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Creating Dementia Friendly Communities

Monday , August 10 , 2020

Creating Dementia Friendly Communities

People with dementia often feel that society fails to understand the condition that they live with, how it impacts them, or how to understand them. As their disease progresses, they often withdraw from society rather than feel ostracized.

It is our job to prompt people to think about how businesses and communities can become more aware of and understanding about these people and the condition they live with. First responders, bank personnel, store clerks, restaurant staff – all of us, really – can contribute to a more helpful and humane environment for those who suffer from dementia and their caregivers.

The solution may lie in creating dementia-friendly communities.

What is a Dementia-Friendly Community?

Every single person in a dementia-friendly community, regardless of their role, is informed and respectful of individuals with the disease and the families and caregivers that provide them support.

Dementia-friendly communities are vital in helping people with dementia live well and maintain a connection to others. They are equipped to support the people living with dementia and their caregivers, and they allow those affected to remain in the community at large and to engage and thrive in day-to-day living.

According to Alzheimer’s Disease International, there are four essential elements needed to support a dementia-friendly community: People, communities, organizations, and partnerships.

This is what they have to say:

People

Dementia friendly communities should be shaped around information about the social and economic impacts of dementia, and the needs and opinions of people living with dementia, together with input from their caregivers. By ensuring that initiatives are inclusive of people living with dementia at all stages of development, we can succeed in giving them the sense of respect, dignity, and purpose they seek.

Communities

There is a need to tackle the stigma and social isolation associated with dementia through strategies to engage and include people with dementia in community activities. The availability of accessible community activities that are appropriate to the needs of people living with dementia, along with suitable transport options, are important for a community to become dementia friendly. The engagement of people living with dementia in existing community activities rather than only specialized activities is also important. Providing people with dementia the opportunity to remain in their homes and within their communities should be a guiding principle.

These are the opportunities we all have a right to expect: Paid or unpaid activities, social opportunities though sporting activities such as golf, meeting with friends, participation in community activities such as choirs and walking clubs, access to retail, banking and other services.

A physical environment that supports the needs of people living with dementia is also critical. It needs to be accessible and easy to navigate. Pathways, signage, and lighting all need special consideration.

Organizations

For people living with dementia to remain engaged within their communities, businesses and organizations need to demonstrate awareness, respect, and responsiveness. Encouraging organizations to establish dementia-friendly approaches and implement strategies that help people with dementia will contribute to a dementia friendly society.

A timely diagnosis of dementia and early treatment is a critical component of a dementia-friendly community. This allows for delivering dementia-friendly services that respond to the unique needs of people with dementia at the right place and the right time.

Partnerships

The establishment of dementia-friendly communities as a social action initiative needs cross-sectoral support and collective action to effect change. It is no one organization’s sole responsibility to effect change of this scale, therefore collective commitment to this cause and working in collaboration and partnership is critical. The strengths and focus of organizations within a community need to be identified and built into the plan for establishing a dementia friendly society.

Posted in: Dementia

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Gardening Therapy for Seniors with Dementia

Tuesday , June 9 , 2020

Gardening Therapy for Seniors with Dementia

Summer weather is here, and many of us are trying to find ways to spend more time outdoors. Gardening is a great way to spend time in nature, and a great way to destress and relax. It’s also an amazing activity for older adults suffering from dementia.

For those living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, participating in familiar activities, like gardening, can provide a sense of comfort. Other benefits include improved sleep at night, less agitation, better nutritional habits, and prevention of behavioral challenges.

Here’s everything you need to know about starting a garden for someone living with dementia:

Why Gardening?

There are plenty of activities – both indoors and out – that can be appropriate for those living with dementia. So, what makes gardening so special?

Unlike cooking, or aerobics, or even puzzles, participating in gardening is possible at every stage of progression. Whether your loved one is in the earliest phases of dementia, or nearing the end, gardening can be suited to meet their needs.

  • In the earliest stages, many dementia patients retain much of their functional capability and require minimal assistance with everyday tasks. If gardening is in their wheelhouse, it’s likely that they can continue with their routine – from planting, to weeding, to picking.
  • Later, as your loved one enters the middle stage of dementia, they may need some assistance with daily tasks – and depression, anxiety, and irritability may enter the game. Gardening can be a great part of their care plan at this point. Not only does it help ease those uneasy feelings, but it can improve social interactions and provide sensory stimulation.
  • Near the end, when dementia patients enter the final stage of dementia, they experience a great deterioration in their ability to care for themselves. Often, they spend much of the day sleeping. During waking hours, agitation and restlessness are constant companions. Still, they may be enjoy simply sitting in the garden (or even walking the paths, if they are able).

