New program for Alzheimer’s caregivers makes past the focus of the present

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease or Dementia it can be devastating, but a local organization is hoping a new approach to care for those diseases may help.

Officials with Home Instead Senior Care in Richland County say 60 to 70 percent of Alzheimer's patients are still living at home, and they say there's a new program that's helping caregivers and families take care of patients.

"We know that families experience two significant challenges," said Rene Kilburn of Home Instead Senior Care. "One is how to engage the mind of the person with the Dementia or Alzheimer's Disease, and the second to deal with some of the behaviors that come out of it."

But those challenges may be a little easier to handle during the caretaking journey. Rene Kilburn, the president and local franchise owner of the Home Instead Senior Care in Columbia, says the organization's new "Alzheimer's CARE Program" utilizes a journal called 'Capturing Life's Journey' that centers on learning all about a patient's past. The company believes it will help caretakers and families better take care of their patients.

"We actually have an exercise we go through to capture those experiences and we can use those experiences to actually engage them and help manage their behaviors," said Kilburn.

Kilburn says because Alzheimer's and Dementia patients don't have short term memory, so trying to live in the now can cause them to become frustrated. She adds the new program focuses on asking questions about a person's past and existing memories to develop ideas for daily activities.

"When you find the thing that lights them up you'll know it," said Kilburn. "You'll see it in their face, they'll talk about it [and] they'll get energized, so you know it's something to hold onto and use as an activity."

Caregiver Linda Allman knows that firsthand. Her mother has been battling dementia for 5 years, and Linda says this new approach has already made a big difference "The other day, I had her snap green beans and she hadn't done that in years," said Allman.  "So I knew that back there in the recesses were those things."

Officials with Home Care say those little moments will go a long way into helping make the present battle more of a 'thing of the past.' "By understanding that some of the behaviors like repetition or confusion over today's schedule that they can't help, it lets families let go of that expectation and can take some of that frustration and angst out."

To learn more about the "Alzheimer's CARE Program" visit Home Instead Senior Care says they will also be offering free training classes for families in the near future. For more information call, (803) 736-4242.