First Alzheimer’s Symposium focuses on bringing awareness

SYMPOSIUM PLANS – For the first time in Grand Bahama, Ocean View Retirement Village is hosting an Alzheimer’s Symposium in an effort to bring awareness to the prevalent disorder affecting many on the island. Pictured from left to right are committee members Dr. Pamela Etuk; Ocean View Retirement Village President, Agatha Thompson and Ocean View Retirement Village Vice President, Destiny Thompson-Pinder. (PHOTO: JUELANDA THOMPSON)

For the first time in Grand Bahama, Ocean View Retirement Village is hosting an Alzheimer’s Symposium in an effort to bring awareness to the prevalent disorder affecting many on the island. 

During a press conference on Saturday, February 1, Alzheimer’s Symposium committee members shared details of the upcoming event and expressed residents need to become more knowledgeable about the disorder and learn innovative ways when caring for persons affected by Alzheimer’s. 

The symposium which is scheduled for Saturday, March 7, will be held at the Ocean View Village residence from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon and all interested persons are invited to attend. 

Speakers will include Dr. Kevin Bethel, Michelle Lundy, Dr. Paul Bethel and Dr. Katherine Sands.

Ocean View Retirement Village President, Agatha Thompson, who has been a caretaker for over 30 years, explained that there has not been sufficient education about the common disorder; therefore, initiating such forum to thoroughly detail steps for family members and friends that may experiencing such suffering is much-needed. 

“Here at Ocean View Retirement, we really want to educate the community and the caregivers – whether they need long-term help or long time residential care – which is what I offer, or if they want to care for them at home. We also want to care for the caregiver, because they can become burnt out and the danger there is where the abuse comes in. So, we want them to come to the symposium and relax, but it is needed especially now where we just came out of a hurricane.

“I think we are seeing more and more young people as well as the elderly dealing with this disorder. So, how could you deal with the elderly when you yourself is mimicking Alzheimer’s and depression?” Thompson questioned. 

“So, we are going to have a distinct discussion with the dynamic group of speakers that we have and those who are sharing from the floor. We will leave here energized and well educated and we don’t want it to end there, we want to make it an annual event,” she added. 

Thompson said that she also wants to make Ocean View Retirement Village a resource Centre, where residents can continue searching for information and be educated. 

She added that the symposium is one that will open the minds of persons affected and those that are caretakers, to understand the importance of learning how to cope with the disorder.

Committee member and Physician, Dr. Pamela Etuk, who has also dealt with Alzheimer’s patients explained that knowledge is power and the more an individual is informed, the better he or she can be at prevention. 

“We have organized this symposium because we have become so aware of the predominance of this disease in our Bahamas, in our island and as a matter of fact worldwide. I believe it is the fourth cause of death. It is common, and it has affected so many of us personally – in families, in our communities – and it has taken its toll on our country, both socially and economically.

“So, Ocean View under the guidance of Mrs. Agatha Thompson has taken the bull by the horn and said we must present some learning data and some material out there to help our community be more aware of the presence of what we can do in order to handle this problem, to fight it and to ward it off with the right information to make life better. To also handle with dignity the process, because we see in so many cases that our people, those persons suffering from it and those taking care of people with Alzheimer’s, are not being approached with dignity and it’s not something good. 

“There is a certain dignity as we age that we wish to hold on to and so, we are trying to promote education and insight for this reason,” informed Dr. Etuk.

“Knowledge is power and it is what we don’t know that we are afraid off and it is what we are afraid of that stops us, in our tracks, from progressing. It is very important that the information gets out there, as to what it is that so many people in our community is suffering from and see how best I, the individual, and I, a friend, can assist.

 “This is affecting people as they start to work and people may notice things, so the more we know the earlier we are able to assist. Early detection is the best approach,” she added.

The Physician noted as persons develop Alzheimer’s, they become more dependent on their children and on their families. “It affects our friends; it affects our interaction within the community; whether it is the church, whether it is societies that we belong too. We lose our independence, and people really are afraid to approach us – those of us suffering with the Alzheimer’s - and so, socially it becomes a burden.”

 Financially, Dr. Etuk continued, it is so much in terms of taking care of the individual. “Finding the appropriate diagnosis first of all, which is very expensive and then finding the appropriate caregiver to take care of them. Outside of handling my own family, I have children who are growing up. I have children who are in school, I have well parents and then the individual with Alzheimer’s, who need special care, And so, socially it affects us; it affects us all, the stability of the family and of the community.

 “Economically, Alzheimer’s cost to make the diagnosis. Treatment is very expensive, care is very expensive and of course, many of our Bahamians do not have insurance to cover this and so, it falls back on the individual.”

She continued, “Falling back on the passing of Hurricane Dorian, in some instances, there are individuals who may not have a job and before the hurricane, he or she was responsible for not only his or her family, but five other persons - aunts, uncles, godchildren - and now the person with Alzheimer’s. So, economically and financially, it is difficult.”

Dr. Etuk noted that there are many cases of persons living with the Alzheimer’s disorder. “It is a long-standing illness that causes persons to try and hide those affected away from the world.

“We don’t want to do that; we want to keep them active in the community, interactive, keeping their minds, their bodies active. There is so much we can learn from these older people and the longer we keep them active and with us, the better for their own dignity and the better for history of our nation.”

 Speaking to the list of presenters for the one-day session, Dr. Etuk said, “There is Dr. Kevin Bethel, who as you know is a wonderful family practitioner. He has an oversight of what happens in the family and in the community, in terms of the disease and the ravages that wreaks. We have a social worker, Michelle Lundy, because she will have the broader view of what is happening in our society both in terms of who can better afford it and what is happening to those who can’t afford the disease. 

“Then we have Dr. Katherine Sands, who is the psychiatrist, because there is always a conundrum in people’s mind. We have Mr. Paul Bethel, who is a nutritionist, and he is going to speak with us on how better to approach our diet and keeping Alzheimer’s at bay. 

“Then we will have some caregivers who will be called upon and these people are key. Whether they are in the family or whether they are at an institution, these are key for the individual.  “We are going to have questions, answers, insight and people are going to be thrilled at what they will be hearing.

“The symposium that we have is going to approach the different areas that we find effective,” Dr. Etuk concluded.

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