Caregivers use special skills

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 27, 2004


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – We are taught from a very young age that patience is a virtue.

And that developing a pre-disposition for that trait will benefit others as well as ourselves.

This is most assuredly the best piece of truth we face if we become a caregiver for a person afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease.

“Absolute patience is the one skill you must have when you are in this type of situation, with Alzheimer’s,” said Willia Scott, a caregiver who has worked with many types of patients.

Scott, a retiree from East Jefferson Hospital, currently works with LaPlace ARC, United Cerebral Palsy Association; and Taylor Care, a service that places patient caregivers.

She is currently assisting a 36-year-old woman through the United Cerebral Palsy Association. The patient has Alzheimer’s Disease, in addition to other afflictions.

One of the three forms of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease afflicts mostly senior citizens 65+ years-of-age, but those much younger can also suffer from this progressive disease. Such is the case with Scott’s current patient.

“My client likes to go out (of the house) so we go to a restaurant or shopping,” she said. “But I have to stay very close and have to keep answering the same questions.”

Trying to keep a patient focused and concentrated on a certain task, such as finding important papers, is another challenge for caregivers, added Scott.

This is where that pre-disposition for patience comes in handy, according to Mary Nelson, another caregiver that works with Scott.

“Alzheimer’s patients continually ask the same things over and over again, and they don’t remember your answers,” she said. “But this is part of their disease and you work with it.”

Nelson has worked in nursing for 20 years and has seen the devastation of Alzheimer Disease. She added that support from the family is key in the comfort of the patient.

Scott agrees. The caregivers become part of the family, as they help the patient in daily living, she said. “When I go to work, this is like taking care of a family member.”

LaPlace resident Mary Martine cared for her 88-year-old mother until her death last year.

“Mother had Alzheimer’s. It was hard. You go through so many feelings,” she said. “But I tried to remember the good times when we were all younger. This way I could deal with everything that was going on when the doctor told us the bad news that she wouldn’t get any better.”

Martine said she went to the library to get information on the disease, since she didn’t own a computer. “Now, you can go on the computer, and doctors seem to know more now too.”

She added that she and her two siblings, both from New Orleans, attended a support group in that city. “It helped, but we still had to work with mother individually on different days,” said Martine. “But we loved her, so what else could we do but take care of her? She needed us.”