Dementia doesn’t know age, race, or any other of our differences. It doesn’t care if it’s your Mom, your best friend, or your spouse. And though most cases happen to those those 65 and older, there are about 5% of cases that can occur earlier.
Do you know someone with dementia? There are many types of this disease. What I didn’t realize is that dementia is an umbrella term for those suffering from a loss of mental ability. “Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is just one example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia accounting for 60-80% of dementia cases. Vascular dementia, which occurs after a stroke, is the second most common dementia type. But there are many other conditions that can cause symptoms of dementia, including some that are reversible, such as thyroid problems and vitamin deficiencies.” (Alzheimer’s Assocation http://www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp)
If dementia hasn’t personally touched your life, you are fortunate. The Alzheimer’s Association projects that by 2050, there will be an estimated 13.8 million people age 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease. I’ve known people who have dealt with memory loss and watched the years of their lives slowly fade. My heart goes out to them and their families.
What can we do to help them?
- Make sure they are safe.
- Don’t argue their reality.
- Offer any comfort you can to them.
- Play music and do things with them they enjoy.
- You may not be able to provide around-the-clock care for them that they will need. It’s okay.
- For those who can no longer read, offer them magazines, coffee table picture books, books on CD, movies, music, or anything they can touch, see, feel, or hear.
- Any gesture will make a difference, even if you don’t see it. Talk to them. Give them something from their past that might stir a memory. One big take away I have learned from working with memory care patrons is that you might not see the impact, but – from their nurses, caretakers, and families – I’ve heard about how memories were stirred or someone reacted.
I have spent the past year with a colleague (David Kelsey) giving presentations, hosting meetings, and gathering resources for librarians who wish to help patrons with dementia and their caretakers. We focus on the networking with organizations, sharing programming ideas, developing collections, and forming partnerships. We share inspiring stories and try to keep on the forefront of proving people with information and a place to feel like part of a supportive community.
I typically list resources at the end of my articles. Today, I invite you to look at a new blog I have begun that has a plethora of resources laid out on this topic. It is geared towards librarians networking about this important topic. But you will find the resources helpful for yourself or a loved one. You might stumble upon a program idea you can incorporate in your own home or when visiting someone in a care facility. I especially encourage you to check out the Alzheimer’s Association website. Not only do they have outstanding research and information, they have people who and workshops that can help in a practical and easily-understood manner.
I present you with:
~I’m here to help