Friends and families of people suffering with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia met last week to speak on how to copeWednesday, Sept. 23.
The meeting was held at St. Mary’s Anglican Church as part of the Alzheimer Society’s Coffee Break. Dr. Dale Danyluk spoke with attendees and responded to questions relevant to their situation.
He said when people suffer from dementia, the challenge is not only on the patient but also on the family, who may also be the caregivers. While Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, Danyluk said there are other forms and it takes time before signs show there is an issue with a person.
“It’s hard to know when it starts but it usually progresses over time,” explained Danyluk.
He added that doctors try to rule out any other possibilities such as other health issues or the type of medication a person is taking before concluding a definitive diagnosis.
One form of dementia is called vascular dementia and usually occurs because there is not enough blood flowing to the brain. Danyluk says in some cases a person’s abilities return after some time and treatment.
“Age is probably your biggest factor for Alzheimer’s,” said Danyluk of the disease.
Staying healthy and keeping blood pressure and cholesterol low may be one way to minimize the risk of getting Alzheimer’s.
One person questioned the benefits of vaccines such as the polio vaccine to help with dementia but Danyluk replied he hass een some discussion on certain vaccines helping but suggests some research shows the vaccines were doing more damage than benefits to patients.
He advocates living an active and healthy life. “That’ll help with your mental health.”
“Just because you have a memory problem doesn’t mean you have dementia,” Danyluk added.
When it comes to checking a person for Alzheimer’s, Danyluk said there are many mental tests to help find an issue. A CAT scan shows some parts of the brain structure but may not reveal major issues.
Danyluk likened it to buying a car that looks good on the outside but the engine and internal parts are not quite the same.
Some of the challenges family members who care for someone with Alzheimer’s often feel guilty and they second guess the decisions they have made to ensure care continues. Danyluk replied that families also need a strong support system.
The Coffee Break is one such support. Every second Tuesday a support group meets at 2 p.m. at the Northcott Care Centre.