By Jaime Polmateer
Residents of Clearwater and the North Thompson are invited to take part in Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, which kicked off earlier this week with the theme “I live with dementia, let me help you understand.”
The campaign aims to change public understanding of what it means to live with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia by encouraging residents to educate themselves on symptoms and different ways to interact with those who have been diagnosed.
One of the easiest ways to get informed is to visit alzheimerbc.org and read up on the information provided on the website.
Maxine Albertson, regional spokesperson for the campaign, said since her husband Phil was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, simply getting educated has been one of the best resources that’s helped her as a caregiver.
“Find as much information as you can and rely on your family doctor because mine has been great,” said Albertson.
“It can be a pretty emotional, but if you know a bit about it before hand maybe people can deal with it better when something like that happens in the family.”
Though the campaign is largely aimed at those with Alzheimer’s and caregivers, extended family and the general public can benefit from reading up on the disease so they know what to do and how to behave when encountering someone showing symptoms of dementia.
When running into someone showing signs of confusion and forgetfulness, the best thing to do is remain patient and show some compassion.
“One of the things I’ve found is with people we’ve been in contact with, they try to finish his sentences for him or they jump in and help before is ready to accept help; knowing it’s okay to just sit and wait for him to try and process his thoughts, or knowing it’s okay to wait until he’s comfortable asking for help doing something, those are really important things,” Albertson said.
“For him it’s very frustrating and upsetting because he knows exactly what’s happening and it makes it a lot easier in our day to day happenings if there are people who understand and allow him to work his way through these things.”
Tara Hildebrand, support and education coordinator for the Alzheimer Society of B.C., gave some tips on what to do when encountering someone in public who may have dementia.
“Say for example you see somebody downtown, they’re standing on the street corner and they don’t really look like they know where they’re going, or they look scared or confused, approach and them and ask, are you lost? Can I help you find your way?” said Hildebrand.
“Can I call somebody for you? Often times people with Alzheimer’s might be wearing a medical alert bracelet and on the back of the bracelet it will say ‘memory loss,’ so calling medical alert and saying, this is the person standing with me—they have somebody on call 24 hours a day, every day of the year—they will be connected with that persons care partner and can come pick them up, but it’s about offering to lend a hand.”
Another example Hildebrand gave was if one sees a person struggling to count money in a grocery store, offer to help; if the person refuses, they might just need a bit of extra time, which goes back to the aspect of patience.
“Their brain doesn’t process information as fast as yours and mine does, so give them that time to respond and don’t expect immediate answers,” she added.
“We live in a society that expects immediate answers to everything—we want immediate, right now gratification, and that person with dementia needs a little extra time.”
For anyone in the Clearwater area who is the caregiver of a person with dementia, Hildebrand is hosting a workshop at the Dutch Lake Community Centre on Jan. 23.
The topic for the workshop is “Transitions Along the Journey” and gives the opportunity to learn about different caregiver topics like practical coping strategies and how the illness affects the behaviours and emotions for both the caregiver and the person living with the illness.
The workshop takes place from 1 to 4 p.m. and donations are appreciated. To register call 250-377-8200.