As a biomedical engineer, I don’t have your typical background for someone researching Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. In fact, if you had told me 18 years ago that dementia would be my main field of research, I’d be surprised. Back then, I was most interested in diagnostic radiology—the field of medicine that uses imaging exams to aid in diagnosis—for the planning of epilepsy surgery.
It’s been four years since my dad, Denis, passed away after living with dementia for 11 years. My family and I did everything to make sure Dad enjoyed life, first during the early stages, and later when he lived in a care home. My experiences with my father inspired me to help others learn to appreciate quality time with a family member with dementia.
Who would I be without my memories? I consider the treatment of dementia to be one of the greatest current and future health challenges, and I am keen to find ways to protect the brain from the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease. However, there’s a lot we still don’t about this disease. I think a key step is to try to diagnose the disease as early as possible before a lot of damage occurs in the brain, so you’re able…
Imagine if someone you love goes missing. The worry can be agonizing. When the person has dementia, it takes it up a notch or two. That’s why MedicAlert Foundation Canada partnered with the Alzheimer Society of Canada in 2013 to help people living with dementia who are at risk of getting lost. MedicAlert’s service—along with its well-recognized engraved bracelet—was launched in 1961 to help emergency responders treat people quickly and effectively when they couldn’t speak for themselves. .
Did you know that head injuries, and particularly repeated concussions, may increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease? A traumatic brain injury that results in the loss of consciousness has been shown to increase the risk of dementia by as much as four times [i]. According to some research, this is because head injuries may increase the levels of protein in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, such as amyloid [ii]. Who is most affected by traumatic brain…
“Your mom is so strong.” These were the words I often heard people say to describe my mom. I never really understood what they meant while I was growing up, being the youngest of six children. Why was my mom this strong person everyone kept referring to?
Previously in our series on human rights and dementia, we looked at how past experiences inspired Phyllis Fehr to advocate for dementia rights (Part one: Becoming a force for change—Phyllis Fehr’s story). Then, Phyllis showed us how seven articles in the United Nations’ Convention of Human Rights can improve the quality of life for Canadians living with dementia right now (Part two: Understanding dementia from a human rights’ perspective).
Thanks to my mother, I learned the values of being a volunteer at a young age. She set up a soup kitchen at my elementary school, ensuring that my classmates coming to school without lunch wouldn’t go hungry. When my brother and sister and I joined the Cubs, Brownies, and Girl Guides, my mother volunteered as a leader. She canvassed for various charities. She was always quick to help whenever someone asked.
I have come to realize five key things about caregiving. These steps have helped my mother, have helped me, and have helped make this year better than the last. Now, I would like to share them with you.
For people with dementia and their caregivers, it can be difficult to find activities that strike the right balance between being supportive, being socially appropriate and, of course, being fun. As the disease progresses and abilities change, it’s common for friends to withdraw and activities to start to fall away. A person is left with few things that can offer joy, a sense of purpose and human connection. I’ve seen this firsthand—my father had dementia for 18 years. As it…