Dr. Al Power's Inspirations for Dementia Inclusion and Transformative Care

Dr. Al Power speaks at Better Practice 2017

Dr. Al Power speaks at Better Practice 2017

Dr. Al Power is a geriatrician by trade, a vocation that has informed a vast number of initiatives in his life. His experiences with people in age care have led him to be an advocate for transformative care and inclusion – particularly for those with changing cognitive abilities.

He has written two books and published many articles on the topic of dementia care. His book “Dementia Beyond Drugs” challenges the “pill paradigm” and urges caregivers to identify people’s inner needs (and try to address the root cause of any distress) rather than rely on anti-psychotics. “Dementia Beyond Disease” is a practical guide for enhancing people’s well-being in all living environments. Dr. Power uses the term “transformative approach to care” in hopes of creating environments in which people enjoy meaningful relationships, while also minimizing medications.

His work as an educator, author, consultant, and even as a musician takes Al all over the world. Al’s work has always inspired us, so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Al about what inspires him.

What is Dr. Al Power excited about these days?

EVENTS THAT CARE

  • Dementia Action Alliance (DAA) Conference: This conference took place in June 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. Al described it as a “landmark event” for the United States, with significant contributions made by people living with dementia in terms of both planning and attendance. The conference inspired and encouraged attendees to re-imagine a life with dementia – to think about ways to create a better society for people.

  • HACK4HEALTH: Recently the Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (MAREP) -  an innovative program that adopts a partnership approach and integrates research and educational activities to improve dementia care practices worldwide – hosted their 3rd annual HACK4HEALTH event. This hackathon encouraged students to develop technology solutions while being mentored by people living with dementia, their care partners, and technology experts. It was a wonderful opportunity for young people to develop a better understanding of barriers facing people who seek to live full and happy lives with dementia.

  • Alzheimer’s Association International Conference: In 2015, the Alzheimer’s Association International conference in Australia set a new standard by encouraging participation of people living with dementia. Dr. Power hopes to see the same participation in Chicago next year. The 2018 conference will focus both on breakthroughs in dementia science and technologies intended to improve quality of life.

DEMENTIA-INCLUSIVE COMMUNITIES

  • 5K Hubs: Dr. Power explained that the size of a community may dictate the best approach to dementia inclusion: looking at it in terms of geography works well in a smaller city, whereas larger cities can build inclusion through affinity groups and social networks. Dr. Power loves the idea of the “5K Hub”, an approach that encourages care residences to create inclusive communities by forming partnerships with businesses and organizations within a 5km radius of their organization.

  • Dementia Inclusive Durham: In North Carolina, a local ombudsman’s organization started “Dementia Inclusive Durham” which has been embraced by the city. Dr. Power works with the team as a consultant, and reports that the program has been incredibly collaborative with the people it’s serving, using a holistic approach to ensure well being for all. Here is their Facebook page.

  • Kiama, Australia: A community south of Sydney, the “Dementia Friendly Kiama” project has been recognized with an award from the World Health Organization and a National Disability Award for Excellence in Community Partnerships. They have a devoted committee of people living with dementia who work with planners to improve the city. In addition to increasing awareness and removing stigma, Kiama is improving its physical environment and generating opportunities for volunteerism and occupational wellness.

CHANGE MAKERS

(l to r) Sally Hopkins of Eden Alternative, Al Power, Kate Swaffer, Daniella Greenwood

(l to r) Sally Hopkins of Eden Alternative, Al Power, Kate Swaffer, Daniella Greenwood

  • Kate Swaffer: Kate, who recently won Australian of the Year, is a talented writer living with dementia and the Chief Executive Officer and Chair of the Board for Dementia Alliance International. She is an advocate for focusing on people's abilities, working in partnership with (rather than in deference to) caregivers, maintaining independence, and keeping perspective (and a sense of humor).

  • Lyn Phillipson: A research Fellow at University of Wollongong Australia, Lyn was involved in the first published Australian research regarding stigma and dementia attitudes in Australian adults, and how it affected people’s willingness to seek help. Now, she works with people living with dementia to identify which parts of their community are accessible and inclusive and which are not. Lyn has engaged human geographer Christopher Brennan-Horley to map efficiencies and prioritize change. Lyn’s twitter feed is here.

  • Dr. Jennifer Boger: Jen Boger is the Schlegel Research Chair in Technology for Independent Living (Al is her colleague as the Chair); Dr. Boger specializes in technologies that reflect the needs, abilities, and contexts of the people using them. A central theme to her research is the development of ambient zero-effort technologies – technologies that blend into people’s environments and operate with little or no effort from the people using them. You can learn more about Schlegel activities in this Research Institute for Aging newsletter.

  • Daniella Greenwood: Daniella is the Strategy & Innovation Manager for Arcare, a family of Australian care residences. She created and facilitated a dedicated staffing initiative at Arcare Aged Care that won them a national Better Practice award. Dedicated Staffing enables residents (and their family members) to develop consistent, committed relationships with their care team. This continuity of care allows for deep and trusting relationships and a higher quality of life. Daniela’s twitter feed is here.

  • Mary Radnofsky, PhD.: Mary has been a champion in advocating for the human rights of people living with dementia, and was the first person living with dementia to address the United Nations on this issue. She has also presented at Alzheimer's Disease International, and she co-presented with Dr. Power at the Dementia Action Alliance conference on the topic of human rights being part of a meaningful life with dementia.

Thank you, Al for sharing the people, places, and events that are inspiring you. Al’s website is a helpful resource for people living with dementia, their care partners, and care residence teams – but everyone will find it informative and inspiring as we all work towards an inclusive, caring community.

Heather Hickey