A person waiting for a bus. A man playing a piano inside his living room. Your dearest friend or loved one.

More and more, the number of individuals living with dementia is increasing substantially, negatively impacting families, communities and care facility workers near and far.

In a recent study published in The Lancet Neurology, we learn that the global burden has doubled. The number of individuals living with dementia reached about 44 million in 2016. In 1990, the number was around 20 million. This dramatic upswing is due to population aging and growth.

The bad news is things aren’t slowing down. It may be inevitable that the number of people living with this heartbreaking and debilitating disease will continue to rise. The good news, however, is that how we treat and care for people with dementia and, of course, advancement in science, can lessen the difficulties and in some cases, slow down the regression.

This particular study touched on the following controllable factors that can add years of quality of life: weight, blood sugar content and smoking. Living well, simply put, leads to better lives. Please refer to some of my previous blogs to learn more about how science and new studies provide more hope than ever for dementia patients.

As more people we care for and interact with are diagnosed with this disease, it’s important to understand what dementia is. It’s not curable and it weighs on a person’s ability to use mental faculties. Frustration, poor communication and a feeling of disconnection are not uncommon occurrences during care, whether it’s a family member or a trained caretaker.

My approach as an advocate for those with dementia is to introduce and teach stakeholders how to be dementia-aware. The ingredients to this kind of care are gentleness, empathy, confidence, patience, fresh perspective and love. The result: meaningful moments that can be duplicated day in and day out through our care. Special connections also develop as our approach to how we care for people with dementia is reimagined to put the spotlight on the patient.

Being dementia-aware is a transformative kind of care. It’s loving and fully cognizant of the patient’s needs, even when frustration is ready to bubble over. When we take the time to breathe, and implement a new perspective, we can then fully provide a loving approach that dampens the harsh realities of the disease, including its scope in terms of the sheer number of individuals it affects.

Our goal is to find a flicker of hope in our care, and then repeat it until it shines brightly in our smiles, interactions and relationships for many years to come.