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      Support groups offer haven for Alzheimer's caregivers


      Alzheimer's patients receive care around the clock, but they are not the only ones touched by the terminal illness.


      In 2010, caregivers provided 17 billion hours of unpaid care to Alzheimer's patients. And if all of those caregivers lived in the same state, that state would be the fifth largest in the country. Caregivers play a crucial role in improving the lives of those with dimentia, but they, too, sometimes need help.


      "It's very difficult when they don't remember you anymore," Park Central Director of Social Services Barbara Simms said. "It's very difficult for some people that see behaviors in their loved ones that, normally, they would never have done. People can become combative, they can use bad language, they can say and do things they never would have said before the disease."


      Different facilities in and around Amarillo offer support groups for caregivers, where they can meet with other caregivers and talk about their experiences.


      "We talk a lot about the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's," Simms added. "We talk about the stages that people go through, the behaviors they may exhibit, and just try to prepare people for what might happen and give them the tools to deal with that appropriately."


      "What we do- we laugh, we cry, we drink coffee and eat donuts," The Cottages Executive Director Lorry Parker said. "And it is so nice to know that you're not alone in this journey. This is a disease that affects not just the person who has it, but the entire family."


      Some sessions also involve patients who speak of their experiences with the disease and their fears about it. Parker said she had one patient who lost all of his friends after he was diagnosed, and he has slipped into a state of depression, as he feels alone. His wife accompanies him to the support group to learn what she can about Alzheimer's and how she can help to make her husband's life the best possible.


      "He's embarrassed," Parker said. "He's humiliated. He's depressed. And, you know, you can only imagine how you would feel if you walked into the doctor's office and you saw that diagnosis. You know, I don't know what I would do if I got that diagnosis."


      Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States- a person develops the disease every 69 seconds. Since 2000, deaths from other major disease such as stroke, HIV and heart disease have dropped, while deaths from Alzheimer's have rise 66 percent. There is no known cause, and among the top ten leading causes of death in America, Alzheimer's is the only one that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.


      The numbers speak for themselves- more people will continue to develop the disease, calling for more caregivers. These men and women dedicate their time to caring for the ones they love as they watch them decline day after day. Facilities like The Cottages and Park Central want to give caregivers all the strength they need, as their loved ones need the same in return.


      "It's a wonderful dynamic because a family member or a loved one can talk about a situation they're dealing with and another family member can say, 'Hey, I dealt with that six months. Here's what worked for us. You might try this or that,'" Simms said. "And, so, it's just that they're so supportive of one another."


      Visit www.alz.org for more information on Alzheimer's disease.


      Caregiver Support Groups in the Texas Panhandle:







      AMARILLO:


      Alzheimer's Academy


      1400 S. Coulter, Suite 2700


      806-356-4637

      2nd Monday of the month- 10 a.m.


      The Cottages


      6811 Plum Creek Dr.


      Facilitator: Lorry Parker


      806-351-2271


      2nd Thursday of the month- 6 p.m.


      Park Central Alzheimer's Support Group


      The Parlor at the Park Place Towers


      1300 S. Harrison


      Facilitator: Barbara Simms


      806-337-4164


      2nd Thursday of the month- 5 p.m.


      Panhandle Regional Planning Commission


      415 W. 8th Ave.


      Facilitator: Dixie Surratt


      806-373-5315


      2nd Thursday of the month- 6 p.m.


      Seville Estates


      7401 Seville Drive


      Facilitator: Deaundes Tinner


      806-351-2105


      CANYON:


      1st Friday of the month- 12 p.m.


      First Baptist Ministry Center


      1717 4th Ave.


      Facilitator: Lorry Parker


      806-351-2271


      BORGER:


      2nd Tuesday of the month- 12 p.m.


      Golden Plains


      100 Medical Board Room


      Facilitator: Danna Jackson


      806-272-7583


      DUMAS:


      4th Tuesday of the month- 6:30 p.m.


      Accolade Home Health


      201 Binkley


      Facilitator: Chassidy Wagnon


      806-934-2000


      HEREFORD:


      3rd Thursday of the month- 10 a.m.


      Fellowship of Believers Church


      245 Kingwood


      Facilitator: Rhonda Sanders


      806-364-0359


      DALHART:


      1st Monday of the month- 7 p.m.


      Coon Memorial


      210 Texas Blvd.


      Facilitator: Nancy Chism


      806-244-8555

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