Dementia is a complicated disease, said speaker Lisa Wawrzonek, the education director at Alzheimer’s Resource of Alaska. Some types of dementia are fast acting while others are slow.
The different types, including Alzheimer’s, Lewy bodies, Parkinson’s and stroke-related also have different characteristics.
She admonished caregivers to utilize support networks to deal with the emotional strains from the job.
“Caregiving can be difficult sometimes, and you’re entitled to feel that,” Wawrzonek said. “We may not be able to fix or change them. We may have to change ourselves, and we need support for that.”
People with dementia can have baffling behaviors, Wawrzonek said.
“Dementia changes their experience of the world.” They might forget steps in a task, leading to confusing behavior.
To demonstrate this, Wawrzonek had the class do an activity. As she went around the room, each person progressively named one step in the process of taking a bath. The caregivers in the room forgot to list the steps of turning off the water and checking the temperature to make sure it wasn’t too hot.
Wawrzonek said that’s often how it works with dementia. The person will forget a step and the bathtub will overflow, or they’ll make a sandwich with just two pieces of bread and no meat or cheese.
Wawrzonek listed the most important things for people who suspect they might have a relative with dementia.
“If you suspect something’s wrong, try to get them into a doctor,” Wawrzonek said. She added that people are often confused about what is a normal part of aging and what isn’t.
She also stressed the importance of learning about the disease as soon as possible after a diagnosis.
“The more you know, the better you can plan,” Wawrzonek said.
The conference, sponsored by the Senior Citizens of Kodiak and the Kodiak Area Native Association, continues today from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. It’s free to the public.
Contact Julie Herrmann at email@example.com