For caregivers looking for support as they assist loved ones or friends affected by dementia, there is help available.
The Alzheimer/Demential Drop-in Care Partner Support Group meets the second Wednesday of the month from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the Stettler Family & Community Support Services office (4720 – 50th St.)
Facilitated by Dean Cowan out of Red Deer, the group is overseen by Laurie Grande of the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and Northwest Territories office which is based in Red Deer as well.
“It’s been functioning for about three years, and it’s really taken off this year,” said Grande, who is regional lead of client services. “You don’t need to be referred to it – you can just drop in. We run 10 months of the year, from September through to June as well. They talk about different concerns, or any issues that come up,” she added.
Facilitators of all the local Alzheimer/dementia support groups also receive regular training to hone their skills, she said.
“The facilitator will also bring in a guest speaker if that’s what members would like to see,” she said, adding the group has a comfortable, informal feel to it as well.
Support groups like this have proven a real help to those who attend, she said.
“People really get the sense that they aren’t alone on this journey – that’s the big thing,” she explained. “Often, caregivers feel very isolated because this disease can be isolating.
“There are other people who are on this journey with them – I would say this is the most important thing, that they feel like they have the support from other people,” she said.
“There is also a sense of community that starts to develop out of support groups – there’s a network that actually develops. People get to know each other, and they feel like they can even contact each other outside the group if they choose to do so. So that is really important as well.
“The other thing that is of great use to them, is that they get a lot of information about services and programs in their communities that they can connect with,” she said. “They also learn a lot of that from other people, too, who have walked down this road already.”
According to the Alzheimer Society of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, dementia is an overall term for a set of symptoms that are caused by disorders affecting the brain.
Symptoms may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language, severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.
Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse as more brain cells become damaged and eventually die.
Dementia is not a specific disease.
Many diseases can cause dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia (due to strokes), Lewy Body disease, head trauma, fronto-temporal dementia, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease.
According to the Society, in Canada, 25,000 new cases of dementia are diagnosed every year. Currently, 564,000 Canadians are living with dementia.
In the meantime, officials say that fear and a lack of knowledge are perhaps the biggest contributors to any sense of stigma that exists, so Canadians are invited to visit the campaign’s web site (www.ilivewithdementia.ca) to read and watch the stories of people getting on with their lives in spite of dementia.
For more information about the support group, call 403-342-0448 ext. 1.