As we age, we undergo many physical and mental changes. While physical changes can be mitigated with exercise and a good diet, the mental changes we experience may sometimes be out of our control. One common mental change we often hear about is Alzheimer’s disease, a type of dementia. Because Alzheimer’s disease does not have a known cure or proven preventative measures, many times it is difficult to care for our loved ones who are diagnosed with it.
Carole Teranishi is a caregiver for her 84 year-old husband who was diagnosed with symptoms of dementia six years ago. According to Carole, “The challenges are daily as my husband’s condition worsens. He is becoming more clumsy getting food into his mouth, he doesn’t like using a walker or any type of aide, so it was a challenge getting him to use a cane, and while he did have hearing aids, he loses them or throws his hearing aids in the trash.”
One organization addressing Alzheimer’s disease in our community is Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles (ALZGLA). Their mission is to “Improve the lives of local families affected by Alzheimer’s/Dementia by increasing awareness, delivering effective programs/services, providing compassionate support, and advocating for quality care and a cure.” The organization educates older adults and caregivers about how the disease works and how caregivers can better address the needs of those who are diagnosed with it.
ALZGLA offers several programs to educate the community, including Let’s Talk About It: Memory Loss & Alzheimer’s, Savvy Caregiver, and Keeping Your Brain Healthy. Made possible by a grant from Keiro, ALZGLA is currently conducting educational classes and programs at various community centers, temples, and churches in the Japanese American and Japanese community and offers some programming in Japanese. These classes offer a multitude of benefits including a greater understanding of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and how they affect life for those inflicted with these conditions; caregiving strategies for some of the challenges caregivers encounter when looking after those with cognitive disabilities; and ways to manage stress for yourself as a caregiver. According to Carole, “The Savvy Caregiver class helped me to be more sympathetic and patient with my husband. I took the class because I felt very inadequate in caring for him and frustrated in understanding the illness, but the workbook they gave us really helped me follow the lectures and class participation helped me understand how to help my husband with his dementia.”
Today, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, but there are ways for us to manage the issues these conditions frequently present. As a community, it is important to encourage caregivers to ask for help. Organizations like Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles are doing great work in the community to educate and provide us with tools to better care for our loved ones with cognitive impairments. It is important to be prepared so that we can help both ourselves and others now and in the future.