Living With Alzheimer’s, Finding Help

Finding Help And Overcoming Fear

 A few days ago, a woman I was acquainted with years ago knocked on my door. She said she had read a piece in the newspaper I wrote about the tremendous help the Adult Care Society program has been for me and my husband, who has Alzheimer’s Disease. The woman, who I’ll call Jane, said she was having some problems with memory and other things, but she didn’t know how or where to get help. We talked, and she told me her symptoms. She said she had not been able to tell anyone because she was embarrassed, and afraid, and no one understood.

Jane’s story is not unique. Nor is her fear. It isn’t easy to tell anyone you are afraid you might have dementia. But the symptoms cannot be treated if they are hidden, and they cannot stay hidden.

There are various types of and various causes for dementia. TIAs or a series of small strokes, frontal lobe damage, vascular disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s are some. No matter the cause, dementia is a disease that has become a worldwide pandemic.

According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada’s website, as of 2010 more than 35.6 million people worldwide were living with dementia. In 2011, 747,000 Canadians aged 65 or older (14.7% of our population) were living with cognitive impairment, including dementia. Those numbers do not include Canadians under 65 who have the disease. My husband first showed symptoms at age 55. He was definitively diagnosed at age 58.

Because it has become a pandemic and is being discussed and studied throughout the world, people’s understanding of dementia and physicians’ and caregivers’ ability to help those suffering from it have increased significantly.

The best first step to find help is to see your doctor and talk about exactly what is going on. It helps to write down ALL the symptoms and give the list to the doctor.

A thorough physical exam might reveal a physical cause for your problems that can then be treated. If the cause is some form of cognitive impairment, your doctor will refer you to Seniors Health. A team will visit you in your own home to do an assessment and talk about the best course of action for you to continue to live your life the way you want to live it. They will refer you to Home and Community Care, where a Case Manager will talk about coping strategies and set up support systems such as a care worker coming into your home, or attending the Adult Care Society program, when those things are required or desired.

If you, or someone you know and love, are experiencing symptoms such as: persistent and increasing memory loss, difficulty with following instructions or doing tasks that used to be easy, difficulty finding your way to places you have been many times before, difficulty finding words to describe something you want to describe, reach out for help. Information (including a full list of symptoms) and help are available through the Alzheimer Society of B.C. Call 1-800-667-3742.

In Campbell River, the Adult Care Society at 250-923-0991 can help. If you are 55 or older, Senior Peer Counselling provides support and guidance for those experience aging and health concerns. Call 250-287-3044.

People at all of these organizations are trained to listen. They will respect your privacy and help find solutions or routes to you getting the help you need to live the life you want to live.

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