Sandi TenBoer, director of community relations for Home Instead Senior Care of Reno, said Alzheimer’s disease can only be proven post-mortem, but doctors are able to give a 99 percent diagnosis. She said those diagnoses are rapidly rising.
“It should be an entire year, quite frankly,” TenBoer said. “We are seeing, daily, more and more people are being diagnosed.”
TenBoer said the fight against Alzheimer’s must occur year-round, which is why Home Instead Senior Care of Reno has teamed up with three local dementia care facilities to offer training for families caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. TenBoer said the four-hour training sessions help prepare caregivers, emotionally and physically, for the various stages of Alzheimer’s and how to combat symptoms with personal intervention.
“We have been in control of our lives as adults and because of this disease we lose that control. Somewhere in our mind we know that, so we rebel,” she said. “We teach you how to deal with this situation. You have been dealt a hand that nobody wants, but how you play that hand is going to affect the outcome.”
TenBoer said the training sessions also discuss how the stages cognitively affect the brain and the various tendencies Alzheimer’s patients will display as the disease progresses. She said emotional support and educational training from experts gives home caregivers an advantage and mentally prepares them for eventual stressful situations.
“When somebody is diagnosed with cancer, sometimes there is a chance for a cure,” she said. “With Alzheimer’s that is not the case, and it is a slow process of literally watching that person that you love fade away and losing them piece by piece. With Alzheimer’s, it is not just forgetting memories, it’s your body forgetting how to do functions, like how to speak.”
The Alzheimer’s care training seminars will begin Oct. 8 at 5 p.m. at Atria at Summit Ridge in Reno. A session on Oct. 9 at 1 p.m. will be held at the Business Resource Innovation Center in Carson City, and the final session will be Oct. 10 at 5 p.m. at the Arbors in Sparks.
Gina Stutchman, owner of Arbors Memory Care Community on E. Prater Way, agreed that Alzheimer’s can be a devastating disease for anyone in the family. Educational training is something the family-owned dementia care facility has done in the past and Stutchman hopes it will continue to help the community be prepared for Alzheimer’s care at home.
“Everyone thinks that because you have dementia you don’t know you have it, but you do know you have it for quite some time,” Stutchman said. “That is the really challenging part because there is a lot of emotional upheaval that goes along with that loss and the patient. Everyone wants to stay at home. It is often the one wish they have. My parents did it too, and we have been in senior housing our whole lives.
“People do want to stay at home as long as possible. You have to allow people the chance to fail because denial is such a big part of this disease. You have to give them that space and we don’t ever push or try to hard sell them on this place. Nobody wants to have to place a loved one in a community.”
Stephanie Hanna, community relations director at the Arbors, said hosting the workshop on Oct. 10 is an example of the partnership with Home Instead Senior Care of Reno and the community at large working to keep their loved ones out of assisted senior care facilities.
“Knowing the process is so difficult,” Hanna said, “From thinking that your loved one maybe has dementia to actually finding out they do, to starting to see cognitive decline, that is why we partner with Home Instead Reno and the Alzheimer’s Association to have classes here for families to understand the various aspects of the process.
”These classes really bring detail on how to care for someone with Alzheimer’s and their challenging behaviors.”
Hanna said residents living at the Arbors community often don’t check in until the moderate or severe stages of Alzheimer’s. At those points, activities and personal intervention become crucial and the Arbors hopes to pass its knowledge on to families who can take the strategies to their living rooms.
“If you interact better with your residents you don’t use as much behavioral medication because you are doing physical interventions instead,” Stutchman said. “It is a huge challenge, which is why we do the education and we have done it for years.
“Focus and level of attention comes to a point where if they do not have something to occupy them, they will act out because they are bored. You don’t just want to sit them in front of the TV, you have to have a program that addresses all aspects of the disease from mildly impaired all the way down to sensory stuff.”
More information and statistics about Alzheimer’s disease is available at www.alz.org. State information regarding Alzheimer’s care facilities can be found at www.health.nv.gov.