Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia, is not a “normal” part of aging but a disease involving the progressive loss of brain and nerve cells.

Alzheimer’s  disease doesn’t affect just the patients; it also profoundly changes the lives of caregivers and family members who not only have to witness and understand the gradual disintegration of their loved one’s mind but cope with the behavioural changes that occur along with this decline.

Caring for someone with dementia is sometimes referred to as a “36-hour-a-day” job and caregivers have to give up their jobs, change their lifestyles drastically to care for their loved one.

But, proper understanding of the disease and learning how to cope with the management of the disease can help ease the burden, says Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation Malaysia (ADFM) honorary secretary Datin Jacqueline W. M. Wong, who herself learnt much about the disease when caring for her father-in-law who had Alzheimer’s.

“The stress caregivers face is tremendous. Even if you have a helper, most caregivers have to give up their jobs because it is a full-time job. And your loved one may live with the disease for five years or 20 years … after which, how do you get back into life? What do you do? And not to mention the financial burden it places on families too.

“Caregivers need support and they need help understanding the disease. You can’t expect your loved one with dementia to be “normal”. You can’t try to reason with them because they are in a different mind. Our parents would never want to harass us … in fact, most times they go out of their way not to trouble us. So we need to understand the nature of the disease and learn how to respond and how to care,” says Wong.

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s isn’t easy. Learning about disease management will ease the burden for caregivers. Photo: AFP

To mark Alzheimer’s Awareness Month which in Spetember, ADFM has organised a two-day programme this weekend with activities for patients with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers at the Atria Shopping Gallery in Petaling Jaya.

Among the sessions is a forum for caregivers (Saturday at 2.30pm) which is open to all caregivers, families and close friends who need support and information about caring for their loved on with dementia. There will also be a session on brain games for those with dementia and their caregivers at 4pm.

On Sunday, there will be a Elder Yoga sessions as well as talks about coping with the disease. Among the talks that will take place is one titled  “Communicating with Alzheimer’s Persons” by Prof Dr Tan Maw Pin (in Mandarin) and another,  A person-centered approach to dementia care baby Dr Lee Fatt Soon.

To register, send a whatsapp with your full name and email address to 016 7608 2513. For more information, contact the ADFM community corner at Atria at 010-361 9125