GRANITEVILLE - The handsome, elderly man slowly and carefully tapped the golf ball into the cup on the putting green at Midland Valley Country Club.
Robert Joland's perfect putt was a highlight of the Monday morning excursion when five Memory Care residents of EdenGardens Assisted Living Community traveled to the links for their play in the sun.
Such outings are encouraged, said Angela Key, Keepsake director for EdenGardens.
"Most of our Memory Care residents lose their short-term memory but keep long-term ones, so we try to re-create hobbies they may have enjoyed in the past," she said. "By doing activities like this, we relive a long-term memory skill to give a sense of accomplishment."
Mr. Joland suffers from Alzheimer's disease, called the "most devastating disease there is" by Peggy Peisch, who accompanied her mother, Althea Robinette, on the outing.
Alzheimer's is a disease of the brain that causes a steady decline in memory, resulting in loss of the ability to think coherently, to reason and to remember. In time, the disease becomes so severe that it interferes with a patient's normal, everyday living.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, the disease is the most common cause of dementia, affecting 10 percent of people over 65 and 50 percent of those over 85. In Aiken County alone, it is estimated that 2,017 people suffer from Alzheimer's.
Nationwide, an estimated 4 million people have the disease, which also is hard on caregivers.
Mrs. Peisch said her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's about eight years ago. "So often people think it's just a memory problem; it's just so much more," she said.
Mrs. Peisch says she visits her mother nearly every day, taking her out for drives and to the mall.
It was clear that Mrs. Robinette was enjoying her walk on the lush green of the golf course. "I'm having a good time," she said.
Such outings are good for Alzheimer's patients and good therapy, according to Elaine Hillan, who has two Alzheimer's patients to care for: her mother-in-law, 89, at Mattie C. Hall Nursing Home; and her 80-year-old mother at EdenGardens.
She visits her mother-in-law at least weekly and takes her out for treats.
"Ice cream and cake is a very exciting experience for her. It is often like dealing with a child because they can get excited over the small things," she said.
"Caregivers must be patient and understanding and accept the diagnosis. Accepting it is hard. You look at your mother and say `That's my parent. She took care of me, and now I am taking care of her,"' Mrs. Hillan said.
Mrs. Peisch advises Alzheimer's caregivers to join support groups. Shared experiences and concern can assist the new caregiver in learning how to cope.
Reach Pat Willis at (803) 279-6895.