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Scaling Equals Cultural Transformation

Aug 31, 2013, 9:51 PM, Posted by Jane Isaacs Lowe

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On RWJF’s Vulnerable Populations team, we look for ideas that we believe are going to transform a field; that will create the impetus for significant social change. When we find those ideas, our goal is to take them to scale.

Contrary to popular belief, scaling does not mean hiring more people or growing a bigger organization. When we talk about scaling, it’s about supporting an idea to allow for radical transformation. It is our contribution to creating a culture of health.

One of the ideas that we’re currently working to take to scale is the Green House Project, which aims to transform the culture of long-term care. We’ve tested the model repeatedly in a number of locations and now we’re trying to get it greater national visibility so that it can have the significant impact on the field of long-term care that we believe it can—and should.

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Alzheimer's: Let's Search for Better Care Models as Well as a Cure

Jul 9, 2013, 2:00 PM, Posted by Catherine Arnst

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The New Yorker recently ran an excellent article by Jerome Groopman MD, Before Night Falls, about efforts to find a drug that can delay or even stop the onset of Alzheimer’s. What struck me most about this thorough piece of reporting, however, is that it covers much the same ground as a feature I wrote for Businessweek—in 2007. Despite the huge amount of money and other resources devoted to Alzheimer’s research, the quest for an effective treatment has moved forward by mere fractions in the past six years.

Almost every drug I wrote about in 2007 has since failed, which means it will be at least a decade, and probably far longer, before an effective treatment wins regulatory approval. Meanwhile, the Alzheimer’s Association recently reported that one in three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia in the U.S. this year, and 5.2 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s. By 2025, the number of people living with the disease will likely reach 7.1 million. So while we’re waiting for a cure, the medical community should also be developing better methods for caring for the millions of patients who are suffering right now.

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Caring for Our Parents With the Support of Office-Mates

Jul 2, 2013, 9:10 AM, Posted by Patty Hall

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I sipped my coffee and looked down at my mother, who was lying on the kitchen floor next to my chair.

“How are you doing?” I asked.

“I wish your brother would get here.”

Yeah, me too. I’ve got to get to work.

Am I the worst daughter in the world? Not really. My 82-year-old mother lost her balance and fell this morning, and she’s too heavy for me to pick up on my own. She is dead weight. This has happened a few times in the last couple of months, and the only thing to do is to call someone to help me lift her, and wait.

This time she didn’t hurt herself (other than her pride, no doubt). She did, however, have to wait more than an hour for me to wake up. The air conditioner in my room blocked the sounds of her calling me. Imagine how I felt when I finally walked into the kitchen for my breakfast. There she was, on the floor, wriggling around and trying to pull herself up with one of the chairs. She has no arm strength and she can’t do it. She had soiled herself, too. So once my brother got there, I had to clean her up and rush to the office.

I was upset, and also angry. She refuses to wear the Life Alert pendant I implored her to get more than a year ago. If she had been wearing it, she could have pushed a button and someone would have been there to help her in just a few minutes. Despite this latest fall, she still isn’t wearing it.

How many of you have a similar person in your life? You worry about them, you cancel plans because they’ve had a bad day … your life revolves around them (or at least it seems to). You are angry, frustrated, sad and tired. It would help to talk to someone about these feelings, but who has the time?

Here at RWJF, we’ve recently started an informal support group for caregivers. We meet during our lunch hour. I thought I was the only one going through this, but we’ve got 10 or 12 “members” so far. Every situation is different, but the emotions are similar. We take turns updating each other on our situations, and I find it incredibly helpful. There is no formal therapist present—it’s just us unburdening ourselves, and I feel lighter for the rest of the day (I also usually take away some good advice). It’s wonderful to pass one of these women in the halls (so far, our membership is all female) and have them ask how I’m doing. I don’t feel alone in this anymore.

This is a workplace wellness program that costs no money. Consider starting such a group at your office. I’m willing to bet that there are employees who’d be interested.

And if you are looking for a cyber-community of caregivers, check out the New York Times blog, The New Old Age.