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Speaker: People can lead fulfilled lives with dementia

Monica Zadnik is co-ordinator of the Alzheimer Society’s First Link program. She gave a presentation at Pioneer Lodge in Fort Macleod.

Patience, understanding, respect and kindness are keys when dealing with people who have dementia.
Monica Zadnik of the Alzheimer Society delivered that message at Pioneer Lodge.
“They’re still the same person that they always were,” Zadnik said. “We can’t forget that it is the person we need to focus on, and not the disease.”
Zadnik, who is co-ordinator of the First Link program for the Alzheimer Society, was guest speaker at the lodge.
About 25 people turned out for the presentation, which was part of the Alzheimer tea hosted by the lodge.
Zadnik told her audience Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain.
Symptoms include loss of memory, difficulty with day-to-day tasks and changes in mood and behaviour.
“Every diagnosis is unique to that individual,” Zadnik said. “It’s a very complex disease and it presents itself differently in every individual who has it.”
People who are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia can lead fulfilled and happy lives.
To help that happen, First Link connects people with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia with health services and education.
“We help them find support and to feel that they are supported throughout their journey with this illness,” Zadnik said.
People often aren’t aware of programs that can help someone with dementia, and their care-givers.
“That’s what we try to do — connect people with what is available to them,” Zadnik said.
Typical warning signs that someone has developed Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia include:
• Memory loss that affects day-to-day abilities.
• Difficulty performing familiar tasks.
• Problems with language.
• Disorientation in time and space.
• Impaired judgement.
• Problems with abstract thinking.
• Misplacing things.
• Changes in mood and behaviour.
• Changes in personality.
• Loss of initiative.
Zadnik said if you suspect something is wrong with yourself or someone you know, the best thing is to see a doctor.
Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is key to a person leading a healthy, fulfilled life.
Zadnik said the worst thing that happens to a family when someone is diagnosed with dementia is that everyone stays away.
“Being social and being accepted by your peers is a huge part of dementia,” Zadnik said. “Having a social group and being valued is something that is really important to people who live with dementia.”
“People who have a social network of friends, of family, of good strong supports in their lives, they live well with dementia. That can make a difference.”
Zadnik said it is important to know that people with dementia may not remember you, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
She offered what she called “10 absolutes” for talking to people with memory disorders:
• Never argue — instead agree.
• Never reason — instead divert.
• Never shame — instead distract.
• Never lecture — instead reassure.
• Never say remember — instead reminisce.
• Never say, “I told you” — instead repeat.
• Never say, “You can’t” — instead say do what you can.
• Never command or demand — instead ask or model.
• Never condescend — instead encourage and praise.
• Never force — instead reinforce.
“The bottom line is compassion, understanding and patience,” Zadnik said of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Monica Zadnik is co-ordinator of the Alzheimer Society’s First Link program. She gave a presentation at Pioneer Lodge in Fort Macleod.

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