We need an attitude shift. We treat people with dementia as if they were potted plants to be infrequently watered until they die.By Kathy Harmon
I’m terrified of getting Alzheimer’s. I didn’t used to be--actually, I never thought much about getting sick or old or even dying. I'm like most Baby Boomers: I prefer happy thoughts! Then I hit 55, gained weight, and began to lose my hearing and my car keys. My mother turned 80, we launched http://www.greatplacesinc.com, and the door to aging opened wide for me and welcomed me inside.
Over the past couple of years I've visited more than 300 senior housing facilities and dozens of adult day care centers. I've networked and taught with hundreds of care providers, financial advisors, senior advocates, assistive device manufacturers, social workers and all manner of folks who are in some way professionally engaged with seniors. My fear? It's gotten worse.
Here are the facts:
There are 78 million-plus Boomers. Although we're better educated and more affluent than our parents' generation, we were taught that, because the planet was overcrowded, we should have no more than two children. So we did just that. Unfortunately, Social Security--what I call the Great American Pyramid Scheme--needs to be fed from the bottom to support those of us at the top. I’m no economist, but I'm sure that if we gathered up the salaries of the two generations that follow us, we still couldn’t support the burden of Boomer retirement.I believe these problems can be easily and rapidly solved. The solutions can be easily put in place; they'll be cost-effective, but require grass-root support and implementation. Best of all, they'll be good for individuals and society. Let's see if you agree:
We need an attitude shift. We treat people with dementia as if they were potted plants to be infrequently watered until they die. Our medical system doesn't include nurturing, companionship, conversation or comforting touch in its definition of "care." We plant these sufferers but we don’t expect them to grow. Care needs to prioritize making patients better, whatever their condition. For an Alzheimer's or dementia sufferer, this means seeking out the person and engaging them as often and for as long as possible. This means more caregivers, more time but perhaps only a little more expense committed to their care. With a shift in attitude and funding it just might work.Original content Kathy Harmon, Great Places Inc.
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