A Light at the End of the Tunnel

DEALING WITH DEMENTIA

Assisted living facilities have been hard-hit by the coronavirus. Thankfully, Wisconsin is faring better than some states, but families of dementia patients are facing a special kind of heartache. The “no visit rule” is crushing for families and facilities that in a more normal time would be encouraging family visits.

A dementia diagnosis takes a toll on families, and the pandemic has added to that burden. Dementia patients are often confused and require physical touch to connect, and the technology that has been uniting the rest of us is unfathomable to them.

In this kind of environment, it’s reassuring to know that Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services (DHS) is working with partners across the state to implement a new Wisconsin State Dementia Plan called DEMENTIA-CAPABLE WISCONSIN.

The plan was informed by a statewide survey that took place in 2018, generating 1,600 responses from people with memory loss, family members, caregivers and professionals who work with individuals suffering from dementia.

According to research, 242,000 people in Wisconsin will be affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia by 2040, doubling from today’s numbers. This growth is at the core of DEMENTIA-CAPABLE WISCONSIN and its goal of improving the quality of life for individuals affected by dementia.

The intention of DEMENTIA-CAPABLE WISCONSIN is to prioritize the needs identified by the survey, namely:

  1. More options for people with dementia who are in crisis.
  2. Better care for people with dementia in assisted living and nursing homes.
  3. Greater awareness in our state about dementia and brain health.

A Steering Committee and leadership teams have been created to help in the main focus areas of communities, health care, crisis response and facilities.

In addition, a communications team will be creating a website for DEMENTIA-CAPABLE WISCONSIN. Until the website is ready you can subscribe to receive email updates.

If you’re a care facility with dementia patients, Wisconsin Caregiver Academy offers Train the Trainer courses addressing the unique challenges of dementia. Learn more.

Dance like there IS a Tomorrow

The population of the United States is aging. And aging rapidly. By 2060 older adults will number 92 million. That’s a threefold increase from 2000.

With age comes physical inactivity, causing a harmful cascade of health and emotional issues, including heart and circulatory diseases, depression, anxiety, dementia and frailty.

Health researchers around the globe have been investigating ways to counteract this dangerous trend, and they have discovered a promising solution: dance.

Studies in North America, South America, Europe and Asia found that dance can significantly improve muscular strength, endurance, balance and other aspects of functional fitness in older adults. Dance has added benefit of providing artistic expression, enhancing not only fitness but self-motivation, positively affecting depression, anxiety and even sleep.

And it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of dance. The results track for ballroom, contemporary, cultural, pop and jazz, making it the perfect solution for older adults of any background.

So foxtrot or folk dance, dancing is a great way to maintain well-being into old age.

NOTE: If redefining healthy aging for an exploding population of older adults excites you, explore the new Geriatric Healthcare Certificate program.

Governor Ever’s Task Force on Caregiving

CAREGIVER CRISIS

In early 2019 Governor Evers signed an Executive Order that established a Task Force on Caregiving. The order responds to a looming caregiver crisis in Wisconsin. The number of seniors who need care is skyrocketing, outpacing the pool of caregivers available to help them. Additionally, caregivers earn low wages and get little recognition, which means providers struggle to attract and retain workers.

The task force will address the challenges with a multi-tiered approach:

  • Analyzing strategies to attract and retain a strong direct care workforce.
  • Supporting families providing care for their loved ones through respite services and other supports.
  • Assessing compensation and fringe benefits for caregivers including ways to make healthcare affordable for the caregiving workforce through employer-sponsored plans, Medicaid buy-in plans, or other health insurance coverage options.
  • Establishing one or more registries of home care providers and developing a plan to provide referral or matching services for individuals in need of home care.
  • Developing a plan to implement recruitment and retention programs to expand the pool or providers.
  • Exploring and developing solutions, in collaboration with other relevant departments and agencies to support and strengthen the direct care workforce, increase access, and improve the quality of caregiving in Wisconsin.

The task force has met four times in 2019 with additional meetings scheduled in 2020. The goal of each meeting is to collaboratively address trends and creatively develop solutions.

“Caregivers provide critically important services and are often the unsung heroes, supporting and caring for friends and loved ones so they can stay in their homes and their communities,” said Gov. Evers. “It’s important to me that we recognize, value, and celebrate the work of caregivers across our state, and that we make sure caregivers have the support they need while strengthening and improving access to the direct care workforce in Wisconsin.”

A copy of the governor’s executive order can be found here.

Caregiving is a Labor of Love

CARING FOR THE CAREGIVER
Everyone will be a caregiver at some point in their lives.

Caregiving is a labor of love not only for the professional caregiver but also the personal caregiver. Both need support and access to resources.

Your local Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) is a great place to start.

Caregiving encompasses many people and many tasks: checking up on a neighbor, picking up a grandparent’s prescription, bringing a relative to the doctor’s.

The added pressure of caregiving in addition to the stresses of everyday responsibilities can affect the health of any caregiver.

Your local ADRC offers many services that can help alleviate some of the pressure and encourage more communication, including:

  • Personal Care
  • Respite Care
  • Dementia Care
  • Assistance with Home Care & Errands
  • Support Care
  • Financial Guidance

In addition, your local ADRC hosts seminars and publishes handbooks and guides.

ADRCs are a Wisconsin idea designed to partner with older adults, persons with disabilities, and their caregivers empowering them to live their best possible life. Learn more about them https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/adrc/index.htm.

Changing Trends

THE AGE OF ASSISTED LIVING

Today’s boomers face a range of choices when it comes to getting assisted living care for their parents or loved ones. It can be a daunting decision with many factors to consider. How do boomers choose? What are the factors and changing trends to consider?

Retirement Living recently completed a study where they polled retirees to find out where they envisioned living in their futures. The answers were largely determined by age and relative health, with a strong majority preferring to “age in place,” or “age in community” as it is sometimes referred as. Other highlights of the study include:

  • Just over 80 percent of respondents say they plan on living at home as they age.
  • ​75 percent of people said failing health is the leading push factor that would cause them to move into an assisted living facility, up about 25 percent from 10 years ago. The second biggest push factor is the loss of the ability to drive at 30 percent.
  • ​People are starting to think about and/or plan on using technology more to help them age in place (up from 10 years ago).
  • When asked if they could no longer live on their own, 52 percent of people said they would rather live at home but with a part- or full-time caregiver over moving into an assisted living facility, moving in with friends or family or moving into a nursing home. Just over 30 percent said they would move into an assisted living facility, up 13 percent from 2016.

AARP is an advocate for “aging in place” or “aging in community” as it can also be called, and they have developed a “home fit” section of their website, designed to help boomers and their parents or loved ones evaluate and update the home room-by-room.

When it comes to researching an assisted living facility, a good place to start in Wisconsin is the guide on the Department of Health website. It explains the types of facilities and a glossary of terms, so boomers and their parents or loved ones have some understanding of the words used as they research or tour. There’s even a downloadable presentation “Choosing an Assisted Living Facility” that includes helpful Q&A and worksheets.

As the topic of how to care for an aging parent or loved one starts to weigh on the minds of boomers, here are some ways to start to think about choices and considerations.