In 2007, Brenda Maust founded The Gathering Place Interfaith Ministries with the aim of helping people with Alzheimer’s and dementia and their caretakers.
Since then, the ministry has sprouted a branch known as the Brazoria County Alzheimer’s Awareness Project, which incorporates efforts to educate the public and create awareness about Alzheimer’s and dementia, and exploring what can be done to treat or even prevent the ailments from developing. The Gathering Place also provides programs to help people build healthier lifestyles in an effort to delay dementia symptoms. Two of those programs are Brain Camp and Meta Camp, and both, according to Maust, have seen success.
Brain Camp was established in 2011 to help people build cognitive reserves so they can substantially delay, prevent or even reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s. The four-week program consists of a two-hour lecture each week, which draws on clinical trials, studies and articles from medical journals. Samplings of yoga, Silver Sneakers, qigong, tai chi, Zumba or Pilates exercises are also incorporated.
“It’s been my hobby since I started the Gathering Place: researching clinical trials and studies,” Maust said. Through that research, she learned Alzheimer’s could be prevented — a point of view that’s no longer radical, she said.
Brain Camp and Meta Camp follow the lead of Dr. Dale Bredesen, who has identified six subtypes of Alzheimer’s and published a book, Maust said. Doctors now know there can be multiple causes of Alzheimer’s, she said.
Through research, Maust also learned Metabolic Syndrome is a higher risk factor for Alzheimer’s than even age. While not a disease, metabolic syndrome refers to a collection of medical conditions: diabetes or prediabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and fat that accumulates at the belly. When a person has three of the five conditions, they have metabolic syndrome.
Meta Camp is intended to reduce factors that contribute to the syndrome. This intensive seven-week weight loss program alternates each week between offering a two-hour lecture on nutrition, and a one-hour support group meeting, “which usually runs overtime,” Maust said.
Both programs aim for better health, which can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.
The lifestyle changes people can make can help them feel better, “and we’ve seen this,” said Dale Libby, Chairman and CEO of The Gathering Place Interfaith Ministries.
“We tell everybody to work with their doctor,” Maust said. “We’re not clinicians. However, we are helping people.”