Every ten years, a group of experts on aging gathers in Washington for the White House Conference on Aging. After many meetings around the country, they present concerns, ideas, and statements of real issues that need attention.
One of the segments I listened to on Monday, July 13th, was on making a “Dementia Friendly America.” I am not sure they had the time to explain what that might look like, but after over 30 years working with families and medical institutions, we still have lots of work to do. Just ask anyone who had a family member in a hospital that has a dementia. The staff does not have the training they need to safely keep these patients calm and able to receive the treatment they need. This is an area very open for some creative ideas.
A dementia-friendly community would have respite for families, so they could take two days off or just four hours whenever they needed it. Families now give 78% of all the care. For families to continue to do this while taking care of their own health, they need real breaks. Let’s find ways to do this that are cost effective and affordable.
I would also love to see all persons with dementia have GPS bracelets, so we can find them when they wander. Let’s make that a Medicare reimbursable expense.
I would love to see all Police and Fire departments have pictures of the person with dementia that have a tendency to wander. They could bring them back home if they could identify them.
Maybe we need parks for persons with dementia. Place for them to watch the ducks or birds; places that have interactive opportunities to water or pick flowers; and most importantly places to just be in nature. Develop areas that are safe staffed by caretakers who understand how to talk to someone who is confused without causing anxiety or confusing the person more.
Let’s all continue to think and visualize communities that support family caregivers and values as well as the contribution these caregivers are making at a great sacrifice.