Editor's note: This story was reported and shot before the COVID-19 pandemic caused social distancing requirements to be put into place, which is why some photos or video may show subjects closer than 6 feet from each other.
CINCINNATI - Episcopal Retirement Services, the largest aging services network in Cincinnati, is aiming to make Cincinnati the most dementia-inclusive city in the country by 2025, when they launch the Center for Memory Support and Inclusion.
The center was created to provide care and education for people who are dealing with cognitive loss, and those who care for them.
“It’s first of its kind because there’s not another example of where an organization – an aging services network – has partnered with the Alzheimer’s Association, the medical community, UC Health, and with other aging services providers in our community and put those all together so that resources are under one roof, so to speak,” said Laura Lamb, president and CEO of the nonprofit.
The center has four pillars it is working toward, which include:
- Making sure that living environments are conducive to caring for people with cognitive loss
- Making sure the program is therapeutic in nature and help individuals along their journey
- Assuring the center can be used to reach out to the community, including those who don’t live in the community, so that they benefit from it
- Provide training and education for care providers, physicians, caregivers in the community
That last point is one that Jane thinks will be extremely beneficial. She is the main caregiver for her husband, Lawrence Hawkins Jr., or Lonnie, who was diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a kind of dementia where mobility becomes an added challenge.
“My experience with being in a physician's office is very awkward, because you’re having a conversation in front of your physician about your loved one, and what they are and aren’t able to do,” Hawkins said. “They become rather defensive. [The center] is going down that path of educating providers, which I think is so critical and so needed at this point!”
Lonnie used to be extremely active, had his own karate school, and was an attorney. Transitioning from his day-to-day life to retirement was another obstacle Jane was hoping to get more help with.
“I think the hardest part is not knowing what the journey will bring you: How many years are we dealing with this, what’s going to be the progression? Will it be quick? Will it be slow? There are just not enough resources for education or for care,” Hawkins said.
These are questions Lamb said the center will be able to help address. She adds that it is necessary now more than ever because the prevalence of Alzheimer's, dementia, and related cognitive loss has grown.
“The risk factor for what we’re talking about is having a brain, and we all have a brain,” Lamb said. “One in eight elders over the age of 65 is going to be impacted by this disease. But the entire family is impacted by the disease, so the reach of cognitive loss is just massive.”
The ERS is able to help families across the Greater Cincinnati area, thanks to a private donation and a $250,000 grant. While it is not a physical place, the center serves as a platform anybody can use and find more information on by clicking here.