Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Despite a last-minute change of location, a recent dementia information meeting in Slave Lake had a good turnout.

Around 25 people attended. They included family members of people with dementia and staff from Vanderwell Heritage Place and Sweetgrass (formerly Points West Living).

One of the main focuses of the meeting was seeing how much interest there was in a monthly support group for family members of people with dementia.

There was a lot of interest and both seniors’ homes offered their board rooms for the group to meet. Meetings will likely alternate between the two locations.

Dementia is a broad term, says the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada. Alzhiemer’s is the most common form of dementia. Other forms include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, Huntington disease, and multiple sclerosis.

“Behaviours associated with complex and challenging mental health, dementia or other neurological conditions include aggression, wandering and agitation,” says the Alzheimer’s Society. “These apparent changes in the personality of the person with the disease are a major source of distress both to the person who is presenting the behaviours and to those who experience them – the caregiver, the family members, and the service providers in all sectors of the healthcare system.”

Shelley Perkins is organizing the group. Her mother has Alzheimer’s and lives in Sweetgrass.

She is the primary support person for her mother. She’s looking forward to talking with other people who are trying to help people with dementia.

As a joke, Perkins started her talk at the meeting with, ‘I’m Shelley. I’m an alcoholic.’ Her goal with the support group is to have something similar to AA. It will be a place where people can come together and talk honestly about the toll that being a support person for someone who’s mind is no longer functioning the way it should.

People interested in joining the support group, can contact Perkins at shelleymperkins@gmail.com.

The other focus of the meeting was to help raise awareness about resources.

Keith Carlson, site manager at the Slave Lake Hospital, talked about the various resources which AHS offers. These include two dementia-dedicated nurses at 811 – Health Link. Also, Seniors’ Centre without Walls has free phone services for Albertans 55 and older. The Family Care Clinic in Slave Lake has doctors, nurse practitioners, three chronic disease nurses, social workers, dietitian, and mental health therapists.

Trina Napier, with Slave Lake AHS Addictions and Mental Health, mentioned that Addictions and Mental Health can provide emotional support for support people and caregivers.

However, the main focus of her presentation was on the Alberta branch of the Alzheimer’s Society. These include First Link, support groups, and Minds in Motion. First Link is an early intervention program. Minds in Motion is a virtual program put on for people with early or mid-stage dementia symptoms to do with a support person. Each one is two hours and includes easy exercises and social and cognitive activities.