GEM: Health and wellness in the world of Alzheimer’s

Published 7:08 am Friday, February 18, 2022

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By Gail Sonnesso, GEM

Did you know that many studies have found that a healthy lifestyle is valuable for both the person living with dementia and their care partner?

What are the components of a “healthy lifestyle?” Addressing all five dimensions of wellness in our lives builds a holistic sense of wellness and fulfillment. If you are in the best of health, you will be performing the best of yourself.

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These five components are physical health, emotional health, social health, spiritual health and intellectual health. They are the basics of your healthy lifestyle.

GEM promotes better overall health in the following ways:

Physical health needs are met with our chair exercise class, dancing at our live music programs and referrals to other fitness classes.

GEM’s focus on emotional health is based on education, understand of the disease and knowing the person. This knowledge provides smoother sailing for all involved. GEM also collaborates with the College of The Albemarle. We will be offering training in “the Best Care” for a person living with cognitive challenges in March.

Social health: Most people underestimate the power of social wellness, which relates to interacting and communicating with others. Studies have shown that loneliness and isolation often lead to depression, social anxieties and mental health issues. GEM’s Harmony Café provides opportunities for participants, including volunteers. We create a community of caring friends for both the person living with cognitive challenges and their caregivers who are on the same journey.

Spiritual health: GEM supports our faith community with training for our MemoryCare Navigators. These individuals from various faith communities are trained in dementia care and have resources for their faith family. These skills enable our navigators to share information with their faith leadership and the families within their community.

Intellectual health is the dimension that recognizes one’s creativity. Stimulating mental activities lead to a more harmonious relationship with the care partner. GEM offers art classes. Our GEMz program “Let’s tell a Story” provides the opportunity to discuss pictures from our lives and what they mean to us. We invite guest speakers from our community to share info about lighthouses, the Wright Brothers flight and other topics. Despite cognitive challenges, individuals can still enjoy learning and creating.

Achieving and realizing these components to good health can be difficult, but with caring friends, GEM programs and a good understanding of what a person living with cognitive challenges can enjoy and be successful, will improve the quality of their life while supporting their care partner.

To learn more about GEM programs, call Gail Sonnesso at 252-480-3354.