By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
MARSHA McQueen, a nurse of over 20 years and administrator at the Coastline Community Care Nursing Home, is leading an effort to make Bahamians more aware of dementia.
She says it is important for all families, home caregivers and medics aiding people with dementia to know the ins and outs, the dos and don’ts concerning the illness.
Ms McQueen said her goal is to one step at a time push and increase dementia awareness. Whether this happens through sharing weekly information via newspaper columns, daily interaction with persons, or hosting events, she is determined to get the word out.
The website alz.org describes dementia as a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example of dementia.
“I think right now we are not giving the kind of attention that needs to be given to dementia, and unless you have a body to promote what is happening, nobody actually knows what is happening to focus on it. This is a major illness, so why are we behind the eight ball as it relates to dementia? It isn’t a new illness,” said Ms McQueen.
She said there is a lot that can be done for people suffering from dementia, and that is her focus, making people knowledgeable about the debilitating condition.
“No one wants to be in a state where they are unable to care for themselves, so when these things happen it is the illness, not the person. I was really concerned the other day finding out that three elderly people were missing because these are things that can be avoided. Just like you would baby-proof your house, you do the same for older adults,” said Ms McQueen.
Opening the Coastline Community Care Nursing Home in 2003 was Ms McQueen’s start to making a difference in the country as it relates to an issue that us very important to her.
“Circumstances were the inspiration behind it all. At the time I assisted a lady who needed extensive care because she was an advanced dementia patient. There was no place to leave her because of her condition. I wanted to help her and others like her, so to cut a long story short, that is how I got into this area,” said Ms McQueen.
Initially opening its doors as a daycare centre for persons with Alzheimer’s and dementia, within a year Coastline developed into a full-fledged facility offering much more.
“At the time when we opened we only did daycare services where we would pick up persons during the day, keep them and then drop them home. As the person’s illness progressed, their families became aware that they needed more help in dealing with those persons and we transitioned,” said Ms McQueen.
She said that it is important to state that Coastline is recognised as a nursing home and not an old folks home, “because the term old folks home here the Bahamas has such a stigma attached to it.”
“It is downgrading to look at it as an old folks home because the elderly should be respectfully addressed,” she said. “These are persons who have contributed to get our lives to where they are today. We should not degrade them and look down upon them, not taking into consideration the blood, sweat and tears they gave to get us to where we are; to be educated people. Most of them were not educated back in the day, but they worked hard to get us to where we are today. so I have a serious problem with the term.”
Ms McQueen said it is a vital need for the Bahamas to move forward in the area of elder care. Another advancement, she said, would be the proper training for staff at nursing homes.
“Right now our major main leading facility as it relates to elder care is the geriatrics hospital, but that does not negate the fact that we have these facilities outside of government that also need to keep abreast and do things that would move the level of care that we want to give,” she said.