Event to benefit Alzheimer’s care

BY LOIS CAPLAN

More than 25 years ago my New York friend Rhoda moved all the furniture, equipment and books from her husband’s Wall Street office to their Upper East Side Park Avenue apartment and arranged it exactly as it had been when he was a working executive. George had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Rhoda, in her infinite wisdom, knew instinctively that she should keep his environment as familiar as possible, even though he was long past being able to conduct business. There would be no nursing home for him, even though she could easily afford the cost. A few years later here in St. Louis, my dear friend, the late Jean Milton Schneider, went to work at the Jewish Center for Aged as a music therapist. There she found that the residents came to life and responded out of a semi-catatonic state to the music she played and sang for them — old tunes from their life before Alzheimer’s.

Today, a few decades later, we know that more than 5 million Americans suffer from the mind-destroying disease and those who are not institutionalized are cared for by frustrated spouses or family members whose lives have often become unbearable. In 2004, Lisa Baron founded Memory Care Home Solutions, a not-for-profit agency whose purpose is to extend and improve quality time at home for families caring for a loved one with memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s. This mission is achieved through personalized, hands-on training and home visits that give caregivers the skills to manage daily stress and transform their home into a place of safety and comfort for everyone who lives there.

On Thursday, Nov. 1 Memory Care Home Solutions will hold its first fundraiser, appropriately called “Memories and Melodies.” A kind of musical cocktail party and silent auction, the event will take place at Windows Off Washington, 701 N. 15th Street. The evening starts with an open bar and hors d’oeuvres at 6:30 p.m. to be followed by a program hosted by jazz aficionado Don Wolff with live music by the Dwayne Estes Trio. For reservations at $100 per person, send your check to Memory Care Home Solutions, 10784 Indian Head Industrial Blvd., St. Louis Mo., 63132 or call 314-426-6247. All proceeds from

“Memories and Melodies” will go to Memory Care Home Solutions, and being a 501( c )(3) nonprofit organization, $65 of each ticket is tax deductible. Kosher food is available at the event.

Memory Care provides customized caregiver training and in-home consultation. Their philosophy is that, since memory loss is unique for each victim, each family caring for someone with memory loss requires an individualized plan of care for each situation. This year 124 caregivers were assisted through the program, a number Memory Care hopes to double in 2007-08. An evaluation of this program revealed that there were cost savings associated with delayed institutionalization, reduction of trips to emergency rooms, acute hospitalizations and reduced stress on the caregivers. In terms of dollars alone, this personalized training and support delays placement of a loved one in a skilled nursing facility for an average of 360 days, which translates into approximately $75,000 per year.

This year Memory Care served 1,000 lay and professional caregivers through community outreach and education. Issues addressed included transforming the home, whether that be the long-time family house, an apartment, a residential community or any other place one may call “home” into a healthy, safe and comforting place; improving communication; and modifying daily activities to promote independence. According to Lisa Baron, executive director of Memory Care, their intent is to increase to 2,000 the number of caregivers trained in the next year. The caregiver is the one who sets the stage for whether it’s a good day or bad day, calm day or chaotic day, in how they respond to the way the person with dementia is behaving.

The following is from a recent article in the San Diego Union Tribune. “Offering simple training to care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease not only eases their burden — it can even keep patients out of nursing homes for an extra 1 1/2 years. Alzheimer’s caregivers seldom can make time in their daily grind to seek out that kind of help. And when they do, they too often find waiting lists for services, or programs geared only toward people with advanced disease and not the larger pool in the purgatory that is dementia’s decade-long middle ground between independence and helplessness.”

It is estimated by the Alzheimer’s Association that 10 million people share the task of caring for a relative or friend with dementia. Nearly one in four provides care for 40 hours a week or more. Handling the wandering, aggressive outbursts and incontinence — plus eventual round-the-clock monitoring — is very different than, for example, learning to lift someone who is physically impaired but won’t fight the caregiver. “Those are skills that must be taught,” says Mary Mittleman of New York University’s School of Medicine, who is leading a new movement to develop customized training programs for Alzheimer’s care. “Today, most learn through trial and error.” Except here in St. Louis where our innovative Memory Care Home Solutions is working at replacing trial and error with training.

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