Last week I had the pleasure of presenting to a group of caregivers from the Alzheimers Society Kingston Frontenac & Addington chapter. One thing that everyone in the group had in common was that they were all loving someone who had a diagnosis of dementia. Just to refresh terminology, “dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Memory loss is an example. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia.” So for those in the group regardless of the type of dementia their family member was diagnosed with, they were there to gain practical and useful information. I spoke to them about the importance of planning ahead, including communication with family members, the need to have key documents prepared (POA’s, Advanced Directives) and the costs and options related to transitioning from home to retirement to Long Term Care.
My co presenter was Ron Beleno  who, along with his mother, had been a caregiver to his father for over 10 years. Ron’s dad had dementia. Ron is proud to have creative nerdy qualities and skills to be innovative in hacking away at solutions around dementia and caregiving. Over the years, as the challenges increased, Ron was able to configure his dad’s home environment with technological aids so that he could observe and/or keep in touch with him from afar so that his dad was able to live out his last days at home. Ron set up a computer monitor facing the front door of his parent’s apartment and through remote technology was able to keep a visual on his dad, when his mother was not home. He knew the signs and general timing of when his father would be most likely to wander out the door and would talk to him, redirecting him to another activity. Ron also used GPS alerts and was able to know where his father was at all times.
Ron shared tips and encouragement to his fellow carers including sharing the caring , choosing words such as replacing ‘problems’ with ‘challenges’ , taking one day at a time
and the importance of involving the community at large. We had a great session and there is always something to learn whether you are the presenter or an attendee.
Lesson Learnt: The caregiving journey to someone with dementia can be lengthy; planning ahead and reaching out for support along the way can help to improve the lives of both the carer and the care recipient.