Club offers Alzheimer’s support, education to community

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Quitman First United Methodist Church in conjunction with the Pilot Club hosted an Alzheimer’s Education Seminar Saturday, Oct. 19.

Speakers from the Alzheimer’s Association and Sattva Life Yoga were there to inform and instruct on better health practices and to offer resources. 

The Pilot Club’s mission is educating to prevent traumatic brain injury and offering services to those suffering from brain-related disorders like Alzheimer’s, stroke and autism. 

Yearly, they sponsor the local Special Olympics track and field event and present programs at local schools where they hand out bicycle helmets. 

While their focus is on the brain health of individuals, they have also recognized the need for caregiver support. 

The rising population of those suffering from various forms of dementia has made it painfully clear that society needs to be better educated on how to care for those afflicted and how to support their families.

Dementia is a world-wide pandemic, and there is no true treatment or cure. There are several types of dementia, with about 70% of cases Alzheimer’s. Two out of three senior citizens will die with some sort of dementia, and it occurs more often in females.

Some rare types, such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s, have medical interventions available but no cure. Some pseudo-dementias, such as those caused by medications and vitamin deficiencies, can be reversed if treated properly. It is possible to suffer from several types at one time.

As a teenager, Tammy Bugbee lost her grandmother to Alzheimer’s. She now works in long term care and assisted living and volunteers for the Alzheimer’s Association. She spoke on understanding Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

“Memory loss and forgetfulness are a natural part of aging, but when it interferes with your daily functions, it could be something more serious,” says Bugbee. 

Early detection could make a difference in progression and treatment available. Bugbee says this is why it’s important to have regular memory screenings.

Laura Strickland, another volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association, also knows first hand the damage the disease does as she witnesses her aging parents struggle. At the seminar, she spoke on effective communication strategies.

“They are not losing sense of self, but can’t communicate. Use of words diminish, but there are other ways to communicate. Flexibility is the key,” says Strickland. 

There are three levels of disease. In the mild stage, patients can still convey thoughts and feelings. In the moderate stage, they can still use basic words and sentences, but rely more on tone, facial expression and body language. In the severe stage, patients may respond to familiar words, phrases and songs, but communicating through their five senses is paramount. 

Strickland offered ways for the caregiver to connect without belittling the patient. She said it’s important to join the patient’s reality, not expect them to be in yours. Connect through touch, but always ask permission to approach. Look for what may be hurting when behavior changes. 

The caregiver closes the link of brain disease. It’s important to do things with the patient, not do things to the patient.

“Let them do what they can do for as long as they can,” said Strickland.

Sandy Corder of Sattva Life Yoga has recently become the main caregiver to her mother who had a major stroke which left her paralyzed on one side of her body. She can testify to the difference proper nutrition makes in healing and the aging process.

Corder spoke on nourishing the body properly and boosting the immune system, being conscious of the effects of outer stimuli and developing a mindful routine.

She encourages patients and caregivers to eat seasonal fresh foods, drink room temperature water and practice breathing deeply to care for the inner body.

For the outer body, she suggests massages, moisturizing the skin, taking epsom salt baths and avoiding extreme temperature changes. She also said to limit overexposure to sound and synthetic scents and to take breaks from visual input. 

It’s especially important for the aging patient to have time in nature which calms the nervous system and may help with maintaining a regular sleep pattern. 

Tammy Blakemore, also with Sattva Life Yoga, is focusing on yoga for senior health since seeing her mother-in-law battle Alzheimer’s. She spoke on brain development and degeneration and how yoga is useful in cognitive training. 

Blakemore had attendees scoot their chairs back from the table to teach them simple deep breathing exercises and gentle movements to increase oxygen supply. 

In addition to the many yoga and health classes Blakemore and Corder teach at local studios, they now have classes specifically geared toward caregivers and the elderly.

Blakemore teaches yoga at Mineola Methodist Church on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11 a.m.

Corder teaches at Hawkins First Baptist Church at 9 a.m. on Mondays.

Holly Brook Baptist Church in Hawkins hosts the Memory Cafe every Thursday from 11:30-2. It is an opportunity to sharpen minds and memories as they do art, music and exercise activities. 

Blakemore has endeavored to develop more services in Wood County for patients and their caregivers.

“This disease affects us all. We are in a retirement community and need dementia support,” says Blakemore.

She is partnering with the Pilot Club and Alzheimer’s Association to train volunteers for dementia and Alzheimer’s support groups. The goal is to host quarterly training in Wood County. 

The first free seminar will be Saturday, Nov. 9 at Mineola First United Methodist Church beginning at 9:30 a.m.

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