Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Alzheimer’s People Power by Paula Spencer Scott

Sunday’s Parade magazine featured an encouraging article by Paula Spencer Scott: “People Power.” So many of us have encountered frustrations caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, and some caregivers have taken actions that will benefit the rest of us and future generations of caregivers.

I remember feeling shock and dismay at how my father was treated on the rare occasions when the Alzheimer’s wing staff at the nursing home sent him to the hospital. Hospital staff seemed completely ignorant about the normal disorientation and anxiety of a person with Alzheimer’s in an abnormal environment. They strapped him to a hospital bed, which catapulted his anxiety into panic and set him up for several months of trauma-induced depression. Gary Joseph LeBlanc lobbied his local hospital administrators for six years to adopt a wristband policy. Now a sticker of a purple angel gets put on the wristband of a patient with dementia. The purple angel is an international symbol of Alzheimer’s. Now if we could just increase hospital staff training in the gentle arts of Alzheimer’s care.

Which leads me to another of Paula Spencer Scott’s examples of grassroots efforts along these lines. Kathy Broggy brought together a team of influencers who have made her city “dementia-friendly” by training government and hospital employees how to interact kindly with memory-challenged folks in ways that preserve their dignity and provide the help they need.

“People Power” cites other examples, such as Dan Cohen’s Music & Memory project, which I love the idea of. We instinctively did something like Cohen’s customized music playlist when we gave our father the pleasure of listening to his favorite tunes, which he had ~ handily for us ~ recorded on cassette tapes in pre-dementia years. Dad used to smile dreamily and dance in his wheelchair when he heard his music. Cohen’s donated iPods have made it into more than a thousand memory care facilities.

Paula Spencer Scott includes empathic caregiver support ideas springing up from the creative minds of caregivers who have stepped up into activist roles. “People Power” also has a list of caregiver resources, stories of celebrity involvement, and websites for the grassroots ideas mentioned. To find out where these efforts are happening, to read more than I could say here, and to be encouraged, please read Paula Spencer Scott’s full “People Power” article here.

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer’s: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers.