Certified Dementia Practitioner Amy Schenk joins Suzanne from Cape Coral, Florida, courtesy of Athira Pharma to talk about the impacts of the pandemic on families and people with Alzheimer’s disease. Amy also educates in both Assisted Living and Long Term Care environments.
Lead image courtesy of Pexels/Marcelo Chagas
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*The following is the output of transcribing from an audio recording. Although the transcription is largely accurate, in some cases it is incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors.
The following podcast is provided by a the Reforma and answers for elders radio. And welcome everyone to the answers for elders radio network. And it’s an exciting, wonderful summer season here in the Pacific northwest. So if you’re watching me on Youtube, you’re gonna see me with my backyard in the background and of course we always have our Washington state evergreen trees as I’m talking to you from Seattle, Washington, and I am talking to a very important guest today, because here’s the thing that’s going on. So many of you listeners may have a loved one that you’re starting to see signs of. You know, they’re asking the same question over and over again. You’re they’re not really tracking like they used to. The pandemic has brought forward a lot of, you know, more behavior traits that you’re not used to. Maybe there’s just some things that aren’t quite right. Um. If that’s the case, this is an interview for you, because we are very honored to have Amy Shank who is a certified dementia practitioner. And Amy, welcome to answers for elders radio from all the way in Florida. So we’re kind of at top the opposite corners of the US. Uh Susie, and we are and thank you so much for having me. I was thinking about beautiful your background looks. And today we’re going to have a record high in southwest Florida, not because it isn’t hot enough, for having’s sake. So I would love to be coming to you from outside. However, I think that might be a little, oh, a little. Well, you know, we we cherished our summers here in the Pacific northwest because obviously, Um, we have, you know, pretty much from November till June, we have kind of weather pretty much through. So when Reali fall, it’s really exciting and of course, I hate to tell you today, but we’re only going to get it about today. Don’t tell me that before you didn’t tell me that. Actually, your gloomy season is our perfect season. So again, my favorite once here, November to March. Beautiful Song. Not so much. It’s not so much of that Um that humidity. But you know what, there’s no perfect place. So I think what we do is we enjoy where we are when it is the best. Yes, that’s why they have air conditioning and we also have heat too? Yes, you do, yes, you do. So, yes, I’ve spent a lot of time in Florida and my past, my mother used to be actually be a snowboard so she used to live our gloomy season down in Um in uh cocoa beach, and then she would come up to home and the rest of the time. But I am I’m so excited, amy, to tie to you because obviously Um, since the pandemic Um, I’ve been hearing all kinds of new statistics come out of the impact of quarantine, of not of seniors not taking care of themselves because of isolation, not getting proper medications on time because they’re too afraid to go out even to pick up a prescription. Um. You know, all of those different things have contributed to Um arise in the whole impact of Alzheimer’s disease in this country. And Amy, I would love to have you share with us a little bit about you know, where are we right now in all of this? Well, in Susan, and you’re exactly right. Before I came to my courre role, I did work with the Alzheimer’s Association and one of the amazing things, among many things, that the association does. It’s annually. They publish the facts and figures report and one of the things that we found out this year there are over six million individuals and is that there was a seventeen percent inquiries in dusk from Alzheimer’s disease. Now, having said that, I know that’s quantifiable information, but since really I worked in that environment and worked with families and worked with assisted living communities and work with people who were really impacted type, some of the things that I saw. One is we know that social interaction is critical for all of us, having that personal connection. Even if you’re an introvert, there still is that connection that we all need. And when we look at what happened over the past probably two and a half years now, so many were in a community. Because of health concerns, they may not have been able to see any of their loved ones and one of the wonderful things about residential communities is that people can be with other individuals and share meals and have activities. Well, unfortunately, all of that am is in benefit was impacted because of health concerns and infection control concerns. So even those individuals who are in that kind of an environment called the right reasons, weren’t able to take advantage of it. So we saw that as well, along with anguish on the part of caregivers, and that was one of the things, and having worked with caregivers, that really was distressing, because so many caregivers, if their loved ones were in the community, weren’t able to go in, weren’t able to be with them. The ably, caregivers at home the same the same type of challenges. Many times, those individuals who are caring for someone at home, they could get out even a trip to the grocery store or just to walk outside, just to get a change of scenery. All of those things were impacted. So unfortunately, this incredibly serious health condition of covid impacted and already absolutely it did. And and I think too, there’s a lot just the whole fear factor, I think. You know, I think about in the earlier days of the pandemic, before we had vaccines and before we