Supporting senior loved ones

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September > This month is full of opportunities for caregivers to receive help for loved ones with Alzheimer’s

By Gina Velasquez

September is National Senior Center month. There are several activities and programs to care for seniors and help the caregivers as well. “Caregivers are important and need as much help as possible,” said Pauline Schneider, executive director of Los Alamos Retired and Senior Organization.
The Alzheimer’s Association, New Mexico Chapter is inviting Los Alamos area residents to unite in a movement to reclaim the future for millions by participating in the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s. The walk will be at 4 p.m., Sept. 28 at The Betty Ehart Senior Center. Santa Fe had a walk Saturday at the Railyard.
Walk to End Alzheimer’s is more than a walk. It is an experience for over 100 participants from the Los Alamos area who will learn about Alzheimer’s disease and how to get involved with this critical cause, from advocacy opportunities, the latest in Alzheimer’s research and clinical trial enrollment to support programs and services.  Each walker will also join in a meaningful ceremony to honor those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease is a growing epidemic and is now the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death.  As baby boomers age, the number of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease will rapidly escalate, increasing well beyond today’s more than five million Americans living with Alzheimer’s. Participants will enjoy a special tribute to those who have experienced or are experiencing Alzheimer’s. 
“We have to find a cure for Alzheimer’s, because we can’t afford not to,” said Agnes Vallejos, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association, New Mexico Chapter. “Unless we change the trajectory of this disease, Alzheimer’s care will cost one trillion dollars per year, just in the U.S., by midcentury. Our system can’t sustain that. The only viable solution is effective treatment.”
Local businesses and supporter donations are helping with the cause. Papa Murphy’s is hosting a fundraiser on Sept. 18. The business will donate $1 for each pizza sold that day to the Los Alamos Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
A senior services fair will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 20 at the White Rock Senior Center. There will be a variety of providers of services for seniors. Caregivers may get one-on-one advice from health care professionals familiar with elder issues. “Experts in Living Well,” is this year’s slogan. Some of the participants include representatives from Bee Hive Homes, Comfort Keepers, Decades Case Management, Haven Behavioral Senior Care, Home Instead Senior Care, Kingston Residence Center and Los Alamos Visiting Nurses. Demonstrations from the weekly activities at WRSC will be available, including low impact aerobics, Zumba Gold, line dancing, tap dancing and massage. A schedule of events will be abailable at the LA County Activity Building adjacent to WRSC. The White Rock Senior Center is located at 137 Longview Drive.
Dementia is one of the leading issues of the elderly. Falls are also a risk of death and/or injury to seniors.
Sept. 22 is the first day of Fall and is also National Fall Prevention Day. On Sept. 23, a five week course on preventing falls will be open for the public to attend. Cost is a $20 suggested donation. The Matter of Balance course will be two a week with a panel of experts speaking about the fear of falling, exercises and a lecture and demonstration on home safety. “It is important for seniors to stay active,” Schneider said. “Fear of falling is a crippling issue.”
Part of the course, will show how to safeguard a home with designs and construction ideas, as well as a guest speaker from the Los Alamos Fire Department on the importance of fire safety.
Home Instead Senior Care is offering two free resources to help caregivers. One is a Confidence to Care at Home Kit, an at-a-glance collection of information, tips and resources to help handle difficult situations, avoid household accidents, encourage engagement and prevent caregiver stress.
The second resource is The Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias Daily Helper. It is a smartphone app that helps families fnd solutions when they have to react quickly to a difficult situation. This app is free and will be available Sept. 16.
“Many family caregivers wake up every day with anxiety and fear because they don’t know how a loved one with Alzheimer’s will act or react,” said Chico Marquez, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office serving Santa Fe, Los
Alamos and Española. “We have a network of support including free tools and
materials available to help family caregivers navigate the challenges that come with caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.”
A free course for Alzheimer’s families is being offered in Española. The “Savvy Caregivers Program,” started on Sept. 10 and will last for six weeks from 10 a.m. to noon at the Addus Healthcare board room, 1302-D Calle de la Merced. The training will aim to teach caregivers practical techniques for interacting with loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease, and also for understanding and managing behavior. It imparts tools for long-term planning and for reducing stresses common to Alzheimer’s caregivers.
The course will also describe signs of early dementia, impacts and pathology of the disease. It may also be useful for caregivers dealing with other types of diseases that afflict loved ones. To register for the remaining courses, contact the Alzheimer’s Association New Mexico Chapter at 1-800-272-3900, visit alz.org/newmexico, or visit amontoya@alz.org.
The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the nation’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.  Since 1989, the Alzheimer’s Association mobilized millions of Americans in the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk®; now the Alzheimer’s Association is continuing to lead the way with Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  Together, we can end Alzheimer’s — the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death.