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Conference offers hope to support workers

By Josh Aldrich, Camrose Canadian

Canadian Recording star Jann Arden speaks at the Bethany Group’s Faith and Aging Conference  in Camrose on Friday. Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian

Canadian Recording star Jann Arden speaks at the Bethany Group’s Faith and Aging Conference in Camrose on Friday. Josh Aldrich/ Camrose Canadian

Jann Arden is known best in Canada for her music and to a second degree her irreverent sense of humour. 

On Friday she was in Camrose talking about another part of her life, the journey with her parents as they lived with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. 

This was part of the Bethany Group’s Faith and Aging Conference at the Norseman Inn. 

Arden’s talk was aimed at the caregivers to offer them some advice, but to mostly give them encouragement and hope. 

“Mom and Dad had a magical dance for 58 years,” said Arden. “They protected each other. When one was removed from the equation, her condition became very apparent.” 

Her parents moved in with her 10 years ago so she could help take better care of them. Her dad suffered from dementia and died two years ago from pneumonia, and since then she has watched her mother slip further and further away into the disease. It was a difficult reality for Arden to grasp as her mother’s new dance with reality and basic functions like getting dressed in the morning or using the stove has become more erratic. 

“I was in denial, I was so afraid of what it was,” she said, adding she let her anger show far more than she wanted it to show and her frustrations bubbled over in dealing with her mother. “I just thought it would go away, I was in utter terror.” 

She eventually brought in someone to assist her with her mother and while that help has allowed her to continue on with her music career, she recognizes she would not be able to handle her mother now if her career was on permanent hold. 

One of the big turns in helping Arden handle her changing relationship with her mother was when she realized she needed to stop arguing with her mother over her misremembering events or coming up with things that have no basis for them. 

“Just go where she goes,” she said. “It took me five years to learn that. My life changed so much that day.” 

Arden says her mother’s trademark sense of humour is still clever and quite witty. Her goal is to make the most of their time together while still learning the many lessons her mother has to teach her. 

There is also a need to learn to let herself off the hook. 

“I can’t bring her memories back … I can go along with her on the ride,” said Arden. “Your instinct is to save her, but I can’t save her.” 

It was a message that organizers say is extremely important for their staff to hear. 

“It’s very important,” said Bethany Group coordinator Chantal Beesly. “They have to deal with the behaviour … the anger comes out and they just have to deal with it. They are amazing, they are our frontline.” 

Bethany Group director of housing and community services Carla Beck added: “You can get buried in that if you don’t have some sense of hope and be able to look for the humour in your day and enjoy the person for who they are.” 

They also brought in Dan Levitt, an international speaker who is experienced in seniors’ care and is a health care consultant. He is the executive director at Tabor Village in B.C., and he discussed how technology is changing the way they approach seniors care and improving their quality of life. 

Bethany said these are principles and ideas they will be able to bring into their practice. 

“I think it will be a gradual move forward,” said Beck. “The facts of health care that we’re within a certain frame work, to be able to engage in those kinds of changes and think outside the box means that we have to engage systems.” 

The conference attracted 430 people from Bethany and the public for the one-day conference and was one way the company is trying to give back to the community, their employees and others in the field. 

The goal of the conference was to inspire them and give them hope. 

“The speakers today have been speaking to us about topics that are real and challenge us, but I also think give us hope,” said Beck. 


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