SEBRING — During the past several years, Lois, who did not want her last name used, has become as much a caregiver as a spouse to her husband.
With the exception of a weekend off every several weeks when their son visits, Lois spends the vast majority of time at home with her husband, who suffered a stroke in 2007 and now has Alzheimer’s disease.
In view of that, Lois said, she’s benefitting from attending at Sebring Christian Church a program for caregivers that’s being offered by NU-HOPE Elder Care Services and Change of Pace Adult Day Care, which serves people with dementia.
“Nobody can do it alone,” she said of taking care of dementia patients.
Ingra Gardner, director of NU-HOPE, said she and Cora Schwingel, director of Change of Pace, received training to present the program that’s been offered in 48 states.
She said it’s typically for someone who lives with another person with dementia and provides care for them.
In many cases it’s been discovered that caregivers focus on the patient so much, they ignore their own needs, Gardner said. As a result, caregivers have died before the patient, she added.
The program helps caregivers shift their way of thinking and begin looking after themselves and their patient, she said.
“All of the focus has been on the care of the recipient,” she said.
Among other things, the program emphasizes caregivers’ need to care for themselves, including doing more exercise, relaxing and getting medical checkups, she said.
Gardner said the program also helps people manage their emotions of guilt, anger and depression that may result from being a caregiver; increase their confidence in being a caregiver and using local resources and services to help them.
On Monday, the aim of the session was to help people effectively communicate their needs.
In attending the class, Lois said she gets help from people familiar with the issues faced by caregivers for dementia patients.
“You can’t do it with (receiving advice from) a friend over the back fence,” she said. “You need someone who has been there and done that.”
Barbara, another participant who did not want her last name used, said she’s learned how to better communicate with her husband, who is in stage 4 of Alzheimer’s.
“I learn something new every time I come,” she said. “It’s (the program) is all about us.”