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Revolutionizing Dementia Care Workshop: John Zeisel

John Zeisel, Ph.D.
Photo courtesy John Zeisel

John Zeisel, Ph.D., CEO & President of The I’m Still Here Foundation and Hearthstone Alzheimer Care, and is the author of the bestselling book I’m Still Here, A Breakthrough Approach to Understanding Someone Living with Alzheimer’s. Hearthstone employs the I’m Still Here® approach in managing Assisted Living Residences for people with dementia in Massachusetts. This is also the basis of the Hearthstone Institute’s national training programs with certified I’m Still Here Centers of Excellence from coast to coast nationally.

Hearthstone’s Research Division together with the I’m Still Here Foundation develops innovative non-pharmacological programs for this population including Hearthside Stories, Home4Care, Meet Me at the Museum, Meet Me at the Movies, Learning for Life, and It Takes a Village. Dr. Zeisel holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University, a Loeb Fellowship from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Salford University in the UK. He teaches at the Sorbonne in Paris and has taught at Harvard, Yale, and McGill and the University of Minnesota. He serves on the Board of Directors of Abe’s Garden in Nashville and the CareLiving Foundation that supports Music as Medicine in memory of singer Glenn Campbell.

John’s presentation at the workshop will be:
Replacing Despair with HOPE – Towards a Revolution in Dementia Care

Despair dominates the national and international public narrative of dementia – once someone receives a diagnosis, it’s all downhill from there, the narrative goes. Family and friends believe the person is now changed. According to the Despair Narrative, she will soon not recognize them, will soon not be able to remember what happened yesterday, will get confused in every situation and embarrass himself and others. The 4 “A”s of Alzheimer’s will begin to dominate his life – anxiety, agitation, aggression, and apathy. The result is that she feels abandoned, gets lonely, starts exhibiting the 4 “A”s in her daily life, and is prescribed more and more medications to reduce the speed of her decline and to control the “behaviors” others believe to be the result of dementia.

An alternative more supportive public narrative is increasingly taking hold among both experts in dementia and carepartners who committed to their loved one’s well-being –You Can Make A Difference and that difference is Hope. The YCMAD-HOPE narrative starts with a diagnosis or the awareness that someone is having trouble finding words, remembering names, coping with complex situations. But instead of abandoning the person, family members and loved ones focus on what the person can do and stay a part of that person’s life. HOPE, knowing that they can make a difference, supports their staying in touch, creatively figuring out what will make a difference, and improving the quality of their loved one’s life.