Author: Kirsty Porter

The Artistry of Caregiving: Letters to Inspire Your Caregiving Journey

- A Book Review -

Written by Kirsty Porter  16 May 2017

~ Nurse and Aged Care Enthusiast ~

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Dear Carole Brecht,

 

I was so inspired by your book and the style in which you delivered it, I decided to write this book review to you personally, using the same unique style you wrote ‘The Artistry of Caregiving: Letters to Inspire Your Caregivers Journey”.

 

Carole, your new award-winning book undoubtedly exemplifies the art of caregiving. Not because you have perfected it, but because you laid bare you’re imperfect and heart-wrenching caregivers journey. A 5 year journey that not only saw you care for your mom living with Alzheimer’s Disease, but also doing it while still having your own children depended on you.

 

Carole, I salute you. I salute all that you have achieved and have endured to give us this book. You dutifully gave up everything to care for your mom, and feeling sandwiched between two generations who needed you, you unwittingly became a poster child for the Sandwich Generation.

 

Undoubtedly, this newly coined term 'Sandwich Generation' is fast becoming a massive global cohort of people caught between dependent parents and dependent children, a group that needs all the support it can get.  And your book becomes an important part of this support.

 

The Artistry of Caregiving is definitely not a self-help book. Instead, I found this book almost talks to you, calms you, is sensitive, truly makes you believe you can survives the caregivers roles and finally, it purports to give the reader strength to carry on.

 

 

The Artistry of Caregiving openly addresses issues of caregiver’s guilt, responsibility, frustration, anger and micro-management. Carole, not only do you sensitively address these complex feelings in the form of 33 personalised letters to co-caregivers, but you also courageously share your inner most struggles between chapters, sharing your extraordinary stories of how you yourself coped, or didn’t cope, during those intensely difficult times caring for your mom.

 

Each of the 33 personalised letters and chapter narratives are designed to give hope, clarity, comfort and even joy to those navigating their own caregiver’s journey. Dear Champion, Dear Protector, Dear Peace Giver and Dear Pillar are examples of these letters, with each letter weaving your own personal caregiving experiences.   I completely adore how you’ve successful written them (especially “Dear Friend”), and how each letter is signed off with a voice of confidence, sincerity and love.

 

It is obvious too, each letter has its own purpose. The letter titled ‘Dear Giver’ validates the readers caregiving efforts, while the letter ‘Dear Defender,’ encourages the reader to fight the fight advocating for their parents needs when dealing with busy health care professionals.

 

As a health care professional myself, I know nurses and health professionals alike will offer luck, condolence and support after every new diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease. Some will refer you to a community support group, others will act as an advocate, and some will ‘see you next time.’ But, in the end, the actual support for couples or individuals embarking on this care-giving journey comes from their family and community.

 

I call these guys the ‘in-between’ supporters. These are the people who support you in-between seeing the specialists, the doctors and the nurses.

 

Of the people I’ve meet living with a dementia disease such as Alzheimer’s, I continuously hope they are receiving ‘in-between’ support. Support from their extended family, their lifelong friends, from their local social club (a club they’ve always gone to), and even from that nosey neighbour - who might just know how to help. Anyone who might offer a shoulder to cry on, have a laugh with or offers the occasional listening ear.

 

This is why your book is so important to me.

 

This is why I am recommending this book on my website and social media pages. This is why your book features at my dementia café.

 

Because your book acts as the ‘in-between’ support person!

 

Your book will support the caregiver at night when their loved one wont sleep, when the doctor wont listen, when feeling isolated at home, when you can’t stop crying from exhaustion. Your book knows what is happening and sends encouragement hope, laughter, joy, courage, connecting ideas and, hilariously, even your contact detail in case of emergency!

 

Quite remarkable, Carole.

 

Cheers to you Carole, for believing in yourself.

 

Cheers to your own ‘in-between’ people.

 

Cheers for having the courage to write The Artistry of Caregiving and complimenting it with your beautiful and unique artwork, Zentangle.

 

Finally, thank you for refused to accept what you could not change, and turning the journey of caregiving into a personal masterpiece.

 

Indeed, you and your book are truly remarkable.

 

Sincerely,

Kirsty Porter x

Zentangle illustration by Carole Brecht
A Zentangle illustration by author Carole Brecht

The Age of Senescence is proud to be an Amazon Associate.

Click the on the book cover to go straight to Amazon and own Carol's book for yourself or for a friend.

Kirsty is the Founder of the new blogging site The Age of Senescence that explores new innovation in global ageing and aged care.  Kirsty is also the creator of The Umbrella Dementia Cafe in Blackburn, Melbourne.  After successfully hosting multiply sessions in 2016 & 2017, there is now some considerable excitement surrounding its sustainability.  The cafe is in its creative development phase - see how she is progressing on her Dementia Cafe webpage and Facebook page.

Check out The Age Of Senescence website or popular social media sites;
YouTubeTwitter, Instagram and Facebook

Literature resources for helping children understand dementia.

 

I’m a massive advocate for keeping children in the conversation about dementia.  I’ve researched and found some excellent books helping children understand dementia and Alzheimers;

 

1. ‘Weeds in Nans’s Garden.’  By Kathryn Harrison (recommended)

 

2‘What happened to Grandpa.’  By Maria Shiver (inspirational change agent)

 

3. ‘Still my Grandma.’  By Veronique Van Den Abeele & Claude K. Dubois (award winning book)

 

4. ‘Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge.’  By Mem Fox  (an oldie but a goodie - I have this one for my own children)

 

5. "Why did Grandma put her Underwear in the refrigerator?”  by Max Wallack and Carolyn Given.  (Written from a 7 year old's perspective)

 

Literature resources for helping children understand dementia.

 

I’m a massive advocate for keeping children in the conversation about dementia.  I’ve researched and found some excellent books helping children understand dementia and Alzheimers;

  1. ‘Weeds in Nans’s Garden.’  By Kathryn Harrison (recommended)
  2. ‘What happened to Grandpa.’  By Maria Shiver (inspirational change agent)
  3. ‘Still my Grandma.’  By Veronique Van Den Abeele & Claude K. Dubois (award winning book)
  4. ‘Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge.’  By Mem Fox  (an oldie but a goodie - I have this one for my own children)
  5. "Why Did Grandma Put her Underwear in the Refrigerator” by Max Wallack and Carolyn Given. (Written from a 7 year old's perspective)

 

Subscribe and be a part of

The Age of Senescence community.

 

Receive emails about what I’m currently working on and notifications when articles are published. 

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7 Top Tips For A Dementia-Friendly Family Christmas.

Written by Kirsty Porter  • 18 December 2016 •

Nurse and Aged Care Enthusiast 

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It’s Christmas again, and everyone wants to know, "What are we doing about Dad?”

 

David has Alzheimer’s Disease and has been living with this disease for 4 years now.   He is getting really frustrated with his dementia symptoms these days, especially now that he needs more help from Lora.  Lora is David's dedicated wife, loving best-friend and is the 'glue' in the family, holding everything together.  But now, people like to refer to her as his carer.  They both resent the word ‘carer’ because it makes them feel so pigeon-holed, and arguably they have been caring for each other well over 50 years now.

 

As for David, well he becomes overwhelmed quickly and can be agitated with too much noise.  Surely this Christmas with the family will be too stressful?

 

And then there is the issue of eating.  

