Tara Hildebrand

Tara Hildebrand

Caregivers learn coping strategies

Caregivers and family members gathered in Williams Lake Tuesday to glean a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease.

Caregivers and family members gathered in Williams Lake Tuesday to glean a better understanding of Alzheimer’s disease.

“I’m hoping to share information so that everyone’s on the same page, both family members and caregivers,” said Tara Hildebrand, support and education co-ordinator for the Alzheimer Society of B.C. who was facilitating a one-day workshop held at the Seniors’ Village.

Statistics show 480,6000 people in Canada have Alzheimer’s or related dementia and there are 15,150 new cases each year.

“A year and a half ago we commissioned a study and the number of cases had jumped to 750,000,” Hildebrand said. “We really do need a national strategy.”

Dementia is broken down into two categories — acute reversal dementia or chronic irreversible dementia.

The first one can be caused by drug interactions, depression, tumours, B-12 or potassium deficiency, stress or even an infection.

While it’s the type of dementia that can be cured, chronic irreversible cannot.

There are several myths about Alzheimer’s Hildebrand said.

Alzheimer’s is strictly not a genetic disorder, it is not part of normal aging, is not preventable, not curable and is not caused by a vitamin deficiency or by aluminum.

“It doesn’t necessarily affect elderly people either,” Hildebrand said.

“I have a 42-year-old in my office right now who has Alzheimer’s.”

People often contact Hildebrand asking about getting a diagnosis and she tells them it’s a process.

A doctor will rule out acute reversal treatable dementia before looking at determining if a person has chronic irreversible dementia.

Normally her workshop runs as a series over five weeks, but because Hildebrand travelled from Kamloops, she shared the entire series in one day.

For more information go to www.alzheimerbc.ca.

The society has many tips for caring for and keeping communication open with Alzheimer patients. An important message is to be patient and supportive; don’t interrupt and give the person time to express themselves. Don’t talk about the person as if they aren’t there.

Don’t be condescending. Respect what they are saying.

Avoid asking questions which rely on good memory.

Communicate simple reminders by using small notes.

Limit distractions as much as possible, find a quiet place to talk.

Avoid criticizing, correcting or arguing.

Listen with your heart. Look beyond the words to understand what the person is experiencing.