If you are one of the many Belizeans whose loved ones suffer from end-of-life disorders such as dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease and others, it can be very frustrating when the person whom you have loved all your life may occasionally drift away from you or lash out without knowing why. There are also many senior citizens robbed of their mobility as they age. Helpage Belize this week hosted a group of therapists and physicians from the University of Indianapolis to offer a free clinic on occupational and mental health therapy for caregivers of older citizens as well as free physical therapy and checkups for senior citizens at their office in Belize City. Dr. Candace Beit-man, Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy of the University of Indianapolis was a facilitator for the occupational health therapy seminar and spoke to PLUS News about how to be prepared to tackle these disorders.
“What you need to do is to enter into their reality. They have a brain disease that is causing them to be very confused and fearful and that is what is causing the agitation and aggression. So, helping them do whatever it is was that they use to do, helping them feel comfortable. We have a technique called therapeutic fibbing, so if they think that maybe their parent is going to pick them up and their parent is long gone, just saying ‘well they will be coming to pick you up later’, but instead, you distract them to another activity. You don’t argue with them, don’t fight with them. That will just make them more aggressive. Help them take time out and do something that is enjoyable and helping them relax and feel safe.”
Retired educator and caregiver for her 86 year old mother Brenda Armstrong, a participant in the conference, shared her experience with us.
“It’s been very informative. I believe that I’ve picked up a lot in terms of how best to respond, a little incite in how to understand become aware of what the person is going through themselves. Sometimes we approach the person thinking in the way they use to be, but now that they older and this condition has set in – dementia changes a person, so it has helped me in that area. The term used is dementia which is related to old age but can happen in younger persons as well. It becomes a little challenging yes. There is a tendency to ask you a question and two minutes or five minutes later, the same question is asked again. If you have answered the question 3 or 4 times, it becomes a little bit difficult to not say, ‘ I just told you.’ The person is not aware that they heard the question answered already, so they ask the question over and over.”
On the physical side, Master’s degree candidate in occupational therapy Karena Skibinski shared some tips for staying physically active in old age.
“It is very important to stay active and keep up with exercising, and things like tha, for your mental well being. Participating in different activates and different social occupation also helps with your mental well being. Everything is interconnected and interrelated so, making sure to keep your mental aspect healthy as well as your physical aspect will keep you – going for walks with friends is a good way to both actively keep physically healthy as well as mentally healthy. Doing various exercises and stretches as well will also keep up your physical health as well as your overall well being. “
Similar sessions were held in Belmopan and San Ignacio earlier this month. The final session in Belize City is tomorrow, Friday.