 

Using a knife is now a mystery and the blasted spoon just creates more mess, as David’s hand to mouth co-ordination has weakened, especially when it comes to soup. Lora doesn’t mind assisting David, in fact, it’s quite a lovely bonding and quiet time for them, but she doesn’t want to embarrass him and he feels, well, different when she helps him to eat in public.  

 

Lora is so completely overwhelmed to play the pigeon-holed carers role this Christmas, when all she'd like to do is just have a break and relax.   So, she has given herself permission to simply disengage from the family this Christmas all together.  She feel's it’s just too much for the family to understand or know what to do.  Anyway, after last year’s disaster of David just wandering off, maybe staying at home with David might be best.   It’s just too much.

 

In the past, David and Lora used to host their family’s Christmas, but while their lovely eldest daughter has taken on the hosting this year, David and Lora are still hesitant to go.  Their daughter is desperate for them to attend Christmas day, but their two sons have some major concerns, especially as there will be six grandchildren under 10 years old running around the house. What to do?

 

Indeed, what to do?

 

Frustrated that there is just not enough information on this subject, I’ve written this blog for David and Lora, and for similar families planning a Christmas that wants to include, but doesn’t quite know how, a family member living with dementia.  (Click here to read the difference between Alzheimer's and dementia).

 

I’ve spent some time with the experts (people living with dementia), asked them some really tough challenging questions, trawled the length and breadth of the internet researching just what it means to get through a Christmas family celebration while dealing with the throws of dementia.

 

While each family will face individual circumstances, these are my top 7 suggestions while planning for Christmas day with a loved one who has a dementia disease.   Be sure to tell me what you think at the end of the post.

 

 

  1. Change your expectations

It is tough to alter family traditions or break from them completely, but rather than everyone turning up on Christmas day try having smaller groups of family visit, maybe four at a time.  This might be easier in the lead-up to Christmas.  These shorter and more intimate sessions will foster quality time together and create opportunities for meaningful one-to-one activities, like addressing envelopes, baking, wrapping presents or decorating a tree.  Choose activities that will invoke traditional reminiscing and conversation in a natural way.  

 

Alternatively, if going to a larger family lunch or dinner, it is important to arrive at a time best suited for the person with dementia, and arrange lunch to suit their daily routine, that is consistent with any other day. This is important as maintaining a daily routine minimises anxiety and agitation, especially if feelings of hunger are difficult to vocalise or recognise.

 

 

  1. Its all about inclusion not exclusion

While planning a Christmas day that is inclusive of a person with dementia, it is important to recognise their limitations and abilities.   Focus on what they can do, not what they can’t. Excluding them because of their limitations will only encourage stress and an innate sense of loss. But, for example, being included in the cooking process such as pealing or washing vegetables is a valuable and supportive family inclusion activity.   It maximises feelings of independence, which is important for inclusion and a feeling of belonging.  

 

Also, it's important to remain flexible.   As different people progress through dementia symptoms uniquely, the family needs to be aware of individual responses in larger group situations and caters for that; such as creating a 'break-out' space and routine 'break-out' times.   A 'break-out' time is time for two to three members of the family enjoying each others company in a quite focused environment.  And for someone living with dementia, these break-out times and spaces are a crucial intervention, even more so during larger family celebrations.   This is also a perfect opportunity to share the care.  

 

 

  1. Moods are contagious

People with dementia have a unique and uncanny tendency of heightened emotional contagion. Emotional contagion is when emotions are transferred between people in confined spaces, and it is quite amazing to see people living with dementia (and children alike) ‘feel the room’. Therefore, plan Christmas day ahead with allocated rest times for everyone and prepare ‘break-out’ spaces to encourage one-to-one time and conversation. In this time, mix the generations up a bit and encourage children to have quality time with their grandparent in a quite space. They might sing, play with a balloon, move about the garden, sort cards or even look at an old photo album.   Finally, be aware of emotional triggers that may cause confusion or anxiety, this can be as simple as delaying their usual eating times or being distracted by background music.

 

 

  1. A space that works

Allocate an accessible and inclusive space designed for the person with dementia.   There are some important points to add here when creating a dementia friendly space. Getting it ‘right’ will enhance the mood and will invoke a calming response.

 

dementia friendly room

 

 

Here are some ideas I’ve found to be effective; 

⇒ Natural Lighting, no flashy Christmas lights,

⇒ Decrease obstructive clutter,

Cover patterned chairs with a block-contrasting colour. Anything patterned such as bed spreads, plates, food condiments, chairs, table clothes, etc., all create a confusion about what the object actually is and that might lead to uneasy feelings,

Well labelled rooms, such as: ‘toilet’ & ‘bedroom’,

An all white toilet needs to be defined. Sticking a coloured or contrasting tape to rim of bowl will define the boundaries of the toilet – for sitting or standing. This will further reduce the risk of a fall. (Communication between family members is important so that the toilet seat is left in the same position to avoid further confusion),

Remove tripping hazards; rugs, cables, toys, etc,

Soft or textured furnishings,

Smell or sound, such as music, that works to calm not distress. (Important to note here that excessive noise has the most significant and damaging impact),

Safe access to outside, with glass doors marked or taped to clearly indicate if they are open or closed, and

Coloured tape on all steps.

 

  1. The Table

The absolute key here is CONTRAST! Again, no overtly patterned table clothes or crockery.

dementia-friendly christmas

 

If you’re going for a bright block coloured tablecloth, white serving dishes would be best. Make sure the food in the serving dish looks like the food it is. For example, ensure the potatoes look like potatoes; the meat looks like meat and so on. Don’t change the look of the food with sauces draped on top, keep them separate. Allowing for autonomy during food selection is not only a personal pleasure but a fantastic socialising experience. Again, for this top tip, patience and time allocation is key here.

 

It’s all about perception and how the person with dementia perceives what that food is. If they recognise the food then the food will most likely be eaten. The same is true in reverse, and being hungry might be a trigger for excessive anxiety, stress and feelings of loss.  

 

Here are some other hints and tricks I’ve learnt;

 

Use bright red or blue crockery that contrast well with placemats, serving dishes and food.  Patterned plates may be distracting and might serve only to confuse what food is presented, 

Consider a buffet table for food. It de-clutters the table and at the same time encourages independence and social inclusion as people move to and fro, 

⇒ Plain coloured tablecloth or plain table surface,

Cutlery that allows independence or finger food – but important that EVERYONE does the same thing to prevent alienation. This could make mealtime quite fun, especially for the children,

Important that edges of objects on the table are well defined,

⇒ Non-slip placemats,

Don’t mix two foods in one serving dish – this can create confusion,

food dementia

No sharp edges on tables, chairs and other furniture,

Use familiar serving objects and utensils,

Chair must be comfortable and accessible with good back and arm support,

Ensure there is no pretend food, even if it’s for decoration,

Good lighting above table,

Plants and flowers add positive sensory stimulation through their natural colour, texture and fragrance, and

If you’re a big group – more than six, consider having more lots of smaller tables.

 

  1. Appropriate Conversation

It’s important to be patient while talking to someone with dementia.   People with dementia can hear what you’re saying, but just need a little bit more time to process and respond to you.  Give them time.  

 

On this point, a well known advocate, Kate Swaffter, who lives with dementia (see her blog here), advises people to avoid starting a conversation with “Remember when…” as it can be disastrous and upsetting for someone who really can’t remember when. Ask leading questions or topic focused conversations that will encourage natural reminiscing that will spearhead real meaningful engagement.

