orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Lifestyle

May 21, 2014

Alzheimer’s Association hosts seminar for caregivers

ORANGE — Imagine losing the ability to know if one is hungry or how to express feeling pain. Now imagine confusing hunger for pain.

Or watching a loved one forget how to swallow or how to breath.

Jerry Ehrman, caregiver for  wife, Nancy, said dementia is named by where it starts.

Nancy, who passed away shortly before the couple’s 48th wedding anniversary, suffered from Frontal Temporal Dementia, which affects communication and behavior.

“The worse part is the loss of the person,” Ehrman said. “The body remains but the person leaves.”

Ehrman, who spent the first two years of his retirement as a full time caregiver to his wife, said that with any form of dementia it is difficult to watch a loved one deteriorate.

“You get to a point where instead of watching a child develop and grow, you start watching a person undevelope,” Ehrman said. “They forget how to swallow or even breath, that is hard.”

Ehrman said the most important advice he can give to a caregiver is to take care of the caregiver.

“If they don’t take care of themselves, they can go quicker than the person they are caring for,” Ehrman said. “It is important to have a support network, and take some time off. It is difficult because we are trained to take care of family. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Ehrman did ask for help on occasion for an hour for church or to go to the grocery store.

“There were many people willing to spend time with Nancy so I could take a break,” Ehrman said. “I tried not to ask too often.”

An estimated 5 million Americans age 65 and over experience that confusion daily with Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually even the ability to carry out the simplest tasks of daily living. In most people with Alzheimer’s, symptoms first appear after age 60. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia among older people according to the National Institute on Aging.

Those with the disease are not the only ones suffering. Caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s can find the demands challenging as one watches a loved one change, sometimes, daily, before one’s eyes.

The Houston and Southeast Texas Chapter of Alzheimer’s Association is hosting a caregiver seminar 10 a.m. - 12 p.m. Tuesday, May 27 at First United Methodists Church Malloy Conference Center, 502 North 6th Street in Orange, to help caregivers understand what to expect as the disease progresses.

“Caregivers are already working 24 hours a day caring for their loved one,” Alzheimer’s Association Regional Outreach Coordinator Clarissa Urban said. “We want to empower the caregiver with what is expected now, what is not and what to expect as the disease progresses .”

Urban said one of the most common signs is short term memory loss.

“The family will spend the day at the zoo and at dinner time they will not recall the event,” Urban said. “They will ask for the same information over and over while relying on reminder aids such as notes.”

The seminar is $10 which includes lunch.

To register or more information contact Clarissa Urban at 409-833-1613 or curban@alz.org

Alzheimer’s Association support group meets 10 a.m. the second Wednesday and 6:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month at St. Francis of Assisi, Canticle Building, 4300 Meeks Drive in Orange.

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