It comes in many forms: Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy Bodies, mixed dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and more.
No matter the name attached, dementia exists on a broad spectrum that can impose great obstacles and impacts on the lives of patients and their families.
“In all cases, dementia is a constant moving target. Brain changes happen second to second, and over the course of a period of time that may last months or years.”
Those words, spoken by Teepa Snow, illustrate the lasting and difficult effects dementia can impose on those who suffer with it, and also on the family members and professionals who provide care.
Snow, a registered occupational therapist for over 30 years, who also serves as one of the world’s foremost advocates for patients with dementia, as well as a leading educator for their families and professional caregivers, is in Fremont today. She is speaking at an all-day Alzheimer’s Educational Event at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, an event organized by the MJ Senior Housing Foundation.
“There’s a wide variety of dementia that people are struggling with every day,” said MaryLynne Bolden, co-owner of MJ Senior Housing LLC which operates five senior housing facilities in Nebraska at locations in Hastings, Bellevue, Ashland, and also in Fremont at Providence Place on 32nd Street.
“It’s a disease of the whole family and affects everyone,” Bolden said, and part of her goal in organizing the Alzheimer’s event flourishes from her desire to address the following question: “What do we do for these people who are living with the reality of it (dementia) right now?”
Bolden explained that an abundance of training and education on dementia research exists, but for family members and other front-line caregivers, like nurses, nursing assistants and other healthcare workers, accessibility to that and training and education may not be feasible or even applicable to the situation with which they live.
“Research is important,” Bolden said. “But our folks are struggling with it right now.”
Their “race is now,” she added, emphasizing the events mantra, “Your Race is Now.”
For that reason Bolden and MJ Senior Housing co-owner, Jason Lange, with foundation board members David Schmidt and Linda Dexter, organized the educational event. It focuses on educating and training family members and professional caregivers in their approach to compassionate and sensitive care of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia patients.
Both Lange and Bolden, expressed deep appreciation for the sponsors and vendors who allowed them to offer the event for free.
Through those sponsors and vendors, Bolden and Lange were able to keep the event free and local so that Fremont receives all of the benefits.
Additionally, important people dedicated to the field of dementia treatment and research are attending. Those people include Snow and Dr. Stephen Bonasera, Associate Professor, Internal Medicine Division of Geriatrics at University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Throughout the day, Snow will speak to, and inform professionals on the importance of communication with patients who suffer from dementia. Additionally she will inform on methods of patient interaction when confronted with challenging behaviors.
Starting at 5:00 p.m. the event is open to the public. Sponsoring organizations and vendors will visit with families and provide information on resources and support.
Then at 6:00 p.m., Snow will address family members on the following topics: “Learning to Let it Go and Live in the Here and Now” and “Finding Humor in Caregiving.”
Bonasera will follow with a question and answer session on the latest dementia research that he is conducting and how families might become involved in that research.
Bolden and Lange highlighted that the evening events, starting at 5:00 p.m., are open and free to the public.
In 2015 they decided to form their foundation in part to better educate and train the front-line caregivers: those family members and professionals who interact directly with dementia patients. They wanted to offer free and expert training to those caregivers who don’t always have the time or the resources to attend larger healthcare conferences around the United States.
Additionally, Lange informed that one of the event’s goals arises out of the need and desire to provide caregivers, whether family or professional, the training and techniques that they can learn and then take home and implement that very same day.
Techniques that have an “immediate impact,” Lange stressed.
However, it’s not just about the techniques; Bolden wants individuals to take away something more.
“Hope,” she said, referring to family members. She wants people to realize “that there’s hope for the family.”
Part of instilling that hope, Bolden explains, comes from providing the right resources, the right education and the right support to those struggling to overcome the harsh realities that caring for – or struggling with – dementia can create.