PO’IPU — The Kaua’i Alzheimer’s Connection is a nonprofit group of volunteers
determined to make life better for caregivers, patients and providers dealing
with people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementia (memory-loss)
Alzheimer’s disease is the fourth-leading cause of adult death in
the United States. It has been called the “disease of the century” because its
number of victims is expected to increase dramatically with the continued
growth of the country’s older population.
The wave of publicity resulting
from former President Ronald Reagan’s diagnosis has caused great concern among
seniors about forgetfulness.
A partnership with Pfizer pharmaceuticals has
allowed the KAC to provide administration of the Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE)
for seniors groups and at health fairs in order to help participants understand
memory changes which are natural and memory loss which is not natural.
MMSE can help seniors understand that recent advancements in diagnosis and
treatment mean that memory can and should be routinely screened, just like
blood pressure and cholesterol.
According to the KAC, the many cultures of
this island share a strong feeling of responsibility for caring for our ‘ohana
and kupuna (elderly).
Placement in long-term care homes is truly a last
resort. These strong values are challenged by Kaua’i’s economic realities,
however, the KAC contends.
The organization provides an array of direct
services to patients and caregivers, conducts a monthly talk story support
group, trains caregivers and health-care professionals, has developed a
resource directory for seniors, and loans videos and books to families.
time-worn adage that “knowledge is power” applies to empowering families of AD
patients. Knowing what their relative suffers from is a big step in overcoming
family shame and accepting help.
Understanding the disease, and access to
information and knowledge of where and how to get help are the most important
things the KAC can give to a family living with Alzheimer’s disease, said KAC
Coordinator David Lehn.
Education and training programs are provided in
the community, and personal assistance is provided through home visits when
Collaborations with others allows the KAC to extend its services.
The organization collaborates with the Kaua’i Police Department on a “Wanderers
Program,” which assists with the safe return of AD and dementia patients who
wander from their residence or care facility.
Collaboration with the
island’s public libraries allows for efficient circulation of KAC videos and
The KAC has a contract with the state’s Executive
Office on Aging to provide cash grants to caregivers to purchase respite
services or AD medications for their loved ones.
Alzheimer’s Connection was
formed in September, 1994, in response to a needs assessment completed by the
Hawai’i State Health Planning and Development Agency (SHPDA), which identified
a critical need for comprehensive services for Alzheimer’s patients and their
families on Kaua’i. A grant from the Hawai’i Community Foundation funds the
The KAC is a collaborative effort of approximately 15
volunteer members who represent health-care providers, community-based
agencies, family care-givers, state and county agencies, and the county Agency
on Elderly Affairs.
KAC’s mission is: “To be the driving force for
improving the quality of life of persons affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s
disease and their families.”
KAC’s programs and services including:
Talk Story support group;
* Professional and caregiver training
* Information and assistance to Alzheimer’s families, caregivers
* Telephone and personal consultation if needed;
Lending library of written material and video tapes on the latest information
and caregiver techniques;
* One-time grants for respite, medication and day
For more information, call 742-5071.
The group’s goals are
* Support: Helping families and caregivers to care for their loved one
at home, in a safe and quality environment;
* Inform: Establishing a
convenient access to current information and assistance on dementia,
Alzheimer’s disease and services in the community;
* Educate: Improving the
understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by the community, family
members, caregivers and medical professionals.