Roughly 5.4 million people in the US are estimated to have Alzheimer’s, but that number is likely closer to 11 million when including those who aren't yet symptomatic according to The Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. They analyzed 10 years of data focused on understanding the biomarkers that arise before symptomatic Alzheimer's begin. They predict that the onset of Alzheimer’s suggests that more than twice as many people are in some stage of the disease than the official numbers indicate.
Since an Alzheimer’s prognosis usually means an erratic and lengthy decline of abilities, Dr. Kathleen A. Welsh-Bohmer, the director of Kathleen Bryan Alzheimer's Center at Duke University advocates for a innovative and cohesive approach for care partners. While we pray and hope for clinicians and researchers to find a cure, taking steps to delay or diminish the disease are critically important. Thinking early in the disease process about the whole person and not just her symptoms describes an innovative approach to care.
What does innovative care look for you or your loved one? Start by inventorying likes and dislikes, pleasures and routines. Gather as much information as possible, what are favorite clothes, what smells and tastes bring joy, what books or movies or stories do you like? Lists help create distinct, individual care centered on the person's past and current interests.
Gather it In
Secondly, assemble materials related to your lists. Gather music well loved and make it very accessible no matter who is providing care. Curate important photos in an album, or on a bulletin board. Observe or honor daily routines that may include prayers, simple exercises, or enjoying favorite drinks or treats. Incorporate these activities into a care plan that adapts and modifies over time.
Try something new
Surprising to some is the suggestion that now may be the time to investigate doing
something new. This may seem counter-intuitive, after all, isn't dementia about brain cell loss? Yes, but parts of the brain remain unaffected till late in an illness and over and over, people discover a creative muscle they never before engaged. An elder discovers how much he likes color, or how good it feels to play with a paintbrush. Some renew a lost passion, and some find a new pleasure. This is a gift at any stage of life, but it can be profoundly meaningful when navigating the roller coaster of illness. Innovative care embraces discovery at every turn.