September 2015

Greetings everyone, I hope your transition into the upcoming fall season has been a smooth one so far, whether it’s involved the beginning of a new school year or simply closing up the cottage and barbeque for another year. Everyone’s schedule gets busy at this time of year, particularly in the health care world – have you seen the number of awareness days coming up in September and throughout the rest of the year?

While I wish we could recognize each of them through this blog, I’m afraid this short blog would become an entire website! Having said that, I would like to focus on one upcoming awareness day that impacts more and more families each and every day. World Alzheimer’s Day will be recognized around the globe on September 21. On this day Alzheimer’s organizations everywhere concentrate their efforts on raising awareness about this life changing disease.

Did you know that Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia?  Dementia is a general term that refers to a variety of brain disorders.  Physical changes in the brain cause dementia.  Symptoms may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem solving or language, severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform every day activities.  A person with dementia may also experience changes in mood or behaviour.

In 2011, more than 745,000 Canadians were living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias - that's 14.9 per cent of Canadians 65 and older. By 2031, if nothing changes in Canada, this figure will increase to 1.4 million (SOURCE: A new way of looking at the impact of dementia in Canada. Alzheimer Society, 2012). Alzheimer’s disease can place enormous stress on families and friends.  But there is so much more information today as to how to manage living with Alzheimer’s disease. 

The Alzheimer Society of Canada offers education, support and advice to families across the country, and here in the HNHB LHIN we have two dedicated chapters – the   Alzheimer Society of Brant, Haldimand Norfolk, Hamilton Halton and the Alzheimer Society of Niagara Region. Each offers multiple programs and services specific to local residents who are impacted by Alzheimer’s disease in some manner or another.  You can learn more about these organizations and what they offer in your region through by clicking their names above or by visiting their websites at www.alzheimer.ca www.alzhn.ca; or www.alzheimer.ca/en/on/chapters-on/niagara.

In addition to the great resources the Alzheimer Societies provide, Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) programs are also in place to lend a hand. For example, some of us have family members who, due to the progression of their loved one’s Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, may need to move them to a new facility that can better care for the person. While stressful for the family, can you imagine the stress and anxiety such a move may cause someone with dementia? The behavioural changes that people may encounter as a result of dementia can be challenging to manage and members of the BSO Long-Term Care Home (LTCH) Mobile teams are specially trained to make transitions, such as moving, easier for clients and their family members.

Let me tell you about Marg. Her story is a good example of the impact that the LTCH Mobile team can have when someone’s living arrangements change dramatically because of the amount of daily assistance they require.    

For many years, Frank cared for his wife Marg, who has Alzheimer’s, at home. When she lost her ability to speak and refused baths, Frank became very concerned. After weeks of Marg refusing help from community support her health and appearance began to suffer.

When Frank could no longer care for Marg at home she was admitted to a long-term care home. She continued to resist bathing until the home called the BSO team. After a thorough assessment, including discussions with staff, Marg and Frank, the BSO team learned that Marg had a traumatic experience with water in her childhood. With the onset of dementia, her fear had come back.

This information prompted staff to try a towel bathing technique. Marg didn’t resist and in fact, enjoyed the bath! She smiled and hugged the staff giving her the bath. Staff continue to give Marg towel baths and plan to try giving Marg a bath or shower in the near future. Frank is relieved his wife is getting the care she needs.

Not only do families recognize the support BSO team members and programs provide, but the other health care workers in long-term care facilities have acknowledged the benefit their support provides during what can be one of the most difficult time periods in a person’ life. Scott Kozachenko, Assistant Administrator at Heritage Green Nursing Home in Stoney Creek, had this to say about the BSO Team:

The BSO Team has been invaluable to the transitioning of residents from their home to ours and what a dramatic change this usually is – their support, care, and training makes a potentially frightening move into one that eases them into nursing home care. For residents where behaviours escalate, this team “thinks outside the box” to best resolve a challenge that puts the resident first, while keeping our care providers in mind – thank you team, it is a pleasure working with you! 

There’s a lot of great information on our website regarding BSO including more success stories like Marg’s. The information is updated regularly and is available on HNHB LHIN BSO webpage.

While it is important to lend support and raise awareness of diseases such Alzheimer’s year round, on September 21 please keep in your thoughts those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and those who are working to make life with Alzheimer’s disease more livable. The more awareness and education we can generate for health issues the better we can develop our health system to deal with them.

If you or your organization would like to be featured in a future blog or share a patient story in one of our Voices in the Community videos you can reach us through our office, or if you’re on social media via our Twitter handle - @HNHB_LHINgage. Your feedback and questions are always welcome.