Supporting people afflicted with early-onset dementia

I recently had the pleasure of attending an early-onset dementia support group facilitated by the Alzheimer Society of British Columbia - South Okanagan and Similkameen.

It was truly an eye-opening experience as I had never attended a support group from the perspective of the sufferer. The even more interesting fact was that all of the participants were men which is quite uncommon as women make up 72 per cent of Alzheimer's patients, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada.

To hear these men detail their struggles with the disease was profound. The brain fog, difficulty finding the right words, the expressed upset with the way they were treating their caregivers; it was like nothing I had every heard before or considered. 

Because my mom's condition has progressed, it has been difficult to ask her what she is thinking and feeling, let alone what is going on in her mind. Plus, even if she does tell me what is going on, it is hard to be sure that what she is saying is accurate.

I have asked if she understands that she has dementia and she has reassured me that she understands. I questioned how the disease affects her, and she advised me that her mind is very confused, making it difficult to remember things accurately.

What I have realized in caring for my mother, as well as becoming more acquainted with people afflicted with the same condition, is that they need just as much support as we do as caregivers.

They are confused by their own minds and the changes that are happening that are out of their control. They are understandably frustrated and often, without meaning to, take out their anger on those closest.  

I encouraged the gentlemen in the group to be patient with themselves and have repeatedly told my fellow caregivers not to take anything too personal. 

People suffering from dementia, specifically those diagnosed with early-onset, have so many things to contend with that they never expected, that we, as caregivers, need to give them leniency.

Support your loved one on this journey where no day is ever the same. But remember that you can be a better caregiver by incorporating self-care into your daily life.

With programs and services available across Canada, the Alzheimer Society supports people with dementia, their families, caregivers, and health-care professionals. 

Seek support for you or your loved one by contacting the Alzheimer Society of Canada