Fayette County Home & Community Education held a free Alzheimer’s awareness program for the public on Saturday at Northside Christian Church in Vandalia.
The organization elected to hold the program, as November is Alzheimer Awarenes Month, and because more and more people are touched by the disease – be it in their family, friends or co-workers – in many cases, they become caregivers of the patient.
Wanting to have a hands-on informational program, HCE scheduled professionals who have direct contact with both the patents and the caregivers to speak at the program: Lyn Gartke, LCPC, program director of Center for Senior Renewal in Vandalia, and Mary Ann Turner Price, a registered nurse at Lutheran Care in Altamont.
The program also offered free memory screening, informative literature, purple ribbon pins and refreshments following the program.
Lyn Gartke …
… opened the program with an introduction and history about Alzheimer’s and continued on to answer the questions: what happens to the different areas of the brain (frontal, temporal, hippocampus, parietal, occipital and amygdale); the functions of each area; the effects of Alzheimer’s on those functions; and what to do to help the patient and prevent frustration.
She gave 10 signs of Alzheimer’s, and the effects and behavior changes as it progresses through the three stages – mild, moderate, and severe.
Gartke advice on how to prevent dementia – through diet, and daily mental and physical exercise, as well as relaxing to relieve stress.
Some mental exercises she suggested include learning something new every day; reading; working crossword puzzles; playing video, board or card games; learning to play a musical instrument; practicing remembering numbers; and many more activities for the brain.
Physical activities she suggested include gardening, dance, coordinating with your partner and remembering dance steps. Anything you have to think about builds new brain cells.
And for mental and physical health’s sake: undisturbed 6-8 hours of sleep a night; and avoiding arguing, yelling or being stressed out.
Control your medical ailments:
• Elevated blood pressure – controlling the top number can reduce risk of dementia by 50 percent.
• Control diabetes and cholesterol.
• Quit smoking – studies show increases in dementia in middle-aged people who smoke.
Nourish your spirit – that, too, is important to mental and physical health.
Caregiver Guidelines …
… were also given by Gartke, as she said that learning that a loved one can overwhelming, stressful and frightening,
Ask your doctor any questions you have about Alzheimer’s, any behavior problems and other effects and symptoms; ask for help in understanding the disease and information by contacting organizations (Alzheimer’s Association and Alzheimer Disease Education; join a support group to share questions and feelings or, if one is not available, easily accessible or convenient, check online; develop a schedule that could possibly be compatible with the patient’s “better times of the day.” The person’s functions, awareness and confusion may change and be a challenge, so be flexible, cope and adapt.
Remember that you, as a caregiver, need respite times of help from someone else.
Gartke continued on through several tips, including daily activities, such as eating, dressing, bathing and eating; recognizing signs of anxiety, depression, and signs and words indicating suicidal thoughts; up to and including the often inevitable decision to be made – choosing a nursing home.
Mary Ann Turner Price…
… known simply as “Annie Turner” to her friends, is a registered nurse at Lutheran Care Center in Altamont and is a professional caregiver for Alzheimer’s residents.
She gave many tips and guidelines for the caregiver and family, in coping and dealing with delusional behavior, confusion erratic and odd behavior, not normal for the patient.
She also suggested that conversation should be such that the confused person will feel included and related to it.
As an example, when a person in the audience, who resides in a nursing home, told the speaker of a woman entering her room, looking for her husband, Turner Price suggested that he be told, “I haven’t seen him, but if I do, I’ll tell him you are looking for him.”
She also suggested that if the person is doing something such as just shredding paper, let them do it. She offered many other tips on activities for the Alzheimer’ patient, activities to help them be at peace, even though confused; and helping them alleviate their possible frustration, confusion and challenging mood changes, anxiety, anger, frustration, hallucinating, delusional behavior, etc.
Refreshments of cookies and beverages were offered following the program.