People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease are a growing group within the four million Alzheimer’s sufferers in the United States and more focus should be placed on their unique needs, according to experts at the World Alzheimer Congress 2000.
Health care professionals expressed the need for communities to create more programs and provide more resources for such individuals. People in the early stages are benefiting from this increased attention because of earlier, more accurate diagnosis and growing public awareness of Alzheimer’s in general.
“Learning that you are in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease is devastating enough, but then finding out that there are no programs and services for you in your community can be a real blow,” said Lisa Gwyther, MSW, Duke University Alzheimer’s Family Support Program. “Communities have done a really good job providing services to Alzheimer family caregivers, including support groups and online resources.” She recommends that the same focus be placed on recently diagnosed people.
“Most people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease still want to, and in many ways, are able to do very normal, everyday things like attend community events, play sports or help others. It’s time communities and health care professionals listened to these individuals and created more inclusive, as well as more specialized, meaningful activities and opportunities for them.”
One model that Gwyther recommends is the “Morning Out Club” hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association of San Diego. Once a week, a group of individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease gather for four hours and do a supervised activity, from creating memory boxes for hospice families to playing sports to visiting a cultural institution.
“Meaningful activities that offer stimulation, socialization, purpose and dignity are vital for all human beings, but particularly this population, since they are experiencing so many complex emotions, including depression, isolation and fear,” said Kara Albisu, director of quality care initiatives for the Alzheimer’s Association (U.S.A.). “By acknowledging that these individuals still have something valuable to contribute, we are putting the focus back where it needs to be–on the individuals with this devastating disease.”
Approximately 400 health care professionals from around the globe participated in a special daylong session at World Alzheimer Congress 2000, recently held in Washington, DC., on early-stage programming. Three individuals in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease shared their compelling personal stories. Alzheimer care experts from Wales, United States, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia showcased some successful early-stage programs from their countries.
Source: World Alzheimer Congress 2000