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Thursday, May 31, 2012


Susan and John McFadden discussed how we are all aging together and there are challenges as well as opportunities we are facing as a result.  At the turn of the 20th century, the average life expectancy for men and women was 47.  In the 21st century, the age average life expectancy increased to 80.  Nationally, by the year 2030, approximately 1 out of 5 people will be 65 and older.  At the age of 65, 1 in 7-8 persons already have Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia.  By age 72, about one third of us will have some form of measurable cognitive decline.  At age 85, up to one half of all people will have some form of dementia.  There is a critical shortage of geriatricians and geriatrics psychiatrists in this county.  There are also few potentially effective medications on the near horizon to slow the progress or prevent dementia.  Dementia is a progressive impairment in memory, cognitive and the ability to reason.  Alzheimer’s disease is a category within the term of Neurocognitive Disorder.  Changes in the brain happen before symptoms occur/show-up on an average of 2 years before the diagnosis of dementia.  What do you do after you have been diagnosed with dementia?  You may be prescribed with some pills to slow the progression but you may also find yourself excluded from your social networks.  When one is excluded there is physical and social pain.  People with chronic pain are more anxious about the commitment of social partners.  Higher levels of social support are associated with lower levels of chronic pain.  People with more physical pain tend to be more prone to hurt feelings about social exclusion. Three examples of how social engagement can have a measurable effect on the symptoms of dementia include therapeutic touch reduces restlessness and agitation, group exercise program slowed the decline in dementia and participation in a group cognitive stimulation improved cognitive test scores.  Memory Café’s are all about reducing social pain and improving the feeling of inclusion. They are a place where persons experiencing memory loss can share their experiences with one another.  The Nun Study of Aging and Alzheimer's Disease shows that nuns experience no form of dementia while alive.  Is it due to intellectual stimulation, diet, exercise, live for God and not themselves, their routine or their love and support from others?  In the UK, there is a joint initiative between members of various Rotary Clubs who have recognized the need for increased support in the community for families affected by dementia (REPoD – Rotary Easing the Problems of Dementia).  England has National Heathcare that includes paid respite professional care each week in the home and psychiatrist visits in the home.  There are Memory Café’s, Singing for the Brain, monthly tea dances and restaurant outings available with others with the diagnosis and those caring for them versus isolation and abandonment.  Social connections can slow the progression of the disease.  Each Memory Café has their own rituals such as the greeting, singing a song at the beginning and parting, snacks/tea, memory exercises, sticky darts, raffles that pay the cost of refreshments, etc.  Most people in England live within an easy reach of 2-3 Memory Café’s that meet every other week for about 2 hours.  Susan and John’s goal is to start 5 Memory Café’s in the Fox Valley.  They will be looking for volunteers and financial support. Singing is often still pleasurable and possible deep in dementia.  Many can still sing if they are accompanied by music.  In the Singing for the Brain programs, each member is greeted in song, refreshments are served and it is a social time.  Outings can also help to delay the progression of the disease.  The goal is to create a flourishing community in which all members, including those experiencing progressive memory loss, along with their care partners and friends, can enjoy rich, full and joyous lives.  More people in the U.S. turn 85 than are born each day.  We need to educate those who regularly interact with older people in how to practice patience and hospitality and offer inclusion hospitality to persons with memory loss in community organizations.  An educated community is one that no longer fears or stigmatizes dementia, whose institutions extend hospitality and inclusion to persons with dementia and has the capacity to provide a correct and early diagnosis that permit persons to make the nine affirmations.  1.  I was diagnosed early.  2.  I was diagnosed early so I can make good decisions and provide for future decision making.  3.  I can get treatment and support best for my dementia and my life.  4.  Those around me and looking after me are well supported.  5.  I am treated with dignity and respect.  6.  I know what I can do to help myself and who else can help me.  7.  I can enjoy life.  8.  I feel part of a community and I’m inspired to give something back.  9.  I am confident my end of life wishes will be respected.  I can expect a good death.  

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