Story and photos by Daniel Ho, SPECIAL TO THE REVIEW
Having faith is one great way to combat Alzheimer’s disease.
While prayer could play a role in divine intervention, it is the tightly-knit, faith-based communities that could help in the early detection of the disease.
That is the reason Rev. Ted Vance of the Millgrove United Church decided to invite a representative from the Alzheimer Society to speak at the 5th Concession West church’s monthly community breakfast last weekend.
Recently, Rev. Vance spent a day at a seminar in Brantford geared towards providing spiritual care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia.
“So that’s where I thought (Alzheimer’s) touches so many people’s lives,” said Vance. “It would be great for people to come and find out.”
That’s when he appealed to Marian Cummins, public education co-ordinator at the Alzheimer Society of Hamilton/Halton, to speak at his church. He hoped the event would educate his congregation – and the broader community – about the illness and where they could get help.
“It would be very valuable to people with early recognition signs,” said Vance.
Cummins emphasized the role of faith-based organizations in helping to detect the illness.
“Sometimes when a person is not really open to talk to other people about the illness, they are more likely to talk to people in their spiritual group,” she said.
People also get to know each other over the years and become familiar with their habits, which enable them to observe changes in behaviour in one another.
Getting a diagnosis as early as possible is key to dealing with the illness, stressed Cummins. “If they can get onto the medications early enough, that is the most beneficial time for them,” she noted. “It slows the progression of the illness.”
She also mentioned that early detection can help the family plan for future legal and financial matters, as well as receive counselling for both the family and the patient.
“People who are 85 are going to outnumber the people who are 14 by 2020,” said Cummins, adding that Alzheimer’s and related dementia are age-related illnesses.
While there are many aspects to Alzheimer’s the most defining symptom of the disease is a loss of memory to the point it affects day-to-day living.
Difficulty paying bills, forgetting why they drove to the mall, or even forgetting that they drove to the mall and walking home instead, were examples of behavioural changes that could indicate the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
In Hamilton and Halton alone, 30,000 people are affected by the illness.