Positive steps to support Alzheimer’s patients, families

MARQUETTE – Sometimes people in all sincerity will ask the caregiver of an Alzheimer’s disease patient, “How can I help?”

“People will ask that and mean it,” said Ruth Almen, regional director of the Upper Peninsula Region of the Alzheimer’s Association. “But the caregiver can’t come up with something right away to ask to have done. They already are overwhelmed.”

The Northern California-Northern Nevada Region of the Alzheimer’s Association, however, has come up with a solution Almen highly recommends for these caregivers: A Caregivers Coupon Book.

“The caregivers can take these coupons, print them off, cut the coupons out and give one to someone who asks how to help,” Almen said. “It gives the person who wants to help something very specific they can do to help. This is a great resource for many of the people we work with.

“For some people who are living with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s, their friends may have stopped coming around because they don’t know what to do,” she said. “But the caregivers need a break and the last thing they have the energy to do is to start making phone calls, asking for help.

“So having these coupons ready for someone who asks can be a big help. The caregiver can hand the friend who’s asking a coupon and say ‘here’s what would help.'”

Caring for a loved one who is suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s can be daunting at times, so programs like Marquette Adult Day Services are also a godsend to caregivers, Almen said.

“I think that’s huge, to have that program available for caregivers,” she said. “Dementia is kind of a tricky disease. Having a service like that which gives caregivers a break is so needed.”

Located in First Presbyterian Church, Marquette Adult Day Services is a private, non-profit organization that offers participants the opportunity to engage in meaningful social and recreational activities, in a safe and nurturing environment.

The program offers caregivers respite and support while the participants maintain their social and cognitive abilities.

“When people are in their earlier stages of Alzheimer’s, they want to keep their independence. They are still fairly functional and their families want to do what they can to help them keep their independence. Day Services helps so much because it’s well supervised. It’s a comfortable place for everyone.”

For caregivers who need advice – or maybe just someone to listen – the Alzheimer’s Association offers a hotline that’s open 24 hours a day.

“It’s a national helpline. During the weekdays, if a person from the U.P. calls that number, it will ring in our office,” Almen said. “The call center is in our national office in Chicago, so during the hours our office isn’t open, they will let us know after who called and if they had a specific need, if they wanted us to send info or wanted us to call back.

“If you call the number (800-272-3900) someone will always answer the phone,” she said. “It’s OK to call to just talk, to tell about your frustrations or to ask for practical advice because maybe you haven’t been able to get your dad to take a shower in two weeks.

“The helpline offers emotional support and practical advice. It’s a great resource.”

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.