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Almemories: Playing a Pivotal Role in Colombia by Using Cognitive Stimulation to Help Alzheimer Patients

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Cognitive stimulation is a therapy that uses techniques and strategies that have proven beneficial effects on memory, helping people to become more skilled and thereby contributing to their learning ability. Recent research has demonstrated its benefits by using it in Alzheimer patients in the earliest and moderate disease stages as stated in the Science Daily Feb. 14, 2012 ("Cognitive Stimulation Beneficial in Dementia").

This is why cognitive stimulation is fundamental: because even though you cannot measure it in healing terms, it does allow the diagnosed patient to preserve his/her cognitive functions, delay degenerative processes, develop new learning strategies, prolong autonomy, continue social interaction by reducing apathy and depressive symptoms and provide a better quality of life.

For beneficial cognitive stimulation, it is important to perform activities that require intellectual effort such as: engaging board games (Parcheesi, chess, dominoes, and cards), learning or reading in another language, playing a musical instrument, drawing, dancing, or doing crossword puzzles among many others. These are the activities that Almemories, my company is developing. As of the present, my company has already developed tools as part of an overall service to improve cognitive stimulation of Alzheimer patients in Colombia. One of the tools is a workbook: Disfruta Recordando I. It contains four chapters of orientation, language, calculation and memory with exercises that the patient performs, preferably with the caregiver. There are two more workbooks currently in development, two memory games and seminars focusing on this topic as a part of the company's business model. The primary goal of Almemories is to provide the service of improving cognitive stimulation in day care centers in different cities of Colombia, thereby impacting a key need for Alzheimer patients.

As is well-known, there are thousands of relatives and caregivers in the world that are suffering along with the patients of Alzheimer disease. As the severity of the disease progresses, they feel alone, with no support and in many cases, they feel helpless and do not know how to treat or act with the patient.

These activities are intended to reach a larger population that needs encouragement and support, so they know they are not alone. Today there are many tools that can help them to live with this complicated condition. It is important to publish the benefits of cognitive stimulation and the importance of a timely and appropriate diagnosis taking into account the global statistics of the disease.

According to World Alzheimer report 2011, there could be 28 million of the 36 million world's population with Dementia, without diagnostic and consequently without treatment. In Colombia, there could be 300,000 of such people as mentioned by David Calle in the newspaper Unimedios from "Universidad Nacional" March 2012. This disease has a higher incidence in people between the ages of 65 and 85 years. And a key question is: How many of these people are undiagnosed? The high costs of specialized tests to diagnose the disease contribute to these alarming statistics and to make matters worse. Many families consult a specialist when the disease is already very advanced making it more difficult to handle the patient. Therefore, it is very important to identify the difference between normal aging to aging caused by diseases such as Dementia (Alzheimer). Another factor that affects these statistics is the difficulty of the family to accept the initial diagnosis. In many cases, relatives deny it, thinking the patient is 'faking it' or that these are 'symptoms of old age' and decide to keep it secret. Public figures like Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan have made it public, but others have been forced to hide it and suffer alone the effects of a painful and inevitable cognitive deterioration.

After first-hand experience with this disease and speaking with several care givers and family members of such patients, our team at Almemories firmly believes that there is a need for a service and support that helps patients to avoid experiencing severe decline in their cognitive symptoms and thereby making lives for not only themselves but also their caregivers and relatives less difficult. This vision motivates the team at Almemories to wake up every morning and work towards this world while goal.

Elizabeth is a Cartier Women's Award finalist. For more information, please go here.