Class for caregivers of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients

Handling challenges, finding resources, support
Class for caregivers of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients

he number of people with Alzheimer’s Disease, dementia and memory loss is growing as a large part of the population ages.

This month the Alzheimer’s Association is sponsoring a three week class in Joplin.The class will be taught by Ruth Guzman who learned first hand what it’s like to be a caregiver for one with dementia.

“We have squirrels she loved to watch,” Ruth Guzman reminisced on her back porch. Guzman has fond memories of her mother Maria. She cared for her for ten years as Maria struggled with vascular dementia and passed away in 2012. Ruth admitted, “I was absolutely clueless.”

Guzman turned to education, reading everything she could. And she learned a lot simply from experience.

Guzman said of her mother, “She lived in a nice house. We fed her well, dressed her well, loved her to death but, I couldn’t take her outside anymore because she would become confused. I mean it would take her five minutes to not know where she was anymore and she would become upset.”

And Maria could even pose a danger to herself. Guzman explained, “She could not be left alone anymore, because she could wander off, she could set your house on fire.” And she laughed because Maria did once when cooking and a tortilla caught fire. Luckily that was when Ruth walked into the room.

So, Guzman will teach other caregivers that it takes patience living with someone with memory loss. She said, “They can ask the same questions 50 times in an hour because they don’t remember what you’ve told them.” And she recommends redirection. “When they’re getting upset about something, instead of arguing with them, you try to redirect their attention to something else.”

Guzman tells her classes one way to deal with the frustrations of being a caregiver is, humor. “We laughed at everything. We smiled at everything. They became stories to tell,” smiled Guzman.

Ruth’s husband and daughter Sonya helped give her breaks. Alzheimer’s officials said that’s critical. Debra Bryer with the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Missouri said, “Number one to give breaks, two get education and create a support network for themselves, are really important for good caregiving and maintaining the health and safety and sanity of caregivers.”

Guzman said she never got to a breaking point when it came to stress but admitted, “I broke down a couple times in the hospital but um, other than that it’s just sad.”

Ruth and others say it’s important to ask for help. And not become a martyr. “You know, you have to take care of you,” Ruth said. So you can also take care of the one you love.

Living with Alzheimer’s for Middle Stage Caregivers’ will take place Thursday nights, April 18, 25 and May 2 at the Joplin Public Library community room east. Registration is requested to provide materials. Contact the Alzheimer’s Association at 1-800-272-3900.