Mary* noticed her mother began to forget small things. Nothing major but sometimes where she left her keys or an easy word in her crossword puzzle. As she noticed her mother, a Beacon Hill resident, forgetting more things more often, Mary began to worry. Mary wasn’t sure what was happening. Was her mother’s forgetfulness the early stages of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia? Or were her mother’s symptoms just signs of normal aging?
In a panic, Mary searched for answers. She eventually took her mother to a psychiatrist and a doctor to be evaluated. Both medical professionals confirmed that her mother showed normal signs of aging – not dementia. During this search for answers, Mary also consulted with Beacon Hill’s Director of Lifestyle Billy Blake, CTRS, CADDCT, DCC-CI, and Memory Care Coordinator Patrick Krillic, CTRS, CDP, two dementia experts who regularly interact with residents.
Concerns like these from family members are why Billy and Patrick decided to launch The Next Chapter, a series of educational and support events for those living with Alzheimer’s and the people who love them. “Providing education and support helps people better understand and cope with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Many times, just knowing they’re not alone can help improve how a person copes with living with dementia or supporting a loved one who has dementia,” said Billy. “Our goal with The Next Chapter program is to provide both comfort and helpful information to attendees.”
More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s per the Alzheimer’s Association. By 2050, this number is projected to rise to nearly 13 million. Even with so many people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, there still remains a lack of educational resources and support for those living with dementia and their loved ones.
The Next Chapter fills this gap, providing education and support around living with dementia. Taking place every other month March through November, each event is open to Beacon Hill residents, though Billy and Patrick have also welcomed the greater community because of the need for education, awareness, and support. While the programming for these events includes both presenters sharing lots of useful information and techniques for coping with dementia and how to spot early signs of the disease, Billy and Patrick also built in activities that encourage attendees to build relationships with others who also have direct experience living with dementia.
Billy and Patrick have dedicated much of their careers to gaining a better understanding of dementia. Both are certified as Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialists (CTRS). Billy is also licensed as a Crisis Prevention Intervention – Dementia Capable Care Trainer (CPI) and Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Trainer (CADDCT), while Patrick is a Certified Dementia Practitioner (CDP).
Many who attended the event on March 13 have been personally affected by dementia: family members and caregivers of people living with dementia, social workers, and people who have been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia. “Feedback after the event has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Patrick. “Many liked the name, The Next Chapter, and the meaning behind it. We want people to know that being diagnosed with dementia doesn’t mean the end of a person’s life – it’s just a new chapter in someone’s book of life that hasn’t yet been written.”
“Like with any disease, no two people’s experience living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia is identical,” said Billy. “We hope that through The Next Chapter that we can address misconceptions, provide knowledge that can lead to attendees being their own advocate or an advocate for their loved one, and offer comfort for so many living or supporting a loved one with this degenerative disease.”
*not her real name
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