 

Finally, during table conversation, it’s important that people don’t talk over-each other as this can be very distressing and difficult to follow. You can tell if this is happening by the 'zoned-out’ expression.   Take the time to engage in one-on-one conversation at this point, offer to walk to the buffet table together and gently remind people to be aware of the impact it’s having on their loved one.

 

 

  1. Gift Exchange

Gift exchange needs to be a calm experience – completely impossible if there are wonderfully excited kids.   I’ve been told this is a particularly tough time of the day and my expert says with laughter, they prefer to be doing something else.

 

Gift exchange with someone living with dementia might involve a smaller group just a little away from the crowd. However, just watching the children laugh and play with toys is quite a gift on its own for many people living with the symptoms of dementia.

 

Gifts that are reminiscent of childhood memories are particularly valuable but the time spent together doing a meaningful engaging activity together, like a big sing-a-long is worth its weight in gold!

 

And lastly, wrapping paper works better when it’s simpler as it will be recognisable as a gift.

 

 

 

So the major keys when preparing for a dementia-friendly family Christmas is to first adjust the family’s expectations of the day, ensure the routine is easy and recognisable, and finally understand their limitations while encouraging independence, as these inclusive activities are sure to have positive and a lasting emotional impact long after the memory loss.

 

Ultimately, plan Christmas day so that the family remains connected and relationships are supported while everyone is adjusting to the changes facing their loved one. In that, what creates laughter will also create connectivity.

 

Share the care, keep it simple and focus on the love.

 

cognitive footprint modelWishing you all a safe, magical and wonderful Merry Christmas from Australia! Looking forward to new and exciting developments in 2017!

AGEING BETTER TOGETHER

Kirsty Porter
Founder

The Age of Senescence
Photos: Pixabay.com & adapted by Kirsty Porter.
THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS ARE MY OWN.

NO ROYALTIES WERE RECEIVED FOR PUBLISHING THIS ARTICLE.

AUTHOR NOT AFFILIATED WITH COMPANIES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE.

 

PLEASE LIKE, COMMENT OR SHARE.  

WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS AND EXPERIENCES ON THIS ARTICLE.

 

Kirsty is the Founder of the new blogging site The Age of Senescence that explores new innovation in global ageing and aged care.  Kirsty is also the creator of The Umbrella Dementia Cafe in Blackburn, Melbourne.  After successfully hosting two cafe sessions in 2016, there is now some considerable excitement surrounding its sustainability in 2017.  The cafe is in its creative development phase - see how she is progressing on her Dementia Cafe webpage and Facebook page.

Check out The Age Of Senescence website or popular social media sites;
YouTubeTwitter, Instagram and Facebook

Literature resources for helping children understand dementia.

 

I’ve researched and found some excellent books helping children understand dementia and Alzheimers;

 

1. ‘Weeds in Nans’s Garden.’  By Kathryn Harrison (recommended)

 

2‘What happened to Grandpa.’  By Maria Shiver (inspirational change agent)

 

3. ‘Still my Grandma.’  By Veronique Van Den Abeele & Claude K. Dubois (award winning book)

 

4. ‘Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge.’  By Mem Fox  (an oldie but a goodie - I have this one for my own children)

 

5. "Why did Grandma put her Underwear in the refrigerator?”  by Max Wallack and Carolyn Given.  (Written from a 7 year old's perspective)

 

Literature resources for helping children understand dementia.

 

I’ve researched and found some excellent books helping children understand dementia and Alzheimers;

  1. ‘Weeds in Nans’s Garden.’  By Kathryn Harrison (recommended)
  2. ‘What happened to Grandpa.’  By Maria Shiver (inspirational change agent)
  3. ‘Still my Grandma.’  By Veronique Van Den Abeele & Claude K. Dubois (award winning book)
  4. ‘Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge.’  By Mem Fox  (an oldie but a goodie - I have this one for my own children)
  5. "Why Did Grandma Put her Underwear in the Refrigerator” by Max Wallack and Carolyn Given. (Written from a 7 year old's perspective)

 

Subscribe and be a part of

The Age of Senescence community.

 

Receive emails about what I’m currently working on and notifications when articles are published. 

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The Umbrella Dementia Cafe Radio Interview

Written by Kirsty Porter  • 9 October 2016 •

Nurse and Aged Care Enthusiast.

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The marketing for The Umbrella Dementia Cafe is in full swing.  The event has had two major promotional gigs this week.  A full editorial appeared in the local Whitehorse Leader newspaper about the cafe event and the local 3WBC Radio with Dougal Austin has interviewed me to promote the event and push more local awareness about dementia (hear the full interview below).  

 

Now, we need the customers.

 

I’ve included the recording of the show for you to hear a real emphasis on the importance of having, not only a dementia socialising hub in our local community, but a wider community involvement to achieve a dementia-friendly society.

 

There has been overwhelming community support with this event and I’m pleased to say all the local neighbourhood community houses are in full support for this idea and have invited further discussion for their own cafe or dementia-friendly events.

 

In addition, the local Council has entertained this as a very positive step in the right direction for a dementia-friendly community and they wait with anticipation to see how this event goes.   So it is now more than ever, The Umbrella Dementia Cafe needs your support to invite those living with dementia to this event in Blackburn, Australia.  But beyond that, hope to inspire people around the length and breadth of Australia who might want to join me in the plight to create more dementia-friendly socialising hubs.

 

 

So please support this inaugural event by sharing it with your friends or tag someone you think might want to support The Umbrella Dementia Cafe.  This will have dual effect; hope to inspired those with the resources to create something similar, and also provide a safe environment for those in the local area to live well with dementia.

 

Press play to hear the 8 minute radio interview with Kirsty Porter about:

The Umbrella Dementia Cafe event 25th October 2016

 

Thank you for your support,

Kirsty Porter

AGEING BETTER TOGETHER

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Feature Photos: Pixabay.com & adapted by Kirsty Porter.
NO ROYALTIES WERE RECEIVED FOR PUBLISHING THIS ARTICLE.
AUTHOR NOT AFFILIATED WITH COMPANIES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE

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What is the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease?

Written by Kirsty Porter  • 3 October 2016 •

Nurse and Aged Care Enthusiast.

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Dementia is an umbrella term used to describe symptoms of a degenerative brain disease. Dementia is to Alzheimer’s what fruit is to an apple or what shortness of breath is to Asthma.

 

Dementia is a disease symptom and while it more commonly affects the older adult it is NOT a natural part of ageing. 

 

Alzheimer’s is the most common of all the dementias and affects up to 70% of people diagnosed.  Dementia with Lewy Bodies is another form of dementia but it is widely regarded as the most under-diagnosed dementia, as was the case with actor Robin Williams.  

 

Dementia describes the symptoms of all degenerative brain diseases. Its symptoms can be as varied and as wide-ranging as our own personalities but generally dementia is characterised by changes in; behaviour, memory, orientation, movement, mood or ability to make decisions.

 

Finding out the cause of dementia symptoms requires a combination of specialist doctors to crawl into the nether regions of the brain to establish which part of the brain is affected to determine the correct diagnosis. For more on how a diagnosis is formed check out this guide.

 

This brain sojourn takes time. But, once the specialist doctor discovers where the dementia is occurring, how it’s progressing and even why, action can be taken and in some cases, specialists can even reverse the problem.  For example, certain conditions such as depression or an under-active thyroid can be the cause of dementia symptoms, and therefore it’s important to establish early on what type of dementia is presenting in the brain.

 

And then there are the ‘true’ dementias

 

I would love to add a, “dementia-can-be-reversed-if-you-get-help-early” heading, but sadly, in this day and age, it’s not the case.

