I feel like I’ve been studying people and the world around me for a very long time. This tendency helped keep me safe while I was growing up in an incredibly volatile home environment and it made me a more perceptive artist as I tuned into all of the details around me (sometimes to an overwhelming degree, as most empaths can attest). I’ve also witnessed how we can create our own mental states of stress or how we can choose to induce a sense of well being. It’s all pretty fascinating.
So in my ongoing quest to ‘figure things out’, I recently started volunteering at a local hospice. My decision to volunteer was sparked, in part, by how important hospice was when my own grandmother was dying from cancer and another part was based on my own near-death experience.
Volunteering at hospice has been very eye-opening, rewarding, and heart-wrenching. Every single one of my patients has some form of dementia. On rare occasion, they have conversations with me. Sometimes I can understand them, sometimes not so much. I am learning how hard it is to connect with someone who is non-verbal and not related to you in any way. Many times I feel like I’ve failed them somehow. Like I’m blindly trying to connect with them on some level, without any history to go on, before it’s too late. And some days, it feels like I just don’t do it – at least not that I can tell.
After my last visit, I was left wondering if there’s anything I could do to prevent this type of end-of-life situation. My newest patient was a mental and emotional wreck, breaking down crying every few minutes; I would get her calmed down, then she started in with something else and then repeated the loop of upsetting thoughts due to dementia. Not the way I want to spend my last days on Earth.
So what is it? What makes some people healthy, vibrant, and mentally alert till their last days and what makes others end up like the ones I’m encountering at hospice? I thought back to the centenarians I met in New Mexico – active even at their advanced age. Was that the key? So I did a little research and wow! What a surprise!
ONE HOUR OF EXERCISE A WEEK CAN HALVE DEMENTIA RISK. ONE HOUR. PER WEEK.
Here is a link to the study published back in 2014, along with factors that increase risk.
Can you believe it!? Just makes me more dedicated than ever to stay active and on the right track with my diet. Knowledge is power!