Alzheimer’s Awareness: Don’t forget them

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Worldwide, 55 million people live with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disease and the most common form of dementia. This form is not a specific disease but an overall term that describes a group of symptoms. This June’s goal is to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s, so let’s think about this disease a little differently.

Watch this informative video for more information on this month’s observance and brain health.

I am a geriatric nurse practitioner, and I work with patients and families daily that are learning to live with Alzheimer’s. Additionally, I work with residents in long-term care memory units. I can attest to how the isolation during COVID-19 has affected cognition decline and increased isolation and loneliness. Residents with dementia cannot comprehend why their families could not visit.

My perspective

We need to remember those that got lost in the COVID-19 shuffle. They are alone and suffering. Please remember our elderly community and make time to visit with them whenever possible. A thirty-minute visit can have a significant impact on their health.

My sister’s father-in-law passed away from Alzheimer’s. His wife hid his memory issues for a long time before the family realized what was happening. This is a common occurrence, especially in our stoic elderly population that doesn’t want to bother friends and family.

My daughter-in-law’s father also suffers from this disease. He resides in a long-term care facility. This situation is difficult, but it leaves the family asking questions about their future. The question is always in the back of your mind “Will I eventually succumb to Alzheimer’s Disease?”

Not alone

The statistics sound daunting, but there is hope. Medications are available to help slow the disease, and research is ongoing. Resources are available to help conquer the burden for the caregiver. First and foremost, there is your family physician or practitioner. We can help direct you to these resources and find the best medication. Our social workers are also available to help. An array of Alzheimer’s Support groups also help with Alzheimer’s awareness.

Do not hesitate to reach out for help. We need to take care of your loved one with Alzheimer’s, but we also need to take care of you.

Rose Lorentz, APRN, A-GNPAlzheimer’s Awareness Month is a special time for Rose

Tri-County Health Care


Meet Ashley Steen

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Meet Ashley Steen, FNP, DNP. Ashley works in ReadyCare and is no stranger to a fast-paced work environment after working in similar roles for nearly a decade. Her experience ranges from correctional medicine to dementia care.

“I was so amazed at how friendly everyone is and welcoming! I have truly walked into one big happy family. The culture is outstanding, better than any other organization I’ve been with. “– Ashley Steen

 Where it all started

Ashley received a big career push early on in life at her first job caring for people with dementia. In this home, she assisted people with their bedtime routines, which can be very challenging. Dementia behavior often made the job difficult, forcing Ashley to grasp new care techniques quickly. According to Ashley, this was the job that sparked her interest in the healthcare field.

 Care for everyone 

Ashley’s father was a police officer, and her mother worked in court corrections. She got used to hearing stories about her father arresting the same people and her mother processing them. This experience made Ashley curious about the criminal justice system, and the impact healthcare can have on repeat offenders.

“My nurse practitioner program focused on social justice and transcultural nursing.  As part of our scholarly project, we focused on a culture. I chose the culture of corrections and how we could help with recidivism. I found we are releasing people back to their communities with little to no resources,” explained Ashley. Her research led to her developing a reentry program at the local jail. This program involved interviewing inmates and gathering data. From the data collected, she came up with ten resources that people need upon being released. After this experience, Ashley kept volunteering in the medical unit at the facility. She has been doing this for three years now

 “I can read all the journals, books, attend all the conferences, but until I took the time to sit down and work in corrections and be with inmates on a daily basis, I never truly understood the disparity we serve them at times. “– Ashley Steen

ReadyCare

For minor injuries and symptoms, consider using ReadyCare at Tri-County Health Care. ReadyCare is open Monday through Saturday. Patients should enter through the North Emergency Room entrance. Follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for future updates.


Helping you age well: Rose Lorentz

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Rose Lorentz, APRN, A-GNP, has been working at Tri-County Health Care for over 40 years. Her career has spanned decades, introducing her to thousands of patients. Each patient is a unique individual that handles aging in their own way. We all age, and Rose believes that the older generation is a foundational pillar of our community, holding years of precious wisdom. Helping them age well is a primary goal of Rose and the rest of the Tri-County team.

“I loved listening to my grandparents and their stories. They have a lot of knowledge to impart to us. I want to make sure they get the care they deserve,” said Rose. Every morning, she does her rounds at Fair Oaks Lodge, addressing various medical problems and facilitating communication between patients and physicians. Rose specializes in wound and ostomy care; a big part of her job is tending to the wounds of elderly patients.

“I was a candy striper at our local nursing home and fell in love with the older residents. That’s when I knew I wanted to make a career out of helping to make their lives better.”

Rose is a primary care provider at Tri-County Health Care helping elderly patients.Dementia

Rose has considerable experience working with patients who have dementia. Patients dealing with memory loss and the slew of medical problems associated with dementia need a heightened level of care.

According to Rose, patients in memory care need to have human contact, not just in the clinical sense. They need to be treated like people. Instead of being left in a room, they need and deserve human touch. She often observes people arguing or treating dementia patients like children. This is incredibly detrimental. People with dementia are still humans. They deserve respect and Rose habitually goes out of her way to respectfully communicate with every patient during a visit.

The end of life

Facing death is an obstacle we will all face. When older adults reach the end of their lives, it stirs emotions not just in them but also in their families. Many times, it’s more difficult for the family to process the incoming loss of a loved one than it is for the patient to pass.

Rose has observed this many times. Rose and medical staff have to do everything they can to provide a comfortable atmosphere for their passing. “Many have no family to sit with them. At that point, you become their family,” explained Rose. She and the nursing home staff are like family to these patients and grieve when they die.

“I feel it is a privilege to be with someone at the end of their life. It is the closest you will get to God here on earth.”

