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A one-woman campaign is ongoing on island to bring more attention to Alzheimer’s disease.
That woman is Regina Posvar – a qualified nurse from Los Angeles, California. She started her mission here in 2013, with a business called Angels of the West Indies after she relocated from the U.S.
Posvar was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, where she began her nursing career, specialising in Psychiatric Behaviour and Mental Health. In 2000, she and her family moved to the State of Oregon, where she grew more focused on the elderly population in the area of Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses.
Her passion ranges from family care-giving, professional care-giving and education on modern versus holistic views of preventive treatments.
Her husband, Randy moved to Saint Lucia to work in the tourism industry in 2011, while she remained in Oregon to complete her contract as director of a Memory Care Unit, where she was integral in development of a 21-bed facility. After joining her husband later on island, she started speaking to people about her passion for working with Alzheimer’s/dementia patients, and the rest was history.
Posvar has identified the need to provide Alzheimer’s awareness and training to caregivers and families. She is currently providing care for a few individuals on the island since her arrival here last August. She is hoping to get the message out about what she does and has to offer.
“This is a bigger project than just I alone can do. I am looking for individuals who would be interested in partnering [with me]. I will do this, but by myself it will take longer,” she told St. Lucia News Online (SNO).
Monthly workshops and individual assessments/evaluation conducted monthly by her are voluntary.
“Right now I hold a support group where I present a short presentation with different topics that relate to what families are going through, and offer some tips. Feedback from these groups helps me to put together the programmes of interest. I have heard the growing concerns for the preventive information so I have agreed to put that programme together. In the meantime, I will continue with the support groups for the families that need support now,” she explained.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.
Dementia is a general term or umbrella for many neuro-degenerative diseases that interferes with daily life. Such things as, personality, ability to think, reason, communicate, speech, and process information, as well as ability to swallow and feed self, and walk.
“There are so many people who are not aware about caring for patients with dementia,” Posvar noted with passion in an exclusive interview.
“The families working as caregivers become so stressed out to the point of getting sick themselves. What I try to do here is to communicate to people that they are not alone, that I can help them. I would also like to teach the nursing and medical facilities about Alzheimer’s and how to manage patient’s behaviour. This is the part that I specialise in, so once they have reached the diagnosis, I want to promote positive approaches to their care.”
“What I do is provide support groups for the families, every month I do a little education piece on what’s going on with their loved ones and give them some tips on how to manage, and let them share their stories to help other families, who don’t know how to cope,” she explained.
It is estimated there are over 15 million people living with Alzheimer’s in the world currently and an estimated eight million living with Alzheimer’s; yet to be diagnosed. The average age people normally suffer from Alzheimer’s is 65 years, but more cases are arising between the 30’s and 50’s age group.
Posvar said although she is a Licensed Practicing Nurse (LPN) and Registered Nurses Assistant (RNA), only her RNA is recognised in Saint Lucia. Therefore, she feels her services are best used by teaching the families and caregivers the skills needed in treating and dealing with Alzheimer’s patients.
“Most facilities which house the patients tend to give them high doses of medication which is not necessary if they knew how to manage the patients … There are medications for memory that work 50 percent of the time in early stages of Alzheimer’s with risks for awful side effects. I have personally seen these medications give some people a better quality of life, and have witnessed no results at all. What I recommend is if you chose this method, know the side effects, and weigh the pros and cons.
Notwithstanding, Posvar indicated the holistic approach for treatment of a large number of people is a drawn out process, adding that, “I am still learning this area… early detection is your saving grace.”
So apart from wanting to teach and have a support group going, just why does Regina feel the need to help patients and families with dementia? “Simply because I want to give back to the community as part of the circle of life,” she said.
“This may not be where I was born or grew up, but people from different parts of the world have at one time or another been kind to me, and I have never repaid them. This is my way of doing so … without education, the rise of this disease is rapid. The impact on individuals and families is frightening,” she stated.
A workshop is carded for Saturday, March 8 at the Auberge Seraphine from 4 to 6 p.m. for free.
Posvar can be contacted at telephone number: 758-486-4506 or email: [email protected]