by Joy Loverde
Nothing changes the game of life faster than the onset of dementia. Upon diagnosis, family caregivers regroup and redirect long-term care plans. Others may worry about passing on the Alzheimer’s gene to next of kin. Sadly, others start treating people differently and in many cases choose to no longer associate with them altogether.
Alzheimer’s has no age limit and early onset is not uncommon. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s doubles about every five years after age 65, and after age 85, the risk reaches nearly 50 percent (8). The constellation of experiences we call dementia will affect everyone on some level, and because of dementia’s prevalence and effect on the world – at home, in cities, in corporations, in the marketplace, and the healthcare setting -- we are wise to give this disease our immediate attention.
We must and we can change the conversation about Alzheimer’s. New paradigms and attitudes have begun to operationalize philosophies:
√ A person first who happens to be living with a disability;
√ helping people to help themselves;
√ a condition that is not the fault of the individual or caregiver;
√ a focus on abilities;
√ continued growth and learning;
√ supporting and influencing maximum independence through enabling environments;
√ attention to the person’s unique needs;
√ and valuing communication and connection.
Alzheimer’s is a disease just like diabetes, Parkinson’s and cancer. People need more education about the disease and not to be ashamed of it. Importantly, we can be a voice in changing the way our lawmakers view this disease in order to make it a priority to help find a cure.
A tsunami of dementia cases is coming to a city near you. Is your community dementia- friendly? Are your local retail shops dementia-friendly?