Hello, I am an Alzheimer’s Survivor. Can I Tell You My Story?

Alzheimer Survivor
You’ve seen the inspiring T-shirts. “I’m a cancer survivor” or “I’m a heart attack survivor”.  I’m in search of one that says “I’m an Alzheimer’s survivor”.

The reason there isn’t one is that no one survives Alzheimer’s. The disease has no cure, no way to slow it’s debilitating effect on the brain and body  – and the disease is growing at breakneck speed.

The 76.4 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are turning 65 at a rate of approximately 10,000 a day. The risk of Alzheimer’s increases with age, which means the number of people developing the disease will continue to rise to levels far beyond anything we’ve imagined.

The worldwide statistics are even more staggering and downright frightening. The fact that Alzheimer’s is touching more and more lives each day reminds us of the crippling effect on the financial, emotional and spiritual lives of families, not to mention the overwhelming burden on an already broken healthcare system.

Millions of families have to deal with the devastation and helplessness of a loved one struggling with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Their stories are varied, but certainly there is a common thread of endless frustration,  guilt and exhaustion.

Underneath and often unnoticed, there is a knot in the hearts of caregivers. Grieving the loss of the person they once knew and moving to acceptance of today’s reality is often crippling. Role reversal for adult children and spouses is neither easy or natural.

The fact remains that currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Research is critical, but right now – today – we need hope for those living with dementia and their care partners.

Thanks to person centered care initiatives, quality training and a growing network of support services for families, we are turning the corner.   Is it happening fast enough?  Most definitely not, but with growing awareness, advocacy and education, changes for the better are taking place every day.

Senior care leaders must invest in quality initiatives that improve the culture for those who live in, work and visit their communities. The fact is clear – elder care is fast becoming about dementia care.

It’s in our hands to change the story!

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute, whose mission is to create transformative change for an aging world by developing and delivering cutting edge training and education for senior care, healthcare, non-profits, and the educational community.

www.AGEucate.com

Caring Connections – What Happens When it all Comes Together?

VerbindungenIt’s a small small world in many ways. Those of us with a mission and passion to help others just seem to find each other. Caring people find connections with other caring people – it’s like magic!
We all know the basics of health 101: eat well, exercise, get proper sleep. Add to that the science of social connections. One study showed that lack of social connections is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.
People who are connected to each others experience:

Lower rates of anxiety and depression
Higher self esteem
More empathy toward others
Are more trusting and cooperative

Each one of us this great sphere of senior care/healthcare/aging services have a mission. As organizations, obviously our missions are focused on the products and services we offer. But in order for us to carry out our missions, we have to connect with others with whom our own products/services can be enhanced so we can fulfill and further our organization’s mission. It’s just the way it works!

If we look at the analogy behind the science of social connections and it’s importance for individuals, I believe we can make that same link to the health of organizations and employees when the caring connections take place. The benefits of connecting for the right reason multiply.

Caring connections translates into collaboration, cooperation and doing the right thing for the right reason. Like individuals, when this is not practiced, loneliness, isolation and alienation sets in. This simply won’t work for those of us on a mission to care for others.

What happens when it all comes together? We all win! Those we whom we serve, our employees and the health and well being or organization.

Caring connections is a practice that makes us all better people; it gives us a mission beyond ourselves.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute, whose mission is to create transformative change for an aging world.

www.ageucate.com

AAHHHH….. To Sleep Like a Baby Again. Is it Possible?

I know I’m not the only one munching on graham crackers and milk in the wee hours.  For those of you who sleep like a baby and wake up refreshed and energized… well let’s just say the rest of us are green with envy.

Good quality sleep is not overrated.  It’s absolutely essential to our health and well being.  According to Nancy Foldvary-Schaefer, director of the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center, “We now know sleep is an active process – all your organ systems behave differently during sleep, restoring themselves.”

During sleep,  our bodies are busy at work repairing itself, cleansing toxins, reducing inflammation.  And in recent years, research has linked higher risks of brain disorders, diabetes and obesity to sleep deprivation.

People living with dementia are certainly not immune to sleep challenges.  Disturbances can be caused by changes in the brain that cause restlessness,  urine or prostate problems, pain or discomfort, sleeping too much during the day, nightmares or environmental factors (for example external noise or feeling too hot or cold).

As dementia progresses, routine becomes more important to one’s feeling of safety and security.  This is certainly true with evening and bedtime rituals.  Not unlike what all of us should practice, here are a few reminders of what may help prepare for a better night’s sleep:

  • Light exercise in early evening, and wind down 90 minutes before bedtime.  Electronic devices should be minimized.
  • Dozing should be discouraged, as this may make falling asleep even more difficult.
  • Avoid tea, coffee, sodas or alcohol should be discouraged, as all of these can have an opposite effect, especially for someone living with dementia.
  • Make sure bed and room temperature is comfortable (cooler is generally better than warmer).
  • A regular routine of listening to soft music, a light back rub or applying aromatherapy lotion may be very helpful in creating a calming atmosphere that may induce sleepiness.

As more holistic therapies for sleep are ushered into person-centered care practices, less use of pharmacological aids will be needed.  Side effects of sleep-inducing drugs can have negative consequences on quality of life for those living with dementia and their care partners.

Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute.  Their groundbreaking program Compassionate Touch® is a practical and feasible means to reduce behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia and crete positive engagement of elder, staff and family caregivers.  

www.AGEucate.com

 

Let’s Tell it Like it Is… A Public Health Crisis is Upon Us

What Public Health Crisis?   Maybe these statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association will remind us, not of what’s coming but what is upon us:

Someone in the United States develops Alzheimer’s every 66 seconds. Today, an estimated 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, including approximately 200,000 under the age of 65. One in nine people over 65 have Alzheimer’s, and one in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia

The Baby Boom Generation is on track to become Generation Alzheimer’s, as more than 28 million members are expected to develop the disease. Barring a treatment or breakthrough, millions of retired Americans will either have the disease or end up caring for someone who does.

Alzheimer’s is America’s most expensive disease, costing the country $236 billion a year. There are 15 million Americans who care for a family member or friend with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Family caregivers on average spend more than $5,000 a year of their own money caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

What’s my point for reiterating these grim statistics?  Because leaders need to be accelerating and prioritizing quality dementia training for their clinicians, care staff, students, social workers, volunteers, physicians and anyone who works with the aging population.  Elder care is fast becoming about dementia care.

Quality dementia training does not sit on shelves catching dust.  Instead it should be:

  • Innovative
  • Practical
  • Feasible

It should provide tools that can be implemented that will result in improved outcomes for those who live in, work and visit your organization.  And lastly it should come with a strong support component so that your training is sustainable.

Time for leaders to look outside the box, because much of what has been IN the box has not been working.  We’re excited to be a part of finding solutions for the challenges now and in the years to come.

 www.AGEucate.com

 

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