BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Alzheimer's disease is so much more than memory loss. It's the sixth-leading cause of death in this country, and the number of cases is expected to triple to 15 million over the next 35 years.
It's a scary statistic that prompted researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center to offer free classes that empower caregivers and improve quality of life.
Familiar sounds and familiar sights help Steve Campo overcome his recent bouts with memory loss. His favorite music often blares from a radio in his kitchen, where pictures of grandkids hang near the refrigerator.
"Sometimes he doesn't know who owns this property, but then it's just for short periods of time," Gwen Pine explained.
After 38 years of marriage, Pine knows her husband better than anyone, but until recently she had no idea how to handle his diagnosis.
"I just jumped at the chance, because Alzheimer's is so scary to deal with," she said.
Pine attended several free classes developed by the director of Pennington's Institute for Dementia Research & Prevention.
"[The caregiver] is under the same level of stress as someone in active combat," Dr. Jeffrey Keller said. "And that's because often they've been put in the situation, and they've been put in it without the resources that they need to effectively handle this."
The weekly classes were first offered this spring and address all aspects of the disease: risk-factors, symptoms, diagnosis, medication, financial and legal issues, and end-of-life care.
"When you start going over what to expect, where this disease often takes people, and you start to describe that, and what you'll need to do, what you'll need to consider, putting things in place before the loved one reaches that state, it's powerful stuff," Keller said.
Pine used the course to help find a financial planner, and she said the valuable information has put both her and Steve at ease with their future.
"After completing those courses, each one of them, I felt more confident about making decisions, confronting crisis. I mean, I know they're gonna come up, but I can handle 'em," she said.
The course consists of six classes held from September 15 to October 20 on Pennington's Perkins Road campus. A different subject is covered every Tuesday from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.
Video recordings of the spring classes are available here for those who cannot attend in person.
Call 225-578-6763 to register or visit the website to register.
The schedule of remaining classes is below:
Sept. 22 - "Physician Perspective for Caregivers"
Dr Patrick Gahan MD, FACP Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group, Senior Care Center
Institute for Dementia Research and Prevention
This class will provide a geriatricians perspective on the detection and treatment options for elderly individuals with dementia. Topics of how to prepare for a doctor appointment, planning for medical decisions during the progression of dementia, managing chronic diseases in individuals with dementia, polypharmacy, and end of life issues will also be discussed.
Sept. 29 - "Why an Estate Planning Attorney is an Essential Member of the Care Team, Too!"
Laura C. Poche Rabalais Law (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This portion of the course will outline the multiple and complex legal issues which accompany medical conditions such as dementia. An outline of the legal tools available to address specific legal concerns, and the legal issues to consider, will be discussed.
Oct. 6 - 'Let's talk': Approaches to Individualized Dementia Patient/Caregiver Relationship
Miranda Waddell MSN, Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group, Senior Care Center (email@example.com)
This class will discuss the medical issues and medical decisions that can occur during the later stages of dementia. Communication and caring for dementia patients in late stages of dementia will be discussed. In particular end of life care and hospice will be outlined.
Oct. 13 - "Why a Financial Advisor is an Essential Member of the Care Team"
Annalee Leonard Founder and President of Mainstay Financial Group (850-437-3127)
This portion of the course will outline the multiple and complex financial issues which accompany medical conditions such as dementia. An outline of the financial tools available to address specific financial concerns, and the financial issues to consider, will be discussed.
Oct 20. - "Daily Caregiving; What You Need to Know"
Shonda Boudet Always Best Care and Senior Services (Sboudet@abc-seniors.com)
This class will provide an outline of how to support the activities of daily living for individuals with dementia. Special attention will be given to discuss how the level of support for activities of daily living changes during the progression of dementia.