The brain on the left represents the structure of a normal, healthy brain. The brain on the right shows damage from prolonged Alzheimer's disease.
Two Kansas City, Mo., women plan to share their professional and personal expertise on care for Alzheimer’s patients at a Friday seminar.
JoAnna Weiss, director of education and outreach for the Azlheimer’s association, said Mary Sharp and Rachel Kail will present at the seminar at Lourdes’ Borders Community Room from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Sharp and Kail are a mother-and-daughter tandem who served as caregivers for Sharp’s mother who died of Alzheimer’s.
According to their website, Sharp is a career educator while Kail has a degree in psychology. Both became dedicated to teaching others how to be better caregivers after their experience with their mother and grandmother.
“We’re very excited to be flying professionals in to tour the state of Kentucky,” Weiss said. “Their goal is to help caregivers understand how they can better help their loved ones, get some inspiration and have some laughs in a difficult time. They’ll teach caregivers to see and love a family member as is, rather than what could have been without the disease.”
Weiss said many Alzheimer’s patients require special care from relatives or professionals because the disease slowly robs the brain of the ability to recall information, learn new things and think for themselves. In late stages, a patient may be unable to walk, talk, groom, clothe himself or eat. The level of care for each patient varies. Some need intensive professional care, others a mix of supervision from loved ones and professionals. Individuals with the mildest and most early cases may care for themselves with little to no supervision.
Dana Sowash, site director at Four Rivers Clinical Research, said Alzheimer’s is not a part of normal aging, but results from a complex pattern of abnormal changes. It usually develops slowly and gradually gets worse as more brain cells wither and die. Ultimately, Alzheimer’s is fatal, and currently, there is no cure. Symptoms are caused by a build-up of two different proteins in the brain forming plaques in spaces between brain cells, and tangles within nerves. Some theories suggest it blocks nerves within the brain from communicating, causing them to die.
Sowash said no cures exist for Alzheimer’s disease, but some drugs are available to slow its progress. Scientists, including those at Four Rivers, are seeking a cure for the disease. Other therapies, such as counseling and therapy, may also help. In the mean time, caregivers play the lead role in their loved one’s health.
“Care givers also make sure patients with Alzheimer’s are compliant with their doctors appointments and medications. Also, they provide an emotional support for these patients. Caregivers can be trained to control unwanted behaviors and improve communication,” Sowash said.