had things. You know, there were so many of us, and I know friends that were so terrified that are still having a hard time getting outside their homes because there then they pulled themselves in mentally. Outside stimulus is stressful, it’s over, and especially if you already have cognition challenges. Is it? I mean, is that correct? Amy? I’m absolutely I think I think all of us, everyone was impacted with by the pandemic. No one was unscathed. Some people, obviously, and some families were devastatingly impacted. I think, though, that our whole way of life change. So sometimes as a result you have to change your habits and you have to as you said, people who were very, very fearful, and rightly so, before we had the immunizations. You know, I think many of us have friends or or no people who were impacted with the disease and unfortunately people passed away because it was in the news all the time, so you couldn’t get away from it. So I think some of that hesitancy. We learned a new kind of way of life, so how to kind of survive in in the situation that we had. And while it was probably very helpful during that time period, there were some things that were very negative. So not being able to get out, not being able to do some of the things that really gave give many of us a great deal of fulfillment, whether it’s going and going to the senior center playing cards with friends, going to the VFW, have going to your place of worship, I mean those things that, again, are kind of the fabric of of all of the things that we hold dear. We couldn’t do that. And so can that have exacerbated the decline? You know, potentially, and I know we’re looking at their studies that are looking at that now. We also have heard that we don’t really know the lasting impacts of covid we don’t know. It’s mysterious. Why does one person get it? Why does another person not get it? Why does someone who’s been vaccinated and boost get it? And it’s it’s truly a mystery. So there are other things going on to figure that out, but we don’t know. What are the long term effects on the brain and how does that imped people’s cognition? And one of the things I you know Su that you know, quite frankly, even if you do have some cognitive issues and you’re challenged a bit, in the routine of your own home, sometimes people are able to do reasonably well as long as they’re saying, but it’s that routine. And what have we done? We’ve impacted people’s routines and I always said when we were when we were in when when we were in quarantine. It’s like the only person I ever saw for like weeks at a time was my husband, other than zoom and everything like that. And and it’s amazing because I’m very grateful that I still like him, which I understand what you you know, when you think about that piece alone, to have one person like that. But but it’s really been a challenging time and certainly, Um, closer contact means, you know, overwhelming situations and one of the things that I know with the pandemic, even though in many, most cases, I would say the senior living community is probably the safest place for seniors to be during that time, even though they were in their little apartments for a lot of the time. On the other hand, Um there’s a family caregiver, there’s a lot of families that chose to bring their their loved ones home, and what the impact has been on families where a lot of people were out, you know, without work, they lost jobs and now they’re having to take care of a loved one. And so certainly that’s been an overwhelming situation, has it not? Amy Absolutely, and I think one of the things I always say and less short, in the health care profession. You didn’t go to school to become a caregiver. No, you did not, and those skills may or may not come naturally to you. And I’ll also tell you some of us were professional caregivers. I started my career as a nurse many, many years ago. May Not be great family caregivers, and I will myself in that category. And, as you said, Susanne, those those families and friends who brought their loved ones home from a a more structured senior living situation. Right those individuals already needed a higher level of care. So we had families who were bringing their looved ones home, and I understand that because of the difficulty with not being able to visit, I think, in some instances, and it’s done out of love, I know that’s true. Sometimes that level of care is more than someone can even imagine or atticipate and I think that brings up a lot of feelings, whether it be guilt or frustration or Gosh, why did I do this? Or Gosh, why didn’t I do this, or why can’t I do this? Is Way over my pay grade here. Absolutely, Amy. I really want to make sure that we have um contact, because we’re here courtesy of a terrifying uh and Um. I just want to put a plug out to all the great things that a theory does in clinical trials. And so as we close today, amy, you and I are gonna be together, but I’m gonna give a little shout out to Um finding the website, because there’s we’re gonna be talking about clinical trials today, how we can get in the front of Medical Research and things like that to help, you know, eliminate and I do believe there will be a cure someday. So for everyone that’s interested, that would like to learn more about a clinical trial, go to the website. If you want to learn more to lift a D trial dot com. That is www dot lift a d trial dot com. And Amy, will you come back with me next segment and we’re going to talk about brain health and caregiving right after this. Yeah, we at answers for elders. Thank you for listening. Did you know that you can discover hundreds of podcasts in our library on senior care? So visit our website and discover our decision guides. That will help you also navigate decision making. Find US AT ANSWERS FOR ELDERS DOT COM
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Originally published September 11, 2022