Monday, October 10, 2016

Dementia Conversations: Breaking the Ice with Empathy and Finesse

by Mary Haberman
On October 7, 2016, Western Mountains Senior College’s To Your Health offered the third in its series on dementia.  Open to the public and held at the West Parish Congregational Church, the program’s presenter was Mark Pechenik, Director of Community Outreach and Engagement for the Maine Alzheimer’s Association.

Sensitive Issues addressed:
  1. When is it time to stop driving? (Everyone’s fear)
  2. The need to see a physician for a firm diagnosis.
  3. Reviewing and perhaps relinquishing control of financial and legal matters.

Strategies and Approaches:
Pechenik focused his presentation on methods used to overcome the most common hurdles faced by caregivers.  He prefaced these suggestions with the caution that, first and foremost, planning - detailed planning - should be worked on sooner rather than later.  “Don’t wait for a crisis. Have the conversation early and involve family whenever possible.  Be specific, honest, and patient.”

Listen closely and respond:
Remember that loss of independence, isolation, and not wanting to burden family are early-stage worries.  Appeal to the patient’s sense of responsibility to family and community when suggesting the need for often drastic changes.

Don’t become an adversary.  Go with the flow.  Keep notes and be specific. Reach out to family, friends, community and utilize the many dementia-related resources available.

Pechenik ended his presentation with a description of many initiatives taking place in Maine, and his Association’s hope for a cure by 2025.  He added that Alzheimer's and all dementias must be “brought out of the shadows.

The Western Mountain Senior College To Your Health presentations are a community service offered in collaboration with the Bethel Family Health Center, MSAD#44/Continuing Education and the Maine Alzheimer’s Association.

Sandra Seaver, Carlie Casey, Charleen Chase, Mark Pechenik, speaker, Carol Bailey, Andrea Bennett.  photo: Judy Whitman

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