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Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick opens dementia-inclusive office space

Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick opens new office in Fredericton
WATCH: The Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick opened the doors to its new office on Wednesday. As Megan Yamoah reports, it’s a space designed with input from those affected by the disease.

The Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick opened the doors of their dementia-inclusive resource centre on Wednesday, a facility meant to help families learn how to better assist a loved one coping with dementia.

“It was really important to have something that we can show and demonstrate and teach families how they can make simple changes at home, or for example businesses can make simple changes to make the space more friendly for people living with dementia,” said Chandra MacBean, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick.

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Inside the resource centre is a mock kitchen table setting to teach families and caregivers that too many decorative items and condiments can be distracting and upsetting.

The other side of the table offers a minimalist approach. In the bathroom, there’s a shade over the mirror that can be lifted.

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“For people living with dementia, recognizing their reflection in the mirror can be confusing,” said MacBean.

To help clients navigate the office independently, staff installed brightly-coloured door decals, chose a neutral pattern free carpet, posted large signage, and mounted eye-level artwork from the New Brunswick Archives.

“Here we have the opening of the Simpson Sears Store,” said MacBean, referring to one of the works from the archives.

“Those earliest memories are often the strongest, so it’s a great starting point for helping people to feel comfortable [and] have that familiarity and have something that you can talk about without worry.”

The grand opening also offered a simulation that simulates the effects of dementia.

“Once we get you into this garb, you then go to an experience room where we ask you to perform tasks. It teaches empathy; it’s sort of, ‘I get to walk in the shoes of a person with dementia,’ so it’s really powerful for family members as well as health care professionals,” MacBean said.

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“In the province of New Brunswick with our population it can be anywhere from seven to eight people a day who are developing this disease.”

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Moving forward, the service support space will be tested with clients to see if the changes actually make life easier for those living with dementia, and with that information, staff will make modifications to the program.

“We’re here and we’re innovative and we’re trying to be progressive and we want to do whatever it is that we can to make a difference in the community,” said Tina Burns of the Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick.