By JEN CARDINES
A small dementia advocacy group at the Alzheimer’s Resource Center (ARC) is making a big impact in the Southington region by educating about Alzheimer’s disease from the patients’ point of view. The nine-member group was spearheaded by 85-year-old Bob Savage who was diagnosed with the disease two years ago.
All of the members on the board are in the early stages of the disease, and they said that their work together has helped to slow the progression of symptoms. Eating healthy, regular exercise, and brain stimulating activities are just a few examples of how the group members, who quickly became friends, remain positive and healthy.
Their newest initiative recently kicked off with a four-person panel that answered questions from healthcare professionals and students. The panel is “an early example of several dementia-friendly initiatives that the Alzheimer’s Resource Center is generating in the Southington region,” said Stephani Shivers, ARC director of community innovations.
On May 2, representatives from Hartford Healthcare, McLean Home Care, Aging Care, Quinnipiac University occupational and physical therapy faculty and students, Leading Age Connecticut, and ARC employees attended the first of what Shivers thinks will be many panels.
“This is an opportunity for people with dementia to provide information to clinicians and educate the public,” Shivers said.
Panelists were given an opportunity to discuss their diagnosis and how their lifestyles were altered because of Alzheimer’s. More importantly, they were asked to share their experiences with the healthcare system and help the professionals in the audience understand what it’s like to live with dementia.
“We’re all raised in our professions,” Shivers said, adding that textbooks don’t always show the personal perspective. The emerging group of patients offers healthcare professionals a key to understanding the problems that most dementia patients deal with outside of their treatment.
The group is just one of many resources provided by the ARC.
Recently, the resource center incorporated an international movement called Dementia Friends, which is spreading through Connecticut. Dementia Friends helps community members understand what dementia is and how it affects people. ARC holds the Connecticut license for training Dementia Friends, leading the state in the initiative.
More information about the program can be found at www.dementiafriendsct.org.
ARC is a non-profit organization based in Southington that provides direct resources to families and is also home to 133 patients that live on campus. It is one of two different Alzheimer’s organizations in town.
The Connecticut chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is in Southington, and Shivers said the two facilities have a nice relationship. While the association focuses on research and a basic level of education, ARC works with patients on site in various capacities.
“We are known nationally for the work we do because we’ve been a leader in the field for so long,” Shivers said.
For more information about the Alzheimer’s Resource Center, visit www.arc-ct.org.