I grew up in Port Elmsley and spent my formative years attending North Elmsley Public School, Stewart School, and PDCI. At that time in my life, I had a large passion for music, specifically the flute, and joined the Perth Citizens Band to help grow my musical abilities and share my passion with others. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the band, and also realized that I had an interest in working around seniors. When I made the decision in high school to become a chiropractor, we had an opportunity to go on a field trip to Carleton Place High School (CPHS) for a University Fair. This fair allowed high school students the opportunity to talk to various Ontario Universities to learn more about their programs, and help us with our school selections. As soon as I entered CPHS, I was drawn to a corner booth with maroon and gold colours, called “McMaster University”. I started to learn about their kinesiology and health sciences programs. What drew me to McMaster over the other universities was the opportunity for kinesiology students to immediately gain clinical experience with their on-campus volunteer programs. The programs were called “MacSeniors”, “MacWheelers” and “MacTurtles”. I decided that day I would attend McMaster, and fortunately, was accepted to the Kinesiology program in 2007. Within a few days of being on campus, I signed up to volunteer with the MacTurtles program. 

The MacCardiac rehabilitation program was designed to help enhance the quality of life of individuals who had experienced heart attacks, had heart surgery, or those at risk of heart disease through individualized and guided exercise routines, and helped the members adopt heart-healthy lifestyles to reduce their future risk of heart disease. Every Thursday from 4-6 pm I stood alongside wonderful individuals, and many seniors, and motivated them to complete their exercise routines, discuss healthy lifestyle habits, and create a positive and motivating environment to keep them committed to their heart-healthy routine. Although I originally joined MacTurtles to gain clinical experience, what I learned most from the three-year experience was that I truly enjoyed working with seniors, and the importance of actively listening and supporting your fellow human. With my passion for working with an aging population growing in my first year of schooling and MacTurtles, I applied and was accepted to the gerontology minor program. This program allowed me to focus my electives on courses geared towards learning how to work with seniors and those with special needs/differently abled, as well as learn more about the health care system at large. When I was accepted into CMCC to become a chiropractor at the end of my third year at McMaster, I said goodbye to my MacTurtles family, but my passion for working with others to enhance their quality of life grew. 

During my final year at CMCC, we completed a year-long internship that consisted of two, six-month rotations. For both rotations, I worked with a lot of seniors and those with special needs/the differently abled. I focused my case study learning on enhancing breathing, posture, balance and fall prevention, treating those with chronic and complicated health histories (often involving multiple medications and co-managing with other health disciplines), and learning how to adapt my treating techniques to the individual person. In addition to my clinical rotation, I decided to collaborate with 3 other interns to develop an exercise and nutrition program at a downtown salivation army retirement home called “Stay in Health.” The focus of this volunteer group was to create, implement and run an exercise class 2-3 days per week that catered to the skill level of the seniors at the retirement home, and spend 10-15 minutes focusing on healthy lifestyle habits. The program consisted of cardio (both chair and standing), strengthening (uses therabands, weights or their own body weight), stretching, breathing, and posture. In return for our time at the home, we received clinical hours that were put towards our graduation requirements. This program became a hit, and we worked together with other community centres and interns to create additional community exercise programs and help create a partnership between our local community and CMCC. We also raised funds to ensure our home had a defibrillator, to ensure the safety of the residents.

These volunteer experiences helped shape the type of chiropractor I wanted to become, and my passion in working with seniors and special needs flourished. Since graduating from CMCC, I have focused my continuing education in working with all ages, learning multiple chiropractic techniques to help increase my “tools in my toolbelt”. My experience so far has taught me that everyone is unique, and how we interact and treat our patients should be unique as well.

