Living with Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

Dementia Mentors; Hospital Wristband Program Can Help

With a hospital wristband program, upon admission and with a prior diagnosis of a dementia related disease, a Purple Angel logo is attached to the patient’s wristband. This has become the international symbol for all types of dementia. Gary Joseph LeBlanc

Helping the patient and the family understand the disease and the caregiver role is the mission of Gary Joseph LeBlanc, the author of the books “Staying Afloat in a Sea of Forgetfulness,” “Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors” and co-author of, “While I Still Can”.

LeBlanc is also, a weekly columnist of “Common Sense Caregiving” published in the Tampa Tribune and Hernando Today and many other health publications as well as a national speaker on dementia care.

In 2001 he also founded the Alzheimer’s/Dementia Hospital Wristband Project and co-founder of Dementia Mentors. LeBlanc became involved in dementia 17 years ago when his father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  

Being diagnosed with dementia is Americans’ second biggest health fear, according to public polls conducted in 2013. The biggest fear, cancer, may have an advantage over dementia. This is because for some patients diagnosed with cancer there is the possibility of becoming symptom free. Sadly, this is not true of dementia.

Dementia, by medical definition, is a brain diseases that cause long term loss of the ability to think and reason clearly that is severe enough to affect a person's daily functioning. The reality is this disease destroys memory, can create inappropriate social behaviors, loss of body function and ultimately kills one in six Americans. It is a diagnosis of a slow mentally painful death without a cure.

Dementia can strike someone as young as 30 years old or the first signs of the disease can appear at age 90. There are studies and some medications that help, but the definitive cause and treatment remain a medical mystery.

Knowing these facts the diagnosis of dementia, in many forms from Alzheimer’s to Lewy Body, can be devastating to the patient as well as their family and loved ones.

These days his writings and speaking events utilize his 3,000 plus days and nights of personal caregiving experience to help other Alzheimer’s and dementia care givers cope with the everyday challenges and emotional struggles of caring for the memory-impaired.

Dementia Mentors

“I created Dementia Mentors ( along with Harry Urban and Michael Neuvirth in early 2014 because we realized too many people were being sent home right after their diagnosis, scared and with little to no information of what they’re about to endure,” LeBlanc said. “This program serves those that are newly diagnosed with a dementia related disease or are still in the early to moderate stage.”

Designed for the patient and their families, Dementia Mentors offers a wealth of resources for activity directors and certified therapeutic recreation professionals.

“The videos on the website were made by people living with all different types of dementia and are a great educational tool,” LeBlanc said. “For their residents, activity professionals may want to have residents with dementia participate in the virtual memory café’s and even make a request to be mentored.”

Maintaining a daily routine is the best thing you can do for those living with dementia.

However in a hospital there is beeping medical equipment, strange faces and bewildering questions being thrown around like hand grenades. You may as well just throw their crucial routine right out the window, which then causes these patients’ anxiety and confusion levels to shoot through the roof. For the past five years I have been parading an idea to hospital administrators: Use a specially designed wristband or marker to identify patients with Alzheimer’s or any other type of cognitive disability.

Wristband Program

LeBlanc also launched the  Alzheimer’s/Dementia Hospital Wristband Program.

The program components are as follows:

♦ Upon admission and with a prior diagnosis of a dementia related disease, a Purple Angel logo is attached to the patient’s wristband. This has become the international symbol for all types of dementia.

♦ A magnetized Purple Angel also is placed on the door frame and/or above the room’s number plaque.

♦ The hospital staff and hopefully most first responders will receive dementia care training.

♦ A sitter may be utilized to give the families a much needed break from worrying about their loved one.

♦ Dementia screening was added by administering a mini-cog test during the admission process for all patients, within reason.

Education is, without a doubt, the most important facet of this program. Being welcomed into that hospital to instruct the staff on the proper ways of caring for a dementia patient was a huge step in the right direction of making sure dementia patients are safe in our hospitals.

The program is free. Further information is available at these websites:

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