Hospice of the Valley
Maribeth Gallagher, director of Hospice of the Valley’s dementia program, with patient Stella Jachimek. Submitted photo

Hospice of the Valley is sponsoring a free presentation in Ahwatukee Foothills March 8 about caring for people with dementia.

Family, community and professional caregivers are invited to attend from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 8 at the Pecos Community Center, 17010 S. 48th St. Registration is requested by March 1 at (602) 636-5394.

Maribeth Gallagher, psychiatric nurse practitioner and director of Hospice of the Valley's dementia program, and Rebekah Wilson, social worker, will talk about the progression of dementia, strategies for making meaningful connections, and self-care for the caregiver. The following question-and-answer with Gallagher addresses topics to be discussed in greater depth at the event.

Q. What is the difference between "dementia" and "Alzheimer's disease"?

A. There are many forms of irreversible dementia, a category of diseases that result in impairment of memory, language, personality, behavior and judgment. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type, affecting more than half of people with dementia. Studies estimate that 12 percent of people 65 years and older, and nearly half of persons 85 years and older, are affected by dementia.

Q. I want to help my loved one with dementia, but sometimes I'm unsure about how to respond to certain situations. Are there approaches I can use?

A. Family caregivers can contribute significantly on a daily basis to maximize their loved one's safety and comfort and enhance their quality of life. For example, rather than confront an agitated person who doesn't want to take a bath, try using warm, moist towels and a massage for "bed baths." Instead of expecting the person with dementia to wait for appointed meal times, offer small meals and frequent snacks as needed, especially soft, sweet foods.

Q. My loved one sometimes struggles with speech and comprehension of verbal language. Are there other methods we can use to communicate effectively?

A. Sensory experiences provide ways to make meaningful connections when words no longer work. Listen to music together while holding hands, or share a delicious snack.

Q. I had no idea how difficult it would be to care for someone with dementia. How do I take care of myself as well as my loved one?

A. It is vitally important that you discover methods to care for yourself, but this is easier said than done! Ideally, you should set aside time for yourself every day to exercise, read a book or go on an outing. At the conference, we'll help you explore ways that you can draw upon local resources, family and friends to create those opportunities.

Submitted by Beverly Medlyn, director of communications for Hospice of the Valley.

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