Alzheimer’s Conference helps caregivers and patientsBy By Alyssa Judd
Published: December 5, 2012
|Photo by Alyssa Judd/Carolina Peacemaker
Attorney A. Frank Johns encourages the audience to protect family assets.
More than five million Americans live with Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.2 million individuals with this type of dementia are the age of 65 and older. Approximately 200,000 Alzheimer’s patients are under the age of 65. Health statistics also indicate that in the United States, older African Americans are about twice as likely to have this neurological condition.
Alzheimer’s creates changes in a person’s brain cells. The alteration results in impaired memory and thinking and difficulty with the ability to reason. The condition is the most common form of dementia and progresses over time.
On Saturday, December 1, North Carolina A&T State University hosted its 4th Annual Alzheimer’s Disease Caregivers Conference. People from Greensboro and surrounding areas attended the conference to learn how to improve their care and management skills, acquire helpful resources and gain support
from others trained in assessing and working with people diagnosed with the condition.
The conference offered individuals a few tips to help balance care giving, family and work. Gerontologist and founder of Elder Care Buddy, Patricia Fletcher, formatted some Alzheimer’s care giving tips from her personal experience as the only child caring for her 85 year-old legally blind mother
who has Alzheimer’s.
“Everyone forgets things, but when it gets dramatic and starts increasing (it’s a sign)”, said Fletcher. She offered another method to recognize Alzheimer’s. She said if a person begins to overlook the function of particular items such as, placing house keys in the refrigerator or closet, steps to care for that person for the long term should be taken.
During her presentation, Fletcher suggested that family members hold meetings to determine which individuals will be responsible for the sick family member’s health care, legal issues and other essential matters. She also explained that being organized is a key element in reducing stress. Fletcher
told caregivers that there is a limit to how much stress a caregiver can withstand before a breakdown. A stressed, tired caregiver does not benefit the patient. Fletcher also recommended that people with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s or any other type of dementia, utilize their community resources to help with a few duties. It is important that caregivers find volunteer support such as meal and transportation services if needed.
Fletcher strongly advised caregivers to talk with their employers. She said some employers offer provisions for elder care or employee assistance programs. If companies do not offer those services, she suggested that caregivers ask their employers, when possible, to add on such services.
“If they don’t (offer the program) they may make a referral to someone who handles that program,” shared Fletcher.
Greensboro attorney Frank Johns with Booth, Harrington and Johns of North Carolina provided conference attendees with a bounty of information. Johns encouraged individuals to plan ahead. He discussed estates and advance directives with the audience. Advanced directives are legal documents with detailed instructions to follow in case of an emergency or end-of-life situation. Johns also mentioned four essentials that should be established. They included the financial power of attorney, the health care power of attorney, a living will and whether a person requests to be resuscitated.
Scott Herrick, program manager for Alzheimer’s Association in Greensboro, focused his presentation on public policy and advocacy on behalf of patients with Alzheimer’s. He encouraged caregivers to apply for grants designated to help alleviate the cost of caring for people with the condition. An important piece of advice offered to caregivers included preventive measures needed when an Alzheimer’s patient is admitted into a hospital. Herrick told caregivers to check if the hospital staff has training with dementia patients and to make sure the staff is aware of any difficulties the patient may possess. He also encouraged caregivers and relatives to join the Alzheimer’s Association in an effort to help change public policies. The Alzheimer’s Association also encourages political leaders to provide more investment and funding for research on the neurological condition. Such research would help with prevention and care initiatives.
“Advocacy (for Alzheimer’s) starts with recognition [knowledge and understanding of the condition],” said Herrick. He described an advocate as someone with a voice to say ‘I care about this disease, how it affects families and how the issue affects healthcare.’
Representatives from several agencies such as Davidson Financial Group, Hearthside Home Care, Inc, and Ameri-Ramp Installers were available to discuss issues such as finances, health care issues, assisted living and transportation provisions for seniors.
For more information about Alzheimer’s visit www.alz.org