 

'True’ dementias describe irreversible and progressive degenerative areas of the brain that are presently incurable and are terminal.   Further, there are no cures or medication that can stop the degeneration or progression of any of the ’true’ dementias.  

 

Degenerative true dementias, such as the more common ones; Alzheimer’s Disease, Lewy Bodies or Parkinson's Disease, are all hallmarked by their own set of pathological changes in different areas and different cells of the brain.  

 

As these pathological changes become more progressive, the brain begins to atrophy or shrink. Naturally, brain atrophy will affect physiological behaviours such as speech, movement, memory and perception.  Importantly, with a prognosis anywhere between a 6 months (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease or “mad-cow” disease) and 20 years (Alzheimer’s), getting the correct diagnosis will kick-start appropriate support, expectations and choices.

 

Today, there are over 130 different types of dementia recorded. With these kinds of numbers, it is important to get the correct diagnosis so that the plan of care and action is appropriate to the disease trajectory.  

 

While diagnosis is important to establish disease trajectory, it is also vital that a great deal of support from health care professionals, the community associations, family and friends become a fundamental response at this point. Sadly, it is also at this point, stigma  and ignorance becomes as real as the fear and emotional devastation a dementia diagnosis can bring.

 

This week, while setting up my own dementia café (The Umbrella Dementia Café and on Facebook), I’ve heard different perspectives of ‘what is dementia’, and why some people get Alzheimer’s in families and others don’t. I’d be interested in hearing what you’ve heard about dementia or Alzheimer’s? Why do some people get it early and others later in life?

 

Brian Kursonis, from North Carolina in the US, did not count on having Alzheimer’s at 54 at all! On the issue of stigma and ignorance he says,

"I have to tell you though, for me the stigma or the 'uncomfortable part' isn't just admitting I have dementia to people but doing it so openly that they sometimes feel uncomfortable. I love it though when I can educate them.  I knew so little about dementia a year ago”.

 

I agree with Brian; education and awareness is the key to fight against stigma and ignorance. Brian is a perfect example of living well with dementia - actually, scratch that, he’s kicking arse in his life and determined to live his best self (see his post here before his 2016 Walk Against Alzheimer’s last month). He knows very well the trajectory of his disease but is living by his rules despite how it makes others people feel. You are an inspiration Brian, thank you.

 

I want to finish this post, with a 2-minute cartoon video, produced by Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, to truly clarify the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

 

Finally, love is not lost during any of the degenerative stages of dementia. x

 

Written By Kirsty Porter

AGEING BETTER TOGETHER

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Feature Photos: Pixabay.com & adapted by Kirsty Porter.
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AUTHOR NOT AFFILIATED WITH COMPANIES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE

 

 

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Gene Wilder, Stigma and A Child’s Smile

Written by Kirsty Porter  • 12 September 2016 •

Nurse and Aged Care Enthusiast 

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It’s been more than two weeks now since Gene Wilder died, and I’m still struggling with it. We may never know the full reason why Mr. Wilder and his loving family respectfully wanted to keep his Alzheimer’s disease a secret, but I just can’t shake the thought that stigma might have played a starring role here.

 

The purpose of The Age of Senescence is to show you guys some cool new stuff created for the benefit of our elders. But somehow this week my enthusiasm to showcase anything was deflated after reading the statement Gene Wilder’s family issued after he passed away from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.

 

“We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones—this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him ‘there’s Willy Wonka,’ would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”

 

Upon reading this, I looked straight to Instagram and Facebook, sourced a beautiful photo, researched an apt quote from Mr. Wilder and went about listing all the #’s to promote my product. But alas, nothing was published from me.

 

Mr. Wilder, nor his family, wanted him to be remembered for having Alzheimer’s disease that might have caused "one less smile in the world".

 

Yet, Mr. Wilders own public ‘coming out’ for having Alzheimer’s was laden with feelings of fear that might upset a fan base, a child fan base no less.

 

The last sentence in their statement really saddened me and I’d like to express why hiding Alzheimer’s might be detrimental to the child and thus future generations.

fear child stigma Alzheimer's
Source Pixabay

 

 

 

The Stigma

With the greatest respect, Mr. Wilder’s decision to keep his diagnosis a secret is consistent with global cultural attitudes when learning this “illness – pirate” disease has taken a loved one. And sadly over time, and over multiple generations, negative attitudes have ultimately settled in creating complex and discriminating prejudice that influence individuals to hide, or worse still, remove themselves from the judgment of society.  And regrettably, this is stigma personified.

 

In addition, the thought that Alzheimer’s should be kept a secret to shield us from smiling is a frightening perspective.  Especially when it is expected that dementia (symptoms of Alzheimer’s) will directly or in-directly impact us all by 2050.  If the message is to keep a dignified silence about a worrisome, troubling or confusing disease, perhaps we can expect isolation to become a natural response.  A heartbreaking thought indeed.

 

The Child And Child Inside

No one should have to deal with Alzheimer’s alone, no one. Children, especially.  Of course they see the dementia symptoms, but in a way only children do (Werner, 2010).  So we absolutely need to be hands on to guide them appropriately or they will invariably struggle to understand it, look away from it or act out and thus the stigma lives on.

 

You see, cool new stuff in the ageing world only comes about from inspiration and the ability to turn tough problems into opportunities. So if we hide or isolate the problem, we simply wont find the innovation. And who better to innovate than a child, or the child within us? Isn’t that what Willy Wonka was all about? Inspiring the child and the child inside?

 

inspiring innovation in the child

 

From an awareness perspective, we need to really harness the energy, enthusiasm and the sheer power of young people to dream big, because reversing stigma is a hell of a lot harder than inspiring the innovator.

 

With nearly my entire nursing career in the aged care sector and caring for countless families dealing with (and dying from) end-stage dementia, I know inspiring change and innovation in this sector is extraordinarily hard and fraught with stigma, ignorance and fear. This has to change, and it has to include the big dreamers – our kids, the next generation.

 

My core business doesn’t include blogging about famous and decorated artists, such as Mr. Wilder, there is no innovation about his death, and he is no more important than the millions who have died and will die with Alzheimer’s before a cure is found.

 

But now, after two weeks of analysing a media who have dutifully and collectively respected the wishes of Mr Wilder to ‘hide the ugly’, I’ve become determined to get on with what I mean to do, and make sure it comes out loud and clear.

 

So in big shoutty text: PEOPLE IN THE THROWS OF DEALING WITH DEMENTIA: DO NOT TAKE YOURSELF AWAY FROM YOUR FRIENDS OR YOUR COMMUNITY AND CEMENT THE IGNORANCE OF DEMENTIA.

 

Just because you have been diagnosed with dementia you are no less human! You cannot change the outcome, but my goodness you can affect the journey. Make it a good one.

 

life rollar-coaster dementia

 

So, to the person with dementia: do not de-humanise yourself, please. Know that the diagnosis of dementia doesn’t mean you are dead to the world.

 

Find The Smile

To the Person living with a dementia disease: you are very much alive and showing how valuable you are by doing the things that make you happy and laugh out loud. Designing a life after your diagnosis is a choice, and how you choose to live your life with dementia is extraordinarily important to the smile of a child and all ‘inner’ children alike.

 

To the caregiver: you are the ultimate hero in this dementia journey and you should not go through this alone. There are people organized in the health system designed just to help you. Exhausted as they might be, you cannot and should not go un-noticed. Please look to your community to help. This is not a journey you should travel alone; trust me when I say that your own mental and physical health will suffer otherwise. I urge you to check out a new website called Dementia Challengers or on Facebook @dementia.challengers to read about how other caregivers are supporting each other.

