On the morning of March 9th I attended a benefit breakfast for the Alzheimer’s Association. The guest speakers were a couple by the name of Joel and Nancy Johnson. Nancy told her story of hope and how she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 52 years old. Not only was her story heartbreaking, but it was also inspiring. For her to stand before a large crowd at the Tacoma Hotel Murano describing to the group about the day her neurologist told her she had early onset Alzheimer’s disease was in my heart and mind such a heroic thing to do. As she began to cry, we all cried with her. It isn’t only an “old person’s” disease she told us; it effects people of all ages.
Most of my work of late seems to be with families who are dealing with loved ones with memory loss issues. Most are elderly, but some are young, far too young to be dealing with this horrific disease. Not that being older makes any difference, it robs people young and old. It robbed my mother and I’m certain that those that are reading this article have either been touched by this disease or know someone who is suffering right now, someone who is being robbed of their life too.
This last month I worked with a family who’s loved one has been stricken with Alzheimer’s and needed immediate placement. A family who didn’t know the heartache they’d be dealing with while trying to find the appropriate place, a family who was most unfortunate in not having everything in place when this day arrived(which was a subject I addressed in my last article). Not only do I consult with families to help them find the proper home for their loved ones, but I also listen and try to help guide them in their decision process. I can honestly tell them how I feel their pain, that I’ve been there, that I too saw that blank stare in my own mother’s eyes.
My suggestion to families is not to wait. Once you see the signs or receive a diagnosis, begin searching. Ask questions, look at options and be prepared. Full time caregiving is not work that a family can often do by themselves. Even though people feel they should provide the care themselves, it can be detrimental to the person they are caring for. The person suffering from the disease needs to be with people like themselves and they still want to socialize. By keeping them in their home we don’t realize we are actually isolating them, maybe in a sense hiding them from the real world due to our own feelings and not theirs. I know there were many times it was much easier not to take my mother out. Maybe I could run her errands for her, get her groceries and do her banking. What I began to realize was that I was hiding her from the world out of my own embarrassment of how she now acted. I’d cringe when she’d ask strangers if she knew them, want to hug people. She would wander the grocery store, up and down the aisles no longer looking at groceries to buy but faces she might recognize, people she could talk to.
Once we made the decisions to move her, life was easier for all of us, but most importantly it was easier for my mother. Once a person moves to a memory care community they too have less stress. They don’t feel the need to “fake it” anymore. They can be who they’ve become. It’s okay to be confused, it’s fine to walk around all night and they meet new friends, every day!
It’s the only cause of death in the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed. Almost two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women. One in three seniors dies with Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease. These are all statistics I borrowed from the Alzheimer National Association website, all staggering and alarming statistics.
Alzheimer’s Disease is an Epidemic. Please support the organization when you can, but most importantly support the caregivers- your family member, friend or neighbor and of course the one who may be afflicted with this horrible disease. Print a Purple Card, http://dementiaassistancecard.c-om/ and when you aren’t able to explain what you may think needs an explanation, hand them a card. I wish I’d had a card for my mother. Lastly, don’t wait! Search out options and communities before it’s too late. Eldercare Consultant’s like myself are aware of the finest places and can help answer your questions.
Author: Jill Bellis, Graham & Graham Eldercare Consultants LLC
Providing Guidance and Care Options for Families