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Out of sight, out of mind

by Jenna Cocullo January 15, 2013
Out of sight, out of mind

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The government of Canada has forgotten about Alzheimer patients. Institutions that care for seniors with some form of dementia appear to be those who receive the least attention when it comes to funding and support. If greater financial assistance were given to these institutions, tragic incidents like Frank Alexander’s death in 2011, caused by frightened Alzheimer’s patient Joe McLeod in an elder care facility in Manitoba, would not occur.

According to the National Post, McLeod was not found criminally responsible for the death. His condition causes him to suffer from occasional violent outbursts of anger due to confusion. He does not remember these episodes. Prior to being put into a home, McLeod lived with his wife. After several violent outbursts, the man was put into prison for a month awaiting a hearing. Is this really how we treat our Alzheimer’s patients in Canada?

These situations are not rare and they are not going away. According to the Alzheimer Society of Toronto, “within a generation, the number of Canadians with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia will more than double, ranging between 1 and 1.3 million people.”

Many with the disease have anger episodes due to the frustration of being constantly confused. Unfortunately, elder care facilities lack the proper training and funding to be able to take care of each patient based on their own specific needs, and jail is certainly not a suitable option either.

My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and I would certainly not feel comfortable with a man with a condition similar to McLeod’s staying at her care facility. However, I don’t think he should have been thrown into a jail either. The solution to the problem is for the government to stop clumping all Alzheimer patients into one category. Everyone has certain levels of the disease, some more severe than others, and everyone acts out in different ways. Each patient should be separated within the care facility, or there should be specialized facilities for each particular level of Alzheimer’s.

The Alzheimer Society of Canada says that “quality of life for people with dementia is largely dependent on their connection with others. Maintaining a relationship can be a complex and challenging process, especially when verbal communication is affected.”

Patients need different levels of care and I don’t think nurses are equipped or trained properly to handle each different scenario. This is going to cause a real problem, since the next generation is aging and are going to be in this situation as well.

Soon to be overcrowded care facilities may have to double up or triple up rooms in order to accept all patients, which can pose a serious threat if someone acts out just as McLeod did. Furthermore, as the National Post pointed out in an editorial published Jan. 4, if care institutions become too overcrowded, Alzheimer patients may be forced to go home with their families, which can be extremely costly, let alone worrisome. The Alzheimer Society of Toronto notes that “the impact of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias engulfs whole families, and affects far more than the half a million people living with the disease.”

It is time to pay greater attention to Alzheimer institutions and help support them so we can take better care of patients. Alzheimer’s is rated second as the disease that is most feared among aging Canadian, and we need to make Alzheimer’s patients a bigger priority in the near future.

With files from George Menexis.

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