dr-bill-thomas-blogpost-imageFor decades, the only dementia story heard is one of loss and despair. But there is a new dementia story being told: a story of joy and growth. It is a story being told by, and for, people living with dementia. Geriatrician Dr. Bill Thomas is currently barnstorming the country in a rock-n-roll tour bus to bring communities a new, highly disruptive understanding of aging.

Dr. Thomas will be our keynote speaker at the Michiana Gerontology Institute’s (MGI) Ninth Annual Gerontology Conference on Oct. 20 (at The Kroc Center, South Bend, Indiana.)

Dr. Thomas is an author, entrepreneur, musician, teacher, farmer and physician. His wide ranging work explores the terrain of human aging. Best known for his health care system innovations, he is  the founder of a global, non-profit, The Eden Alternative, which works to improve the care provided to older people.

During the keynote address, Dr. Bill will present MGI’s first “Changing Aging Award.”  This award will go to a person who personifies what it means to age with grace, passion and service to others.  An afternoon workshop, “Disrupt Dementia,” is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. The day includes a panel discussion and interactive lobby experience, as well as an evening non-fiction theater performance.

This event is open to professionals, families, friends, and interested community members.

Register by Oct. 13. Enroll online at www.mgi-hcc.org. or contact Pat Adams at (574) 239-8364 or padams@hcc-nd.edu.

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The Institute exists to increase collaboration among member organizations and individuals, who serve the aging and provide education to further improve the lives of those served. The purpose of the Institute is to provide intergenerational outreach and education to improve the lives of elderly through services and awareness. Through expansion and growth, the Institute will continue to facilitate the involvement, integration and coordination of organizations and individuals to service older adults in northern Indiana and southern Michigan.

 

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The Power of Community for those with Dementia

by dale on September 19, 2016

bill-and-steve-45-reunionWe have all heard how important socialization is for us as we age.  That is especially true for those with dementia.  But I now believe that we must move beyond socialization to “community.”  My husband (Bill) and I experienced the depth and power of community last week when we traveled back to Annapolis, Maryland to attend his 45th reunion at the US Naval Academy (USNA.)  It was a week that was truly life-changing for both of us, but especially for him as he continues to confront the decline that comes with Lewy Body disease.

Let me take a step back first and describe what our life was like before this life-changing event.

My husband was diagnosed with Lewy Body disease two years ago at the age of 68 at Cleveland Clinic.  For those of you who don’t know, the disease is unpredictable (from day to day) and has a much shorter prognosis than many of the other dementias.  On a daily basis, he struggles with Parkinson’s (a part of the disease), REM sleep disorder, hallucinations and cognitive decline.  He is very aware of the disease and identifies each new loss himself.  He was an engineer and this is how he maintains some control over the disease, by analyzing it.  I have my own ways of coping.  I structure his days, ensuring he has the best balance of physical exercise (PT and our Y), healthy food and that all important hydration,  and something that I feel is so very important, nurturing his friendships and relationships.  We’ll often visit friends, have impromptu dinners, attend his monthly train club meetings and attend his Early Stage monthly events at our local Alzheimer’s & Dementia Services of Northern Indiana.

Everyone tells me we do so much, we are so proactive.  We try to be.  But, as his wife and caregiver, I am always looking for opportunities that will bring him joy. You can have all the structure and care in the world, but without joy, you are missing out on life big time!

And so last April, I received an email from the wife of my husband’s former roommate from USNA, telling me of the 45th class of 1971 reunion.  I decided then and there, that I would do all in my power to take him back to his first reunion since he graduated in 1971.  Between April and the reunion, he declined, of course!  But I carefully planned the best mode and route to travel, got advice from his neurologist, obtained a wheelchair and learned how to lift it in and out of our trunk.  7 days in 4 hotels.  Not only did we successfully navigate the miles (Indiana to Maryland), the heat (oftentimes over 100 degrees) and the change in his environment,  Bill found a deep connection to his past, re-connection with friends with whom he shared and continues to share, an unbelievable bond AND found that often elusive, Joy!

