For those dealing with a parent or loved one who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, there is a new group that can offer help and understanding from others going through the same issues.
The group was formed in cooperation between Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care and Ridgecrest Retirement Community. The group meets at Ridgecrest the second Tuesday of each month at 2 p.m.
During the group’s most recent meeting, Scott Herrick, a program associate with the Western Carolina Chapter of Alzheimer’s Association, was the guest speaker. Herrick said he became an advocate for Alzheimer’s after his father developed dementia.
He said Alzheimer’s and dementia research is one of least funded causes. He said at least 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s or dementia and as many as 50 percent have gone undiagnosed. He said that Alzheimer’s has now taken the place of Aids as far as being the “stigma” disease.
“Doctors don’t want to say the ‘A’ word,” said Herrick, who said there is no true way to diagnose Alzheimer’s until the patient is deceased.
“It’s important to share your experiences. It’s good to keep interactive. It’s a good way to get involved in the group,” said Herrick. “Being a part of a group like this lets you know that you are not alone.”
He said that it’s important to know that Alzheimer’s doesn’t just effect the patient, but the entire family. He said it’s important for families dealing with Alzheimer’s patients to become educated about the disease and how they can better deal with the effected person.
He said one of the most important things to remember is that Alzheimer’s is a brain deteriorating disease. He said often times, a patient will go back to memories from their past. He said it’s important not to correct them when they do this, but instead to “meet them right where they are.” He said if they think it’s May of 1987 when it’s really June of 2011, just go with it. He said they won’t remember the difference later and correcting the patient can be upsetting.
Herrick said his father passed away just over a month ago on May 4. He said hospice was such a blessing to him and his family over the course of his father’s illness.
Herrick said one way he would deal with his father was to stop saying goodbye because that was upsetting to his father. Instead he would just kiss him on the head and walk away.
Herrick stressed that it is important for caregivers to take care of themselves. He said many times caregivers struggle with depression, anxiety about what the future holds, exhaustion, sleeplessness and irritability. He said it is important for caregivers to take care of themselves and to stay healthy.
One lady in the room expressed her sadness over having to put her mother in a nursing facility because the family was no longer able to take care of her. She said she was just consumed with guilt, because she shouldn’t have to do that to someone who took care of her whole life.
Herrick reassured her that she was doing the right thing by placing her mother in a home where she can get the constant care that she needs.
“This is why a support group is so beneficial. It’s so important that we help each other,” said Herrick.
Allison Hemrick, Bereavement counselor for Mountain Valley Hospice, also shared some tips with the group on how to deal with Alzheimer’s patients.
She said those dealing with Alzheimer’s patients should know that there will be good days and there will be bad days. She said it’s better to direct a patient on what to do, and not to order them. She said in many cases the patient won’t remember if they have or have not done something like eat or bathe.
“Keep things as simple as possible. What works one day, may not work another day,” said Hemrick.
Hemrick also suggested caregivers use the sense of touch to soothe someone with Alzheimer’s. She said something as simple as stroking their hand can give a patient so much comfort.
In closing, Herrick told the crowd to just be happy for what they have with their family members right now.
Anyone interested in attending the meetings is welcome. For more information, call Allison Hemrick at Mountain Valley Hospice at 789-2922.
Herrick encouraged the crowd to call the 24-hour Alzheimer’s helpline at 1-800-272-3900 if they needed assistance at any time.
Contact Mondee Tilley at email@example.com or at 719-1930.