Linda Fontaine is the Public Education/First Link Coordinator with the Sudbury-Manitoulin Alzheimer Society.  She was the special guest on Inside Education on February 11, 2008 .

Linda provided listeners with some very important background information about Alzheimer Disease and gave us a good explanation of the typical symptoms that are exhibited by people in various stages of this disease. She explained that alzheimer’s disease is something that attacks the brain in such a way that people tend to lose control over their ability to control their emotions and also to recall information. Many of the people with Alzheimer’s disease act in ways that are completely out of context to their situation and often feel as if they are living in a different time than the one of which they are currently part.

Alzheimer’s is part of a larger disease known as dementia, of which there are about 180 different forms, however, alzheimer’s constitutes approximately 60% of all dementia cases.

Linda pointed out that normal forgetfulness affects all ages, but with dementia and alzheimer’s the brain actually shrinks in size and destroys cells. The damage done by Alzheimer’s is irreversible.

Linda explained that while a person with Alzheimer's may not be able to do the things he/she used to do, it is not the end of the world. The key people in the person’s life just have to be more patient, especially when it comes to communication.  When around people with alzheimer’s you must take things one at a time, and be more deliberate. You must be prepared for emotional outbursts and avoid arguing, among everything remembering that you can’t take anything personally. Being with a person suffering from alzheimer’s is very much like being with a young child. Attention span is short and behaviour is often triggered by something that was not intended to generate such a result. There is usually always a reason for the behaviour, but it is not always easy to understand.

Linda has been in a public relations type of career for many years. She stated that she loves the job she is in now because it allows her to really make a difference in the lives of the people she meets.

She advises that a young person interested in a public relations career must be aware of a number of things:

1.       You must develop a wide and effective network in the community and be constantly expanding that network. The more acquaintances you have the better.

2.       You must be willing to constantly learn about your company or organization. When dealing with the public they must have confidence in your knowledge about your subject.

3.       This is not a 9 to 5 job. You must be flexible and be willing to work in the evenings and on weekends if necessary.

4.       You must like being around people.

5.       You should get into something that you really care about and that you have a strong passion about.

6.       You must be extremely organized and be an excellent time manager.

7.       You must be willing to accept the fact that you are always in the public eye. Your image is your most important asset, so you cannot do anything that may damage your reputation or tarnish that image.

Linda agreed that the most successful public relation professionals are often the ones who have been around the longest. They are the ones who have established a strong network in the community and know which doors will open new opportunities. This is a career that you can only learn so much from books. You learn most of your skills through practice and experience. The nice thing about this career is that you can do it for the rest of your life and you can get involved in a number of different sectors of society.  


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