Hope, family are constant companions on Alzheimer’s journey
Lynn Loftus first volunteered with the Alzheimer Society of PEI because of her father’s Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis – but even 30 years spent getting involved and learning about the illness couldn't fully prepare her to be diagnosed herself.
“I started with the Alzheimer Society when my father had dementia – I wanted to know what I could do as a daughter who was living in another province – while also working full time and raising three daughters as a single mom,” said Loftus, whose father lived in Moncton at the time.
Although decades of knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease had taught her about warning signs, it wasn’t until her husband Brian MacPherson and daughters voiced their concern that Loftus sought help. Now the 72-year-old Stratford resident is sharing her story to help other Islanders who may be on the same journey.
Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 2,500 people on Prince Edward Island, and nearly 90 per cent of them are over age 65. One in three Islanders knows someone who is living with dementia. While there is still much to learn about the illness and its causes, Health PEI can help.
The departments of Health and Wellness and of Family and Human Services – along with the Alzheimer Society – support a variety of programs that help families deal with the impact of Alzheimer's disease and other challenges associated with aging.
“Early diagnosis is very important, because from a medical perspective there are things you can do to slow the progression – things like medications, cognitive stimulation, social stimulation and physical activity,” said Dr. Martha Carmichael, an internist geriatrician and one of the province’s experts on dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Our goal is to help people stay as independent as possible for as long as possible – the majority of people with dementia do not live in long-term care, but in the community, like you and I”
Alzheimer’s disease will be an increasingly common challenge as our population ages, but Carmichael says she thinks the community and the health system will be able to respond to this challenge responsibly and humanely.
“Having dementia does not mean you no longer have the ability to make decisions about how you will live your life,” she said.
Beyond its obvious impact on the patient, Alzheimer’s creates immeasurable demands for family members. Informal caregivers provide more than 1.4 million hours of care to Islanders with dementia each year. In fact, one in three Islanders knows someone who has dementia.
Loftus said she’s thankful to her husband and daughters for their constant support and she is grateful for the Alzheimer Society.
“When I have good days, I’m still me,” she said. “When I have ‘foggy’ days, I have Brian and those who understand the journey to help me navigate and get through those days. Hope keeps me going.”
Alzheimer’s disease - know the early signs
1. Memory loss that affects day-to-day abilities
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks
3. Problems with language
4. Disorientation in time and space
5. Impaired judgment
6. Problems with abstract thinking
7. Misplacing things
8. Changes in mood and behaviour
9. Changes in personality
10. Loss of initiative