Dealing With Dementia
An estimated 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease. Most are being cared for by family, but statistics show that caregivers can become burned out after only a few years of the near-constant attention required. Kim Riemland reports on a special program that helps families keep their loved ones at home longer.
(Locator: Austin, Texas)
There are constants in the Sellars’ household of Austin, Texas: Ben’s morning crossword puzzle, and plenty of love and laughter…
Ben Sellars: “We were married 56 years this past June.”
Louise Sellars: “That’s a long time to live with one guy, isn’t it!”
…but lately uncertainty has moved in, on the heels of a devastating diagnosis.
Louise Sellars: “I have Alzheimer’s, and it’s the beginning, and I don’t remember everything like I did at one time.”
It means Louise needs constant care from her husband, Ben, and their daughter, Sandy, who now lives with them. It would be overwhelming for this family, if it weren’t for Thursdays.
Sandy Fritz: “It’s the best part of my week, and my mom is safe and happy.”
Every Thursday, Louise attends the “House of Friends” program at Bethany United Methodist Church. It’s a weekly, four-hour gathering for those with dementia to exercise their bodies and brains while their caregivers get a much-needed break.
David Lutz/Bethany United Methodist Church: “Because it’s 24-7, it makes it extremely difficult for a person who is a caregiver to survive really beyond three years – after about three years period of time, they have to put their loved one in a care facility.”
More than seven out of ten Alzheimer’s patients live at home. Respite programs like this help family caregivers cope – and delay the need to put their loved one into an institution.
The disease will certainly be difficult for this family, but the Sellars know they can make it … one week at a time.
Sandy Fritz: “She is flourishing, and because of this respite that we get, Dad and I are flourishing.”
The House of Friends program is free to participants. The ministry is supported by donations, grants, and dedicated volunteers. While many participants have Alzheimer’s, it’s open to anyone dealing with early to mid-stage dementia.
You can find out more about the program by contacting Bethany United Methodist Church in Austin at 512- 258-6017.