Occupational Therapy Dept. Offers "The Place to Be" for Adults with Dementia, Alzheimer's

For local adults who are experiencing memory loss related to dementia or Alzheimer’s, the Department of Occupational Therapy at Eastern Kentucky University has provided “The Place to Be” for the past two decades.

The department will again sponsor the free eight-week program on Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., beginning Feb. 9. Participants can attend Thursday and/or Friday. Applications are still being accepted (call 859-893-0653) for the free service, which is offered in Room 100 of the Dizney Building on EKU’s campus.

Master’s-level occupational therapy students, under the supervision of a faculty member certified in dementia care, provide one-on-one interaction with each participant. Activities, personalized to each participant, include crafts, physical activities, cooking, music and other forms of social interaction. Lunch is provided.

“The focus is on cognitive vitality,” said Katherine Nicholas, MS, OTR/L, the OT faculty member who coordinates the program. “We don’t have drugs to cure Alzhemier’s, but people who are challenged cognitively and who eat well are able to preserve their abilities longer.”

The research-based program employs the “Best Friends” approach advocated by well-known Alzheimer’s expert and author Virginia Bell, of Lexington. “That means to treat each person with dignity and respect, as though they are your best friend.”

The program utilizes life history as a gateway to communication and understanding, Nicholas said. “We believe that by understanding each person’s interests, routines, and past roles we can structure interesting, cognitively challenging activities and preserve the essence of individuality. One-to-one pairing with master’s-level occupational therapy students means each participant’s experience at The Place to Be is “tailor made”.

Another objective of the program is to preserve the participant’s self-esteem, to perhaps discover a newfound purpose in life. “They are able to have input into the next generation of occupational therapists,” Nicholas said. “For example, if the participant has a life story of teaching or as a pillar of the community, this can continue their lifelong history of giving to the community.”

Participants must be able to walk and engage in simple activities. Transportation to and from the site is not provided. Referrals from physicians and social workers are accepted, but not required. Some clients are already under Hospice care.

The respite the program provides the caregiver can also be valuable, Nicholas said.

“This is an opportunity for them to restore their energy, run errands or have lunch with a friend.”

“Even if the client has not officially been diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s and the family needs a respite, he or she will be considered for the program,” Nicholas said.

The program also holds enormous benefits for the EKU graduate students.

“Some of our students have never experienced a friendship with an older person,” Nicholas said. “Most students are trained in hospitals where their concept of the elderly is a sick person. This gives them the concept of what a community-based health care model is like. They learn how to structure age-appropriate activities and learn how to preserve people’s skills, personality and essence of who they are.

“At the end of the semester, students will say they thought they were going to teach the clients ‘xyz’ but what they really learn about is life, love, and loss, and that loss has a beauty all its own.”

Nicholas, an occupational therapist who has taught at EKU for 15 years, is also a home health practitioner, a qualified dementia care specialist through the Alzheimer’s Foundation, and a certified gerontologist with the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging at the University of Kentucky.

EKU’s graduate program in occupational therapy has been ranked among “America’s Best” by U.S. News & World Report, coming in at No. 24.

For additional information about The Place to Be or to register for the program, contact Katherine Nicholas at 859-893-0653.


Some Facts about Alzheimer's Disease

  • Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible degeneration of the brain that causes disruptions in memory, cognition, personality, and other functions that eventually leads to death from complete brain failure.
  • More than 5 million (5.4 million) Americans age 65 and older are thought to have Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, the number of Americans with this disease could increase to more than 15 million.
  • The national cost of Alzheimer’s disease (in people over 65 years old) was $183 billion in 2011, and by 2050 it will be $1.1 trillion.
  • One person in the United States is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease approximately every 69 seconds.
  • It is estimated that almost 500,000 new cases of Alzheimer's disease will be diagnosed this year.
  • According to data from the CDC, in 2010, more than 82,000 deaths were recorded as being caused by Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
  • Worldwide, nearly 36 million people are believed to be living with Alzheimer's disease or dementia. That number is projected to increase to 65.7 million by 2030 and 115.4 million by 2050.
  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia.
  • By 2048, 1 in 45 people may be living with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Alzheimer’s disease usually begins after age 60 and risk increases with age. Younger people in their 30s, 40s and 50s may get Alzheimer’s disease, but it is rare.
  • Approximately 5 percent of all cases of Alzheimer’s disease are believed to be familial (hereditary). In familial cases, often called early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, symptoms typically appear within the age range of 30-60 years.
  • It is estimated that more than one in three Americans 85 years and older have Alzheimer's disease.
  • The lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s disease among those who reached the age of 65 is approximately 1 in 5 for women and 1 in 10 among men.
  • People with poor vision that did not visit an ophthalmologist for treatments had a 9.5-fold increased risk of dementia when followed over an 8.5-year period.
  • Death from Alzheimer’s disease is often underreported or misdiagnosed.
  • Alzheimer’s disease represents around 70 percent of all cases of dementia, making it the most common cause of dementia.
  • Approximately 5.1 million Americans are age 85 years or older, and this age group is one of the fastest growing segments of the population. It is also the group with the highest risk of Alzheimer’s disease. It is estimated that at least 19 million people will be age 85 and older by the year 2050.
  • Common symptoms include: disturbances in memory, attention, and orientation, changes in personality, language difficulties, and impairments in gait and movement.
  • On average, patients with Alzheimer’s disease live for 8 to 10 years after diagnosis, but this fatal disease can last as long as 20 years, or as little as 3-4 years if the patient is more than 80 years old when diagnosed.
  • Currently, the only way to definitively diagnose Alzheimer’s disease is to physically examine the brain through autopsy.
  • Approximately 70 percent of Alzheimer’s disease patients receive care at home.
  • In terms of health care expenses and lost wages of both patients and their caregivers, the cost of Alzheimer's disease nationwide is estimated at $100 billion per year.
  • Nearly half of all nursing home residents have Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder.
  • The average hourly service cost for home health aides is $21 per hour.
  • The average annual cost for an assisted living facility is $37,572.
  • For a person with Alzheimer’s disease, the annual cost of a room in an Alzheimer’s special care unit is estimated in the range of $214 and $239 per day or $77,998 and $87,362 per year, for a semi-private or private room, respectively.
  • For a person with Alzheimer's disease, the annual cost of home care is estimated at $76,000, including medical expenses and indirect costs such as a caregiver's time and lost wages.
  • The care of an Alzheimer’s patient, viewed as custodial care, is not covered by Medicare and most health insurance plans.
  • In the absence of disease, the human brain often can function well into the 10th decade of life.
  • 58 percent of people with dementia worldwide live in low or middle income countries.
  • One third of those whose lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease provide support to their loved ones.
  • Of those providing financial support to someone with Alzheimer’s, the average amount is $200 per month. Those providing caregiving support give the average amount of 16 hours a month.
  • Among those who do not personally have Alzheimer’s disease, one third worry about getting Alzheimer’s. Those who have a parent or parent-in-law with the disease are even more concerned..
  • Roughly half of all caregivers are between the ages of 18 and 49, with the average age of the typical caregiver being 48.
  • Nearly 2 in 10 Americans believe they know someone with Alzheimer’s disease who has not sought diagnosis/treatment.


Source: American Health Assistance Foundation (http://www.ahaf.org/alzheimers/about/understanding/facts.html)

Published on February 01, 2012

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