World Alzheimer's Month continues through September, and they want people to know that their information can make a huge difference in people dealing with this particular brain disorder. 

Jennifer Harder is North Central regional coordinator and says they offer various means of support that are quite well-known and utilized, and are a big part of their efforts.

"We have support groups for persons that are living with dementia," notes Harder. "We have other specialized types of groups such as our Ambiguous Loss Support group. The information for that can be found on the website, including dates and times. In town here, we have an in-person support group at the Herman Prior Centre. It's on the first Monday of the month from 1:30 p.m. till 3:00 p.m. We've got a really great group of people that are coming so far. They're very helpful, they really care for one another."

Harder says it's great to see strangers come together and be there for one another. She notes they also have online help.

"Our online family education sessions are available, and we've got some in-person, as well, that are in Winnipeg," adds Harder. "Those online sessions are for families and also for health care professionals. On October 28th, we've got our Care For You family conference in Winnipeg. There are a lot of different discussion groups and presentations by various experts in the field of dementia. I think there's a Question and Answer period, as well, so people can get some answers."

She explains she started working here in Portage for the Society in the midst of the pandemic, so it will be her first time for an in-person gathering, for which she's excited. 

One of her clients, who wants to remain anonymous, experienced the loss of his wife last month who had Alzheimer's. He notes the Alzheimer Society has been such a precious source of help to him. He says he's been filled with information from Harder.

"Now, I'm getting used to being alone, although she was in the hospital for months. So, I had a taste of it, but It's a little different when you know it's never going to change. It's just a matter of moving ahead, and getting through the final pieces of not having them around anymore, right? I was ready to hop off a cliff for a few days. I just didn't know which way to turn. And I'd be just about shaking like a leaf when I came in here. Just your body and your mind can only look after so much, and then you've got to talk to somebody." 

He notes he's had plenty of family and friend support, however, Harder provided him with great literature.

"In my case, my wife had these spells of anger. And just learning how to try to help diffuse it," he adds. "Some of the suggestions that I was given helped to a point. Each person's different, and she had some pretty serious anger issues at times. We called it sundowners, but then, once she moved into the hospital, it became earlier and earlier in the day."

He explains, being the primary caregiver for his wife,  he was taught that he was to take all the hassles from her, and everything was always his fault.

"You got to learn that you're not dealing with the person you were once dealing with. At some points through the day, she changed. It wasn't her. To find out that it's not your fault, as you're being told by the person who has it, is an important thing. It helped give me through the day, some days."

He notes he can't say enough about the help Harder has provided. 

"One of my family members knew what it was like, because she was kind of involved in it with me. She started to realize what I was going through and I started to get a lot more outpouring of phone calls, and whatnot. 'How are you doing?" sort of thing. That helped a lot, too; just knowing that people didn't think you were dreaming it up. The medical professionals were doing everything they could do, and I can't say enough about them either, but just having the support made quit a difference. I think it got me through it."

PortageOnline will have additional stories this month.


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