Designing a Garden for Dementia Patients

Whether your loved one would like to grow vegetables, or flowers, or just wants somewhere peaceful to sit, special considerations need to be taken. According to one study, in order for gardening therapy to be successful, it must be adapted to the population living with dementia.

What does that mean?

  • Gardens should include familiar elements that remind your loved one of previous stages of their life
  • Ensure that the garden is accessible – if your older adult is in a wheelchair, for instance, they will need wider pathways
  • Gardens should have an enclosed perimeter to discourage accidental wandering
  • All spaces should include safety features, such as non-slip pathways, to reduce fall risk
  • Use trees or a table with an umbrella to provide shade
  • Avoid growing toxic plants (especially those which may be mistaken for food!)
  • DO grow “snackable” plants, such as berries, snap peas, and cherry tomatoes

Final Thoughts

No matter what stage of dementia your older loved one is in, spending time in the garden can help improve their quality of life. By implementing the tips above, you can help them stay mentally engaged and delay the progression of their disease.

Posted in: Dementia

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Is it Alzheimer’s or Age-Related Memory Loss?

Monday , January 27 , 2020

Is it Alzheimer’s or Age-Related Memory Loss?

Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten what you went there to get? Stopped mid-sentence because you forgot what you were saying?

I’ve personally walked around my house looking for my cell phone while I was already holding it in my hand (on more than one occasion).

On occasions like that, I sometimes worry that my mind is slipping. You probably do, too. But most of the time, these incidents are simply a sign of normal age-related memory loss, lack of sleep, or even stress.

When should you worry? Experts say that if you still can’t remember what you were looking for later in the day, or if you seem to forget entire chunks of time, it’s time to see a doctor.

Here are five differences between normal aging and Alzheimer’s that you should be aware of:

  1. Retrieving Memories

In normal age-related memory loss, you may have trouble retrieving memories from long-term storage. This can lead to problems such as forgetting names or not recalling where you met someone. These issues can usually be overcome with cuing and context.

With Alzheimer’s Disease, there is a problem with retrieving recent memories that simply can’t be overcome. For example, you may have a guest in the morning and then by afternoon you can’t remember who stopped by – even if someone gives you a prompt such as, “It was a friend from grade school.”

  1. Chronological Memory

If you have dementia, you may have trouble recalling items or events in the order in which they occurred – whether events from your memories or the order of different parts of a sentence. For example, you may know that you went on vacations to Europe and to Hawaii, but you can’t remember which one came first (even though the trips were ten years apart).

Researchers have found that most people can recall recent memories in order (especially with audio prompts) but recall significantly decreases in those suffering from dementia.

  1. Planning and Problem-Solving

Normal aging typically means that it takes more time to think things through, reactions are slower, and multitasking becomes difficult. On occasion, you may forget to pay a bill or leave a pot on the stove a bit too long.

With dementia, things are a lot more difficult. You may become very confused when planning things out – even something as simple as what to have for breakfast. Concentration is difficult, if not impossible, to maintain and poor judgement is a frequent concern.

  1. Language

As you age, you may have a bit of trouble finding the right word sometimes. You might find yourself needing to concentrate more to keep up with a conversation or becoming distracted if too many people are speaking at once.

For those with dementia, however, finding the right word is a frequent problem and they often refer to objects as “that thing” or people as “that woman/man.” They regularly lose their train of thought and can’t keep up with conversation, and may even have trouble initiating communication with others.

  1. Orientation

Orientation problems can happen to any person at any age. Most of us have forgotten what day of the week it is or even what year, and we’ve all walked into a room and forgotten why we’re there.

These problems naturally increase as we age, but those with dementia may completely lose their ability to track the passage of time. In addition, dementia patients frequently have no sense of location and can get lost in places that were once very familiar (even their own back yard).

When to See a Doctor

When memory problems start to look like this, it’s time to seek medical help:

 

  • When memory problems don’t improve with cuing and context
  • Day-to-day functioning begins to decline with memory
  • You have difficulty with familiar tasks, such as operating the microwave
  • Bills are often missed or late
  • Others tell you that you’re forgetting things, but you are personally unaware that a memory problem exists

Final Thoughts

Many seniors panic at the first sign of memory problems, terrified that they signify dementia or Alzheimer’s. It’s important to understand that minor memory problems are often just a normal sign of aging. If you’re unsure of the severity of changes you’re experiencing, ask a loved one what they observe, or set up an appointment with your physician.

Posted in: Dementia

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