When a family member suffers from dementia it creates an unintended burden on their loved ones who are often their caregivers.
To help provide some support to those family members the Alzheimer Society hosted its annual Coffee Break at St. Mary’s Anglican Church Sept. 21. The meeting is a fundraiser for the society but also gives family members a chance to ask questions of experts and seek support from other people dealing with similar issues.
This year’s coffee break brought Annette Saunders, Alberta Health Services community addiction and mental health representative in Ponoka, and Tosha Serle, social worker at Northcott Care Centre.
The Coffee Break is an opportunity to speak, observe, listen or just take in what others have experienced.
“I think more so just in understanding maybe what it is. Learning from one another the experiences that they might face and the resources that are available to them,” explained Saunders.
Alzheimer’s disease is only one form of dementia and having an understanding of early onset is important in preparedness. There are some cases where short-term memory loss, which is one symptom of dementia, may be a symptom of another issue.
“So understanding natural aging memory changes versus the other things such as depressions and mental health issues that might affect temporarily your memory,” explained Saunders.
The important thing to remember, added Serle, is that support is of utmost importance to a caregiver for a person with dementia.
There are individuals uncomfortable speaking with others about their family member’s dementia. Serle advises taking the time to come to a group even if it is just to listen. “It’s mentally and physically exhausting,” said Serle, of being a caregiver.
Peer support is equally as important as seeking medical advice from a doctor. Saunders said caregivers will have experience and knowledge of the processes and may be able to provide some help. She added that the groups may also be able to provide other sources or associations that provide assistance.
“A lot of times they just need to be heard,” added Serle.
If a family member struggles with some memory loss issues, Saunders recommends seeing a doctor sooner than later to determine a base line. From there followups will be able to see how things are progressing.
The Coffee Break is not the only support for residents in Ponoka. Every second Tuesday of the month a support group is held at Northcott. It’s open to anyone who needs the support.
“We are an open support group to anybody in the community dealing with dementia,” explained Serle.