By Satomi Hiragaimage1

On the 21st of June a seminar was organized by JSS and Nikka Gakuen for grades 5 to 9 in order to educate participants on dementia and how to provide support for those living with dementia.

This seminar was organized in participation with “Dementia Supporter Caravan” an international campaign working toward increased awareness and community support for those living with dementia and their families. The Caravan’s seminars are put on by trained volunteers and as of March 2014 4, 989,053 people had taken part throughout Japan and in Japanese communities around the world! The seminar at Nikka Gakuen was the first of its kind in the Greater Toronto Area and it was organized by volunteers trained by the Caravan last November.

The program started with a speech from the Principal and then students learned about symptoms and challenges for those living with dementia and how to provide support for patients and their families through group work, skits and role playing.

The first skit of the seminar depicted an elderly woman with dementia interacting with her daughter-in-law, grandson and neighbours. The skit presented inappropriate or insensitive reactions to the elderly woman’s symptoms by those around her. Seminar participants observed the skit and were asked to identify the symptoms of dementia, imagine how the dementia patient felt throughout the interactions and suggest alternative responses for the mother-in-law, grandson and neighbours that would be more appropriate and comforting to the afflicted person. These responses were generated through group discussion. Participants were able to empathize with the elderly woman and the difficulties she faced interacting with those around her.

The skit was performed again incorporating insights from the group discussion. This time the ‘negative’ responses of the original skit were replaced by ‘positive’ responses. Students took part in this re-enactment, actually demonstrating and experiencing supportive strategies for dealing with dementia.

After a break, the participants listened to a lecture by Momiji Healthcare Society nurse, Yuka Okada. Dementia symptoms can be difficult to comprehend because they are rooted in the very complex functions of the human brain. Ms. Okada cleared up some of the mysteries with clear illustrations and interesting examples which the students could easily understand.

This concluded the seminar and participants were presented with a certificate and orange bracelets in support of dementia.

In the survey from participants, affirmative sentiments such as “Now I know what dementia is like” and “I have the confidence to help those with dementia” were common.

Studies show that one in four people over the age of 85 display symptoms of dementia. In an aging population such as Japan or Canada, this plight will become a greater challenge for the community in the future. However the more people who are educated about the challenges of living with dementia, the more support we can provide in the community – both the Japanese community in Toronto and Toronto as a whole. Therefore after the success of our first Dementia Supporter Caravan seminar in the city we hope to organize more in the months to come and reach even more members of the community.

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