NEWS

A dementia friendly Cranston

Posted 3/8/22

By EMMA BARTLETT

Prior to the pandemic, memory loss was the major crisis plaguing the country. To address this issue and implement preventative practices, the Cranston Department of Senior …

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NEWS

A dementia friendly Cranston

Posted

By EMMA BARTLETT

Prior to the pandemic, memory loss was the major crisis plaguing the country. To address this issue and implement preventative practices, the Cranston Department of Senior Services is educating people on how to work with individuals experiencing Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.

In 2018, the department received $20,000 from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation to increase awareness and understanding of memory loss and aging, normal cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias; these were the stepping stones to making Cranston’s community dementia friendly.

Dementia is a general term used to describe an individual experiencing a decline in memory or other areas of cognition beyond what is expected in the normal aging process or someone who lost their ability to function independently due to cognitive impairments. Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) represents the beginning stages of memory loss and a person transitions from being MCI to dementia when they are unable to be functionally independent.

According to the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement (AIM), more than six million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. It is also one of the most expensive diseases in the nation, with costs totaling $355 billion in 2021.

AIM research shows that “the number of people living with Alzheimer’s is projected to more than double to 12.8 million in 2050, and the costs are expected to rise to more than $1.1 trillion.”
Alheizmer’s disease is one of the over 100 types of Dementia individuals may experience.

Maria Rondeau, Special Projects Coordinator at the Cranston Department of Senior Services, said there’s a guarantee that individuals will have a connection to someone with some form of dementia. If you’re not the one experiencing memory loss, then you might be the one taking on the role as a caregiver.

Making a community dementia friendly

The goal of a dementia friendly community is to have a place where people with dementia are understood, respected and supported. Individuals are aware of and understand dementia so those living with dementia are able to continue living the way they would like and in the community of their choice.

“People may not remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel,” said Jennifer Kevorkian, Director of Social Services.

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, individuals experiencing dementia feel that “society fails to understand the condition they live with, its impact or how to interact with them.” This can lead to individuals withdrawing themselves from their community as their condition continues to progress.

Additionally, those with memory loss may become frustrated from forgetting which can impact their mood and cause them to be rude. Educating professionals in other fields on understanding and being aware of memory loss, can help with their interactions with older populations so the customer can walk away with a smile on their face.

In order to make Cranston a more dementia friendly community, the department has provided an assortment of virtual and in-person workshops along with videos for caregivers and individuals dealing with memory loss. They even had a speaker with Alzheimer’s disease who still drives, attends a book club, and goes to places she’s routinely been to.

“It gives hope to people going through the process,” Kevorkian said. “It’s not the end by any means.”

Managing the MCI stage is empowering individuals to take control of their life and make lifestyle modifications that will allow them to make the most out of their time.

Workshop responses

The department has presented in English and Spanish to city department personnel, library staff, OHA Senior Companions, Navigant Credit Union and Fidelity Bank.

The department’s model has been so effective that it is something that could be followed nationwide. Executive Director David Quiroa and his team recently presented to the Meals on Wheels of RI team virtually in December 2021 where more than 10 members of their full-time office team participated.

“The more awareness those working with the older adult community have surrounding memory loss, the better we all will be able to work together to best address their needs,” wrote Rebecca Keister, Director of Development and Public Relations, in an email interview.

According to Keister, a vast majority of their clients are senior citizens. Ninety-one percent are at least 65 years old, 51 percent are at least 80 years old and 20 percent are at least 90 years old.

“Meals on Wheels of RI operates with a more-than-meal service model. With each home-delivered meal we deliver, we also are giving our clients a vital safety check and social visit. These checks and visits allow us to maintain knowledge of our clients’ overall well-being and our drivers look for signs of irregular behavior. The more knowledge our team has surrounding health issues related to older adults, the better we are able to serve them,” Keister wrote.

Kevorkian said at their last workshop for community members there were three or four people who stayed an extra hour talking and connected afterward.

Doreen Montaquila, Adult Day Services social worker, said that caregivers suffer in silence, which is why the department has support groups at the center. They also have an Adult Day Services program which can provide relief for caregivers.

“The program provides as much structure without taking away independence,” Montaquila said.

Continuing to take strides

To continue making people aware and understanding of dementia and how it affects the community, the Cranston Department of Senior Services will hold a memory care workshop, with Geoffrey Tremont, the Director of Neuropsychology for Rhode Island Hospital and Miriam Hospital, on April 6. The workshop will address age-related memory changes, healthy brain aging, risk factors related to brain health and lifestyle strategies reducing risk of memory decline.

The “Behavioral Strategies to Reduce Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia” will take place at the Cranston Enrichment Center at 1070 Cranston Street in Cranston on April 6 and run from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The program is free and open to the public. Space is limited so register by emailing dquiroa@cranstonri.org <mailto:dquiroa@cranstonri.org> or calling 401-780-6000. Respite will also be available at no charge in the on-site adult day services. Pre-registration is required.

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