Workshop focuses on care of Alzheimer’s patients

PAWLEY’S ISLAND — Is your widow mother at the age where a decision must be made on her future with accommodations? Is your spouse’s father angry because he refuses to face the reality of life without his deceased wife and the high price of home nurse care?

Hard choices indeed. With spiritual guidance, these choices regarding assisting living facilities and nursing homes can be made easier.

Those issues were discussed in an ecumenical workshop held May 17 at St. Paul’s Waccamaw United Methodist Church in Litchfield. “Levels of Care for the Aging Workshop” was sponsored by the Pawleys Island-Litchfield Ministerial Association, comprised of 12 churches and the Ecumenical Worship Outreach Committee. Topics included respite care, skilled nursing care, assisted living, legal needs, home care, adult care and care of hospice needs.

The Rev. Milton L. McGuirt and his congregation members welcomed parish members from Precious Blood Catholic Church of Pawleys Island as community members and agency representatives heard speakers offer helpful tips.

The Waccamaw Area Family Garegiver Support Program is a group that operates with assistance from the Waccamaw Regional Planning & Development Council, the Waccamaw Area Agency on Aging, the American Red Cross, Vital Aging of Williamsburg County Inc. in Kingstree and the Georgetown Council on Aging.

Geales Sands is in charge of development with Tidelands Community Hospice, formerly known as Hospice of Georgetown, a not-for-profit hospice that has been in the area since 1985.

“People seem to be open to information,” she said of the event. “Of course I have a hard topic to talk about, hospice care and facing the end of life with denying it and embracing it and planning accordingly. The thing I want to get across is that hospice can be so helpful and be so enhancing to somebody who has a life-limiting illness.

“Waiting to call hospice does not help the patient as much as we could. We have a lot of patients for three days, but if we have you for three months, we could really make a real differenc. It’s hard to make a difference in three days.”

St. Michael Catholic Church in Garden City has an AIDS outreach.

“That’s one of the things we offer,” said Sands. “Naturally the majority of our patients have cancer, and the majority of our patients are elderly, but not all. We have babies. We have children. You never know who’s going to need hospice care. We don’t deny care to anyone.”

Joanne Goldy, a member of the host church, said that they offer a lot of opportunities.

“Maybe you are a daughter, a son, a spouse or just a friend — you are a family caregiver for someone in need of such services, and it is better to plan than to procrastinate,” she said.

Lillian Szabo with the Georgetown Alheimer’s Support Group said that they hold meetings at Prince George Episcopal Church in Georgetown on the first Monday of each month from noon to 1 p.m.

“This is for caregivers who learn about problems that they are encountering in caring for a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia and getting advice from the other caregivers,” she said.

Szabo is a member of Precious Blood Church.

“I started because my husband and I took care of my mother for 11 years, and she had an Alzheimer’s support group, and it helped me a lot,” she said. “The founder of the group decided that she needed to resign, and she asked me to take over. I’ve been doing it for 11 years.”

She feels like it is part of her Christian responsibility.

“We are supposed to be responsible stewards, and you give back,” she said. “My husband supports me in what I am doing. If I didn’t have that, then I couldn’t do it. When you see that you are helping somebody, then you try to help them as much as you can and point them in the right direction.”

She is optimistic about a cure for the disease.

“I guess we have to be optimistic,” she explained. “The researchers are busy with the issue. My opinion is that the research is like a giant picture puzzle with pieces here and pieces there, and they are finding direction, but the whole picture is not put together. I don’t think they will have a cure in my lifetime, but they are working on it, and eventually they will find a cure.”

Millie Cafcules of Precious Blood Church said her parish was cleaning up from a successful dance held for challenged adults the night before and that her church is very concerned about helping those in need. More than 140 people attended.

“It was wonderful,” she said of the dance. “They were having a great time.”

Cafcules is chairman of the Ecumencial Outreach Committee and also a parish ecumenical representative to the Diocese of Charleston.

“This is the first time we have done something other than a worship service,” she said. “We are aging here on the Waccamaw Neck. This is not denominational, and so perhaps we could render a service by providing a workshop.”

Tidelands Community Hospice was also represented, covering Georgetown, Williamsburg and Horry counties.

“We do have some service providers here,” said Cafcules. “This sort of mushroomed. We’re still working on our National Day of Prayer. We are just very pleased with the turnout. We had 30 sign up.”

Anita Weaver, executive director of Morningside Assisted Living Facility, was the keynote speaker at the workshop. She has 16 years experience in long-term care.

“Parents don’t want to be a burden,” Weaver said.

“Mom’s not [going to want] to talk about getting old,” she said. “You’re going to need to be the one to say, ‘Let’s have a family meeting. I see some problems with Mom. She’s starting to forget things. I’m having to call her to remind her to eat. The neighbors are calling saying they’re having to go check on her every day because they don’t see her go out and get her newspaper. They wonder if she’s inside not breathing.'”

When dealing with a parent, Weaver suggests inviting him or her to the meeting. It can be a difficult and painful process.

“They’re going to take it out on the one they love the most,” said Weaver.

Assisted living can cost $72 a day; nursing homes can cost up to $120 a day.

“Medicare will pay for nursing home placement as long as they have a skilled need that is covered under a skilled area,” said Weaver. “Medicare covers 100 percent for the first 21 days after coming from the hospital.”

Look at activities, cleanliness and rules; bring a clipboard; and take notes, she suggested.

“I like that,” she said. “I want them to know that when they come and live in my place that they know that their mother or father or grandmother or grandfather is being take care of.”

With the hurricane season bearing down, senior citizens should be aware of American Red Cross tips on “Special Medical Needs” shelters that provide temporary help and nursing care to those with physical and mental health conditions exceeding Red Cross shelters. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control operates the shelters with locations announced through local media, television, radio and newspaper outlets.

Before an emergency like a hurricane, caregivers should get the person’s information in order like bank accounts and numbers, insurance data, policy numbers, property deeds, loan documentation, Social Security and Medicare numbers, military history, a living will or advanced directive, a durable power of attorney and instructions for funeral arrangements.

Some family members experience denial, and some parents are afraid of discussing mortality. Talk about resuscitation choices and hydration preferences. This may sound dreadfully morbid and morose, but it is definitely mandatory.

“What’s your resident to patient ratio?” she asked. “The one thing you need to do is get a lawyer.”

For more information

For more on caring for people who are aging call Cafcules at (843) 237-3428 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.