08/10/06 — Conference will explore caring for parents with Alzheimer's

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Conference will explore caring for parents with Alzheimer's

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 10, 2006 1:45 PM

Faye Davis of Fremont is typical of many in the "sandwich generation."

She works a full-time job, has children of her own and since her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a year ago, also cares for her parents.

"We're fortunate in that dad is still in the early stages, but it has been a big impact," she said.

Her mother is the primary caregiver, but all three children live close by and help where possible. Mrs. Davis and her sister are both registered nurses; her brother works on the farm with their father.

"Being the oldest and being medical, we go to a lot of doctors' appointments and ask a lot of questions and help figure things out," Mrs. Davis said.

When her 68-year-old father was first diagnosed, it was not a complete surprise to the family, she said.

"We knew that something was different. We were not shocked but still it was a very difficult diagnosis to handle," she said.

The biggest change in dealing with Alzheimer's, especially in the early stages, is in family dynamics, she said.

In their case, she explained, it was "because Dad's not the head of the family household any more."

With the adjustment for family members also comes emotional changes. For Mrs. Davis' relatives, though, they had several things going for them.

"I think it's been easier for us in the sense that we're open and we'll talk about it and we don't try to hide it," she said.

Being an educator -Mrs. Davis teaches health occupations at Charles B. Aycock High School- she had already covered the topic with her students long before Alzheimer's struck her own family.

"We had studied (Alzheimer's) for a year prior to finding this out" and it had been the focus of the health occupations club's national project, she said. They had also participated in the Alzheimer's Memory Walk.

As a result, she said, "My daughter, who was 16 at the time (of the diagnosis) understood immediately when we were actually given a diagnosis."

Being informed and aware is key, Mrs. Davis said.

"It's affecting more and more families. People are living longer. The more they know, the better," she said.

"It's going to affect someone that people know - whether it's a church member, someone in the community, someone is going to be affected, and it's hard."

The more empathy that people have, the easier it will be for those families being affected by the disease, she said. Which is why she has made it her mission to counsel others going through it and continue educating those who are unaware.

Later this month, there will be another opportunity to learn more about forms of dementia when the Alzheimer's Association of Eastern North Carolina sponsors its third annual Caregiver Education Conference in Goldsboro.

It will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 22, from 8:30 p.m. until 3:45 p.m. at First Pentecostal Holiness Church. The one-day conference is geared to family and professional caregivers, community providers, students in the health field, EMS and law enforcement personnel, and volunteers.

There is no charge for admission unless the person is seeking continuing education credits, for which there is a $10 per person fee.

"Learning how to take care of yourself and the person with dementia" is the theme for the event.

Registration begins at 8:30, followed by an introductory session at 9.

Among the topics covered will be the role of psychological testing in the treatment and care of dementia, changing resistance-to-care to participation-in-care and managing stress for caregivers and persons with dementia. There will also be three sessions from which to choose - medications, building hands-on caregiver skills, and programs and support systems for caregivers.

Pre-registration is required and is due by Aug. 15. For more information, contact Jody Riddle, Eastern Carolina Council of Governments, at 800-824-4648, ext. 3015 or Anne Paugh at 759-2267.