Do No Harm

Portrait of a senior woman contemplating. Isolated on black background.I just heard a story that greatly alarmed me.  A man has been taking care of his wife, who has been suffering and declining with Alzheimer’s disease for 6 years.  She wanders and if not watched constantly will get out of the house and meander o roam, she is fine until she feels lost and confused.  If her husband initiates a shopping trip to the grocery store, she does not want to go.  If forced, she is difficult throughout the trip. She becomes visibly agitated and confused.

One day, out of desperation, this husband locked his wife in her bedroom and left to do the shopping.  While he was gone, his wife fell asleep, and thus the plan seemed to work well.  It became his procedure for leaving the house to shop for food.  If his wife did not fall asleep, she became agitated, confused, and desperate to get out of her bedroom.  She has no way to understand why she is locked in her bedroom, or to approve or disapprove of this procedure.

Did this husband realize the effect he was having on his wife?  Was he trying to be harmful?  Of course not.  Yet, with or without a disability, he would not want to be locked, against his will, in his bedroom.

This gentleman is not mean or evil.  He just does not know the best way to care for his wife.  There are many family caregivers in this situation because they do not know the best way to gain respite for themselves while effectively caring for their loved one.

Two free informative, support programs will be starting this Fall to give you the information and resources you’ll need to be an effective caregiver– REACH and Dementia Dialogues. You may sign up for either or both programs.  Each offers activity for your loved one with Dementia while your class is in session.  You’ll want to call immediately to ensure your enrollment.

The REACH program (Resources to Enhance Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health) is being offered through the Golden Corner Respite Care program in Seneca, at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension on Thursdays at 1:00 PM, starting September 21 and ending November 16.  The course is led by Dr. Cheryl Dye, a professor at Clemson University and director of Clemson University Institute for Engaged Aging.  Contact Kathy Birkett, Program Director of the Golden Corner Respite Care Program (864) 973-7500 or to enroll.

Dementia Dialogues, another excellent program, will be presented from October 3 to October 31.   It is offered at GHS Oconee Memorial Hospital on Friday from 1:00-2:30 PM in conference room 1.  This program is run by Eunice Lehmacher, LISW- CP, a social worker for the Oconee Memory Health Program. For more information call (864) 882-8940 or email her at .

Being a family caregiver for a loved one with dementia can extend for years.  There is a lot of information, help and support for you.  Please make your caregiving experience a win/win situation for  you and your loved one.