 

To the community businessperson: I guarantee to you, when you witness the glory of a person living a full life with dementia, you will be inspired to create a dementia friendly business. Not just because you are poised for continuous improvement but also because your customer base will be reflective of our societal ageing population; making you a dynamic and attractive business indeed.

 

And finally to the inspired health professional: I guarantee you will lovingly laugh out loud and fist punch the air when you see someone with end stage dementia completely come alive as they belt out a tune from a bygone era, or paint a magnificent piece of artwork to express how they feel.  And I guarantee you, you will smile - and smile big, when you witness someone so afflicted with dementia that they can no longer talk, yet they lovingly cradle a baby or nurture a young child.

 

The thought that we should isolate ourselves or our loved ones when they reach a certain age or condition only fuels me to push further into the business of awareness and promotion.

 

So in the interest of change, channeling big dreams and ‘choose your own adventure’; I’m climbing into my own glass elevator that is The Age of Senescence and preparing to burst through the roof and into the world of dementia to see where it takes me.

 

I’m joining a global community hell bent on decreasing the stigma attached to dying with dementia and even wider still, the stigma attached to being old.

With the help of my glorious community, I have decided to join the global ranks of dementia awareness and promotion by implementing a tried and tested strategy to de-stigmatise and de-isolate people with dementia.

 

We are doing this by building our very own dementia friendly café environment, starting right here in a little suburb of Melbourne, Australia (click here for more information). Further, we going to share with you a running commentary of our journey, trials and tribulations through, the very fashionable and oh sooo Next Gen’, blogging and several social media channels!   And we've fondly called it The Umbrella Dementia Cafe.  Check it our here or on Facebook

The Umbrella Dementia Cafe

So elders please come out of your homes and build a community with us!  We have some cool new stuff to show you!  If you can't join us or you’re not up to it, please check out Dementia Mentors for an amazing virtual memory cafe experience supporting those with dementia all over the world.  It’s really good!

 

We implore you to have a go at creating something similar in your own local community. Let us know what you’re doing so we can include it on The Age of Senescence website!  

 

Fear is out and curiosity is in.

 

“The suspense is terrible, I hope it lasts!”
- Willy Wonka  - 

 

Written By Kirsty Porter

AGEING BETTER TOGETHER


I love hearing about new aged care innovations,  send me a message so I can follow your journey. x

 

Please comment if this article has inspired you to promote change.   Share with others by clicking your favourite social media icons below.

 

Feature Photos: Pixabay.com & adapted by Kirsty Porter.
Illustrations: Adapted by Kirsty Porter and inspired by Pixabay.
NO ROYALTIES WERE RECEIVED FOR PUBLISHING THIS ARTICLE.
AUTHOR NOT AFFILIATED WITH COMPANIES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE

 


Since writing this article Kirsty Porter has built and developed community run dementia cafes in her town of Blackburn, Melbourne.  She is supported by a strong volunteer team, a primary school, a florist, a children music school, an estate agent, an aged care company, a Canadian children's author, a church, a cafe, multiple community leaders, and a massive cohort of local mums & dads determined to make a positive impact in the lives of people living with dementia in their community. 

 

See the website www.umbrelladementiacafes.com.au and Facebook for all the photos of the cafe.


 

Literature resources for children

 

I’ve researched and found some excellent books helping children understand dementia and Alzheimers;

 

1. ‘Weeds in Nans’s Garden.’  By Kathryn Harrison (recommended)

 

2‘What happened to Grandpa.’  By Maria Shiver (inspirational change agent)

 

3. ‘Still my Grandma.’  By Veronique Van Den Abeele & Claude K. Dubois (award winning book)

 

4. ‘Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge.’  By Mem Fox  (an oldie but a goodie - I have this one for my own children)

 

5. "Why did Grandma put her Underwear in the refrigerator?”  by Max Wallack and Carolyn Given.  (Written from a 7 year old's perspective)

 

 

 

Finally, Dementia Resources (click here) have also complied a great reading list for children aged 1 to 15+ years helping to they understand dementia better.

Literature resource for the reverend caregiver:

 

'The Artistry of Caregiving: Letters to Inspire Your Caregiver JourneyBy Carole Brecht (Author & Artist see Instagram @sangenwoman)

A deeply personal account of her caregiving experiences for her mother.  Click here for my review of her book.  


Literature resources for children

 

I’ve researched and found some excellent books helping children understand dementia and Alzheimers;

  1. ‘Weeds in Nans’s Garden.’  By Kathryn Harrison (recommended)
  2. ‘What happened to Grandpa.’  By Maria Shiver (inspirational change agent)
  3. ‘Still my Grandma.’  By Veronique Van Den Abeele & Claude K. Dubois (award winning book)
  4. ‘Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge.’  By Mem Fox  (an oldie but a goodie - I have this one for my own children)
  5. "Why Did Grandma Put her Underwear in the Refrigerator” by Max Wallack and Carolyn Given. (Written from a 7 year old's perspective)

Finally, Dementia Resources (click here) have also complied a great reading list for children aged 1 to 15+ years helping to they understand dementia better.

A Literature Resource for the Reverend Caregiver:

 

'The Artistry of Caregiving: Letters to Inspire Your Caregiver JourneyBy Carole Brecht (Author & Artist see Instagram @sangenwoman)

A deeply personal account of her caregiving experiences for her mother and I look forward to posting a review about it very soon. 


If you have a book you have written that represent the theme of this blog post, please contact me and I’d be delighted to add it to this page.

This short 2 minute cartoon video is also a great educational piece about knowing the difference between dementia and Alzheimer's

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Why Cognitive Preservation in Aged Care is ESSENTIAL for Organisational Agility?

Written by Kirsty Porter | 14 August 2016
• Nurse and Aged Care Enthusiast •

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The rules for the aged care sector are changing.  Government funding models are more and more politically and fiscally motivated, and aged care organisations are constantly finding themselves riding the wave of uncertainty and change.

 

This is exhausting for some aged care organisation, and detrimental to others as organisation policy makers try to balance cost and business efficiencies.

So, in the interest of assisting with policy development to make your organisation more agile, I have created this post to reflect on three things;

• Why remodelling your aged care model to include cognitive preservation strategies will increase organisational agility.
• What five principles establishes cognitive preservation.
• How can these translate in an aged care environment.

 

What does organisational agility mean for an aged care service?

 

It’s about remaining competitive even when your dynamic external environment is disrupted, such as funding streams.  Organisations who embrace change and are flexible to the disruptions in their environment are considered agile, and in turn excel in their fields. 

 

Often, when policies are written for aged care environments, we draw from government strategies, regulatory guidelines and whitepapers to help create the best quality services and policies for our ageing residents or clients.

 

Of course these governing strategies and regulations propose the highest quality of aged care, but in the market place it creates a vortex of similarities between one organisation and another; making it more challenging for the customers to differentiate which aged care service is best or right for them. As a result, organisational agility becomes almost impossible to achieve.

choosing aged care
Adapted by Kirsty Porter. Sourced: Pixabay

However, there is one transformational concept that is challenging the way brain health policies in aged care facilities are modelling and implemented. It’s called the Cognitive Footprint concept (read more), and it’s weighted heavily towards preserving cognitive health and function, and delay the onset of cognitive decline, especially in people exhibiting early signs of dementia symptoms.

