start creating special communities to better empower those with cognitive impairments. He adds, when we engage people with

dementia, we have to do it on their level. People who interact with those with Alzhei- mer’s tend to see the condition in a despair- ing manner because it affects the memory, but that’s a defeatist attitude, says Zeisel. The trick is to go back to the basics. Zeisel mentioned assisted living com-

munities as an example. While you or I may rely on a map to get around, he says, that’s often not an option for people with Alzheimer’s who have decreased cognitive functioning. Instead, he adds, consider what a child would use to navigate—landmarks. “If we design assisted living communities

with landmarks [on maps instead of street names], people can find their way,” he says.

Involvement Leads to Engagement This kind of basic-level thinking also applies to day-to-day activities. Jessica Ruhle, the manager of public education at the Nasher Museum at Duke University offers museum tours for people with dementia. She holds deep conversations about what people see in different works of art, keeping in mind that there is no right or wrong answer. Incorpo- rating music, Ruhle’s goal is to get as many people involved as possible, often inviting students from nearby schools to participate. The experience is enriching, not only for

visitors with dementia but even for people in the museum who aren’t directly involved with the project. “Having an Alzheimer’s program helps

get rid of the stigma surrounding dementia even for people who just observe,” she says. “It’s my hope that this will happen in mu-

seums all across the country,” Ruhle adds. “We have the expectation that K-12 [chil- dren] have museums fully available to them and that should be the case for this popula- tion. Museums are community spaces and should be available for all populations.” Sylvia Mackey agrees. Mackey is a long-

time advocate and educator for people with dementia and their families. The wife of John Mackey, a former NFL tight end who passed away in 2011 from frontotemporal dementia, Sylvia Mackey spent decades making life for her husband as comfortable and engaging as possible. Mackey would often take her husband on trips to football games or to sign autographs—both of which he enjoyed but did not require high- er levels of reasoning or motor skills. She says the outings were a way to keep him connected with the outside world. Though there is no cure for Alzheimer’s,

top scientists are working on finding ways to prevent and slow down the disease. Dr. Gary Small, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and di-

Joel Kroft, Country Meadows Executive Director of Memory Support, wrote “The Unforgettable Adventures of Grandma’s Cape,” a children’s story and activity book through the inspiration of his own three children. “Children connect with stories,” he said, adding that children are often the most accepting when their grandparent experiences dementia, but sometimes they need help to recognize that the person they love is still there.

rector of the UCLA Longevity Center, says people can reduce their risk of developing the condition by quitting smoking, reducing stress, getting enough sleep, exercising both their bodies and their brains and eating a healthy diet full of anti-inflammatories. For now, the research on what exactly will halt this disease is inconclusive, but scientists are pouring time and resources into the pursuit of concrete information. “We don’t know definitely that you need

to do XYZ to enhance your memory or prevent Alzheimer’s disease,” says Dr. Marie Bernard, the deputy director of the National Institute on Aging. That’s why symposiums like the Argentum

program are so important—they keep the conversation going, Bernard says. By pulling our collective expertise and innovative ideas, we can work toward a cure, and, in the meantime, improve the Alzheimer’s field by making life better for countless individuals. “It’s inspiring,” she adds. “Go back to

Cassie McDonagh, StoryPoint and Tim Bryant, Senior Village Management

your organization, your community, your home and take charge [so] we can continue to advance the mission on memory care.”


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