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Debbie Selsavage

Coping with Dementia

Last year, the Citrus County Board of Commissioners took action to improve mental health services by retaining LifeStream, an organization that has provided treatment, education, care management, rehabilitation and homeless services in Central Florida since 1971.

Transition of social services takes time and I did not expect good things to happen overnight. But I was wrong. It appears LifeStream has hit the ground running with a program called WISE, which means “Wellness Initiative for Senior Education.”

WISE includes six classes to help seniors better understand and know what to do about the changes associated with aging. LifeStream tells us that where they have offered this program, participants have been more likely to improve health behaviors and wellness.

But this is not all. Since my husband Albert, who was taken by dementia in 2010, was emotionally and physically abused in the Baker Act system, I have sought ways to provide better and more humane treatment for seniors who are involuntarily committed to psychiatric care under this law.

When LifeStream was chosen as our new mental health provider, I was invited to Leesburg to see their Baker Act receiving facilities and procedures and I am very optimistic about what I saw there. LifeStream provides a separate receiving space and procedure for older people living with dementia! It is precisely what I have long advocated.

While we thought it might take several years for Citrus County to have its own Baker Act receiving center, again LifeStream has favorably surprised us by creating a partnership with Citrus Memoria Hospital to open a Baker Act assessment facility that will result in a quicker and better response for individuals at risk.

An in-county Baker Act assessment facility and the WISE Program will well serve our families living with dementia. I am very optimistic about the opportunities I see with LifeStream.

To learn more about the WISE Program, contact Gloria Tucci at 352-228-4470 or 352-516-7890.

Debbie Selsavage is a certified independent trainer in the Positive Approach to Care, a certified dementia practitioner and president of the Board of Directors of the Alzheimer’s Family Organization. Her company, Coping with Dementia LLC, is dedicated to making life better for individuals and their caregivers who are living with dementia. Contact her at deb@coping.today.

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