Those who care for people diagnosed with dementia have a journey of their own. Kate Sladen knows this from experience.
Her mother was diagnosed with a progressive dementia and lived with Sladen and her husband the last two years of her life on the dementia journey. According to Kate, it is a journey that does not have to be taken alone.
Through her extensive volunteer work with the Alzheimer Society of B.C., Sladen is ensuring there is support and education for caregivers to learn strategies that will help them adapt to what lies ahead and she’s doing this both at the front lines in the field and in the board room.
In celebration of National Volunteer Week, April 10 to 16, Sladen is being recognized for her work as a relief facilitator for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Caregiver Support Group. She also helps with facilitating the Family Caregiver Series education workshops in Vernon and Kelowna, is a member of the society’s board of directors, and recently has started to meet one on one with potential new members in the Vernon area.
“When people reach out to the Alzheimer Society for help, Kate goes over and above to ensure they get connected to the programs and services that will meet their needs. She makes new members feel welcomed and inspires a sense of belonging,” explained Jennifer Hamilton, Support and Education Coordinator, Alzheimer Society of B.C. – North & Central Okanagan Resource Centre.
“I am fortunate to be working with Kate to experience firsthand her dedication to helping those whose lives have been impacted by Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.”
A former nurse, teacher, and counsellor, Sladen says that one of the rewards from her work with the society is watching the transition of caregivers through education.
“Life as one knows it changes with the diagnosis of dementia,” said Sladen. “When caregivers first approach the Society they often feel frazzled, however with support and education they are able to learn strategies that will help them accept the reality of this change and what it will take to adapt as the dementia progresses. These are strangers who come together wanting help themselves or needing to help others, so they support each other through laughter and tears, and they develop resilience.”
Whether from personal experience, simple altruism, a hope for a world without Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, or an opportunity for skills development, for the past 30 years volunteers for the Alzheimer Society of B.C. have tirelessly dedicated their time, energy, and compassion to supporting families every step of the dementia journey.
The society provides free education and training for its volunteer facilitators of its support groups, an integral part of the service it delivers to families in communities across British Columbia.
“We know that effective support group facilitators are the key to making any support group experience positive and productive,” explains Jean Blake, CEO, Alzheimer Society of B.C. “Providing useful and meaningful education and training for our facilitators is a benefit to the families we serve, as well as, an opportunity for our volunteers, many who have a direct family connection to dementia, to access accurate and timely information.”