Alzheimer’s disease remains growing challenge

September is World Alzheimer’s Month and to help those taking care of people with the disease, a free workshop is offered at 6 p.m. Oct. 3, at Skiff Medical Center in Newton.

Jeff Wisnieski, owner of Home Instead Senior Care Center in Marshalltown, said the workshop is a condensed version of support groups offered in conjunction with the Bickford Senior Living.

“What we will do is discuss what the disease Alzheimer’s is and what dementia is and what you can kind of expect in regards of behaviors and symptoms with your loved one,” Wisnieski said. “It will be giving them tools on how to deal with different situations you would come to contact with throughout the progression of the disease.”

Wisnieski said a care packet will be given to everyone to use as a reference for when they are home. Inside the care packet, it will talk about developing a life journal for the person affected.

“It really kind of draws on their life and the things they’ve enjoyed over the years,” Wisnieski said. “You can maybe use it in those challenging and stressful situations to help manage behavior or redirect attention to something that is calming or soothing for them.”

Wisnieski said one in eight people at the age of 65 or older have either Alzheimer’s or dementia and nearly half of the people 85 or older have it.

“With my personal experience, in my mind it is one of the worst diseases out there because it robs the person of their mind and who they are, but their mind and body can keep going,” Wisnieski said. “They are trapped in this shell so it’s hard on them, it’s hard on their family year after year, they’re seeing this loved one slipping away.”

In addition to the workshop, support groups are also offered every second Thursday of the month at 2 and 5:30 p.m., at the Home Instead Senior Care Center.

“It’s a forum for people on how to manage different situations and to just give them a place to voice their challenges,” Wisnieski said. “It’s a place they can express their frustrations and worries and anger and feel that they are not being judged.”

Wisnieski said a big challenge for a caretaker of someone with Alzheimer’s is feeling alone or isolated, because many people do not understand the disease.

“People don’t fully understand that any given time during the day your loved one may go from being happy and content, to being agitated and yelling and throwing things,” Wisnieski said. “They are afraid and feel they can’t express that frustration to people. People from the outside don’t see all the stress they are in.”

In addition to the support group, Wisnieski said a free smartphone app was just launched by Home Instead called Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias Daily Helper. The app gives more than 500 tips on how to manage behaviors.

“It’s a quick and easy resource,” Wisnieski said. “It can also relate them to assistance if they need it, 24 hours a day.”

Wisnieski said in the next 20 years there will be a 50 percent increase for individuals with Alzheimer’s.

“With our aging population you’ll have a greater number of people,” Wisnieski said. “It is going to be a growing challenge.”