It is an ugly disease that can consume the lives of entire families for up to 20 years, but Interior Health and the Alzheimer’s Society of B.C. is teaming up to provide the education and resources needed to help families get through it.
The society is organizing an educational conference, or roadshow, to help dementia sufferers and their families navigate their way through the disease on Oct. 21.
Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias are fatal, progressive and degenerative diseases that destroy brain cells. As of last year, more than 500,000 Canadians were living with dementia.
One in five Canadians over the age of 65 have dementia, and roughly 71,000 people under 65 have it. Over the next 25 years, without a medical breakthrough, it is estimated that more than four million Canadians will have developed Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia.
“The focus of the workshop will be on helping caregivers who are on the dementia journey. The medical end of it isn’t really our focus,” said Jan Robson, member of the Alzheimer’s Society of B.C., and speaker at the roadshow.
“We will be giving general information about the disease, how it progresses, and what to do when the demands are too great. We’ll try to help people decide when to reach out, some useful advocacy tips, and when to think about facility placement.”
One in five Canadians aged 45 and older provides some form of care to seniors living with long term health problems. And one quarter of all family caregivers are seniors themselves, a third of them are older than 75.
“A lot of people are worried about how to provide the best care possible. But caregivers’ needs must be addressed as well,” said Robson. “The Alzheimer’s journey can be a very long one. The disease often lasts three to 20 years. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
Caregivers often have a difficult time asking for help, says Robson, and therefore she often won’t see people until late in the process.
“I hear quite often, ‘I wish I had come to you sooner.’ That’s why we try to encourage people to reach out,” she said. “Hopefully we can make care life easier, and teach them how to better manage the emotional ramifications.”
The workshop will be on Oct. 21 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the community education room at the Golden Hospital. The cost is $20 person, and the deadline for pre-registration is Oct. 7.
Cheques are payable to Interior Health Authority, and send them to Darryl Oakley, Interior Health – Cranbrook Health Unit, 20-23rd Ave. S., Cranbrook B.C., V1C 5V1.
Anyone who has any immediate questions about the disease, or how to help a loved one, can call the Dementia Helpline at 1-800-936-6033.