A new website is aiming to share Indigenous teachings about dementia and also help those living with it and their caregivers connect with local resources.
The website is called Anishinaabek Dementia Care. Michael-Ann MacLean with Noojmowin Teg Health Centre on Manitoulin Island says the Indigenous understanding of dementia is considered a normal part of aging.
“The understanding of our life is in the form of a circle,” she explained.
“It’s part of the medicine wheel. It’s coming full circle because when we start our life, we’re a baby, then a child, and then grow up into an adult and then an elder so we come full circle.”
MacLean says when someone develops dementia, it’s like “they’re going backwards on that circle.”
“It’s like they’re going back through time, through their memories, their past,” she said.
“It’s almost like they’re going back to being a child. They’re going back to the spirit world.”
MacLean says the site aims to help connect people with services for both people living with dementia and their caregivers.
“We are listening to our elders. We are listening to our community members,” she said. “We’re trying to do the work that we can to support everyone.”
She says many people aren’t aware of the services that are available to them.
“We have our health centres, we have our health providers, we have our traditional healers, we have our traditional helpers, and so on and so forth,” she said
“So we have a vast resource of knowledgeable people and people that care, and to help elders within that transition in life.”
The website is a collaboration between Health Sciences North Research Institute and various Indigenous health care organizations in the area.
One of those organizations is the Maamwesying North Shore Community Health Services.
That’s home base for research project assistant Jeanette McLeod and research and development co-ordinator Joanna Vautour.
They told CBC News the project was a meaningful opportunity “to learn from the Elders and caregivers about caring for a loved one living with dementia.
They said the Anishinaabek Dementia website is a starting point for families to learn about dementia from Indigenous-specific resources and they find it particularly meaningful that Anishinaabemowin language was incorporated.
“We would like to acknowledge the Elders that have guided the naming of the website — Zaagidwinaa Miinwaa Gdoshkodeminaa Kaa Mkwendaanaa — which translates to ‘Our Love, Our Fire, We Will Remember’.”