At the reunion, my heart was filled to overflowing with gratitude.  I never had to ask for help.  One of his classmates was always there.  If I had to step away from his wheelchair, I would look back and see classmates on either side and a huge smile on Bill’s face.  We spent every meal and every event with the men and spouses of his company (a smaller unit of the class.)  We shared stories of our children, grandchildren, our world travels.  We shared our hopes and dreams for the future.  We connected in a deeper way than I ever expected.

And, no we will not be waiting until the 50th reunion to gather again.  We all vowed to meet in San Diego in 2018 for a mini-reunion.  My husband is determined we will be there.  His former roommate offered to fly to our home and help me fly Bill there!!!

The day after we returned, Bill’s physical therapist asked him, “What happened to you?  You are doing great with all your exercises.”  I see a man transformed by deep community, given the gift of joy and hope.  We both know his very special “community” will be there for us and we will be there for them.

My advice to those immersed in the world of dementia… find your community, a community that embraces your past and that holds hope for the future.  And never ever pass up the chance to go to a college reunion!

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Prescription Cocktails and the Older Driver

August 29, 2016

(Many thanks to our guest author, Matt Gurwell, Founder of Keeping Us Safe, LLC.  August 25, 2016) Tragedy in Denver On July, 13, 2016, on a city street in southeast Denver, 81-year-old Patricia Livingston drove her Audi A4 into two boys out for an afternoon ride on their bicycles, killing 14-year-old Cole Sukle and severely […]

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The Amazing Alternative to Nursing Home Placement

July 29, 2016

If you are a family caregiver of an aging loved one with increasing physical and mental decline, you may be getting close to a tipping point, not sure how much longer you can meet those increasing needs. You may be Overwhelmed by the increasing hands-on care that’s needed Emotionally and physically worn out Your loved […]

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Hospice Care, Individual & Family Choice

May 29, 2016

(Many thanks to our guest blogger, Ellen J. Windham, hospice professional and author of the new book, “Hospice: The Last Responder“.  It is absolutely critical that each of us be informed about our options regarding hospice.  Otherwise, we will unknowingly relinquish control of one of the most important decisions regarding our loved one’s care … […]

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Kidney Disease – Early Detection Can Save Your Life

May 23, 2016

(Many thanks to our guest blogger, Shirley Barchi, avid world traveler, hiker, lover of theatre and reading, passionate volunteer (in theatre, library and reading programs for children, and numerous athletic events)….. and now adovcate for kidney health) According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 20 million Americans – one in nine adults – have chronic kidney disease […]

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Aging parent? Send to All – Reply to All

February 22, 2016

(Many thanks to our guest blogger, Cathy Fairchild, owner of Say Yes to Less and professional organizer extraordinaire!  You may connect with Cathy and learn more about her and her awesome services at www.sayyestoless.guru) I grew up in a large family – my parents raised five sons and three daughters and I was number six.  My […]

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Best Practices in Person-Centered Care

October 13, 2015

ATTENTION: Nurses, social workers, long term care administrators!!! Michiana Gerontology Institute’s one day conference offers 5.75 Contact hours for Nurses; 5.5 CEU’s for Social Workers and Long Term Care Administrators. Holy Cross College, Notre Dame, Indiana. Thursday, October 22, 2015. This year’s conference theme, “Best Practices in Person-Centered Care” features Viki Kind ( international speaker, […]

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A Daughter’s Last Words to her Mother

September 7, 2015

My mother’s funeral service was this past Friday, September 5, 2015 at Fairhaven chapel in Maryland.  My brother sang “It is Well with My Soul” in a voice that can only be described as angelic!  I then delivered her eulogy, as follows: “On behalf of my brother and me, thank you for being here today to […]

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Workbook for Older Drivers & Their Families – now available in South Bend, Indiana

August 7, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (July 25, 2015 . Contact:  Matt Gurwell, Founder & CEO, Keeping Us Safe, LLC.  (877) 907-8841 or info@keepingussafe.org) (South Bend, IN) – Do you wonder if the older driver in your family may be experiencing diminishing driving skills as a result of the natural aging process?  Has your parent become lost recently while […]

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