 

Until there is a cure, worldwide experts of Alzheimer’s disease, such as the World Health Organisation (W.H.O) and World Innovation Summit for Health (W.I.S.H), recommend health care organisations implement proven cognitive preservation strategies in an effort to reduce the incidence of the global dementia epidemic.

 

Cognitive impairment, like what we see in Alzheimer’s disease, can be delayed if cognitive preservation strategies are implemented (Ngandu, et al, 2015). This is especially important when modelling your aged care service for funding efficiencies, particularly when considering costs associated to achieving good behaviour management outcomes; important for all dementia care models.  

 

Recognised cognitive preservation principles include;

 

• Intensive and frequent physical activity (to modify hypertension, inactivity and sarcopenia)
• Good nutrition (to modify diabetes and obesity),
• Education and learning (creating new neutron pathways),
• Frequent and consistent social interaction, and
• Mental health awareness (to modify depression).

(W.H.O 2012, W.I.S.H 2015, Rossor & Knapp 2015)

Rosser and Knapp (2015) refer to these cognitive preservation principles as key to defining your Cognitive Footprint and how we model dementia globally.   Read more about the Cognitive Footprint Model here .

While very few countries are enacting these principles into their national aged care strategy, those aged care organisations who are already proactive in implementing them are naturally becoming agile and marginally unaffected by the changing dynamics in their external environment, such as; government funding reallocation policies and the increasing demands of an ageing population.  (Read here about an aged care facility actively excelling in this).

 

Translating cognitive preservation research into a woking program

 

The aged care-funding environment is based on outcomes of quality business efficiencies; therefore organisations must incorporate assistive technology and progressive concepts to remain in the game. And certainly, this next wave of elders, such as the boom generation, is significantly more tech savvy and environmentally aware.  

 

The Society of Saint Hilarion Inc. Aged Care, in Australia has already incorporated these recommendations by W. H. O. and W.I.S.H; and their results are stunning.  Their Wellness Centre Program, incorporates new assistive technology and progressive program innovation, that has not only generated national recognition and industry awards, but is now considered a blueprint for other care provides. Their cognitive strategies include;

 

• A Wellness Centre accessed by residents, staff, families and the community;
• Older aged specific interactive gym technology with dedicated allied health professionals;
• On-site resident managed and maintained vegetable and herb gardens;
• Organic home-grown produce incorporated into meal menus;
• Psychology and wellness programs for residents, staff, and all their families.

winning active ageing wellness
Source Pixabay.com & adapted by Kirsty Porter

 

Exhaustive enough? Expensive even? Read my article about The Society of Saint Hilarion Inc. and how their proactivity for cognitive health propelled them towards a more self-sufficient business model, and thus introduced extraordinary organisational agility. 

 

AGEING BETTER TOGETHER

 

Written By Kirsty Porter
Who is Kirsty Porter and Why has she created The Age of Senescence?

Feature Photo: Pixabay.com & adapted by Kirsty Porter

OPINIONS ARE MY OWN


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AgeFit Solutions are leaders in exercise physiology for older adults.

They help aged care providers re-modeling and innovate wellness options for their clients or staff.

 They have  A LOT of experience in transforming aged care
environments for cognitive health options!

 

I've prepared a fun video giving you a little more information.
Click the photo to get the video.

A Winning Active Ageing Approach

Written by Kirsty Porter  • 15 August 2016 •

Nurse and Aged Care Enthusiast 

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Over the past 12 months, you may have seen increased media exposure about how improving physical health and incorporating winning healthy active ageing principles can improve cognitive function in later life. 

Not unexpected right? But what about in an aged care facility?

 

I mean Plato put it out there in the 3rd Century BC (yes, BC!) when he said

“Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”

According to 21st Century experts at the World Health Organisation, the British Heart Foundation and Stamford University advocate inactivity in older adults is the highest contributor to the rapid challenges faced by pubic health systems globally. In fact, Kohl (2012) contributes inactivity as the 4th highest causes of death.

 

 

Many researchers all over the world (Taylor, Singh & King) are imploring policy makers to promote moderate intensity resistance exercise (for more than 150 minutes each week) to impact overall primary health care costs. Taylor goes further to say that these levels of physical activity will reduce heart disease by 50%, while Henwood (here & here) presents that an increase in physical activity later in life will significantly affect symptoms of dementia and reduce falls!

 

 

To date, only a small number of aged care providers have picked up on these resistance exercise ideas and proficiently incorporated them into their funding and business models.

 

As with any hot new innovation in the aged care sector, providers are asking, “how can we share the same success?”

 

Read on to find out which award winning aged care provider in Australia is kicking goals by investing in a modern wellness centre that is designed to preserve the cognitive health of residents, staff and, more recently, the community in which they operate. And be sure to check out the video at the end of the post.

 

 

An Award Winning Healthy Ageing Wellness Centre

 

Awarding Winning Healthy ageing service
Source: Authors own. Adapted Pixabay.com

The Society of Saint Hilarion Inc. Aged Care, is an award-winning residential aged care organisation with some serious organisational agility!  See their Facebook profile @sthilarionswellnesscentre

 

Having received awards and recognition from major Australian peak bodies, Saint Hilarion is now seen as a blueprint for cognitive preservation strategies and healthy ageing principles.

 

They achieved this status by understanding and investing in the best old-age specific gym technology on the market; not least because it is backed by A LOT of research but because it suited the needs of their residents. (Check out this technology at Helsinki University Research (HUR) website here.) But this post is about breaking the mould, not about the technology - that's for another post.  

 

So why did they do it?

 

Instead of accepting the familiar expense that functional disability and physical inactivity was having on their business model, Saint Hilarion completely turned their business model on its head and considered how a service centred on healthy ageing concepts could improve their residents' quality of life, as well as their bottom line. The management team collaborated, using up-to-date evidence based research, to create a novel wellness model that focuses on ‘re-ablement’ innovations and cognitive health strategies.

 

 

wellness centre, active, ageing
Source: Authors own

The result was the development of a Wellness Centre and it incorporated all five elements identified for improved cognitive function (more about these elements here).

 

Headed up by their lead healthy ageing advocate, physiotherapist Mr. Frank Naso, they completely overhauled the way they responded to aged caring and ageing choices.

 

The Wellness Centre concept sat perfectly within their existing philosophy, and inside two years their seemingly expensive risk had paid off.   They'd experienced extraordinary returns on investment with far-reaching, non-tangible benefits that will pay out for years to come.

 

Saint Hilarion Wellness Centre
Source: Authors own with permission

Recently, Frank presented the outcomes of their cognitive preservation strategies at the 2016 World Congress of Active Ageing in Melbourne, Australia.  And a collective gasp from the audience was clearly heard as he presented their staggering results!

 

Decrease In Resident Challenging Behaviours

 

He presented a 89% decrease in resident challenging behaviours; a dramatic increase in satisfaction surveys from 64% to 98%; a marked reduction in staff turnover; and further, they were enjoying sky high community volunteer levels.

 

 

And while Saint Hilarion’s results are spectacular in reducing dementia related behaviours, the organisation has also successfully extended the business model to include staff participation, their families and the local community.

wellness centre, active, ageing
Source: Authors own with permission

 

 

This has resulted in generous investment returns and continues to inspire more innovative healthy ageing opportunities, which has no doubt left a positive and lasting cognitive footprint on every resident, employee and community member that has had the pleasure of using the facilities at Saint Hilarion.

