Tag Archives: dementia

True Story of Navigating our Confusing Healthcare Maze

Healthy lifestyle achievement concept with a labyrinth and a blue goal sign with health text isolated on white background.

Welcome to the world of healthcare! Having just moved to a state with a very large senior population, many of whom have mild to moderate dementia, my story of navigating the healthcare maze should make us all sit up and ask ourselves how our seniors, especially those with dementia, can traverse this insanity.   Here is my story:

First doctor visit in my new state and it goes like this…

Twenty minutes of exploring the parking deck for an open spot (that’s 14 rounds from bottom to top and back again).

I was told to arrive 30 minutes early, but they failed to mention 20 minutes would be spent dive bombing for a parking space, so I was already 10 minutes late.

Enter a large, noisy atrium with lines, people, phones ringing and chaos.  No directional signs of where to go first, so I inquired at the first desk (which looked like it might be information).

Sure enough, I was directed to a very long, Disney-like line (you know the ones that wrap for seemingly miles filled with anxious people).

Enter Desk 2, in which I gave them my name and doctor whom I was to see.  “Is this your first visit?” to which I responded “yes”.   And the reply “Do you see the pillar with the clock on it?”  Looking in the general area I finally find the 12″ clock on the wall.  “Go over there and fill out the paperwork and someone will come and get you.”

I was handed the clipboard, which had five 2 – sided sheets, 1 pen and 1 pencil.  I was to fill the forms out in ink but the questions with the bubbles I was told needed to be filled out in pencil.

I filled out 3 lines when the “concierge” came to greet me.  I told her I was not finished but she directs me to the office anyway.  So, I gather my “stuff” and settle in to her office while trying to complete my forms.  She then begins to ask for insurance card and drivers’ license as I continue to work.  While still figuring out if I should be using the pen or pencil, she hands me 2 -3 pages of release forms while asking me questions.

Finally, I’ve finished the paperwork!  She enters some information in the computer and asks again for my doctor’s name.  “The doctor is not in this building” she states matter-of-factly.  Quite puzzled, I asked why they would ask me to come to this address, when the doctor I’m to see is not even in here!  Well, that prompted the concierge to go check with the front desk and 30 minutes had passed before she came back with a confusing answer.

It was now 1/2 hour past my appointment time, so we had to reschedule.

Fluster and exhausted,  as I walked out I saw a sea of people whose average age seemed to be about 80.  Did they know what was in store for them?  How many, even with the mildest cognitive impairment would have found the system to be overwhelming and confusing?

When I finally saw my doctor the next day (go the elevator, make a right at the bank of desk, sit at the right side of the room, follow the Nurse assistant to the maze of small patient rooms and meet my Nurse Practitioner (not the one to whom I was assigned because she is in another building)… I mentioned to her that I was a Dementia and Aging Educator.

“We need dementia education so badly here!” she quickly replied. A simplified guided system with staff educated in signs to look for to identify those with MCI or mild/moderate dementia would be step #1.    Do they suggest to patients to bring someone with them that will have all of their current information, med list, etc?

They were in fact very interested in finding out more about the dementia training we offer.  I look forward to sharing Dementia Live™ with them and opening their eyes to what their patients experience as they traverse the healthcare maze.



The Urgent Need for Airlines to Become Dementia Friendly: A Case in Point

Interior of airplane with passengers on seats waiting to taik off.

As we all know society is aging… fast.  Aging people travel- more than ever, as do aging people who are living with dementia.  Airlines listen up – this trend is not going to slow down.  The question is, how are you going to better serve your aging customers and improve the flying experience for all of your passengers?

Here’s a summary of my recent experience that supports our call to action:

On a recent trip from Florida, the plane was delayed due to fifteen people in wheelchairs who had to pre-board.  As I was one of the last to board, I chose a window seat next to two ladies.  One of the passengers was 97 and traveling with her daughter.  Being a dementia educator and passionate advocate for the elderly, I was especially keen to the conversation between them.  Throughout the flight, mom would ask her daughter to call people and the endless loop of questioning “how much longer” never ceased.  The daughter was patient but I could certainly sense frustration brewing.

