Growing up in Wikwemikong Unceded Territory Sharlene Webkamigad saw first hand the limitations to proper health care and health knowledge in her community. Since becoming a nurse, Sharlene has worked closely with her community to develop health promotional material in areas including mental health, chronic disease, diabetes, breast and prostate cancer.
Sharlene understands the great importance of the Elders in her community. She feels passing down their knowledge, wisdom and stories is crucial to the sustainability of her culture. She explains, “Our Elders carry special gifts that are waiting to be opened. They are there to share their stories, to teach their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren about ways of life. Without their memories we cannot carry on their legacies. Their memory can be strengthened through continuous sharing of stories, humor and laughter.” She encourages the youth of her community to visit their Elders on a regular basis to help reduce the growing number of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias and to improve their quality of life.
Sharlene’s passion for Elder health care is what motivates her in her final year of her Masters degree in Interdisciplinary Health at Laurentian University, where she is working on projects to help improve communication with Indigenous people about dementia. Sharlene’s main goal is to communicate with Indigenous communities in a way that is right for them. She works directly with members of her community both on and off the reserve to help determine best practices for informing Elders about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in a way that is relevant to the Indigenous people.
Sharlene understands caring for the aging population in Aboriginal communities is extremely complex and the number of older adults diagnosed with chronic diseases is on the rise. “I am committed to improving the experiences Aboriginal people and their families have in dealing with a dementia diagnosis and helping to make sure they have access to appropriate educational materials to support them,” she says.
As a recipient of the CNF Research Trainee Grant, Sharlene has been supported by the CNF and its donors in her amazing journey. Sharlene traveled to Thailand in 2015 to present one of her papers at the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics conference; she has also received other awards and grants for her research. Over the last 13 years in health care, this talented nurse has been able to grow and further her own knowledge in various aspects of nursing. She is determined to bring this knowledge back to her community and continue to increase awareness and the health of Indigenous people.