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Spreading the message
[November 07, 2009]

Spreading the message

Nov 07, 2009 (Laurel Leader-Call - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- South Regional Medical Center shone a special light on Alzheimer's disease Friday at South Central Place during the monthly caregiver's support group meeting.

November is Alzheimer's Awareness Month nationwide, and the event gave caregivers and the general public more information about the disease.

Alzheimer's is a progressive and fatal brain disease that affects as many as 5.3 million Americans. Alzheimer's destroys brain cells, causing memory loss and problems with thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life. According to the Alzheimer's Association, the disease is the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States.

Laurel Mayor Melvin Mack attended Friday's event, signing a proclamation to declare November Alzheimer's Awareness Month in the city.

Kathy Van Cleave, director of the Alzheimer's Division of the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, served as keynote speaker, sharing some of her personal experiences with the disease.

Throughout the discussion, Van Cleave talked about her grandmother, who was diagnosed and eventually died from the disease. She said now she's seeing the disease on the other side of her family.

Noting her grandparents lived near a church, Van Cleave said it was not uncommon for her grandmother to appear at church in her bathrobe and pearls.

"Then, Tuesday afternoon, she was dressed for Sunday School," she said. "We realized she wandered when 'Pop' was in the shower. That was a familiar place to search for him." Van Cleave discussed what are called the four A's of Alzheimer's namely, amnesia, aphasia, apraxia and agnosia. Amnesia is, of course, memory loss, with aphasia being the loss of the ability to communicate. Apraxia is the loss of the ability to execute or carry out learned purposeful movements, such as walking. Agnosia is the loss of ability to recognize objects, persons, sounds, etc.

While talking about what Alzheimer's takes away from a patient, Van Cleave said Friday's event was to help caregivers taken on a habilitative approach and focus on the strengths of that person.

"You're in this room today because you're seeking help," she said. "My grandfather didn't have help available to him." Van Cleave showed a lengthy video based on Joanne Koenig Coste's, "Learning to Speak Alzheimer's: A Groundbreaking Approach for Everyone Dealing with the Disease," and provided a questionnaire to those in attendance.

A key part of the study dealt with the acronym, C.O.P.E., which is: --Communicate, not only with the patient but also with the doctor, other helpers, and supporters.

--Organize and simplify the details of your own life and the patient's life.

--Prioritize your time.

--Energize your body and your brain.

Van Cleave said that by focusing on the strengths, it "ultimately helps the individual maintain their dignity and gives them a higher quality of life for a longer period of time." For more information on Alzheimer's disease, call 601-319-6493 or visit

To see more of the Laurel Leader-Call or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2009, Laurel Leader-Call, Miss.

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