Seminar offers tips for Alzheimer’s caregivers

Jeff Davis Council on Aging provides information on resources of assistance

JENNINGS — Ken Daniel, 80, of Welsh celebrated his 60th wedding anniversary Thursday by learning how to care for his wife who suffers from Alzheimer’s.

“I am her primary caregiver and it makes you feel tired a lot of the time,” Daniel said. “I can still get out in the yard to do a few things, but most of the time I have to be close.”

“Sometimes she knows who I am, but other times she asks me if we’re married and she forgets about the kids and grandkids or she asks why we haven’t ate when we just had a big meal 45 minutes ago,” he continued. “It’s just hard to see her like that but we have our good days and our bad.

Daniel left his wife at the beauty shop to get her hair done while he attended an Alzheimer’s caregivers support group meeting at the Jeff Davis Council on Aging in Jennings.

“I need to learn more about where to get some help and what is available,” Daniel said.

He and his children have been dealing with the challenges of Alzheimer’s since his wife, a former school teacher, was diagnosed with the disease two years ago.

“I noticed the changes, but at first I thought we all get forgetful as we get older,” Daniel said.

His wife has loss interest in reading and television and now spends most of her days coloring.

“We find a lot of people are taking care of their husbands, wives, or other family members who have Alzheimer’s or dementia and they are looking for direction not knowing how to handle it or what resources are out there,” Jeff Davis Parish Council on Aging activity director Kim Benoit.

To help, the Council on Aging has been offering a series of educational programs to help caregivers understand and handle the challenges of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“It’s worth it if we can help just one family cope with it,” Benoit said.

Mitch Pellerin, account executive for Louisiana Hospice and Palliative Care, said it is important to cherish the memories shared with loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“Cherish those memories you do have because there will be other times when that person doesn’t know you, but know they are still your loved ones, they are just not showing it,” Pellerin said.

People with Alzheimer’s and dementia suffer short-term memory loss, he said.

“They can remember what they did 30 or 40 years ago, but not what they did yesterday and that’s hard for loved ones because they feel like they are losing them,” Pellerin said. “As a caretaker, it’s very hard.It can take its toll.”

“Dementia and Alzheimer’s is absolutely the worse diagnosis any family member has to go through with a loved one,” said Cyndi Green, regional marketing director for Compass Health. “Many times they become someone you don’t even recognize. You can have the meekest person and they become somebody completely different.”

It is also hard for caregivers to handle the frustration, agitation and anxiety many with Alzheimer’s and dementia exhibit.

“Most patients become very anxious and frustrated and that is frustrating for caregivers as well,” Green said.

Green said services are available locally including inpatient and outpatient programs which provide therapy to patients.

“There are different therapies available,” she said. “One does music because music has been found to be very smoothing and triggers memories. For others, maybe it’s simply recalling things or working with puzzles.”

Carlissa Tujague, patient care representative for Jeff Davis MD HomeCare, said more interaction and physical activity may help those with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

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