For Alzheimer’s: Do not go gentle into that good night

During the baby boomer years, it was an oft repeated proclamation given to any auditorium filled with eager, fresh-faced, first-year law school students on orientation day:

“Look to the person on your left, and the one on your right. One of you will be gone by the end of this year.”

Harrowing words.

Today, however, those same baby boomers are bearing witness to yet an even more harrowing proclamation: “Look to the three on your left, and the three on your right. One of you will develop Alzheimer’s disease.”

And your Alzheimer’s journey will take about ten years.

And there’s no cure. No chemotherapy, no transplant, and no pacemaker.

So…what are next steps?

Up until now, the healthcare industry has responded to the dementia population largely through a program of mass-warehousing: locked-down long-term nursing-care facilities, psychotropic medications to make residents docile, and upscale “memory care” units for those who can pay the +$5,000/monthly bill.

But the mass-warehousing approach, for the 64 million people living worldwide with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, has failed; because 44% of long-term nursing-care residents in the US report being abused, and because government health budgets are already buckling under the load (and the growth has just begun—it’s only orientation day).

Heading for the Exit Door

So, a new paradigm has emerged—led to a significant extent by thought leaders in the UK — because the single payer NHS budget is being overwhelmed by mass warehousing, and because of the relatively high social status that caregivers enjoy there.

This new paradigm is called the dementia-safe community.

The dementia-safe community is *your* community, where you have always lived, and where people with Alzheimer’s/dementia carry on their lives as before—but with the helpful support of safety + social technologies, family caregivers, and their community.

Australia recently celebrated a dementia-safe community month in September; in Scandinavia there is active county interest in building dementia safe communities; and ideas founded in the Purple Angel Project are changing the way we think about living with Alzheimer’s/dementia.

The next post will detail this new thinking on the dementia safe community, and perhaps a much brighter future for all those 1Ls who managed to make it this far.

Stay Tuned.