Dominic Boyd followed his personal experience of helping his mother as she dealt with dementia, into a role as a volunteer with the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia. Those experiences have evolved into his current role as co-ordinator, education and outreach for Guysborough, Antigonish and Pictou, and it’s in that capacity he was in Antigonish earlier this month for a speaking engagement at Club 60.
“My approach is to contact as many different groups out there as possible, which might be interested in learning more about dementia and the implications dementia has,” Boyd said, as he dropped into the Casket after his Sept. 12 appearance at Club 60.
He talked about a few of the messages he passes along during these talks.
“A couple of aspects; one of them has to do with understanding dementia itself and that there are many different kinds of dementia; Alzheimer’s is the most common, vascular dementia is the second most common,” Boyd said.
“It’s important for people to understand that dementia is something a lot of us will face as we get older. Age is the number one risk factor, so the older you get the higher the chance of developing; it’s not a guarantee but your risk goes up. So if people are aware of it, particularly if they start to show some signs of it, they can get some help. Sometimes there is something that can be done medically to help the person; often times there is not, but they can still get other kinds of supports so they can still have a good quality of life. There are some medicines which can slow it down a bit.
“For me, it’s about providing information to the public one way or another; through the Club 60s [in the region], through the media, you name it.”
He said a big part of the talk he had just given was on promoting good ‘brain health.’
“There is evidence that having a healthy lifestyle will delay the onset of the dementia,” Boyd said. “When we’re talking about a healthy lifestyle, we’re talking about frequent exercise … just walking even, it’s good and it’s free.
“Socializing, keeping a positive attitude, reducing stress, maintaining social contacts and doing what we call brain challenge stuff such as; learning to do puzzles, playing cards, learning another language, learning songs, reading … anything that gets your brain working.
“Nutrition too; there a bunch of factors like that. So I ask people to consider, if they stop and look at their lifestyle, if there is even just one thing they might do more of, or get started on doing, that might make a difference.”
For the caregiver
And while providing information about dementia and healthy lifestyle choices is a big part of Boyd’s messages, so is providing support for those who help a person living with dementia – the caregivers. He said he would like to see a caregiver support group formed in Antigonish, specifically, for those assisting someone with dementia, which would meet – ideally – monthly.
“There is a caregiver support group already but, in talking to the organizer, she did agree there is room for one particularly for those caregiving for someone with dementia,” Boyd said, referencing a monthly (second Tuesday of each month) meeting at the People’s Place Library facilitated by Caregivers Nova Scotia support co-ordinator Cindie Smith.
“They did have one [focused on dementia] going which fizzled out after a while, which does happen with some groups. But I thought I’m going to have a go at starting one again, so I’m looking for people who would be interested in coming and we also need to find a couple of people who would be what we call ‘co-facilitators’ because they would be volunteers for the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia and we would train them to run the group,” Boyd said, noting he would attend the first few meetings to help get it going but, living in Pictou, it would be hard for him to commit to being there each month.
Boyd added he has already looked at a couple of locations for the support meetings.
Noting he is also working on a “couple of other things,” Boyd said Living with Dementia will take place at the People’s Place Library Oct. 23 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
“This is for people who have early stage dementia and their significant others and is sponsored by the Alzheimer Society of Nova Scotia.”
Dementia Friendly Communities is a project he is talking to local municipal governments about, noting he had a meeting set-up with leaders in Pictou County and was in the process of doing the same for Antigonish, Guysborough and the District of St. Mary’s.
“What that can involve is businesses and the municipal governments having some understanding of what might make life a little easier for people when they begin to have cognitive difficulties, essentially,” he said, noting signage and training for staff could be talked about.
“It’s in its infancy but it’s a neat thing that is starting up,” Boyd said.
To contact him about being part of the support group, to register for Living with Dementia in October, or any other issues related to dementia and the Alzheimer Society, call 902-867-7683 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.