Healthy Aging and Alzheimer’s


By Unity Psychiatric Care Huntsville

Editor’s note: September is both Healthy Aging Month and World Alzheimer’s Month. Although treatment is readily available and necessary, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are not a typical part of aging. In fact, studies have shown by improving our health through lowering blood pressure, exercising, and not smoking we can reduce the risk of a dementia related disease and even boost our mental health. Unity Psychiatric Care in Huntsville is a 20-bed hospital that offers comprehensive inpatient care for adults who are experiencing serious mental health symptoms or exhibiting behaviors outside their normal functioning, more often than not, those effected by Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Most of us know eating our vegetables and getting exercise is good for our health, but for us to truly engage in healthy aging, we need to think about our mental and brain health as well. As we age, it’s typical to experience a loss of words, difficulty multitasking, or even focusing on the task at hand. To keep our brains healthy, we need to keep them active like any other muscle or organ in our body. Learning something new, solving puzzles, reading, or simply socializing are all great brain stimulants and can boost our mental health too! In addition, managing stress through journaling or therapy, and connecting with friends and family can all boost our health as we age, according to the National Institute of Aging.

Likewise, it’s particularly important for older adults and seniors to maintain regular visits with their doctor, as susceptibility to illness increases with age. Early diagnosis for an illness or disease, specifically dementia related, will optimize the course of treatment for the patient, and better prepare caregivers and family members for the road ahead.

Like other mental health diagnoses, Alzheimer’s and dementia often face challenges to treatment due to the stigma of seeking mental health care. A diagnosis of dementia has a specific and profound impact on the caregivers and loved ones due to memory loss and other cognitive complications. Unity’s holistic approach to patient care captures the entire person, not just the diagnosis. Alzheimer’s and dementia affect the patient, family, and their community. Our philosophy is that we must incorporate the entirety of one’s life into patient care from a ‘person in environment’ approach. This approach is a fundamental principle in social work and drives us to understand the individual and their multifaceted environment and culture. Through medication management, individual therapy, daily structured group therapy sessions, and family education and support we can treat the patient and better equip their loved ones with resources, education, and preparedness.

For more information on mental health for seniors, fighting the mental health stigma, or to learn more about Unity and our services, email Kelli Axley at kaxley@unitypsych.com or call our hospital directly on our confidential line, 256-964-6700. You can count on our hospital team to combine compassionate care with evidence-based treatments that will provide you and your loved one with the tools needed to continue living a full and happy life.

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