Keeping active: Nursing aide Bernard Joinville and a resident of the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Unit (ARDU) participate in musical activities. *Photo supplied by the Bermuda Hospitals Board
Keeping active: Nursing aide Bernard Joinville and a resident of the Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Unit (ARDU) participate in musical activities. *Photo supplied by the Bermuda Hospitals Board

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 21: The Faces of Dementia is the theme of this year’s World Alzheimer's Day being recognised today.

The international event unites political leaders, people with dementia, their carers and family, medical professionals, researchers and the media around the world.

The Ministry of Health and the Bermuda Hospitals Board invite the public to unite in recognition.

The Minister of Health Zane De Silva, said: “Everyone is a little bit forgetful now and again — something we often dismiss as simply ‘getting older’ — but when memory loss starts to interfere with your daily life the Ministry of Health recommends that you consult with your doctor, in case what you are experiencing is a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease.  Your doctor can arrange for further investigation which may include a CT Scan, MRI or appointment with the neurologist.  The sooner a person is diagnosed, the sooner they can start receiving treatment that will help slow down the progression of the disease.”

King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (KEMH) has a unit specifically designated to the care of those with Alzheimer’s.

Signs of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Difficulty with problem solving or planning
  • Difficulty completing tasks (at home/work/with hobbies)
  • Confusion with time/place
  • Trouble with images/spatial relationships
  • Difficulty with reading or writing
  • Misplacing items and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased judgement
  • Withdrawal from socialising
  • Changes in mood and personality.

The Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Unit (ARDU) at KEMH employs approximately 23 staff, comprising of registered nurses, nursing aides and orderlies to provide skilled care for 30 residents.  In addition, a multi-disciplinary team of healthcare providers, including a physiatrist, gerontologist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, dietician, social worker, psychologist and speech pathologist, meets the needs of residents.

ARDU residents engage in stimulating activities each day as well as taking part in community outings throughout the year.

“Family members are encouraged to visit and to bring in familiar items for their loved ones in order to keep their living space as homey as possible,” said Jean Gibbons, clinical manager for ARDU.  “When residents recognize a familiar person, you can see the happiness expressed on their face.  Patients are in different stages of memory loss and some are still aware of what is happening on a daily basis.”

Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, early detection can slow memory loss. “If someone is having trouble remembering, it is often helpful to keep a note book,” advises Ms Gibbons.  “Include important contact numbers, people’s names, a to-do list of appointments, a map showing where home is and any important thoughts.

“It’s important for caregivers to remember to take care of themselves.  Join a support group, make use of available resources, keep stress to a minimum and prevent yourself from becoming the disease’s second victim.”

Here are some helpful tips in caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s:

  • Assess your home environment
  • Adapt to your loved one’s limitations, rather than trying to teach him or her new skills
  • Simplify activities
  • Provide support for your loved one’s needs
  • Keep medicines secure
  • Remove artificial fruit and plants which may be mistaken for food
  • Keep electrical appliances out of reach
  • Turn off gas to stove
  • Remover clutter
  • Follow established routines
  • Stimulate memory with familiar pictures, signs and personal items
  • Aid memory with calendars, large clocks, etc.
  • Keep environment quiet, calm and safe
  • Relate observed changes to the physician
  • Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Reinforce to others that the disease is causing the behaviour; it is not deliberate
  • Attend closely to personal hygiene, urinary and bowel elimination
  • Set a comfortable pace during activities of daily living to lessen negative behaviours.