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Love and comfort needed for those with dementia

Love and comfort needed for those with dementia

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Culture determines much of our values, beliefs, and ways we care for one another. We live in a culture that tells us getting old is bad, and looking old is worse. But, getting and looking old can’t even begin to touch the fear of losing our memories and our identity with the dreaded process of dementia. Estimates of who is going to get dementia run about 50 percent of us who make it past age 85.

Progress is being made with research into Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias. The momentum builds each year. Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive brain disorder that damages and eventually destroys brain cells, leading to memory loss and changes in thinking, behavior and other brain functions. Neuroscience research efforts are underway to develop effective treatments and ways to prevent the disease. Researchers are also working to develop better ways to care for affected people and better ways to support their families, friends and caregivers.

Currently, there are five Food and Drug Administration-approved Alzheimer’s drugs that treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s -- temporarily helping memory and thinking problems in about half of the people who take them. But these medications do not treat the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s.

The California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR), a San Francisco based long term care advocacy organization, is focusing its efforts on old-fashioned love and comfort, as the most effective treatment for people who have dementia and are exhibiting difficult behaviors.

All people, especially those with dementia, do best when they feel safe, empowered, and comfortable. It's simple. Yet, love and comfort are elusive in our long term care system that is marked by scarce resources and fatigued care providers. In this context, using a pill to sedate and subdue can be seen like a decent shortcut to care.

CANHR is also co- hosting an amazing seminar. “Comfort Care as the New Medicine,” at the Napa Valley College Theater on Friday, March 13 at 8:30 a.m., which is also sponsored by Share the Care, Napa Valley Hospice & Adult Day Services and the Napa Ombudsman. The seminar will focus on a comfort-centered approach to dementia care to minimize problematic behaviors and the use of psychoactive drugs.

We’re going to be taught how to care for one another and improve our quality of life.

The symposium will offer a culturally changing perspective of how to provide quality care differently to people with dementia. Now, Napa County residential care facilities and nursing homes use psychoactive drugs at higher rates, when compared to some other California counties.

There are alternatives. If we want to see this change, we all have to work on it.

Because, one day, you or a loved one might be crying out in the lonely frustration of dementia and wouldn’t you rather be listened to, cared for, embraced and paid attention to, rather than given a pill to fall sleep?

To register for the Symposium, call 258-9087. Continuing Education Units are available for social workers, attorneys, fiduciaries, RCFE administrators, Nurses and nursing home administrators.

Celine Regalia, program director

Napa Valley Hospice & Adult Day Services

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