Dementia patients use existing knowledge to lead higher functioning lives

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Katrina Degraff has a heart for older folks, especially the ones who are slowly losing their ability to function. She runs the assisted living memory care unit as Allisonville Meadows

Her patients are higher functioning and able to live with an identity. She uses their knowledge of themselves to keep them functioning. Some, who’ve been homemakers cook and prepare foods for meals together. Some of her clients lead bible study classes and some share their hobbies, like photography.

“So what we try to do is bring opportunities for them to continue to give back to society in the community that they live in,” said Degraff. “Moving into an assisted living complex doesn’t necessarily have to mean that life is over. Life is just different and we’re going to expand on that. A lot of families get tied up in the guilt and they think, well I don’t want to put them in an institution. So they wait and then they wait too long.”

There are signs of early memory loss. The Alzheimer’s Association says families will notice subtle short-term memory changes, changes in mood, apathy, difficulty completing normal tasks, confusion and a failing sense of direction.

“What we encourage people to do is start looking early and when they’re starting to feel the burdens and are noticing that mom and dad are not getting all the stimulation they need at home, bring them here. Let them make friendships,” said Degraff.

Stimulation can and does help and loneliness doesn’t have to be the norm.

“Instead of having the TV set babysit mom, coming to a place like this, Allisonville Meadows’ memory care unit, they can socialize with others. They can continue to have their identities reflected in their everyday life. It’s really the best quality of life you can offer.”

For more information on dementia click here.

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