By Danielle Rogers
“What I realized is you cannot dwell too long on what you can’t do anymore. It is a new life – how do I begin to take my new life on?”
Early stage program participant
People in the early stages of Alzheimer’s or related dementia (ADRD) have the unique and empowering ability to become their own advocates. In addition to starting treatment sooner, people in the early stages can be actively involved in decisions about care, transportation, financial and legal matters.
Many individuals in the early stages can benefit from receiving emotional support from Alzheimer’s Association programs and there are many resources available to help them adjust to changes that occur after diagnosis. A recent survey found that almost half of individuals with dementia said their most important need after a diagnosis is to learn ways to stay healthy and maintain quality of life. “What I realized is you cannot dwell too long on what you can’t do anymore” says one early stage program participant, “it is a new life – how do I begin to take my new life on?”
Medical professionals are beginning to respond to this need. Dr. Rebecca Logsdon has worked with early stage memory loss support groups for many years and began to focus on quality of life her in research. By building on existing research, one of her studies found that for individuals with early-stage memory loss, participating in a nine-week support group resulted in significantly better quality of life. The study found that participation led to increased social and emotional support while decreasing isolation. However, not everyone can commit to a group for nine weeks. So Dr. Logsdon and her team decided to modify the nine-week curriculum to create a new activities-based program called Staying Connected.
Staying Connected is a short-term, health promotion program that teaches participants how to stay involved in their favorite activities, cope with the daily challenges of memory loss, celebrate accomplishments and talk about their memory loss with friends and family. Most importantly, the program gives people in the early stages of memory loss what they have said they need most – improved quality of life.
Staying Connected consists of four weekly 90-minute sessions. Social buddies (a spouse, neighbor or friend) attend each session to provide support for the person with memory loss. Each session includes a discussion, time for socializing and a “homework” assignment to plan activities that they both enjoy and create a sense of accomplishment.
Staying Connected gives participants the chance to work together to face issues related to memory loss with a community of peers. Janice, a participant in the Oregon State Chapter Staying Connected series, says “it was an opportunity to interact with people at the same stage I was in and it helped me have a greater understanding that I’m not alone. And I don’t feel alone anymore.”
Dr. Logsdon hopes that the program will serve as a gateway to getting connected with other kinds of programs and services, especially for individuals who aren’t sure how to get involved. “For people with memory loss, it’s a great experience” she says. “They get to meet other people experiencing the same kinds of things and exchange information. Our hope is that they can continue relationships after the group ends.”
To learn more about upcoming Staying Connected dates and locations, contact Danielle Rogers: 206-529-3870 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Alzheimer’s Association has a variety of other social engagement programs for individuals with early stage memory loss.