As I edited a Walterboro woman’s guest column for the newspaper recently, her words began tugging at me.
She talked about the “isolation and loneliness on a daily basis” of taking care of her 84-year-old mother who has Alzheimer’s.
The ex-rock-’n’-roll-singer-turned-praise-and-worship-singer talked about the “sad and depressing (world)” of a caregiver.
“I am a caregiver not a daughter (anymore),” Pamela Lowe writes. “She (Mom) has slipped away. Her memories of me have been erased by this dreaded disease.
“You grieve as you would in the death of a loved one, but there is no closure, for she is there by sight but not by mind.”
Lowe is not complaining though. Like many across the Lowcountry, she decided — chose — to take care of her mother. Still, it is not an easy task. The column, she said, is to give voice to caregivers everywhere.
It has worked.
There is help
Too often we focus only on the people with the disease and forget their families, especially those who are caregivers. They, too, suffer.
Peg Lahmeyer has a message for caregivers: There is help.
She also read the July 5 column in the Moxie section. “That broke my heart.” And she knows something about caregiving.
Lahmeyer’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at age 85 in 1989. Her father had died in 1990, so she was the caregiver for her mother from 1990 to 1997, when her mother died at 93.
Back then there were not a lot of resources for caregivers. That’s why she started The ARK at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Summerville. She is executive director.
Lahmeyer wants caregivers to know they are not alone and can reach out for help.
She said there are lots of resources at http://www.theARKofSC.org
Here are a few:
Adult respite care that helps out so caregivers can get a needed break;
Support groups, where caregivers learn coping skills through sharing with each other or hearing from speakers in the field;
Caregiver consultation, where a staff member works with families to set care priorities, share caregiving techniques and find resources to help the person with dementia to live a quality life at home;
Lunch & Learn Program, where staffers work with area businesses and industries to assist employees who serve as caregivers. Lahmeyer said many caregivers are young people juggling family responsibilities while working full- or part-time.
The Noah Project: The ARK has started this program to work with underserved areas to develop Alzheimer’s support services in communities in Dorchester, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton and Orangeburg counties.
Start a support group
But Lahmeyer said sometimes caregivers need help reaching out for help. That’s where friends, extended family members, co-workers or churches can help.
They can help caregivers find out what services are available to them.
Give caregivers information about support groups, she said. (A list for the tri-county area can be found at http://www.theARKofSC.org.)
With the Noah project, Lahmeyer said churches or community groups can sponsor support groups to help caregivers.
She said The ARK’s website has tons of information for the tri-county area; However, if you go to any computer and type in Alzheimer’s and the area where you live, lots of information will pop up, she said.
For instance, the Alzheimer’s Association’s state chapter has a 24/7 help line: 1-800-272-3900 or go to http://www.alz.org/ for more information about help for caregivers.
Lowe, who relies heavily on her faith to get her through, ends her column with a prayer: “I pray there will soon be a cure so others will not have to go through this dreaded disease called Alzheimer’s.”
Reach Assistant Features Editor Shirley A. Greene at 937-5555, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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