No one should have to face the dementia journey in Parksville Qualicum Beach alone.
“We were shocked,” said Emily Doyle, a caregiver living in Parksville whose spouse, David, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2017.
For Alzheimer’s Awareness Month this January, Emily is one of many British Columbians joining forces with the Alzheimer Society of B.C. to say: “Don’t change. Even if they do.” The campaign is aimed at inspiring Parksville Qualicum Beach region residents to reflect on the ways they will continue to show up for the people in their lives who are living with dementia or are caregiving.
When Emily began having challenges caregiving, the geriatric specialist referred them to the Alzheimer Society of B.C., where she was able to participate in a number of education sessions with other caregivers.
“There was so much good advice, like keeping a journal to track the progression,” Emily said. “We got to meet other people going through the same thing – although everybody’s journey is different.” They stayed in contact with other families they met, having lunches and going on walks with them. “That was incredibly helpful at the time.”
“Dementia can leave people living with the disease and their caregivers feeling isolated,” said Jane Hope, support and education co-ordinator, first link at the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s North and Central Island resource centre, which serves people in Parksville, Qualicum Beach and area. “Being able to talk about what they’re experiencing with other people affected by dementia can have a huge impact on their ability to cope.”
David moved into longterm care in 2019, initially at a care home that was farther away but offered more entertainment and opportunities to keep him engaged.
Along the way, Emily has continued to adapt to David’s changing abilities while working to keep him engaged. While he couldn’t play music or fish anymore, she was able to play music that he loved – the Eagles or Rod Stewart – and record fishing shows for him to watch. As his disease has progressed, that has had to change.
“I visit him mostly for meals now,” she said. “He doesn’t talk much, but at least I can chit-chat with him and he’ll laugh if I make a joke about making him put up the Christmas lights, because he never liked doing that.”
During Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, the Alzheimer Society of B.C. is sharing the stories of people like Emily and encouraging the public to visit www.dontchange.ca. Visitors can learn about the campaign, discover resources to help them stay connected to people in their lives affected by the disease and find support from the Alzheimer Society of B.C. “In an increasingly uncertain world, it is so important to show people living with dementia they’re not alone,” said Hope.
For those interested in becoming an advocate for issues affecting people living with dementia, or support the Alzheimer Society of B.C., they can make a donation by visiting alzheimerbc.org.
British Columbians are invited to register for ‘Opening the door: Why families are essential to care’, a free virtual event on Jan. 27, from 2 p.m. until 3 p.m. It features Alzheimer Society of B.C. CEO Jen Lyle in conversation with B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie. They’ll explore the importance of person-centred approaches to dementia care that reflect the essential role families play, both in community and long-term care. ASL interpretation will be available.
To register, visit alzbc.org/AAM2022-event.
– NEWS Staff, submitted