Dementia Capable Society: Partners Who Care

Hi there! Kim here—just wanted to say “Happy Holidays.” Check out this video in which I reflect on the many blessings that I have and I give thanks for all the people we're working with who share our passion to make the world a better place for those with dementia.

As we know, that disease is very difficult. And oftentimes it is expressed in the media that people are suffering from Alzheimer’s. And while it is a very sad disease in many ways and it is very difficult to watch people with Alzheimer’s decline through the stages and lose abilities, we have to also remember that there are abilities that remain at every stage of the disease.

If we can focus on those abilities, and create what we call the just-right challenge at every stage, individuals with Alzheimer’s can lead a quality life and still have the ability to remain productive, vital individuals throughout their stages and throughout their journey with the disease.

My mission and my passion is to help people with Alzheimer’s coexist and not suffer. And the diagnosis is not the end of their life. But in order for that to really be true, it requires a Dementia Capable Society—individuals in all areas of their life—from the service industry like grocery stores and banks and the airlines—to the health system, including senior living organizations, hospitals, assisted living, home health—and individuals—to really believe that having the diagnosis is not the end, but that quality of life is possible if we help to create that through our support for them.

So I’m giving thanks for the many people throughout this year that I have met who care about this and are really doing something about it. I’m going to give you a few examples.

Kindred Healthcare
Just this month, I had the opportunity to present for Kindred Healthcare to almost 400 of their professionals from across the US who came together and listened to my keynote presentation on cognition and how to factor in understanding cognitive ability to help their patients and the residents in their care to safely transition through the continuum of care, meaning if a person went from home into one of their hospitals and then from the hospital into rehab and possibly a long-term care environment like assisted living, it was important for them to learn more about how do we assess the cognitive level of our residents so that we can help them safely transition through each of those different levels of care.

And it was just a great experience because the group was hungry to learn more about the topic, and I really sensed a true, honest passion for understanding this disease better and doing even more for these individuals, so I’m grateful to Kindred for inviting me, and for partnering with us to help create a Dementia Capable Society.

Healthcare Design Conference
Another opportunity we had recently was to present at the 2013 Healthcare Design Conference in Orlando, FL on the topic of designing memory care environments—it’s not one size fits all. So in that presentation—again a jam-packed room of interested individuals who were mostly architects and designers in the senior living space—I had an opportunity to talk about the importance of designing for specific stages of dementia, and what are the unique components of the floor plan design, or the way we design the interior and exterior spaces, like lighting and flooring and sound and other stimulation, like way-finding cues. How do we tweak every one of those aspects related to the cognitive level of the stage of dementia that that environment intends on servicing? Again, it was very interesting to see how many people that there were in the audience who were really hungry to learn more about that topic.

Independent and Assisted Living Organizations
And finally, another important partner for us has been some of the owners we’ve met throughout the last couple years. Owners of assisted living organizations and independent, who understand that they’re serving more and more people with dementia, and they want to do better and really excel at this. And they understand the complexity of it and are rising to the occasion to hire consultants and training companies like us because they know that their residents with dementia deserve better, and they know it’s a challenging topic. So owners like David Schonberg from Schonberg Care, who are having us work with some of his existing dementia care environments, and also working with him on some of the buildings he’s creating brand new and building new.

So thank you to Kindred Healthcare and Healthcare Design Conference and David Schonberg and others who are really stepping up and doing more to serve people with Alzheimer’s to enable them to thrive and not to reduce their lives to many years of suffering.

So this is something that I give thanks for this year, and as I read more and more reports, including the World Alzheimer Report [PDF] from 2013, I continue to see the words “we’re facing an epidemic of Alzheimer’s”—both worldwide and here in the US. And this isn’t going to be going away. The number of people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias is going to continue to rise. So it’s so important that we don’t just have Alzheimer’s diagnostic centers where we just send people in for testing and give them a diagnosis and then medications to help slow the progression.

It’s more important that we are going beyond that and giving them health professionals and health care environments who really understand how to assess the cognitive level in which the person is at—at that moment, and also understand how to adapt the way that they’re caring for this person, the way they’re communicating with the individual and the whole world around the person. So this person can feel and be successful at every stage.

So there are over five million people today in the US with Alzheimer’s. Each of these individuals has real capacity to experience quality of life with Alzheimer’s disease. It is up to all of us to enable that to happen. And this holiday season, I really do give thanks for every one of you that I have met who really cares about this mission, and who is really reaching higher to do more and to learn more and to give to these individuals with Alzheimer’s and their families the support that they need. So from my home to yours, Happy Holidays. Let’s continue to work hard to create a Dementia Capable Society. I hope in the years to come, all of those folks with Alzheimer’s and all of their families feel the support that we are creating from our network. Thank you. Happy Holidays!

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