by Sylvia Ceja and Yuliana Trujillo, OLE Health

Almost 20% of Napa County residents are 65 or older,  resulting in a large portion of our population being at risk  for conditions like dementia. The Napa County Navigator Training offered by Collabria Care gave us several tools  and strategies for identifying patients who have (or are at  risk of developing) dementia, communicating with them, and  connecting them to specialized resources and services.

As referral coordinators for OLE Health, it’s our job to  connect our patients to the medical services they need,  whether at OLE or elsewhere in the community. By  understanding how to interact with those who have dementia  we can assess and refer to the appropriate resource.

Through the Napa County Navigator training  we learned:

When talking or working with someone with dementia,  it’s important to meet them where they are. Those with  dementia are often controlled by emotions, so it’s important to  start any conversation from where they see things, not where you  see it, and to always show and maintain compassion.

There are a number of non-brain conditions that  can impact brain health—but treatment of them can  prevent or slow the onset of dementia. For example,  sleep apnea has been linked to a higher risk of dementia. The  pauses in breathing restrict oxygen flow, which can cause brain  damage—it literally forms holes in the brain. But treating the  apnea can reverse that damage. Being aware of conditions like  these, we can address a condition the patient might not realize  can have a serious effect on their brain health.

Brain health is not just an issue for those over 65. About one in seven over age 70 will be diagnosed with some  form of dementia, but it’s not just the elderly whose brain health  is at risk: 40% of those over 50 report some form of memory  problems, too.

There are services available here in our community  to help those with memory-related conditions and  their loved ones, and that need is only going to  grow. In just the next four years, the percentage of Napa  County residents 65 or older will jump to 28%, so in addition to  making referrals to patients, we’re getting the word out on these  with staff, physicians, and our own friends and family.

You Can Be a
Dementia Hero, Too!

Over the last year, Collabria Care’s DCNC has trained more than 200 community members, including first responders, healthcare providers, caregivers, and community members in how to understand dementia, reduce the stigma surrounding it and provide support and assistance for those with (or at risk for) dementia.

Anyone in the community, from individuals to small groups or organizations, is welcome to attend our free 60-minute weekly Wednesday workshops (hosted on Zoom). These cover how to recognize when someone might have dementia and how to communicate with them, strategies for approaching and caring for those with dementia, and local resources.

A 90-minute class (with CEUs) is available for first responders, healthcare professionals, social service providers, and those who work primarily with older adults.

For more information about Napa County Navigator trainings or community workshops, contact Melissa Gerard at 707.815.6258 or mgerard@collabriacare.org.