The prophesied flood of dementia-stricken adults—most recently described in a report by the World Health Organization (WHO), which predicted worldwide cases of the disease to double by 2030—has people around the world seeking unique ways to cope with the impending onslaught.
The United States just released its National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease(NAPA). It joins eight other countries, including, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, who, according to the WHO, have nationwide plans in place to combat the disease.
The plan calls for a variety of things, including the channeling of increased funding and manpower into coming up with more effective ways to treat, and interventions to help Alzheimer’s sufferers and their caregivers better cope with the disease.
Also outlined in the formal plan is a strategy to solicit the help of other countries who have already begun implementing their own plans. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has pledged to meet with representatives from other nations, with the hope that collaborating with foreign officials will help generate effective and unique ways to tackle the Alzheimer’s epidemic.
This part of the plan isn’t likely to get as much press as the stated goal of developing an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s by the year 2025, but it presents a windfall of potential help for people dealing with the disease. Most countries share the similar goal of eradicating Alzheimer’s, but different nations have different strategies for helping people cope in the meantime.
In the United Kingdom (U.K.), for example, the Department of Health recently teamed up with the Design Council to develop, “Living well with dementia,” a design program that challenges people to come up with products and services meant to make life better for people with dementia.
The Design Council just announced that the challenge’s top five designs have been nominated for further development.
These designs include products like: “Ode,” a scented alarm meant to help trigger the desire to eat in people who have lost their appetite, and ‘dementia dogs,’ canine companions who are trained to help people with mild dementia with daily tasks like waking up, taking medications, and going to the bathroom.
Ode to a good meal
The challenge of enticing an elderly loved one to eat is not exclusive to those caring for people with dementia, but the memory-robbing nature of the disease can make it difficult for seniors to remember whether they’ve already eaten, or even to feel hungry at all.
This dilemma compelled Rodd, a U.K. design firm, to create the “Ode,” a tabletop machine that releases food aromas at strategic times throughout the day. Ode’s scents include Bakewell tart (an English dessert), spice, and citrus. When released around mealtimes, these odors that have been shown to play a role in appetite stimulation in people with dementia.
Preliminary testing indicates that the Ode model has shown promise. In some cases, people with dementia who had Ode placed in their rooms had a 39 percent increase in positive eating behaviors such as requesting second helpings and weight gain.
The creators of Ode envision their concept expanding to products that possibly help manage moods and increase concentration in people with the dementia.
Fido facilitates living with dementia
More and more people are being diagnosed with dementia in its early stages—meaning that they can still perform many of daily activities without much assistance.
The problem is that dementia can cause these people to lose more than just their memory. They may also lose their sense of routine and responsibility, as well as their place in the community.
To help these people reconnect with the outside world, members of the Glasgow School of Art teamed up with Alzheimer’s Scotland, Dogs for the Disabled, and Guide Dogs U.K., to come up with the concept of a ‘dementia dog’ for people in the mild stages of the disease.
From a practical standpoint, these specially-trained pooches will be able to do things like wake their owners up, deliver bite-proof pouches of prescription pills, and remind them to do things like eat.
A video promoting the project on the Design Council’s website claims that the dogs may also, “act as an anchor,” for a person with dementia, helping them feel more comfortable in their homes as well as in the outside world.
The dementia dog design team hopes that just by walking the dog, seniors with the disease will be able to engage more with other people in their community.
Pilot testing of the dementia dog program is projected to begin by the end of this year.
The caregiver creative
The “Living well with dementia” design challenge produced some exciting new ideas, unfortunately, most of these ideas are still in the developmental stages.
This is an approach the U.S. has not yet taken in its battle with Alzheimer’s, but could in the future. The logic behind the U.K. challenge’s model is sound.
By seeking input from a variety of people involved in the eldercare field—caregivers included—the designers were able to gain valuable insight into what life is like for the elderly, and those who care for them.
As a caregiver, you have first-hand knowledge of challenges of taking care of someone with a chronic illness.
Take a moment and think about the day-to-day difficulties you face while taking care of your elderly loved one.
What would make your life easier? What would make your loved one’s life better?
What would you design?
Contact Pure Home Care Services at (586) 293-2457 today! If you live in Bloomfield Hills or the surrounding area, we can help you care for your loved ones.