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Learn to Be an Alzheimer's Whisperer During a Program Tonight (5/22) in Springfield

The program is being brought to town by Oxford Healthcare.  Shallina Bowers, Oxford’s regional director, says they wanted to find a simple approach for caregivers to use when dealing with Alzheimer’s patients, and what they found was the program by Dr. Carson…

"We went in search, and we actually found this particular program, "Becoming an Alzheimer's Whisperer" and Dr. Carson who created it and really felt like we had never seen anything like it.  It is more of a theory and an approach rather than a checklist scenario, so it's not like, 'we'll try this and if this doesn't work this try this, and if this doesn't work well, I really don't know what to tell you,' it's understanding where the individual is in their disease progression and being able to understand exactly how to relate to them."

Dr. Carson says her program is based on the theory of retrogenesis created by Dr. Barry Reisberg of NYU.  His theory is that people deteriorate with Alzheimer’s in exactly the reverse order that they develop from birth…

"So that in the very early stage when...a lot of people are noticing memory problems but don't really want to get a diagnosis, they're functioning at the level of an 11-year-old and then deteriorating to the level of a five-year-old.  The middle stage, which is the longest, could be two to ten years where people have a lot of challenging behaviors, families just really, you know, struggle to keep their loved one at home and to manage them.  People struggle in assisted living and skilled nursing facilities as well to manage people in the middle stage.  Their cognitive and functional level is somewhere between four and two years of age, and then in the late stage when someone would be appropriate for hospice, we're talking talking about somebody functioning at the level of an 18-month-old to a newborn."

Because of that regression to child-like stages, Dr. Carson’s approach is to look at how you would deal with a child at those ages…

"When people have a toddler or a child three  to four-years-old and ask the same question over and over again, like you're taking a long trip, and the question is, 'are we there yet?  Are we there yet?  Are we there yet?'  Creative parents take along snacks on the trip, they plan songs they're gonna sing they play games, and, of course today they could have a DVD that they could watch in the back of the car, but what we do is we redirect that repetitive behavior, and so, when somebody with Alzheimer's asks the same question over and over again, one of the strategies is that we can redirect them into repetitive activities that are mindless, productive but repetitive."

For instance, caregivers could have an Alzheimer’s patient fold towels.

Another challenge is bathing—often caregivers shower Alzheimer’s patients, but Carson says since they’re functioning at a toddler level, they should be bathed instead…

"Showering is probably the number one activity where caregivers get bit, hit, kicked, hurt in some way, and we don't recognize  that it's the manner in which  we're bathing the person that's the problem.  It's not they're really resisting being bathed, it's the fact that the shower is terrifying to them."

And she says managing an Alzheimer’s patient’s pain is important in avoiding challenging behavior…

"Pain is so largely--it's just unreconized and untreated in Alzheimer's.  And I think because of that it's a source of  tremendous challenging behaviors.  But as soon as you apply this theory of retrogenesis, and you say, well, 'what would pain look like in someone who is four, three two years of age?' all of a sudden you get a different kind of picture of how it might be exhibited in somebody with Alzheimer's disease."

Carson will present the program “Becoming an Alzheimer’s Whisperer” tonight (5/22) from 6 to 8:30 at the Howard Johnson Inn (formerly the Clarion) on S. Glenstone.  There will be a fee of $5 to cover materials and refreshments.  You can register at the door or pre-register by calling 883-7500.