I was very fortunate my mother had Alzheimer's, so I knew what was coming.
Kandi Lockni has difficulties with short term memory loss.
Everybody has senior moments. You know? Everybody does. And I guess the big issue is okay, when's it become more than that?
When she couldn't find her car for five days
At that point, we knew okay, we got to take further action.
Typically, when people are first diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia, bout three years ago, they would go to the doctor and the doctor would say, you know, "You've got mild cognitive impairment," and patient would say, "What do I do?" they would say, "Go home, until life becomes unmanageable. Just continue doing what you're doing."
But now there's another option
We designed a community-based wellness program that includes a variety of activities that are designed to help address the physical, cognitive, emotional, and social needs of older adults.
That program, designed after a similar program in Barcelona, Spain, is called BRiTE. The Brain Training and Exercise Program.
It's specifically tailored to the needs of folks who have started to see subtle changes in their cognition, or who may be at risk for developing dementia. And so it fills a really important niche not only in our community, but it's one of a kind in the nation.
The program is a collaboration between the University of Pittsburgh departments of Neurology and Occupational Therapy, and led by an executive team comprised of doctors Oscar Lopez, Jim Becker, and Beth Skidmore. Beth Skidmore is the chair of the Occupational Therapy Department at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Her research focuses on designing interventions to help older adults with cognitive impairments. She is one of the creators of BRiTE.
I think, it gives us hope that we can provide a program that, at minimum, allows lets these people know they're not alone, that they have a community of folks that they can interact with. And that by staying as physically and cognitively and socially active as possible, there's at least something they can do.
The goal is to slow the progression. And I think it's done that in spades, actually, and people are just incredibly competent. And she loves being here.
Everybody's in here for a purpose and we're not all the same. So we banter back and forth with one another and that's fun.
What we're finding with some of our folks who've been here for six months, a year, even a handful, a year and a half, is that some folks are improving. Some even improve short term memory skills.
I'm no longer frustrated if I can't remember anything, because I know if I calm myself down, I'll remember. So the little tricks like that made my life so much easier. I didn't come in here knowing everything would go away. But I had no idea that changes that could be made.
And so there's kind of these intangible benefits that we're seeing whether or not they translate to meaningful clinical changes is yet to be seen. But I don't think that we can cure Alzheimer's disease. I'm not even sure that we can prevent it. But what we can do was engage you in meaningful activities and try to make the days that you have as meaningful and valuable as possible.
So now these people who, couple years ago had no hope. There was nothing. Now they have the BRiTE wellness program to come to. They're making friends. They're finding that there are people just like them, that they're all in the same boat.
And that's what's happening with Kandi.
I see she is so positive, she's making new friends.
She's here and safe you know.
My hopes for Kandi is that she maintains her cognitive level of functioning. She continues to be vibrant, energetic and dynamic and the nurturing beautiful woman she is.