The Hospice Foundation of America (HFA) presents a nationally recognized distance learning program to more than 125,000 people in 2,000 communities, annually. For more than a decade, HFA’s educational events have been instrumental in educating not only healthcare professionals but also families, on issues affecting end-of-life care. This year’s Living With Grief Program is focused on The Longest Loss: Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.
Jackson County Memorial Hospital Hospice will host the Hospice Foundation of America’s Annual National “Living With Grief” Program, Thursday, June 25, 1:30 – 4:30 p.m., at Western Oklahoma State College.
Janice Lamb, Volunteer Coordinator at Jackson County Memorial Hospital Hospice, is not only working to coordinate and promote this event but the topic is one that she has experienced firsthand and can empathize with. Lamb lost her mother to Alzheimer’s Disease in 2010.
“Mother worked hard as an insurance adjuster all her life, she was very smart, she was a needle woman and an excellent cook,” said Lamb. “Mother lived about six years after diagnosed in 2004, which for Alzheimer’s is really quite fast.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is a progressive disease, where dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. Mental deterioration can occur in middle or old age. It is the most common cause of premature senility and the most common form of dementia.
“My sister started noticing mother was having difficulty doing things she’s always done and took her to a local neurologist. Mother was horribly shocked, hurt, in denial and later got bitter and angry. We had to move her and dad into a facility with full-time caregivers,” said Lamb.
Suzanne Gilbert, RN at Jackson County Memorial Hospital Hospice, works with the patients and families, wherever they call home. Home may be their actual house, a nursing home, a child’s home, etc.
“It’s hard to be a 24 hour caregiver. We take care of the patient’s basic needs, we manage symptoms only, we provide support to the family, and we do a lot of family teaching,” said Gilbert. “We teach the family about the loved one’s medicines and are available to answer questions.”
Gilbert and the other nurses provide support and comfort to the families in the grieving process and the stages of the disease.
“The patients can turn into people that they weren’t before. Someone who has never cursed may start cursing. So, we also provide Namaste visits; giving gentle massages, giving them the extra TLC and attention. They respond well to it,” said Gilbert.
“Mother became very hostile and she was never that way before. She then refused to talk, refused food, water, and meds. It was very traumatic for the family, it appeared to be a deliberate choice,” said Lamb.
Gilbert says that apart of their job is to help the families understand what to expect and what’s normal, because it is a lot for them to take in.
The primary reason JCMH Hospice his hosting this program goes beyond its originally intent to educate social workers and doctors. According to Lamb, the purpose has evolved to really educate the general community in addition to the healthcare professionals, including but not limited to, nurses, social workers, counselors and case managers. The program aids in building bridges between agencies and providing resources and information for families; such as support group information.
“I encourage anyone and everyone to attend this program. I’d love to be apart of building a safety net for the family members, making resources known, there are a lot of good ones,” said Lamb.
The program will consist of video and panel discussion. Three hours of continuing education credits are also available through HFA for those who qualify.
Anyone, any family can be faced with Alzheimer’s at any time, this program is a great starting point for people to learn and gain an understanding of what the disease is. The program is free and open to the public, and there are no pre-registration requirements to attend.
JCMH Hospice is a non-profit and no matter the patient’s financial standing, service is still provided.
For more information contact Janice Lamb, Volunteer Coordinator, JCMH Hospice at (580) 379-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org.