Brain Booster: Dr. Bonnie Purcell

Mood, mindfulness, physical activity focus of annual Brain Booster workshop at Goff Hall

Written by: Geoff Dale

When guest speaker Dr. Bonnie Purcell addresses attendees at The Alzheimer Society of Oxford’s 4th annual Brain Booster Workshop & Expo on November 4 her presentation will detail the relationship between mood and cognitive impairment.

“I will be focusing largely on depression and cognitive behaviour therapy to help with depression,” she said. “When one gets a diagnosis of cognitive impairment or dementia that is a life-altering moment.

“If people don’t have a good understanding of what is actually happening, then depression can certainly be a consequence of such a diagnosis. Sometimes there can already be a history of depression that might be triggered but certainly depression and dementia have been linked.”

A psychologist at the London Health Sciences Centre, she is a member of the Behavioural Response Team in the Geriatric Mental Health Program. The type of client problems Dr. Purcell deals with cover a wide range of disorders including depressive, somatic, anxiety, bipolar, neurocognitive and personality.

The team also includes psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists and recreation therapists. Members provide short-term consultative services and supports for older adults, families and caregivers, coping with, or at risk, for developing responsive behaviours linked to dementia, mental illness, addictions and other neurological conditions.

“I find ways to treat depression either by reducing one’s risk of progressing from cognitive impairment to dementia or just for healthy individuals to reduce their risk of developing any sort of dementia or impairment,” Dr. Purcell said.

“Today most people are very familiar with depression. With social media, Bell Canada’s Lets Talk (designed to break the silence surrounding mental illness and support mental health nationally), there’s more information about what it is and what mood challenges are. Awareness is very helpful for those seeking help.” 

With research pointing to numerous approaches to keep the brain active, the Alzheimer Society of Oxford began the Brain Booster event four years ago. The goal was to share information with people of all ages, stressing it is never too early or late to start practicing brain healthy habits.

Dr. Purcell said growing up in an era where you simply didn’t air your dirty laundry or talk about your feelings presented real challenges for individuals, families and caregivers trying to deal with issues of cognitive impairment. 

“Now this is a wonderful day and age to be seeking help that is all around us. Everyone has some kind of experience so we’re more willing to talk,” she explained. “When bodies no longer act as they have in the past either physically or mentally or both, this can lead to depressive thoughts. 

“At the workshop I’ll explain depression, what it looks like and, because many use the word colloquially, clarify diagnosis. Clinical depression is something really different so I’ll discuss the link between depression and dementia, go though effective treatment strategies, look at cognitive behaviour therapy and what people can do to help themselves.”

Held November 4 at Goff Hall from 6:30-8:30 p.m. the Brain Booster Workshop & Expo also features Bonnie Olechno, R.N, CMHA Oxford and Clara Fitzgerald, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging. 

The three speakers will discuss different aspects of one’s lifestyle and how to reduce the risk of cognitive impairment, focusing on how mood, mindfulness and physical activity can affect brain health.

“This is not simply looking at age-related cognitive changes,” said Dr. Purcell. “We know everyone can experience memory challenges when getting older. It’s the degree of the challenge, whether they get a diagnosis of cognitive impairment or dementia.

“What we are framing this workshop about is healthy aging.”

For more information contact the Alzheimer Society of Oxford at 519-421-2466, 1-877-594-2368 or email [email protected]

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Last Updated: 10/28/2019