Rose Lorentz, APRN, A-GNP

About Rose Lorentz

Rose Lorentz has been working in the medical field since 1977.  She specializes in wound, diabetic and geriatric care. In her off time, she enjoys quilting and gardening. Helping the elderly is a special passion that she holds very dear.

 

 

 

 


Once upon a memory: caregivers brave the journey of loved ones with dementia

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Dementia affects millions of people across the U.S. each year, robbing people of their independence and the very memories that make them who they are. At its core, dementia describes symptoms that cause the loss of memory or other thinking skills that can take away a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.

Though Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, Brenda Packer, who facilitates the Memory Loss Support Group for Caregivers at Tri-County Health Care, explains that Alzheimer’s is just one of many memory loss diseases.

“Dementia is an umbrella, and Alzheimer’s is just one of the many different dementias. Like the differences between cancers,” she said.

Brenda has experienced caregiving firsthand when her husband’s father developed dementia.

Once the dementia diagnosis is confirmed, then begins a lengthy journey for that person as well as for those who are now tasked with caring for them. It’s hard to know what to expect from one day to the next as they face the unknown and unpredictability of the disease that’s stealing away their loved one.

 

KarenKaren Leverin holds a photo of her parents who she was the caregiver for before they both passed away from dementia.

Karen Leverington’s parents, William and Marlos Weiss, were married for 72 years. She described them as a quiet couple who would “give you the shirt off their back. If there was something that needed to be done, they’d be the first ones there to help.”

In 2012, William developed early symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Karen and her husband, Gerald, decided to add on to their home and encouraged her parents to sell their Pine River home and move in with them.

William’s condition soon worsened. He forgot how to play checkers, a game he loved. He lost interest in listening to church services on the radio, and developed severe sundowners, where he had his days and nights mixed up.

After a long battle, William passed away in November of 2015 at the age of 95. Sadly, Marlos’ health took a turn for the worse not long after.

“About two weeks after he passed away, she had full blown vascular dementia,” Karen said. “She had been holding it together for his sake.”

Being a vascular disease affecting her veins and arteries, Marlos’ dementia caused small strokes and began to take a toll on her body. Karen and Gerald decided she needed more attentive care and moved her to an assisted living facility north of Wadena owned by Karen’s daughter. After that, Marlos declined rapidly and passed away in March of 2017 at the age of 92.

“It’s not easy, and the thing that you realize down the road is that you lose them twice,” Karen said. “You lose them to the disease because most of the people that have Alzheimer’s or dementia don’t recognize their family after a time. We did not experience that. They knew us. But you lose them to the disease and you watch them suffer, and you suffer. Then eventually death comes and you lose them again.

“Once they’re gone, you have all these thoughts of could I have done something else differently, could I have helped them more? You can’t dwell on that. We did the best we could, and in the state they were in, they were happy.”

 

Lillian

Lillian Pladson’s caregiving journey began in 2009 when her husband, Graydon, suffered a health emergency of an irregular heartbeat. His health continued to decline, leading to seizures and memory loss. As of now, he still recognizes his wife, but his thoughts are very much trapped in the past, and there are times he struggles to make sense.Lillian and Graydon, whom she was the caregiver for as he suffers from dementia.

Lillian was his primary caregiver up until three years ago when he was moved to a veteran’s home in Fergus Falls. She tries to visit as much as she can. “It’s the nicest place. I can feel free,” she said. “They are so friendly and so helpful. If you go there, they’re there to help you out too.”

Graydon taught business classes at the tech college in Wadena for 30 years, and the students and instructors who have approached Lillian about her husband are a testament to how well he was liked. Though he no longer behaves like the man he once was, Lillian believes that he and the others with memory loss at the veteran’s home have not lost the essence of who they are.

“They’re still human beings,” she said. “I think deep down, they still know what’s going on.”

 

You can’t do it alone

Caregivers of a loved one with dementia have a huge load on their shoulders. Brenda recommends finding a support group to have a place to ease that load, even if just a little bit.

“It’s reassuring to be in a group that can say that happened to me too. I was there. Or I felt that way too,” Brenda said. “There’s nobody that can say they know how somebody feels unless they’ve been on similar journeys.”

Brenda focuses on education, helping caregivers learn what to expect, how to interact with their loved one, what financial or legal documents to get in order and explaining the different dementia diseases. She also makes sure to prioritize taking care of the caregiver.

“They think they can always do it all by themselves,” she said. “I think the thing about the caregivers is they are very resilient people because this is a marathon.”

Karen initially resisted going to the support group. “My husband kept telling me, ‘You need to go to that support group, and I kept saying, ‘I’m fine. I’m fine.’ I didn’t realize how I wasn’t that fine.”

Now, she has been going for almost four years, and she has developed deep friendships. After her parents passed away, she considered not going anymore, but she believes others can still learn from her experiences.

“I call this a journey because when you are thrown into the situation, you have no idea what’s down the road in front of you,” Karen said. “That’s why support group is so important because you learn from the other people who are there, what they’re going through.”

Lillian has also been attending the support group about four years, and she finds the companionship incredibly valuable. “I think you need some help. You’re kind of alone,” she said. “People know what you’re going through. I don’t think a lot of people realize there’s other things involved with memory loss.”

To sum up the support group, Karen uttered one final statement: “In group, you laugh together, you cry together, and you lift each other up.”

 

If you are a caregiver of a loved one with dementia or a family or friend supporting a caregiver, you are invited to attend the Memory Loss Support Group for Caregivers. It meets the second Thursday of each month at 2:30 p.m. in the Wesley Conference Room at Tri-County Health Care. There is no signup, and you are not required to attend a set number of meetings. The group partners with the Alzheimer’s Association, which provides a 24-hour hotline that caregivers of people with any type of dementia may call to ask questions or have consultations: 1-800-272-3900.