Lake Norman & Mooresville

Group hopes to foster better understanding of Alzheimer’s

Mary Ann Drummond
Mary Ann Drummond COURTESY OF MARY ANN DRUMMOND

Michele Cook and Mary Ann Drummond want to ensure that beginning with Huntersville, people in the Lake Norman area are more sensitive to the needs of those with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.

The growing number of people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, and lack of awareness and resources for patients and caregivers, have driven Cook and Drummond to take action.

Cook, who lives in Huntersville, does not have Alzheimer’s nor is she a caregiver for someone who does. But as business development director for All About Seniors, a resource directory, she is familiar with major issues in the field of elder care giving. She also knows quite a few local business owners.

As a result of Cook’s and Drummond’s initiative, several stakeholders attended the first meeting of a yet-to-be-named project’s steering committee. It was held at Huntersville town offices Jan. 29.

“We are hoping to bring awareness to local businesses, clergy police/rescue personnel, schools, home owner associations and the community as a whole. In fact, our first target is the police,” Cook said.

Suggestions from participants included: create and distribute decals for business owners to put in their establishments, and arrange for someone to hold a memory café, Cook said.

Seventeen people attended the first meeting and Huntersville Mayor Jill Swainposted about it on Facebook, Cook said.

Bryan Edwards, director of community services for Home Instead, participated in the brainstorming. About 60 percent of the older residents that Home Instead serves are cognitively impaired, he said.

“It’s a challenge doing day-in and day-out routines because of the needs of the patient,” he said. “It would help if staff at a supermarket, for example, were trained to be supportive instead of uncomfortable when faced with (a patient’s) outburst or inappropriate comment.”

He said he will attend the next meeting, where he anticipates that mission and goals statements will be honed and projects identified.

‘We want to help people’

The prospect of loss of memory and other cognitive abilities is a devastating diagnosis for the patient and their family. Family caregivers suffer under the long-term strain and isolation.

And recent studies show that one in every three seniors who die each year has Alzheimer’s or other dementia. This disease costs the nation billions – around $214billion for 2014, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Having worked in the long-term care field for many years, Drummond and Cook said care givers tend to become very reclusive.

“We want to help people to not be alone in their caring roles; they need someone to talk to and places to go where they can relax,” Cook said.

Drummond and Cook have experience educating people to be compassionate and supportive of people with Alzheimer’s, and ran training sessions about those topics last summer in Virginia..

Speaking of that event, Drummond said “multiple parties were needed in order for this type of a project to succeed.” She said she was pleased with the momentum that appears to be building in Huntersville.

Drummond, who lives in Harrisburg, is the author of “Meet Me Where I Am” and other books for families affected by Alzheimer’s. She is vice president of Operations for Carillon Assisted Living, which has facilities in several cities and is building one in Huntersville.

Cook and Drummond anticipate that this pilot project will grow beyond Huntersville. want to create a wider understanding of Alzheimer’s disease,” Cook said.

Suzanne Fulton is a freelance writer. Have a story for Suzanne? Send an email to suzannelakenorman@gmail.com

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The next meeting of the group’s steering committee is scheduled for Feb. 27. For details about the Huntersville Alzheimer’s awareness and support pilot project or to join, email mcook@stripedrock.org.

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