By Jean Morse Jones
My family battled Alzheimer’s disease on our own. We didn’t know about the Alzheimer’s Association. We wish we had.
In 1995, my mother’s doctor told my parents that she probably had Alzheimer’s disease. At that point in time there was no definitive tests. As we all dealt with the fear of what that meant, my father promised my mom he would keep her in their home, and never place her in a nursing home. Dad struggled as her primary care giver for ten years, until he had a medical emergency of his own. We didn’t think he would survive, so our family dealt with getting him through his crisis and taking care of Mom. In order to help provide our failing parents care, my brother and his wife moved in to our parent’s home. In addition we brought in Visiting Angels, a home health care provider, to enable my brother and his wife to work outside the home. This difficult arrangement lasted one year before we had to place my mom in a nursing home for the final two years of her life.
This was never easy, progressively harder and terribly overwhelming for a very long time. My family moved from one work-around to another over 13 years. So many things had to be planned in order to avert the next potential crisis. This disease creates physical and emotional health declines, often accompanied by financial hardship to put care plans in place. Frequently, as in the case of our family, planning needed to take into account a medical crisis for the primary care giver as well.
What we did not know at the time is that the Alzheimer’s Association helps families develop and adapt a care plan which includes health and financial planning for the family. A 24/7 helpline is available for those in the midst of a crisis and needing advice. Educational seminars, support groups, memory cafés are also among the many free services available through the Alzheimer’s Association. (For those who many not know, South Shore Conservatory’s Creative Arts Therapies department offers memory cafés, in Hanover and Duxbury.)
Since my mom’s passing in 2007, I discovered the Alzheimer’s Association, and have been volunteering with them in one capacity or another ever since. I am currently Co-Chair of the Board for the MA/NH Alzheimer’s Chapter. I know first-hand how hard it is for families to navigate the many pitfalls of this disease, and I don’t want other families to have to navigate without help. Most importantly, I want to find a cure in our lifetime.
Today over 5.8 million people in the US have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. That number is projected to increase to nearly 14 million by 2050.
Please join South Shore Conservatory’s Creative Arts Therapies department and the Alzheimer’s Association on October 1, 7 pm, as they co-host Changes in Memory: When to be Concerned and What to do About Them, at Laura’s Center for the Arts, 97 Mill Street in Hanover. Dr. Margaret O’Connor, Associate Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, presents this free seminar. Come learn about what services are available through the Alzheimer’s Association, receive an update on current research and benefit from Dr. O’Connor’s advice navigating changes in memory. The AlzTalks program is free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged. To register, call 800.272.3900 or visit alzmassnh.org/alztalks.
Jean Jones is a South Shore Conservatory overseer. She lives in Hingham.