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Dementia can be a very isolating and disempowering disease. Due to the stigma of dementia and misunderstandings about the symptoms experienced by those with dementia, people are reluctant to speak with those with dementia directly about their diagnoses and their lives, even during the early stages of the illness. Often people with dementia become separated and isolated from the world – their families are in denial, they can’t drive, they are afraid to leave their homes for fear of getting lost, they lose their jobs, and they don’t receive ongoing support from qualified medical practitioners.
A Meeting of the Minds is here to break down barriers and help people with dementia to live their best lives possible – and Zoom is here to facilitate this important work. Laura Bowley, founder of Mindset Memory Centre (a sponsor of A Meeting of the Minds), partners on this project with Richard Taylor, PhD, of Dementia Support Networks, who was diagnosed with dementia over 10 years ago. A Meeting of the Minds shares the voices of people who are diagnosed with dementia. The project has three functions: it spreads the word about the disease, thereby decreasing its stigma; it empowers those with dementia to advocate for themselves; and it connects them with other people, information and resources with the goal of lifting them out of isolation.
A Meeting of the Minds started in September 2012 with monthly webinars that feature various topics of concern to people living with dementia (unlike most materials that are directed to caregivers). Laura and Richard tried a few other video meeting services, but there were complaints from participants about the poor quality, limited participant capacities and disruptive ads. One service actually recorded and published their private meetings online without permission. But they still felt there was potential in online real-time communications. “Thank goodness we found Zoom,” says Bowley, “Its ease-of-use makes it democratic – these users with dementia are logging in and using it themselves to connect with each other now, quite outside of any events that we put together. The quality is superlative, the meeting size is large, and the screen is uncluttered. It is clean and simple for people to use.”
A Meeting of the Minds has used Zoom for a variety of purposes. For example, they collaborate in an online interactive theater project called To Whom I May Concern. For this project, people with dementia from all over the country are interviewed via Zoom, and then these interviews are turned into a script that is acted over Zoom, recorded, edited, and shown in webinars and events. “This project helps a lot with the isolation, and the end product becomes an educational piece. We post the video on YouTube,” says Bowley.
They also use Zoom for weekly support groups for people who feel isolated due to their dementia. This is filling an unmet need as, explains Bowley, “Most groups for people with dementia are for crafting or memory games, not talking about the serious topics important to people diagnosed with a terminal disease. And in many cases, people can’t get to a ‘live’ support group because groups aren’t available in their communities or they can’t travel to a group.”
They also use Zoom for their virtual Memory Café, a monthly get-together of caregivers and people diagnosed with dementia in a casual, social setting. “Zoom’s 25 person capacity is key for this,” says Bowley. “It allows for more people to join, see each other and converse, just as they would in a real café.”
“Now that there are no more barriers to great quality video conferencing, we have started many other new projects,” explains Bowley, including a second support group and advocacy groups where people can start their own meetings and then report back to the main support groups.
A Meeting of the Minds has more plans for Zoom in the future. They plan to do virtual Laughter Yoga, a type of yoga that involves laughter, and relaxation and breathing techniques. They also plan to continue the webinars they have been hosting and host a large web conference for newly diagnosed patients and their families.
“People with dementia have a lot of living left do to,” says Bowley, and we at Zoom are proud to help A Meeting of the Minds empower people with dementia to have better lives.
Learn more about A Meeting of the Minds.
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