The role of genuine compassion while supporting a person living with dementia is one of the most important things Barry Hickling learned through his participation in the LIVING the Dementia Journey (LDJ) education program offered at his home in The Village of Aspen Lake.
The program, offered in a one-day intensive format across all Schlegel Villages, offers participants “the essence – the truth – of having compassion for people with dementia,” Barry says. “That’s all we can do is just love them for who they are and where they are in life.”
Informed by the lived experience of people living with dementia and their care partners, LDJ was created through partnership between the Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program (MAREP), the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) and Schlegel Villages. It is designed to offer care partners a realistic understanding of dementia while challenging some of the myths and stereotypes that have become so ingrained in today’s society, diminishing the potential for people to live well in the face of a diagnosis.
The first time Barry participated in early 2017, he gained a new perspective on how dementia can individually impact each person facing a diagnosis. It challenged some of his previously held notions, which came in part through personal experience watching his father progress through the disease. His second time through LDJ in 2018 was a “refresher course”, he says, and he would encourage anyone who has already taken the program to do so again. It is a reminder of the complexity of dementia and the various ways to support someone along their journey, moment-to-moment and day-by-day.
His third time, which is coming up soon as Aspen Lake prepares to offer the program once again for team members, families and neighbours, will be an opportunity to consider what more he’s learned and suggest ways the program might be strengthened.
The importance of a course like this, not only within Schlegel Villages or other long-term care homes but in all community settings, cannot be overstated, Barry says. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affects people from all walks of life in every corner of the country, and imparting awareness and genuine understanding can’t be left to doctors at the time of diagnosis, for they don’t have the time.
“There is a tremendous need for knowledge in the general population of exactly what Alzheimer’s disease is,” he says, “how it affects the body, the mind, the heart, the soul and spirit and being, and what the prospects are for that disease; what might we hope for in the near future or distant future?
“I think it’s a real eye-opener to see the need that’s present right now.”
LDJ is part of the fabric of each Schlegel Village, and Barry encourages everyone connected to Village life to take advantage of the opportunity to expand their understanding when the program is offered; all that extra compassion, after all, can only serve to enhance the lives of everyone.
To learn more about LIVING The Dementia Journey, visit the website here.