I had a fascinating conversation with John Zeisel, the other day. John is President and co-founder of Hearthstone Alzheimer Care, which operates six top notch dementia care units/facilities in the Northeast U.S.
Hearthstone's mission is to create residential treatment environments where people living with Alzheimer's and related disorders can flourish. They've been at it for more than 20 years.
According to John, there are enough assisted living facilities in the U.S. to accommodate the growing numbers of people living with Alzheimers, but that many just aren't "doing it right."
Not a Disease
Instead of creating programs and a culture of caring that allows residents to have a meaningful quality of life, many, he claims, are simply drugging Alzheimer's residents and sitting them in front of the TV. That may be an oversimplification, but John believes we should we stop viewing Alzheimer's as a disease and treat it as a condition.
"Drug research is not going to give us the answer," John says. "We need to focus less on finding a cure and more on improving the lives of people living with Alzheimer's."
Focus on Quality of Life
I'm not sure I agree with John that there are enough assisted living facilities in the U.S. to accommodate triple the population of those living with Alzheimer's (see my recent post). But I do agree with him that the focus should be on quality of life.
Also, John's ideas about making our communities more friendly to those with memory loss are really interesting. "The real issue is making a commitment to action," he says. "We know what to do."
To learn more about John's philosophy of living with Alzheimer's (including some ideas about facility design), check out John's book, "I'm Still Here."
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