Ward Off Alzheimer’s: Babysit the Grandkids - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on January 11, 2017

Ward Off Alzheimer’s: Babysit the Grandkids

The Connection Between Babysitting and Alzheimer’s

In addition to reducing the risk of developing
Alzheimer’s, babysitting can help increase
feelings of happiness and overall satisfaction.

It’s estimated that as many as 5.1 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. However, that number belies the true impact of the disease on the family. For every individual with the disease, there are between one and four family members acting as caregivers. Since the disease is progressive and degenerative, individuals with the disorder get worse over time and will need increasing levels of care and support.

While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, the search is on for anything that can help reduce this burden both on Alzheimer’s patients and their families. The good news is that there is a scientifically proven activity most grandparents already do that may reduce their chances of developing the disease: babysitting the grandkids.

What is Alzheimer’s?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia in adults over the age of 65. While it affects mostly older adults, it’s not a normal part of aging. It attacks the brain’s nerve cells or neurons. Connections between these neurons break and these cells eventually die.

In the early stages of the disease, people may forget words and names, have trouble staying organized, and ask the same questions over and over again. As the disease progresses, confusion will increase and the individual will have trouble taking care of themselves and completing complex tasks. At the final stage, the Alzheimer’s patient may experience delusions and lose basic abilities like walking, sitting up, and eating.

Fortunately, there is hope.

The Connection Between Babysitting and Alzheimer’s

The day your children have their own children is a joyous milestone in the lives of many older adults. Grandchildren have a way of reinvigorating their grandparents, providing a chance to rediscover the newness of life through a fresh pair of eyes. This type of social interaction has been found to have a positive effect on our mental health as we age. Now comes word that it may also help ward off Alzheimer’s.

Researchers from the Women’s Health Aging Project in Australia administered cognitive tests to women who regularly cared for their grandchildren. They found that the women who babysat their grandkids for one day every week recorded the best scores on these tests. From these results, they made the connection between babysitting and reduced rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

However, they also concluded that just the right amount of babysitting is needed to reap the most benefit – and one day per week seems to be the sweet spot. Women who babysat their grandkids more than that had poorer scores, with those babysitting five days per week showing the very worst results. The researchers concluded that feeling overwhelmed affected the mood of these grandmothers and impaired their cognitive functioning.

In addition to reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s, babysitting offers an added bonus for grandparents. Another study measured the connection between any type of human interaction and increased feelings of happiness and overall satisfaction with life.

So, the next time your phone rings and your son or daughter asks you to babysit the grandkids, say yes. It’s scientifically proven to keep your mind sharp and your mood elevated. Just don’t say yes more than once a week.

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