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Help, resources available for Alzheimer’s caregivers

Get tips for early detection and call 24-hour helpline if needed.
Couple still in love after 42 years of marriage, coping with his Alzheimer's diagnosis.
Couple still in love after 42 years of marriage, coping with his Alzheimer's diagnosis.(wvlt)
Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 7:37 PM EDT
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LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WVLT) - If you are concerned that a loved one could have memory problems and wonder about Alzheimer’s, you are not alone. According to the Alzheimer’s Association in Tennessee, approximately 120,000 people are currently struggling with the disease. An estimated 357,000 unpaid caregivers such as spouses and adult children are struggling to help someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The Association has a list of ten early signs to watch for. If you need help right now, you can call a 24-hour helpline: 800-272-3900.

“Early detection and planning is very important,” said Executive Director Dawne Bunn with the Alzheimer’s Association in Tennessee. Bunn said there is a tremendous need for supporting caregivers so they are able to work through a care plan for the patient they care about. This plan can include various medical help, including medication and potentially assisted living arrangements.

Living with Alzheimer’s since Larry Barber’s diagnosis is a daily challenge for him and his wife, Donna, of 42 years. Yet, with her care and careful planning, he is able to continue living at home. The couple finds comfort watching Western movies together in their own living room, staying home more since the pandemic and no longer having Larry drive. This nostalgia is something that Larry still gets excited about. When asked about date nights these days, Donna answered, “With John Wayne movies and gunsmoke!” Larry added, “Gunsmoke, yeah, Matt Dillon!”

Yet, the couple started talking with his primary care physician a a couple of years ago about getting some testing done, after concerns about his memory for everyday things. “He could not remember if I’d told him something we were gonna do. Mostly short-term memory type things.” Bunn encourages anyone with a concern like this to check in with their doctor to see what steps to take.

Trying to make a difference for Alzheimer’s caregivers, medical office staff with Home Care Solutions in Lenoir City have been crafting activity boxes for patients to use, when they need a positive redirection from anxiety or confusion. The staff plan on delivering the boxes to various assisted living centers around East Tennessee. Executive Director Melinda Farmer said there is hope that these boxes can help loved ones who may still be trying to help the patient, even if they are in assisted living. “They have the added stress in their life of how do I handle this and how do I do this and do the best for my mom or my dad or whatever loved one it is that they’re taking care of. And it can be overwhelming.”

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