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UW website provides info on living with Dementia

Brain Puzzle Piece Out Of Place

When our loved ones are suffering from debilitating diseases like dementia or Alzheimer's, it can be distressing to watch them suffer. We are left floundering and unable to cope with the changes in our loved ones, without a clear idea of how best to help them. Both the patient and the caregiver become helpless when faced with such an emotionally taxing issue like memory loss. It can be very daunting to take care of your loved ones, especially when they are unable to recognize you, and look at you through the eyes of a stranger.

Now, a team at the University of Waterloo has stepped in and developed a website with all the information you will ever need about memory impairment, the different phases of memory loss and attendant symptoms, care giving options etc. This will help the troubled family to have all the pertinent details at their fingertips. This will also help them to reach informed decisions about the care giving process and how to help the patient in living with dementia with the maximum possible comfort.

The team at the university have spoken to the families of people diagnosed with dementia and conducted extensive research before developing the website. As most often the patients are diagnosed with the disease and then sent home. Their loved ones, already reeling from the emotional distress of finding out that their beloved family member has been diagnosed with such a debilitating and life altering disease, need all the help they can get. The patient's family has to learn to cope with dementia, to soothe the patient when in distress and to identify the deterioration in their condition as the disease progresses. With the advancement in modern medicine, people are getting diagnosed earlier with such diseases.

So with the right medication, they can function at almost normal levels for many years before they truly become helpless and need 24 X 7 care. The family members need to be educated about the symptoms of the disease progressing. One crucial difference in the way people diagnosed with dementia are treated these days is that, because of the early diagnosis, the patients are quite able to take care of themselves for longer periods of time. It helps if they are allowed to participate in everyday activities and to maintain a routine. This gives them a sense of control, which can be of great help. If they are allowed a say in the care given to them, it can be of even greater help to their confidence.

The website launched by the University of Waterloo offers help and advice on four fronts: health care, care-giving and support, quality of life and planning ahead. The website tries to complement the help offered by the Alzheimer's Society. Other valuable inputs have been collected and formulated from the health care industry, physicians and pharmacists, adult day care centres and Alzheimer Chapters.

Dr. Sherry Dupuis, Director of the Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program at the University of Waterloo, who is also one of the key members of the research team which collaborated with the McMaster University in Hamilton feels that this website addresses a real need that offers solace and credible information to the families who are facing a daunting task.