Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition beginning with mild memory loss and possibly leading to the inability to carry on a conversation and respond to one’s environment.
Daryl Dolynny, chief executive officer and president of AVENS, A Community for Seniors, told Yellowknifer that more than half of the residents in the organization’s manor have varying degrees of Alzheimer disease, but the facility is prepared.
“We deal with level three and up to level five Alzheimer’s,” Dolynny said of AVENS, which was founded in April 1983 by a group of citizens to lobby the government and establish programs and services for seniors.
The manor has numerous staff and personal support workers who are well trained to take care of the patients, according to Dolynny. The organization also collaborates with the Alzheimer Society and the NWT Seniors Society, who have helped provide better life experiences for residents coping with Alzheimer’s. At the same time, medical directors at Stanton Territorial Hospital work on assessments.
Every client will go through an assessment to determine which stage of they disease they are in, and so proper care can be provided at the facility.
“Cognitive impairment is always a moving target,” Dolynny said, “On a good day, things could be going very well; and in an episode or a specific trigger event, that (can) make people decline quickly. I found that dementia is not static but a dynamic disease.”
Residents with Alzheimer’s usually require extra care, especially on days when those clients are not doing well. Striving to make clients comfortable and content is not only meaningful for the residents, but also staff, Dolynny said.
He added that it’s difficult for others to see people they know in a state of decline, so it’s not only important to take care of the client, but to support family members as well.
“To provide a quality of life,” he emphasized.
One of the primary concerns with dementia is that the resident could exit the facility and get lost. With that in mind, safeguards are in place at AVENS. Clients who need extra care are given a device that can track their location, so once any of those residents wander off, staff will know and to bring them back to a safe area, said Dolynny.
To ensure that patients with Alzheimer’s don’t feel imprisoned, the health and wellness division develops a variety of activities, such as field trips to connect with nature. Dolynny also said that there are an abundance of activities that can be done within the facility, like the greenhouse program to allow residents to grow their own plants and vegetables. There’s also pet therapy, or bunny therapy.
AVENS is looking for new ways to improve the lives of residents and Dolynny said that he’s a firm believer in technology. He’s familiar with advancements in artificial intelligence that are in the testing stage in Canada and he expressed optimism that AVENS could benefit from that in the future.
After years of taking care of Alzheimer’s patients and looking after seniors, Dolynny has some suggestions for families who have to deal with this dreaded disease.
“Reach out and talk to any of the societies. You are not alone. Reach out for help, find out as much as you can about that disease and know what to expect,” he said, adding that it’s best to understand their day-to-day care plans.