According to the Alzheimer’s Association, over 5 million people are currently facing the hardships of Alzheimer’s in the United States. The illness corrodes a victim’s memory, making it incredibly difficult and frustrating to connect and communicate with family and friends.
Maria Shriver, the NBC News special anchor, after witnessing her father struggle with Alzheimer’s until his death in 2011, was inspired to create a coloring book geared specifically to those suffering from the disease. In an interview with TODAY, she stated:
“When I would go visit my dad as his disease progressed, I had fewer and fewer things that I could do with him. I could take a walk with him, but a lot of times he didn’t’ want to walk. I played puzzles with him and sometimes drew on pieces of paper.”
The goal of such a coloring book is to help calm patients and caregivers together, thus facilitating better connections between family and friends. Images in the book are inspired from Shriver’s visits to nursing homes. The product also includes tips for caregivers within its pages that are based on conversations with doctors and families.
Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzhiemer’s Prevention Clinic, explained that “the person with Alzheimer’s may not be able to communicate his or her thoughts as well as they used to or may not remember what happened to the conversation 10 minutes ago, but they’re able to express themselves through art – through drawing.” The emergence of this coloring book could help to fulfill this unmet need for better communication.
Shriver noted that Alzheimer’s is an intense, frightening experience, and she ensured the coloring book focused on happy, hopeful, themes through numerous colors and images of butterflies and happy people.
“I’m really hopeful this is filling a void and a need and will change people’s lives,” she stated. Shriver also considered how the book might have changed her relationship with her father near the end of his life. “I think it would have brought laughter, it would have enabled us to do something together.”
The coloring book was released in June, which is considered Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.
Last week a bill, which has been ignored by traditional media and whose gravity is unbeknownst to many Oregonians, passed out of the Oregon State Senate with a vote of 17-13. Titled, “Relating to healthcare decisions; prescribing an effective date,” Senate Bill 494 appears to merely be an update to the current advanced directive, which is a legal document that permits an Oregon citizen to appoint a representative to carry out the end-of-life medical decisions that the patient has chosen if he or she is incapacitated and unable to make such a decision.
However, SB 494 is far from harmless. The bill has the potential to allow the starving and dehydration of mentally incapacitated patients, (i.e. Alzheimer’s and Dementia) against their will by emitting an important statue, ORS 127.531, which helps to prevent any unauthorized actions and abusive steps that could be taken by health representatives through the current advanced directive form.
Colm Willis, an attorney with Lynch Conger McLane LLP, in his testimony against the bill before the Senate Rules Committee, stated: “The form interacts with ORS 127.540 and other sections of the statue to ensure that an incapable person’s life is not ended without his or her explicit consent, unless he or she is in one of four statutorily defined end of life situations.”
This safeguard is removed in the proposed bill. Instead of the form articulating that a citizens’ representative cannot make end of life decisions without expressly-stated consent, the form would allow the representative to deny life-sustaining treatments unless the patient expressly stated that he or she should not. Willis notes that “This creates a situation where your intentions when filling out the advance directive may not be reflected in the decisions that are made for you once you can no longer make decisions for yourself.” In other words, health care representatives in the future could be permitted to dictate the premature deaths of elderly patients who could perhaps still make basic decisions on matters such as food and water.
The sponsor of SB 494, Democratic Senator Floyd Prozanski, along with his fellow party members (excluding Betsy Johnson, who voted against) and Republican Senator Jeff Kruse, chose to ignore the warnings of the Republican legislators who voted “no”. He stated that SB 494 merely updated the confusing language of the current form; it allowed for citizens to express their values about the end of life; and it made room for “patients’ autonomy” at the end of life to be expressed. When addressing the concerns raised right before the Senate voted on the bill, he merely stated that the worries were irrelevant and, if citizens were worried, they could simply opt out of the advanced directive form.
SB 494 is long and complicated in its entirety, which may have led to a misunderstanding by some legislators of the implications of the bill. Critics contend that this was intentional. Gayle Atteberry, executive director of Oregon Right to Life, stated: “This bill, written in a deceiving manner, has as its goal to save money at the expense of starving and dehydrating dementia and mentally ill patients to death.”
SB 494 is now in the State House of Representatives for possible consideration. The bill must be passed out of the Legislature by July 10th, the constitutionally mandated end of legislative session, and signed by the Governor in order for it to become law.
Apollo, a rambunctious young pit bull, was abandoned and delivered to an animal shelter in Washington State. He was kept there for six months without finding a new home, and because of his unusually high energy level that was considered incompatible with adoption, the animal shelter eventually made the choice to euthanize the dog.
However, one last call was made to a Washington state narcotics K-9 trainer to see if Apollo was possibly suited for detection work. The trainer made the time to visit the animal shelter and run the pit bull through a series of tests; she concluded that Apollo was an excellent candidate for detective work. As a result, Apollo was placed in a new home at the Department of Corrections (DOC). Unfortunately, he had to wait twelve months while numerous dogs were chosen over him to begin training. The Tukwila Police Department speculated on its Facebook page that the reason he was not chosen was due to the widespread stigma against pit bulls, “who often have bad reputations based on misconceptions and lack of training.”
Thankfully, the trainer did recommend Apollo to the Tukwila Police Department in the summer of 2016, stating that the pit bull could finish first in his class if he was allowed the opportunity to demonstrate his skills. “All he needed was a chance.”
Members of the police department decided to extend their arms to the pit bull and allow him to go through narcotics school. The trainer was right. He finished first in his class last November. Tukwila Police Department describes him as “extremely friendly and can often be found trying to get us to play with him. He has brought great joy to all of us at the department in addition to being a very productive and hard worker.”
A recent study shows a Portland Public Schools three-week program for children who did not attend preschool is reaping rewards.
The goal of this free program is to alleviate the anxieties of parents and their children in transitioning to kindergarten. The program was launched in 2010 in two schools and entailed children receiving kindergarten training every morning along with family meetings twice-a-week. Emphasis is now placed on helping students who do not speak English as a primary language or who attended Head Start and struggle with attendance.
Since the launch of the program, numerous other districts in Portland have begun similar programs, and the district now spends about $13,000 per school to provide this service.
While the program is short time-wise, the fruits of the program are outstanding. The most notable benefit of the program is that the schools are now able to better connect with families they struggle to contact and engage.
Another benefit is the emphasis on family involvement. The study states that “the emphasis on family involvement stems from a wealth of literature indicating that when parents are involved in their children’s schooling, students achieve higher grades, have better attendance, show more positive attitudes and behaviors, have higher graduation rates, and are more likely to enroll in higher education.”
Ngoc Nguyen, a mom from Southeast Portland, enrolled her youngest son in the program in the summer of 2016 and highly recommends the program. “My son didn’t know anything about school. He was so unsure and kind of afraid.” She stated that “After he really liked it. They helped him step by step to know the rules and routine every day.”
Researchers from the Multnomah County Partnership for Education Research conducted the study. They found that, after tracking 450 students for five years, the children who participated in the program had better attendance rates and stronger literacy skill than students who did not take part in the program. Since poor attendance and insufficient literacy skills can increase a student’s probability of dropping out, Researcher Beth Tarasawa stated that the results of this program could pay off years down the road.