Shining light on a cruel, merciless disease

To the editor:

Reporter Paul Harasim and photographer Jessica Ebelhar should be commended for the no-holds-barred approach they took in bringing the often ignored subject of Alzheimer’s disease to the public’s attention ("Alzhiemer’s Rising Storm, Review-Journal series).

For the past decade, I have worked in hospice, where I continually witness the ravages this disease wrecks on patients, and on the family members who struggle to care for them. Many of these caregivers suffer in silence, feeling mentally and physically exhausted and yet not knowing where to turn for help.

As the population in the Silver State continues to grow ever more silver, and the number of dementia patients increases, I challenge health care professionals and government leaders alike to band together to increase education efforts and expand resources.

The burden of how to best to care for Alzheimer’s patients needs to be addressed, because many Nevadans are not aware of their options. Our citizens need to know that even when a cure is not available, care always is.

Thank you for giving the plight of Alzheimer’s victims a voice and for advancing this cause.

Candis Armour

Las Vegas

The writer is executive director of Solari Hospice Care.

The plight of caregivers

To the editor:

In Monday’s "Alzheimer’s Rising Storm" article, Jeff Klein, the chief executive officer and president of the two adult day care centers run by Nevada Senior Services, was quoted as saying if he had his way, there would be few Alzheimer’s patients in residential facilities. "I view it as a failure whenever any of our Alzheimer’s clients have to go to a facility." He adds that those with the disease have a better quality of life when they still live around relatives.

This man owes an apology to every person who has had to place their loved one in a residential facility, and an apology to every facility. My father had Diffuse Lewy Body disease (a combination of the worst symptoms of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s). My folks were married for more than 50 years, and my mother was convinced she could take better care of my dad at home – until the morning he woke up and no longer recognized her. He perceived her as a threat and tried to run away. We had to move him to a group home.

Even through we felt in our minds and hearts this was the best thing to do, we all suffered enormous guilt. He died just one month later, but the guilt lasted years. Then my mother developed Alzheimer’s 10 years later. She lived with my brother and sister-in-law for a while, until the natural progression of the disease made it impossible for them to have any kind of normal life. She had Sundowners (slept all day and was up all night), wandered constantly, was totally incontinent and refused her medications. They couldn’t cope and maintain their jobs.

We placed my mom in a memory care community. Her quality of life was better when the caregivers were specifically trained to minister to all her needs. And the facility’s caregivers’ shifts allowed them to rest in between the assistance, unlike the 24/7 care requirements my family had to live with.

Adult day care is fine up to a point. But when the person can no longer be cared for safely and completely during the hours they’re home, the next step may be to place them in a residential facility. Mr. Klein needs to get the bigger picture and understand there’s a whole world outside of adult day care that is viable and necessary, and those who need alternatives are not failures.

MARY JO BURGHER

LAS VEGAS

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