What’s Your Moment of Innovation?
By: Bruce Wray, Communications Manager

In the clinical world of dementia there is a saying that goes something like this: “Once you’ve seen one person with dementia, you’ve seen one person with dementia”. This adage speaks to how the various neuro-degenerative brain diseases (that the term dementia encompasses) can affect one person differently than another person with the same diagnosis. Those differences can be seen in the cognitive abilities, the behaviour and the physical capabilities of a person. The complexity of dementia is due to the fact it attacks the singular mechanism that controls all aspects of your body – your brain. This is not to say there aren’t similarities in people living with dementia – there are, but overall dementia can be a very individual illness.

For caregivers, both professional and family care partners, the individuality of dementia symptoms can test even the most experienced caregiver.  Caring for someone in advanced stages of the condition can pose challenges that can trigger conflicting emotions and high levels of stress in both a professional or home setting.  Success in the caregiving role means being able to adapt to those challenges in ways that sometimes are as individual as the person with dementia. Many times, the caregiver/partner needs to develop innovative ‘work-arounds’ to deal with a person’s symptoms that are problematic or even dangerous to their well-being.

At the Alzheimer Society we hear many heartbreaking stories about dementia. However, we also hear of stories where someone has developed a tactic or strategy in dementia care – one of those ‘work arounds’ – that has made a positive difference in someone’s journey. We love to hear those stories! Here are two examples of the kinds of stories that have inspired us:  A long-ago retired nurse now living with dementia in a long-term care facility was known to be up throughout the night, wandering the halls and following staff. The daughter suggested that the staff give her mom a clipboard during those times. The retired nurse now thought she was back doing her rounds, was more engaged with her environment and overall less agitated and anxious. Another highlight story and again involving sleeplessness in a

facility; the night staff were told to work in their pajamas versus their regular scrubs so that residents who weren’t sleeping would be subtly cued to return to their beds. These are just two examples of many such stories that provide hope and important examples we can share with others to be used as coping strategies for their situation.

It is in the spirit of advancing practical and creative solutions to dementia care problems that the Alzheimer Society has launched a contest called Moments of Innovation. The contest is a featured element at our upcoming dementia education conference called Navigating the Road Ahead: Innovations in Dementia Care.  We’ve defined a moment of innovation as a creative approach to dementia care that achieves an enhanced quality of life for people living with dementia through new care approaches, strategies or techniques. The entries received will be posted on our Facebook and Twitter platforms with five finalist videos being shown at the conference. Conference-goers will vote on the one video that best showcases how a dementia challenge was overcome enabling a better quality of life.

Visit our conference web page for more information about the contest; alzheimerlondon.ca/ntra. Family and professional caregivers are encouraged to enter their ‘moment of innovation’.

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