by Leila Castro | Leilacastro.email@example.com
Two months ago, Jennifer Licardo, the Education Manager of Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, reached out to 204 Neighbourhood Watch to establish a partnership.
The objectives of said tie up are to educate our group so that we will know what to do if in our patrolling we encounter an individual showing symptoms of the Alzheimer’s disease; and to spread awareness about dementia or Alzheimer’s and the programs and services offered by the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba to the person with the disease, the family and the professional care giver. Jennifer conducted an information session with us. It made me recall some posts I have seen at 204 Filipino Marketplace about elderly kababayans who were lost or needed help to go home. In our session, I asked Jennifer out of curiosity if how many Filipinos have availed of their support programs. She said that, so far, she has not seen one. Although there was one Filipino referred to them, but the person and the family did not show up.
Through this article, I’d like to echo to the community what we learned from our information session, including what to do if there is concern that a member of your household might have dementia, and how to help a person you encounter in the community who is showing symptoms of said health issue.
The terms dementia and Alzheimer’s are often interchanged, but the two are different. Dementia is a group of symptoms, while Alzheimer’s is a disease. Dementia is an overall term for a set of symptoms that impact memory, performance of daily activities and communication abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. It is a progressive, degenerative brain disease that causes changes in the brain. While usually affecting people over 65 years old, younger people can develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the youngest that Jennifer has seen registered in their program is 29 years old. The risk increases as the person ages which is why we often describe older people as “ulyanin”, but still dementia or Alzheimer’s is not considered a normal part of aging. Jennifer explained that while many of us from various ages claim to experience forgetfulness, but when you have the Alzheimer’s disease, you have forgetfulness that affects your day to day functions. An example is misplacing items and finding them in odd places, such as seeing your keys inside the microwave oven; or not remembering how to get back home. Aside from forgetfulness, these are the other symptoms or warning signs: difficulty performing familiar tasks, problems with language, disorientation of time and place, poor or decreased judgment, problems with abstract thinking, misplacing things, changes in mood and behaviour, changes in personality, and loss of initiative.
It is important to learn how to better communicate with persons with dementia, to help build relationships, to interact with and to include them in community activities. Here are some ways to help you approach and communicate with someone with dementia:
1. Identify yourself, e.g., “My name is .. I’m your neighbour from down the block”
2. Address the person by name; speak clearly and at a normal pace
3. Talk about things of shared interest
4. Back up your words with actions or gestures
5. Maintain eye contact during the conversation
6. Ask open-ended questions and allow time for the person to reply
7. Rephrase their responses to check your understanding of what the person is telling you
8. Suggest a word or idea if the person is searching
9. Listen actively and acknowledge the person’s feelings
10. Enjoy the time you spend with the person.
If your grandparent or anyone in your home is displaying the warning signs, Jennifer recommends to have the person checked by the doctor for proper diagnosis. She also encourages the family to get in touch with Alzheimer Society of Manitoba. If you see a person in the community who is showing symptoms, Jennifer advises the following as the way to approach and help the individual:
1. Ask the person where he or she lives
2. Check information in the person’s identification, or if the person is wearing the MedicAlert bracelet
3. Ask if there is a relative to call
4. If the person does not have the MedicAlert bracelet and you do not find any contact information, CALL 911
5. Keep distance. Do not bombard the person with questions
The Alzheimer Society of Manitoba exists so that all Manitobans affected by dementia receive the help they need today and have hope for the future. It offers free supportive counselling services, education and support groups. For more information, contact Jennifer Licardo at 204-943-6622 (Winnipeg), 1-800-378-6699 (Manitoba) or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.