[UPDATE: Attending this conference in 2012 inspired us to create our Dementia Friendly Communities Initiative. It launched 2 years later, born of our desire to combat the stigma of dementia and spearhead a local public education campaign. Learn more about this groundbreaking initiative that shaped the conversation about dementia across Massachusetts and New Hampshire.]
Education, Prevention and Treatment: A New Focus on People Living Now with Alzheimer’s Disease
At the opening ceremony of the recent Alzheimer’s Disease International conference, which my partner Tadd Clelland and myself attended, global health experts announced that the disease is one of the largest global health challenges. They called for it to become a top world health priority.
The action plan proposed by Alzheimer’s Disease International calls on leaders of the world’s nations to commit to the following:
- Invest in research and coordinate research efforts with other countries.
- Educate the public and health practitioners to ensure they recognize the signs of Alzheimer’s.
- Provide information, support and access to treatment to ensure people can live well with Alzheimer’s.
- Record diagnosis rates in their own countries to create an accurate picture of Alzheimer’s.
- Conduct coordinated studies on the economic and social impact of Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
- Develop and share health strategies to help people reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
At Senior Living Residences we are especially interested in the shifting focus to provide support and access to “treatment” to ensure people can live well with Alzheimer’s right now. This was the first time we have heard experts in the field of Alzheimer’s identify treatment as a major priority – just as important as focusing on research for an eventual cure.
This completely validated what my company, Senior Living Residences, has been focused on for the last five years. In 2010 we launched our Compass Memory Support Program after three years in development. We strive to treat the symptoms of dementia through a comprehensive and holistic program encompassing nutrition, exercise, meaningful programming, and much more. It’s nice to know the experts back our approach.
People are coping with this disease NOW. They can’t wait for a cure. But they can and should be supported to have a higher quality of life in spite of their disease.
The other compelling worldwide mandate that is in our wheelhouse is to educate the public and health practitioners to ensure they recognize the signs of Alzheimer’s. We do this now with the families of our own residents, including teaching them how to communicate more effectively with their loved ones. In fact, a study previewed at the conference last year highlighted the importance of communication. People with Alzheimer’s who were interviewed by researchers said that their most important quality of life indicator was having a relationship. They defined this as having someone to talk with. Read my blog about this study: In their Own Words: People with Dementia Tell us What’s Important to Them.
This worldwide call to action is inspiring, and we have made a commitment to do our part to educate people about this disease more widely in the towns and cities where our Senior Living Residences communities are located.