The relationship between people living with an early-stage dementia diagnosis and their care partners is at the heart of the Connected Horse program. Basic knowledge about dementia and its impact and progression will help you relax and communicate with participants, determine the pace of activities and provide you with ideas for activity modifications. This lesson will introduce you to dementia, its stages, and how you as a facilitator can respond to some of the losses experienced at these stages. However, remember that we are all unique individuals, regardless of our diagnoses. It is critical that you recognize that each participant is different. Do not stereotype and do not label a person.
People living with dementia have lost a lot: confidence, their role in society, a career, a stable future, and much more. Care partners may be feeling “anticipatory grief” as they look ahead to the loss of their loved ones’ cognitive function and sense of self.
The Connected Horse Program is designed to move participants away from focusing on what is lost, and help people by building their confidence, skills and reconnecting with each other.
The Connected Horse program was developed for people affected by early-stage dementia. Early-stage dementia typically means:
Dementia is the social and health care challenge of our generation. Over 5 million Americans have dementia today. This is expected to grow by 40% in the next 10 years.
Every 65 seconds someone in the United States develops dementia. Medical advances have helped diagnose dementia much earlier. As a result, people living with earlier diagnoses are often faced with the “Now What?” effect. They are often active members of their communities; strong and capable, not near the end of life; and they must figure out how to cope with their changing skills and continue to live their lives. Connected Horse programs offer these people an opportunity to experience new activities, to move away from the fear and despair into hope and confidence to fight this disease and begin to shift their attitudes on how they will live their lives.
A diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is the first of many, many losses. Lifelong skills begin to slip away. Relationships change. Friends may shy away, unsure of how to respond—or react by only communicating with the care partner or family members. These subtle changes can restrict the person’s ability to interact and be open about their experience.
Social stereotypes and prejudices surrounding Alzheimer’s and related dementia crop up. This is the result of myths and misperceptions caused, in part, by a lack of public awareness and understanding of the disease. This kind of stigma can cause someone to withdraw from relationships and community and social obligations.