To keep up to date and in the loop on the latest in dementia care, I signed up for a course on Coursera, a massive open online course, or MOOC. It consisted of online videos to watch and weekly assignments. We all communicate to each other through the discussion boards on the course web page. The course is offered for free, but I decided to take the signature track in order to receive a certificate when I am done. It was Living with dementia: Impact on individuals, caregivers, communities, and societies.
I was interested in a similar course last year, also being taught by Dr. Gitlin. I first became familiar with her research during my PhD studies (Technologies and dementia care, 2009-2014, Aalborg University) and quickly became a fan! But it was around this time last year that I was finishing my PhD and preparing for my defense, so I couldn’t give enough time to the class. One of my former classmates (MSc Gerontology, 2003-2004, University of North Texas) took the course then and gave a good recommendation, so I knew I would sign up next time it came around. By the way, this former classmate has her own business, called ThirdAge Services, and is a Certified Dementia Consultant. She’s great – I mean, really great! Carole will tell you what you need to hear and help set you up with the resources that you need. I am happy to recommend her, especially if you are living in the Dallas-Fort Worth, TX area.
One of the things I have found interesting, is how the course emphasizes repetition when working with and teaching caregivers. Not necessarily that they would be more likely to forget or don’t listen, but because they are trying to take in so much information at one time, that they can miss parts that could be useful to them. I was reminded of this myself, as the information in the course was not unfamiliar to me, it helps to hear it again, and new pieces of information have a different meaning or give new ideas.
Of course, I was particularly interested in the video lecture on technologies to assist in dementia care, as this is what I specialize in. The technologies were briefly touched on and good examples were given. I think the lecture provided a base level of how technologies can be helpful and current options are available. There was also a side group of us who started discussing our ideas for technologies in dementia care.
Aside from our small discussion on tech, there were many insightful and thoughtful discussions going on in the course. Many of the discussions touched on what we can do to influence our communities and societies and there were lots of good ideas. I really felt inspired by this course and want to take some of these ideas to the next step.
One of my ideas is to become a Purple Angel Ambassador and educate local businesses and offices about dementia, so they can recognize and assist someone if they see them.
The purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness, give hope to and empower people with dementia by giving out information on how shops, businesses and other services can support people who have these progressive diseases – both elderly and younger onset.
Another is to bring Music and Memory to Copenhagen. There is even a business in town that is in progress of trying to start this project up!! Music and Memory brings personalized music to people with dementia as a form of therapy. So far, one of the most effective therapies research has found. The documentary Alive Inside is based on this program. If you haven’t seen it yet, DO IT!!
Something along the lines of this is a more intergenerational approach, maybe with a children’s band or younger performers who would volunteer to play their music at local care homes. I live in a neighborhood called the Composer’s District, and there are a lot of musicians and artists in the area. Just going out for a walk, and I am sure to meet people with instruments or see lessons through windows.
Another is just to volunteer my time. I miss having regular contact with older adults and with people with dementia. Ideally, I could find someone locally in my near neighborhood who knows someone with dementia and I could volunteer one or a few days per week. I enjoy growing a relationship and getting to know a person really well.
I also have a few research ideas that I wouldn’t mind pursuing, but will need to look into finding funding a bit more. I am applying for a Postdoc position with the Department of Anthropology and the Center for Healthy Aging at Copenhagen University this week. The research project looks interesting and I could include my own focus on dementia services. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
Oh, and then there are ideas for companies to start – so many ideas. I actually signed up for another MOOC series of courses on entrepreneurship, and this first series focuses on narrowing in on your idea. I took some courses on entrepreneurship during my PhD and even won 2nd prize in a competition, but a refresher would be nice!