Lessons help us help those with Alzheimer’s

The bi-monthly caregiver training held as usual at the Western Nevada College Reynolds Tech Center recently drew the usual standing-room-only crowd. Most showing up were Retired Senior Volunteer Respite of Transportation volunteers, although the public was welcome. These meetings are excellent sources for information about senior issues, everything from legal advice to the latest news on treating Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related illnesses.

Perhaps the most interesting segment was an HBO film about medical programs working on Alzheimer’s. This discussed a new way of treating the disease by, oddly enough, that old standby infection. The idea was to create an infection in the midst of the amyloid growth in the brain, which is slowly destroying tissue. By applying an infection in the right spot, the body draws the natural invader-fighting bodies to the site of the infection, attacking the amyloid.

The experimental approach has not been tested on humans, which led to a discussion of how to volunteer to take part in Alzheimer’s studies. Volunteers are always needed to help in these tests, and those willing to do so can sign up at the Alzheimer’s Association website at www.alz.org.

One of the many things that the moderator, Dori Ward of the Alzheimer’s Association, brought up was the need for volunteers to take part in these tests. She also discussed the problem of dementia victims and safe driving.

“How do you get a loved one who is a danger to self and others to give up the keys?” she asked.

A booklet distributed at the meeting details the process, which is almost always difficult and painful.

“Seniors look on a loss of diving rights as a loss of freedom,” Ward said. Included in the booklet, by the Hartford Insurance company, was a simple “Agreement with My Family About Driving” form that explains to family members how to restrain the signer from driving. It includes the name of the person who is to tell the signer that he or she can no longer drive.

There were many subjects at the four-hour meeting, including safety at home, vision and other impairments, legal and financial planning, clinical trials and brain health. There also was a tasty lunch.

As far as legal matters go in dealing with dementia, legal capacity is “the ability to understand and appreciate the consequences of one’s actions and to make rational decisions.” Requirements vary from state to state, so often a lawyer is needed for clarification.

Many legal matters are best resolved with a family attorney. You will need a listing of all assets, copies of estate-planning documents, copies of deeds and income tax returns, insurance policies and their cash value, admission agreements to health care facilities and a list of all those involved, including addresses, phone numbers, etc.

Next time you see a story about RSVP holding a training session, you might want to take it in if you’re a caretaker. Miss Ward explains it all much more lightly than I do, and besides she’s very pretty with the flower pinned on the left side of her head.


I’ve seen a commercial on local television advertising a patch to combat Alzheimer’s disease. It claims to ease symptoms and help the user remain in mental control. I have seen no information about such a patch on Alzheimer’s Association sites, and if it were truly effective, it would be a major breakthrough.

In any event, I would hold off on using it without the approval of your doctor. Sounds too good to be true, but I’m no doctor.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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