. Many family caregivers get no break from this often grueling labor. 

Say thank you to caregivers you know who have selflessly put their own life on hold. You can express thanks for the work they do at any price point. You can send a card, arrange to have a meal delivered from their favorite restaurant, or hire a temporary caregiver to give them a day or two off every month.  

Volunteer at a memory cafe

In 1997, psychologist Dr. Bere Miesen started a unique new support system for dementia patients in the Netherlands. Memory cafes, an innovative concept, quickly spread throughout Europe and then worldwide. These informal gathering spaces provide a safe place where patients and caregivers can meet and socialize with other members of the community. 

Memory cafes help people in many ways. First, they create opportunities for Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients to feel connected and engaged. This helps them feel more confident and helps mitigate the feelings of isolation so prevalent with this disease. It can also help reduce the burden placed on caregivers. Volunteering at a memory cafe in your community can encourage everyone to support Alzheimer’s patients.        

Raising Awareness Helps Support All Alzheimer’s Patients

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than six million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. By the year 2050, as many as 13 million Americans will live with this condition. The devastating illness's ripple effects will continue to spread and impact many other people. Raising awareness offers the best way to help people prepare.


Sources:
  1. “Alzheimer’s and Dementia Facts and Figures.” Alz.org, Alzheimer’s Association, 2021, alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/facts-figures.  
  2. Leonard MPH, Wendy. “What Do You Want to Know About Dementia?” Healthline.com, Healthline, 2 November 2018, healthline.com/health/dementia.  

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