Episode 7 - Living Well With Dementia

Episode 7: Living Well with Dementia

Dementia - changes in memory and thinking that are beyond what is normal for age. It is progressive (worsens over time).

Treatment can slow progression of dementia, but there is no cure. It is felt that regular exercise, following a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet, and staying socially and cognitively engaged can help prevent dementia. Controlling chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes can also help with prevention.

Today we are joined by Deb Kaul, the owner of geriatric consulting service “Dignity Care” and one of the Co-founders of “Memory Café of the Red River Valley.” Deb has a bachelors degree in Business Administration from UND and a BSN from the University of Mary. She also has a Master’s certificate in Geriatric Care Management from the University of Florida. Deb considers the lessons she learned while caring for her parents - both of whom lived with dementia, the most valuable education she has ever received.

Deb provides recommendations for living with and caring for people living with dementia:

Keeping the diagnosis of dementia a secret from the person with dementia robs the individual of their autonomy. It also perpetuates the stigma related to dementia.

It is possible to live well with dementia.

Our responses to the diagnosis impact how a person responds to the disease. If they are diminished and de-humanized, they lose hope. 

How to engage with a person living with memory loss: Greet them with a compliment or information that reminds them about their life.  Tell them their story (“That is a beautiful/handsome sweater.” or “You did such a great job raising your children.”) Avoid quizzing them (“Did ___ come to visit you this morning?”)

For caregivers: Communicate about what’s occurring. Allow the person with memory loss to set goals for themselves. Avoid arguments with people living with dementia. They lose the ability to rationalize and reason, and it’s our job as caregivers to think creatively to solve problems.  Caregivers can apologize, redirect, distract to work around conflicts or disagreements “Live their truth.”  People with dementia are living in the present moment, so living with them in their truth/reality can help them and reduce conflicts. Engage trustworthy friends to build a village of support around them. People living with dementia should continue to have opportunities to make friends and maintain some independence. Communicate goals with physicians and other medical providers. Continue to pursue joy in life (both caregiver and person living with dementia).

Available resources:

“What the Hell Happened to my Brain?” by Kate Swaffer.   The author’s diagnosis resulted in “prescribed disengagement” by her physician. She was told to “get her affairs in order” when diagnosed at age 49.  She challenged these ideas and has achieved incredible things while living with dementia.

The Dementia Alliance International (DAI) - https://www.dementiaallianceinternational.org/

Alzheimer’s Association - https://www.alz.org/

Memory Cafe - free socialization and support for people with mild to moderate memory loss and their caregivers

Upcoming conference: Redefining Memory Loss, Living Well Throughout This Journey. June 6, 2019 at Hilton Garden Inn, Fargo ND

Update on measles vaccination (MMR)

If you received the vaccine prior to 1967, it was less effective. It is recommended that this group gets revaccinated.

If you were born in the 1950s or early 1960s, you may not have been vaccinated. 

Individuals born before 1957 are presumed to have immunity (likely had measles infection and so are immune to further infections) and do not need the vaccine (there are exceptions to this).

It’s safe to revaccinate if you’re uncertain of your vaccine history. 

Healthcare workers who received the vaccine before 1967 or didn’t receive it should be vaccinated. 

Health pearl: do something out of your comfort zone. “Go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is!”

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