Caregiving classes to ease dementia situations

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published October 2, 2013

If you are helping a family member live with Alzheimer’s or dementia, Area Agency on Aging 1-B officials have some tips they want you to remember.

Elder care experts will teach caregivers of people with dementia-related illnesses to better help their loved ones during a fall series of Creating Confident Caregivers training classes in metro Detroit.

The six two-hour weekly classes take students through relevant topics related to dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other memory issues.

Classes will be held at locations in Sterling Heights, Clinton Township and Southfield. The courses are a combined effort between the Area Agency on Aging 1-B and the Alzheimer’s Association’s Greater Michigan Chapter.

AAA 1-B spokeswoman Sallie Justice said this will be the fourth year her agency has held the CCC classes. She said students learn about the different types of memory-related illnesses, and caregivers will learn how to reduce their own stress while building a better relationship with the person in need.

Justice said a patient with a dementia-type illness may repeat comments, lose the concept of time or follow caregivers around the house. Others suffer depression or personality changes.

“They say that caring for someone with dementia is one of the, if not the, most challenging forms of caregiving,” she said.

“The caregiver not only needs to be concerned about the person’s wellbeing, but they may have to be able to make almost all decisions for the person.”

Treena Horton, program coordinator for the Alzheimer Association’s Greater Michigan Chapter, plans to teach the course in Sterling Heights. She said the classes cover topics such as working with feelings and caregiver self-care. The students do homework and discuss it the next week.

“It is very rewarding to see caregivers come into the class maybe skeptical or maybe feel that the class will not really benefit them,” Horton said.

“Then to see them actually try some of the suggestions and follow the model of becoming a savvy caregiver … it’s just great to see that turnaround.”

Another course trainer, Sharon Gire, said one of the most important things caretakers can do for loved ones with dementia is to find ways to keep them involved in life. This could even mean having them help prepare a simple meal.

“It may mean working together on a puzzle,” Gire said. “It may just mean getting out and talking about memories, getting out the old photo album.”

Upcoming Creating Confident Caregivers classes will be at Beaumont Hospital’s Troy Outpatient Center, Classroom B, located at 44250 Dequindre Road in Sterling Heights. The six-week class runs 10 a.m.-noon Thursdays starting Oct. 3. Other classes are held in Southfield and Clinton Township.

Admission is free, but classes are each limited to 12 participants. RSVP or learn more by calling (800) 852-7795. The program will also make respite care available at the class locations.