Can you imagine being diagnosed with a terminal illness, given a prescription, and told to come back in six months? Imagine all this with little to no consultation on where to turn or how to proceed.
Every day, there are 27,000 new cases of dementia world wide. You read that right; according to the World Alzheimer’s Report 2015, it’s 1 every 3.2 seconds. This isn’t just a problem in my country or your country – it’s a world wide epidemic.
In our societies, being different or having unique needs is often surrounded by a cloak of stigmas. Individuals are left feeling alone, judged, and misunderstood.
Those with Alzheimer’s or another dementia are no different. However, since their disease isn’t visible and affects their cognitive abilities, it does come with its own unique set of stigma.
In its ignorance, the general public views Alzheimer’s simply as memory loss, and dementia as being crazy or insane. Both beliefs couldn’t be farther from the truth.
But this is the reality those living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia face. Feeling they have no one to confide in, while not being judged, they are at high risk of becoming isolated and depressed.
This combination accelerates the progression of the disease, and must be addressed in order for an individual to live better with the disease.
In June of 2014, Dementia Mentors was established to empower people living with dementia to fight back and “rule” their dementia. Dementia Mentors is an international, online organization comprised of individuals with various forms of dementia.
According to the Dementia Mentors’ website, their goal is to provide supportive mentoring, motivation, social engagement and more for those living with dementia.
All of the mentors have some form of dementia. As a result, they are best qualified to council and befriend new participants.
When a new person with dementia submits a request, they are matched with a mentor who has the same diagnosis, and is therefore, coping with the same unique set of symptoms and challenges.
Mentoring sessions are done live, using a computer with a webcam and microphone, and are completely confidential. This allows individuals to attend from the comfort and privacy of their home.
Mentors also support the cause by creating resources to help others understand and cope with dementia. Among many things, mentors create videos, do interviews, and write articles. Many of them also manage and post regularly to their own websites, and interact on social media.
The information they share is invaluable even for those of us who do not have dementia.
Dementia Mentors also hosts live, virtual memory cafés. These cafés are video chat sessions with at least one mentor in attendance. Participants are able to join and engage, judgment free, with others who are also living with dementia.
Staying socially connected is vital in helping people with dementia live positively and well with the disease. The virtual cafés, which are held multiple times throughout the month, are pressure free, and a great opportunity for the person with dementia to be social.
As one participant stated during the virtual café promotional video, “It’s a peer group and a family group in one.”
Dementia mentors is much more than mentoring. It’s counseling. It’s love. It’s compassion. It’s fun. It’s friendship. It’s empowerment, and so much more.
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