Karen Perry: A year of hope, support, knowledge
During the past year as the administrator for The Lodge, I have noticed an increase in family members seeking care options for their parents — especially when both parents are still living and have tied the knot for over 60 years. Typically, one spouse is failing at a more rapid pace while the other is struggling to care for themselves with the added tasks of household duties and acting as a full-time caregiver. This scenario is a recipe for crises either sooner or later. We take our marriage vows seriously but our promise to take care of each other can become unrealistic. I have met with countless elderly couples and their families who share stories about the difficulties they face each moment of each day when caring for and living with someone diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s. It takes the patience of an angel to withstand the repetition of questions requiring the same answers, the constant attention to keep them safe, and the sleepless nights while their loved one is roaming about the house. With this much stress and worry, it is no wonder most caregivers fall ill or even pass away before the person they are caring for. There is no cure for growing older and certainly nothing on the horizon to improve or eliminate certain types of memory loss. However, there are tools to help the caregiver or spouse learn how to cope and communicate with someone living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. More importantly, joining a support group will help you realize you are not alone on this journey and will provide hope and a better understanding about the disease. Many elders who act as the primary caregiver may feel it is their duty and obligation to provide 24-hour assistance for their spouse. They may also feel awkward or embarrassed to join a group of strangers and talk openly about their concerns, fears and stories. Remember, the first step is always the hardest. I have watched so many lives transform once people accept the support and knowledge gained by joining others. I encourage family members and the care-giving spouse to learn as much as possible about this disease and the behaviors and characteristics that create the unique world of a person living with memory loss. It’s important to understand how each moment is their reality and not ours. Once we know how to unlock the key to our own expectations, perspective and judgments, we can begin to understand and perhaps begin finding new ways to experience joy and peace in the midst of all the nonsense. The Dementia Resource Center of Northern Nevada provides a lending library and weekly support groups each Thursday evening starting at 6 p.m., located inside The Lodge at 2200 E. Long St, Carson City. Elder guide Rose Ferguson will act as the facilitator and light snacks are provided. There is no charge for those attending. Bring your loved one to enjoy an hour in Aspen Village, a memory-care community at The Lodge. For more information call 775-283-9888.• Karen Perry is the executive director of The Lodge Assisted Living-Facility in Carson City.