Posted by: wrcseniorservices | October 22, 2012

Cherish the Moments

I steeled myself as I walked up the hallway at McKinley Health Center at Laurelbrooke Landing toward my grandma’s room. She had been living there for about a year and was in the advanced stages of vascular dementia. She didn’t know me as her granddaughter anymore, but still recognized me as someone she cared about as her eyes lit up with a smile. She would still hug me, hold my hand and listen while I talked to her even though she was rarely able to respond. When I would leave, even if she had said nothing else during our visit, she would still manage to say, “I love you too” as she patted my cheeks with both hands. It was the little things like that I held onto.

Alzheimer’s Disease and other types of dementia are heartbreaking. It’s awful to watch your loved one  slip away. You have to find joy in those little moments, cling to your own memories of them, laugh and mourn. At WRC Senior Services, we daily care for many individuals with memory loss. We know too well how hard it is on the caregiver. That is why we try to regularly offer resources to help. Since November is National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month, I thought this would be a good time to share some of those in a blog.

This Thursday, October 25, we will be holding a free educational program at Edgewood Heights personal care home in New Bethlehem from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. called “Tips for the Caregiver: Coping with Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia.” We still have room for some more folks to join us.

November 13 is National Memory Screening Day, and we will again be offering free memory screenings at our four personal care homes. You may wonder why get a memory screening when there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia? Well, there are some causes of memory loss that are easily treatable, such as medication side effects, vitamin deficiencies, underactive or overactive thyroid, depression or anxiety, infections and poor sleep.

If the diagnosis is indeed Alzheimer’s Disease, starting treatment early can improve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. It also gives you more time to plan for the future, develop support networks and get involved in clinical trials. For vascular dementia like my grandma had, the disease can be slowed or even halted if the underlying factors contributing to brain damage are treated, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or blood vessel blockages. So we hope you will take this opportunity for a free, confidential screening.

A great resource for caregivers and their loved ones is the Alzheimer’s Association. They have an entire section of their website devoted to information about the disease, stages and behaviors, practical tips for providing care and coping, information about care options, guides for financial and legal planning, an online community for support, blogs and links to local resources. Another great link to local programs and services is your Area Agency on Aging.

As a caregiver, you need a support line or many! There is a dementia support group that meets the second Monday of the month at 6:3o p.m. at the Brookville Hospital Education Center. There is a caregiver support group that meets the second Sunday of each month at 3 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church, 600 Wood Street in Clarion.

You may find DayBreak at Laurelbrooke Landing very beneficial. Caregivers can bring their loved ones there while they are at work or for a break in caregiving. Attendees benefit from the safe environment, daily activities, wellness screenings, socialization opportunities  and nutritional meals.

For additional resources, visit our website or contact any WRC location. My grandma lived well with her disease for a number of years. In the beginning her memory loss was  hardly noticeable. For years, she continued to drive, cook her wonderful memorized recipes, serve her church, travel and spend time with her family and friends.  I cherish all that time. In the end, I cherished the little moments of clarity and the comfort I could bring her just by holding her hand. When we said goodbye, although I cried and mourned, I was happy for her. Because she was herself again and whole. So cherish the moments and don’t walk this tough path alone.

– Dawn Wise
Director of Marketing and Communications
WRC Senior Services
dwise@wrc.org

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