Prof. June Andrews at Forget-Me-Not Breakfast

York Region

Prof. June Andrews, who teaches dementia studies internationally, is the guest speaker at the annual Forget-Me-Not Breakfast, taking place virtually on Nov. 7. She will speak for an hour, followed by a question and answer period. Her topic is Caring for People Living with Dementia in a time of COVID-19.

Prof. June Andrews sitting at her desk with a red reading lamp, a gold mirror and a laptop

Prof. June Andrews is the guest speaker at the virtual Forget-Me-Not Breakfast Nov. 7. Courtesy photo.

Prof. June Andrews, who teaches dementia studies internationally., is the guest speaker at this year's Forget-Me-Not Breakfast, taking place virtually Saturday, Nov 7 at 10 a.m.

Andrews, FRCN (Fellow of the Royal College of Nursing, the highest honour given to nurses in the U.K.) and FCGI (Fellow of the City and Guilds Institute, awarded to people who have had an impact in vocational education and training), will be speaking for an hour about Caring for People Living with Dementia in a time of COVID-19, followed by a half an hour of questions and answers.

“COVID is hideous and alarming for everyone, but if you have a challenge already in your life, like caring for (someone living with) dementia, it makes things twice as hard,” said Andrews via email. “All the things that you know to do to help the person stay well, such as getting out and about and socializing, become difficult, if not impossible. And what is happening in care facilities is heartbreaking.”

Andrews said her talk at the breakfast will encompass issues important to York Region residents and will likely include dealing with anxiety, staying well, communication, medical emergencies and care facilities.

Andrews, a nurse with more than 30 years of experience in the care of older people, also works to improve the public understanding of dementia and aged-care services.

“Dementia is an important issue in eldercare, even though the majority of older people will never have dementia.”

Despite the fact that dementia costs more than cancer, heart disease and stroke put together, Andrews said the U.K.'s government understanding of the disease is problematic because they are often looking for a cure rather than “the mundane and expensive issue of care for the people and families who are already affected.”

And while raising awareness about dementia is important, Andrews said it doesn't go far enough.

“People need to know what can be done that makes a difference and makes life easier” because caring for those living with dementia is hard. And lonely.

So what can people do to help caregivers?

“You could write a very long book about what to do to help,” said Andrews, who has written four books about dementia, including her latest about choosing a care home that came out in August. “But it boils down to one or two things: Make sure (caregivers) know you want to help, and ask them what they’d like you to do, and stick with them over time even if they don’t take up your offer at once.”

While COVID-19 restrictions have eased a bit in Ontario, people are still taking precautions to ensure the safety of themselves and those living with dementia. However, Andrews said it's still important for people to keep in touch and “maximize contact.”

“Phone calls, conversations from the end of the garden or from the balcony of the next apartment. Everything helps. Ask what the person wants. Help with deliveries of groceries may not be the only practical thing you can do. “

People can also start preparing for the next wave by improving their IT skills, updating computer programs and reaching out to services that can deliver. People should also be sorting powers of attorney and other legal requirements, she said.

This is the second time Andrews has spoken with Alzheimer Society of York Region caregivers. Last year Andrews spoke to a sold-out crowd about dementia and caregiving.

Learn more about Andrews by visiting her website .

The Forget-Me-Not Breakfast takes place Saturday, Nov. 7. The day begins at 9 a.m. with Andrews speaking just after 10 a.m. A Q&A begins at 11 with closing comments at 11:30 a.m.

A maximum of 300 people can attend. The event is free. Email Carol Dowell, events coordinator, at [email protected] to register.

Email Carol Dowell, events coordinator, at [email protected] to register.