The Lakes Area Memory Awareness Advocates forum held at Central Lakes College June 21st was amazing!  The program was all-encompassing with regard to “Dementia: Family, Community, & Professionals Doing it Right”. JacLyn Herron, the keynote speaker and author of Singing Solo: In Search of a Voice for Mom shared her story and her mission to help people find ways to make certain their loved ones are getting the proper and best care available at every stage of their journey through dementia.

Even though I attended as a vendor, I was able to listen to all the presenters as the layout of the event was designed to accommodate vendors as well as attendees. All of the presenters were very knowledgeable and well prepared to answer questions from the attendees following their sessions. I was particularly affected by the presentation by Deborah Richman, Program Director, Education and Outreach Alzheimer’s Association MN-ND on “Learning the Language” Communication & Memory Loss. She shared how important it is to understand the person with dementia by recognizing their body language as a way to communicate; how we communicate with our body language may saying one thing while we are trying to communicate something different. She emphasized how important it is to think about all the steps there are to any particular task and how confusing it would be for the person with dementia if we say something like, “let’s brush our teeth”.  First the teeth are not “Ours” and “we” don’t brush them, second the first step to that process is to go into the bathroom, next get some water; would that be from the sink, shower or toilet? The toilet water is the most visible so ….. Perhaps we need to rethink how we relay instructions and tasks.

These are just a couple of examples of “communication”. As my son has always said, “there is communication and then there is “effective communication”. We must strive to communicate effectively  with our loved ones, especially if they have any form of dementia. Always treating them with the age-appropriate respect they deserve is crucial as well. If they are adults, speak with them as you would another adult.

A final thought as relayed by Deborah, “The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing in the right place, but to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment”.    quote of – Lady Dorothy Nevill

As I said, all the speakers were excellent, as was lunch, the entire format and the agenda, which, by the way, was adhered throughout the day. The vendors provided a multitude of information and opportunities for education and care options for our loved ones. I am very pleased to have been able to participate in the day and meet the amazing people who in fact are, “Doing it Right”. Thank you to all and especially to the volunteers of LAMAA for making this forum a reality, Excellent Job!  Lj

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