Alzheimer’s disease is the most commonly found dementia in the United States. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are 5.7 million Americans suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and 16.1 million caregivers working without pay to care for them. One in three seniors die of Alzheimer’s disease, which is the sixth cause of death in the US. In 2018 the cost of caring for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will cost the United States 277 billion dollars. Unfortunately, the numbers of seniors expected to contract Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is on the rise. Every 65 seconds another American senior contracts Alzheimer’s.
No Cause or Cure for Alzheimer’s
In spite of all the ongoing research, no one has been able to pinpoint the cause or has found a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, since it advances slowly on the path to cognitive decline and memory loss, there are therapies that can improve the quality of life for dementia patients.
Sports Reminiscence Therapy
A fairly new rising therapy to awaken past memories in those struggling with Alzheimer’s and dementia to improve their quality of life, is Sports Reminiscence Therapy. Dr. Michael Ego, Professor of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut, began searching a few years ago outside of the US for unique programs that could help dementia patients. He discovered that Sports Reminiscence Therapy, like Football Memories in Scotland, UK, could be beneficial, especially to men. Since the majority of dementia patients are women, most of the socialization therapies have been programmed more to their needs.
Searching further, Dr. Michael Ego discovered that Baseball Therapy had been launched in St. Louis, Missouri in 2013 and this was soon followed by six more Baseball Therapy programs in the US. One of the new facilities launched in 2017 is the River House Adult Day Care Center in Cos Cob, Connecticut where Dr. Ego is carrying out a study to determine if baseball therapy really can be beneficial to seniors suffering from dementia. At the present, seniors, caregivers and volunteers gather there every two weeks and talk about baseball, watch videos, or listen to old broadcasts by famed sports announcers like Mel Allen or Red Barber. They also might be asked if they remember Joe DiMaggio’s famous 56-game hitting streak with the New York Yankees. Perhaps some of them may also remember that Joe DiMaggio was married to the famous movie star, Marilyn Monroe.
Best of all, the seniors with dementia at River House also get to play wiffle ball on a makeshift baseball diamond playing field in the activity room of the day care center. They are given baseball bats, balls and bases and they play a 2-inning game. They sing God Bless America and Take me out to the Ball Game! These songs alone no doubt stir up very poignant memories, as it has been shown in Music Therapy studies, that listening to old songs can really bring back memories of nostalgia and help those suffering from dementia. This also gives these seniors with dementia a chance to socialize with other seniors, to make friendships and in general to be happy and to feel good playing wiffle ball or chatting about baseball. According to Dr. Ego, baseball therapy seems to boost their self-esteem.
Since Baseball Therapy seems to be successful for seniors with dementia, it is to be hoped that more residential care facilities and senior day care centers will open up Baseball Therapy programs.