Help available for Alzheimer's Caregivers

lgierer@ledger-enquirer.comOctober 14, 2013 

People living with Alzheimer's disease want to stay independent and at home as long as possible.

And according to Haleigh Tapscott, the office manager for Home Instead Senior Care, it is good for them to do so.

"Studies have shown that people with Alzheimer's who stay in a comfortable, familiar environment thrive," said Tapscott.

It is not always so good for the family caregivers, according to David Marlowe, the director of programs for Columbus Alzheimer's Association.

"About 70 percent of those with Alzheimer's are at home with family taking care of them," Marlowe said, "and it can be very stressful for the caregivers," That is why the association has "Caregiver Timeout," a respite reimbursement program.

"That way, family members can afford to get a needed break from their duties. They can do what they need to do and rest," he said.

He said that locally there are places, such as the St. Luke United Methodist Church Respite Care Ministry, which provide short-term care.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, there are about 20,000 people suffering from the disease in the Chattahoochee Valley and more than five million nationwide. Home Instead Senior Care provides caregivers.

"Sometimes, family members can't be there," Tapscott said. "They have to juggle other responsibilities. We can provide help 24 hours a day, seven days per week."

While some seniors only need minor assistance in the beginning, the needs continue to grow.

The number of people needing assistance will grow, too.

"The population is aging so the numbers of Alzheimer's patients will as well," Tapscott said.

Marlowe said that unfortunately, sometimes, family members want nothing to do with the person who has Alzheimer's.

Her company, now in its third year in Columbus, employs 40 trained caregivers.

"Different families have different needs," Tapscott said.

You don't have to be a client to receive free help from Home Instead. A "Confidence to Care At-Home Kit" is available from the business, and there is a new smartphone app, "Alzheimer's and Other Dementias Daily Helper," filled with 500 tips to help families manage issues as they arise. Anyone interested in either can call 706-987-8600 or visit HomeInstead.com/columbusga. The app is being done in conjunction with the Alzheimer's Association.

Helpful information may also be found at the Alzheimer's Association website, www.alz.org.

Tapscott said there are a lot of strong emotions for both the person with Alzheimer's and the family members.

"There is sadness, frustration and anger," she said. "Most of all there is fear of the unknown."

People need to be aware of the signs of Alzheimer.

These include memory loss that disrupts daily life, challenges in planning or solving problems, difficulty in completing familiar tasks, confusion with time or place, trouble understanding visual images, new problems with words in speaking or writing, misplacing things, losing the ability to retrace steps, withdrawal from work or social activities and changes in mood or personality. Tapscott said the biggest fear of family members is of the loved one wandering off.

Marlowe said that is why a "Safe Return" program, a 24-hour nationwide emergency response service for individuals with Alzheimer's, was created. It is a partnership between the Alzheimer's Association and MedicAlert.

Tapscott said a reduction of clutter and making food easily accessible is a must for an Alzheimer's patient staying at home.

She said light-colored rooms are good for Alzheimer's patients. "You don't want bright, bold colors that stimulate the brain too much," she said.

Making it easier for someone to dress by laying out articles of clothing arranged in the order that they are meant to be put on helps. According to the Home Instead guide, families must allow the seniors to do as much as they can but don't expect them to do what they can't. Tapscott said some Alzheimer's patients will quit regular bathing. Creating a spa-like atmosphere at bath time with favorite soaps and lotions can help create a pleasing experience.

The Home Instead guide says caregivers, whether family or professional, need to make fun and happiness the endeavor.

In the guide, Dr. Jane Potter of the University of Nebraska Medical Center says, "Laughter is great and use plenty of it to stay engaged with a senior loved one."

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