Alzheimer's Futurists Explain How America Can Cope With the Epidemic.
Providing meaningful roles in society, involving children, and embracing a love-based approach are how America can successfully cope with the soaring numbers of people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other memory-impairing diseases. That's the view of Alzheimer's futurists Loren Shook and Steve Winner, who say the nation must elevate care for those with the disease alongside the ongoing efforts to develop prevention and cure measures. They issue a call to action in their new book, The Silverado Story: A Memory-Care Culture Where Love is Greater than Fear. The book is being published on November 1, the start of National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month.
"Despite enormous activity by researchers, no drugs or medical procedures have yet been found for preventing or curing memory-impairing diseases," said Shook. "It is critical that their work continue and we support it. But it's also crucial to focus on improving the lives of the millions of people who currently have memory impairment and the millions more who will develop it in the future."
The Silverado Story details practices Shook and Winner believe should form the core of America's response to what is being called the Alzheimer's epidemic. The approaches are central at Silverado Senior Living, the memory-care organization the pair established nearly 15 years ago. Silverado's founding innovations, including the lack of physical and pharmaceutical restraints, drug reduction, exercise, and the active role of children and pets have now been widely adopted across the field. A groundbreaking study conducted at Silverado's memory-care community in Escondido, Calif. by University of California at San Diego researcher Dr. Sonia Ancoli-Israel revealed the positive impact of sunlight on the mood and behavior of those with memory-impairment. This finding has also shaped professional care standards. More than 3,500 memory-impaired people have regained the ability to walk and over 2,500 have become able to feed themselves again while in Silverado's care.
Practices Shook and Winner say are key for the future include:
Providing the memory-impaired with meaningful roles in the mainstream of daily life. "Every human being needs a sense of purpose and value to others," Winner said. "This desire doesn't go away as a person's Alzheimer's progresses. If anything, it becomes even more vital for maintaining their self-esteem and spirit. It is incumbent upon us as a society to offer the memory-impaired opportunities to participate instead of isolating them." Winner points out the success of including the developmentally-disabled in society's mainstream in the latter part of the 20th century. "We all now accept this as normal and understand its importance. We must do the same for those with Alzheimer's disease."
Putting children in close touch with the memory-impaired so they grow into concerned adults. "The current generation of adults is uncomfortable around people with Alzheimer's and this attitude is a major reason many are kept shut away from society," Winner said. "But children have open minds and hearts. They are able to quickly accept and befriend the memory-impaired. A number of young people who participate at our Silverado memory-care communities have chosen to dedicate their careers to Alzheimer's care because of their early positive experiences. This is a wonderful model for all to follow."
Approaching the issue with the principle that "Love is greater than fear." Shook says, "By this, we mean embracing the memory-impaired and acting in their best interests through the spirit of love, rather than shunning them because of our own fears of the disease. This belief will be essential to making memory-impairment care as great a social focus as are prevention and cure."
More information on the book The Silverado Story is available at www.SilveradoStory.com. All net proceeds from the sale of The Silverado Story will benefit the Future Senior Care Leaders Fund, a scholarship program for those training for leadership roles in serving the memory-impaired, administered by the non-profit Silverado Foundation.
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