People who provide support for loved ones suffering with Alzheimer’s or dementia often need support themselves.
While a small group of people take advantage of the monthly support offered in Colusa, group founder Betty Yarwood believes there are far more men and women in Colusa County who are unaware of the wonderful resources available to families dealing with the devastating effects of the disease.
“Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.,” Yarwood said. “Unfortunately, there is no cure.”
In an effort to boost greater awareness of Alzheimer’s and dementia and the resources available to families and caregivers, the local Dementia/Caregiver Support Group has invited Becky Robinson, regional director of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Robinson has worked with individuals with Alzheimer’s and related dementia for more than 30 years. She has experience facilitating support groups and in counseling families dealing with the disease process.
Robinson, who began working for the Alzheimer’s Association in 1991, led the effort to bring a listening session for the California State Plan on Alzheimer’s in Chico in 2008 and 2011, helped pilot the first volunteer run-walk to end Alzheimer’s in Redding, and created and directed two adult day programs for people with dementia. She currently leads a staff and volunteer team that provides education, information, referral, care consultation, and support services for families coping with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.
“We are very fortunate to be able to bring Robinson to speak in Colusa County,” Yarwood said. “We hope that people will attend. Just like our support group, the meeting is open to anyone.”
The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are often used interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing. Dementia is a broad term for changes in memory, thinking, or reasoning, with many possible causes, including Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It makes up 60 to 80 percent of all dementia cases, but it’s not a normal process of aging – it’s a progressive brain disease that causes the nerve cells to die, meaning it gets worse over time.
Yarwood said in addition to families dealing with Alzheimer’s, anyone who is concerned about health, aging, and risk factors for dementia are also encouraged to attend.
Yarwood said people may not know that while there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are non-drug treatments and medications that may help with memory, thinking, and behavioral systems. There are also many things that can be done to help people cope with the disease and ways that help caregivers communicate with their loved ones.
“Challenges associated with communication can lead to frustration,” Yarwood said. “However, by understanding what changes may occur, you can prepare, make adjustments, and know how to respond, helping to improve communication. No one should have to go through this alone.”
Yarwood said that for those who can use the internet, they can find information online by visiting the Alzheimer’s Association.
For those who would like direct information and support, she invites them to attend the meeting with Robinson on Wednesday, Nov. 17. The meeting will be held from 10-11:30 AM inside the Fireside Room of the First Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of 4th and Jay streets, in Colusa.
There is no cost to attend the meeting or the support groups, which have no connection to any religious organization. The monthly Dementia/Caregiver Support Group is held at the same time and location, each fourth Wednesday of the month. ■