When looking for a home for Trillium Family Chiropractic, inclusivity was in the forefront of my mind. Too often external and environmental barriers stop a person from seeking the care he/she/they need. I was immediately drawn to 390 Flora Street in Carleton Place, as it has a large, wheelchair-accessible parking lot. My first thought was that patients wouldn’t have to worry about crossing a busy street, jumping over snow banks in the winter, paying for parking, or climbing stairs just to access my clinic. During the renovation process, we added an automatic front door to make it easier for those using canes, walkers, wheelchairs, or those pushing strollers easier to get in and out. Inside, we have a spacious waiting room and family and wheelchair-friendly washrooms. As I use various chiropractic techniques including Activator Methods and ProAdjuster, patients have the option to either lay facing down or seated in a massage-looking chair for their chiropractic care, depending on what is best suited for their needs. Our mission at Trillium Family Chiropractic is to empower families in Eastern Ontario to achieve their health goals by providing instrument-assisted chiropractic care as everyone deserves to live an exceptional quality of life. As we all are living longer, our focus is to help you reduce pain, and improve your function and ability to do the things that bring you joy.

As we treat all ages in our office, it’s important to stay up to date on current information on a variety of health topics, including dementia. Ashley and I recently had the pleasure of completing the Dementia Friendly Community Support Education program by Robin Hull on behalf of the Alzheimer Society Lanark Leeds Grenville. As September is World Alzheimer’s Month, I thought I would share some of the highlights of this training on our monthly blog (all terms, statistics and general information are from the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada handouts). 

There are currently over 500 000 people living with dementia, and this statistic is expected to almost double by 2023. The cost of dementia to our healthcare system is over $10 billion per year. Over half of Canadians are concerned about being affected by this disease.  (Alzheimer Society of Canada, 2022). With the Canadian population ageing, it’s important for health care providers and the general public to learn more about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

The term “dementia” is an umbrella term for many brain disorders that commonly diminishes one’s language, recognition, memory, intentional movement, sensory perception and reasoning. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia where protein deposits called plaques form in the brain preventing the signal transmission between nerve cells, and tau proteins which transport nutrients throughout the brain become tangled, leading to brain cell death. These brain changes cause progressive deterioration of the brain cell function leading to symptoms which affect one’s day-to-day life. 

Some warning signs of Alzheimer’s Disease include: memory loss affecting daily life and misplacing items, difficulty performing familiar tasks, difficulties with language and abstract thinking, changes in mood, behaviour and personality, impaired judgement, disorientation in time and space, and loss of initiative. Putting items in inappropriate places (such as leaving a wallet in the fridge), forgetting the meaning behind words and numbers (making it difficult to balance a cheque book), or forgetting how to cook your favourite meal are a few examples of possible indicators of brain changes that require further medical investigation.

Those with dementia often experience responsive behaviours, which is a term used to describe challenging behaviour, such as wandering, agitation, sundowning, hallucinations and paranoia, or depression. A few tips when engaging with a person with dementia include:

  • Introduce yourself, make eye contact, remain calm and move at the person’s pace.
  • Acknowledge their feelings. Listen attentively, and be positive, patient and encouraging. Smile. Connect, don’t correct – at times his/her responses may not make sense or may be inappropriate.
  • Ask more closed-ended questions that require answers such as “yes” or “no.”
  • Speak slowly and clearly, and leave time for the person to respond.
  • Be aware of your body language – remember that our nonverbal cues are just as important as what we say. 
  • Appreciate the environment – reduce sensory stimulation such as flashing lights and lots of background noise. One-on-one conversations may be more appropriate than group settings. Check for any tripping hazards, ensure entrances and exits are well marked and lit, and comfortable seating is available.

“A dementia-friendly community is a place where people living with dementia and their care partners are welcomed, included and supported.” 

There is still so much to learn about the brain, but what we do know is that learning as much as we can to support those living with dementia is vital. The Alzheimer’s Society of Lanark Leeds Grenville has a plethora of resources, educational and supportive resources to help small businesses and the community learn more about creating a dementia-friendly community. Please check out their website for more information:  https://alzheimer.ca/lanark/en 

By: Elizabeth Carter

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