Watching a loved one fall prey to Alzheimer’s disease can be a long, excruciating process. This quiet disease takes over a person’s memory and handicaps their cognitive abilities to the point that they can no longer recognize even the people and places most familiar to them.
As the disease progresses, patients become withdrawn, confused and eventually non-verbal in many cases, often sitting idle, lacking engagement and interaction.
“These folks can sit for eight to ten years with nothing to do,” said Roswell resident and Geriatric Nurse Consultant Gayle Horton.
According to Alzheimer’s Association statistics, someone develops the disease every 69 seconds. An estimated 5.4 million people in the United States are now living with Alzheimer’s. In Georgia alone, more than 120,000 residents over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. There is no cure and no known cause of Alzheimer’s. It is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only one among the top that can’t be prevented, cured or even slowed.
Horton is the founder of The Journey Remembered, a DVD series that focuses on the engagement of Alzheimer’s patients. Horton says the 55 minute videos are “joyful entertainment with beautiful music,” an idea she modeled after observing her young granddaughter enjoy a video from the Baby Einstein series. Horton added that many memory-care units have few activities to engage their residents.
“I can look in their eyes and I know there is still a brain functioning,” Horton said when asked why she chose to focus on work with Alzheimer’s patients.
She began development of the series in 2009 and has screened the videos at memory care units around the Roswell area. Horton has also received feedback from medical professionals and Alzheimer’s specialists, including Dr. Allan Levey, professor and chair of neurology at Emory and leader in the field of Alzheimer’s research and treatment.
The first two videos in the series focus on childhood and friendship. According to The Journey Remembered website, the purpose of the DVD series is to:
- Entertain and engage people with all types of memory loss, including Alzheimer's and dementia.
- Stimulate conversation with family and caregivers.
- Provide positive stimulation to help reverse the negative thoughts from impaired thinking.
- Entertain and relax the viewer with pleasant visual and musical entertainment.
- Create access to deep rooted memories of the past.
“Every day I worry, can we make something of their day?” said Horton. The video series is her attempt at doing just that.