I just returned from the County of San Diego Aging Summit 2016 at the Town and Country Resort. At the general session I learned about creating dementia friendly communities (www.dfamerica.org) and I am so excited about this idea that I want to share it with all of you. I am going to call my city council woman and county supervisor to get them on-board with making Encinitas a dementia- friendly city. But more about that later.
While the idea of creating a dementia friendly city got my civic juices flowing, the general session had some fun and nostalgia to offer as well. The highlight was a sing-a-long in a room of 2000 seniors with the very healthy and active, 90 year old Dick Van Dyke leading us in a snappy rendition of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”. His overall message was keep moving….dancing….traveling….singing…entertaining….loving (he has a 46 yr old wife!) and he also shared that he eats a bowl of Häagen-Dazs ice cream every night. So I guess attitude is everything.
The more serious information came from Alzheimer’s San Diego and their speakers. First, County Supervisor Dianne Jacob explained the tremendous impact The Alzheimer’s Project has had on the community.
Under the umbrella of The Alzheimer’s Project, our region’s top political leadership, research institutions, public universities, health care systems, caregiver groups and others are working as a team to help families and to do nothing less than find a cure.
I was excited to hear that through The Clinical Roundtable, led by Dr. Michael Lobatz, Vice President of Medical Affairs and Medical Director of the Rehabilitation Center at Scripps Memorial Hospital, Encinitas (where I also work), they are working to develop standards of care and diagnosis. In the past, 50% of patients were not told their Alzheimer’s diagnosis because the criterion was unclear.
Last but not least, she told us of the evolution of the Care Roundtable into an unprecedented drug discovery effort, Collaboration4Cure (C4C) led by local researchers and Alzheimer’s San Diego. Last year, C4C raised nearly half a million dollars to fund local drug discovery projects in San Diego. You can support C4C and help advance critical research at: alzsd.org/collaboration4cure
We also heard about the San Diego County Sheriff’s Take Me Home Program. This is so very important for families who wish to keep their loved ones safe. 6 out of 10 people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will wander and often the results are deadly. The San Diego County Sherriff is charged with finding lost community members. Lt. Mike Knobbe, Emergency Services, shared with us the importance of the Take Me Home Program in helping officers find lost wanderers faster and more easily. It is available to all San Diegans, simply Google Take me Home San Diego or go to www.sdsheriff.net/tmh and you can register your loved one online.
The Take Me Home Program can provide Law Enforcement with emergency contact information, detailed physical descriptions, and photograph of the individual, known routines, favorite attractions, or special needs of the individual. With a photo in the data base, the Sheriff’s Department can use facial recognition, to identify a lost one who cannot speak or tell officers where he lives. This program was created by a father for his autistic son who could not speak and is available for all ages. No family with a loved one who may wander should miss this opportunity to protect them. Lt. Knobbe stated that family members always say “I never take my eyes off of him” but then when they do so for just a minute to go to the bathroom or kitchen, it is a minute too long.
Lisa Delano-Wood, PhD, from the MARC, Memory, Aging and Resilience Clinic at UCSD gave us a talk on lifestyle changes that may have a lifelong impact on preventing memory loss. While there are no guaranteed prevention strategies, there are the basic ones that promote both good health and longevity. She started out introducing us to Madame Jeanne Calment, who lived to 122+yrs and smoked 2 cigarettes a day until she was 117. When asked her secret to longevity, she shared olive oil, red wine and chocolate. So again attitude + chocolate is everything!
After inspiring us with Madame Calment’s story, she shared the 6 pillars of promise: 1- Exercise ( see my blog I hope you dance) 2- Mediterranean Diet ( see my blog Hiking to the top of Mt. Ida) 3-Mental stimulation (see my blog Winning the Friendship Game) 4-Sleep, 5-Stress Management and 6- Social Engagement. Each and every one of these lifestyle changes are important. She also talked about some of the new research linking Alzheimer’s to infection, inflammation and insulin resistance.
I was inspired by all of the speakers and give my thanks to Mary Ball President and CEO of Alzheimer’s San Diego, the new local Alzheimer’s organization that is a phoenix rising after their group left the national Alzheimer’s Association late last year. ALZSD is truly a local organization and all of the funds they raise stay in our own community to support families and advance research. Mary Ball is also my daughter’s boss and mentor and I am so thankful that my daughter, Jamie Hagan, has been able to grow and flourish professionally in this wonderful non-profit organization.. Jamie is also a marketing consultant for us here at our family business Whole Life Home Care.
So now to get back to the idea of a dementia friendly community. Why would this be necessary? Isn’t the idea of accommodating individual needs important for each and every one of us? Don’t we already embrace diversity and accommodate disability? Whole Life Home Care is an agency that provides care for all ages from newborns to nonagenarians. My goal in creating an agency with such a wide reach, a dedicated holistic orientation and open arms for all ages and all stages, was to insure that everyone was able to be cared for in their own home and their own community.
As a midwife and a lactation consultant I have also been a part of the “Baby-Friendly” movement inspired by the WHO. Baby Friendly in particular created a structure that all communities could emulate to insure that babies were able to receive all the benefits that human milk could provide and to be protected from ill health caused by human milk substitutes and unscrupulous marketing of them. Dementia Friendly Communities aim is similarly to allow community member s with dementia to reap all the benefits the community has to offer and to be protected from the unscrupulous and the ignorant.
Dementia Friendly America has already done a tremendous amount of work creating resources and a tool kit that any community can follow. It covers all sectors of the community.
1. Banks and Financial Services
2. Neighbors and Community members
3. Legal and Advance Planning services
4. Independent Living
5. Government: Emergency Planning and Response
6. Government, Community and Mobility Planning
7. Communities of Faith
8. Memory Loss Supports and Services
9. Health Care through the Continuum
In each and every one of these areas there is an idealized goal and descriptions of how we can work together to make sure that our community services are understanding of the needs of a community member with dementia. For example, Independent Living, something we at Whole Life Home Care support every day, the goal is stated as such:
One of the ways mentioned under this heading on www.dfamerica.org : “to build awareness of home based programs and services to address independence and home and personal safety” And that was in full display today from the speakers and the exhibitors who represented many services from transportation to healthy home delivered meals to home care providers. As a holistic home care provider, Whole Life Home Care provides the “whole person” approach and we are ready to encourage our community to become dementia friendly in every way possible.
“In a dementia friendly community, people living with dementia have autonomy, high quality of life and are engaged in the community. The right community services and supports make this possible by taking a “whole person” approach or a person –centered approach that helps people with dementia and their care partners live meaningful lives and reach their full potential”