By Ingrid Schnader
When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzeimer’s or another dementia-related illness, a caregiver’s first line of defense is education.
That’s why Brookwood Baptist Medical Center is hosting a free lunch and learn event called “Let’s Talk Seniors” on Nov. 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. A panel of experts will discuss Alzheimer’s disease and local resources for families.
“Programs that help caregivers learn more about the system and learn more about levels of care and methods of payment, all those kinds of things are really important,” said Miller Piggot, the executive director of Alzheimer’s of Central Alabama.
Piggot’s colleague Vance Holder will be on the panel along with Dr. John Hammond, a psychiatrist with Integrated Behavioral Health; Leanne Messer with Brookdale Senior Living; and Kristen Snell with the Encore Program at Canterbury United Methodist Church.
“This is the first panel of its kind” at Brookwood, said Lemeshia Chambers, market director at Brookwood Baptist Health. “We’ve done panels to address opioid abuse and mental health disorders, but we’ve never specifically focused on older adults and the medical concerns or issues that may affect that population of individuals.”
“We’re really wanting to address the children who are the millennials and … baby boomers who are taking care of their parents and may not know exactly what all they could be or should be doing, or what all is available for them locally,” she said.
Making a Difference
In the 28 years that Piggot has been with Alzheimer’s of Central Alabama, she has seen how much of a difference education makes in a family when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
“The biggest transformation that we see with people are the folks that participate in the support group,” she said. “Only a small percentage of caregivers will actually attend a support group. But when you make that effort, it says right there that you are seeking information and you’re willing to change.”
Many caregivers continue to reason, rationalize and argue with their loved one, she said. But it doesn’t work.
“It’s over and over again that you have to reinforce that with families,” she said. “Because it’s so ingrained with us to be reasonable with our loved ones. We want to tell them the truth, and we also think that by correcting them that we can turn it all back.”
According to Holder, who has been with the ACA since 2007, “You cannot cure them by correcting them.”
One woman called Holder because her mother had been wanting to water her garden in the middle of a drought, a time when the rest of the community was rationing their water use. Holder advised the caller to let it go.
“Having a better relationship with your loved one will be better than an adversarial relationship,” he said. “Because they forget why they’re aggravated with you, they just know they’re aggravated with you.”
Holder will discuss advice like this at the panel discussion and will provide other resources that will help families become educated on the disease and get help.
“It’s really fulfilling to work with families and see the difference that we can make,” Piggot said. “Education’s for everyone.”
Seating for the “Let’s Talk Seniors” event is limited, so contact Lemeshia Chambers at 205-877-1245 or by email at email@example.com to RSVP. A free lunch is provided with an RSVP.