The Waxahachie Senior Center was the venue for a social event held to provide to Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers support and information early Saturday morning.
“People and their caregivers feel isolated, often they must hide their affliction or are embarrassed and feel they are misunderstood,” Senior Center Director Jeanee Smiles said. “We wanted to provide a place for persons with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers to have a safe place to socialize and communicate with other with the same or similar affliction without the worries they may face in a social setting with persons who may not understand,” Smiles said.
The Saturday Memory Café was sponsored by the Greater Dallas Alzheimer’s Association.
“This is the first Memory Café for Ellis County. We want to launch a new socialization program for the people of Ellis County with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers,” Alzheimer’s association representative Kimberly Knight said.
These social events provide a chance to meet others and not feel isolated, or their caregivers who feel they have to hide their love one’s condition,” Knight said.
Smiles and Knight had several volunteers to greet and help the more than 20 people that attended the event. Volunteers came to help those attending feel welcome and to work with the caregivers to provide them with resources for Alzheimer’s information and help or to organize support groups among the caregivers.
“Support groups are very important. The caregivers need to feel they are not alone and have someone to reach out to for information and support,” volunteer Kara Saurenman said.
Saurenman and her husband John both have experienced parents with Alzheimer’s.
“Through our experience the main things we stress are knowing the signs of Alzheimer’s and working with their loved one in a positive way,” Kara said.
“Imagine a person’s mind is like an eight lane highway. People without Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia think and respond to one lane. People’s minds that are afflicted drift from lane to lane. They may be in the present one minute, switch lanes and be in a place they were 20 or 30 years ago he next. Before coming back to the present, they may be living in several past time frames of their lives,” John said.
“The best advise is don’t try to jerk them back to today, but join them in the time frame they are in at the moment,” he added.
John’s late mother, who he describes and a very gifted musician, excellent speller, with a very artistic handwriting, began showing signs.
“She started having trouble reading her music, saying she would rather play by memory. We started seeing misspelled words in her emails and her hand writing deteriorated,” John said.
“We felt we had nowhere to turn. If there had been a support group available to us, it would of helped so much. It would have saved us with frustration anxiousness,” John said.
“When it becomes apparent your loved one has a problem, seek professional help. But we, as a friend or family, are the only ones who can provide and show your loved one love, compassion and caring,” John said. “We are here today to help the caregivers help the person they are caring for get back to where they are comfortable. Learn to leave the world of the living and join the world of the leaving, as they live they walk the remaining life journey with their loved one,” John said.
“A part of our mission here is to bring an awareness of the signs and even educate our children of these sign to be observant for us,” Smiles said.
Saturday’s Memory Café was the first with many more events planned in the future.
“My mission is to raise the community’s awareness of Alzheimer’s and have more community support for those affected. A loved one needs to know that they will not become disconnected from their loved ones and society,” Smiles said.
Smiles and the senior center are planning several future activities for Alzheimer’s support at the center.
Monday, Sept. 3, there will be a family caregivers workshop.
Another workshop will be held Sept. 5 titled “Know the 10 signs of Alzheimer’s” presented by Kimberly Knight of the Alzheimer’s Association.
On Sept. 17, Keenan Bridges of Custom Care Givers will give a support group workshop.
“Our doors are open and the public is welcome free of charge to all of these workshops and future Memory Cafés as well as our many other programs at the senior center. We want to spread the awareness and bring others who are experiencing Alzheimer’s in their lives together,” Smiles said.
Another activity is the center’s participation in the annual Walk to End Alzheimer’s to be held Oct. 5 in Dallas.
“My dream is to have our own Ellis County walk some day,” Smiles said.
For more information on Alzheimer’s disease go to www.alz.org.