Alzheimer’s Connection there to help

PO’IPU — The Kaua’i Alzheimer’s Connection is a nonprofit group of volunteers

determined to make life better for caregivers, patients and providers dealing

with people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and other dementia (memory-loss)

diseases.

Alzheimer’s disease is the fourth-leading cause of adult death in

the United States. It has been called the “disease of the century” because its

number of victims is expected to increase dramatically with the continued

growth of the country’s older population.

The wave of publicity resulting

from former President Ronald Reagan’s diagnosis has caused great concern among

seniors about forgetfulness.

A partnership with Pfizer pharmaceuticals has

allowed the KAC to provide administration of the Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE)

for seniors groups and at health fairs in order to help participants understand

memory changes which are natural and memory loss which is not natural.

The

MMSE can help seniors understand that recent advancements in diagnosis and

treatment mean that memory can and should be routinely screened, just like

blood pressure and cholesterol.

According to the KAC, the many cultures of

this island share a strong feeling of responsibility for caring for our ‘ohana

and kupuna (elderly).

Placement in long-term care homes is truly a last

resort. These strong values are challenged by Kaua’i’s economic realities,

however, the KAC contends.

The organization provides an array of direct

services to patients and caregivers, conducts a monthly talk story support

group, trains caregivers and health-care professionals, has developed a

resource directory for seniors, and loans videos and books to families.

The

time-worn adage that “knowledge is power” applies to empowering families of AD

patients. Knowing what their relative suffers from is a big step in overcoming

family shame and accepting help.

Understanding the disease, and access to

information and knowledge of where and how to get help are the most important

things the KAC can give to a family living with Alzheimer’s disease, said KAC

Coordinator David Lehn.

Education and training programs are provided in

the community, and personal assistance is provided through home visits when

needed.

Collaborations with others allows the KAC to extend its services.

The organization collaborates with the Kaua’i Police Department on a “Wanderers

Program,” which assists with the safe return of AD and dementia patients who

wander from their residence or care facility.

Collaboration with the

island’s public libraries allows for efficient circulation of KAC videos and

written materials.

The KAC has a contract with the state’s Executive

Office on Aging to provide cash grants to caregivers to purchase respite

services or AD medications for their loved ones.

Alzheimer’s Connection was

formed in September, 1994, in response to a needs assessment completed by the

Hawai’i State Health Planning and Development Agency (SHPDA), which identified

a critical need for comprehensive services for Alzheimer’s patients and their

families on Kaua’i. A grant from the Hawai’i Community Foundation funds the

group’s activities.

The KAC is a collaborative effort of approximately 15

volunteer members who represent health-care providers, community-based

agencies, family care-givers, state and county agencies, and the county Agency

on Elderly Affairs.

KAC’s mission is: “To be the driving force for

improving the quality of life of persons affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s

disease and their families.”

KAC’s programs and services including:

Talk Story support group;

* Professional and caregiver training

programs;

* Information and assistance to Alzheimer’s families, caregivers

and patients;

* Telephone and personal consultation if needed;

Lending library of written material and video tapes on the latest information

and caregiver techniques;

* One-time grants for respite, medication and day

care.

For more information, call 742-5071.

The group’s goals are

to:

* Support: Helping families and caregivers to care for their loved one

at home, in a safe and quality environment;

* Inform: Establishing a

convenient access to current information and assistance on dementia,

Alzheimer’s disease and services in the community;

* Educate: Improving the

understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by the community, family

members, caregivers and medical professionals.

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