Every 68 seconds, someone in America is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and someone else soon has to take on the role of caregiver.
Senior Helpers and the Alzheimer’s Association of South Carolina have partnered to present an educational conference to help professionals, caregivers and the public to better understand the disease and how to deal with those who are suffering with it.
The conference is May 31 in the conference center of the Grand Strand campus of Horry-Georgetown Technical College.
The first session, titled Understanding Dementia Care: successful interaction strategies for healthcare professionals, is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is for professionals, caregivers and senior advocates. Attendees can get three continuing education credits. The cost is $35 for those getting credits and $20 for non-credit attendees.
The second session, titled Understand Dementia Care: essentials for your journey together, is free and open to the public from 5 to 8 p.m.
The featured speaker is Teepa Snow, an occupational therapist and dementia education specialist with more than 30 years experience in geriatrics. Based in North Carolina, Snow travels across the country teaching and sharing her unique approach to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“She is the most dynamic, entertaining and knowledgeable occupational therapist and educator that I have ever seen,” said Candy Mantell, director of operations at Senior Helpers.
“Teepa can make you laugh. She can make you cry. She’s really absolutely wonderful,” Mantell said.
“She makes the light bulb go off. She makes you have one of those light bulb moments when you can put it all together,” said Shannon Siau, community relations coordinator at Senior Helpers.
Senior Helpers, based in Pawleys Island, provides in-home caregivers for people in Horry and Georgetown counties.
“We train our caregivers in the Teepa Snow method,” Siau said.
Through the Senior Gems program, caregivers learn the seven stages of Alzheimer’s and what to expect during the stages, which are identified with different gems.
“We’re focusing on what they can do. The traditional method was identifying what they cannot do,” Mantell said.
“We have to join their world. They can’t come up to our world. They’re in their own world now and we have to meet them there,” Mantell said.
“I think that this is a very exciting education program that Teepa is doing with teaching people to work with what the patient is still able to do instead of focusing on what they can no longer do,” said Natalie Bankowski, program director for the Grand Strand area of the Alzheimer’s Association of South Carolina.
Bankowski said the association is always trying to educate caregivers and the community about Alzheimer’s.
“It’s definitely invaluable to be educated,” she said. “Alzheimer’s is a progressive fatal disease. The more education that the caregiver has, the more they can understand this disease and the progress of the disease.”
The program is also helpful for caregivers dealing with patients with dementia that stems from some other cause besides Alzheimer’s.
In addition to the professionals who care for Alzheimer’s patients, there are 274,000 unpaid caregivers in the state, and 65 percent of them have some stress-related disorder, Bankowski said.
In addition to the personal toll Alzheimer’s takes on its victims and caregivers, it is also extremely costly.
“We’ve never seen a disease that costs as much as Alzheimer’s. It is the most expensive disease in the United States and the costs are set to rise like no other disease,” Bankowski said.
At this time, there are 5.2 million diagnosed cases of Alzheimer’s in the United States, and 80,000 are in South Carolina.
“We honestly think the number is higher,” Bankowski said.
For more information or to register, call Senior Helpers at 979-3273. For information on the Alzheimer’s Association or to volunteer, call 213-1516 or visit www.alz.org/sc.