Well that was quite an amazing affair. The 2009 Edna Gates Conference in Troy, Michigan assembled some of the people I admire most in the field. I had to teach on Monday, so I missed my friend and colleague Rhonda Montgomery talking about her innovative T-Care (Tailored Care) program that teaches people to assess the needs of caregivers based on how a person understands/identifies their role as caregiver.
On Tuesday morning, things started off with a small world story. The mother of someone I’d grown up with in my home town of Janesville sat at the table right in front of the podium. We had a nice catch up chat and then I asked her what brought her to the conference, Vann Cowie said “I’m Edna Gates’ youngest sister.”
John McInnis warmly introduced Richard Taylor, who spoke, as always, elegantly with an edge of rabble rousing. He gives us the reason and vision to change the way we treat people with dementia, and to include them in every step of that change process.
Impossibly, I followed Richard. Ever try to do a creative exercise at 9 a.m. with 700 people? Bless them, they were actually pretty game. Michelle Braun followed me. I’ve seen the brain slides many many times…but Michelle told the story of what’s happening in a brain with dementia with a eye toward strengths, not just losses. It was a clear, connected, and very informative talk that made me hope that there might be a new status exam (soon…Michelle??) to assess both strengths and losses. The current mini-mental so clearly reinforces perceptions that this condition is wholely an experience of loss.
Elinor Fuchs (Making an Exit) followed Michelle. The crowd cheered her announcement that she wasn’t going to use powerpoints…and would instead simply read her paper. But Elinor doesn’t “simply” do anything… She presented taped conversations with her mother, reading both parts, embodying both people in a time when they struggled simply to reach and hold each other through a tangle of words. We can talk and talk about person-centered care…but really capturing it and feeling it is rare. And Elinor gave us just that.
I had to put out some fires in the office after lunch, finding my spot on a lobby couch and emailing like a mad woman…but I did catch a bit of Al Power’s presentation on Dementia beyond Drugs. Clearly, he gets it. Psychotropics are not the solution. Changing the way we see dementia and interact with people with it is the solution. He had a LOT to say with dense slides that went very fast. I longed for a more leisurely pace where the pedagogy could match his message of “experiential model” of care than “medical model.”
Then it was off to the airport. I was so happy to see Maria Genne there, and to hear that her new video of her work with Dancing Heart really captures the magic of what creative engagement (through movement in this case) brings people with dementia and their care partners.
Thanks to Anne Robinson for assembling such an amazing roster of folks. It was clearly quite a feat to pull off…which she did with her usual grace.
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