Raising awareness about dementia and Alzheimer’s

October 15, 2020

In 2018, Wisconsin health officials set out to create a plan to improve dementia care throughout the state. After surveying a group that included individuals living with dementia, caregivers, and health professionals, the Department of Health Services identified several priorities including increasing public awareness and understanding of brain health and dementia.

If you don’t know, dementia is a general term for the loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that is severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common cause of dementia among older adults and affects more than 5 million Americans.

Every fall, there are days and months (in September and November) dedicated to raising awareness about dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. While dementia is more common as people grow older, it is not a normal part of aging.

For more than 40 years, Community Care has helped its members, including vulnerable seniors, live independently within the community. This includes supporting individuals living with dementia, as well as their caregivers.

Thanks in part to a method called Dementia Capable Care, care teams help identify members who show signs of dementia in order to support them as they age. They do this with the help of Dementia Champions, staff members who assist care teams to ensure that members with dementia can live independently and safely, according to Holly Onsager, Community Care’s director of behavioral health.

“Dementia Champions help to make sure that people living with dementia, and their families, know their rights,” Onsager said. “As experts, they identify stresses in the home and how to address them. They help care teams address issues like pain, sleeping problems, and other medical or behavioral health issues.”

In order to better serve members with dementia, Community Care staff look to see that members have a clinical evaluation from a primary care provider; they address a members’ ability to make decisions; review a member’s advance directives; and ensure the members are safe in their home environment.

Additionally, care teams look at what assistance members may need; whether caregivers need some training; or what a caregiver’s burden may be. Members living with dementia have care plans that includes supports and interventions that are specific to that person.

These are steps that anyone can take, whether they are experiencing the early stages of dementia or caring for someone with dementia. For more information and resources about Alzheimer’s and other dementias, visit: https://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/dementia.