Caregivers find support in numbers

The first part of our coverage on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia ran in the Jan. 28, 2011 edition of The News.

Marg Souther

The first part of our coverage on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia ran in the Jan. 28, 2011 edition of The News.

When an individual receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, they are not the only ones who are affected.

Dementia can profoundly impact the lives of those closest to the person, including caregivers, family members and friends, says Jane Hope, regional support and education co-ordinator for the non-profit Alzheimer Society of B.C.

“It is important to recognize that there are many different approaches to supporting someone with dementia and caregivers often need to explore a variety of techniques and strategies to determine what works best for them.”

Caregivers also need to know they are not alone, says Marg Souther, who facilitates the Port Alberni Alzheimer and dementia support group.

Souther watched her mother-in-law fade from a successful, self-sufficient businesswoman to someone with a completely different personality. Edna Souther died of Alzheimer’s in 2000; Marg Souther and her husband were Edna’s caregivers for the last seven years of her life.

“A caregiver needs support from all avenues—siblings, friends and neighbours,” Souther said. “We had tremendous support.”

Souther became involved in the support group when Edna was still alive, and she has stayed on. “We describe ourselves as a place for support and education—the support to let people know they’re not the only ones going through this; that there are people who can help, and that they can help others.”

The education part of the group “is so important,” she added. When someone is diagnosed with dementia the caregiver is thrust into a whole new life, and without being knowledgeable about the disease “it’s a difficult journey.

“We’re able to talk about the day-to-day things that are happening. We’re always learning more ways of dealing with situations and sharing them.”

Starr Bigmore, whose father Harold McDonald is in the end stages of vascular dementia, attends the support group meetings. One thing she takes away from the support group is “I’m not out there by myself. There’s other people out there who feel the same way I do,” she said. “Not everybody has the same problems. You’re not all in the same boat but it’s hard.”

Support group meetings are open to caregivers and family or friends of people with dementia. Meetings run on the third Monday of every month, from 6:30–8:30 p.m. at Fir Park Village’s activity room, 4411 Wallace St.

For information, please call Souther at 250-724-1810.

editor@albernivalleynews.com

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