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Aging agency to host dementia info sessions

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Ashley Lamb

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By Peter Williams
The Perquimans Weekly

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

HERTFORD — The Hert­ford-based Area Agency on Aging is step­ping up ef­forts to in­crease aware­ness about de­men­tia by showing com­mu­nity res­i­dents how they can bet­ter deal with the dis­ease and its ef­fects.

As part of its efforts, the agency will host three informational sessions in the coming months to introduce the Dementia Friends North Carolina program. Two will be held in Chowan County; the other in Perquimans.

The first area Dementia Friends meeting is scheduled for Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at Ballard’s Bridge Baptist Church in Tyner. The second one will be Aug. 22 at noon at the Chowan County Senior Center. The third will be held at the Perquimans County Senior Center on Harvey Point Road on Oct. 31 at 11 a.m.

“We’re excited about bringing this program out there and that families know that they don’t have to go through this themselves,” said Ashley Lamb, an aging program specialist with the Area Agency on Aging.

According to the agency, dementia is not a specific disease. It's instead a term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other thinking skills severe enough to reduce a person's ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer's disease accounts for about 60 to 80 percent of those with dementia.

Lamb said it’s critical to increase dementia awareness and support in the region given that a majority of those diagnosed with the disease tend to be older and the average age of the population here is already high and expected to get even higher. 

“Statistics show that one in eight people age 65-plus, and one in three age 85-plus are living with dementia,” Lamb said, noting the data comes from Dementia Friendly America.

One thing that will be discussed during the three Dementia Friends sessions is how to judge between the normal signs of aging and “when you might need to go to the doctor” to be examined for possible dementia, Lamb said. Community residents will learn some “basic communications techniques” that can help, she said.

One suggestion from dementia experts, for example, is not to ask someone possibly suffering from the disease a lot of questions at one time. Relatives and friends should instead ask the person just one question and wait for a response.

Lamb said the Area Agency on Aging has gotten a lot of support for its dementia training efforts from both the Perquimans County Sheriff’s Office and Perquimans County Emergency Management.

Beverly Gregory, director of the Perquimans Senior Center, welcomes the effort.

“Hopefully, from the awareness and education offered, Perquimans will form a task force and education will be provided to the entire county (to) businesses and individuals,” she said. “This will encourage support of families involved and provide each of us within our community with proper response and action.”

Outer Banks Hospital in Nags Head not only has been declared a “dementia friendly” hospital, its personnel have helped train staff at businesses and restaurants about the signs of dementia.

Lamb said training people in the community is vital. Through training, the staff at a restaurant would know, for example, that it’s not strange for a husband to follow his wife into the restroom.

“It lets the staff know how to identify somebody who might have dementia,” she said. “It could be a husband and wife goes out to eat, and she has to use the restroom, but can’t do it by herself.”

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