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New resources available to Alzheimer's caregivers

Friday, September 20, 2013 - 7:37 am

It was last December when Kathy Pelter, 52, found out her mother had Alzheimer’s.

Mary Pelter, now 79, had been showing signs for years. She didn’t feel well, didn’t want to get out of bed, and didn’t want to go places. Then in April her husband suffered a stroke, and Pelter said her mother seemed to rally. But when he came home she nose-dived.

“I couldn’t get her out of bed to save her life. So we had her tested,” Kathy Pelter said.

After the diagnosis was made she turned to Home Instead Senior Care Network, which was offering a class for caregivers. Through them she found support from others in the class on a similar journey. Local Home Instead Senior Care offices employ more than 65,000 caregivers worldwide who provide basic services-assistance with daily living, personal care, medication reminders, meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands, etc., so seniors can stay in their own homes as long as possible.

Pelter had been living with her parents before the diagnosis and she now became her mother’s primary caregiver. As her mother’s condition worsened Pelter had to quit her job and stay home to take care of her mother. And then things went from bad to worse. Her father fell and broke a shoulder and then a week later he had a heart attack. It became clear he could no longer live at home.

Pelter sold her and her father’s SUVs so she could buy a van to transport both her parents and their wheelchairs.

“The thing you hear the most is you have to take care of yourself; you have to find time for yourself, but I would challenge you to find someone who can actually tell you how to do that,” Pelter said.

She was able to use respite care workers from Home Instead Senior Care Network, to take short breaks but as her funds dwindled, she could no longer afford their services.

In July her mother stayed at the nursing home with Pelter’s dad for a week while Pelter went on vacation. When Mary Pelter returned home, her husband really missed her and several weeks ago she decided she would move into the nursing home with him.

“Which is a good thing, because we have no money,” Pelter said.

Today in the United States 10,000 people a day are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. One in eight people over age 65 will be diagnosed at 85 or older, 48 percent of the population will have Alzheimer’s. Joan Black, director of services for Home Instead Senior Care Network, said that last number is expected to climb to 50 percent of the population.

Home Instead Senior Care Network informs and educates on how to deal with the day-to-day challenges of the disease. It is offering the public a four-part series of workshops in October that cover the causes and symptoms of the disease, how to best provide care for your loved one, techniques to help them share their story, how to handle challenging behaviors, and the benefits of staying active with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Two back-to-back sessions will be offered Oct 16 and another two Oct. 23.

In recognition of September as World Alzheimer’s Month, Home Instead Senior Care Network has developed a free IOS App for Alzheimer’s and other dementias for caregivers, which will be downloadable soon. It will offer advice in dealing with behaviors, as well as 24-hour caregiving assistance through a toll-free phone number or email form.

It is also creating a free informational website, Confidence to Care at Home Kit, which has detailed information on the day-to-day in-home care that one will need to take care of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, for more information go to HomeInstead.com.

Home Instead Senior Care Network will be participating in Saturday’s Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Registration is at 10 a.m. and a special surprise will happen shortly after 11 a.m. The walk will start at noon.