 

A Perfect Example of the Cognitive Footprint Model

 

These cognitive preservation strategies are exactly what the World Health Organisation and the 2013 G8 Dementia Summit are referring to and Saint Hilarion have framed the cognitive footprint model perfectly. Further, they have successfully responded to the needs of their changing environment and now have a significant level of organisational agility to withstand any future government policy reform. Read why cognitive preservation in aged care is essential for organisational agility.

 

 

This account of the successes achieved by The Society of Saint Hilarion has been written to help begin the conversation with your age care management team about the impacts cognitive preservation strategies can have on your organisation.

 

Good Luck and let me know how you go.  

 

Written By Kirsty Porter

AGEING BETTER TOGETHER


I love hearing about new aged care innovations,  send me a message so I can follow your journey. x

 

Please comment if this article has inspired you to promote change and share with others by clicking your favourite social media icons below.

 

Feature Photo: Pixabay.com & adapted by Kirsty Porter
NO ROYALTIES WERE RECEIVED FOR PUBLISHING THIS ARTICLE.
AUTHOR NOT AFFILIATED WITH COMPANIES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE

I’ve also written two other articles on this subject that might be helpful;

 

  1. The Cognitive Footprint Model
  2. Why cognitive preservation in aged care is ESSENTIAL for organisational agility.

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Introducing  AgeFit Solutions  and founder Dr. Tim Henwood.

 

 

If you or your organisation need help to bring an innovative wellness option into your aged care service, then contact Tim.

 

He truly has the experience and know how to improve the lives of your clients or staff.

Click photo for video advert!

 

Dr. Tim Henwood is a leader in exercise physiology and has a great deal of experience delivering innovative wellness options for people with complex health needs, including dementia, for Australian aged care community services and residential facilities.  

 

Dr. Henwood has published over 30 articles on the long term physiological and cognitive benefits of active ageing initiatives.  He is strongly linked to the active ageing successes at Bernie Brae and also the dementia focused Watermemories Swimming Club.

 

And he’s a really nice guy.  Give him a call.

The Cognitive Footprint Model

Written By   Kirsty Porter | 17 July 2016

• Nurse & Aged Care Enthusiast •

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The Cognitive Footprint & World Congress of Active Ageing 2016

 

I began my self-imposed industry research journey at the World Congress of Active Ageing in Melbourne (hosted by ISEAL), and it certainly had a profound and overwhelming affect on me.  Admittedly, beyond learning about this incredible and progressive industry unified in healthier and active ageing principles, I also found myself reflecting on my past and current lifestyle choices that will, according to real data outcomes, absolutely impact my ageing trajectory.

 

But there was one term that resonated with me, and it was only thrown out into the audience at the WCAA by keynote speaker, Professor Nicola Lautenschlager (University of Melbourne), for professionals to consider a re-modelled concept for long term cognitive health policies and interventions in their workplace.

 

The term was Cognitive Footprint.

 

I’d never heard of a cognitive footprint, carbon yes, but cognitive no.   Yet, within this analogy, I could appreciate how events in my life might have affected the way I think?  And indeed, if the events in all our lives are as varied and complex, so too might be our thoughts and the way we participate in society.

 

Of course, cognitive or brain health is not always a choice. Your development in-vitro, pharmacological side effects, accidents, the environment you live in, education access, etc. can determine cognitive health. But nevertheless, your cognitive health impacts how you participate in living.

 

So, inspired by this cognitive footprint concept, I threw myself into further research and began to understand its real global importance.   Further, it is absolutely perfect for my very first article published here, on The Age of Senescence.

 

Where did the term 'Cognitive Footprint' come from?

 

IMG_9205
Tap photo for full academic article....

 

I found two chaps, professors actually, working in London, who came up with the term in an article they published in The Lancet; a popular medical journal published in the UK.

 

Co-contributors to the term ‘cognitive footprintProfessor M. Rossor, Clinical Neurologist from UCL Institute of Neurology,  and Professor M. Knapp of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, both London, UK, present a viewpoint academic paper about remodelling the way nations need to address the challenges of dementia.

 

Rosser and Knapp predict that global inequitable and expensive dementia care costs will have economic fallouts, unless policy makers start investing in their most valuable asset; their nations cognitive capital.

 

The authors argue that by asking the question, “What is your cognitive footprint?” individuals and policy makers alike are forced to analyse what is positively or negatively impacting their societal cognitive health, and as such, societal outcomes which invariably impact a nations overall economic proficiency.

 

Brain Power
 Pixabay & adapted by Kirsty

 

Rossor and Knapp believe nations that are proactive in achieving a positive cognitive footprint will fair better economically than those who don’t. This means, a nation that is mentally healthier, will be more efficient.  By fostering the term ‘cognitive footprint’, the true severity of dementias can truly be appreciated and, more importantly, globally quantified.  Moreover, if the term is aligned to other prominent modern challenges (such as ‘carbon footprint’ in the climate change debate), additional weight of its importance can be appreciated and a market brand or policy model can be developed.

 

It therefore also becomes a valid measurement to compare against other global nations as they compete to retain their society’s cognitive capital, reduce the severe economic consequences of all dementias, and seek instead to become healthier and more productive as a nation.

 

Lifetime policies for cognitive health not just end-stage dementia.

 

This article is a classic account of the tail that wags the dog. The authors are concerned about governments who are centrally focused on late-stage dementias instead of the broader, and arguably bigger, societal opportunities such as lifespan cognitive health promotion.  (See my article on achieving residential aged care organisational agility here)

 

Rossor and Knapp want policy makers to consider wider and more positive cognitive health policies and implementations influencing their nations cognitive longevity, rather than see them prey to the dementia epidemic.   Further, the authors state it is not enough that governing dementia strategic plans are available at point of diagnosis, but that they should be considering the wider opportunity to invest in their nations lifespan of cognitive health, which might reduce predispositions to cognitive impairment in the first place!

 

This observation by Rossor and Knapp is reasonably profound (evidence based), as it suggests that dementia, or rather its true definition cognitive decline, is more predominate in those who are exposed to events, pharmacology or lifestyle choices that inherently create cognitive impairment.

 

Therefore the cause of cognitive impairment, or decline such as we see in dementia, won’t just be confined to elder-hood, but what results from our entire life events, that impact our cognitive shape in old age.  Henceforth, this wonderful term Cognitive Footprint is coined and defined perfectly.

 

It's about the cognitive health efforts of a whole society.

 

brain health
Illustration: Pixabay

 

Rossor and Knapp define cognitive health as bidirectional that relies on individuals and governments as equally significant parties who endorse policies and interventions towards positive cognitive health promotion.

 

For the individual; lifetime engagement in educational investment, safe exercise, good nutrition, protective environment and healthy social behaviours are essential activities to enhancing cognitive health. And as for governments, preserving their nations full cognitive potential over a lifespan requires for instance, a participative educational culture, a responsive public health system (especially pharmacology awareness), an adaptive social care system, a just legal structure, a protective environment (i.e. safe sanitation) and a contributing and productive workforce.

 

If the term cognitive footprint does indeed carry and become a mainstream political or social slogan, it might just represent real quantifiable conversations amongst communities who truly and whole-heartedly reject the prevalence of dementias.

 

Broadly speaking, this concept can span into other areas such as obesity and debilitating chronic illnesses that might also the result of the cognitive footprint model, and thus, my imagination boggles how this term can indeed be used to measure a nations wider cognitive efficiency – from conception until death.

 

I can’t help but reflect, how has my cognitive footprint affected my life in the past, my life now, my family's life and our lives in the future?

 

One thing is for sure; my little family is and will be healthier for having learnt this.

