Returning safely home
Changes in the brain can cause people with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia to become disoriented, even when in a familiar place. This can sometimes lead to a person with dementia becoming lost.
If you have experienced your friend or family member being lost you know it can be worrisome and life threatening, at the very least.
There are ways to help prevent a person from going out alone. These include relocating door locks to above or below a person’s line of sight, using bells and buzzers that sound when doors open, or putting coats and footwear in closed closets. But no matter the precautions you take to prevent exiting, you may still be worried about your loved ones safety should they ever become lost.
MedicAlert® Safely Home® is a nationwide program designed to help identify the person who is lost and assist in a safe return home.
Members receive an engraved identification, which allows police and emergency responders to quickly identify the person who has become lost and bring the family back together.
In addition to the MedicAlert® Safely Home® program, caregivers of individuals with cognitive disorders who are at constant risk of the life threatening behavior can contact Project Lifesaver Manitoba.
Project Lifesaver Manitoba strives to provide peace of mind for families with loved-ones at high risk of being lost.
The non-profit program, which launched in August, uses radio frequency transmitters located in wristbands to help locate missing, at-risk clients.
Project Lifesaver Manitoba clients wear a personalized wristband that emits a tracking signal. This one-ounce, battery operated wrist transmitter emits a signal every second, 24 hours a day. When a caregiver notifies the police that a person is missing, Project Lifesaver Manitoba trained search specialists respond to the area where the person was last seen and search the area with a mobile tracking system.
Project Lifesaver is able to scan an entire kilometre at a time and significantly reduce search times when trying to locate a missing person.
“We can search blocks at a time,” says Service Sgt. Randy Antonio, coordinator of the Winnipeg Police Service’s ground search and rescue unit. “This means a much quicker recovery of the person who is lost and allows them to get back home safely.”
Sgt. Antonio says the program aims to allow families to stay together longer, rather than moving forward with long-term care placement.
He emphasizes that the program is not designed to replace 24-hour supervision of someone who is at risk of being lost, but knowing there is a faster, more efficient way to locate someone provides peace of mind for both families and the police search and rescue team.
The cost to enrol in Project Lifesaver Manitoba is $300. This amount covers the cost of the bracelet. There is a $20 monthly fee for replacement batteries, bracelet and program administration.
For more information on ways to keep a person with dementia safe, the MedicAlert® Safely Home® program or Project Lifesaver Manitoba, go to alzheimer.mb.ca.
Where do I begin
It’s important to remember that you are not alone and the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba is here to help.
You can connect to the Society in several ways. Visiting our website or calling us directly are simple ways to get in touch. You might also be referred by your family physician.
If you live in Winnipeg, upon contacting the Alzheimer Society you will be connected with one of three staff members; Cheryl Demasi, Dora Diamond or Marilyn Maartenese. If you live outside of Winnipeg, you will connect with one of our five regional staff; Grace Loewen in Westman, Jackie Dokken in the Interlake Eastern Region, Laurie Church in Parkland, Sandy Sandulak in the South Central Region or Karen Lambert in the North Central Region.
All of these staff members will spend time with you, whether over the phone or in person, to help you through your dementia journey. This may be providing continued one-on-one support or recommending one of the Society’s support groups or education sessions.
“It’s really individualized for each person I connect with,” says Jackie, whose office is based out of Beausejour. “I usually provide them with print material and go over community supports available in their area. I try to really listen, answer questions and offer suggestions.”
Jackie says she makes herself as available as she can to accommodate everyone’s needs. Sometimes this means meeting families on the weekends or in the evenings.
“Families are usually looking for information and someone to talk to who won’t judge them if they’re feeling overwhelmed, upset or guilty. I let them know that I can be their person,” Jackie says.
The process is much the same if you are connecting with any of our other Provincial or Regional staff.
“It’s very person-centered,” says Grace, whose office is located in Brandon. “It’s about providing information and seeing what type of support will work best for someone.”
To connect with the Alzheimer Society or for more information on our programs and services, go to alzheimer.mb.ca or call 204-943-6622 (Winnipeg) or 1-800-378-6699 (outside of Winnipeg).
Keeping your brain healthy
“There is research that clearly says there are things we can do to protect ourselves from developing dementia,” says Wendy Schettler, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba.
A few weeks ago, Wendy attended the Canadian Conference on Dementia in Vancouver. At the conference, researchers share the newest research about dementia. Wendy took away some important tips, including that your brain works better when you take care of your body.
Exercise, a healthy diet and regular check-ups by your doctor help you stay healthy. Exercise at any point in life is good, but it’s especially important to exercise in mid to later life to reduce your risk of developing dementia.
“Your brain works better when you exercise regularly. In addition to aerobic activity, people should also do muscle resistant exercises, such as weight lifting or working with exercise bands,” says Wendy.
A healthy brain also needs a healthy heart. Try to keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight at healthy levels. Avoiding heart disease is important since 20% of diagnosed dementia cases are vascular dementia. Vascular dementia, also known as multi-infarct dementia, occurs when the cells of the brain die because they have been deprived of oxygen and nutrients due to an interruption of blood flow to the brain.
