Learn the Basics of Dementia Diagnosis for National Awareness Month

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January is known as Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, which is the most common form of dementia. This is an opportunity to learn how to get help and how to break negative stereotypes of cognitive disability.

Approximately 18,400 Manitobans are diagnosed with some form of dementia right now, according to Erin Crawford, program director for the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba (ASM). The organization believes that by 2050 that number will double. It is with this increase in the disease that it alerts for a greater need for resources, support and to erase the stigma that accompanies it.

“It’s fundamentally a progressive terminal disease that affects the brain in a way that ultimately it can no longer function as it once did,” says Crawford.

The word “dementia” is used as a general term to describe all types of disorders; according to the Manitoba Alzheimer’s Society, there are eight.

Although the organization’s name can be misleading, they address all forms of dementia to help provide a better quality of life for those with the cognition-impairing disorder.

There are several symptoms associated with dementia, and Crawford shares some of the most notable ones.

“The most common one that people are probably familiar with is memory loss, and if someone is experiencing memory loss, we encourage you to go and talk to your doctor about it because it can be hard to judge for yourself early on. if it’s about this.” or standard age-related memory loss.

She points out that there’s a difference between someone who forgets their car keys and someone whose daily activities are constantly affected by their memory loss.

“There are also other symptoms of dementia that people aren’t as familiar with, so it could be disorientation. Maybe not being able to locate yourself in time and space. So maybe you have the wrong year, but you don’t just don’t remember the year, you’re kind of clueless in terms of what year you’re really in, the space that you’re in.”

Other examples of disorientation include not recognizing the house someone lives in and not being familiar with the people at the time.

Another symptom of dementia is a change in mood, Crawford says someone who is normally calm can become more agitated.

There are also stigmas that discourage people from associating with family members, loved ones, or anyone else who may be diagnosed with some form of dementia.

Crawford says many families she works with say they are afraid of the process leading up to diagnosis, and once it’s done it brings some kind of relief, but then other emotions start to surface, like fear of judgment. and isolation.

“What sometimes happens is that people don’t stay connected, particularly with friends or casual acquaintances, for example, because of the worry of ‘what if something happens?’ ‘What if I do or say something and forget?’ ‘What if I make a mistake?'”

This is where people with dementia are seen to give up the will to continue living a good quality life.

“They don’t want people to feel sorry for them. They don’t want people to worry about them.”

But it’s the positive connections, whether with people, animals or an activity, that promote good health and living a better quality of life.

ASM offers resources to help create those positive connections with your first link program, which is a customer support resource.

No matter where the person is in their dementia diagnosis, they offer to help by having a one-on-one conversation to find out what concerns the caller has, and through that conversation, the people at ASM determine what resources to offer the client.

They offer support groups for both those diagnosed and their caregivers, educational sessions led by experts in the field, different aspects of the health care system that they should become familiar with as they continue their dementia journey, and the effects of dementia. disease itself and the challenges they are likely to face at some point.

For more information on Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and the First Link program, visit the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba website.

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