Alzheimer's Alliance caters to families' needs
Tara Smoot didn't have to look outside Smith County when her father-in-law had trouble functioning because of Alzheimer's disease.
He was diagnosed with the disease about three years ago. Ms. Smoot said she and her family helped with appointments and took care of financial things and medication, but he didn't take a downward step until he suffered from pneumonia.
Once they saw that his forgetfulness prohibited everyday function, she said her father-in-law moved in with her family, and she began to research. She initially looked at general Alzheimer's websites, but she later found the Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County.
"That was so helpful, and the way they cater and tailor specifically to our area, you don't have to do a wild hunt to try to get research..." Ms. Smoot said. "It saves you time and prompts you to all the things you specifically need. It was so beneficial."
She said one of the first things she stumbled upon was caregiver training.
She said the doctor who presented that was knowledgeable and had taken care of grandparents with Alzheimer's, so it was not just medical advice, but it was practical.
The doctor "did a good job of going through stages, when they're functional and keeping them at home, and making it to the end when it gets progressive and severe," she said.
She noted that the Alzheimer's Alliance website also has a calendar, which shows when support groups meet and information for trainings and Day Club -- an adult day care program.
"We didn't get into this right away, but it has been something that's significant in helping me," Ms. Smoot said of the agency, adding that it does a good job of giving information on what Alzheimer's is versus other forms of dementia.
As far as daily life with her father-in-law, she said awareness had helped ease the transition.
"It's something that you live with every day, and there are good days and bad," she said.
"(But) I feel confident (other families) can get involved here. They will get a good basis of education and information and learn not only to help their loved one but themselves, and get excellent resources for the specific challenges of Alzheimer's."
Ms. Smoot is among many who have benefited from the Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County.
Burnis Manoy, whose wife Doris has dementia, described his experience as "tough" and "really mind-boggling."
"Doris and I had always been where we could agree on things and work out things. ... I was asking her 'Why can't we agree?' and she never would give an answer. And she started losing weight, and I was concerned about it," he said.
Manoy said he thought she might have cancer, but they were told she likely had dementia.
He became involved with the Alzheimer's Alliance through a family caregiver support group.
He said he was having trouble with Doris because the doctor told her she shouldn't drive.
"I started taking keys away from her, but I had to get used to that. Everything was just open with us. I had to get used to putting those keys away," he said.
So he called a representative with the alliance, and she talked to Doris on the phone.
Overall, he said the alliance has been beneficial for him and his wife.
"It's a good organization to get in touch with and start out when you have a family member who is at home," Manoy said. "I asked why more minorities didn't attend, but I know a lot of people in this condition and won't attend. I don't know whether it's something they're ashamed of or they're not really aware of it, but (it) is a good place where they can get help starting out."
He added, "It really has helped Doris get through some of her problems. (The) children would ask what she did, and she wouldn't have much to say, but she's beginning to tell them."
Participants also are pleased.
Cary Wofford said he enjoys Day Club, especially "when we all get up here and dance."
He said the dancing brings back memories of high school. He also enjoys walking his dog each day and eating breakfast with his wife each morning.
Additionally, he said he's glad there is a place like the alliance for him to go.
"I think it's great. I appreciate the volunteers. If you have any problems, they will at least address them," he said, adding, "And you get to dance."