Alzheimer's disease is many people's worst nightmare. In small increments, it robs a person of their mind and the ability to do everyday things making living alone nearly impossible.
But there is help not only for Alzheimer's patients but also for those who care for them. The Alzheimer's Association trains people to care for Alzheimer's patients, but Tuesday those caregivers learned from those who know the devastating effects of the disease best, men and women who have it.
Alzheimer's patient Marie Heuer says, "My life has become very small. It's a disease that takes away the ability to do small things you've done all your life." A year and a half ago, doctors told Heuer she's in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Heuer says her family keeps her going. It's why she's at the training program, willing to share her story. "I think just sharing how we cope with our lives, how families help us and how they can help us," Heuer says.
Ted Grazman understands. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's two years ago. "They need training because it's not an easy ride," Grazman says. "It's very hard to talk to my wife sometimes to make decisions, decisions we never had to make before." Most of the people there are volunteers, but some are family members learning how to help loved ones with things they can't do for themselves anymore. Cheryl Klueppel with the Alzheimer's Association says, "Some of the issues like driving, planning for the future and where to get support are things we discuss."
It's important that Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers are aware of their rights. Patients should be informed of the disease and their diagnosis. It's vital they stay productive at work and at home as long as possible and be treated like an adult. It's also necessary that Alzheimer's patients receive ongoing medical care, that they have their feelings taken seriously, and that they have physical contact with their loved ones as much as possible. None of these things will stop the progression of the disease for which there is no cure, but they will ensure a patient enjoys the best quality of life he or she can. "It's important to be diagnosed early," Klueppel says. "There's treatment available and there's support."
You can find more about Alzheimer's disease and how to get in contact with the Alzheimer's Association in the Heartland at