Reablement is a word in an article about John Quinn, who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at 56, and how he slows and reverses his symptoms. John went through years of darkness until he decided to begin living his life to the fullest. (Australian Journal of Dementia Care, “Putting Reablement into Practice”, March 27, 2020)

I like the word, reablement, to regain the ability. This article supported my belief that many of the symptoms of dementia can be slowed, reversed, or delayed depending on the work one is willing to do.

In the past, medical science believed we were born with a certain number of neurons and as we age, we continually lose them and couldn’t create more. As what usually happens with science, it eventually evolves and the facts of the past, become antiquated replaced by recent discoveries.

Neuroplasticity is a commonly understood term where the brain creates new connections to existing neurons. This is what happens when we exercise our brains. However, science has also discovered neurogenesis, where new neurons continue forming throughout our entire lives. There are many ways to accelerate both neurogenesis and neuroplasticity during dementia, but it usually involves a complete lifestyle makeover. We all need to boost our brains but not many of us are willing to do what’s necessary unless we are diagnosed with dementia.

So, wouldn’t it be logical that even though dementia destroys brain cells if we work hard enough, we could create new neurons and connections to get around the damage? Thus, slowing or delaying symptoms

These are John’s tools of reablement:

Nutrition: The Mediterranean diet is the best for brain health and hydration is essential; drink more than you need.

Attitude: Decide to live your life to the fullest and surround yourself with supporting, encouraging people.

Acceptance: Denial or ignoring the diagnosis won’t make it go away. Face it an go forward anyway.

Art and Music Therapy: Both are effective tools for boosting neuronal connections and the creation of new neurons.

Mental activities: Do crosswords with the non-dominant hand, take different routes home, learn a new language, and keep a diary.

Meditation: Meditation benefits alertness and attention span, especially beneficial for brain function even with as little as 10 minutes.

Exercise: This oxygenates the brain and keeps the body active. Essential for slowing dementia symptoms.

Enjoyment and Social Activity: Doing what we enjoy releases endorphins and being in the company of others creates new experiences. When you combine a new experience with positive feelings, the brain increases its activity, creating new connections, and birthing new neurons.

Volunteering: Helping others keeps you socially active, fosters feelings of worth, and increases emotional wellbeing and brain health.

Sleep: Important to set specific times to prepare and go to bed to train your system. During sleep, cells repair themselves.

Set goals: Walk an extra block, learn a new recipe, mark goals on calendars and notes to remind you. Look to the short-term future and work towards it.

If you follow the example of John Quinn, I have no doubt you will see beneficial results in your life.


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