When we talk about the C word (cancer), cancer, or the D word (dementia), it’s hard to spell out hope.

Both diseases, while very different, take a tremendous physical and mental toll, both on the patient and family. The psychological benefits of hope can go a long way. It improves our moods, outlook and the way we care for a dementia patient. The same is true for cancer patients, according to a study.

In the study, women with breast cancer demonstrated that hope is an important factor for coping and reducing the psychological distress of cancer treatment. The study shows that lower levels of hope were tied to the patient’s lower satisfaction with life. It also showed that hope mediates the relationship between distress and health status. In other words, the association between distress and health status was no longer significant with hope at their side.

Having hope at your side is extremely valuable when dealing with dementia as well. As an advocate and educator of age-related issues, including Alzheimer’s and dementia, I am trained to help family and medical professionals become “dementia-aware.” In doing so, they can provide the compassionate and fulfilling care the patient, and caregiver, deserve.

Along with this specialized training focused on compassion, there is another ingredient that can help us through the turbulence of dementia, and that’s hope.

As we become more dementia-aware, we experience more reasons for hope. Those nuggets of inspiration are all around us, if we look. When I give talks and seminars across the country, I point out a simple truth that dementia is stubborn and unchangeable. Therefore, we must change our outlook and perspective and find small day-to-day achievements and accomplishments. When we do, we can experience joy and happiness that we had not experienced before in our journeys. That’s what my entire program is all about: unlocking our abilities to make meaningful connections and meaningful moments by approaching dementia care in a new way. When we do, we experience hope.

From my experience, the greatest hope can be obtained when we understand the disease we are facing with compassion and a clear understanding of what’s ahead. Only then can we find these incredible moments and connection that give rise to an everlasting hope.

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