Originally created 12/25/96

Alzheimer's program off to a slow start



AIKEN - Since late October the Aiken Area Council on Aging, Inc., has run an Alzheimer's respite program with only one steady patient.

But the coordinator of the program, which is designed to provide mental stimulation for Alzheimer's sufferers and free up some time for their caretakers, hopes to boost participation in the program.

"We are still looking for participants," said Diane James, coordinator of the Daylight Centre that's housed at the council's offices on Morgan Street. "We are still trying to get the word out in the community that we have the program."

The council received a $9,500 state grant in July to begin the program, which can accommodate six patients. The program is offered every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. and costs $15 per day.

Patients are fed a hot lunch and offered light exercise programs, memory games, arts and crafts and interactive discussions.

"It gives the caretaker a chance to get out and have some time to themselves, but it also benefits the patient," Ms. James said. "When a person is home with a care-giver every day, day in and day out, (the care-giver) is just not going to be able to do the types of activities we do."

The program also serves people with other forms of memory loss. The Daylight Centre is also seeking volunteers to be trained to work with patients with Alzheimer's and other forms of memory loss.

Studies indicate that caretakers who participate in respite programs are able to keep their loved ones with Alzheimer's home for longer periods before resorting to nursing homes, said Leanne Thompson, executive director of the Mid State South Carolina Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.

Unfortunately some families, particularly in small communities, view the disease as a stigma and resist seeking outside help, Ms. Thompson said. And other families and caretakers simply feel guilty about dropping their loved ones off somewhere to be cared for, she added.

"Maybe if families realize this can reduce stress for them and give their patients some socialization and maybe maintain their (memory) skills longer, I think more people would participate," Ms. Thompson said. "A lot of people feel guilty leaving them, but the caretaker has to take care of they're health also."

For information, call (803) 648-5447.