Alzheimer’s and Dementia: A Family Disease
Alzheimer’s is a family disease. Every family has a unique story, but all families share in the struggle to provide the best care possible for their loved one. More than 20 years ago, local family and support group members joined to create Alzheimer’s of Central Alabama (ACA) to promote research and provide services for local families living with dementia in its many forms. ACA helps families living with dementia who cannot afford the most basic necessities, like continence supplies and respite care.
The heart of what we do is helping families keep their loved one at home. Homecare isn’t always an option for many reasons including finances and the health and ability of the caregivers. When a caregiver decides to keep his or her loved one at home, ACA offers services that help make it possible.
Every 67 seconds someone in America develops dementia and someone becomes a caregiver.
Alabama has seen an 8% increase in the number of Alzheimer’s patients in the past decade.
It has been referred to as a “silver tsunami” and nearly half of Americans have a personal connection with the disease. While research gives hope for the future, ACA’s services give actual help now.
ACA’s services give relief to specific challenges families face as their loved one progresses from needing supervision to custodial care to nursing care.
There is no dignity for patients who do not have the continence care they need. Incontinence has been cited as the number one reason for institutionalization of dementia patients. Many families are unprepared to provide intimate care, and the cost of supplies can be prohibitive. Not until you are without something as basic as a clean diaper can you appreciate the hope a case of products delivered to your door can bring.
ACA provides a case of continence products delivered to the door of 80 families each month.
Every delivery includes diapers, or bed pads, gloves and wipes. Products cost $50 per month or $600 per year. Without this assistance families would not be able to provide care at home, which would necessitate nursing home placement at taxpayer expense.
Anna relies on products from ACA to help her care for her 90 year old mother. Diagnosed 13 years ago, Anna has watched her transition from a “walking talking patient with dementia to one who is currently bed-bound and mostly quiet.” Determined to care for her mother at home, Anna quit her job and moved in with her mother. Anna struggled to scrape together enough change to purchase the supplies her mother needs.
“Without this help, I would not be able to afford to keep my Mama clean. That’s the least she deserves,” says Anna.
Adult Day Care
When a patient should no longer be left at home alone, the family begins the difficult task of piecing together 24-hour-a-day custodial care. Adult day care is the most affordable option of care for families whose patient is physically able to attend. The patients receive appropriate stimulation, helping them stay mentally and physically active. The caregivers can go to work, attend to household tasks, take care of their own health needs and get the renewing break that is so essential for caregivers of loved ones with long term care needs.
ACA helps with the cost of day care for over 80 Alzheimer’s patients to attend the adult day care center of their family’s choice. The program offers up to $250 per month or $3000 per year of respite care.
Dorothy’s 70-year-old husband, George, attends an adult day care with assistance from ACA. She tells us, “George is in better physical condition than me, which sometimes makes caring for him even more difficult. The scholarship gives him two days of day care, and gives me two days to focus on my own health. I use those days to get a little exercise, and the scholarship helps me pay for my blood pressure medication. I need to stay healthy so I can be there for him.”
Safety is one of the biggest concerns families face when a loved one begins having memory problems. Sixty percent of dementia patients will wander as they easily become distracted and confused. Because of ACA, hundreds of patients at risk for wandering have worn a Project Lifesaver bracelet which emits a radio tracking signal to help locate them if they wander and become lost.
Although programs like this are supported by and available in many Alabama counties through local sheriff’s departments, ACA provides the program in Jefferson County.
Paul depends on his wife’s Project Lifesaver bracelet to keep her safe. As Mary’s memory has declined, Paul’s concerns for her safety have increased. Both have been deaf since birth. Before Project Lifesaver he couldn’t hear her leave the house. He was afraid to leave her side. Project Lifesaver gives him the security that if she were to leave without him knowing, she could be found.
The cost of the equipment is about a dollar per day for the first year. This may be a small price for peace of mind but is unaffordable for many families. In Jefferson County, ACA provides the program regardless of ability to pay.