If blood pressure, cholesterol and weight are at unhealthy levels and left untreated, it can damage blood vessels in the brain and lead to impaired functions. A diet high in fruits and vegetables promotes good cardiovascular health. You can combat high blood pressure with physical activity, a low salt diet and by not smoking.
Keeping your brain active is important. No matter your age, challenging your brain can help reduce your risk of developing dementia. Learning how to play an instrument is a good example of how new learning builds healthy brain cells to keep your brain working effectively as you age.
“Music is beneficial because it uses different parts of your brain. Playing an instrument calls to emotion. The mechanics of playing is linked to muscle memory. Also, it uses memory as a person has to remember the order of the notes when playing a song,” says Wendy.
Being engaged in music your whole life has a profound impact on how your brain ages. But, if you haven’t been engaged in music your whole life, taking it up at a later time still provides benefit. The important message is that it’s never too late.
Challenging your brain is about more than doing crosswords or playing board games. It’s about trying more intellectually stimulating activities, such as trying a variety of puzzles or going to listen to a speaker that’s in town. It’s recommended we combine mentally challenging activities with social or physical activity, such as participating in a walking group or book club.
Staying active in your neighbourhood
Here are some ways for people with dementia to stay involved in neighbourhood activities while keeping safety in mind:
• If the person with dementia prefers to walk alone, ensure that the person is wearing suitable clothes, comfortable non-slip shoes and carries identification including the caregiver’s contact information.
• Encourage a community support network by advising trusted neighbours that the person with dementia may become disoriented if walking alone and unable to find their way home. Neighbours can assist the person to return home or can contact family caregivers if the person appears lost.
• Make plans for the person with dementia to go for accompanied walks with friends and neighbours. The activity is great for everyone and minimizes the risk that the person with dementia may become lost.
• Encourage the person to do yard work and activities in the garage. Consider joining them in the activity. Assisting with routine yard and home maintenance helps the person to retain skills and gives them opportunity to contribute to the family and neighbourhood.
• Assist the person to be involved in community events such as garage sales, farmers’ markets, sporting events and church functions. Meeting neighbours and friends on these occasions maintains relationships.
Creating a supportive environment outside the home encourages a person with dementia to stay socially connected. Being socially engaged helps the person to maintain their cognitive health and boosts their self-esteem.
Upcoming Family Education
Living with Alzheimer’s Disease or Another Dementia Workshop – Brandon
Saturday, November 23
9 am – 4 pm
Brandon Regional Health Centre (4th Floor Assiniboine Centre) in Brandon, Manitoba.
For more information or to register, contact Tanis Horkey (204-578-4572) or Grace Loewen (204-729-8320) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Researchers from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute are looking for people who care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease to share their experiences through a questionnaire. This information will be used to create guidelines to help designers and engineers understand the needs and requirements of people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, which will help them to build better technologies.
If you are a caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s disease who:
- provides at least 7 hours/week of unpaid care to a person with Alzheimer’s,
- can speak, read, and write fluently in English, and
- is not a formally trained caregiver (e.g. registered nurse)
then you are invited to share your experiences through a questionnaire.
WRHA Long Term Care Program seeks advisory council members
Residents, family members and concerned citizens are invited to apply for membership on the Advisory Council for Long Term Care. Interested individuals must apply by Nov 30, 2013. Click here for more information.
Tree of Memories
Our Tree of Memories is a beautiful bronze sculpture displayed in the foyer of our provincial office. Each engraved brass leaf on the tree serves to honour the memory of people who were affected by Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia.
The Alzheimer Society’s next Tree of Memories ceremony takes place Wednesday, November 27. Purchase an engraved commemorative leaf to place on the Tree of Memories to honour the memory of your loved one. Call 204-943-6622 or visit alzheimer.mb.ca for more information.
Holiday Magic: A Charitable Night of Shopping
On Saturday, November 30, Shoppers Mall (in Brandon, Manitoba) will host an exciting night of exclusive shopping from 7 to 10 pm. Holiday Magic is a one-evening, three-hour long, shopping, entertaining, treats and prize laden affair! Tickets are $5 each and are only available until noon on Monday, November 25. Support the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba by purchasing your ticket at the Alzheimer Society’s Westman Office at Unit 4B – 457 – 9th Street in Brandon, Manitoba. For more information, please call 204-729-8320. Click here for more information.
Door to Door Campaign
Canvassers have the entire month of January to complete their canvassing route. Canvass routes typically include 25 to 30 houses. If you can spare an hour or two canvassing a street in your neighbourhood, please register as a canvasser online here or call 204-943-6622 in Winnipeg or 1-800-378-6699 in Manitoba.
The donations you collect support programs and services for people affected by Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, and in the search for a cure.
A Night to Remember in Ireland Gala
Join us for a gourmet meal, live and silent auctions and entertainment.
Sponsor a table for 10 for $2000 with sponsorship benefits, or purchase tickets for $200 each.
Click here for more information.