by Donia Moore
You look at the person speaking to you and you have no idea who they are. They are trying to make you do something you aren’t sure you want to do, and especially not with a stranger. They’re very pushy and insistent, which makes you balk even more. You feel alone, afraid and confused about why they are so focused on you. You want to try to get away but you can’t find your way out.
Is this a scenario for a back-alley crime, occurring on some dark, lonely street? No, it’s just a family member trying take a loved one to lunch at what used to be their favorite restaurant.
Alzheimer’s or Just Old Age?
Alzheimer’s is one off the cruelest forms of the dementia diseases and the most heartbreaking for loved ones because it erases memories of a life with them. It is very important to recognize that Alzheimer’s is not a normal process of aging, and that it is not solely about forgetfulness.
Although the following list does not take the place of an evaluation by a professional care provider, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of Orange County offers some comparisons that might be found helpful:
• Alzheimer’s possibility: Memory loss, especially of recent events, names, placement of objects, and other new information, asking for the same information over and over.
Normal Aging: momentary forgetfulness of names or places but remembering later.
• Alzheimer’s possibility: Confusion about time and place.
Normal Aging: Getting confused about the day of the week but figuring it out later.
• Alzheimer’s possibility: Struggling to complete familiar actions, such as brushing teeth or getting dressed.
Normal Aging: May occasionally need help with resetting microwave or recording TV shows.
• Alzheimer’s Possibility: Trouble participating in a conversation, completing sentences, and following directions and conversations.
Normal Aging: Sometimes having trouble finding the right word.
• Alzheimer’s Possibility: Poor judgment when frequently making decisions.
Normal Aging: Making a bad decision occasionally.
• Alzheimer’s Possibility: Changes in mood and personality, such as increased suspicion, rapid and persistent mood swings, withdrawal, and disinterest in usual activities.
Normal Aging: Doing things their way, and becoming irritable when routine is disrupted.
• Alzheimer’s Possibility: Severe difficulty with complex mental assignments, balancing a checkbook or other tasks involving numbers.
Normal Aging: Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook.
Help in Orange County
There is no cure, but there is help to cope. The Alzheimer’s Association of Orange County is one of 76 local chapters throughout the country, offering support and assistance. Locally governed and funded, it maintains a 24/7 helpline: 800-272-3900 providing 24/7 telephone support; information; education; emotional support; and resource referrals available in Orange County.
Through it you will find:
• Licensed/certified social workers offering vital information and counseling to those affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
• Resource and referral centers with information and links to community resources, healthcare professionals, social services and other support.
• Educational conferences and workshops, in English as well as in other languages.
• Identification programs. Bracelets and state-of-the-art technology, such as Project Lifesaver’s wristband transmitters, help with the identification and safe return of wanderers.
• Early-stage and middle-stage programs including social and intellectual stimulation programs and support groups for individuals in these stages.
• Social-model adult day services, providing cognitive stimulation and recreational therapies to individuals in various stages of the disease.
• Family-oriented services, support groups and bereavement groups for caregivers and family members.
• Respite programs, in-home respite care and overnight respite programs to provide temporary relief for family caregivers. AFA offers Respite Care grants.
• Telephone “buddy” programs with staff or volunteers, many of whom have been caregivers themselves.
• Free and confidential memory screenings administered to those concerned about memory loss, with the goal of early detection.
• Books, DVDs, products and equipment available to educate families and healthcare professionals
Specific Local Programs
This program provides support to caregivers with the following services: 24/7 Helpline; Care Consultation; Family Orientation and Support Groups. These services increase caregiver knowledge of the disease, care giving practices and community resources, and decrease caregiver isolation. The Caregiver Support Program enhances the quality of life and longevity for caregivers and their loved ones. Call the Helpline and ask for a Care Consultant.
Savvy Caregiver Plus
This program recognizes that family caregivers are a critically important part of the healthcare for individuals with dementia. To better equip family caregivers of loved ones in the early to moderate stages of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, the specialized Savvy Caregiver Plus series is designed especially for family caregivers. The free seven-week program is a 12-hour training provided over a six-week period “plus” an additional seventh week bonus, resulting in caregivers who possess greater confidence, greater understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, and practical skills to improve and support care. You can reach this program in Orange County by calling (949)757-3752.
Early Memory Loss Program
This program assists caregivers in recognizing and coping with early memory loss. It is designed to help when there is mild concern about misplaced keys and occasional memory lapses that gradually become more frequent and may be turning into early symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, many people overlook or deny the first symptoms which may include memory loss, confusion, and repetitive speech, delaying diagnosis and treatment. You can find more information about this program and services by calling (949)757.3759
Faith-Based Services in Your House of Worship
Check with your house of worship. Alzheimer’s of Orange County has an interfaith program that reaches out to many congregations in our area. The closest one to San Clemente is located in Dana Point at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 33501 Stonehill Dr., Dana Point. Call 949.493-3414 for more information and times for services for individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other related dementia, and their families.
Remember that your loved one can’t help the ravages of dementia – now, more than ever, they need your love and respect. www.alz.org/oc