Hawthorne Court in Ahwatukee

Dementia is a condition many of us will not have to experience first-hand in our lifetime.

For those who do, it is a struggle that makes life harder and more complicated for the patient, and the family, as time passes.

There are many resources across Phoenix available to those diagnosed with Alzheimer's and other memory-impairing diseases, including assisted living homes right in Ahwatukee Foothills.

From the initial diagnosis up until the end of life, patients will need support and many of these local programs bring those with Alzheimer's together to talk about their experiences.

Hawthorn Court in Ahwatukee Foothills is an assisted living facility for patients with dementia. Their In Touch care program is designed to aid in the different aspects of daily living and there are everyday activities for Hawthorn residents that promote sensory and tactile stimulations, one administrator said.

"We do everything we can to continue the quality of life they are used to," said Melinda Hawkins, executive director of Hawthorn. "We have a support group every Wednesday for the patients and the community. It's being able to have a plan and talk about the challenges in dealing with these diseases."

She said Hawthorn also hosts proms and weddings for its patients. They play games and do mental activities to keep their minds active.

"Music therapy is also extremely important," Hawkins said. "Anything that helps keep them stimulated is a good thing."

There is a wider range of support available across Phoenix through the Alzheimer's Association. They offer multiple programs for patients and their families, including Connections Plus - a way for those with Alzheimer's to come together in a social setting.

Lucretia Agostarola, a Goodyear resident, is going through early onset Alzheimer's and was diagnosed in December. She was a health professional, but at 55 she was forced out because of the disease.

"I was a workaholic and then it was, I can't believe I can't do it anymore," she said. "If I could have worked until the day I died, I would have."

Agostarola joined the Connections Plus program six months ago and has since been to several events with other patients. She described these gatherings as very positive.

"I called the Alzheimer's Association several times because I was depressed about the diagnosis," she said. "It was just so helpful, and they were so inspiring. It helps you not feel alone."

There are many obstacles one goes through after diagnosis, and the challenges do not get easier. Besides giving up her job, Agostarola had to turn in her driver's license. She knows what the disease is and how the progression will go, and she is determined to bring awareness to the disease and the support that is out there.

"I don't feel like there is hope for me, but my goal is to help others," Agostarola said. "I have a central role in my destiny to help others."

To find out more about the Alzheimer's Association programs, visit www.alz.org/dsw. Reach Ahwatukee's Hawthorn Court, 13822 S. 46th Place, at (623) 239-0829.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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