With June being Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, there is no shortage of activities in Northeast Ohio for people with dementia and their caregivers. Throughout the month, organizations are holding events, both physically and virtually, to promote awareness and help those in need.
Bob Pontius, director of business development and marketing at Danbury Senior Living in Broadview Heights, and April Suva-Surovi, business development specialist and community outreach and education at Arden Courts in Westlake, said their organizations not only have events scheduled for the next month, but throughout the year as well.
Danbury has videos of different exercises, as well as five-minute lectures about different exercises that people could do.
“The idea is, we’re always encouraged to exercise our bodies and stay healthy as we age,” Pontius said. “This is about exercising our brain to make sure it stays healthy as we age. Kind of a ‘use it or lose it’ mentality. We make sure that we’re working on our brains a little bit everyday and doing exercises for it.”
At Arden Courts, Suva-Surovi hosts support groups for caregivers of people with dementia at 10 a.m. on the second Tuesday of the month. She also hosts a support group for those with Lewy body dementia at 3 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month
On top of those groups, Arden Courts is also running a monthly dementia toolbox series. For the month of June, it’s called “why they do what they do.” This edition of the series talks about the changes in the brain and what’s occurring, the behaviors that happen along with it and how to manage them.
“The dementia caregiver support group encompasses all types of diseases with dementia,” Suva-Surovi said. “I try to meet the needs of what’s going on in the support group. So, if somebody is having difficulty with a specific issue, we discuss it as a group. We talk about skills, we talk about frustration, we talk about how to manage certain situations that may occur.”
Pontius said doing things such as crossword puzzles and Sudoku puzzles are beneficial for anybody, including those with dementia. But he encourages people to step out of their comfort zone, especially after retirement.
“Most people find the easy path,” Pontius said. “A path of least resistance every day. Whether that be physically or mentally. People who do the crossword puzzles every day, yes, they’re getting some exercise for their brain. But I kind of liken it to someone who jogs a mile every day for 365 days. Yes, your body is still getting a benefit. Yes, jogging a mile every day is good for you. But if you do it every day for a year, your body’s going to get used to it.”
A simple way to step out of your comfort zone, Pontius said, is to engage in thoughtful conversations with others.
“Watching a baseball game is a family favorite with my retired parents,” Pontius said. “Instead of just sitting and watching the game and complaining about the umpires, I’ll engage in a conversation about maybe favorite players we had from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. Maybe we’ll talk about an old stadium that we used to go to and just try to engage them. Make sure that we’re not just sitting and watching, and our brains are working throughout the game.”
Suva-Surovi said it is important for caregivers to understand how dementia affects people.
“It’s going to make their role much easier if they understand what is physically happening and cognitively happening in their loved ones’ brains and bodies,” Suva-Surovi said. “Because, when prepared and understanding of the disease, they’re going to be able to manage the symptoms at home better and manage the behaviors that occur. It’s going to make their life easier and they’re not going to have any surprises when things happen and change in the disease process.”