Seniors Outreach News January 7, 2015

Many of us know or have been touched by someone who has dementia.  Dementia is defined as an umbrella term for a variety of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lewy Bodies, Vascular, and Frontal-Temporal or Picks Disease.  Symptoms include the loss of memory, judgment, reasoning, and changes in mood and behaviour.  Brain function interferes with a person’s ability to function at work, in relationships, and in everyday activities.
Susan Sommerville, a continuing care counsellor from Drumheller, explained that 90% of patients affected by dementia will experience behavioral or psychological symptoms that are severe enough to be labelled as a problem.  These include agitation (75%), wandering (60%), depression (50%), psychosis (30%), and aggressive behavior (20%).  It is important to remember that people with dementia have brain damage and are not doing things to intentionally aggravate you.  They can remember the distant past but not what you said or what they did 5 minutes ago and they can sometimes appear quite lucid.
People, even people with dementia, need to stay connected with other people.  The problem is often knowing how to communicate with people with dementia.  Susan suggested the following:
• Stay positive;
• Ensure you have their attention;
• State your message clearly;
• Ask simple, answerable questions;
• Listen with your ears, eyes, and heart;
• Break down activities into a series of steps;
• When the going gets tough, distract and redirect;
• Respond with affection and reassurance;
• Remember the good old days;
• Maintain your sense of humour.
The information meeting certainly raised awareness of what people with dementia respond to and helpful tips for caregivers looking after loved ones with dementia.  If you would like more information, please contact the Seniors Outreach office at 403-443-2555 for Susan’s handout or contact Susan Sommerville at 403-820-7959 if you have related questions.