 

AGEING BETTER TOGETHER 

 

Written by Kirsty Porter

Founder - The Age of Senescence.com 


All photos by: Kirsty Porter & Pixabay.
Feature photo adapted from Pixabay.com.
All views are my own and not affiliated with any other organisation 

What are your thoughts on this concept, THE COGNITIVE FOOTPRINT?

AND

What does a cognitive footprint model mean for you or your organisation?  

cognitive footprint model

Who Is The Age Of Senescence?

My name is Kirsty Porter and I’ve created The Age of Senescence to share my journey to discover how different countries and cultures around the world are responding to the needs of an ageing population.

 

I am a qualified nurse in Australia and have been working in the aged care industry for most of my career, both in Australia and the UK. In recent years, I’ve seen how the ageing population in Australia is impacting the nursing profession; and more specifically in residential aged care facilities. It has become obvious to me that the continuous strive for nursing excellence is marred by the more complex needs of the ageing client and their family, as well as increasingly onerous industry regulation.

 

Why Was The Age of Senescence Created?

 

I have observed an increasing number of people admitted to residential aged care facilities with greater and more chronically advanced care needs. Family members appear more exhausted from having played the caregivers role for longer than they could cope with or recover from. Staffing morale in aged care facilities is inconsistent between organisations; often resulting in unmanageable turnover rates, and this is leading to increasing difficulties in maintaining adequate, appropriate qualified and experienced staff levels (Dr. Booker researches this at length). Even more concerning is the decreasing government funding to these facilities. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Surely with a greater demand there is opportunity for industry growth? With indelible determination to find out more, in 2014 I enrolled in a Post Graduate in Aged Services Management.

 

A Post Grad. No big deal. I just wanted to dip my toe in and see what this aged care industry was really all about. However, I came away even more concerned, frustrated and somewhat obsessive about an industry that is crying out for reform. My Post Grad is central to my new transformational ideas, but industry boundaries are prohibitive. Broadly, I want to integrate nonlinearity complex adaptive systems into an age care system that is, quite frankly, limited by sovereign decree.

 

Hang on, stay with me.

 

Plainly speaking, I had acquired ‘space-age’ ideas but had no platform to launch them from. And I was annoyed.

 

But, it was the little mathematical ratio, illustrated in my picture below that really opened my eyes up to the future of age care.

 

Retired People verses the Working Population Ratio in Australia

Photo by Kirsty Jane

 

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare predicts that by 2050, Australia’s economy will have nearly half the number of people in the workforce supporting the health and welfare of an ageing population that is twice as big as it is today. And that means we, as a society, need to think outside the box if we all want quality retirement choices and a quality end of life care.

 

I then compared Australia with other developed countries, and the results are similar.  Japan is the most concerning comparison as seen in this adaption below.

Japan working ratio

 

Our choices for retirement will be, fiscally speaking, reduced. Indeed, the ‘ageing population problem’, that has been so eloquently projected by academics and policy writers alike, suddenly became very real to me. In 2050, I’ll be in my seventies and dare I say it, an economic statistic. I despair as I watch my young children play at my feet, how our retirement life will affect them and their choices?

 

‘Space-age’ ideas anyone?

 

Knowing what I know about the aged care sector, I cannot shake the question;

 

“How are we going to care for each other in the future when, by today’s standards, the system is already over stressed?”

 

Then the most magical things started happening to me.

 

Over a period of 2 years, I received messages, web links, books, watched movies and documentaries, witnessed digital disruption, found newspaper clippings, was invited to events and listened to podcasts about people and communities all over the world who were inadvertently answering my question. There were small groups of people proactive in challenging the status quo of getting old, being dependent or living with chronic disabilities. In fact, there were people influencing whole societies to change the way they approached ‘ageing well’ principles and traditional aged care options. And what’s more, they were succeeding!

 

PEOPLE WERE DOING MORE WITH LESS!

 

For instance, a brilliant doctor in Leiden, The Netherlands started the ‘re-socialisation’ Alzheimer’s Caféphenomena; now hailing over 1,000 operating sites in Europe, UK, America, Ireland, Canada and Australia.

 

Or another example of a Canadian man who, while planning digital music to be included in his own aged care, inadvertently went on to inspire the Music and Memory project that is now widespread in nursing homes across the US, Canada and Australia.

 

And finally, a woman from Minnesota, USA who was so devastated by the experience of caring for her own mother’s dementia symptoms, went on to build the nationally renowned ‘Lakeview Ranch Model of Specialised Dementia Care’.

 

There are other smaller examples too, but certainly no less significant. A residential aged care home in Germany created a ‘front of house’ pseudo bus-stop in response to curbing residents with Alzheimer from wandering too far from the facility.

 

But more on these in future articles.

 

From all these examples and more, I have learnt just how one person’s idea can impact a whole age care industry, its productivity potential, its commercial outcomes, inspire project enterprises in neighboring countries and, most importantly, it can affect inter-generational socialisation and participation!

 

Ordinary People with Extraordinary Ideas

 

People around the world are quite literally bringing the elder generation, especially the most isolated, out of their homes and back into society. What is most alluring is that these are ordinary people, creating extraordinary ideas, and drawing inspiration from the very problems they have encountered while navigating their own cultural aged care system. Interestingly, and more often then not, these ideas have actually created enterprise and business opportunity. Certainly, this is an economic win!

Pieces of the Puzzle

And so it is here that The Age of Senescence is born.

 

What is The Age of Senescence?

 

My aim is to create a directory, of sorts, that brings all these stories of innovation, participation and productivity together; with the sole intention to encourage other communities to replicate.

 

So I have dared myself to stare down the rabbit hole, and teach myself about digital technology, website building, social media and ecommerce. Hilariously, my first Google search was: “What is a domain name?”; a low starting point indeed. And so it begins….

 

I am not an academic, a doctor or even a recognised specialist in my field. Nor am I a journalist, a representative of an organisation or a government official.  But I do however have 20 dynamic years of nursing, sales and marketing experience in both Australia and the United Kingdom, predominately in the aged care. And as I face this new self-imposed career direction with enthusiasm, my writing will undoubtedly come from the heart.  I will certainly be guided by you, the audience, while I navigate this vast space I have created for myself.

 

How Will The Age Of Senescence Work?

 

Fully enchanted by people who have had the courage to create, the grit to develop and the persistence to launch such creative ageing ideas, I’m inspired to do the same. And now, having created the medium to connect with you, I don’t just want to talk about it; I want to write about it, video it, link it to you, try to emulate it, photograph it and display it here, on The Age of Senescence, to inspire others to see how global communities and organisations are responding to the needs of their ageing population.

 

Further, through the wonders of digital technology, the genre of blogging and the fashion of social media, we can now communicate and truly connect with like minded people from our own homes.

macbook

The Age of Senescence invites you to journey with me as I discover, share and document new responsive technology, literature, innovation and services for the ageing population.   And also, ideas about who is inspiring it and why.   But more importantly, to instill belief that you too can replicate and develop these ideas into your own ageing community.

 

I would love to hear from you, especially if you are currently in the throws of navigating your own age care system.

 

How has the competition for aged care provision affected or improved the quality, access, participation or equity of services in your community or country?

 

Thank you,

 

AGEING BETTER TOGETHER

Kirsty Porter
Nurse and Aged Care Enthusiast

MY VIEWS ARE MY OWN AND NOT AFFILIATED WITH ANY OTHER ORGANISATION
NO ROYALTIES RECEIVED OR REQUESTED
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