Knowledge is key in Alzheimer's care
BY JASON ASHLEY WRIGHT World Scene Writer
Thursday, February 14, 2013
2/14/13 at 4:41 AM
Sallye Strother wasn't allowed to gossip growing up.
Her mother saw to that.
"People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones," was a quote her mother would use.
"She was a really nice lady," Strother said - a fact reiterated by members of the community at her mother's funeral.
So Strother knew something was wrong, back in the 1990s, when her mother started saying things that were "so unlike her."
Her mother's doctor said it was dementia. It wasn't until after her mother's death that she realized her mother probably had Alzheimer's disease.
Had she known back then, maybe she would've cared for her mother differently, said Strother, a registered nurse who was her mother's primary caregiver until her death in 2004. She used to beat herself up about it - until a workshop on Alzheimer's.
"I was able to forgive myself and move on," she said. "I'm no longer beating myself up."
Strother will be among the panelists Saturday at "Alzheimer's in the African American Community," a town hall meeting-style event at Destiny Center, 6161 S. 33rd West Ave.
A free event, it kicks off with registration and a continental breakfast starting at 9 a.m. followed by panel and structured discussions through 12:30 p.m.
The meeting is open to those who are caregivers, have memory problems or just want to learn more about Alzheimer's disease.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, the number of persons with the disease in the United States is estimated to be 5.4 million, said Dr. John Carment, an assistant professor of geriatrics at the OU School of Community Medicine. That number is predicted to reach 16 million in 2050.
In Oklahoma, those with Alzheimer's numbered about 74,000 in 2010, Carment said. That's expected to reach 85,000 in 2020.
The number of Alzheimer's and dementia caregivers in 2011 was 212,324, according to the Alzheimer's Association. That adds up to more than 240 million hours of unpaid care.
"It was hard," said Strother, who developed hypertension while being a caregiver for her mother. "You don't take care of yourself as you should."
She did everything, especially once her father died. She'd hire a caregiver to work while she held her full-time job. Then, it was back home - to her second full-time job.
"You become the parent, they become the child," she said. "For me, it was difficult."
Which makes her a great choice, it seems, for the panel.
Strother will share her experiences and lessons learned as a caregiver with those attending Saturday's meeting, said Jackie Lenzy, the education coordinator for the local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.
One of the first bits of advice Strother mentioned was being truthful when asking yourself this: Do you want to take care of your parent? Or would you be more comfortable putting them in a nursing home?
If she had to do it over again, Strother would still be a caregiver for her mother. But she had the means and skills to do so.
But don't feel guilty if you can't, she stressed. Not everyone can.
It's important to do advanced planning, Carment said - advanced directives, wills, powers of attorney.
It's also important that the caregiver be informed about the disease, which is something the Alzheimer's Association provides the community, through support groups and its 24-hour hotline (800-272-3900).
Having a caregiving backup is wise, as well, Carment said. In case they become sick or just need a break, caregivers should have a place they can take their loved one.
Faith can play a role
Beyond that, faith is important for many people regarding Alzheimer's, Lenzy said.
"God gives us hope, he gives us life," Lenzy has told people, including a Sunday school class she taught related to Alzheimer's.
Part of Saturday's town hall meeting will be the role of faith in Alzheimer's, led by Destiny Center's pastor, Calvin Battle.
Lenzy has written a "mini-book" titled "Alzheimer's Disease: What the Word of God Says About the Mind, the Disease and Healing." In it, she discusses myriad topics, from facts about Alzheimer's and what can be done to decrease chances of developing the disease to what the Bible says about healing and learning what to pray.
"You have to know the enemy, and the enemy is Alzheimer's," Lenzy said.
She offered an analogy between faith and car repair - how someone might buy a car, then have problems with it as soon as it's off the lot. The dealer can't fix it, so it's sent to the manufacturer.
"Sometimes," she said, "we have to go to our manufacturer for all the answers."
For more about Lenzy's book, email her at email@example.com.
Diet, physical activity can lower Alzheimer's chances
No "silver bullets" are coming down the pipeline as far as Alzheimer's cures are concerned, said Dr. John Carment, an assistant professor of geriatrics at the OU School of Community Medicine.
Some drugs that have come out in the past five years or so have "petered out," and the helpful claims of some over-the-counter alleged remedies, such as ginkgo biloba, have been disproven.
However, maintaining a healthy diet - one low in fat, and high in fish, fruits and vegetables - might play a positive role, he said.
Moderate red wine use (a glass a day), as well as fruits such as blueberries and strawberries, have been linked to lower incidence of dementia.
Also, people who are more physically active have a lower incidence of dementia.
Although it hasn't been studied to a level of saying that specific activities have been helpful in lowering incidence of dementia, it does help to be intellectually stimulated, Carment said - and socially active.
Also, a few diseases are associated with developing dementia, he said. These are diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, depression and physical frailty.
"Therefore, prevention and optimal treatment of these diseases should contribute to risk reduction for developing dementia," he said. "This is particularly important in Oklahoma, given our high national ranking in the first three listed."
For more information about Alzheimer's, visit tulsaworld.com/alz
ALZHEIMER'S IN THE AFRICAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY
What: Free discussions, information for Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers
When: Saturday, with breakfast and registration 9-9:30 a.m., discussions 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Where: Destiny Center, 6161 S. 33rd West Ave.
Ticket: Free, but register by Friday, 918-392-5018.
Jason Ashley Wright 918-581-8483