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Alzheimer’s, dementia demand fresh look at care

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Kim Warchol
September 18, 2010

Today, more than 5 million Americans face the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease, more than 10 million caregivers serve them and a new diagnosis of the disease is being made every 70 seconds. By 2050, it’s estimated that the number of those affected will triple, and a diagnosis will be made every 33 seconds.


Alzheimer’s is not merely memory loss. And it is definitely not just an effect of getting older. Alzheimer’s is a debilitating, emotionally tasking illness, and it deserves our immediate attention.


On Sept. 21 we honor World Alzheimer’s Day, a day specifically designed to raise global awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on our families, communities and nations, as well as the need for more education, support, research and enhanced care-giving models. World Alzheimer’s Day serves as an impetus for educating ourselves and informing others about how we can help mitigate the impact of Alzheimer’s disease before it is too late.


Currently, our health care system is ill-equipped to properly provide the type of consistent, quality, long-term care that people with Alzheimer’s require. Too many long-term caregivers are encouraged to do the bare minimum of only keeping residents clean, dry, quiet and free from injury. Too many of us simply assume this is the best care we can expect for our loved ones. As a result, those with the disease and their loved ones lose their quality of life.


To overcome this, a new standard must be set, one that does not aim for those with Alzheimer’s and related dementias to merely survive, but one that raises the bar and mandates individualized, best abilities care that prioritizes the functional potential and bright human spirit that remain within.


This new standard can be met through a “person-centered,” “abilities-focused” care-giving approach that addresses the unique needs of the resident through a finely orchestrated, goal-oriented, interdisciplinary program. With such a program, care providers work together toward a common goal of helping those with Alzheimer’s to achieve maximum functioning, physical safety, and emotional well-being, thereby enhancing daily quality of life and reducing care-giving burden.


On Sept. 21, we honor those affected by this disease, but this widespread illness deserves more than a day. We must urge our state and federal authorities to step up and improve the care for long-term residents. States should mandate training to properly equip caregivers and outline benchmarks of success in patient care, including helping residents attain the highest standards of physical, mental and psychosocial well-being. Such training and substantial goals are critical to developing staff with the heart, desire and patience to be skilled, dementia-capable caregivers.


Our family members and friends living with this disease deserve nothing less.


Kim Warchol is founder of Dementia Care Specialists, a CPI-specialized offering. DCS, headquartered in Wisconsin, provides state-of-the-art dementia products, training, and program consultation. For more information, visit crisisprevention.com or call 1-800.558.8976.

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