to Provide Support forPatients and Caregivers
Impacted by Alzheimer’s
By William Lopez, MD, CPE, Senior Medical Director/Acute Behavioral Regional Team, Cigna Behavior Health
More than five million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, someone in the United States develops the disease every 67 seconds. Unfortunately, as we all know too well, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis not only impacts the patient, but also their closest loved ones and friends. In the United States alone, there are more than 15 million individuals who serve as caregivers to those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
From my own experience as a geriatric psychiatrist, these are staggering statistics, but we are not without hope. It is through the work of organizations like the Alzheimer’s Association that patients and caregivers can find the support they need. Since the beginning of its Early-Stage Initiative in 2006, the Alzheimer’s Association has been the world leader in developing meaningful engagement opportunities for individuals living in the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. The Association currently provides an expansive range of resources and tools to help enhance care and support for individuals – patients and caregivers alike – affected by Alzheimer’s.
To further support those living in the early stage of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, the Cigna Foundation recently awarded the Alzheimer’s Association a World of Difference grant for $196,000. Grant funding will be used to expand the Association’s resources through the development of the LiveWell E-Learning Program, a new, web-based, interactive educational program that will help individuals fight social isolation, understand the importance of a social support network, and live life to the fullest. This program was inspired by the success of past Alzheimer’s Association programs, including one of the nation’s first pilots of early-stage social programming, which led to the launch of a nationwide network of social engagement programs for people in this early stage.
As a first step in developing the LiveWell E-Learning Program, the Association will conduct research among people living in the early stage of Alzheimer’s and other dementias to better understand: 1) what services and programs they wish they had to help them live well; and 2) how they prefer to learn through online programs.
Once launched, the LiveWell E-Learning Program will engage users through a variety of multimedia tools, empowering patients to lead a healthier lifestyle, while finding the stability they need to face the challenges that lie ahead. It will allow users living in the early stage of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, like Cigna-HealthSpring member Hazel Minnick (pictured below), to engage with and gain support from others who understand the experience of dementia firsthand, ultimately with the aim of fostering a greater sense of belonging, reassurance and well-being for all who are involved.
The above photo features Hazel Minnick who won Cigna-HealthSpring’s 2013 Silver Stars™ senior talent competition with her ballroom dance performance. Hazel was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at age 53. During the early stages of her disease, Hazel began to notice gaps in her train of thought and started having difficulty recognizing her family members. Hazel’s life-changing moment came when she was asked if she wanted to learn how to dance; dance has helped Hazel live well with Alzheimer’s. Hazel uses her free gym membership, provided to her through her Cigna-HealthSpring Medicare plan, to practice her dance choreography in her gym’s pool, helping to keep her body and brain healthy. Hazel’s story reminds us that an Alzheimer’s diagnosis does not mean that one cannot live life to its fullest.
Cigna, the Cigna Foundation and Cigna-HealthSpring are honored to support the Alzheimer’s Association in furthering its mission through the development of this new interactive e-learning program, and we look forward to seeing inspiring relationships develop as a result of these efforts.
Please read the press release to learn more about the Cigna Foundation’s grant and the LiveWell E-Learning Program. You can also read more about Hazel’s story in Cigna-HealthSpring’s More from Life magazine.
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