Project Background

Someone in the world develops dementia every three seconds. Alzheimer’s, the most common cause of dementia, is a general term for memory loss and cognitive abilities that interferes with daily life.  Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.  A common symptom of Alzheimer’s is difficulty remembering newly learned information because changes occur in the part of the brain that affects learning.  This website is a culmination of information compiled for my Girl Scout Gold Award Project.  I created a reminisce and sensory stimulation program, complete with memory kits, multi-sensory activities and destination stations with my project team to benefit the residents in the memory care area of Legacy Oaks in Lakeway, Texas.  There are many clients living in the memory care facility at Legacy Oaks.  Not only will this project serve the current clients within this area of the facility, it will also serve future clients, the staff, the families of clients and countless volunteers from the Lake Travis community.  The project will benefit memory care clients by providing social stimulation, improving their quality of life, replenishing their spirit, encouraging them to try, and will provide an ongoing opportunity to build new relationships while boosting cognitive stimulation and delivering boredom relief.  As well, they can relive events from their past, reduce stress, increase belonging and communication, and be involved in meaningful, failure-free, purposeful activity.  My hope is that local volunteers, as well as local, national, and global visitors to the site, can provide compassionate care, better understand an Alzheimer’s or dementia patient’s uniqueness and life history, find links between past and possible present behaviors, form new relationships, and better connect and listen to their stories while demonstrating they care.

Why I Selected This Project

Two years ago, my Grandpa (“Papa”) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  In my experience, he often times would forget things heard 15-minutes prior but remember details, knowledge and experiences from decades ago which is common during early-onset and middle-stage Alzheimer’s.  For several years, my Mom and I have volunteered in memory care at a local assisted living facility.  Often, visiting would just include sitting with them or painting the nails of the ladies, and I came to realize the visit could be so much more beneficial for them as well as rewarding for those who visited.  There was limited direction in activities, if any occurred at all.  In my experience with my loved one, a person with Alzheimer’s may withdraw from activities he or she previously enjoyed.  I chose this Gold Award Project because I know how important it is to help a person with Alzheimer’s remain engaged, and there was a need for improvement in this area in my local community.  Those with Alzheimer’s and dementia do not necessarily have to give up activities that they enjoy, and many can be modified to enhance their quality of life, help them recall the past and share experiences with others, and can ultimately reduce wandering or agitation behaviors.  My specific goals for this project are to provide positive social stimulation to residents that improve their quality of life overall while replenishing their spirits, to support local volunteer organizations with activities they can use, to encourage the residents’ social engagement, to enable the residents to feel happiness and that they have purpose at an elderly age, to relieve boredom, and to inspire others nationally and globally to learn more about Alzheimer’s and how they can care for others with the disease through the activities I share on my website.

Dedicated to my Papa.

What the Project Addresses

Since the cognitive decline caused by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia cannot be reversed, one of the greatest ways to care for someone with the disease is to improve their quality of life.  As persons with dementia regress in their ability to see, hear, taste, smell, feel, and think about the world around them, the issue lies in how to help them adapt to these sensory and cognitive changes and stay connected to the things they love.  Communities, nationwide and globally, tend to have limited planning and implementation of reminisce and sensory stimulation activities for dementia patients often due to a lack of staffing, budget or materials even though the need for offering activities increases and is imperative as Alzheimer’s symptoms worsen.  According to a study published in the British Journal of Clinical Psychology, sensory stimulation has been shown to have a positive short-term effect on the quality of life.  When seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia can no longer participate in normal daily activities, boredom can lead to agitation, depression, anxiety or even anger and the chance of sundowning.  The research, conducted by R. Baker, S. Bell and L-A. Wareing, found that immediately after sensory and memory activity sessions patients talked more spontaneously, related better to others, did more from their own initiative, were less bored/inactive, and were more happy, active or alert. They were more attentive to their environment than before and patients in the activity group improved the amount/initiation of speech skills, whereas the group without sensory or memory activities remained unchanged during the trial.  Together, we can help “the shrinking world” through the offering of a sensory stimulation and reminiscing designed to promote stimulation and prolong daily functioning, as well as match Alzheimer’s and dementia patients’ interests and hobbies.  By creating activities with no right or wrong, caregivers and volunteers can deliver a wonderful way to engage and entertain older adults that can hopefully reduce agitation, difficult behavior and depression.



National / Global Connection to Alzheimer’s

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, there were an estimated 46.8 million people worldwide living with dementia in 2015 and this number is believed to be close to 50 million people in 2017. This number will almost double every 20 years, reaching 75 million in 2030 and 131.5 million in 2050.  Because of the successes of improved health care over the last century, many are now living longer and healthier lives and so the world population has a greater proportion of older people. Dementia mainly affects older people, although there is a growing awareness of cases that start before the age of 65.  The total estimated worldwide cost of dementia in 2015 is US$ 818 billion.  This year, dementia will become a trillion-dollar disease, rising to $2 trillion by 2030.  If global dementia care were a country, it would be the 18th largest economy in the world, exceeding the 2015 market values of companies such as Apple ($742 billion) and Google ($368 billion) with dementia marked at $818 billion.  There are over 9.9 million new cases of dementia each year worldwide, implying one new case every 3.2 seconds.  From a global perspective, the estimated number of people living with dementia in 2015 in each world region was as follows:  the Americas (9.4 million), Europe (10.5 million), Africa (4.0 million) and Asia (22.9 million).  One issue affecting other areas of the globe involves a lack of knowledge and understanding about dementia that leads to difficulties. Carers do not understand why the older person is behaving the way that they do, and this lack of understanding is generally greater in low- and middle-income countries.  There are global initiatives in place through Alzheimer’s Disease International to target the main carer of a person with dementia and provide basic education and specific training on managing problematic behaviors.  The intervention has been tested in controlled trials in Argentina, Chile, China, Dominican Republic, India, Mexico, Peru, Russia and Venezuela with positive effects on levels of care psychological illness and strain.