Robin Hall, public education coordinator for the Alzheimer Society of Lanark County, stands before her booth at the recent Seniors Health and Wellness Expo at the Civitan Club hall in Perth on Thursday, Sept. 27.
This past summer, the Alzheimer Society predicted that, in less than 30 years, one in five people in eastern Ontario will have Alzheimer's or some manner of dementia.
"Quite often, they don't know where to turn," said Robin Hall the public education coordinator for the Alzheimer's Society of Lanark County. "This is an age-related disease we're dealing with," she said, pointing to the aging population, and the fact that, after age 80, incidents of dementia go up.
Other groups are also seeing incidents of dementia on the rise, like people with Down's syndrome, since they too are now living longer.
That's why she helped set up the first-ever Seniors' Health and Wellness Expo, which attracted more than 30 vendors to the Perth Civitan Club hall on Thursday, Sept. 27, and brought together various health and seniors' agencies, so that people with dementia, and those who love and look after them, know where they can turn.
"Often, it is getting the help in the home," said Hall. "My caregivers tend to take on too much."
A husband looking after a wife, or vice versa, comes with its own form of caregiver burnout.
"'Til death do us part,' especially with seniors," said Hall.
While she might sound like a broken record, she admits, she frequently finds herself saying, "You're no good to your loved one if you're sick yourself."
One of the frustrations in Hall's job is contending with conflicting information to be found online, through social media, and from well-meaning friends and neighbours.
"It's frustrating when they come into my office with hope in their eyes," said Hall. "I heard that if I take this, my brain will get better," she remembers of one heart-wrenching conversation, while others contend that vitamins and minerals alone will remedy dementia.
"The jury is still out on vitamins," said Hall. "They're grasping at straws."
The event is loosely based on the seniors' expo run in Almonte last month.
Hall herself was an exhibitor at the Almonte and District Community Centre, and found that, in talking with other vendors, she got a sudden, last-minute deluge of people wanting to take part in her event in Perth.
While it is important to keep one's brain active, through activities like memory games, "getting people to exercise their brain" too much activity can also be detrimental.
"We're in a generation where we do 10 things at once," said Hall, who pleads guilty to this as well, even answering emails on her BlackBerry after minor surgery a few weeks ago when she should have been recuperating instead. This too can have an effect, and Hall urges people to reduce their stress levels.
Krystal Blanchette of the Parkside Inn and Spa, Perth, gives M.J. Warren a hand massage at the Seniors Health and Wellness Expo at the Civitan Club hall in Perth on Thursday, Sept. 27.