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PHI Hosts Site Visit with Saudi Alzheimer’s Association

August 29, 2017

Though Alzheimer’s Disease is a global epidemic, countries vary dramatically in their responses. In Saudi Arabia, there is little public awareness of the disease and almost no public support systems in place for people living it. Last month, PHI had a unique opportunity to host three remarkable women from Saudi Arabia who are working to change all of this.

The visitors to PHI included: Sara AlRasheed, Head of Education and Patient Affairs at the Saudi Alzheimer’s Association, and her colleagues, Sara Faisal Algabbani and Dr. Shadia Baali.

“The work they are doing is so visionary,” said Peggy Powell, Senior Advisor at PHI and a longtime expert on workforce and curriculum development. “Recognition of Alzheimer’s is so new in Saudi culture. Most people haven’t even heard of the disease.”

The Saudi Alzheimer’s Association has focused on education and on raising public awareness by organizing lectures and open discussions, printing brochures, and planning conferences for caregivers. They have also ensured that doctors and nurses have basic training in diagnosing and treating Alzheimer’s, and they have created a rudimentary home care system.

Patients can get visits from trained nurses once to twice a month at home. They also run a hotline and provide equipment and support to caregivers. For example, the association has written a flyer with legal advice for caregivers, and offers referrals to lawyers who will take their cases for free.

The representatives from the Saudi Alzheimer’s Association came to visit sites throughout the United States primarily to learn. The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing received a demonstration grant from the HRSA Geriatric Workforce Educational Program that created an opportunity for PHI to share its “best practices” in workforce training and caregiving practices with the Saudi guests. PHI partnered with the Alzheimer’s Resource Center (ARC) in Plantsville, CT to share best practices in person-centered dementia education with our guests.

Staff educators from ARC, including Eileen O’Connor, Jennifer Terray and Shazia Chaudhry, shared how to support individuals with activities of daylit living, how to teach people about the disease, offered tools for support groups, and hosted a visit at their own community to interact directly with people living with dementia. During the multi-day site visit, PHI also introduced the guests to PHI’s new dementia care training for caregivers, and visitors observed training at PHI’s affiliate home care agency, Cooperative Home Care Associates.

After the site visit, the Association still has much work ahead. “Eventually they want to build a comprehensive response to the challenge of Alzheimer’s in Saudi Arabia,“ said Powell.  “They’re buying buildings in two Saudi cities (Riyadh and Jeddah), and will turn them into housing and support services for people with Alzheimer’s and their families. They’re even recruiting and training their own dementia care workforce.”

The Saudi guests gained concrete knowledge during their visit and will put it to immediate use when they get home. “They were grateful that we shared our work with them so openly, for ‘giving with our hearts,’” said Powell. “I think everyone at PHI and ARC felt grateful, as well. We were so impressed by their resourcefulness and commitment.”

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