Alzheimer’s Family Day Center

Alz_FamDayCareLocated in Fairfax, Virginia, the Alzheimer’s Family Day Center (AFDC) is the only adult day health center in the Washington, DC metro area for adults with Alzheimer’s disease in the mid to late stages of Alzheimer’s and other related dementia. For those in the early stages, the Social Club meets for a half-day once a week. Founded in 1984 by visionary Dr. Lin Noyes Simon, AFDC just celebrated its 25th anniversary. As a founding director of the first and only dementia-specific day-care center in Northern Virginia, Dr. Simon turned a concept of care into a viable nonprofit business that increases the quality of life for people with dementia and their families.

Alzheimer's Family Day Center

Alzheimer's Family Day Center

Part of the mission of this organization is education. They offer training programs for caregivers and they practice and improve the skills and techniques in their programs. They also offer classes for caregivers on many aspects including medical, legal, financial, community resources, how to build coping skills.

The Alzheimer’s Family Day Center is a full care facility providing breakfast, lunch, and two snacks each day. Additionally medical services and transportation are provided. They can accommodate up to 34 participants with a 1:4 staff ratio. Fees cover 40% of their budget; fund raising and grants cover the rest. Scholarships are provided for those that cannot afford the fees. Level II care for the middle stages of Alzheimer’s and runs from $730 to $1533 per month, depending on the number of days the client attends. Level III care for late stage dementia ranges from $830 to $1743 per month.

On the day I visited, the group was actively engaged in a game. One aide was seated right outside of the restrooms ready to assist while another sat right outside of the game room also ready to assist. Another staff member was cleaning the bright dining room. It’s a very pleasant facility with an upbeat staff.

Nancy Dezan, Executive Director, said day care is not for everyone. People think that their loved ones won’t like it, but once they attend, they think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. She asked me why I thought my family never sent my father to day care. Well, they tried it, but my mother (as my father’s primary caretaker) felt it was so much work to prepare him to go out. Furthermore, they had to be ready when their transportation arrived. Nancy said this was a typical answer for many families.

To see how you can help, visit the AFDC Web site.

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Sylvia Mackey and How to Care for a Dementia Patient

Sylvia Mackey

Sylvia Mackey

In last week’s post, I talked about attending the 23rd Annual Caregiver Conference — Shedding Light on Dementia Care. The program closed with inspirational speaker, Sylvia Mackey, wife of John Mackey, former football player for the Baltimore Colts, who has frontotemporal dementia (FTD) something common to many football players. She shared her thoughts on how to care for a dementia patient.

According to the Mayo Clinic, frontotemporal dementia (frontotemporal lobar degeneration) is an umbrella term for a diverse group of uncommon disorders that primarily affect the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain — the areas generally associated with personality, behavior and language.

Frontotemporal dementia is often misdiagnosed as a psychiatric problem or as Alzheimer’s disease. But frontotemporal dementia tends to occur at a younger age than does Alzheimer’s disease, typically between the ages of 40 and 70. John Mackey was diagnosed at 60.

Before putting her husband in an assisted living facility, Sylvia was his primary caretaker. They were living in California, but they moved back to the Baltimore area because he was most familiar with that area. She had several examples of using the NFL to convince her husband to do certain things like take a shower. “The NFL commissioner is coming so you need to take a shower” and he would comply.

She had several suggestions to help the caretakers in the audience.

  1. Learn to laugh; it has no side effects. She recommended Finding Meaning with Charles.
  2. Use creativity to solve new challenges.
  3. Focus on one positive thing when in a challenge.
  4. Reflect on special moments.

Sylvia showed us an unconditional love for her husband and through laughter and tears was an inspiration to all of us. To read more about the couple, click here.

This being the week of Thanksgiving in the United States, I am grateful to all of you for pausing to read my blog. I wish all of you a very safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

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Why Humor?

Ronald P. Culberson

Ronald P. Culberson

Last week I attended the 23rd Annual Caregiver Conference, Shedding Light on Dementia Care. Ronald P. Culberson, author of Is Your Glass Laugh Full? opened the session. His speech titled, “”Humor and Caregiving: How to Lighten Up When Things Get Heavy,” was well received by the audience of about 200. On a dreary, wet day in Fairfax, VA, what better way to open a conference than a speaker talking about why humor.

In stressing why humor, Culberson said humor is a way to do two things:

  1. Manage stress
  2. Connect with others

As a way to manage stress, he said if you can laugh in the midst of stress, it cannot overwhelm you. He emphasized that you have to see humor all the time, otherwise you won’t be able to deal with it when you’re stressed. Humor is always there if you’re always on the lookout for it. In our world, however, Culberson said sometimes we seem to love to “out negative” each other.

Second, humor can help us connect with other people. We tend to like people with a sense of humor. When you share humor, funny things happen; it changes the relationship. Hence, humor should be used as a tool.Is your glass laugh full

I bought a copy of Culberson’s book, Is Your Glass Laugh Full? at the conference. Somewhat autobiographical in nature, he shares incidents in his life and presents them in a delightful, humorous fashion. It’s a book that’s difficult to stop reading. Being a primary caretaker is not easy and extremely stressful. I highly recommend this book to remove some of the stress.

If there was a simple recipe for care-taking, life would be a lot easier. But every case is different. For example, I met someone at the conference whose husband has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He will not cooperate and listen to anyone and hence, she’s unable to bring in outside help. He sleeps during the day and is up all night. This conference was a good chance for her and others to get away for the day and get some ideas from the wonderful attendees, speakers, and vendors.

Sponsored by The Northern Virginia Dementia Care Consortium, I was not aware of it previously (probably because my attention was not focused on Alzheimer’s), but I’m definitely looking forward to it next year.

One of the grestest lessons I’ve learned about humor is that it is all around us, in every corner of our lives. If we keep our humor antennae up and look for laughs we’ll find reasons to smile every day. ~Ron Culberson in Is Your Glass Laugh Full?

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