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Longest Day Program Set

Altenheim Resources Partners With Good Shepherd Nursing Home to Educate

Altenheim Resource & Referral Services and Good Shepherd Nursing Home, both of Wheeling, are partnering to offer a special program for The Longest Day to increase awareness and provide education on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Randall Forzano, human resources director at Good Shepherd, will offer a presentation, “Seeing Alzheimer’s Through a Son’s Eyes.”

The program, free and open to the public, will be held at Good Shepherd Nursing Home, 159 Edgington Lane, Wheeling, from 1- 2:30 p.m. Monday, June 20, with sign-in starting at 12:30 p.m. To reserve a seat for this program, call Altenheim at 304-243-0996.

Forzano is a licensed social worker and licensed nursing home administrator and has worked with people with dementia for years.

His experience was broadened when both of his parents developed dementia.

He will share his experiences of “seeing” Alzheimer’s from the perspective of a son and “seeing” people with Alzheimer’s as the vital individuals that they were and not who they are now.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s Longest Day observance is held on the summer solstice. The duration of this sunrise-to-sunset event symbolizes the challenging journey of those living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias and their caregivers.

Ann Koegler, coordinator of Altenheim Resource & Referral Services, requests that those attending the program wear purple in support of Alzheimer’s awareness. The month of June also is designated as Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.

Forzano said his parents, who resided in East Liverpool, were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s within a month or two of each other about 12 years ago. His mother, who is now 92, has been a resident of Good Shepherd for almost eight years; prior to that time, she lived at the Welty Home in Wheeling for about four years. His father, who died in September 2013, continued to live at the Welty Home until being moved to Good Shepherd three days before his death.

In his presentation, Forzano will discuss the five stages that families experience after a diagnosis, beginning with denial, then anger, and culminating in acceptance of the disease. He also will encourage relatives and caregivers “to look at these individuals not as they might be right now, but as the persons they were before this disease took all that away from them.”

When Forzano’s parents became unable to remain in their home, he and his five siblings decided to move them to Wheeling, where care options were available in settings where Forzano worked.

“My grandmother lived to be 94; she was sharp as a tack but her body gave out. My mom always said, ‘I hope I never lose the ability to remember.’ I know she would not want that,” he said. Now, she is nonverbal and no longer recognizes her children.

Forzano acknowledged that denial is part of the process for families confronting this disease. After 30-some years working in health care, he found himself going through the same stages as families he encounters in his workplace.

He said his father could hide his difficulties much better than his mother, whose forgetfulness escalated. Both had been involved in the community, but “they were really becoming reclusive in their own home,” Forzano recalled.

His father remained aware of his memory problems for a considerable time. “He recognized it much longer than my mom through the transition,” Forzano said. “Dad would get frustrated when he couldn’t do something.”

After their move, “they did benefit from a lot (of Welty Home’s programs) before the disease robbed them of that,” he said, adding, “I’m not sure what we would have done without the Welty Home and Good Shepherd.”

Moving beyold denial, he and his siblings got angry at the cruel disease that robs people of their minds. He, like other children, became frustrated or angry when he had to assume a parental role with his parents. Regarding acceptance, he said, “Eventually I could find that if you don’t laugh, you’re going to cry.”

Forzano recommends that family members attend support group meetings. A newly-formed caregiver support group meets at the Ohio County Public Library in Wheeling at 6 p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month; the next session is set for June 28.

During the June 20 presentation, Forzano plans to emphasize that “you will process through these stages as a family member. It’s helpful to see that things I’m experiencing, that others are experiencing.”

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On June 20, people across the globe, including at least 37 teams in West Virginia, will participate in a day of activity to honor those facing Alzheimer’s. While the educational program is being offered in Wheeling, activities planned in other areas include running, cooking, knitting and playing cards.

The Longest Day events in West Virginia kicked off June 4 in Beckley where members of the community rocked in rocking chairs, sang karaoke, danced and played card games. Events this month and in July include a poker run in Huntington, battle of the bands in Martinsburg and community art project in Charleston.

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Worldwide, at least 46 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias and it is the nation’s sixth leading cause of death. More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, including 37,000 West Virginians, and this number is estimated to grow to as many as 16 million by 2050. There are more than 15 million caregivers, according to the Alzheimer’s Association 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report.

The West Virginia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association is spreading awareness and information about the fatal disease during June’s observance of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.

“Early diagnosis is extremely important to a person living with Alzheimer’s disease and their family,” said Bethany Hall, executive director of the state chapter.

To improve public understanding of the disease and to underscore the need for swift action, the Alzheimer’s Association is highlighting “essential truths”:

∫ Alzheimer’s disease is fatal — there are no survivors. From 2000-13, the number of Alzheimer’s deaths increased 71 percent, while deaths from other major diseases decreased.

∫ Alzheimer’s disease is not normal aging. Alzheimer’s is a fatal and progressive disease that attacks the brain, killing nerve cells and tissue, affecting an individual’s ability to remember, think and plan. Brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s may begin 20 or more years before symptoms appear.

∫ Alzheimer’s is more than memory loss. The disease may appear through a variety of signs and symptoms.

∫ Alzheimer’s risks are higher among women, African-Americans and Hispanics.

∫ Early detection matters. More than 5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease, but only about half have been diagnosed. Also, only 45 percent of seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or their caregivers are aware of the diagnosis.

∫ Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented, but adopting healthy habits can reduce risk of cognitive decline and contribute to brain health.

∫ Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in the country, costing taxpayers $18.3 million each hour. The total national cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias is estimated at $236 billion a year, of which $160 billion is the cost to Medicare and Medicaid. Total annual payments for health care, long-term care and hospice care for people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are projected to increase to more than $1 trillion in 2050.

∫ Caregiving can become anyone’s reality. According to the 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, it is estimated that 250,000 children and young adults provide help to someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia. In addition, 23 percent are “sandwich generation” caregivers who care for aging parents and underage children.

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