BY NIAMH HAYES
ONE West Cork woman is on a mission to spread awareness about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in her local area. This is World Alzheimer’s Month and Linda Jordan of Kinsale is helping bring the theme of the month to life, which is raising awareness and challenging stigma about the condition.
Nearly 40,000 people in Ireland live with Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common form of dementia. Traditionally a condition that only affected elderly people, dementia is now something that is starting to affect younger generations too.
As well as Alzheimer’s disease, there are many other types of dementia, including vascular dementia, mixed dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies and fronto-temporal dementia. While dementia is not a disease itself, it is actually a collection of symptoms that result from damage to the brain caused by the different diseases listed above. This damage can affect memory, thinking, language and the ability to carry out everyday tasks.
Linda Jordan is passionate about helping people with dementia. Her own father suffered from vascular dementia and passed away two years ago. She also has a grand aunt who is living with the condition. Seeing directly how it affected her father and the people around him, Linda has set out to help others in similar situations.
A qualified care assistant, Linda works as the activities facilitator at Haven Bay Care Centre in Kinsale where she runs the Cairde Club, an activity group for people living with dementia. She is also involved in creating life books for the patients to help them remember their lives through stories and photographs put together in a book format.
Linda has studied psychology and is currently undertaking a Masters Degree in dementia studies. She is also a certified dementia champion and is now working on the ground level to be a positive force when it comes to raising awareness about dementia in West Cork.
‘I wanted to become a champion for dementia in the community, to make Kinsale inclusive and a dementia friendly town. I set up a Facebook page, Forget Me Not, to start spreading the word about the condition. I got in touch with businesses and handed out leaflets, all in the hopes of raising awareness’, said Linda.
As part of World Alzheimer’s Month, Linda is running the Kinsale Family Caregiver Dementia Support Group at 7pm on September 17th at Kinsale Community Centre. It will give family members and caregivers an opportunity to meet like-minded people, to unload, and to chat to others who are in a similar situation. The event is free, and anyone can turn up on the evening.
‘If you are a caregiver, it can be an isolated and bleak life where you feel on your own. This event will bring people together to help them understand that they are not alone’, says Linda.
Linda is also going to be running free dementia awareness courses in the coming months in Kinsale Community School, thanks to the generosity of Principal Fergal McCarthy.
This awareness training will be open to everyone in the community, such as businesses, family members and teenagers, to teach them how to work with people with dementia.
‘I will be paring back the science and showing people how they can interact with people who have dementia on a human level. I also hope to establish a support group for people themselves who are living with dementia and bring a programme to local schools to strip back the fear factor amongst children and teenagers’, says Linda.
‘If I could make the world a better place for people with dementia, I would’, she adds.
Symptoms of dementia vary from person to person and according to the part of the brain that is damaged, but common symptoms include memory loss, difficulty concentrating, getting confused over familiar daily tasks, struggling to follow a conversation, and mood changes. These symptoms can often worsen as the condition progresses.
As there is no medication available at present that can cure or prevent dementia, the focus needs to be on managing the symptoms and helping the person affected live as independently as possible, for as long as possible. Making sure the person has enough assistance to meet their everyday needs is most important, but it is also essential that family members and caregivers get appropriate support.
As well as the upcoming events in Kinsale, a range of other events are being held across the country for World Alzheimer’s Month. Home Instead Senior Care is hosting a series of local workshops in Cork, aimed at giving family carers the confidence to care for their loved ones living with dementia. Check out Alzheimer.ie or homeinstead.ie for more details.
If you are worried about Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, the advice is to start by contacting your GP.