Across the isle was a women with  Parkinson’s disease.  Somehow her husband managed to keep her occupied by playing cards despite the fact that she was constantly in motion.  Again, I observed a patient husband as long as status quo remained intact.

I was not able to observe the other 13 people who had pre boarded, but I’m assuming the scenario played out similarly.

When we landed, the lady with Parkinson’s attempted to reach up and get her bags.  Not one person assisted, so her husband switched places with her so he could reach them.  In doing so, she fell on the floor of the empty row across from her.  Only then did the flight attendants come to assist as the front of the plane yelled “She fell!”I felt a tinge of embarrassment for that couple.

The 97 year old lady woman was attempting to get up and several passengers squeezed around her almost knocking her down.  I finally interjected asking the other passengers to PLEASE giver her a chance to get out.  Again, a flight attendant finally came to assist.  The daughter very gently stated that her mother needed a wheelchair to which the flight crew member responded, “Well I’m 55 and I don’t need one”.  I’m still not quite sure what the meaning of that statement was supposed to be, but it was neither respectful or kind.

Dementia avoidance, lack of knowledge and communication skills  from airline employees and the flying public is creating havoc on the ground and in the air, and diminishing those living with dementia (and their families) as second class passengers.

Airlines, like other customer oriented businesses need to invest in training employees to better understanding aging, dementia and how to properly communicate with their aging consumers.  In doing so, they will gain a unique competitive advantage.  Even more importantly, they will be doing the right thing – showing kindness, compassion and respect for our elders.

What is your training plan for this year?


Senior Care – Who Will Care for Us When It’s Our Turn

senior careSenior Care

Thank you to Pioneer Network for allowing us to share these thoughts..

Houston, We Have a Problem
Ruta Kadonoff
Executive Director, Pioneer Network

Is it just me, or are there red flags everywhere lately, calling on us to take notice of the impending collision between our demographics and our workforce trends? Evidence is mounting and the chorus of voices is growing, begging us to recognize that we are on the brink of true crisis. I see many parallels between this issue and the climate change discussion. Whatever your personal convictions about possible causes and potential solutions to either, the data seem to be increasingly clear and screaming ever-louder, ‘Houston, we have a problem.’

I’d like to share a few quotes that have been rattling around in my head over recent days and weeks …

“We’re never going to attract a workforce unless they are going to get paid a livable wage, or at least a somewhat livable wage, and benefits.”
– Betsy Sawyer-Manter, Executive Director, SeniorsPlus, quoted in Sun Journal (Lewiston, ME)

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Memories or Oh, I Remember That!

memoriesMost of us don’t give much thought to items we use in our everyday lives. But the memories of these seemingly benign objects reconnect us with moments of meaning in our lives.

One woman found a moment of joy in… a sponge roller? Who thinks of a sponge roller anymore – or even knows what one is? But for this woman, it evoked sweet memories of her grandmother “putting up” her hair on a Saturday night to get ready for church the next day.  With tears in her eyes she told about swapping stories and memories about laughing and eating yummy snacks as her grandmother wound her hair around rows of pink rollers that she would later sleep in.  She relived those sweet times and reconnected to her grandmother- sparked by a sponge roller!

Everyday items have the power to ignite our senses and memories about people, places, experiences, and emotions of all kinds. Our days are filled with the “stuff of life”. A phrase usually meant philosophically is quite literal too.

I have an old, scratched up metal recipe box that lives among my cookbooks. It was THE recipe box in my mom’s kitchen.  It’s filled with recipes cut from newspapers- lots of things made from Jello and marshmallows. But it’s the hand-written recipe card for peanut butter cookies that gets to me. You see I made dozens and dozens of those cookies. The card is stained with butter and there are little bits of fossilized cookie dough stuck to it. Hold it, and I’m right back with the memories of making a mess in the kitchen baking with my friend Shelly. I even still use the same old aluminum measuring spoons. Someone else might wonder why I don’t get rid of those old things. But there’s history in those spoons- and it’s MY history.

What “stuff” causes you to say, “Oh wow, I remember that!” How might caregivers use this same reaction to help people living with dementia reconnect with meaningful moments.