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Alzheimer's Caregiver Support Group meetings offer comfort for caregivers

Appeal-Democrat - 9/17/2018

Sept. 17--Alzheimer's disease isn't just hard on the victim. It's also tough on those who care for them.

Alzheimer's is a progressive brain disorder that is irreversible and causes memory loss, loss of thinking skills and can affect a person's ability to take care of themselves. According to the Alzheimer's Association, it is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.

Often times, the responsibility of caring for a family member with Alzheimer's falls on the shoulders of a family member.

"It can take an emotional toll and a physical toll for a caregiver," said Becky Robinson, director at the Butte County Alzheimer's Association office. "Alzheimer's disease can last from two to 20 years, which is a long time. On average most people have the disease eight to 12 years; it can really take its toll physically as a person progresses."

The Alzheimer's Association offers a support group for caregivers that meets once a month in Yuba City.

"Getting the diagnosis of a loved one can really be a shock to people and so we're trying to make a difference in that and trying to help support people when they have that kind of diagnosis," Robinson said. "Emotionally, if it's your parent, the changes that can happen for that person with personality and memory loss and confusion -- it can really be a difficult, difficult thing to adjust to."

She said the association is there to offer some hope for people and help people gain the skills to help them adapt to some of the difficult challenges.

During the Alzheimer's Caregiver Support Group meeting on Wednesday, those who have loved ones with Alzheimer's disease spoke of some of the challenges they have faced and that the group has offered support for them while caring for their family member. (They spoke of their experiences on the condition of anonymity.)

Most of the people in attendance had a parent with the affliction, and one man's wife suffers from Alzheimer's disease. -- One woman has a mother who lives in another country is undiagnosed because she fears losing her independence.

The woman at the meeting said she is an only child and feels like the pressure is on her to take care of her mother, even from afar. She has tried to have her mother use a walker, but her mother won't because "those are for old ladies" and she said she almost fell backwards when trying to use one. Several doctors have told her that she should be using a walker and said they would teach her how to use it. -- Another group member who, with the help of her daughter, cares for her mother, said the experience is very hard on a family.

"(It's) very sad, it's heartbreaking for the family," she said. "It's hard so you take it one day at a time."

She said when they take her mother to the doctor, her mother doesn't want to go because she says that she's fine, and then she'll tell the doctor that she's fine and that nothing hurts and she's there because her daughter says she's forgetting things.

"(The group) helps a lot, at first I wasn't sure how to handle it," she said. Talking with her daughter also helps her.

"It helps to understand that you're not alone, that unfortunately someone else can relate," another group member added. -- The man whose wife has Alzheimer's recommended a meal service because he was having trouble getting his wife to eat enough of the meals he prepared.

He said he would spend a lot of time preparing a meal and she would barely eat it.

"It was difficult because she eats so little and she would just pick at it and I would wonder why I did this," he said.

But with the meal service, the food is already prepared, all he has to do is cook it.

"The group acts as resources for each other and talk about what works and what doesn't work," another group member said.

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(c)2018 the Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, Calif.)

Visit the Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, Calif.) at www.appeal-democrat.com

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