Care while we await the cure

Routines. Fairly common for all of us. We rise each morning with the sound of an alarm clock or wake up naturally to the rising sun.  Conversations happen, showers are taken, breakfast is made and the day begins… Now imagine caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, there is nothing routine. What was once a comfortable interaction for you and your loved one has turned into a sad and at times frustrating experience. As the day goes on there are only brief moments of warmth and connection.

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death. One in six American workers are caregivers. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, trying to create the best possible quality of life for an aging relative is “the new normal” for 43.5 million Americans. With about 10,000 baby boomers hitting age 65 each day, they are becoming caregivers and also needing care. 14.9 million are caregivers for those with Alzheimer’s disease.

Judy is 66 years old and has worked in the retail industry for over 20 years. Her 88 year old mother came to live with her a year ago. Judy typically leaves for work around 9:00 a.m. each morning and returns by 7p.m. each night. Her teenage grandchildren stop by on occasion to prepare dinner with “Nana” and socialize with their great-grandmother until Judy gets home in the evening. Recently they have noticed that “Nana” seems very agitated and can’t seem to focus on a conversation or get organized enough to cook dinner.

Judy decides that a visit with the doctor might be helpful. After much testing and discussion, Judy hears her mother’s diagnosis: Alzheimer’s disease. Judy is devastated with this news not only for her mother but for the implication of how she will care for her. How can she continue working if it is not safe for her mother to be left at home? Will her employer understand the flexibility she may need? Where can she go for support? She desperately wants to keep her at home. These are the many questions facing caregivers every day. (14.9 million Caregivers)

Judy hears that Copper Ridge, a community known for its expertise in the field of caring for people with Alzheimer’s disease, could help her figure out her journey. She quickly connects with one of the staff. As soon as she walks into the building she is warmly greeted by one of the staff members. She senses immediately it is a different kind of place, and wonders what they can offer her.

Six months later, after the training and education she has received, Judy is much more confident on how to manage the day to day journey. Judy had been afraid of her mother using the stove but has been in touch with Meals on Wheels and now they deliver daily. Judy has also learned how to redirect her mother’s repetitive questions and not become frustrated. Most importantly, she learned coping skills through participation in support groups. She even finds time to take a yoga class for caregivers at Copper Ridge. She has realized in this journey that many of her workplace colleagues are facing a similar reality.

The Great Minds Gala is unique in that its focus is around care. Until a cure is found, the care of persons with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers is vital.  Caregivers are employees of virtually every company in every community. And for some the journey can be quite long — lasting 20 years. By becoming a sponsor of this event, you will be making such a powerful difference in how we, as a society, stand up to address this critical issue. Your support will impact the lives of countless employees who need to know they are not alone.

Funds from the event will be equally distributed between the LeadingAge Innovations Fund and the Integrace Institute at Copper Ridge for the creation and advancement of dementia programs.

To contribute or submit a donation, contact Cindy Yingling at (410-970-2041).