Okanagan Caregivers Share Stories for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month – Okanagan | globalnews.ca

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A diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease does not just affect the person diagnosed, it is a disease that affects an entire family, with children often becoming caregivers for their parents.

There are 85,000 people currently living with the disease, and the BC Alzheimer’s Society offers support services not only for the person diagnosed but also for their caregivers.

“Often, one can be isolated when a family member is diagnosed with dementia,” said Sherry Wezner, Alzheimer’s Society of BC support and education coordinator for the northern and central Okanagan.

“We want people to know that they are not alone. People who come to our educational sessions or are part of our support groups, that’s usually one of the first things they say: they really feel like they’re not alone on this journey. [after attending].”

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January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and Wezner hopes to not only erase the stigma surrounding the disease, but also to support caregivers in their time of need.

Craig Burns was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2016 and understands the progression of this disease because he was his mother’s caregiver and now his daughter is taking care of him.

“Everyone is different, I walked my mom through her experience so I have early, mid and late stage experience,” Burns said.

“It is something that I am aware of, I struggle with it, but I am aware of what is to come. I really trust others to support me and encourage me.”

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That is why he has stepped forward to become the face of the disease, to help others feel less alone. Illness is personal and varies from case to case. Naomi Mison has been caring for her mother for 16 years and has now become an advocate for others.

“It’s very difficult to be a caregiver, especially as a caregiver for a young adult,” Mison said.

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“My mom was diagnosed when I was 22, so those are the times when you really think about boyfriends, school and travel. She really she takes you out of it and you almost become a mother to your mother, and that’s what happened to me.

Mison is now a remote caregiver. His mother lives in Edmonton and Mison lives in the Okanagan, which means a nursing home is the best option for them.

For others, that may not be the answer. For Michelle Chisholm and her family, home care services and other programs are what work best for her father, who was diagnosed in 2019.

Her mother is her primary caregiver and using a service like Home Place allows her mother to receive respite and help around the house. Home Instead, it has a specialized support program for those living with the disease.

“It’s so, so vital to be able to take care of your loved one and have a little bit of time for yourself,” Chisholm said.

“A lot of people feel guilty about doing something to help them and I think something like Home Place and also the adult day programs that are out there give the caregiver those supports to help and time out.”

Respite time for caregivers helps ensure that families can face the disease together as a united front.

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