TATAMAGOUCHE – Beverley Mingo has learned first-hand that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is much more than a memory loss affliction.
Beverley Mingo, second from left, has been spending a lot of time with her mother Helen. Beverley says it’s heart-breaking to see a loved one, such as her mother, suffer through a dementia-related illness. Also pictured are Helen's granddaughter Angela Hunt and great-grandson Joel Hunt. Submitted photo
About six years ago her mother, Helen, now 87, began exhibiting behaviour and mood changes that were significant enough to alert the family.
“She wasn’t preparing meals for herself anymore and she loved to cook … and if there was a crowd, she couldn’t concentrate,” said Mingo from the New Annan area.
“She was (also) missing details about things but she was able to hide it (at first) when she’d change the subject or turn things around.”
But it was becoming clearer, said Mingo, that her mother was not the same person she used to be.
“Every day there seems to be a little change ... and sometimes she doesn’t remember me. She looks and sounds like my mother but she doesn’t act like my mother,” she said.
About a year ago, Mingo oversaw her mother’s move to Willow Lodge Home in Tatamagouche. She visits her numerous times a week and as she experiences what it’s like to care for a loved one with dementia/Alzheimer’s, Mingo hopes to make others aware of how difficult the disease is on the person with it as well as their family. She also wants people to know it’s OK to feel various emotions, and share them.
“It’s hard. You think it’s not going to be your family (affected). And then there’s guilt in placing her in a care facility,” said Mingo, the oldest of eight children. Their father died almost 20 years ago.
“It’s exhausting too. You never think you will be teaching your mother (everyday) things and it takes me almost all visit to adjust,” she said. “I don’t want my children to go through this. I want them to know if I ever had this (disease) I’d want them to do as best as you can while you can.”
To others caring for a loved with the disease, Mingo suggested “keeping up with your regular life, exercising and keep doing the things that make you, you.”
She also encourages people to learn about the disease. January has been Alzheimer’s Awareness Month but Mingo would like to see “more education and awareness all the time.”
There are two local Alzheimer’s support groups. The Truro Caregiver Support Group takes place in the senior’s clinic at the Rath Eastlink Community Centre the third Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m.
The Tri County Dementia Caregiver Support Group is held at Willow Lodge in Tatamagouche the second Thursday of the month from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.
According to a news release from the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia, as many as 50 per cent of Canadians with dementia are not diagnosed early enough.
“Nova Scotia has a rapidly aging population, which is one of the main risk factors for developing Alzheimer’s disease,” said Lloyd Brown, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia, in the news release.
With early diagnosis, people can access medications that, although not effective for everyone, have the greatest impact when taken early.
According to the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia:
- About 17,000 Nova Scotians are living with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias, with this number expected to almost double by 2038.
- Growing evidence also shows that brain changes resulting in dementia can begin 25 years before symptoms appear.
- More information can be found at www.earlydiagnosis.ca/diagnosticprecoce.ca to learn how to spot the signs of dementia, understand the benefits of a diagnosis and prepare for a doctor's visit.
* A provincial government news release indicates the government and Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia are co-leading an advisory committee that will guide the development, consultation and implementation of Nova Scotia's first dementia strategy. The initiative will work to improve timely access to services, provide support for caregivers and ensure people affected by dementia can remain independent for as long as possible. The strategy will be announced next spring.