Memory Keepers Family Festival teaches caregivers how to deal with loved ones with dementia

Dementia is a disease that affects people and families across the world. According to a 2017 report from the World Health Organization, there are currently an estimated 47 million people who suffer from this syndrome, with that number expected to rise to 75 million by 2030. 

On Thursday afternoon, one assisted living facility in Bowling Green hosted an event to help teach families and caregivers how to deal with their loved ones who have to deal with this illness.

The Memory Keepers Family Festival was an idea that actually started in a support group meeting, and now blossomed into the first time event.

"We realized that a lot of people living with dementia are still at home and their family member and friends are taking care of them," said Village Manor Memory Care Coordinator Kayla Jones. "They might not have all the resources they need, so we wanted to throw a festival like this so we could bring all the resources to them."

Several of those "resources" included local health vendors and speakers who have a solid depth of knowledge about dementia and how to care from someone who suffers from it. Knowledge that they were hoping to share and pass along to others currently caring for a loved one dealing with dementia.

"We kind of reached out to our community partners–Homestead, Hospice–a lot of different ones that could come here, share their information and just help families out," Village Manor Community Relations Manager Denise Mitchell added.

The festival also served as a way for families to meet others who deal with care-giving, allowing them to form a much needed support group in the process. 

"Not everybody goes through dementia the same way," Jones said. "Just because someone’s family member, this is how they went through the dementia stage, it’s not going to be like that for someone else."

Festival goers also had the opportunity to try out a virtual dementia tour, one geared at demonstrating the effects of living with dementia on a daily basis.

"What it is, is it kind of puts you in the shoes of someone that has dementia," said Jones. "Mentally and physically you have different impairments that go on. Through that simulation you have a lot of directions. It’s supposed to be easy tasks. Simple things we do every day. But someone living with dementia, it’s very, very hard for them. It kind of let’s you have empathy for that person and not just sympathy so you actually know what they’re going through."

Alzheimer’s is the most recognizable form of dementia, but new ways of testing has illustrated that the disease can take on a variety of forms. Most of those are ones that caregivers might not even be aware of, which can make taking care of their patient or loved one that much more challenging.

"That’s really important to remember is that not all cases are the same," Jones added.

Festival organizers are holding out hope that one day a cure will be found, but in the mean time, they know helping people cope is the next best option.