Navigating The Health Care System After A Dementia Diagnosis
There are many misnomers associated with dementia. “It’s just memory loss” and “It’s an old person’s disease” are two of the most popular. Dementia, in fact, does not reference one specific symptom such as memory loss, but instead denotes a group of various symptoms that impact one’s memory and ability to think clearly. Dementia can also significantly impact a person’s mood, speech and social skills.
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia and accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases. While Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, there are other types as well such as Young Onset Dementia, Frontal Lobe Dementia, Vascular Dementia and Dementia with Lewybodies. Each different form of dementia can come with a specific set of symptoms and impact person’s cognitive abilities differently.
Dementia is not something that affects the elderly alone. It is true that the majority with dementia, 40 percent, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada – are older than 65. However, people in their 40s and 50s have been known to develop dementia too. It is essential for caregivers of dementia patients, no matter their ages, to put effective care strategies into practice.
What resources are available for both patients and caregivers?
Thankfully, Calgary offers several resources for individuals who are living with dementia, their caregivers and their families. Through various organizations, such support as adult day programs and assistance with government resources are available. Becoming familiar with each organization is an important step in getting your loved one the essential care he/she needs to manage his/her condition.
Alzheimer Society of Calgary
Many people choose the Alzheimer Society of Calgary as their first step in understanding how to care for loved ones who have been diagnosed with dementia. This organization offers workshops and public awareness sessions on such topics as brain health, caregiver strategies and pre-diagnosis.
They also offer the Club 36 program which offers recreational activities including art and music therapy for those with dementia. In an effort to support Calgarians through the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alzheimer Society of Calgary has made a support team available to provide free, confidential advice and information. You can call them directly at 403-290-0110.
Dementia Network Calgary
Dementia Network Calgary is an organization comprised of knowledgeable, capable and passionate individuals. Representing the public, private and non-profit sectors in Calgary, the members of this group take a collaborative approach to tackling the complex challenges associated with dementia.
The objectives of Dementia Network Calgary are many. They include providing education and awareness, supporting community living and offering effective educational strategies for people who work in dementia care. You can call this organization directly at 403-736-4677 (403-SENIORS).
Of course, we’ve only mentioned two of the many agencies that offer support for people impacted by dementia in Calgary. Please review this comprehensive list of organizations, provided by Karen Rudolph Durrie of Dementia Connections.
What can you do to reduce the risk of developing dementia?
There are many different ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia in any of its forms. By making a few lifestyle changes, you can help to avoid the onset of such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the recommendations are no different than any other that are made to promote overall optimum health. According to the Alzheimer Society of Calgary, physical activity and eating nutritious foods are among the top ways to reduce the risk of developing dementia.
“Regular exercise is beneficial for your heart health as well as brain health,” reports the Alzheimer Society of Calgary website, “It improves circulation to the brain and delivers more oxygen to the brain. Exercise helps reduce depression, supports sleep and helps control all cardiovascular risk factors. It also nurtures the growth of new nerve cells in critical parts of the brain that are responsible for memory, learning and decision-making.”
The Alzheimer Society of Calgary also reveals that regular exercise can impede the accumulation of amyloid protein and slow down cognitive decline in those who have high risks of developing familial or inherited Alzheimer’s disease.
You’d be hard pressed to find a nutritionist who recommends fast food and other eats that are high in sugar, salt and cholesterol. To help prevent the onset of dementia symptoms, it’s wise to become an advocate of good nutrition. The Alzheimer Society of Calgary recommends a plant-based diet that is high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in meat and sugar products.
They specifically reference the Mediterranean diet. But don’t mistake it for veganism. While it is plant-based, the Mediterranean diet does include weekly servings of fish, poultry and eggs. It has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia and slow the progression of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).
Of course, we can’t forget that dementia, in all its forms, impacts the brain. Challenging your brain on a daily basis is an important way to avoid the onset of any symptoms. Play chess, memorize the lyrics to a song, develop a new skill, start a new hobby and learn a different language. These are all suggestions offered by the Alzheimer Society of Calgary.
They also recommend engaging in conversations with others, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, addressing hearing impairment and promptly treating depression as other methods of reducing the risk of dementia.
What steps can you take to practice adequate caregiving?
Caring for a loved one with dementia can certainly have its difficult moments. We know that this is an understatement. Caregiving can be stressful as dementia patients present many unique challenges. Chances are you may be faced with repetitive questions, physical aggression, mood swings, accusations, false memories, hallucinations, denial and socially-inappropriate behaviours.
Find calm and peace each day
Watch your favourite comedy shows, read humorous books, go on walks, take relaxing baths, get ample sleep and reach out to friends for fun conversations. Putting your mind in a positive place is integral to your ability to adequately care for your dementia patient. But don’t ever hesitate to ask for help. Getting assistance with caregiving is arguably the best way to sufficiently help your loved one.
Focus on fall prevention
Falls are the number one safety issue for Canadian seniors. They account for nearly two-thirds of all injuries that require hospitalizations for people over the age of 65. However, when an individual has dementia, it becomes even more important to reduce his/her risk of falling.
A person with dementia can be at greater risk of taking a tumble because of such factors as slower reflexes, loss of motor skills, balance issues, poor eyesight and medication. It’s vital that you work to eliminate tripping hazards in the home. Clear the stairs of any and all obstacles, tuck away wiring and remove throw rugs from the floors as they tend to bunch up.
How valuable is it to keep your loved one at home?
At Senior Homecare by Angels, it is our sincere belief that there is no better way to adequately care for a loved one living with dementia than to have him/her receive care at home. After all, a person contending with brain function issues such as memory loss can certainly benefit from familiar surroundings. We understand, of course, if it isn’t feasible to provide all of the necessary caregiving yourself.
This is why our team is proud to offer Dementia Support Services as a comprehensive part to our service offering. Developed in 2004, the Gentle Persuasive Approach is an evidence-based methodology that assists care providers in providing person-centred and compassionate care to individuals living with dementia and experiencing responsive behaviours. The GPA method focuses on four key components: Personhood, Brain and Behaviour, Interpersonal Environment and Gentle Persuasive Techniques.
Our structured approach to program development helps families manage the difficulties of dementia while keeping those they love in the comfort of their own homes. We are committed to working with you to create a customized, person-focused dementia support program that is unique to your loved one and addresses his/her physical, emotional, social and memory needs.
All of our Angels are experienced in dementia care, and we provide additional education to our staff on the Gentle Persuasive and “best friend” Approach, in order to provide the best possible care to your loved one.
At Senior Homecare by Angels, it is our mandate to help seniors remain independent at home. Especially during this incredibly trying time, we know how concerned caregivers are of their elderly parents. It is important to us to communicate that our team is here for you. We’re readily available to answer any questions you may have about the home care services we provide.
We offer a full array of services including Dementia and Alzheimer’s supportive services and we provide coverage from 4 hours daily up to 24 hours per day.
To help you learn more about these services, we offer consultations at no charge. It is a key part of the process to guarantee your loved one is getting the best solution for his/her aging in place needs. To learn more, please don’t hesitate to call Senior Homecare by Angels at 403-862-0129 or if outside of Calgary, toll-free at 1-877-209-6142. You may also visit the Contact Us page to complete and submit a simple inquiry form.
Gerry Gatto is a trained health care administrator and the owner of Senior Homecare® By Angels a Calgary – based company. Helping Calgary seniors remain in their homes and maintain their independence with the assistance of a dedicated caregiver.