Simple Gifts

Amelia and Riley Hartnett were only five and eight-years-old respectively when they found a way to contribute to their community. Their grandfather had Alzheimer’s disease. People sometimes forget that this disease impacts entire families, including children. One of the activities they enjoyed with their grandfather was singing “Simple Gifts,” one of his favorite hymns. One day, after having visited their grandfather in the nursing home where he lived, the sisters went door-to-door to their friends and neighbors, singing some of their grandfather’s favorite songs. The price was a steal at ten cents for one song or two songs for twenty-five cents. To their surprise, they earned $6.52 in tips, which the girls hand-delivered to the local Alzheimer Society in Fredericton, New Brunswick. (more…)

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Enjoying an active lifestyle

Mary Lou Douglas at 70 is enjoying an active lifestyle and helping other seniors add physical activity to their lives. As a Certified Seniors Fitness* instructor Mary Lou is enthusiastic about the benefits of fitness for everyone, but especially for seniors.

“It’s never too late to start,” maintains Mary Lou who is knowledgeable about the benefits of physical activity. She is very aware of the heart benefits, but like most of us, Mary Lou may be underestimating just how important the whole physical activity package is to the health of our brains. (more…)

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Breaking through the barriers of silence

We wanted to do something to make a difference. We wanted to help those faced with a similar situation to somehow share our knowledge.

As authors and educators, the answer was simple…a book written from two very different perspectives.

The following are excerpts from the book I have written with my wife Lorna Drew. By sharing experiences of our uninvited encounter with Dr. Alzheimer’s disease we can break through the barriers of silence and loneliness. Let us speak out proudly and loudly about it — even laugh and realize that we too have our contributions to make to the rich tapestry of human life! (more…)

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Donation box for the Alzheimer Society

My wife June and I run a busy service center and gift shop on the Trans Canada Highway near Sault Ste. Marie. One day a young woman asked us if we would display a donation box for the Alzheimer Society. It was 100 miles round trip for her to come back for that box. Now I deliver the donations to the local Chapter and I guess you could call me a “raving fan” of the work they’re doing there.

In our business, we try to create “raving fans” by going far beyond what people expect. At our gas pumps, for example, we give out litter bags, clean headlights, taillights, check under the hood, we even give treats to the dogs. We do service calls 15 miles in each direction without charge. That’s just how we like to do things. We also provide free coffee all season long. In return for the coffee, we request that people make a donation to the Alzheimer Society. (more…)

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People with dementia are speaking out and why not?

People with dementia are speaking out and why not? Many people with dementia have this rich reservoir of experiences to share with others. I would encourage others like me to get out there and become a face of dementia that members of the public don’t get to see very often. Right now, while I can, it is my responsibility to make the most of my life. It is a blessing for me to feel part of an Alzheimer team that educates the public and reminds them that there are real people with dynamic personalities behind this illness.

My early stage support group wanted to educate the public so we put an invitation in the newspaper inviting them to a panel discussion by people with the disease. What a hit! We shone that day and the public saw a whole new face of Alzheimer’s disease. Each panel member shared from their heart. What an eye-opener! People were amazed that we all appeared articulate and moreover intelligent. We were seen as competent people anxious to share things that mattered to us. (more…)

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Excuses for memory slips

It’s so easy to make excuses for memory slips but at some point, the disease forces you to take notice. When I saw my doctor he asked me “What is your worst fear?” My greatest fear was that I had Alzheimer’s disease. I was stunned when he replied, “with your symptoms, you should hope that it is Alzheimer’s disease because we can treat that.” Well, I’m a testament to that treatment.

I live a very active and full life so people are often surprised and disbelieving when I tell them that I have Alzheimer’s disease. But that is part of why I tell them. I want to change people’s view of the disease. I’m no less a person now. I just have a physical disease that makes it difficult for me to access the information stored in my brain sometimes. (more…)

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Inherited Alzheimer’s disease

To know that the inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease is very rare means little in the village of Harvey, New Brunswick. While only about 7 percent of all Alzheimer’s disease is associated with familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD), in this small community, roughly one-third of the population has this form of the disease.

“It’s on your mind constantly,” says Cathy whose father, aunt and several cousins have all been affected by the disease. “It’s always right there and you wonder, am I next?”
According to Dr. Jack Diamond, Scientific Director of the Alzheimer Society of Canada, FAD tends to strike before age 65. In Harvey, many people have received the diagnosis while in their forties and fifties. This high incidence of FAD in Harvey has provided Alzheimer’s researchers with a unique opportunity to learn about the disease. “The community’s willingness to work with researchers has significantly furthered our understanding of this disease,” adds Diamond.

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What other People with Dementia Say

“My computer is one of my best friends,” says Jim from his home near Guelph, Ontario. When he started using a computer for his work 15 years ago, Jim never thought he would be relying on it as much as he does now. But then again, he never thought about being diagnosed with dementia.

When his computer skills deteriorated along with his memory, he sought help from an occupational therapist. Together with his wife, they put systems and reminders in place that allow him to use his computer independently.

As an engineer, Jim solved problems throughout his career. He draws on those skills to help him with the new challenges he faces. He has three techniques. “I overcome, compensate and redirect. All of these things help me keep my head above water.”

Using his computer, Jim developed a “Reminder Chart” to set goals for himself and cue himself throughout the day. For example, his chart may remind him to drink more water each day, attend aquafit classes three times a week and call his daughter once. (more…)

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Could It Be Alzheimer’s Disease?

Twenty-five years with the same company. Eight years to go before retirement. And they were saying, Sorry we have to let you go. There are just too many problems affecting your work. Perhaps you should see a doctor. You might have a medical problem.

What Mike Crowe and his wife, Nona, of Penticton, B.C. didn’t realize was that Mike was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We thought it was just stress, burnout”

He wasn’t remembering deadlines and appointments at work. He was also making a lot of mistakes. At home, he was totally exhausted. He would just tune out, read the newspaper, watch television and not talk very much.

Nona says, “We thought it was just stress, burnout.”

But Mike was actually showing signs of memory loss, difficulty performing tasks, mood changes and a loss of initiative — nearly half the symptoms listed in Is it Alzheimer Disease? 10 Warning Signs, a new publication from the Alzheimer Society of Canada. (more…)

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