By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
FOR THE entire month of October the Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre invited professional caregivers and concerned persons to join the facility week after week as they shone a light on issues relating to dementia.
Several educational sessions were held to highlight, promote and draw attention to essential issues surrounding psychiatry, gerontology and substance abuse.
The website alz.org describes dementia a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example of dementia.
Sandilands’ timely summit under the theme, “Dementia, I need to know”, concluded at the New Life Christian Centre on Prince Charles Drive last Friday.
“The feedback has been very good and it has made us realise that there are more families grappling with how to care for these people than we expected,” said Justina Knowles, Senior Nursing Officer at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre and Nursing Supervisor for the Geriatrics Hospital.
“What we do at the summits, we always have a family member who has a relative living with them that has been diagnosed with dementia come in and share what they are going through and the struggles. We educate persons on how to care for them, because it is a frustrating and horrible disease. It is very taxing on family members and caregivers.”
At the last session, Ms Knowles said they touched on various types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, which is known as the most common type.
“We did an overview of dementia and spoke on Alzheimer’s specifically because it happens to be the leading type of dementia. We also spoke on vascular dementia, which is the second leading form. We did topics like “How Do You Manage This Person” and we ended with “Ways To Prevent Burn Out” with persons who are caregivers for dementia patients.
Ms Knowles said it is really important to focus on dementia because it is rapidly increasing and the older adult population is the fastest growing one.
According to Sandilands, “the Bahamas’ older persons population is 22,598 (65 years and older). This number is expected to continue to increase, and dementia is among the leading aliments of this population, not only in the Bahamas, but worldwide.”
Before the event last Friday, Ms Knowles said they hosted several sessions; one was held at the Geriatrics Hospital with health professionals and another in Grand Bahama where they spoke to social workers, doctors and nurses, educating on dementia so they can understand how to better care for these persons.
“In the Bahamas, this is vital because we are able to clarify misconceptions and dismiss stigmas and prejudices in relation to dementia. Back in the day we used to say, ‘Mommy doting or she forgetting,’ but we don’t want to actually accept the fact of a dementia diagnosis. A lot of us are in denial and we refuse to accept it. Social isolation and feelings of abandonment then comes. They are not really living a quality of life,” said Ms Knowles.
She said a lot of Dementia patient caregivers and relatives are embarrassed because eventually the person diagnosed does not remember who their loved ones are.
“One day your mother may call the police for you and say a stranger is in my house. We are trying to say to them, yes, it is frustrating, but there is a way to handle it and family support is key in caring for these individuals,” said Ms Knowles.
This is not the end for the Dementia Summit. Ms Knowles said the committee plans to touch one island at a time and focus on public awareness.
“We want to develop a support group for dementia. Nassau and Grand Bahama already have committees, so we now want to take it further to the outer islands. We have to educate them because we don’t want information given out that isn’t factual or current,” she said.